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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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Windows 10 Anniversary Edition: All Logitech Devices work perfectly

Well, all my Logitech devices work…..

This past summer, I turned The Celestial Dacha into a Logitech-only abode.

Throughout my Insider testing of Windows 10, these devices haven’t disappointed me.

One cool thing Logitech has, is the Logitech Unifying Receiver.

This is a tiny USB dongle included with all* Logitech HID devices, and works with up to six devices.

This solution is so smart, and so obvious, I wonder why it hasn’t made it to other HID OEMs. Anyone who has lost a wireless dongle which has resulted in useless equipment, knows this. I have several keyboards and mice that are bricks.

As a result, my introduction to Logitech has been very fruitful.

Last week, there was talk of Windows 10 Anniversary bricking webcams. So I went back, and checked with the Logitech cameras here again. They all work.

All Logitech devices here work.

Devices in use
The following devices are in use here at The Celestial Dacha:

*Suddenly, I am not sure if Logitech Bluetooth-only devices come with the Unifying Receiver. I will ask Logitech’s Ann F., who knows Open-mouthed smile

© 2002 – 2016, John Obeto for Blackground Media Unlimited



A Windows 10 Like: Compatibility

Compatibility is something I always look forward to assessing whenever a new public RTM of Windows Windows_Insider_Anniversary-Ninjacat-310x102-Banddrops.

For end users, it is a make-or-break prospect: if the new operating system isn’t not compatible with all of the software you currently use, them you just might skip upgrading.

Thankfully, Microsoft knows this.

And, Microsoft always delivers.

How in compatibility in Windows 10 Anniversary Edition?
In a word, excellent.

Over a range of systems at the different firms we use for our baseline testing, Windows 10 has come through.

Incompatible apps were flagged, letting us account for them. That, is a good thing.

Microsoft, take a bow.

Please do not mistake Windows client compatibility for Server compatibility. It should go without saying that you need to do extensive compatibility tests on your servers.

© 2002 – 2016, John Obeto for Blackground Media Unlimited

Blackground Media


Women’s Equality Day

Infuriatingly, it is a day shared with Dog’s Day.snip_20160827202113

While dogs are ‘Man’s Best Friend”, - man in this case not gender-specific, the fact remains that women are paid less than men for comparable jobs.

In a fantastic development, Kim Tran of Symphony Communications has written a blog post on this very important issue.

In it, she details Symphony’s commitment to gender equality.

It is very detailed, which is great, as it contains metrics that would help quantify progress.

Please read it here, as it stops me from mansplaining this issue.

© 2002 – 2016, John Obeto for Blackground Media Unlimited

The Interlocutor - 350


Windows 10 & Device Driver Coverage:

This is something Microsoft ALWAYS gets right.

No matter what your thoughts are about Windows – if you are not in awe, shush, and go to a lower table! – you cannot deny that Microsoft has made device discovery, and driver coverage an almost no-brainer.Windows_Insider_Firemonkey-310x102-Band

Windows 10, now in the Anniversary Edition build, is the first version in ages designed expressly for upgrades, which traditionally, have been for a small section of Windows users.

I have been able to upgrade several gen systems to Windows 10 without difficulty, including several PCs which had been mothballed.

For small businesses on shoestrings or constrained budgets, this is a very good thing. Since they can leverage their current resources to being productive until budgets allow.

It is also very astute, as it removes a potential roadblock to upgrading to Windows 10.

© 2002 – 2016, John Obeto for Blackground Media Unlimited

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Shiny New Thing: HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile All-In-One Printer

One of the greatest myths foisted upon us in this day and age, is that of the “paperless office”.

Boy, what a crock!

In some industries, paper use has been drastically reduced. In some, it is stagnant. At the rest, it has actually increased!

Moreover, since the demise of the unlamented facsimile machine, some specific industries require documents to be printed, signed, and then scanned for both records keeping, payments, and client/customer copies.

Adding to this, is the fact that sometimes, mobility is a requirement.

The result is a need for a mobile all-in-one multifunction printer.

Enter the HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile All-In-One Printer2-HP-OfficeJet-250-Mobile-All-in-One-Printer-1-450x450

I am in possession of this tidy device.

This is a portable, battery or mains MFC.

It is wireless, with both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi – including HP Wi-Fi Direct, which allows for direct-to-printer connectivity without the need for a network. A paper-sensing, 10-page document feeder with auto page width sensors is included.

I have a couple of review scenarios that should tell us more about the capabilities of this printer.

Stay tuned.

© 2002 – 2016, John Obeto for Blackground Media Unlimited


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One Week with Windows 10 Anniversary Edition

No superlatives for this release.Windows_Insider_Anniversary-Ninjacat-800x1280a

OK, just one: this is the best Windows client release by Microsoft.


It is immediately useful – a paramount requirement, for me – right ‘out the box’.

Upgrades are simple, speedy, and incredibly idiot-proof.

A lot of the issues with the initial release of Windows 10 have been fixed, and several hiccups have been taken care of.

Should you upgrade?
That really shouldn’t be the question.

The right question, as I see it, must be: how fast can I upgrade?

If you are on any pre-Windows 10 upgrade, do so as soon as your testing for incompatibilities with your LOB applications is complete.

In fact, do speed up your incompat testing regimen in order to do so faster.

If you are on Windows 10, it’s a no-brainer.

Unless there is a dependency or dependencies in your computing infrastructure that requires the version of Windows client you currently use, you should upgrade.

If you suffer from those dependencies, you have to remove them: start planning for replacement applications that are not tied to obsolete operating systems.

Going forward…
Over a series of posts, I will talk about those features in Windows 10 that I like, the improvements I see, and where Microsoft has absolutely missed the boat, with regards to glaring omissions, or to downright incompetence.

© 2002 – 2016, John Obeto for Blackground Media Unlimited

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The Windows Touch Keyboard: Microsoft, why isn’t the default set to on?

Microsoft, why is this the selected default?

tablet option

1a Tablet option


I mean, if the system detects that there isn’t a keyboard, and that it has a touchscreen, again, why isn’t the default be that the onscreen keyboard automagically popup?

This is one of the vestigial silliness that makes me incredibly frustrated at Microsoft!

It is also a very annoying source of support calls that we have to field from first-time users to the touchscreen systems we deploy for clients.

Do you think I like those non-revenue-bearing calls?

Do you?

Microsoft, wake up!

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Dell and Innovating: Supercomputing

While at the last Dell Innovation Days 2016, I had an opportunity to see Dell’s innovation at a customer’s solution firsthand, at the Texas Advanced Computing Center, or TACC.

IMG_3515TACC, located on the grounds of the University of Texas, runs several supercomputers, also known as HPCs or high performance computers, on behalf of the National Science Foundation, and in conjunction with several other universities on behalf of researchers and scientist around the country.

Personally, it was a surprise.

As previously stated, Dell, to me, has always been a follower in terms of enterprise hardware innovations.

In fact, I really didn’t think Dell had innovated anything since their entre into laptops which brought new form factors and excellent prices to that segment about two decades ago.


In other words, I was an unBelieber!

This is my mea culpa: I was wrong.

For one thing, the supercomputing space requires not just the financial wherewithal to do things, but a lot of innovation.

And Dell has hit the ground with a proverbial ‘Big Bang’ in this space, placing several devices in the Supercomputer Top500 list, including TACC’s Stampede, which debuted on the list at #7 back in 2012.

At launch, TACC Stampede sported a plethora of Dell PowerEdge C8220 servers, each running Intel Xeon E5-2860 CPUs coupled with the Intel Xeon Phi coprocessor for a total of 204,900 cores and delivered 2.66 teraflops. The Xeon Phi coprocessors were soon upgraded to Intel Phi SE10P coprocessors which saw the core count jump to 462,462 and an almost doubling of performance to 5.168 teraflops, which momentarily lifted the supercomputer to number 6 on that list, a position it has since relinquished, holding at #12 in the latest (June 2016) listing.


Have no fear.

On June 2, the NSF, TACC and Dell announced Stampede II which will more than double the performance of Stampede when it is fully operational.

Stampede II will be a phased upgrade of Stampede, with a lot of forward-looking tech incorporated. These would include replacing the current CPUs with forthcoming Intel Xeons, the use of next-gen Xeon Phi ‘Knight’s Landing’ coprocessors, coupled with 3D XPoint NVRAM, and connected by Intel OmniPath architecture.


In plain English, the current TACC Stampede supercomputer is built using technologies that Dell has built into its PowerEdge servers today, while the upcoming refresh will be created using innovations that Dell is in the process of building into its servers and hardware going forward.

In fact, Jim Ganthier, declared as much when he said:

“We are both excited for and proud to power TACC’s multiple Stampede Systems. TACC has been a great Dell customer and partner over the years, helping us to evolve our own portfolio as we continue to push the HPC industry forward,” said Ganthier. “Our Dell technologies at the core of the Stampede 2 supercomputing cluster will continue powering leading-edge research to both enable and advance science and society.”

This is a sector where every little performance gain that can be eked out matters a lot. It requires a level of sophistication and innovation to bring those gains about. If a 1% performance gain per core can be brought about, it becomes a virtual crescendo when replicated across the over 460,000 cores in Stampede. Or, for the current Big Kahuna of supercomputing, the Sunway TaihuLight, spread over 10 million cores.

For us mere mortals, it give me confidence that Dell is not just slapping [server] boxes together using an industry template gifted by Intel, but that Dell is actively investigating and innovating in products that will make Dell servers relevant again.

Making me a true believer, and a returning customer, in the process. (Never will I be a Belieber!)

Jim Ganthier is Vice President and General Manager, Engineered Solutions, High Performance Computing, and Cloud for Dell. His blog post celebrating the design win leading to the $30 million NSF grant for the creation of Stampede II is here.

Dell Enterprise Innovation Day

Dell Enterprise Innovation Day

© 2002 – 2016, John Obeto for Blackground Media Unlimited

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I am at HPE Discover 2016

I am in Lost Wages, USA, also known colloquially as Las Vegas, Nevada, for the 2016 iteration of HP Discover, which is HPE’s enterprise event for partners and IT professionals.

Since this is the first event for HPE as a standalone company since the split into HP Enterprise (HPE) and HP Inc. (HP.), and I would like to gauge the sentiments from not only partners and the IT professionals expected to roam the exposition flows and meeting rooms, but also to see if I can get a feeling for the emotional state of HPE staffers.

As usual my dance card is full, starting yesterday with a meet-and-greet where HPE’s sartorial ‘Man of Security & Software’, Paul Muller, did a masterful job on the wheels of steel.

It continues today with almost round-the-clock briefings and Coffee Talks, and I am looking to get a brain full of HPE stuff.

Let’s do this!

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

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I am in Austin, Texas for Dell Innovation Days 2016

We have been given a schedule of events, and I see that it is quite extensive.

We will visit their Thermal Lab, and a place called ‘Futuresville #2’, which, I hope has forward-looking goodies. There will be a server briefing, and an HPC briefing as well. Subsequent to that, we will traipse over to the Texas Advanced Computing Center to look at world-class supercomputers, and repair to TopGolf Austin for the evening.

Tomorrow, a visit to Dell Global Support & Deployment Center is planned, followed by a visit to the Dell Server Design Lab.

Of course these public events will be interspersed with private meetings and briefings.

Let’s do this!

This is a delayed blog post due to equipment and travel issues.

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

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Dell Innovation Days 2016

I am off to sunny – and likely rainy – Austin, Texas, for Dell Innovation Days 2016.

This is a 2-day event organized by Dell ESG to showcase, and be transparent, about some of the innovative things they are doing.

Myths and Truths
One of the myths about Dell that I have to admit I help propagate, is that Dell doesn’t innovate, well, anything!

For a lot of people, Dell innovation is purely financial, or in manufacturing efficiency, of in product fulfillment. They see blandness across Dell product lines, not innovation.

For me, it is a case of familiarity breeding contempt. I have used Dell systems they were PC’s Limited devices.

Everyone was a boxslapper then, from Dell to Northgate, to the myriad number of local ‘OEMs’ in the Anaheim/Tustin/Costa Mesa/Orange County area, to those yo-yos in one of the Dakotas.

That image still resonated in my thoughts of Dell, not helped by the quality failure debacle during the Rollins era, at which time I ended my nearly two-decade association with Dell.

And moved to using HP products. After validating them, of course.

A Chance Meeting with an Old Friend
At Intel Cloud Day 2016 in San Francisco, I chanced upon Jim Ganthier, who is Vice-President and General Manager for Engineered Solutions, HPC, and Cloud for Dell.

Jim is a very smart, astute man, and someone I have known for years. I have interviewed him on several occasions for both this blog, the Blackgrounder podcast, and The Interlocutor newsletter. He is always on point, and gives very bright, insightful answers. I consider him a friend. (Hopefully, that is mutual J.)

As noted here, his answers to posed questions in a Q&A session were very intelligent, and pointed directly to Dell products or solutions for those posed questions. I like that. It showed preparedness.

Upon conclusion of the Q&A, we had a few minutes to talk, and he basically dared me to give Dell a look.

He assured me that my opinion of Dell – and Dell’s SMB and enterprise offerings, in particular – may have been valid a decade ago, but weren’t the case today.

I was intrigued.

Resultantly, when this opportunity to attend Dell Innovation Days 2016 arose, I practically leapt at it.

What I am looking for
I want Dell to blow me away.

In the words of several folks from that fine TV show, Fringe, I want Dell to ‘Show Me’.

I want to see Dell attempt to move computing forward in the spheres in which they compete. I want to see them with new products in their enterprise offerings.

I want to see them with world-beaters such as the delectable Dell XPS 15 – a SmallBizWindows Product and Laptop of the year Winner on this very blog – and XPS 13 laptops.

Can they do it?

Can Dell, you know “Show Me”?

This is a delayed blog post due to equipment and travel issues.

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

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5 Years already!

JEO - Dad

Seems like only yesterday, but I still love you.

I miss you, Dad.



The SmallBizWindows Product of the Year 2016: Dell XPS 15

2016-32 - POTYThis is unusual.

And very much so.

For HP is our normal hardware vendor.

In fact, HP Inc. products are the only client systems we directly support, and always recommend.

Until now.

We brought in a few units of the Dell XPS 15 as test units for a customer requirement for a several hundred-unit buy of 15” Ultrabooks as replacements for the systems currently in use at that company.


Sadly, I did not like any of the offerings I had in our inventory, and the visibility I had into HP Inc.’s products did not offer me any confidence enough to put ourselves on the line for them.

I had reviewed the delectable Dell XPS 13 at the start of 2015, and found it capable. Moreover, the word-of-mouth on the newly-released XPS 15 was very positive.

As a result, I decided to give a single unit a go.

I liked it, and authorized a few more units for the staff assigned to that account for their testing and review.

To cut matters short, it passed our muster splendidly.


Because of that, it was named our SmallBizWindows Laptop of the Year 2016.

Barring any unforeseen issues, we shall be proceeding with implementing the Dell XPS 15s at the customer location later this year.

Also resultantly, the Dell XPS 15, our SmallBizWindows Laptop of the Year 2016, is also the SmallBizWindows Product of the Year 2016.

Congratulations, Dell.

2016-32 - POTY32016-22 - laptop

© 2002 – 2016, John Obeto for Blackground Media Unlimited

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