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Shiny new thing: Dell XPS 15

A shiny new Dell XPS 15 laptop is now in full effect at The Orbiting Dacha.

This is the newest version of our 2016 SmallBizWindows Product of the Year.


Unlike the tested product back then, this device has the latest available Intel i7, a 500 GB SSD, and…tada..the pièce de résistance…that beauuutiful touchscreen 4K InfinityEdge display.

I have decided to take personal charge of the long term review for this baby.

People note: these are the sacrifices I make. For you.

© 2002 – 2016, John Obeto for Blackground Media Unlimited

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Shiny New Thing to review: Epson Home Cinema 5040UB 3D Projector

We have here the Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 5040UB 3LCD projector for review.

This is a wireless 3D projector with both 1080p resolution, and HDR compatibility.


It is taking the place of our trusty Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 3500 3D projector for the next several weeks before emplacement at a final location.

Selected review media include the entire Star Wars saga, among others.

I shall keep you informed.

© 2002 – 2016, John Obeto for Blackground Media Unlimited

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Photo Album: the Social Compass Influencer Breakfast at Dell EMC World 2016

There was an influencer breakfast at Dell EMC World.


It was rather cool, with Dell staffers trying to get attendees to familiarize themselves with the lay of the land that is the Austin Convention Center.

Event photographs were taken, and the event tchotchke was…tada…a compass, of which #2 Son was the recipient*. Now, it name of this gathering made even more sense.


Dell EMC World 2016

Dell EMC World 2016

Dell EMC World 2016

Dell EMC World 2016

Dell EMC World 2016

*He immediately wanted to go off into the greenbelt behind the Orbiting Dacha to try it out!

© 2002 – 2016, John Obeto for Blackground Media Unlimited

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Symphony Innovate 2016: Lunch with David Gurle Part II

Presentation1Symphony Communications held their yearly Symphony Innovate confab last week in New York City.

I was there, and had the opportunity to sit at a private luncheon with David Gurle, founder and CEO of Symphony, and some other event attendees as guests.

The lunch rapidly turned into an impromptu Q&A session.

However, David was kind enough to graciously answer our questions.

My camera was at the ready, and I am bringing you a 5-part video series on the event.

This is Part II of the series, which is embedded below, Clicking on the link will take to you an ad hoc OneDrive folder from which the video will be streamed.


Video © & ℗, 2016, Blackground Media Unlimited

  • Part I
  • Part III
  • Part IV
  • Part V

© 2002 – 2016, John Obeto for Blackground Media Unlimited

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Symphony Innovate 2016: Lunch with David Gurle Part I

Presentation1Symphony Communications held their yearly Symphony Innovate confab last week in New York City.

I was there, and had the opportunity to sit at a private luncheon with David Gurle, founder and CEO of Symphony, and some other event attendees as guests.

The lunch rapidly turned into an impromptu Q&A session.

However, David was kind enough to graciously answer our questions.

My camera was at the ready, and I am bringing you a 5-part video series on the event.

Part 1 of this series is embedded below, and will take to you an ad hoc OneDrive folder from which the video will be streamed.


Video © & ℗, 2016, Blackground Media Unlimited

  • Part II
  • Part III
  • Part IV
  • Part V

© 2002 – 2016, John Obeto for Blackground Media Unlimited

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Andy Marken’s Content Insider #490 - Teens

Gen Z is More Prepared, More Savvy than You Think


I was hoping I wouldn't have to. Sometimes it skips a generation.
I was hoping it would pass you by.”

– Harold Howard, “Teen Wolf,”  Wolfkill, 1985

Today’s teens are the ones who are in line to take over business, the world.

They’re the first generation to not know life before the Internet, the Web, apps, smartphones, constantly being connected and being able to tap into any news, information, entertainment anywhere in the world.

Obviously, they’re screwed up.

Except they’re not!
It’s important to know and understand them because (and let’s be crass about it) they are the big customers of tomorrow and, according to world census figures, they’re a big market:

  • Silent Generation (69+) – 10.5 percent of the population
  • Baby Boomers (50-68) – 23.6 percent
  • Gen X (38-49) – 15.4 percent
  • Millennials (20-37) – 24.5 percent
  • Gen Z (19 and under) – 25.9 percent

Gen Z is rapidly coming into its own in terms of influence, consumption and spending power so the more you understand them, the better chance you have to be the product/service they want to adopt, support, use and recommend.

Wiki’s co-founder, Jimmy Wales noted, "It is clear that this generation is using technology in a way that is smarter, more involved and beneficial to their future. We can learn a lot from how this unbounded, younger generation interacts with technology and are able to quickly adapt to this rapidly changing media landscape."

Strong Understanding
Compared to the generation before them, Gen Zers appear to have a good grasp of the world they’re going to inherit. Perhaps it is because Internet access has made it easy for them to judge “facts” for themselves.

According to a research report by OfCom:

  • 60 percent want their jobs to impact the world
  • 26 percent currently volunteer
  • 76 percent are concerned about our impact on the planet
  • 76 percent would like to turn their hobbies into fulltime jobs
  • 72 percent want to start their own businesses someday


Financial Focus – Today’s teens are already looking to the future with over half (62 percent) putting almost half of their earnings into savings. That may not sound like much but it represents more than $44B annually. They are certain they’ll fail at least once in their lives but feel it will be a learning experience. In addition they plan to someday have a home and car.

Parents of teens and Millennials got involved with the Internet when content was mostly text; but for teens, it is just one giant TV/new/information/radio channel they can tap into with any device that’s at hand – when they want, where they want, how they want.

According to a research report by Marko, there are real differences between Gen Z and Millennials:


Gen Z

  • Five screens
  • Communicate with images
  • Create things
  • Future focused
  • Realists
  • Want to work for success


  • Two screens
  • Communicate with text
  • Share things
  • Focused on the present
  • Optimists
  • Want to be discovered

Since they were almost literally born connected the Internet, Gen Zers’ Internet use is high, regardless of the device. But as a clear indication of what tomorrow holds for device, app producers and online/onsite retailers, a growing volume of their access is being done with mobile devices.


Born Connected – Following the Millennial generation, Gen Zers (1995 – 2009) started their journey when the Internet was already established. As a result, they’ve been the first generation to know everything – documents, data, images and entertainment – is online. Accustomed to using whatever device is at hand, they will be the most studied, analyzed and tracked generation … until the next generation comes along.

Since they are rapidly becoming a major market, Harold Howard said, “An explanation is probably long overdue.”

According to Pew Research, males tended to use the Internet more than females, and rural teens were more likely to access the iNet than urban teens (99% vs. 94%). However, females were slightly more likely to use mobile access than males (25% vs. 20%).

Key findings were:

  • 78 percent of teens have a cell phone, almost half (47%) smartphones.
  • 23 percent of teens have a tablet computer
  • 95 percent of teens use the internet
  • 93 percent of teens have a computer or have access to one at home
  • Seven in ten (71%) teens with computers access say it’s shared with others

Sharing But…
Being online almost every waking moment, teens are sharing more information about themselves on social media sites than in the past.

However they are also taking more aggressive steps to manage their privacy and are concerned about third-parties (businesses, advertisers) accessing their information.

Or, as Harold Howard noted, “It's not as bad as it looks.”

Pew Research found:

  • 91 percent post a photo of themselves
  • · 71 percent post their school name
  • · 71 percent post the city or town where they live
  • · 53 percent post their email address
  • · 20 percent post their cell phone number
  • · 60 percent of teen Facebook users set their Facebook profiles to private (friends only)
  • · 56 percent say it’s “not difficult at all” to manage the privacy controls on Facebook
  • · 33 percent say it’s “not too difficult.”
  • · 8 percent say that managing their privacy controls is “somewhat difficult”

Managing activities include:

  • 59 percent have deleted or edited their posts
  • 53 percent have deleted comments on their profile/account
  • 45 percent have removed their names from photos
  • 31 percent have deleted or deactivated their profile or account
  • 19 percent have posted items they later regretted sharing

Them, Not Me
A study by Camp Mobile found that 81 percent of teens felt their peers shared too much information.

Teens have embraced app downloading in a major way (especially games) however, a growing number uninstall or avoid apps because of security/privacy concerns.


Free, But – Today’s teens’ first choice – like everyone – is a free app. However, if the app wants too much personal information or can track them they will not download it and if it’s already on their device, they’ll uninstall it. They’re just as careful with their online social media persona and monitor it more closely than older generations.

Girls have become especially sensitive to location information monitoring and have disabled the features on their smartphones and apps.

A recent research report found:

  • 58% of teens have downloaded apps to their phones, tablets
  • 51% have avoided apps due to privacy concerns
  • 26% have uninstalled an app because they found out it was collecting personal information
  • 46% have turned off location tracking features on their phone or app
  • Girls are more likely than boys to disable location tracking (59% vs. 37%)

eMarketer estimates 97 percent of Gen Zers will use the Internet this year and that regular social media activity will increase to 86.5 percent. A growing number will keep a closer eye on how much they reveal to the world, including selfies.

Unlike Millennials, Gen Zers prefer hangouts like Snapchat and Whisper to Facebook and Twitter. They’re very visually oriented and, having been immersed in it since the beginning, are very tech-savvy.

They’ve grown up in the DIY (do-it-yourself) environment, focus on how things are made, seek peer recommendations/affirmation and are usually early adopters of products that are practical yet cool.


Comparing Gen Zers to earlier generations, it’s a lot like Harold Howard said, “You're going to be able to do a lot of things the other guys aren't.”

Stiles gave sellers some sound advice, “Do the right thing.”

Andy Marken is President of Marken Communications

© 2002 – 2016, John Obeto for Blackground Media Unlimited

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Off to Dell EMC World 2016, Austin, Texas

I am off to Dell EMC World 2016, in Austin, Texas


This is the inaugural event, as it is the first combined event from the merged company.

For those just exiting a stasis pod, Dell Computer Inc., went private back in 2013, and just about 7 weeks ago, closed a deal in which it purchased mighty EMC Corporation for the low-low price of $67 billion.

This, without a doubt, makes the newly renamed Dell Technologies, Inc., one of the three ‘Big Kahunas’ in the IT space, along with IBM and Microsoft.

I have not included Apple, a primarily consumer company here, and not Amazon, which is basically an e-commerce firm, here as well.



Dell can now boast of being the ONLY information technology OEM that can deliver a whole stack.

This is my first time attending a Dell event, despite having gone to numerous EMC events in the past.

I look forward to it, and to bringing you my thoughts on my experiences there.

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Dell Technologies surprised Us with their announcements at MS Ignite 2016

One company I have started following closely –– is Dell Technologies*.delltechnologies

At the start of the recently-concluded MS Ignite event in Atlanta, I feared that Dell would be so much in the throes of integrating with their latest acquisition, EMC Corp, that they – Dell – wouldn’t be in a position to do, or offer much.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that much was going on, and they had the following to offer.

Their initial bang was with the Microsoft Cloud, Azure.

For Azure, Dell announced the following new offerings:

Azure Backup a flexible, secure, scalable backup solution in Microsoft’s cloud management portfolio. With no capital investment and consumption-based pricing, this service delivers significant cost savings while protecting data running in virtual machines or on physical servers, as well as in Azure.

Azure Dev/Test Labs – a service that allows developers and testers to create and provision Windows and Linux environments quickly using reusable templates and pre-provisioned environments in Azure. As a result, customers can minimize time and waste, control costs and scale-up load testing efficiently.

Azure Business Continuity Solution – utilizes multiple Azure services delivered with Dell EMC consulting, provisioning, break/fix support, and single-source pay-as-you-go billing. This solution brings enterprise-class business continuity to small businesses by making it accessible and radically simpler without having to design, build, or maintain it on their own.

The rather interesting about the above services is that they are Pay/Go Dell services built atop Azure, maintained by Dell EMC staffers, and without typical long-term contractual commitments.

Another offering that caught my eye was the Dell EMC Hybrid Cloud System for Microsoft.

This solution enables Dell customers to power their hybrid cloud environments by benefiting from the industry’s first integrated, hybrid cloud solution that offers simplified, automated deployment and maintenance capabilities and unparalleled hybrid cloud governance, control, and policy-based automation for Azure with an optional, unique payment solution to reduce investment risk:

Converged? Converged. CONVERGED!!!
Unless you have been living in Middle Earth, you must know about converged systems**.

Here, Dell is delivering some new converged systems to leverage the Microsoft stack. Two new solutions were added to the Dell portfolio:

a) Dell EMC Validated System for Microsoft SQL is designed for superior performance, significant cost savings and scalability for future needs. It allows customers to process in-memory online transaction processing (OLTP) workloads up 30 times faster with Microsoft SQL Server 2016, as well as consolidate sprawling legacy databases with the latest Dell EMC PowerEdge R830 servers for a modern data warehousing solution with exceptional performance and total cost of ownership

b) The Dell EMC Validated System for Microsoft Exchange is a pre-architected and validated datacenter solution for email workloads. The highly scalable system delivers faster time to value by shortening the design, delivery and configuration time for Exchange Server 2016. Designed for exceptional scalability, this converged system lowers cost of ownership through resource consolidation, optimized storage design and efficient system management built on the Dell EMC PowerEdge R730xd server.

As I am informed, these new Dell EMC Validated Systems can be configured, quoted and ordered in minutes, while lifecycle management tools allow customers to easily deploy, scale and update systems.

Additionally, the information below was imparted:

  • Software Defined Data Center / Cloud with Windows Server 2016 - Key for success in 2016 and beyond – Windows Server 2016 with Storage Spaces Direct on Dell EMC PowerEdge Servers
  • Microsoft Azure Stack On-Premises cloud – seamless interface with frictionless connection to Azure
  • Cloud Enablement with Windows Server 2016 – Highly refactored the Nano Server Windows Server 2016 deployment option for born in-the-cloud applications with small OS footprint
  • Server Management – Dell EMC’s OpenManage Integration Suite for Microsoft System Center for seamless, agent-free server management
  • Microsoft SQL Server 2016 – Offers real time insights across transactional and analytical data, with a secure, scalable database platform from advanced analytics to in-memory performance and industry leading OLTP. It is equally important to operate all your big data operations on an infrastructure that reduces your TCO, delivers high performance that is secure and seamlessly manageable using your existing, familiar tools.
  • Database and analytics platforms – Dell EMC redefines database and analytics platforms for mission critical compute, storage and networking by combining the best efficiencies of x86 compute platform with flash storage and high performing network capabilities to meet the demands of next generation applications.

The graphic below is a handy cheat sheet.


  1. Thanks to @JimGant, @SarahVatDell, and the Social Media team there.
  2. I must read up on the Dell Validated Systems Portfolio.

© 2002 – 2016, John Obeto for Blackground Media Unlimited

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Symphony Innovate 2016: Symphony Meetings & Symphony Webhooks API

Presentation1“The Future of Work”

Haven’t you heard it before?

It sounds so innocuous, but it is a loaded concept.

Back in the day, computer programs that facilitated or helped businesses or their employees do work were called “productivity applications”.

In the nascent days of the personal computer, or PC, era, these were, in no particular order, Lotus Development’s Lotus 1-2-3, WordStar’s and WordPerfect’s namesake products, Borland’s Quattro Pro, Ashton-Tate’s dBASE, Software Publishing Corp’s Harvard Graphics, etc., etc.

Real time communications consisted of PSTN telephony, which Ma Bell ruled with a very iron fist. Email was rather esoteric, and very limited.

Today, for desktop productivity applications, we have Microsoft Office.

And some challengers I only have peripheral competitive knowledge of. I don’t get bogged down with them, so I won’t bore you with them either.

However, work has moved away from just one desktop.

Workers today are more likely to be distributed among several locations, in several companies, and tasked with different goals.

What keeps things humming along are the telephone or some sort of messaging, and the venerable email. For those who have a need to collaborate closely, Microsoft Skype for Business (formerly Lync) is very likely to be in use, as it is the market leader in this space.

However, there are several limitations surrounding Skype4Biz, as I will call it going forward.

Into this breach stepped Symphony Communications, with their first product, which is simply and eponymously called Symphony.

techcrunch 2a

What is Symphony?
Symphony is a secure collaborative communications platform that allows multi-party, multi-domain (multi-company) messaging and social chat.

It was built from the onset to have end-to-end encryption, and global financial-level compliance and auditing.

It is built on an extensible platform that allows applications built for it to preserve those security and compliance features.

Symphony is also cross-platform, available on the web, on iOS, and on Android.

techcrunch 3

Symphony Meetings
As of Thursday, October 6, 2016, Symphony now allows for recordable real-time multi-party communications.

Dubbed Symphony Meetings, this new feature empowers users to initiate audio, video, screen-share communications in real time. This multi-user communications functionality is backed into Symphony, and can be instantiated by any registered user. It is compliant in that sessions are recorded and available for compliance auditing, and control. It should be stressed that Symphony’s end-to-end encryption scheme is always in full effect over all communications.

As I understand it, this new feature is currently limited to 20 simultaneous users. However, that number will be increased by Q1 2017.

techcrunch 1

Symphony Webhooks API, the Symphony Foundation, and the Symphony platform

One aspect of Symphony Communications I understand better now, is the rôle of the Symphony Foundation.

As divulged to me by Symphony CEO David Gurle, Symphony Foundation was established almost concurrently with Symphony, and it was charged with harnessing the power of open source to encourage developers to create great apps that would leverage the power of Symphony.

Accordingly, at Symphony Innovate 2016, the Symphony Webhooks API was announced.

This API opens up Symphony to 3rd-party applications that deliver value in specific or relevant verticals, freeing the Symphony team from having to develop for, or target every conceivable usage scenario. This platform extensibility also allows for faster innovation across apps.

techcrunch 5techcrunch 4

Company Momentum
One of the cool things shared at Symphony Innovate 2016 was company, and user momentum

Currently, Symphony is being used by over 116,000 users, a pleasing number over their year-end projections of 110,000 users by the end of 2016.

These users are spread over 100+ companies. These financial industry users comprise of 86,866 sell-side users, and 19,700 buy-side users.

Symphony also has 8,700 individual users utilizing it from 36 of their partner companies.

The Symphony Innovate 2016 Series
As announced here, I was at Symphony Innovate 2016 last week in New York City.

Over a series of articles, I will be bringing you my thoughts on the event, and of my interview with David Gurle, founder and chief executive officer of Symphony.

More information, and download links for Symphony, which is free to use for individuals, can be found here:

© 2002 – 2016, John Obeto for Blackground Media Unlimited

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Symphony Innovate 2016

I am in New York City for Symphony Innovate 2016.

Presentation1This is an event sponsored by Symphony where about 300 financial and information technology executives from around the world are brought together to acquaint them not just with Symphony – their eponymous product, related mobile apps, and platform, but with forward-edge technologies for the financial services sector, including the numerous applications, content, and apps facilitating what looks to be an industry-wide migration to Symphony.

Since you asked, Symphony is a secure, compliant messaging and collaboration platform providing the end-to-end encryption, compliance, and security that is good enough for the global financial industry.

It is available via the web, and as iOS and Android apps.

Symphony Innovate 2016 starts tomorrow, October 5, 2016, at 9.00 AM Eastern.

Session information is here.

John Obeto is CEO of Blackfriars Capital
© 2002 – 2015, John Obeto for Blackground Media Unlimited

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Shiny New Thing: the HP OfficeJet Pro 7740 Large-format Printer

I am in possession of the new HP OfficeJet Pro 7740 Printer.

This is a large-format multifunction device that can deliver full color output all the way to 11” x 17”, also known as A3.


It is very cool looking, primarily while in color, in HP’s new simple, ultra-elegant design language.

As you can see from the image above, I have unboxed it, and I am ready to commence testing.

Oh, and according to HP, it can print, fax, scan, copy, and web(?)!

I, for one, do not know what that last capability is.

But, I aim to find out.

Onward, ho!

© 2002 – 2016, John Obeto for Blackground Media Unlimited

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Is Microsoft ceding K12 to inferior devices?

Is Microsoft ceding K12 to inferior devices?

Meaning Windows and associated services?

I certainly hope not!

The Catholic parochial schools in this area are well vested in all things technology.

More than that, they make sure that their students are required to use these devices.

Sounds good so far, right?

Except, get this, the required platforms and devices are iPads and…gasp!.....Chromebooks!

Yes, iPads and Chromebooks!

You can just imagine how verklempt I was when I was told I would have to buy iPads and a Chromebook.

I bought the iPads.

I just couldn’t pull the trigger on a Chromebook. Sadly, HP didn’t have a worthy Chromebook at the time, and I certainly wouldn’t pollute my internal network with the crap from other Chromebook OEMS.

The scary thing is, the same schools use these devices to connect to Microsoft's services, using Office 365 for Education (or whatever it is called!) for their messaging and collab, and Microsoft Office for their productivity applications.

Speaking separately to the head techdroids at the schools my kids attend, I was informed by them that a primary reason was the fact that the regional K12 players didn’t push PCs.

Moreover, I was told, the tablets out there – 2 schools – didn’t have a good enough MDM suite to work well in the education space, and most importantly, none of the PC OEMs had devices cheap enough, and with consistent enough quality to place. Obviously, these yum-yums hadn’t done their homework.

With the Chromebooks, the situation was much worse: the VAR came in with an entire hardware +software + MDM solution built around albeit crappy Chromebooks. No PC solution providers came up with similar solutions. Since the techdroid at that location wasn’t super techy, he leapt at the lifeline.

Think about this: these kids are going to grow up using non-Windows products until college!

I think someone on the Microsoft Education team has some ‘splaining to do!

I think there is a massive opportunity for Microsoft-focused VARs who target the education market – sadly, we don’t Sad smile - to take share from these low-hanging fruit.

© 2002 – 2016, John Obeto for Blackground Media Unlimited

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HPE Flex Solutions & the Busy VAR

One of the harder things for a busy VAR or solution provider to do is keep abreast of all the options available for a full-featured OEM such as HPE when trying to architect solutions for a project or client.

One pretty cool helper from HPE is the HPE Flex Solutions

What are HPE Flex Solutions?

Flex Solutions are a series of best-practices, engineered hardware and software solutions created by HPE in pre-tested configs that are optimized for the solution they are targeted against.

Running the gamut from the very small of businesses through the midmarket, and to the lower enterprise, Flex Solution also have upgradable options, and care packs that bring about clear messaging about the value prop contained within that solution.

As stated a few days ago, I am embarking on a review series on entry-level HPE Proliant tower servers. In the past, I would perform ad hoc configs for the devices as they enter and exit the various review regimes we put them through.

No longer.

I will be using HPE Flex Solutions to help configure the servers to task, and report on whether the delivered solutions were on point, up to par, and worth the effort in real and simulated use.

I am actually intrigued at this product, and I am looking forward to reviewing it in an attempt to see if our best practices jibe with HPE’s recommendations.

Stay tuned.

© 2002 – 2016, John Obeto for Blackground Media Unlimited

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Andy Marken’s Content Insider #487: Customer Leads

Marketing is a Company-Wide Function, Not a Department


“To do something, anything, is hard. It's much easier to blame your father, your mother, the environment, the government, the lack of money; but even if you find a place to assign the blame, it doesn't make the problems go away.” – Pierre Dulaine, “Take the Lead,” New Line Cinema, 2006

For all of our new tools, all of the rich data, the growing sophistication of our technology, all of our talking about the importance of the customer being in charge of the relationship, the thing we have achieved is to completely obfuscate what business is doing today.

We have laid out a beautiful storyline that no one (consumer or marketer) will disagree with -- relationship commerce creates valuable interactions and deep relationships with shoppers over time.

A long-term personalized relationship makes sense. Every junior business/marketing person knows that it costs five times more to attract a new customer than to keep an existing one.

Over time, that sticky customer retention policy grows a strong, healthy customer base because satisfied customers tell others.

Research continually shows that the first places a prospective customer turns for recommendations are friends, family, users and reviewers.


Reliable Source – When people are considering a product or service, the first thing they do is ask trusted friends and family. The second thing they do is go online and research the item based on third-party and advocate reviews as well as user feedback/reports. Usually, they’ve made up their mind before visiting the store or web site.

BAM! Everyone wins!

Nevertheless, we haven’t made much progress since Henry Ford’s customer-centric approach when he said, “A customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black."

More recently, retailers like Target, Macy’s and others have begun “stimulating” the relationship with beacon technology.

My wife thought it was great when she downloaded the stores’ app and “exclusive” deals were sent to her iPhone.

After that, it became spooky, creepy.

That’s not marketing. It’s pumping out ads.

So she uninstalled them … all of the store apps! And it will take a helluva’ lot to get her back.

She, and everyone who walks into the store, want a MinorityReport relationship.


Hello Again – Retail beacons still have a long way to go from being used to push ads and specials to being effective tools that assist the consumer (not the store). Until retail folks understand that they need to use beacon technology to provide consumers with information and assistance rather than a barrage of unnecessary, unwanted ads.

The store’s beacons recognize her phone, welcome her back, ask if she’s looking for something specific or would like some recommendations – all based on her previous purchases/considerations.

Somewhere, hidden deep in the store front retailer’s data cloud, that information is available – you know it, I know it.

The same is true of online sites.

Push advertising—even the ads that are designed to engage the customer, are irrelevant today. Detailed strategies and tactics have outlived their usefulness.

Customers don’t separate marketing from the product … it is the product.

They don’t separate marketing from the in-store, online experience … it is the experience.

They also don’t separate service/support from marketing … it is the company.


Crumbled – Companies have to tear down their marketing walls and empower/encourage everyone in the firm to be in marketing so they can meet and exceed the customers’ expectations. The consumer doesn’t recognize organizational segmentation and neither should the firm if it wants to succeed.

Many of today’s “personalized” approaches are ineffective because they are based on a siloed view of the customer.

Management loses sight of the fact that the ultimate goal is to create value for the customer; which means targeting the right people, at the right time, in the right place, on the right device, with the right content.

Silos and departmental walls have to be replaced by enabling a complete, consumer-centric marketing team from the inside out and the bottom up.

Firms have to rethink and reprioritize how and where customer discussions begin and end.

Ultimately, the reprioritization will be rewarded with improved customer data insights.


Focused Path – Consumers today don’t simply buy a product or service. They invest a lot of time in researching every aspect before they make a purchase because increasingly, they are buying the company/people behind the product. If their expectations are met, they become a strong advocate for the firm, product and team.

In the new arena, management has to come to grips with the fact that the company is no longer selling to a customer but earning the right (privilege) to be part of the continuing stream of engagements/discussions.

By breaking down the barriers, the entire organization can gain a clearer, richer view of the customer at his/her various touch points. Then they will be better able to develop/deliver relevant content, offers, recommendations and assistance.

No one said it would be easy; but focusing on what’s important to the marketing department rather than the buying public(s) falls short of consumer expectations.

Fortunately, more executives are waking up to the fact that personalization will build stronger and longer-lasting customer relationships.

To shift the organization focus on delivering a superior customer experience, Accenture Interactive and Forrester Consulting recommend actions that center around the customer experience rather than traditional marketing touch points.


Refocused Efforts – With the growing expectations of the consuming public, smart firms are reorganizing, reprioritizing activities throughout the organization. They understand that the consumer is control of the selling and purchasing process and are making everyone in the organization responsible for marketing.

The challenge for senior management isn’t that they don’t recognize the challenges, it’s just that there’s a growing inability to take action internally.

According to Forrester, many marketing teams lack the necessary customer experience skills when it comes to activities such as project management, data analytics and collaboration. To be effective, they recommended that firms permanently comingle business, design, development and customer relations teams to stimulate and facilitate information sharing.

In today’s always connected, always on environment, companies will have to make a dramatic shift from trying to drive purchases to engaging and working with the consumer at the beginning of the buying journey.

The customer is in charge of the decision and you’re there to provide key information, assistance and guidance along with way.

The key is to be there for the customer at the critical moment in the buying journey.


Being there for the customer means marketing has to let go of yesterday’s idea that they can control the process and the outcome.

Perhaps that’s what Pierre Dulaine meant when he said, “Those are the people who show up to get it.”

It’s all about being on the dance floor or watching from the sideline!

Andy Marken is founder and CEO of Marken Communications

© 2002 – 2016, John Obeto for Blackground Media Unlimited

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The iOS 10 upgrade is the Crappiest iOS upgrade ever!

I’m serious.

The iOS 10 upgrade is the shittiest OS upgrade ever!

and I have upgraded/updated some shitty operating systems in my time!

Where do I start?

Now, I can live with the several functions were lost to real or perceived operating system updates.

What I can’t abide by, are the niggly little things that just stopped working!

The Number One craw, and the reason for this post, is the loss of contacts personalizations after the OS upgrades.

Are you kidding me?

I lost them all: photos ringtones, everything!

So, I went, and recreated.

Which worked.

Until the next phone call came in, and I found out that it had reverted to shit!

Now, I know I haven’t used iOS phones for a long while, just about 2 years. However, this stuff isn’t complicated: it’s a freakin’ phone. Just make sure the darned telephony components work.

How hard could that be?

Oh, and despite all this, iOS 10 is still the best smartphone OS available.

Which, sadly, describes the state of smartphone operating systems today!

© 2002 – 2016, John Obeto for Blackground Media Unlimited

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Examining Entry-Level HPE Proliant Tower Servers

Windows Server 2016 is upon us.

For a multitude of small-sized businesses, this is a very good opportunity to either start their server lives, consolidate existing servers, or upgrade current server assets.

I will be beginning a series of blog posts, hopefully biweekly, on HPE Proliant entry-level servers.

For this series, I will be looking at the single-socket Proliant ML10, the Proliant ML30, and the dual-socket Proliant ML150.

Proliant ML10 Gen9: this is the least expensive HPE Proliant server. Capable of using Intel Xeon in the highest end spec, the ML10 can came with up to 64GB of 2133 MHz DDR4 RAM, and supports GPUs when used with Xeon CPUs.

Proliant ML30 Gen9: this is the latest iteration of the very venerable HPE Proliant ML310e. it also maxes out at 64GB of RAM, uses Intel Xeons, with space for 8 SFF/4 LFF drives, and 2x GbE NICs embedded. HPE iLO Advanced is also part of the basic package.

Proliant ML150 Gen9: this is the entry-level two-socket (dual CPU) HP Proliant tower server. It supports up to two Intel Xeon CPUs, and up to 256GB of DDR4 RAM. Larger than the previous servers mentioned, it can accommodate a total of 10 LFF drives or 16 SFF drives, managed by the embedded HP Dynamic Smart Array controller. HPE iLO 4 is part of the package.

We look forward to paring these servers with appropriate HPE Flex Solutions packages in order to bring you RealWorldSMB® reviews.

A blog post on HPE Flex Solutions will be forthcoming shortly.

  • SFF: Small Form-Factor drive
  • LFF: Large Form Factor drive

© 2002 – 2016, John Obeto for Blackground Media Unlimited

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What Editions of Windows Should Intel Develop New CPUs for?

th7WV8L83RWith all the seemingly serious ‘news’ excoriating Intel for limiting future CPU revisions to the only  the current version of Windows and better, I feel compelled to ask my audience what editions of Windows Intel should develop new central processing units (CPUs) for?

Should Intel develop new chips for Windows 8?

Or Windows 7?

Or Windows Vista?

Or Windows XP

I’m serious.

Should Intel spend billions of dollars developing new chips for obsolete operating systems?

I mean, it’s the egalitarian thing to do, isn’t it?

It also stops evil Microsoft from holding unto an illegal global monopoly in desktop operating systems, right?

Man, doesn’t that bullshit sound so cathartic?

But, that’s just what it is, bullshit!

Creating new CPUs for old, obsolete operating systems is a ridiculous prospect.

However, since the demise of COMDEX, those excellent technology and PC magazines from the days of yore, and the rise of the new-fangled bullshitters known as the ‘tech media’, such linkbaiting BS has become the norm.

Even if it is linkbait, could it be valid?

Let’s go to the tape now, shall we? Counting down from the current shipping version of the Windows client, Windows 10?thTQO8ISTE

To wit:

  • Windows 10 Current. EOL: October 2020
  • Windows 8. Obsolete EOL: January 2016
  • Windows 7 Obsolete EOL: April 2013
  • Windows Vista Obsolete EOL: April 2010
  • Windows XP Obsolete EOL: April 2014

From the above, Microsoft’s roadmap with regards to Windows versions are.

If you were Brian Krzanich and Intel, which one (or more) of those editions of Windows would you develop for?


© 2002 – 2016, John Obeto for Blackground Media Unlimited

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Dell World 2016 takes on added importance

Presentation1Today, Dell Computer, Inc. closed its purchase of EMC Corporation.

The resulting behemoth will be called Dell Technologies, and will be in the top tier in several enterprise spaces.

Dell will span from client computers all the way to the gimongous storage arrays produced by the former EMC. It is the leader in virtualization, and will have a sizeable consulting and services practice.

I shall continue to call the resulting company Dell Computer Inc., formally, and as Dell, when brevity is required.

All jokes aside, this transformation has got to be very gut-wrenching.

To make it work, and to remain nimble, Dell – and I am talking about both the man and the company - has to contort in several pretzel moves, and make chess master (non-gender-specific) decisions that would keep their primary competitor, HPE, and their much lesser rival, Cisco, at bay.

For outsiders, it is going to be tough to access Dell, as suddenly, this IS a company-to-be-reckoned-with.

Resultantly, Dell World 2016 has taken on a huge, and hitherto greater importance.

I will be at Dell World 2016, by the Grace of God.

As an almost abject outsider to Dell, but one with an open mind, I look forward to learning more about the company, and seeing what they are all about.

I also hope to worm my way into briefings that will shed light on Dell, the company.

It should be, in the immortal words of the late, great Don Cornelius, “A Stone Gas”!

Stay tuned!

UPDATE: I understand it is now Dell EMC World. Brought to you by Dell Technologies snip_20160909134535

© 2002 – 2016, John Obeto for Blackground Media Unlimited

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Windows 10 Dislike: The Windows Store app

Who likes the Windows Store app? Windows_Insider_Anniversary-Ninjacat-800x1280a

Seriously, who?

Having a Windows Store is truly a no-brainer: it serves as a digital compendium of the Metro [Modern] apps and games available for Windows 10x users.

Microsoft created the Store in Windows 8 for app and game discovery and purchase, and after having 4 years – FOUR! – since the RTM of Windows 8 in August of 2012, it is rather sad that the Store app is almost singularly the most useless default component of Windows 10!
It is slow, and using it requires the grasp of  a level of unconventional navigation that only [Seinfeld’s] Kramer would understand!

So, what’s so wrong with the Windows Store app?
These rankle the most.

  • It is unwieldy The Store app, is a graphics-heavy mess. There isn’t any symmetry to the deluge of apps shown. It’s just a visual mess.
  • Hard to navigate Uncharacteristically for a Microsoft product, navigating this app is a byzantine mess.
  • Hard to discover new apps Store app’s #1 job is to make app discovery easy. It fails to do so.
  • The curated list of top apps is a useless virtually unchanging list I can almost swear that the same apps have been the top apps since Windows 8. Why?
  • Locating your library isn’t intuitive To use a completely juvenile phrase, “OMG!”. All apps bundled together. All games bundled together. No way to sort, or resort. Nothing!

This is it?

The best Microsoft could do?

Is that all?
I wish it were.

Those are forgivable architectural errors.

The following failures of Windows Store app are customer-hostile decisions made by Microsoft.

  • It auto reinstalls apps according to Microsoft Look at the image below. I can’t recall HOW MANY TIMES I have uninstalled the Get Office app. Then along comes a new build. And voilà, it get automagically reinstalled. All the freaking time! Oh, and it happens with the regular, non-Insider builds of Windows 10 as well.WinStore Mess
  • If you don’t think that is bad enough: Even with Microsoft Office and Skype installed, like I have, those apps will keep getting reinstalled. You CAN’T stop them from getting reinstalled.
  • There's no unified spot for uninstalling multiple apps. None! You have to individually uninstall each single freakin’ app!
  • You have ZERO control Set Windows 10 Store app to manual updates. That’s all you can do. Nothing else.
  • You cannot edit your library You can’t.
  • It is impossible to delete any previously purchased app Forget about doing this.

Now what?
What makes this especially infuriating is the fact that this is a Microsoft app!

Since Windows 8x and above, there seems to be a move by Microsoft to dumb down Windows to the level of iOS.

User choice is either restricted, or removed.

Treat users as morons, basically.

This, to Microsoft, is the way to win going forward.

Meanwhile, the use of this app is the only way to purchase apps published or listed in the Windows App store.


© 2002 – 2016, John Obeto for Blackground Media Unlimited

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The HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile All-In-One Printer Review

A very capable little device.1 - 300 px

I have had the HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile MFC in my clutches for the past few weeks.

This printer couldn’t have been offered to me at a more fortuitous time: I was just mulling over a client’s requirement for a mobile printing and scanning setup that her employees would use in conjunction with the mobile solution they had vetted.

More on that later….

The HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile All-In-One Printer
This is a diminutive multifunction device, or MFC.

It has touchscreen-based controls, and being mobile, it is also battery operated.

It has the following specs (supplied by HP):

Print, copy scan; up to 50 copies, using HP Thermal Inkjet technology;

it has a 2.65" IR Touchscreen, a 10-page sheetfeeder with a 50-page output from a single tray.

An Automatic paper sensor is built-in, with duplexing being manual.

Resolution is quite good, with up to 1200 x 1200 (black) when printing from a PC, and up to 4800 x 1200 dpi color when printing from a PC.

The sheetfeeder has a maximum envelope input capacity of 5.

Windows OSs from Windows 10 down to XP – why HP, WHY?? – are supported.

Dimensions: 14.96 x 7.8 x 3.6 in, and it weighs 6.51 lb (6.73 lb with Battery)

Sheet-feed ADF scanner with up to 600x600 dpi resolution, and supporting the following file formats: bmp, JPEG, PDF, PNG, rtf, and TIFF. Maximum paper size is 8.5 x 14 in

Unboxing & OOBE
The OfficeJet 250 came in eco packaging, drawing immediate praise from Yours Truly. “It’s our world”, and all that.

I removed the pieces: the printer, power cord, battery, two ink cartridges – color and black, user manual, quick start guide, and software CD.

I inserted the battery and ink cartridges into the printer, plugged in the mains, answered a question, and voilà, all was good.

Using the OfficeJet 250
First things first: this is a mobile printer, as opposed to a portable printer.

Pretty sure that distinction clarifies.

As a mobile printer, the OfficeJet 250 is optimized for mobile printing. Id est, it is optimized for on-the-go situations where printing is desirous.

A snap.

Setup the printer. Easy.

Connect to network. Easy.

Where’s the Staples Easy button when you need it?

Using the HP software or Windows Print & Scan app makes using this printer easy. Initially, I used Print & Scan, which has existed on my device forever; a default, actually. It made printing, copying and scanning easy.

For the next couple of days, I moved the printer around the Dacha, asking the denizens to use it for all their needs.

They loved it!

HP Quick Print
Despite using and specifying HP’s large departmental printers as default, apart from the now long-in-the-tooth HP TopShot 3D Scanning MFC, I have not had a new HP printer in my abode for ages, as I used Epson’s printing products.

As a result, I was quite – pleasantly – surprised by HP Quick Print.

This is cool. As the Dacha is almost 100% HP client PCs based. Every device ‘saw’ the OfficeJet 250, and printed to it without needing any drive installed.

After a few days, it was time to test the OfficeJet 250 for SMB-worthiness.

Review Regimen: A Mobile Billing Station
This is one of the business use cases referred to earlier

A healthcare devices services company outfits technicians with a mobile workspace that now includes MiFi-equipped HP Tablets in a Logikworx-created solution.

We included the OfficeJet 250 as part of this bespoke solution.


Studies have shown that business owner that presenting their end users with an invoice as soon as the job is completed, and sweetening the deal with a 1% rebate results in instant payments 50% of the time, expedited payments 25% of the time, with the last quarter of their end users committed to stretching the payment window.

The test techdroid was sent on his merry way into New Mexico.

Returned results were a success on two fronts:

1) Order capture. Another pain point for this tester was the lag time between orders taken at customer sites, approval by the home office, and if needed, funds release by their finance company.

This solution eliminated that lag. Since order and signature capture occurred on the tablets, the information was immediately approved at the home office, obviating the need for it to either be faxed – faxed today, folks. Today! – to the home office in Tujunga, mailed in, or worse, wait around in a folder to be hand delivered the next time the techdroid was at the home office! With the speedy turnaround by the head office and, if needed, the finance company, the droid was able to complete more order during his circuit of his service area.

2) Invoice hard copy printing. This is the area that brought the most joy to my business owner client. (Incredibly, money seems to have that effect! J)

For the entire two-week tour, I understand that most of his customers tried to stay within an instant to 5-day window in order to receive a proffered rebate. That, he liked.

For usability, the ease of use was also a boon. He basically didn’t have to do anything.

1 - 300 pxOne of the cruellest myths foisted on humanity today is that of the paperless office.

There is no such thing!

In fact, certain industries, automotive, insurance, fintech, healthcare, real estate, and especially, most service industries rely on paper more than ever!

This printer is dead easy to install, provision, and deploy into any existing mobile solution that requires it.

It is fast enough for assigned mobile tasks, and will work off the battery if needed.

Consumables are surprisingly inexpensive.

Surprisingly, I say, because the costs of HP printer consumables have been a very sore spot for me, and a reason why I like Epson MFCs.

It is capable, and folds into a small package when not needed.

It works.

The small business value is very evident.

For these reasons, and being so out-of-the-box ready, the HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile All-In-One Printer is the recipient of the SmallBizWindows Business Ready Award of Excellence.

Sadly, it doesn’t have an SD/MicroSD slot. That would have elevated the award given.

© 2002 – 2016, John Obeto for Blackground Media Unlimited

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