Saturday, August 30, 2008

Plastics Tanks

Ok, the title is misleading is several respects.

This article is really about the USAF development of the demonstration project Advanced Composite Cargo Aircraft at the Lockheed Martin "Skunkworks." So, calling it plastic is a very liberal interpretation of composite materials. And, it's also a liberal use of "tanks" referring to military cargo aircraft carrying tanks. But, that also applies to the savings in the fuel tanks of cargo aircraft from the anticipated efficiencies of lighter weight.

And, why should any of this strained use of terminology about plastics and tanks even concern us. Because our community is the site of Toray Composites (America), Inc., even though the plant is not the materials supplier for the Skunkworks' ACCA.

Toray is involved with Boeing in production of the Dreamliner, which manufacturers aircraft parts in its adjacent plant. This all goes together to demonstrate the development and expansion of new technology and applications in two industries central to the economy of the region. Just as our region saw the development of aluminum plants because of the juxtaposition of plentiful power with the demand for aviation materials, so too may we experience the economic development (jobs) from the coming together of composites and aircraft.

Friday, August 29, 2008

TAN Portal for Venture Capitalists

Larry Kopp, founding c-chair of the TacomaAngel Network announced the TAN Deal Sharing Website Portal is now operational.

Kopp thanked the brilliant legal work, respectively, by our Sponsor, Joe Whitford of Davis Wright Tremaine, LLP; and the website genius of Brian Forth, Mark Neidlinger and their team at SiteCrafting, the new TAN Deal Sharing Website Portal is now operational and could soon be available to TAN's sister Angel Organizations around the Northwest who wish to share investments with TAN's members.
The attractiveness of TAN companies to TAN's sister organizations is gratifying and is a tribute to all that TAN's Membership and Screening Committee have been able to bring to Angel investing. Here are some of the comments recently received:

Investor: I spent a year with xxx venture group before I saw even ONE deal as good as these all are.

Companies: I really love the inclusive nature of your forum…it's the best I've seen…you are well organized for both companies and investors… and, You folks are really refreshing—concentrating on business, coaching, and funding. Very Professional.

Venture Capitalists (Seattle): We've been looking forward to meeting TAN; everyone has been talking about your great group, screening process, fabulous website, and professionalism.

This new portal on the TAN Website is a keystone in TAN's efforts to streamline the deal sharing process to both enable and help expand regional co-investment. This is intended to bring more capital to bear for locally emerging businesses. It also is intended to bring TAN’s members access to both more and bigger deals.
This portion of the sharing process is accomplished by making information on certain TAN companies electronically available in a password protected portion of TAN's website for joint sharing as investments with participating organizations from among the 20 or more sister Angel groups that are active in the NW between Oregon and British Columbia. TAN's database today includes around 160 companies to date that have opted to be in our program. This list is growing by about 80 companies per year.
All companies on TAN's sharing site have had their proposition and documents to some degree subjected to TAN's screening process. That process submits each company to evaluation by TAN's Screening Committee on at least 7 and as many as 15 specific elements ranging from: the Fundamental Business Proposition e.g. Is it a good idea, and various businesses components, including, among others, the PowerPoint Presentation, Business Plan, ProForma Financials, Management Team, Executional Plan and Investor Terms.

All company information in this sharing process is very carefully guarded behind a password protected portal with the intent to be shared ONLY with the accredited investors of "Sharing Angel Groups", so designated because in most cases the relationship will be reciprocal, and protected legally by an entry agreement that this information will be:
  • Kept confidential to the organization's internal purposes, and will not be shared with service providers or company competitors, but only their screening committees and accredited investor members.

  • Used for the organizations' investment purposes, and not be shared with other organizations, investors or investment groups.

  • Treated with the same or greater confidentiality as that applied in their own respective screening and member investment meetings.

  • Kept confidential from the companies, if it contains any proprietary notes developed by TAN for its internal uses, but shared with the sharing Angel group for these investment purposes.
Other efforts in this arena also include opening up regional investment blockages as they relate to:
  • Deal Process—simplify communications not only to improve the regionalization of overall investments, but to be able to fast track when investments are sponsored by another Angel organization whose screening process has been vetted so as to be able to deal with fast closing offerings.

  • Deal Sharing—finding faster and legal-light methods, which offer automated rather than overbearing paper intensive legal processes.

  • Cross Border Investment—A 4 way process for both companies and investors. US Companies going to Canada, Canadian companies here; US investors there; Canadian Investors here.
We hope that these efforts being made on TAN's member's behalf by your volunteers, interns and Chamber will bring you many pleasant years of profitable and productive investing.

A portion of the site for each company generally contains the following documents a Sharing Angel Organization will find on TAN companies:

  • A brief overall summary, including:

  • Contacts, business description, years in business, number of employees;

  • Source of prior financing and current bank balances, requested financing amount (including minimum investment);

  • Type of financing and amount to first close, intended uses for the money raised, current pre-money and post money valuation;

  • Cash flow break even status or time to break even, revenues today;

  • Number of years to exit and anticipated type;

  • Expected valuation at exit and how arrived at;

  • Additional capital needed after current raise to get to exit point, including when and how that money is to be raised.

  • PowerPoint Presentation

  • Executive Summary

  • Business Plan

  • 5 year Financial Plan

  • Capitalization Table (fully diluted)

  • Term sheet and/or Subscription documents

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

IT Salaries Swoon

The results of InformationWeek's 2008 U.S. IT Salary Survey are not pretty.

The new study of IT salaries is filled with bad news and IT salaries took a swoon for the first time in the 11 years the publication began studying salary trends. Editor Marianne Kolbasuk McGee took a positive outlook by noting that IT salaries have inched up recently. Maybe that's the reversal of the swoop's curve!

Salaries for business technology professionals have been falling. The good news is that the drop is a modest one for IT staff and managers.

From 2007 to 2008, median base pay for IT staff fell to $73,000 from $74,000, and for managers it dropped from $97,000 to $96,000. The stagnation in pay understandably seems to have caused a drop in levels of satisfaction with pay and jobs overall. But, many IT professionals are still feeling secure in their positions and optimistic about IT as a career path.

This InformationWeek Analytics report provides an unparalleled view into trends in IT salaries and compensation plans. With more than 9,000 respondents, the research explores IT compensation and benefits trends across 20 IT job functions and management positions. Findings are segmented according to the job functions of managers and staff for the most comprehensive analysis possible.

Use this report to understand what IT professionals are facing regarding salaries, compensation, benefits, and job satisfaction, as well as how emerging trends like outsourcing impact IT professionals. Buy Now: Just $299

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

It never works out the way you want

Hi... I'm Tim. I am the blogger who works for the UW Tacoma Library, Gary introduced me a few weeks back. Anyway, I had hoped to get a story from Sound Transit on the expanded wi-fi service that they have introduced, but, unfortunately they have been very, very slow in getting back to me about the questions I have.

I guess I'll have to write about Amazon's announcement today that they are targeting the Kindle to the college crowd. I have previously written about the Kindle for my work blog and if you scroll through those articles you'll see that I'm not overly enamored with the device. Basically, my complaint is that it's a uni-tasker and in a world where people have hand held, touch based , multi tasking computing like the iPod Touch I can't see anything beyond a niche market for these devices. But I will admit that this new idea of selling e-textbooks on the Kindle seems like it holds a lot of promise.

Imagine, you're doing a group project and you show up to the meeting with a single device that has not only all the textbooks for this class, but all the textbooks you have used throughout your program. They are searchable, you can write notes in the margins, and they are the ultimate in a portable library. That's pretty heady stuff.

But stuff like that is probably 10 years away.

In the mean time, they will have to overcome an academic culture that is generally slow to adopt new technology. Already it's difficult to get many faculty to assign e-books to their students (though that's already happening at a faster and faster rate) in order for it to be a "mobile library" a majority of the faculty will need to assign e-books. Otherwise the Kindle is just another thing a student has to carry around in their already overloaded bookbag.

Students too might be wan to adopt the new technology. I can't see faculty assigning students to read e-books as the only option and so, unless the e-book is significantly cheaper, many people will opt for the handy old paper version. A paper book has some cache still; it can be resold, lent, borrowed, bent, marked, and is a generally sturdy storage device.

At $350, the Kindle unit is too is costly and since it's a uni-tasker students will again need to see a significant savings on their textbooks if there's any hope on Amazon's part that they will adopt them. In a day and age when a eeepc is a mere $500, why on earth would a poor college student want to buy a Kindle?

Which brings me to the last hurdle; technology is changing rapidly. Just look at the next generation OLPC; there's a folding screen, it's touch activated, and it already looks and acts just like a book. Not only that, but it's also a computer. A student can use that to read an e-book, write up their paper, chat with their group, email their professor, and play a video game.

As good an idea as selling e-textbooks to students might seem at first glance, it's devices like the next generation OLPC that are going to be in every college student's hands in 10 years.

If you ask me.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Strikes from the Cloud

The internet cloud has produced the first strikes: the first cyberwar coordinated with a shooting war.

The New York Times has reported the war began as early as July 20, well before Russia invaded Georgia. And, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported hackers were waging war on Georgian websites, email and communications services.

It is difficult to determine whether an attack on a nation's cyber infrastructure is an act of war because "we have not yet defined what that is." Gen. Victor Renuart, Northern Command, Defense News, Aug. 20, 2008

In a discourse, Gen. Renuart identified "must do" new security policy to address the cyberspace threats (along with changes in sea conditions in the Arctic). This view comes virtually simultaneously with reports that the Pentagon is suspending manning and budget to establish the Cyberspace Command. Quickly condemned as an unwise action by recently fired SECAF Michael Wynne, other defense sources say the mission is better housed in the
U.S. Strategic Command, which has the military responsibility for cyberspace across all services and commands.

With current perils demonstrated for all to see, it is unfortunate that the recent firings of USAF leadership ostensibly over nuclear safety, but conventionally understood to be expanded to include KC-X tanker procurement, now seems to include cyber defense.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Virtualization for the Small Business, Part I: Introduction

Virtualization. Virtualization. Virtualization. That's the vendor-chant enterprise IT professionals have been hearing, and heeding, for the better part of a decade now. But what is it? And what does it mean for the small businesses' bottom line? In this multi-post series, I'll be exploring how virtualization can benefit smaller companies, as well as specific products appropriate for use in these environments.

Generally, the term "virtualization" in the computer sense refers to a layer which abstracts resources from resource demands. This series will focus on server platform virtualization, which turns a powerful server computer into a virtualization server. This virtualization server can host multiple logical servers (Windows, UNIX, Linux, etc) on the same hardware.

Server platform virtualization achieves this by providing each logical server with "virtual hardware". Logical servers could be your e-mail server, web server, payroll server, servers for specialized industry applications, even test servers. To the logical servers, the "virtual hardware" looks just like real computer hardware, and they function normally. Some virtualization vendors even provide tools to migrate existing physical servers to logical servers for loading onto a virtualization server. At any rate, all of these different server types can now reside in the virtualization server, providing the same services to your network as when they were separate physical servers themselves.

What does all this technical jabber mean to the small business owner? When my clients ask that very same question, the basic answer is nearly always the same:
  1. Cost savings
  2. Flexibility
  3. Fast, simple disaster recovery
In my next post, I'll go into more detail about these advantages of server platform virtualization. After that, we'll be off to investigate just which products meet the cost and administration needs of small businesses.

Until next time!

Michael O'Brien is a partner at Praece Strategic Technology Consulting, helping small and medium businesses align technology plans with business goals.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Going for the Gold

If this were the Olympics, we wouldn't know if we were going for gold, silver or bronze with our three new bloggers. Kristine Strange is the newest blogger to join this writing menagerie.

She has a Bachelors of Science in Computer Information Systems from DeVry University. During school she was a Promotion/Department Manager at what she still considers a wonderful company, Metropolitan Hardwood Floors.

Since then, Kristine has done contract positions with Microsoft. One position was as a Build Engineer on the Visual Studio Developer Team. She's currently a Content Writer for Live Meeting Support Team. Her ultimate goal is to become a full-time/permanent Technical Writer or Program Manager, where she can use her technical, writing and management skills to the fullest.

Kristine says that she loves writing user manuals and other types of documents, strives to create websites, and enjoys trying different technical skills. She lives in Tacoma and is always looking for opportunities to work locally. Becoming a blogger on Tacoma Tech Connect is a great way to help her technical writing skills blossom.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Another New Voice

This blog welcomes a second new writer to the mix, offering our readers ever more perspectives and a broader range of knowledge base.

You'll soon be seeing work from Tim Bostelle who is currently the Head of Library Information Technology for the University of Washington Tacoma Library and the author of several blogs both tech related and not.

Tim has been working with technology since he first laid hands on an Apple IIe in 1984. This is the first acknowledged confession from a blogger on this page to Apple experience!

Living in Tacoma now since his discharge from the Army in 1991, Tim graduated from the UW Tacoma with a BA in Liberal Studies in 1995. He has worked for the UW Tacoma since 1996 in various capacities and currently is the Head of Library Information Technology as mentioned above.

Appropriately, he's interested in emerging technology, innovation, information technology, information freedom, and human-computer interaction.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

New Blogger

We'd like to experiment with this blog a little more now that it's been online for several months. Of course, we owe a lot to Paul Ellis, who started it, and is still welcome to contribute. For those of you who don't know, Paul has decided to follow his dream - his granddaughter, by locating in Missouri.

In our experimentation, we are open to local (Puget Sound) bloggers who would like to contribute to a discussion of technology. If you are interested in being a blogger on this blog, let me - your administrator - know.

First in line to join is Mike O'Brien, who some of you may already know. Mike:
  • Graduated Pacific Lutheran University w/ Business Degree. Had small personal business tech consultancy in high school / college.
  • Oversaw customer and press relationships at XKL during startup phase, designed optical networks for “household name” companies. Stories in WSJ, Christian Science Monitor, Network World, etc.
  • Founded Praece Strategic Technology Consulting in early 2008 – Focused on helping small/medium companies align technology plans with business goals, bringing fortune 1000 level “strategic technology focus” to firms of all sizes

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Dough for the Starter

The Technology Alliance has begun the interview process for their vacant webmaster/IT whiz position. If you know of anyone who may be interested (or know someone who may know someone…) please pass along the link to the job announcement on the Seattle Chamber of Commerce's web site.

They'll consider anyone with the right combination of skills, of course, but this might be a good "starter" position for a recent graduate who can fulfill their fairly straightforward IT equipment and service needs, likes to do HTML and work with digital photos, would relish the challenge of a major project involving a major migration of the Alliance of Angels web site, and would benefit from working in a collaborative environment as part of a small, close-knit team and getting to know the technology movers and shakers in our state.