Top Ten iPhone Apps for the Road Warrior

Greetings, Verizon Wireless customers!  Your wait is finally over.  It’s been over a year since I ditched the Palm Treo 680 in favor of an Apple iPhone 3GS 16 GB.  As somebody who spent 2010 earning Platinum Medallion status with Delta Airlines, I depend on my iPhone to get me where I need to be.  With today’s announcement of the Apple iPhone 4 coming to Verizon on February 11, 2011, it seemed right to share my top ten iPhone applications that I recommend to fellow road warriors.  All of the apps are free or have a free edition.

1. TripIt

TripIt is a free app that integrates all of your travel reservations, regardless of where you made them, into a single itinerary tied together with Google Maps.  Before I had an iPhone, I started using the TripIt web site and lugging printed itineraries to the airport.  Now, I use the TripIt iPhone app to manage all of my reservations and generate maps to exotic destinations.  Although the TripIt Pro service has an annual subscription fee, it monitors my flights and sends SMS notifications of delays and gate changes.

Click here to download TripIt.

2. GateGuru by Mobility Apps

GateGuru is a free app that helps travelers find amenities in most of the larger U.S. airports.  I use it primarily to find a Starbucks or something to munch on during layovers.

Click here to download GateGuru.

3. Evernote

Evernote is a digital notebook for people who’s brain is stuck in the cloud, or should be.  Their motto is “remember everything”.  I usually enter notes from my laptop using the web site and read them from my iPhone.  But I also use both the Mac and Windows clients, too.

Click here to download Evernote.

4. Yelp

Yelp is a free and favorite application to find dinner based on other Yelpers’ recommendations and ratings.  The Yelp database suffers from data quality issues like redundant and missing entries, but I haven’t found an app that I like better.  And by using the check-in and bookmark features, I can later remember the name of a good restaurant.

Click here to download Yelp.

5. Weather Channel

The Weather Channel is a paid version of the free Weather Channel app.  It helps me decide what to pack in my suitcase.  It uses the iPhone GPS to tell me the weather at my current location.  I also store active customer sites as favorites for easy access.

6. Fly Delta – by Delta Airlines

I live near the Cincinnati airport and fly Delta most frequently.  I really appreciate their free app for keeping track of itineraries and checking in from anywhere.  Delta did a splendid job designing the app around the frequent traveler rather than the reservation process (Yes, I’m referring to the nearly useless Avis app).  Wish the Delta app was more useful during the day of travel for flight delays and gate changes.

7. Starbucks

Most of the hotels I frequent have round-the-clock coffee, but most of my mornings involve a trip to the nearest Starbucks.  I prefer keeping this free app as it tends to be more up-to-date with locations than Yelp.

8. AAA Discounts by AAA

I’m a AAA member, primarily for roadside assistance for my wife.  But AAA has a free app that uses the GPS to help you find nearby discounts, which quickly offset the cost of AAA membership.

9. WordPress by Automattic

I think it’s too small for serious writing, but I use this free app it to quickly moderate comments on the road.

10. HootSuite

Like Bono, I still haven’t found what I’m looking for (the perfect Twitter client), but HootSuite is a free Twitter client that allows you to schedule tweets in advance, which is useful for promoting blog posts.

These are my favorite road warrior apps.  Let me know if I’ve missed anything useful.

2009 Year in Review

A personal reflection on the past year.

2009 has been another interesting year as a business intelligence consultant. The year was fairly balanced between XI R2 and XI 3.0/3.1. Definitely more XI R2 than I would prefer, but I also got to work on a really interesting Xcelsius 2008 dashboard project. I was also able to help several customers with installation, configuration, sizing and security issues, gained some Edge Series and Linux experience, and dusted off my XI R2 migration knowledge.

Regarding certifications, SAP rolled out their new Web Intelligence certification, 2 exams that I passed in March 2009.  In October, I selected to give three breakouts at the SAP BusinessObjects User Conference in Dallas, Texas.  This is the time of year to reflect backwards and set goals forwards for the coming year. The next release of SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise won’t arrive until Q4-2010 at the earliest, so I expect 2010 to be mostly about BOE 3.x.

This year, I achieved Gold Medallion status with Delta, Silver with Marriott, Platinum with Priority Club (mostly Holiday Inn Express) and Diamond with Hilton (mostly Hampton Inn).

Here are the exotic destinations I visited this year.

  • Baton Rouge, Louisiana
  • Columbia, Maryland
  • Dallas, Texas
  • Houston, Texas
  • Lufkin, Texas
  • Memphis, Tennessee
  • Milwaukee, Wisconsin
  • Moline, Illinois
  • Montgomery, Alabama
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • San Antonio, Texas
  • Valdosta, Georgia
  • Waterloo, Iowa
  • Westminster, Maryland
  • Wilmington, North Carolina

Thanks to all of the customers that I met for the first time in 2009.  Here’s to a great 2010!

The Universe, Yours to Discover

Checking out the universe from Atlanta, GA.

International Year of Astronomy 2009 Logo

I’ve recently been traveling to a client in North Carolina, requiring me to switch planes at the Hartsville-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL). The layovers have been pretty casual, so I’ve been walking between concourses instead of taking the subway. There’s currently a wonderful NASA exhibit of photographs from the Hubble Space Telescope in the tunnel that connects the concourses. According to the exhibit, the United Nations has declared 2009 as the International Year of Astronomy. The slogan of the International Year of Astronomy is “The Universe, Yours to Discover”. I did actually use some Hubble photographs in my GBN/ASUG presentation, “Universe Design: Evolution, Intelligent Design, Or Just A Big Mess?” (see related article, Avoiding the Big Mess). But I would have probably made a bigger deal of it if I knew I was collaborating with the United Nations.

If you’re in the Atlanta airport and have the time, it’s certainly worth the time to see how vast and glorious the universe is.

To find some cool Hubble photos, check out the official NASA site or

Birthplace of Aviation, Victim of its Own Success

I recently flew Airtran from the Dayton airport (DAY) out of sympathy to one of my clients. I was able to get a direct flight to Baltimore (BWI) for half as much as an equivalent Delta flight from Cincinnati (CVG). Although I’m sure my client will appreciate the lower price tag on their invoice, I would have certainly paid $200 more for a better airport experience. Due to Cincinnati’s reputation as the nation’s most expensive airport (and an uptick of spring break travelers – recession be damned), the Dayton International Airport has become a victim of its own success.

Top Ten Reasons to Fly Dayton

(according to the Dayton International Airport website)

  1. Conduct business at our Business Travel Center
  2. Six minutes to I70/I75 – Crossroads of America
  3. Rental cars are available close to the terminal
  4. 220 Steps or less from counters to the gates
  5. Short wait times at the security checkpoint
  6. Convenient parking adjacent to the terminal
  7. Easy to follow terminal layout
  8. Professional and helpful staff
  9. Stay busy with free Wi-Fi in the terminal
  10. Enjoy live music weekdays in terminal lobby

Top Ten Reasons NOT to Fly Dayton

(according to me)

  1. New attractive signage along the parkway to the airport is a smokescreen for the parking fiasco that awaits you. “Convenient” parking is currently under construction as the short-term parking lot is a construction zone for a new garage. Not so convenient parking is overpriced and the asphalt looks as if nearby Wright-Patterson AFB pilots uses it for bombing exercises
  2. Outrageous $12/day charge for “economy” parking
  3. Clueless shuttle bus pilots – I ended up dragging my luggage to the terminal in the rain
  4. Good news: inexpensive AirTran ticket price. Bad news: 2 inattentive ticket agents, no self-serve kiosks, and long lines – just to check luggage
  5. Not so short wait times at the security checkpoint
  6. “Free” Wi-Fi in the terminal means somewhere between slow and unresponsive
  7. Lack of seating in terminal area relative to number of flights and passengers
  8. No decent coffee past the security checkpoint, although they are promising Starbucks (too bad for you, Boston Stoker) as part of an upcoming airport remodel
  9. Air conditioning in the terminal, please?
  10. Although Airtran’s Boeing 717’s are physically larger than Delta’s Bombardier Regional Jets, the legroom in the “no class” section is even less. Which is quite a feat.

So if you don’t feel guilty about spending more of somebody else’s money, fly Cincinnati. Which isn’t as expensive due to some recent fare cuts by Delta, the 800-pound gorilla of the Cincinnati airport.

Announcing TripIt for iPhone

Here’s another reason for me to justify an iPhone purchase – TripIt for the iPhone. I’ve blogged about TripIt previously and find it tremendously useful for organizing my itineraries as a traveling consultant. I’m still hobbling along with a Palm Treo 680 smartphone but am anxiously looking forward to a new iPhone model, which is rumored to be announced at the upcoming Apple WorldWide Developer’s Conference, beginning June 8, 2009.

2008 Year in Review

A personal reflection on the past year.

December has been a busy month, but I’ll be getting some much-needed downtime plus working from home before heading out to clients again in January. Christmas came early this year in the form of my Business Objects Certified Professional (BOCP) certificate for Business Objects Enterprise XI 3.0. I’m looking forward to framing it and hanging it in my home office.  As the year winds down, it seems good to reflect on our achievements for the past year and set some goals for 2009.

2008 was the first year that I began consulting and training with Xcelsius 2008. And armed with my upgraded BOCP I’ve already taught Business Objects Enterprise administration (SA210 Administration and Security and SA310 Administrating Servers) and Business Objects XI 3.0 Universe Design (DM310).

2008 is the first year I’ve had a project that’s let me work from home, which to be honest can be a blessing AND a curse. For example, I never knew a hurricane from Texas would blow through Ohio and knock out my electricity and high-speed internet. Working from home in IT consulting certainly takes some adjustment, but my family appreciates it.

I’ve traveled to a lot of interesting places this year, spending 88 nights in Holiday Inn hotels alone.

2008 was the third year of being selected for the annual Business Objects user conference, held this past October in Dallas, Texas. It’s always an honor to be selected and to share what I’ve learned.

Business Objects engagements have taken me to:

  • Ann Arbor, Michigan
  • Dallas, Texas
  • Detroit, Michigan
  • Grand Rapids, Michigan
  • Houston, Texas
  • Kansas City, Kansas
  • Las Vegas, Nevada
  • Lufkin, Texas
  • Moline, Illinois
  • New York City, New York
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

And summer vacation took me and my family to Ann Arbor, Michigan; Point Pelee National Park, Ontario; Toronto, Ontario; and Niagara Falls, Ontario.

But it’s always good to be home!

To all my family, friends, coworkers, clients and blog readers, a very Merry Christmas and best wishes for 2009!

Trip It, Trip It Good

I’m a huge fan of TripIt.

Apologies to Devo. I couldn’t resist.

As a LinkedIn user, I’ve been taking a casual look at their new applications, ala Facebook. One of them, TripIt, allows you to organize your travel and share with other LinkedIn users. Of course, you don’t need to be a LinkedIn user to use TripIt.

TripIt allows you to make travel arrangements on just about any web site you currently use. Simply forward the e-mail confirmation from the travel web site and TripIt will create an integrated itinerary that you can share with friends and coworkers. TripIt will add weather and other useful travel tips based on your destination.

For my first use, I forwarded the e-mail confirmations from an upcoming trip to teach BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.0 administration: an airline reservation made on Travelocity, a car rental reservation made on Avis, and a hotel reservation made on Priority Club (Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Staybridge Suites, etc.). Within a few seconds, I received e-mail confirmation that TripIt had assembled my itinerary.

When accessed from LinkedIn, you can see who in your network is traveling or which contacts are in the destination city during the dates of your business trip. TripIt can also be accessed via mobile phone, but I don’t have a great phone for testing that feature. Yet.

I’m impressed with the functionality although I shudder to think about the Perl scripting or other parsing required to extract data from all the different e-mail formats. Frequent travelers should give TripIt a spin. Get straight. Go forward. Move ahead. It’s not too late.

My Important Moments with Business Objects

Key events at the start of my SAP BusinessObjects career

I’ve been cleaning up my home office as part of getting ready for the new year. I stumbled across some of my old planners. Some nostalgia…

February 13, 2003: After nearly 10 years working with Unix, C & C++, and Oracle, began first Business Objects consulting engagement
September 24-26, 2003: Attended Universe Design training

December 1-3, 2004:
Taught my first Business Objects classes (v6.5 Core, Intermediate, and Advanced Reporting)

May 24-27, 2005: Business Objects XI R1 Fast Track Training, Atlanta, Georgia
June 8, 2005: Passed SAE201 Certification Exam
June 13, 2005: Passed SAE301 Certification Exam
June 20, 2005: Passed SAE401 Certification Exam – I’m a Business Objects Certified Professional!
July 14, 2005: Passed Accredited Report Designer v6.5 Exam
July 28, 2005: Organized steering committee and relaunched SONKBOUG (Southern Ohio/Northern Kentucky Business Objects User Group). Presented Getting To Know Business Objects XI
November 6-9, 2005: Business Objects Insight Americas 2005, Orlando, Florida
December 1-2, 2005: Train-the-Trainer training at Xavier University
December 12, 2005: Taught my first Web Intelligence XI R1 class

February 26-28, 2006: Business Objects Partner Summit 2006, Austin, Texas
July 28, 2006: Accepted as breakout speaker for Business Objects Insight Americas 2006
October 26, 2006: Presented my Insight 2006 presentation, Getting Personal with Publications and Profiles, at SONKBOUG (Southern Ohio/Northern Kentucky BusinessObjects User Group)
November 5-8, 2006: Breakout speaker at Business Objects Insight Americas 2006, San Francisco, California

February 13, 2007: Speaker at Northern Ohio BusinessObjects User Group (NOBOUG) in Cleveland, Ohio
May 14-16, 2007: Customer Centric Selling training for Business Objects partners
July 28, 2007: Accepted as breakout speaker for Business Objects Insight Americas 2007
September 2007: Business Objects Accredited Specialist: Crystal Decisions/Edge Series
September 2007: Business Objects 6.5 Accredited System Administrator
October 7, 2007: SAP AG and Business Objects S.A. announced that the companies reached an agreement that has brought together two of the information technology industry leaders.
October 15-28, 2007: Breakout speaker at Business Objects Insight Americas 2007, Orlando, Florida – presented Secure Universes Using Restriction Sets
December 7, 2007: Business Objects XI R2 Migration Specialist

And in 2008, the adventure continues…
January 13-15, 2008: Business Objects Partner Summit 2008, Las Vegas, Nevada

2007 Year in Review

A personal reflection on the past year.


What a long strange trip it’s been!

I began 2007 with a career move to a business intelligence professional services firm that wanted to extend their existing Business Objects Solution Partner relationship and join the Authorized Education Partner program. I knew at the onset that there would be travel, mostly to Ann Arbor, Michigan where the public training facility was located. But I looked forward to the opportunity to build something, a training program, from the ground up. This year, I have stayed 100 nights Holiday Inn hotels alone, earning nearly 273,000 Priority Club points.

In February, I was a speaker at the Northern Ohio Business Objects User Group, giving my Insight 2006 presentation, Getting Personal with Publications and Profiles. The presentation details how to use single-pass report bursting on the Business Objects XI Release 2 platform.

From February through May, I worked with a European automobile manufacturer in Auburn Hills, Michigan, developing requirements for a master data management system for their product data.

In April, my wife and I enjoyed a weekend in Chicago, Illinois for an off-site company meeting with my employer.

In May, I traveled to Newark, New Jersey for 3 days of Customer Centric Selling training for Partners, provided by Business Objects. The training was directly applicable. I’ve also greatly appreciated the book, which has changed how I approach consulting probably more than how I approach selling.

In June, I made two trips to St. Louis, Missouri to help another Business Objects AEP teach SA210R2 and SA310R2 (Business Objects Enterprise XI Release 2 Administration). Two of my students were administrators for one of Business Objects’ largest customers. They were taking the classes in preparation of their migration, although they were going to wait for BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.0 (code name Titan).

In late July and early August, I spent two weeks in Scotts Valley, California teaching users how to use, of all things, Crystal Reports Explorer. This was my first experience delivering training via WebEx, to users in North America, Asia, and Europe. The schedule was demanding, as the training was offered at times convenient to the end users. North American training was delivered during Pacific Standard Time business hours, Asia beginning at 7:00 PM PST, and Europe at 4 AM PST. While I was in California, I took full advantage of my Ford Mustang rental to visit Carmel By The Sea, Monterrey, Santa Cruz, Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, and Big Basin State Park. Driving a Ford Mustang rental through the redwoods (esp. Highway 9 through Henry Cowell) was simply amazing.

In August, I traveled to Nashville, Tennessee to do a pre-sales call doing my first demo of Dashboard Manager. Let’s just say that there’s a first time for everything…

October was a very busy month. I spent a few days at a Michigan health insurance provider, auditing their Business Objects XI R2 security model. They were gracious enough to let me preview my Insight 2007 presentation, Secure Universes Using Restriction Sets, which I presented the following week in Orlando, Florida. The week after Insight 2007, I taught my first class subcontracting to Business Objects for a nationally-known fashion retailer in Cincinnati.

And now, things are mostly quiet. In November, I began a local assignment, helping a Cincinnati-area customer migrate from Business Objects 6.5 to Business Objects XI R2 SP3. This assignment should keep me occupied into 2008. I’ll be posting some of my activities and lessons learned to this blog.