Wednesday, December 03, 2014

2014-12-03 Wednesday - Advice for a Friend Launching a Solo Consulting Business

A friend is about to leave his large comfortable corporate enterprise job - and go out on his own.  I offered to write-up some suggestions based on some of my own experience (this posting is primarily focused on specific tactical resources that he might find useful) to help him prepare for launching his solo consulting practice. His business is in a different industry than mine - so these suggestions are more general purpose - and not specific to the software/technology industry...

If your business evolves as mine has, you may find that 50% eventually comes from referral/relationships - and 50% from sources that you monitor.  Having said that - there comes a time (either at the bottom of a vicious downturn in the business cycle, or at a peak in the organic growth rate of your business itself - where cold calling will be necessary to thrive - or just survive.  These are the best-of-the-best books I have found for developing the mental mindset for that time...

Some Recommended Books...

Zig Ziglar's Secrets of Closing the Sale, my copy is the original 1995 edition

You might prefer the newer 2004 edition:

Or, perhaps the Audio CD

This is an excellent book whenever your business growth feels like it is stalling...
Make It Happen Before Lunch: 50 Cut-to-the-Chase Strategies for Getting the Business Results You Want

Gerald Weinberg's writing has been transformational in how I have evolved as a consultant...

Secrets of Consulting

More Secrets of Consulting: The Consultant's Tool Kit

I have an entire shelf of Alan Weiss books in my library - his attitudes about most things rubs me the wrong way (often in a most disagreeable manner) - but his writing continues to challenge me in stretching my mind in how I view my consulting business - and how I seek to differentiate my competitive service offerings.  He also challenges my conventional notions about how to set billing rates - and how to value the service I offer clients. Be forwearned, he's a real ball buster kind of guy...

Avoiding the Hourly Billing Trap - Selling Your Expertise...

If you have some ideas for possible commercial/cloud software/service offerings, I highly recommend signing up for the Microsoft Biz Spark program...

Business Insurance

Sample Contracts, possible sources...

Cloud Hosted Accounting Software
You might want to look at something like this...

..or just
Cloud Hosted Billing/Invoicing

...or perhaps Intuit's invoice payment service...

If you find that you have long-term engagements with clients - where you need to publish client-specific documents - and have some form of interactivity - you might want to use a service like Base Camp

Or perhaps if you need something a little more robust...this might be worth looking at...

If you just need a time-tracking tool...

Road Warrior Tools....

You'll be on the road...often....and as a solo Rōnin Business Warrior - you'll have no corporate organization to support and back you up. It is up to you to assemble your 'support team' and 'support services' - here are a few that I would consider as potential 'force multipliers' for an Army of One:

Wifi / Mobile Hotspot
I have been very pleased with my AT&T Mobile Hotspot device [Unite Pro] - and recently upgraded to the 30GB/month option. One of my best investments in tools for the road: Never having to worry about availability of Wifi; ability to avoid public/guest Wifi networks; and avoiding potential additional charges for Wifi access in hotels and airports.

Web Site Hosting
Want to host a web site?
Yahoo Business Hosting has very economical plans:

You may also want to consider something like:

File Sharing

Need a Virtual Assistant?

Mail Box Service 
Having a mailbox with a local UPS store is extremely useful. The peace of mind that there is someone there to sign for packages, and who can forward your mail to you while you are on the road has been worth the annual cost.

Virtual Office / Phone / Mail / Support?

Although I am currently a Vonage business customer, if I were starting out today, I might consider...just a Skype Business Number


For offering seminars/classes: Student Registration / Sell Class Tickets Online


If you find yourself in the same major city often enough - and the client's office location is not usable (for whatever reason: space, convenience, noise, lack of privacy, etc.) - you might want to consider a Gold Business Lounge Membership with

Prices are very reasonable - and you can select a plan that is specific to a State, Country, or Global

Sometimes you just need a place to sit, have a coffee, and do a little work - this may be a useful link to save:

If I were traveling frequently, to help deal with stress, jet lag, etc. you might want a gym membership - my personal preference would be an LA Fitness Signature Club membership

If you find yourself spending a lot of time stuck in airports, it may be worthwhile to sign-up for a Priority Pass

For frequent business travel, I would also consider the extensive benefits offered by the American Express Platinum card

Also, for frequent flying, TSA-Pre

If you have frequent international travel,

This site can help with getting visas for international travel...

Need to host a web demo kind of meeting? This is a very economical service that also includes a free usage tier

or...consider this service



A World Clock

Currency Converter

You may need to entertain clients sometimes, OpenTable is convenient for checking menus, venues, and makes dinner reservations a snap

Some useful travel sites:

Consulting industry trends...

I subscribe to the Kennedy Wire e-newsletter, since it gives me a broader overview of trends/news related to the business of consulting in general.

Some links to inspirational content for the start-up / consulting frame of mind...

For an overview of the legal aspects of start-ups...

Presentations / Marketing:
Need business cards, stationary, signs, banners, web site, company swag?

Need a logo developed or a web site - put it out as a contest/bid project

or consider this service...

Engage your audience with a web hosted survey

Need to send out mass-mailings (e.g. newsletters?)

Share presentations

Share videos

Press Release Distribution

Presentation Zen

I find it helpful when crafting an initial contact email to refresh my mind with this...

[Apparently I captured the following snippet in a notebook some time ago, but I can't seem to find the source for proper attribution - I will update with the proper attribution as soon as I can confirm the source]

When crafting a sales letter, try to go with the proven direct marketing formula known as AIDA. It stands for: Attention, Interest, Desire, Action
Your sales material must incorporate all of these elements, which in effect takes the customer by the hand from the moment of getting their attention (A), having them take interest in the product (I), causing them to desire the BENEFITS that the product will give them - note that this is not the same as desiring the product (D), and calling them to action (A). A strong call to action, where you spell out and tell them exactly what to do in order to buy your product, is essential...

2014-12-03 Wednesday - Micosoft Office Visio Stencil 2014


2014-12-03 Wednesday - Book Review: Effective Ruby

Expert Guidance on Ruby's Ways

When you buy a book to expand your knowledge of something, you hope that the author has used the pages to communicate worthwhile lessons - and a good book is liking having a teacher by your side.  For my personal preference, an even better style is when the author acts much as a mountain guide - not only showing you the right way - but also calling out the dangers and risks of less efficient paths...or paths that will lead you astray.

In "Effective Ruby, 48 Specific Ways to Write Better Ruby", Peter J. Jones demonstrates his knowledge of Ruby - in a hands-on and practical manner - achieving the much deserved accolade as both teacher and guide.

The clarity of writing is reminiscent of Kernighan and Ritchie, Scott Meyers, and Joshua Bloch

Ruby is a worthwhile language to have in your toolbox - and this book is a welcome addition to my technical library.

Chapter 1: Accustoming Yourself to Ruby
Chapter 2: Classes, Objects, and Modules
Chapter 3: Collections
Chapter 4: Exceptions
Chapter 5: Metaprogramming
Chapter 6: Testing
Chapter 7: Tools and Libraries
Chapter 8: Memory Management and Performance

Friday, November 28, 2014

2014-11-28 Friday - Dev Lab Upgrades

Although my role these days is primarily as an architect - I continue to keep my hands firmly familiar with the full technology stack of tooling for developing solutions on different platforms.  A core belief in my view is that architects must not lose touch with their coding skills...and even better, when they are active contributors within an organization...

This post will be a bit messy over the next few days as I continue to add links, commentary, and clean-up the list with the final bits of software upgrades and installations.

My current primary dev machine is a Sony Viao VPC-F23BFX/B notebook running Windows 7 64 bit, with 8GB of RAM, with an Intel Core i7-2670QM processor (quad core, 8 threads, 2.20 GHz), a 640 GB internal hard drive, an NVIDIA Geforce GT 540M GPU, dual external LG Flatron E2260 LED-backlit LCD monitors, and two external USB attached Western Digital My Book drives (an older  2x500MB drive configured with RAID 1, and a more recent 2 TB drive). Additionally, I leverage various cloud hosting service providers when additional hardware/server test configurations are needed.

I've kept several older versions of Eclipse handy as part of my personal Dev Lab environment - but this week decided to discard them and work exclusively in the 4.4 (Luna) release.

Additionally, there are a number of tools which I've spent some time upgrading to their latest releases:

Virtual Machines...
- Oracle VM VirtualBox 4.3.20
[which I use when I need to work in a Linux environment - currently preferring Fedora Desktop 20 - with plans to upgrade to Fedora 21, when it is available as a GA release after December 9th]

Mobile Development Tools...
- Android Development Tools (ADT) 23.0.2

Static Code Analysis Tools...
- FindBugs 3.0.0
- PMD 5.2.1
- Checkstyle 6.1.1

Source Code Management
- Git 1.9.4
- Apache Subversion 1.8.10 [...pending build from source]

Build Tools...
- Jenkins 1.588
- Apache Ant 1.9.4
- Apache Maven 3.2.3

Programming Languages...
- PHP 5.6.3
- Python 3.4.2
- Scala 2.11.4
- R 3.1.2
- Groovy 2.4.0-beta-4
- Julia 0.3.3
- Perl 5.20.1 [changes since 5.18]
- Clojure 1.6.0
- Ruby 2.1.5
- Java 8

- Apache Commons Math 3.3
- Apache POI 3.11-beta3
- Apache Camel 2.14.0
- Apache Commons Lang 3-3.3.2

Application Servers...
- Apache Tomcat 8.0.15
- Jetty 9.2.5
- ElasticSearch 1.4.1
- Node.js 0.10.33

Distributed Computing Tools...
- Apache Storm 0.9.3
- Apache Zookeeper 3.4.6

Database Technologies...
- Apache Cassandra 2.1.2
- MariaDB 10.0.15
- Datomic 0.9.5078

- Eclipse Luna 4.4.1

For my Eclipse Luna environment, I'm still evaluating the mix of the following plugins that I've installed...




StatET (for R)

If you have used Subclipse in a previous version of Eclipse - and then think, "oh, why don't I try Subversive this time?" (or vice versa)  - then you'll probably find these links helpful (eventually)...

Restore Eclipse subversion project connection

Cannot connect existing project to SVN using Subversive

Friday, November 21, 2014

2014-11-21 Friday - CERN Open Data

2014-11-21 Friday - Toshiba Qosmio X70-AST3G26 Laptop

I'm not quite yet ready to pull the trigger on buying a new laptop - but sometime in 2015 I think I will do so.

The specs for the Toshiba Qosmio X70-AST3G26 Laptop look quite appealing...something beefy enough to use as a portable development workstation...

  • Intel® Core™ i7-4700MQ Processor
  • 32GB DDR3L 1600MHz memory
  • 3GB GDDR5 NVIDIA® GTX770M with Optimus™ Technology
  • 2.75TB: 256GB Solid State Drive (mSATA, SSD) + 1.0TB (5400 RPM, Serial ATA) + 1.5TB (5400 RPM, Serial ATA)
  • Blu-ray Disc™ Rewriteable (BD-RE) and DVD SuperMulti drive
  • FHD TruBrite® TFT LED Backlit Display with Intel® Wireless Display Technology
  • Intel® Dual-Band Wireless-N 7260 2x2 AC + Bluetooth® 4.0
  • Premium Frameless LED Backlit Raised Tile Keyboard with 10-Keypad (black)
  • 10/100/1000 Ethernet LAN
  • Starting at 7.6 lbs
  • Black Widow Styling in Textured Aluminum

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

2014-11-18 Tuesday - NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet Android Lollipop

When looking for high performance technical computing tools, I often consider computing platforms that have been specifically designed for heavy duty gaming - but which would be just as fitting in an office environment.

I'm intrigued by the computing power bundled into the latest NVIDIA Shield  tablet with Android Lollipop...

NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet Android Lollipop Update Hands-On With Benchmarks

2014-11-18 Tuesday - XPerf

This posting is a placeholder for links and information regarding Windows Performance Toolkit

Two Minute Drill: Introduction to XPerf

XPERF and the Windows Performance Toolkit

Windows Performance Toolkit Technical Reference

Xperf Command-Line Reference

Monday, November 10, 2014

2014-11-10 Monday - QCon San Francisco Trip Report

Last week I attended QCon in San Francisco as a Gold Alumni (which included a free O'Reilly book)

I flew into SFO on Sunday and caught a cab (~$55) to the Hyatt Regency (I splurged for a balcony / bay view room - $295/night conference rate).  The hotel is really top shelf - and the venue was an excellent choice. The 7-11 and Starbucks across the street allowed me to refuel with moderate expenses for some additional refreshments.

The conference spanned three days (Mon-Wed) - with two days of tutorials on Thur-Fri.

Several familiar faces were speaking this year - but many/most were new.

LinkedIn and Netflix - as well as Google and Facebook - had some of the most interesting presentations.

I enjoyed meeting Bruce Schneier after his keynote:

Some of my favorite sessions included:

Jafar Husain
Asynchronous Programming at Netflix

Neha Narkhede
Samza in LinkedIn: How LinkedIn Processes Billions of Events Everyday in Real-time

NOTE: Neha is a true standout at this year's QCon - she is an established professional - with solid accomplishments - but she is still early in her arc of success - she is definitely someone that will have even bigger successes in her future. A definite rising star...

Aaron Gardner
Etsy Search: How we index and query 26 million one-of-a-kind items

Jeff Lindsay
Real-world Docker: Past, Present, and Future

Randy Shoup
Concurrency at Large-Scale: The Evolution to Reactive Microservices

I met Randy at a previous QCon some years ago - and have sat in on one of Java One presentations at Oracle World. He is a top shelf speaker - always informative, thought provoking, and entertaining. My one suggestion to anyone that ever has a chance to work for him: Immediately quit whatever else you are doing and go work with this guy. You will gain an invaluable education and the depth of your experience and knowledge will be magnified far beyond your imagination.

Sean Taylor
Putting the Magic in Data Science @ Facebook

One of the most informative sessions for me this year...

Lin Qiao
Gobblin: A Framework for Solving Big Data Ingestion Problem

Another rising star to watch for in the future...

Julien Le Dem
Efficient Data Storage for Analytics with Parquet 2.0

The hotel offered a town car service to the airport ($65) - which was a bit of an extravagance and indulgence on my part - a welcome reward for the last few years of multi-year client engagements.

Overall, it was a good trip - just the tonic I was seeking for inspiration, insight, and motivation.

Thursday, October 02, 2014