[Web Informant] 4 June 2009: Potpourri

David Strom david at strom.com
Thu Jun 4 11:44:45 EDT 2009

Web Informant 4 June 2009: Potpourri

Normally, when I write one of these missives I stick to a single
topic. This week I have been in Dallas and Raleigh as well as back
home in St. Louis, and wanted to give you a sampling of what I have
been working on.

I was fortunate enough to cover the annual convention of the
International Association of Science Parks, held this year in Raleigh,
N.C. The group is composed of a variety of people who operate
industrial and technology "parks" like the granddaddy of them all,
Research Triangle Park, which is located nearby.

I have been to RTP many times, mostly to visit IBM, which is the huge
anchor tenant there and has 10,000 or so employees working there. Over
the years this IBM facility has gone through many iterations – it was
a key player in the early days of the PC, but that business was sold
to Lenovo years ago.

What I took away from my meetings was a set of first principles for
people who want to establish their own future successful tech centers.
Yes, we all know to locate these places near universities and have
anchor companies, but there is a lot more to the story.

Earlier in the week I was in Dallas to play a few games. Not Scrabble
or Monopoly but serious games that are used as a mechanism to help
customers better direct the features and futures of their software
products. The setting was the annual user conference of Teres
Solutions, a leading provider of credit union back office operations
software suites. Facilitating the games was Luke Hohmann, the CEO of
Enthiosys, who wrote a book, developed the idea and does dozens of
these gaming events around the world every year.

The day of games was at times part encounter group, part revival
meeting, part chaos, but totally serious work. The facilitators used a
variety of public speaking, psychology, standard marketing techniques
and group dynamics – along with the games – to elicit ideas and
thoughts from the participants about product features and future
product roadmaps and strategies for Teres.

I also had a review published in Computerworld this week that compares
three different approaches to encrypted email. As we all should know
by now, any e-mail that isn't encrypted traverses the Internet in
clear text that can easily be viewed with little skill and just some
patience. If businesses want to make sure that no one else can look at
their messages, they need to encrypt them in their entire path from
sender to receiver. They also need to digitally sign them, to ensure
that no one else has tampered with them in transit. For this review, I
looked at three solutions: Hush Communications' Hushmail for Business,
Voltage Security Inc.'s Voltage Secure Network and Connected Gateway
and PGP Corp.'s Universal Server. All three are a lot easier to use
and worth a closer look.

Finally, I continue to write my weekly column called NetWork for PC
World. Last week's column talks about how it might be time to consider
upgrading to an all-wireless network infrastructure. The cost of
wireless network adapters is nearly at parity with wired ones, and if
you are buying laptops as your main desktop, then there is nothing to
add to your PCs because all desktops come with built-in wireless
network adapters now. Second, the performance of wireless, especially
the newest 802.11n-capable products, is also nearly at parity with
wired networks, or at least to the point where for most common office
tasks your users won't know the difference. Finally, there is better
management software to handle administrative tasks, and better
encryption software to protect your wireless networks from the
hacker-in-the-parking-lot-with-a-laptop scenario (HITPLWALS).

If you want to read more, check out my strominator.com blog where you
can find the full entries along with links and other details.

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