Friday, March 1

Time for Yahoo to understand who they are

If you have any exposure at all to the tech world you are more than likely familiar with the bombshell dropped by the CEO of Yahoo calling all their remote workers back to the office.  As someone who has spent the last 5 years of his life working remote, this hits me close to home... literally.  As I read the articles and comments to those articles it is absolutely clear to me that the average person neither understands the challenges, nor advantages of working from home.

I could make several compelling arguments for remote work stretching from making good on work-life-balance, to getting away from office distractions, to workspace costs to the company, to environmental impact from highway traffic both on infrastructure and in emissions/carbon footprint.  However, all of those arguments miss the fundamental point, as Ms. Mayer is missing the point.

Working from home is a benefit, and a valuable one.  In this age of troubling economics with people out of work, the tech industry has really not encountered much of this downturn.  Some large companies have downsized, but much of that is an ongoing process of removing unproductive workers from their ranks.  In general there are still far fewer qualified candidates than there are open positions.  Great technology companies require great talent.  There are some people who are unwilling or unable to move from where they live, where their children go to school, and where their families, churches, and support systems exist.  Nonetheless, they are talented individuals who can be significant contributors to organizations.

To be quite honest, Yahoo is not the technology destination they were 15 years ago.  They need all the help they can get to acquire top talent.  A benefit like working from home is probably much more valuable to them than face time.  They would be better off improving their telepresence capability than ending the program altogether.

The bottom line is, an unethical worker who will cheat the company on time is unethical whether they are in the office or out.  Someone who is a bad communicator does not necessarily get better face to face.  It remains to be seen how this will impact Yahoo as a company and if they will indeed lose some of their top talent because of it.  However, it is important for any company considering similar moves in the wake of this announcement to have a firm understanding of who they are.  A justification like, "this is how Google works" is missing a very important piece of the puzzle... you are not Google.  Google the search engine company had to jump through a lot of hoops to become Google the technical destination employer.  Just copying their behaviors isn't magically going to get you back to relevancy.  You need smart, talented people to get you there.  Cutting valued benefits isn't a very good way to go about that.

Tuesday, December 25

Fixing Flash for Chrome on Mac

Yes, I am now and have been for the past 3 months a semi-proud Mac owner.  The details of that is for another post, but the bottom line is, I had a horrific crash on my laptop and finally recognized what several people have told me for years.  Linux is great, Ubuntu is great.  But when something you need breaks because of hardware and you can't bill time, it's not just the fact that you aren't making money, you're losing it.

Of course, cutting through the "It just works" mantra, we find many places where it just doesn't work, one of those being Flash on Chrome.  It's broken... and when I say broken, I mean I don't want to pretend I am deaf because there's never any sound in the video, videos skip or fail to load altogether, etc... aka, broken.

And for the record, it was broken for a lot of stuff in Ubuntu as well, with the same results.  Luckily, the fix is the same, you simply need to tell Chrome which Flash plugin to use.

Open a new Chrome window and in the address/search area, type chrome://plugins/

On the right side near the top, click on "Details" link to expand the details on each plugin.

Scroll down to find the Adobe Flash Player and find the one where the type is PPAPI(out-of-process).  This is most likely to be the PepperFlash plugin.  Click "disable".

Now just reload any page you had open previously and you should now have sound and any other issues you might be experiencing with flash should clear up.

Sunday, August 19

Stop spammers from using your Google Apps domain

Lately I've been getting a lot of return mail from accounts that were sent mail from spammers using my domain.  It's annoying and somewhat frustrating, especially if it is your business domain because you run the risk of being blacklisted.  Here are a couple of simple ways you can prevent this on a standard Google Apps account using Enom for domain registration.

Sender Policy Framework - This is an open standard that specifies which servers are allowed to send mail that a receiving server can validate messages against.  This can be set up fairly simply in your admin control panel.  To do this:

  1. Go to your domain control panel and click on "Domain Settings" and then on the "Domain names" tab.  From here, click on the "Advanced DNS Settings" which will give you a login to the domain settings with Enom.  
  2. Under "Host Records", click the Edit button and add a new TXT record with the following values
    1. Host Name: @
    2. Address: v=spf1 ~all
    3. Record Type: TXT
This publishes the information that any mail not sent from an included domain should be rejected.

DomainKeys Identified Mail - This adds a signature in the email headers that allows association of a domain name to an email message.  It prevents spammers from forging the source address of their messages which allows other spam filtering to be more effective.  To implement this with your apps domain, go to the domain control panel and click on "Advanced tools".  At or near the bottom is a heading called "Authenticate email" with a link to a DKIM setup.  This is a fairly simple automated setup or you can set your own up manually if you know what you are doing.  

Wednesday, May 23

Installing Spree from scratch on Ubuntu 12.04

Spree is a comparatively new addition to the options in the open-source eCommerce world.  Based on Ruby on Rails, it has a certain allure, especially with developers eager to get into RoR.  Here's a quick way to get it running on Ubuntu.

First, unlike previous versions of Ubuntu, you need to do nothing to get a recent version of Ruby.  First you will need to install the latest version.  Along with it we'll include some extras that you'll need to make things go smoothly as you install the gems.

sudo apt-get install ruby1.9.1-full galternatives libxml2 libxml2-dev libxml2-doc libxml2-utils sqlite3 libsqlite3-dev libxslt1.1 libxslt1-dev

Next, especially if you had Ruby already installed, you'll want to set it as the default in the alternatives system.  The galternatives package makes this simple.  However, make sure you update gem to the 1.9 version or your gems will install in the wrong place. 

Once you have the the proper ruby packages installed and configured, you can use the gem system to do the rest.  

sudo gem install sqlite3 -v '1.3.6'
sudo gem install rails
sudo gem install spree

Finally, create your new store.  The -A argument on the spree bundle install accepts all prompts, which should create an admin user

rails new my_store
spree install my_store -A
cd my_store
rails s

You can now see your storefront at http://localhost:3000 and the admin environment at http://localhost:3000/admin

Please feel free to post any comments or corrections to this guide in the comments.

For more info on customizing Spree, visit