Archive for the ‘Nerdery’ Category

Phil Simms Would Make an Excellent Software Consultant

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NFL Football

On a flight from Chicago to New York my seat just happened to be next to former NFL Quarterback Phil Simms. My first reaction was, “How I am going to hold a conversation with this guy?” He played in the NFL, won a Super Bowl and he is now an NFL broadcaster. I will clearly sound like an amateur if I try to have any football related conversation with Phil at all. What a dilemma!

As we were boarding the plane, I noticed that as Phil approached his seat, he was very friendly with everyone sitting around us. He was very helpful and offered to assist any lady within a couple of rows to put their luggage in the overhead bin. Not that I am a bad traveler – I certainly will assist any lady with their luggage that needs help if they ask. But now my approach is completely different. Instead of always trying to be the efficient business traveler, I take the pace a little slower and I am now a better gentlemen and offer help upfront.

Now towards the end of the flight I did strike up a conversation with Phil. It turns out he was watching the Bear’s game, which he just finished broadcasting. He said he likes to watch the games he broadcasts afterwards so he can see things he might do a little differently. That was great to hear from a consultant’s perspective. Clearly Phil was practicing “lessons learned.” Using that as a further conversation starter, I asked Phil how he plans out his week.

Basically Sunday is the end of his week and Monday is his day off. He told me that his initial preparation for next week’s game starts by watching 3 – 4 football games so that he can keep current. We talked about John Madden and his influence on how NFL broadcasting is handled. Phil’s week also includes visiting with the teams in his upcoming broadcasts to gather further detailed information about each team. That clearly is very good preparation.

All-in-all, I was very impressed with his approach to his work. From a consultant’s perspective, Phil’s week is strategically planned and executed. I know my Project Manager would be impressed! And this goes back to my original thought that with Phil’s dedicated approach to work and travel, Phil Simms would make an excellent consultant, when can we sign him up?

Steven J Brenner
Senior Principal Consultant
MIPRO Consulting


iPhone 6 Pixels

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The first time you see an iPhone 6 or 6+ display, it looks considerably better than the previous generation iPhone (5S) despite having the same resolution. Bryan Jones, a photographer, explains it like this:

The first time you switch on an iPhone 6, you will be amazed at how clear the display is.  It looks even higher definition than the iPhone 5s which is a pretty nice display itself.  So, given that the screen of the iPhone 6 looks so much better than the iPhone 5s, I wondered what was different and ran into the lab for a quick capture of the iPhone 6 screen to see if any of the pixels had changed in size over the last little while.

Turns out, there’s some very subtle but significant refinements in the iPhone 6-generation of the device’s display.

When the iPhone 5 came out, Apple bonded the display to the glass in an effort to get the pixels closer to the surface and Apple has appeared to make the pixels in the 6 even closer still. ”Some of what we are seeing with the iPhone 6 may be a polarizing filter underneath the glass, but even so, the glass appears thinner and required less focus distance adjustment to get from the surface of the glass to the pixel on another microscope. I don’t know what that precise distance is in microns between the surface of the glass and the pixels, but it was a shorter distance as judged by rotation of the focus knob in the iPhone 6 vs. the iPhone 5. What this accomplishes is making the display appear to be higher resolution. The blacks are blacker, contrast is higher and colors are more vibrant, even with the same OS.

Attention to details that other companies would overlook in the name of cost savings or perceived irrelevance is what makes Apple Apple.

Updated: Backblaze’s Hard Drive Reliability Report

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If anyone knows something about hard drives, it’s Backblaze, whose very existence depends on the reliable, stable backup of its customers’ data.

Earlier this year Backblaze published a report that detailed their operational experience with hard drives from Seagate, Western Digital, Hitachi and others. Just last month, they updated their findings based on the 34,000 hard drives they have deployed today.

The report goes into great detail (while remaining cohesive), but this chart gives you the summary:

Hard Drive Failure Rates by Model

Read the entire report here. This is great information, and this year’s earlier report informed my decision about what external hard drive to buy for home backup purposes (spoiler alert: I went with Western Digital).

TIP: Track W9 Forms Received Per Supplier via the PeopleSoft Supplier Definition for 1099 Reporting

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The W9 form is required from all Suppliers to certify when they are exempt from backup withholding or the payer must collect withholding taxes on reportable payments to the IRS using the 1099 form. The tracking can be done in PeopleSoft using the Government Certification definition and tracked in the Supplier definition. How? Let’s do a quick walkthrough.

1. Define the W9 Certification source

psft 1

2. Record the receipt of the W9 in the supplier definition and use the effective date to tracking new W9 forms over the years.

psft 2


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3. Optional – Scan the W9 and attach the image using the Supplier Attachments feature

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4. Create a query to monitor Suppliers without a W9 or an expired W9 recorded on the table VNDR_GOV_CERT to monitor and report the W9 status as you prepare for year end 1099 reporting.

This is a quick and efficient workflow, and I’ve implemented in many of MIPRO’s clients. Give it a shot. If you have any questions about this, drop me a note and I’ll help where I can.


The Feed: This Week in Tech News and Commentary

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The Feed will be a new weekly feature here on MIPRO Unfiltered. What is it? News and micro-commentary from this week in the tech industry that you were probably too busy to catch. We’ve all been there – trying to stay in the know, but real life has a way of interrupting. We hope this lets you catch up on a few things you might have missed.

  1. Apple has given a minor refresh to its MacBook Pro Retina models. Nutshell: new CPUs (still not Haswell, though – for that you’ll have to wait until 2015), 16 GB standard in high-end models, pricing adjusted down a little. Nice inter-macrocycle refresh, just in time for school. Link.
  2. Facebook is now requiring users to use its Facebook Messenger app if you want to send a message to another Facebook user. People are outraged by this (for some reason), but in the mega-competitive messaging space (think SnapChat, WhatsApp, etc.) your app has to be standalone and feature rich, not a bolt-on to your main service. Messaging is huge. (Side note: remember Tim Cook said ‘Messages’ is the most-used iOS app.) Link.
  3. Hilton goes high-tech: the company is investing $550 million to make sure you don’t need to visit the front desk to check in. You just go to your room, hit a button on your smartphone, and you’re in. Hilton would like to see this complete on a worldwide scale by 2016. Link.
  4. Microsoft’s Siri competitor, Cortana, now has the ability to use Foursquare location and local recommendation data. This makes sense, as MSFT invested $15M in Foursquare earlier this year. Link.
  5. In a bizarre twist of anti-piracy antics, London’s Police Department is buying ads on piracy websites telling users that stealing movies is illegal. I wonder if the London PD understands their money is funding the piracy sites. Link.
  6. Free wifi is great, right? Not so fast. If you want to scare yourself silly by learning just how easy it is for people and companies to track you (literally) and gather information about you and your habits, this is for you. 6 minutes well-invested, in my opinion. If it appears too good to be true, it probably is comes to mind. Link.
  7. Amazon now has a section of their store that has about 200 items that are 3D printed on-demand when you buy them. The future is getting closer everyday. Link.
  8. Automattic, the company behind the mega-popular CMS engine WordPress, has created an app that more or less clones Instagram, called Selfies. Available on Android only, I guess the only remaining question is why, everyone has been going crazy and getting instant Instagram followers since then. Link.

Thanks for reading this week, everyone. See you Monday.

A Brief Dissection of Apple’s New ‘Stickers’ MacBook Air TV Ad

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This is ‘Stickers’, the new TV ad for Apple’s MacBook Air. It’s interesting on several levels. Watch:

I watch and dissect all Apple ads, and this one jumped at me. Why?

  1. It breaks from their traditional style. Most Apple ads show what you can do with the product, not 30 seconds of the product itself from largely one angle.
  2. It shows Apple products in a modified state. This almost never happens. (Well, in ‘Powerful’ they showed the device in steadicam rigs and attached to instruments, but that’s not the same.) Here, modified means user-modified, which implies an affection for the product, a sense of personalization, a sense of use. One would only bother putting stickers on a product of which they were proud, or used every day to perform their daily work. You customize your car; you don’t customize your extra gas generator sitting in your garage.
  3. If you look at the MacBook Airs you see flashing through the ad, you’ll notice blemishes, scratches, maybe even minor dents – again, this implies use and a sense that the machine is an extension of someone, not just a product on a pedestal. Apple is in the business of creating experiences, not just devices. This is what makes Apple products appeal (or not) to certain people. (I’d even go out on a limb and say that the machines you see in ‘Stickers’ are actual, real-world user machines, but I’m just riffing here.)
  4. Showing stickers all over Apple’s vaunted industrial design is actually a bit self-deprecating: it shows Apple isn’t taking its naked design as the canonical style. There’s a bit of jauntiness here, a sense that Apple isn’t taking itself so seriously. This is a good thing.
  5. What’s the key value of a laptop computer? The screen. This ad shows not a single shot of the screen. Again, this isn’t about how the device gets used – everyone knows that by now.
  6. Finally, the iconic six-color Apple logo makes a brief, staccato appearance in the ad’s final frames. Great touch, and nice to see.

This entire ad is about self-expression, not a product. It’s almost as if the Beats marketing team created it, and I don’t think it’s any accident it’s airing alongside Apple’s back to school promo.

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Have a good weekend, everyone.

The Daily Rituals of Great Minds

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Part One

I have become a bit obsessed about the daily work patterns of famous people. I liken this interest to my interest in biographies: it’s fascinating to see how someone who changed the world thinks and acts on a daily basis. Voyeuristic? Maybe. Informative? Like you wouldn’t believe.

My new morning habit is to read a single chapter out of Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey. The book’s premise is dead simple: it explains the daily rituals of 161 inspired minds – authors, playwrights, philosophers, scientists, mathematicians – particularly the self-discipline required to be great and navigate life’s frequent and annoying obstacles.


If anything, I find this book’s themes quite constant: diligence, discipline, set wake up/work times, and even a little bit of patterned self-medication. The book is truly fascinating, and you should buy it. My suggestion would be to get the hardcover, and pass on the Kindle version unless you are a 100% pure ebook hound. You want this one on your nightstand.

Part Two

In keeping with the above, here’s a website that’s equally fascinating: The Daily Routines of Famous Creative People. Don’t let the term ‘creative’ think this doesn’t apply to you: whether you write for a living or make presentations or run multiple businesses, creativity is part of what you do. Don’t fool yourself.

This site gives a daily timeline of about two dozen famous minds, from 12 AM running through the rest of the day. The graphic is below, but you need to visit the site to click around the graphic (it’s interactive) to see exactly what each person was doing in each segment. It’s awesome.


If nothing else, I find digesting information like this forces me to be more conscious of my own daily habits, much like reading about top athletic performers made me think about my own training and incorporate some new ideas.

Always be learning. It’s a secret to growth and performance I wish I learned 15 years ago.

Have a great weekend, everyone.

Realtime Map of Lightning Strikes

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This is too cool not to share: here is a realtime map of lightning strikes. (This region is set to United States, but you can select others on the left side of the screen.) Make sure your sound is turned on too, because you can hear audible notifications when a strike is reported.

Average delay on the data being reported is only 3-5 seconds. That’s amazing.

How does this work? It’s a crowdsourced effort. You can buy a detection kit for around $400 and connect it to the Internet. Once connected, the data your station collects is available to any other station owner, and boom – you’ve got yourself a network of strike detection and data.

It’s things like this that make me just sit back, smile, and realize we’re living in a pretty amazing time.

Game Changers: What Apple Announced This Week at WWDC

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You can’t go anywhere on the web without reading one of a zillion articles about what Apple announced at Monday’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), so instead of going long on this and reiterating what everyone is saying, I’m going to summarize the big things as succinctly as possible.

Why even bother? Because some of the things Apple announced are HUGE.

Open-API Touch ID Functionality

Touch ID – the software behind Apple’s fingerprint sensor in the iPhone 5S – is excellent, and once you start using it, you get used to it – fast. Passwords feel archaic, and you get annoyed when you have to type one.

This week, Apple opened Touch ID up to third-party developers, which means anyone can create an app that foregoes passwords and instead uses a fingerprint biometric. Think about that: Apple is swinging an axe straight down on the neck of the confusing, easily-compromised password scheme we all love to hate.

This will change the way login security will be handled on a massive scale. Just wait and see how quickly developers snap this up.


Cool Tools You Can Use: Validation Templates for PeopleSoft Contracts Processes

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For PeopleSoft Apps Strategy, Oracle’s Mark Rosenberg kicks off a new blog series called Cool Tools You Can Use. Headed up by PeopleSoft product management team, the series will be based on conversations Oracle had with PeopleSoft community members. The theme of this particular series is highlighting existing solutions to problems customers are trying to address. In other words, cool functionality that you can use today, free of charge, that you might not know about.

Up first: Templates for PeopleSoft Contracts Processes.

The business issue our customers highlighted to us is the need to tightly control but easily configure and manage the scope of data that any user can process when initiating a process. Control of each user’s span of impact is essential to reducing billing reconciliation issues, passing span of authority audits, and reducing (or even eliminating) the frequency of unexpected process results. 

Check out the whole thing. Great information. This is going to be a good series.


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