Another snowy morning. Another day’s news of travel woes and broken services. Wasn’t this supposed to be the age of technology?

technology seems forgotten as snow falls...

Looking around my neighbourhood, middle-management cars struggle past on route to some distant office to connect to some services located somewhere else. They’ll sit at their desk to phone customers who again, will be somewhere else. Noticed the common thread here?

Finally, its here. What we’ve all been waiting for since Sun shone into our lives. Oracle’s launched a Cloud version of Open Office. Finally, here's Open Office for the Cloud!

There’s not much details about it as yet – like how much it will cost, for example – The Oracle site just provides a PDF about it. What I can say at this point is it remains 100% compatible with Desktop Open Office, retaining Open Document formats as well as PDF. It’s MS Office compatible, too.

But the site mentions a £33.00 charge for Desktop Open Office…

When talk turns to the Cloud, the hot ticket currently is the location of information. Security’s no longer the biggest concern, its where data is stored which is key.

Maybe the future lies in clouds for the cloud itself – local skyline storage clouds… could this be the future of the compliant cloud? Local Skyline Storage

Cloud players like SalesForce and IBM are looking to their own national storage, but its expensive and inefficient. So why not use a storage Cloud for it?

This question never seems to go away. When is a freedom fighter not a terrorist? Well, the answer of course depends on your perspective. Do they have a right to tell us and who has the right to stop them?

And nothing is crystallising global social opinion more than the WikiLeaks battle. But its only when we look beyond this that we see the real battle lines.

Think hard before deciding. Because what is being done is done in your name.

Have you noticed how TV media is featuring a lot of web-style graphics recently?

I guess with the closely-tied relationship between web and TV content designers, we shouldn’t be too surprised. After all, the web is becoming …beautiful. Noticed how beautiful the web is getting?

No, our web designers haven’t suddenly become more artistic or talented, they’ve just found new tools. But corporate designers are way, way behind…

In fact, not a good weekend and probably this week won’t be a whole lot better. Australia’s biggest bank is still off-line after a routine upgrade went wrong.

NAB bank's technology woes continue...

While the other banks may laugh behind closed doors about NAB’s misfortunes, truth is, its a case of There but for the Grace of God goes I.

Our eyesight. Its the most developed, critical and relied on of all human senses. And probably why we make such beautiful things.

Basically, we like what we see. Or rather we tend to buy what we like the look of. How about web browsers?

experienec how the web can look, with Google's Chrome...

Given a choice, few would go for a conventional TV over a flat screen HD beauty. The quality, colour depth and sheer pleasure it is to watch is amazing.

Contrast this to web browsers, which don’t cost thousands, they’re actually free. So why don’t we go for the best there is?

Some time ago, I did a round-up of Cloud-based project management software.Projects have been a big part of my life, so I knew what I was looking for.

Application value changes over time. Better, worse, cheaper or more expensive.One now stands out. Wrike. So I’d like to update my review.

LANZen Strategy's review of Cloud-based project management applications found Wrike to be a great option!

Wrike brings social networks to project management – let’s see how it works…

I guess most people today now realise how important it is to have a good web presence. That’s fine, but what if you don’t have any web design skills, don’t want to spend a couple of grand and find Twitter, well a bit limiting?

This could be for you. It’s called posterous and it’s the answer to your prayers.

when you havn't got a blog - you've got posterous!

There’s no need to write a lot more about this. Its pretty much self-explanatory. The site’s designed well and easy to use. Go for it!

Sometimes I despair at the appalling state of the UK’s broadband services. It’s truly horrific.

Here is an ex-state monopoly supposedly “competing” with a number of other providers, but what the public is actually getting is simply a re-badged service provided by BT.

The BT infrastructure is antiquated and decaying, virtually on its knees from years of under investment, yet being milked dry by greedy BT accountants.

UK customers in the meantime are being sold services by unscrupulous suppliers who’ve probably never been near a phone exchange, let alone have any network of their own.

But let’s just put the subject of BT’s steam-powered infrastructure to one side for a moment, I’m worried that BT may well be tilting the tables even more in their favour.

Imagine this. You own the exchange where all your competitor’s connections are housed. Who would know if you simply unplugged them for say, two minutes every now and then?

BT’s service wouldn’t have to be that good if the competition’s kept going off line, would it?

Have you ever had to take a drive through the ruins of the UK’s great shipbuilding areas? Those once proud, thriving centres of excellence where skills were developed and honed. These ships set the standards of a great trading nation.

These places saw skills pass from fathers to sons, each generation contributing their own evolutionary change to age-old methods. Places where quality created value.

Those skills are gone forever. Lost in the vortex of a lowest common denominator market. These places should teach us a lesson about off-shoring.

Once the eco-system supporting a skills base is lost, its gone for ever, never to be re-built. Something we should think about when we use words like “sustainable”.

But there are more lessons to be learnt from all this…

Sad to see Microsoft’s Chief Software Architect, Ray Ozzie leave the company this month. Ozzie created Lotus Notes, then Groove, which Microsoft bought out.

Ozzie was one of the good guys. Highly talented, well respected and Cloud orientated. Uniquely capable of filling the vacuum left by Bill Gates’ departure.

I doubt there is anyone following trends today who doesn’t accept the Cloud as our future. Nor who doesn’t realise that the restrictive and expensive desktop’s days are numbered. Anyone but Microsoft, that is.

I can imagine the frustration he felt as he battled against the cash-cow culture prevailing in Microsoft and its obsession with extracting every last penny from its customer base.

Ozzie was a Cloud visionary and tried to steer the desktop-obsessed Microsoft that way. Does this mean that Microsoft’s recent “we love the Cloud” stance is discredited?

Well, here’s my two-cent’s worth…

Have you ever been caught short?

I guess we’ve all had a moment like that sometime. Whether it was finding ourselves short of cash for some unexpected expanse or just needing to find a toilet. Fast.

Two entirely different situations, yet they both share the same need to be resolved quickly. This is the whole point about services. And that’s value – the value they are to you.

Like buying a bottle of wine at your local shop, finding you’ve no cash and being charged a fee for using your card. Or the 50p charge for using a public toilet, when its free at home. That’s what I mean by value to you at the time.

Imagine a friend loaning you £50 to pay an unexpected bill. You’d pay them back – and may be give them a £12 bottle of Scotch for helping you out. That’s appreciating the value.

I wrote about Wonga when it first launched and got a lot of abuse for endorsing a product with such a high interest rate. But it seems that I wasn’t the only one who saw the value. Wonga’s just won a string of awards, like a Webby for their website and for their service.

Wonga are a great bunch of guys as well – So well done and good luck for the future!

A cryptic question for you. When’s a webpage not a webpage, or a browser not a browser? The answer of course is when its not doing its job properly.

The web’s big thing is that it began standards-driven and is constantly refined over time. Whatever you want to code, there’s a right way to do it. If you don’t stick to this, that’s OK. But don’t expect anyone to read your content or use your browser.

HTML as a markup language does its job pretty well. Everything works as it was intended, which considering how much is there and how long its been going is amazing, really.

Sometimes someone comes along and for whatever reason, decide to do their own thing. But world domination aspirations apart, Whatever you view and wherever you view it on, you’ll see what the author intended you to see.

Microsoft screwed everything up with Internet Explorer. It used unbelievably sloppy coding. But they finally fixed it and with Version 8, its not too bad. But then along comes Opera.

So how does Opera manage to get everything so wrong?

Sitting on my desk I have a wide-screen, 24-inch monitor. Good for you. I can hear you say. Stick with me on this one. there’s a point to me telling you this.

My web statistics show that 90% of visitors are using 1200×800 resolutions as a minimum. Tablets like Apple’s iPad have similar broad screen landscapes.

But that’s only half the story. Lots of my visitors use SmartPhones, like iPhone or Android. Resolutions for these is similar, but they use a sliding window.

Web design follows user hardware, that’s why most sites used an 800×600 screen canvas. This layout is now less common as we move to wider displays.

A website’s real estate has a value, which roughly follows the page layout of a newspaper. What you see first is premium, what you have to scroll around to, less so.

So to keep visitors happy, how big should a website be. Just how big is your world?

Imagine this scenario. You’re living in a nice house, but the window frames need replacing.

You have a good look round and find a new window company offering you a great deal. Lower maintenance, more light, much better looking and adding more value to your home. Your neighbours down the road have switched to them and really love them.

But your window cleaner doesn’t want you to have them. So he says no.

What, he’s your window cleaner. You pay him to do what he does. He’s actually saying no?

You’d fire him, wouldn’t you. No way you’d accept a decision of yours questioned like that. But if he’s your IT outsourcer, that’s exactly what he thinks he can do. And you let him do it.

An outsourcer wants to make money from supporting you, I don’t have a problem with that. What I have a problem with is anyone trying to hijack your company’s future.

Its funny how tech just sneaks up on you. You saw all those people wandering around like a mobile version of the John Lewis electronics section and thought to yourself “Not me”.

Yeah, right!

Then one day you get a PC. And a phone. Next, you upgrade the PC and that iPhone or the latest Android’s looking good. And netbooks are pretty cool. Suddenly, you’re a techy.

Welcome, my friend. To the machine.

Everything goes well until you begin to create data on this stuff. A document on your PC, email attachment on your smartphone or that spreadsheet from accounts on your laptop. Now you’re in trouble.

Well, I’ve found just the thing for you…

Watch people with smartphones. They seem engrossed. But they aren’t talking, or texting. They’re playing with them.

Its the applications. People are downloading stuff and exploring this latest cool technology. Suddenly the means has become the end. Again.

What do I mean – again?

What I mean is, it seems just like PC’s were when we first discovered them. Exciting, cool. Until Microsoft made it all the same and well, boring.

But this is different. There’s diversity. We’ve got iPhone and Android. Nokia’s joining in, too.

We’re learning stuff, not just using the shiny bits. Could this bring PC’s back to life…?

No, come on, think about it. Is the PC dead?

Yes and No. Ages ago, experts proclaimed the end of the PC and long live the X terminal. Yet it never happened. Why?

Because applications still needed to be run on the PC as the network infrastructure was not up to delivering them across the wire or the air. Servers didn’t have the capability to run hundreds of users.

But now things have changed. Networks are faster and have greater reach, online storage is a reality and readily available and applications run from servers. Google Office anyone? So why do we need a PC?

Here’s an interesting news item for you. Zopa has just grabbed 1% of the UK loans market. Now if you’re still brushing off the dust from the banking collapse and looking around you, you’ll be seeing a very different landscape.

The old banks are still shell-shocked and fumbling. But the new guys, leaner, more agile and more innovative are pulling the financial carpet out from under their shaky feet.

I’d just finished writing about Metro Bank and saw the Tweet about Zopa’s market share. And that news got my interest.

Zopa is a loans provider. But instead of just reselling finance at a stupid rate from some finance house, Zopa connects people with money to lend to customers who want to borrow. That’s called Peer to Peer lending, or P2P if you prefer cryptic sound bytes.

It may sound a bit left-field, not something that many would bother with. But consider this. Zopa has now arranged £100 Million of P2P loans for their customers.

Now that’s serious money. Maybe Zopa’s worth a closer look…

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