Monday, April 29, 2013

What's your personal value statement? Here are my five values.

I attend a talk by Alan Hilburg ("Where is the beef?" campaign from Wendy's). His home work assignment that is that everyone should create their own value statement with no more than 5 values. It's surprisingly difficult and here is my attempt.

1) Integrity : Be honest with myself foremost and always then be honest with everyone else. Doesn't matter if this is the first time or the last time I might meeting the other person.

2) Humility : Be respectful of all opinions and actions, I don't have to agree but I'll always try to listen and to understand a different perspective. Be considerate of my abilities and limitation, understand my strength and weakness so I know when and where to be helpful or asks for help.

3) Simplicity : Truth is simple. Look for that deeper truth in any situation so don't be overwhelmed by the initial complexity. Keep my life as simple as possible. Don't be burdened other people's complexity or expectations.

4) Learning : Always be learning and trying to connect the dots between different ideas and concepts. 

5) Figure-It-Out-And-Get-It-Done : Finally, the most important value. Put all my abilities, network, resources, learning to work so what is important gets done.

Here are other values that I considered but seems less of a core value or too similar to other values. 

Sunday, April 28, 2013

3 key ideas from Alan Hilburg presentation at Tech Coast Venture Network

My first event at TCVN. It was an interesting meeting. I walked away energized and excited about future possibilities. I would be interested to attend again. 

Here are my notes from the speaker Alan Hilburg. He was an excellent speaker. It helps that every once in awhile  he pulls out a $20 and incentivize people to answer a question. It's a good public speaking tip. He practices what he preaches. So 3 keys ideas from his talk. I share them here on my blog. 

What is a brand? 
It's not your website, product, brochure, slogan, etc. 
Brand is the experience the marketplace and trust people has in the company.
Branding is emotional and NOT rational.
Think about your brand protagonist

3 principles of a brand
1) OIVSIO - outside in vs inside out.
2) Context Before Content
3) Pull vs Push
push - inside out. constantly sell
pull - create condition that people want to be part of experience greater than themselves. 

3 Basis of good relationships. 
1) know their fear. 
2) know what define their success
3) know what makes them happy


Friday, April 26, 2013

Product Manager - The Silent Conductor

Product Manager as conductor is not a unique metaphor. Two good examples of the metaphor from Kellogg and BBC. I want to take this concept one step further. A good product manager is not only a conductor between different business functions. The great product manager should be a silent conductor as explained by Benjamin Zander, conductor of Boston Philharmonic. Recently, I read his wonderful book called The Art of Possibility. This is an inspiring book about becoming a better and more engaged person. Back to the idea of the silent conductor, I quote from Zander's book.
I have been a conductor for nearly twenty years when it suddenly dawned on me that the conductor of an orchestra does not make a sound. ... his true power derives from his ability to make other people powerful. I began to ask myself questions like "What makes a group lively and engaged?" instead of "How good am I?"
This approach precisely describes the role of the Product Manager. PMs usually doesn't have direct control over any of the business functions but are still expected to bring about a product to life and make it successful. Seems like a paradox to some people, but I don't think so. The lack of control means functional independence. This independence enables a PM to become a credible advocate for the customer, product, or whoever isn't currently in the room (link to Ken Norton's (Google Group PM) article on Product Management). The PM brings the vision of the ideal customer experience as delivered by a product. PM creates the "team ego" by making sure everyone feels powerful and successful. We are not suppose to talk about "feeling" in the workplace. We are all suppose to be professionals and keep our feelings in check. We are all human and we all have emotions. No matter what the work, in the end, work are done by people. So feelings matters and everyone works better when their feel respected.

It's harder than it sounds, engineers wants to do engineering things and they want to talk engineering talk. It's never easy to bridge that expectation and language gap. The best PMs are able to draw out the engineers using their language, to get the best ideas, and get them really engaged on how to create a better customer experience. PM makes engineers lives easier so they can keep doing the engineering things, only with better focus and more precise deliverable. Now, imagine doing the same work for all the different business functions: accounting, support, operation, sales, marketing, and legal. Each group have their own personalities, languages, and expectations. PM inspires everyone so everyone brings their 'A' game together to deliver on the same product vision.

There is another reason that I like the silent conductor metaphor. Notice that the conductor is the only person that the audience can't see the face during the performance. The conductor is front and center, but the face is hidden. The conductor is given this great responsibility and power to inspire and lead this group of talented musicians. As a part of the responsibility, the conductor submits his ego to the team and remains hidden during the performance. I understand that in practice, conductor's face can't be seen while his doing the job. To me, this is one ideal of humility. I have said to my team, I'm not the ceiling that limits you, I'm the floor that you stand on so you can reach high. My job is to be calm, on an even keel, so everyone can do their best.

image from:
In short, your mission, as a product manager, should you choose to accept it. Deliver an experience that customers LOVE through a product where you inspired everyone on the team to feel a silent conductor.

Monday, April 22, 2013

How to boost performance and convert an old laptop into a media center and file server.

Recently my old media center desktop died. I guess computer age counts in dog years. The machine was only 7 years old, but died on the operating table from a simple hard drive upgrade procedure that I have done many times (aka. it's not my fault. :) )

I debated for a while if I wanted to take this PC in for repair, but the estimated 1 to 2 hr to diagnose and fix the problem simply makes no sense for this old PC. Electronic recycle is the only way to go. I striped the hard drives, and dvd-burner. I should try to sell the working parts on the craiglist but it's not worth my time to bother.

The old PC was the file server, central backup, video transcoder, and media server for the home network. I needed to find a replacement fast. The cheapest new desktop I could find was a few hundred dollars and terribly under-sized in storage. I would need to upgrade the internal component to get the system working as before. It was not worth the hassle.

Geek out time! 

I have a 3 years old laptop (HP touchsmart tx2 with AMD Turion dual-core CPU) that was gathering dust. Instead of a new low-end desktop, I figured for the same price I can seriously beef up this laptop and turn it into a decent media center. I did a good amount of research to make sure I got maximum bang for the minimal bucks. I budget $300 and brought the following items:

Click on the links to get exact store and product that I purchased:

Solid State Drive 128GB : $130

USB 3.0 ExpressCard: $13

USB 3.0 hard drive docking station: $50

3.5" 1 TB 7200 RPM internal HD: $75

USB TV tuner: $50

USB enclosure : $6

MCBuddy: donationware

The experience was tedious but not too painful. I took some extra steps to ensure optimal system function. Here are the major steps.

1) Removed the original internal 5400 rpm HD from the laptop
2) Replace the internal HD with new SSD HD
3) Rebuild Windows 7 Home Premium from the installation disks
    3a) I thought about upgrading to Windows 8, but the media center is NOT included with the home edition, I would have to upgrade to Windows 8 Pro then pay even more to get the media center pack.
4) Installed the USB 3.0 ExpressCard and drivers.
5) Plugged in the USB 3.0 HD docking station into the ExpressCard
6) Inserted the new and old HDs from old desktop into the docking station
7) Insert the old laptop HD into the 2.5 drive enclosure
8) Plugged the 2.5 drive enclosure to the ExpressCard
9) Reorganized all the files for optimize usage and backup.
     9a) SSD is only used for OS and temporary files
     9b) New HD is for all the user files and recorded videos
     9c) Old 3.5 and 2.5 HDs holds the image backup for all the computers on the network.
10) Installed the USB TV tuner
11) Verified the important channels recorded in High Def and Standard Def.
12) Install MCBuddy to automatically transcode the recorded wmv videos to mp4 that can be displayed by iPad, iPhone, Android, and DLNA on various LCD TVs, xBox, media center players, etc in the house.
13) Setup DLNA on laptop and checked all the TVs throughout the house has access.
14) Put the laptop in power saving mode so the CPU doesn't get so hot . (I probably need to invest in a very quiet laptop cooling system. The fan noise is occasionally bothersome. )

Overall experience:
The easy parts:
1) The hardware upgrades were super easy.
2) Windows 7 on SSD was a nice change. Install was fast, Boot up was fast, too.

The painful parts:
1) Windows network setup with homegroup and DLNA configuration was confusing. A lot of trial and error until something worked. Not exactly sure what configuration I ended up with, probably all security disabled.
2) Painful research until I found the blog entry to change the Windows 7 registry setting to allow UNC connection from Windows XP.
3) Reorganizing and consolidating all the files spread out across multiple hard drives on the old desktop system took majority of the time.

Finally, we can kick back and enjoy the my home brewed DVR, and watch *mostly* commercial free shows on every TV, iPad, iTouch, iPhone, and Android in this house.

Could I have spend a few dollars and gotten a TiVo, Roku, etc? Sure, but where would be the fun in that? Also, I really dislike monthly subscription fees. All this setup doesn't cost me one dime in additional monthly service fees. I already pay enough monthly fee for cable, internet, and VOIP.

The end result with everything showing 

The final result. 
HD docking station is facing the wall. The LEDs are very bright and bothersome at night. 
**Need to get an attractive wire management system **