Where do our electronics go at the end of their life?

Where do our discarded electronics end up?

Did you get a new Apple iPad for Christmas? A new mobile phone? Perhaps a new Windows 8.1 laptop? Congratulations.

You may now be thinking of getting rid of the older model that the new Christmas gift replaces. But have you ever wondered where your discarded electronics end up? Filmmaker David Fedele decided to answer the question in the documentary E-wasteland – Where do our electronics go at the end of their life? The answer may surprise you.

Check in your area to see if there’s a responsible way to discard electronic equipment such as old computers and monitors. This month, I’ll be donating some old computer equipment to the Cincinnati Computer Cooperative. The Cincinnati Computer Cooperative is a non-profit organization that provides secure, environmentally responsible computer recycling services to business and individuals, and refurbished computers to low-income families, schools, and other non-profit organizations.

The Hour of Code

Join the Hour of Code this week.


Today, December 9, is the beginning of Computer Science Education Week, observed each year in recognition of the birthday of computing pioneer Admiral Grace Murray Hopper (born December 9, 1906). Code.org, a non-profit dedicated to promoting computer science education, is encouraging every K-12 student in America to join an “Hour of Code.”


Steve Jobs believed that “I think everyone should learn how to program a computer, because it teaches you how to think.”


My love affair with programming started with BASIC at a local Radio Shack (see related article, Radio Shack’s TRS-80 turns 35) and later turned into C and C++ before I discovered business intelligence. My children may not follow me into engineering school and a technology profession, but I do hope that they will each learn how to do some simple programming. My twelve-year-old daughter recently took part in a one-day computer camp at a local university learning Scratch and Processing. And I recently joined my first Kickstarter for Kano, a Raspberry Pi-based computer, but it won’t arrive for her and I to put together until next summer.


In the meantime, Code.org has many resources on their web site for the Hour of Code. Consider taking an hour this week and help somebody discover programming.



Create Popular Windows Desktop Shortcuts for All Users

Create public shortcuts to make everyone’s life easier.

When installing software on Microsoft Windows server operating systems like Microsoft Windows Server 2008, I like to create a small number of frequently used programs and folders such as the ODBC DSN panels (see related article, More Fun with 64-bit Windows and ODBC) as desktop shortcuts.  By default, these shortcuts are placed on my personal desktop, stored in a folder like C:Users\<username>\Desktop. But you can share these desktop shortcuts with your fellow administrators by using Windows Explorer to copy the shortcuts from your personal desktop to the public desktop, which is located at C:\Users\Public\Desktop. The public desktop is a hidden folder, so you’ll want to show hidden folders in your Windows Explorer.  Choose Organize from the Windows Explorer menu, then Folder and search options. Choose “Show hidden files, folders, and drives” from the “Hidden files and folders” option on the View tab, as shown below.

Microsoft Windows Show Hidden Files Folders and Drives

Don’t go overboard with too many shortcuts and annoy your coworkers, but here are some suggestions:

  • 32-bit ODBC DSN Panel
  • 64-bit ODBC DSN Panel
  • Tomcat Configuration
  • SAP BusinessObjects Central Configuration Manager (CCM)
  • SAP BusinessObjects BI Launchpad
  • SAP BusinessObjects Central Management Console
  • SAP BusinessObjects File Repository Server folders, if on remote server

What kinds of Microsoft Windows tricks do you use to make administering SAP BusinessObjects easier?

How to Find Microsoft Windows Uptime?

Unix and Linux users can easily determine the uptime of their system by entering the command who -b.  Microsoft Windows users can determine their system uptime by following Microsoft KB article 555737.

  1. Go to “Start” -> “Run”.
  2. Type “CMD” and press “Enter” key. A DOS-style command window will appear.
  3. From the command window, enter the command “net statistics server” or “net stats srv” at the prompt and press “Enter” key.
  4. Look for the line that start with “Statistics since …”, which provides the time the server was last booted.

Definitely an article worth bookmarking.

Steve Jobs on Legacy

This is a field where one does one’s work and in 10 years it’s obsolete.


All the work that I have done in my life will be obsolete by the time I’m 50… This is a field where one does one’s work and in 10 years it’s obsolete.

Steve Jobs in 1994 interview

This week, the YouTube channel EverySteveJobsVideo released a previously unreleased interview clip courtesy of the Silicon Valley Historical Association.


With each new Apple product released since Steve Job’s death, the bloggers and pundits pontificate over whether Steve Jobs influenced its design. In a few years, we’ll no longer ask such questions.

That really awesome supply chain report that I wrote using Desktop Intelligence 10 years ago? Unlikely that it’s still in use today. The same can be said for the universes, dashboards and reports that I’ve created even just a few years ago. Yours, too.

Drive by any cemetery and you’ll see at least a few really elaborate tombstones. The family mausoleums. The Washington Monument wannabes. We crave legacy and permanence and try to avoid thinking about the fact that we have little of each.

Marco Arment wrote on this topic last year in a blog entitled Lasting Value.

None of the software I write today is likely to still be in use in thirty years, but if I write a truly great and timeless article, that could be valuable to people for much longer.

Even being President of the United States may not help. Although only 44 people have held the office, we can name significant accomplishments of so few.

If we can recognize that our accomplishments are so fleeting, may we also recognize that the challenges that we face today are momentary and will seem insignificant in just months or years. And save our focus and energy for things that are of lasting value.

A Glimpse of SAP BusinessObjects BI 5.0

A select few customers and partners are getting an early preview of SAP BusinessObjects BI 5.0.

Even though SAP customers are just now seeing a glimpse of SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.1 through SAP’s customer validation program, a select few customers and partners are getting an early preview of SAP BusinessObjects BI 5.0.

“One of the major goals of BI 5.0 is simplicity,” according to April ErsteSAP spokesperson for business analytics. “Our research shows that CIO’s are purchasing alternate solutions like QlikView, Tableau, and Tibco Spotfire because those organizations’ sales reps show fewer blocks on architecture diagrams. The current BI4 platform contains 19 discrete servers and an even greater number of services within them, which on a Microsoft PowerPoint slide can be perceived as difficult to manage”.


By applying design thinking, SAP has been able to radically simplify the BI platform architecture. Over the past few releases, SAP has been moving functionality from discrete servers to the Adaptive Job Server and Adaptive Processing Server. SAP BusinessObjects BI 5.0 will take this approach to the next level of simplicity, moving all Crystal Reports, Dashboards, Explorer and Web Intelligence processing to those two servers. The BI 5.0 architecture currently in the SAP test labs only has six discrete servers: CMS, Input File Repository Server, Output File Repository Server, Adaptive Job Server, Adaptive Processing Server, and Connection Server.


“BI administrators often complain about splitting and sizing the two adaptive servers,” continued Ms. Erste. “However, CIOs really appreciate having a simplified architecture.” With BI 4.1 going into general availability later this year and BI 4.2 already planned for 2014, no release date has been set for BI 5.0.

Learning How to Think

Inspiring the next generation to learn coding.

Code.org is a non-profit foundation founded by brothers Hadi Partovi and Ali Partovi dedicated to growing computer programming education. They’ve released a video encouraging young people to learn programming. It featuring Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, will.i.am, Chris Bosh, Jack Dorsey, Tony Hsieh, Drew Houston, Gabe Newell, Ruchi Sanghvi, Elena Silenok, Vanessa Hurst, and Hadi Partovi. The video was directed by Lesley Chilcott, whose production credits include An Inconvenient Truth and Waiting for Superman.

The clip begins with the following quote from Steve Jobs, taken from Steve Jobs: The Lost Interview.

“Everybody in this country should learn how to program a computer because it teaches you how to think” – Steve Jobs

As somebody who taught myself to program BASIC at a local Radio Shack, I hope this video will inspire the next generation- including my own children- to learn how to program.  Learning to code became much hipper to my 12-year-old daughter when will.i.am appeared on the screen.

I’m curious how other parents are helping their children to learn programing. Please share your tips.

A Plug for your Adobe Flash Plug-In

Adobe really wants you to keep using your Flash player.

I was recently prompted to update my Adobe Flash player and was greeted by the following propaganda piece.

Update Adobe Flash Player

Great messaging from Adobe. You need our frequently insecure and unstable plug-in to play Facebook games and watch videos. No mention of “serious business productivity”. Or the fact that the upgrade may break your SAP BusinessObjects Xcelsius dashboards.

So please, for sake of usability, online security and stability, please update your Adobe Flash player. Pretty please? Before the Adobe Flash development team enters a recovery program for self harm.

Anyone up for a game of Farmville?

First Impressions of Microsoft Windows 8

I just don’t “get” Microsoft Windows 8.

Last October, I rushed out to the Castleton Best Buy in Indianapolis during Windows 8 launch weekend to snag a copy of Microsoft Windows 8 Professional.  My experience confirms the troubles that both Best Buy and Microsoft are having.

The Purchase

I walked directly to the computer department and was greeted by a pleasant Best Buy employee who looked dazed and confused when I asked about Windows 8.  He walked me over to the software department, where there was a large display of empty Windows 8 boxes. Still puzzled, he asked several of his coworkers where the Windows 8 software was located. After several minutes of confusion, they told me to go to the customer service desk, where the real Windows 8 software boxes were locked into “the cage”. Although all of the Best Buy staff were friendly and the initial employee stayed with me until I found what I needed, I found it curious that they apparently did not have any kind of team meeting in anticipation of the Windows 8 launch.

The Installation

When I got the software home, I found the installation process to be quick and painless on my one-year-old Dell Inspiron N5010, an inexpensive Intel Core i3 laptop that I upgraded to 8 GB RAM. I opted to keep all of my existing applications, although I may yet do a total reinstall to clear up some ongoing DLL issues left over from Windows 7.

Installing Windows 8

Mission accomplished!



The Windows 8 Experience

I must say that after a few months of casual use, I’m still confused by Windows 8.  I just don’t get it. My Dell Inspiron N5010 does not have a touchscreen, but I doubt that having one would change my perceptions. Although a Core i3 hardly qualifies as a workhorse, I’m very disappointed by the overall system performance compared to Windows 7. And I’m disappointed by leading technology columnists like Walt Mossberg making excuses if you’re PC is over a year old (see his Wall Street Journal article, Windows 8: Not for Old-at-Heart PCs). It seems that the mainstream technology press is going out of its way to say nice things about Windows 8 and reluctant to offend anyone at Microsoft. Apple would be crucified if they shipped a MacOS that didn’t work well on “older” Macs.

Brian Boyko, a professional writer & corporate filmmaker, has created a 24-minute video about Microsoft Windows 8 that’s worth your time. His core theme is “Windows 8 is unusable” and he reviews the new operating system with humor and a few naughty words. He analyzes the Windows 8 using four key user interface themes of control, conveyance, continuity and context.

[ youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WTYet-qf1jo ]

Jean-Louis Gassée asks an insightful question on Monday Note (see Apple Can Finish What Microsoft’s Sinofsky Started).

Was it Ballmer’s idea or Sinofsky’s?

After being quite impressed with Windows 7, I can’t help but think that Windows 8 is the son of Microsoft Vista. I predict that we’ll see a Windows 8.5 or Windows 9 released later in 2013 that attempts to perform damage control. Before Apple pulls John Hodgman and Justin Long out of retirement.

UPDATE: There will be no Windows 8.5 or Windows 9 but instead Windows 10 will be released sometime in 2015.

Want another perspective? Read SAP Mentor Derek Loranca’s article, Windows 8 Impressions… and why I went back to Windows 7.

UPDATE (10/03/2014): Updated with Windows 10, the version of Windows that will follow Windows 8.1.

What are your thoughts about Microsoft Windows 8?