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Be on the wave or under it™

The News – 03/19/04

In this Issue:

Recommended Reading

I realize this is the only newsletter you’ll ever need, but if you want more in-depth detail, check out:

Stan Hustad’s
The Coaching Connection

Management Signature's
The Express Read

Easter Egg in BMW Software

Alert SNS Reader Valerie Janda sends along an item about the ultimate car hack. Ever since performance management computers crept under the hood, car enthusiasts have been hacking the software that controls ignition timing and other performance parameters. Most of the time, this is illegal. The latest trend combines a software practice known as Easter Eggs (programmers put in special funny or strange features that can be found with bizarre key combinations or actions) with this time honored automobile hack.

I’ve commented before on the high degree of computer automation in the latest BMWs. A whole lot of the car is now controlled by Microsoft's Windows CE operating system, including the transmission. Car rockers who want to rev up the engine, slam into gear and smoke the tires are typically prevented from doing so if their car has BMW’s sequential manual gearbox. Well the BMW engineers/programmers put in an Easter Egg to appease these speed demons. Simply follow a specific procedure and you can smoke miles off your high performance tires.

So this whole idea of running a car with Windows reminds me of the old joke: If your car ran like your (Windows) computer.

For no reason whatsoever, your car would crash twice a day.

Every time they repainted the lines in the road, you would have to buy a new car.

Occasionally your car would die on the freeway for no reason. You would have to pull over to the side of the road, close all of the windows, shut off the car, restart it, and reopen the windows before you could continue. For some reason, you would simply accept this.

Occasionally, executing a maneuver such as a left turn would cause your car to shut down and refuse to restart, in which case you would have to reinstall the engine.

The oil, water temperature, and alternator warning lights would all be replaced by a single "General Protection Fault" warning light.

The airbag system would ask "are you sure?" before deploying.

Every time GM introduced a new car, car buyers would have to learn to drive all over again because none of the controls would operate in the same manner as the old car.

Popular Science

Briefly Noted

  • Shameless Self-Promotion Dept.: It’s here: A new company from StratVantage – The WiMAX Guys. The service has two parts. The first is targeted at consumers and small businesses who buy the wireless networking gear, but can’t get it to work. We visit and get it up and running fast. The second part of the business is new installs for people who want to set up wireless hotspots. Check out the Website at

    I provided some background info for my colleague, Marcia Jedd, who prepared an interesting white paper called Six Ways to Increase Marketing ROI. Check it out.

    My article, Why Your Company Needs a Professional Wireless Network, was published in the Reside newsletter, which also published my article about Short Messaging Service (SMS), Wherever they go, there you are.

    My second article for Fawcette Technical Publications’ Enterprise Architect magazine, Companies Collaborate on IT Practices, reports on a best practices sharing effort called Project Avalanche. My feature article, Grid Computing Takes Off in the Enterprise, was published in the magazine’s inaugural issue last May. (Registration required to view.)

    My article, Innovative Marketers Target Unwired Customers was published in the NetSuds newsletter in May.

    Coming Soon: A new eBook, Be On the Wave Or Under It™ will collect the best of SNS’ insights over the last couple of years, along with additional material from CTOMentor white papers and new material. It will make a great gift for associates and friends in need of a guide to the latest and greatest technology. Watch for more information in upcoming SNS issues.

    Several issues ago I debuted SNS Begware, an opportunity for you, gentle reader, to express your appreciation by tipping your server via PayPal. See the sidebar for more info. Total in the kitty so far: $86.48.
  • Comment on the CAN-SPAM Act: The FTC would like to hear from you. The agency is charged with figuring out what Congress meant by the CAN-SPAM act. God knows, I don’t know what our lawmakers were thinking. Chances are they were thinking more about re-election than actually doing something about spam, but I suppose it’s better to have an ineffective law than no law.

    Anyway, you can use the links below to add your comments on this totally futile act. Here’s what I sent the FTC:

    Section 5(b) should clearly define using opt-out mechanisms to harvest valid emails as aggravated violations and the purchasing of addresses harvested in this way, even if by entities outside the jurisdiction of the US, as aggraved violations.
The “forward-to-a-friend” scenarios are problematic. Regulations should not prohibit forwarding commercial email unless the original sender offers some sort of incentive for doing do. People who forward and email because they think their correspondent might be interested should be definitively protected.

The National Do Not Email Registry if implemented in plain text (i.e. a list that a spammer can download and use to spam with) is a particularly bad idea. Such a registry should only be implemented via a challenge mechanism in which emailer submit lists to a site and receive back either cleaned lists or status for each email on the list.

FTC Regs Page
FTC CAN-SPAM Comment Form  
  • Vendor Solves Swiss Cheese Humvee Problem: US Global Nanospace wants to remedy the military Humvee design flaw that’s killing troops in Irag. Seems that the military is deploying many vehicles without any body armor. Thus, troops have packed their vehicles with sandbags to try to keep body and soul together. US Global Nanospace has developed Guardian™ Antiballistic Replacement Door Skin (GARDS™), which install in 15 minutes. The coolest thing about them is the company uses their new G-Lam™ nano-fiber anti-ballistic material. Not only is this another example of the current uses of nanotechnology, that’s one groovy name for a product (say it with me gee-lam, g-lam, glam).
    US Global Nanospace

  • Wal-Mart Already Using RFID: Wal-Mart, the 800 pound gorilla of discount retailing and perhaps the company most committed to RFID technology, is already tracking pallets and cases from two suppliers coming into one distribution center. And there are those who persist in claiming that Information Technology no longer provides a competitive edge. Here’s what I said online about the recent conference dust-up between Bob Metcalfe, the inventor of Ethernet and founder of 3Com, and former Harvard Business Review editor Nicholas G. Carr, author of "IT Doesn't Matter:"

    While I think Carr is just being sensationalist, he has some valid points. Nonetheless, even in this age of CIO reporting to CFOs, IT can definitely give an advantage. Try telling Wal-Mart that requiring RFID tagged pallets isn't a competitive advantage. The examples are myriad.

    However, I had to laugh at one of Metcalfe's assertions:

    "Unless his views are thoroughly debunked, Metcalfe said, 'today's current crop of MBAs will be running WordPerfect on 286s,' and American ingenuity will be 'strangled in the bassinet.' "

    Umm, there's really very little your typical MBA or other civilian needs in a word processor that couldn't be provided by a 286 running WordPerfect. Bob has inadvertently touched on one of the features of the IT explosion that undermines his point: pointless, inexorable feature bloat. I mean, really, who needs a word processor that has a 10MB executable and a 60MB disk footprint? Only a small percentage of users tap even 10 percent of MS Word's features.

    As a CIO said to me once, "Tell me the competitive advantage I got from upgrading from Excel 95 to 97?" Answer: precious little.

    If feature bloat is what's necessary to ensure a strangle-free existence for American ingenuity, God help us all.

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About The Author

Announcing CTOMentor, a New Service from StratVantage

Can’t Get Enough of ME?

In the unlikely event that you want more of my opinions, I’ve started a Weblog. It’s the fashionable thing for pundits to do, and I’m doing it too. A Weblog is a datestamped collection of somewhat random thoughts and ideas assembled on a Web page. If you’d like to subject the world to your thoughts, as I do, you can create your own Weblog. You need to have a Web site that allows you FTP access, and the free software from This allows you to right click on a Web page and append your pithy thoughts to your Weblog.

I’ve dubbed my Weblog entries “Stratlets”, and they are available at Let me know what you think.

Also check out the TrendSpot for ranking of the latest emerging trends.

In Memoriam

Gerald M. Ellsworth

March 14, 1928 - July 5, 2003

In Memoriam

Jane C. Ellsworth

July 20, 1928 - July 20, 2003