The Ultimate Tablet PC Stand

Saturday, August 27th, 2005
Earlier this week, I blogged about how not to break your nose while reading a Tablet PC. I promised to post photos of my discovery of the ultimate Tablet PC (or big book) stand.  First, I want to thank for your patience and your prayers. It's been a very trying week, dealing with family medical issues made worse by a Tablet that wouldn't boot. My mother-in-law is showing small signs of improvement, and we're thankful for that.

Here, at last, are the long-promised photos of the computing stand that I found in the ICU ...

Continue Reading "The Ultimate Tablet PC Stand" »

My call to Toshiba Tech Support

Friday, August 26th, 2005
[Warning: This blog post is on the boring side and will probably interest only those with Toshiba Tablet PCs. Many non-tablet readers of my blog will want to skip over this rant, unless they are interested in examples of  TCFDTLAIDBWFS *]

I'm taking the time to post this, not to whine, but to raise the awareness level of how vendors, in this case, Toshiba, could take simple steps to create satisfied customers. (Of course that supposes that vendors read blogs to find out what their customers and people who recommend their products have to say.) Perhaps Lora, Warner, JK, Rob, or Marc will make some noise about this and kick this into the mainstream. [Hint.] If Toshiba (or any vendor wants to talk with me, I would be happy  to receive your call. You know where to find me.)

Continue Reading "My call to Toshiba Tech Support" »

Hidden message inside

Friday, August 26th, 2005
Never one to miss an opportunity to inspire me, my friend and brother in the Lord, Michael Sampson, just posted yet another message of inspiration, this time about my current selection of productivty tools

I know I can always depend on Michael to inspire me to think about greater things - even when I'm busy dealing with my own Tablet PC [mis]adventures. (Michael has the same M4 I do, so I know he relies on me and my blog to tell him what not to do.)


Michael's now dubbed me the deproductivity specialist. Ouch. I may have to drag out some archived podcasts that have never been aired ...

The photo abiove does not tell the real story. You'll have to read his post and follow the links to decipher the message. Even then, you may have to watch the movie.

Michael, you've been a great encouragement to me during these difficult times as I deal with my family health issues (and with my computer health issues). I appreciate your calls from NZ to check in on me, your prayers, and your friendship. I have just one question: in the picture above, you have an interesting smile; were you preparing to use Excalibur knight me or ...

Toshiba, how could you do this to me?

Friday, August 26th, 2005
Shame on you Toshiba. You left me out in the cold, with nothing to write on but my pen and paper.

To my readers: The key take-away from this post is to make sure that you have "Original Setup CD-Rom" for your computer, not just the product recovery CDs.

Wednesday, I turned on my M4 to find this error message at boot-up:


I don't hold Toshiba (or Microsoft) responsible for the above system error. Those things happen - at least on PC's. :-) What I do hold Toshiba responsible for is not giving me a simple tool that I could have used to effect my own repair - the master Windows XP install disks for my system.  I know that you are not the only vendor to withhold the Master XP install CD's from their systems. I suspect that most do it and when questioned, will all point to Microsoft as the root problem. Perhaps that's true; but I'm your customer and I need to fix my system. I'm counting on you, my vendor, to equip me to succeed with your product.

Yesterday, when I received the error message, I was 100 miles from home; I had no choice but to switch from Tablet PC to legal tablet until I could return home to find my folder with all my Toshiba M4 information in it. I arrived home last night  with the goal of getting my M4 back on-line. I planned to insert the disk, repair the damaged file and get back to work. That's when I remembered that Toshiba does not provide the Master Windows XP installation CD with the M4. In fact, they don't provide any CD. Shame on you, Toshiba. Even my snow blower vendor gave me a backup set of keys with my purchase.

I don't know what marketing exec at Toshiba (or perhaps Microsoft) is patting himself on the back for saving $0.09 by not including the original product install CD with the M4,

Shame on you.

Toshiba, I hold you to blame - not for my windows problem, but for failing to equip me with the master install disk so that I could take care of my own problem. Toshiba, I'm your customer and I've given you over 3950 reasons why you should have provided me with the master XP install disk with my new M4 Tablet PC.  Help me help myself (and my clients) and I'll be a happy camper.

For those who are curious, I did create a set of system recovery disks as soon as I received the Tablet. I even booted up using System Recovery disks tonight to see if I could make the repair from the recovery disk. The only option provided is to restore my system to it's factory condition, complete with the Toshiba-provided spamware.  No thanks.

I wonder if the folks at Toshiba and Microsoft realize that when Windows XP says it needs the master install disk to repair a damaged file, it really needs the master install disks - not a system recovery CD?   If The Microsoft OS wants the original disk to do a proper file repair, then that's what I expect to be provided by the vendor. An excuse about OEM licenses won't cut it.

I can hear it now, Michael Sampson and Michael Hyatt are gonna say that I should have bought a Mac.

Perhaps. Still, I want to give the Tablet PC a good shot. I like the promise of the Tablet and I'm reasonably pleased with the M4 hardware.

Is Eric Mack just a whiner with his own blog? Perhaps. But my clients and even a few friends look to me for my experience and advice on Technology.  Tablet PCs are on their minds. I want to be able to point to my M4 and say, "Yeah, I like my Tablet PC as much if not more than I like my ThinkPad T42p; get the same tablet that I have."

My clients count on me to share my experiences with specific hardware and specific vendors. They want to benefit from my experience by buying (or not buying) products I've tested. For that reason, I'll keep testing.

This is one huge step away from my becoming YABHTU. Too bad,

One step closer to paper

Wednesday, August 24th, 2005
I'm testing my ability to work on a completely paper-based system. That's right. Paper. (Michael's probably smiling right now, perhaps even drafting his next comment about analog productivity. That's OK, I'm quite happy to provide amusement to my friends.)

My sudden move to paper wasn't a planned one. Somewhere between the hotel and David Allen's office, my Tecra M4 OS decided to crash. It wants me to reboot with the original Windows install disk. Guess what? Nevermind. I'll have to wait until I get home tomorrow to see if my product recovery disks can be used instead. Otherwise, I'll test to see if I can recover all of my system, along with the "free" bonus software, which Toshiba so generously provided. You can probably sense my excitement.

Fortunately, I use Lotus Notes, so almost all of my files have been replicated elsewhere. (If I can repair my OS, then I can grab the current versions, otherwise, I'll use the replicas.)

Though the timing could not be worse, I have considered how I might change things on my tablet, if I ever had a reason or an opportunity to reload.  Well, I now have such an "opportunity."

As I wrote recently, I'm pleased with the M4 hardware. Other than the DVD power issue (which I hope to find a solution for) and an occasionally loud fan, I'm very pleased with the Tecra M4 hardware. Now my focus will be on the software side of the equation. Once I get everything tuned the way that I want it, I'll make a declaration as to whether or not I consider myself YABHTU.

Here's how you can help:

If you've recently loaded/reloaded your Tecra M4 Tablet PC from scratch, or if you're aware of a blog detailing the process for an M4 or an M200, I'd like to hear from you. I've documented everything I've done to date; however, I certainly want to take advantage of any new knowledge gained. (I believe that Warner and Marc recently documented their experiences; links welcome guys.)


I'll be back soon.

What’s your value to your organization?

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2005
Leaders, whether they realize it or not (and I submit that they do) classify people into five groups, based on their impact on the organization. At least that's what John Maxwell says in his book, The 21 Immutable Laws of Leadership. Though I must admit that I've never thought about these groups as clearly defined, I agree with Maxwell's classification of the type of value that people bring to their organization:

Potential Value - those who raise up themselves
Every leader must have ability to lead and motivate himself. Many of the readers of my blog are familiar with the GTD methodology, if so, they are likely to be in this group. (Not that the GTD methodology is the only way to raise yourself up - it's not - but that if you are working to improve your personal effectiveness you are demonstrating your motivation and drive.)

Positive Value - those who raise morale in the organization
We all know of people who can brighten up a room ... by leaving it. These are not the folks in this second group. People who can encourage and inspire others are invaluable in any organization

Personal Value - those who raise up the leader
Leaders seek for their inner circle people who help them improve. Are you one of those people? Do you look for ways to build up your leader?

Production Value - those who raise up others
Leaders focus on building leaders and they know that there's no other way to accomplish exponential leadership growth in their organization than to select leaders who raise up other leaders.

Proven Value - Those who raise up people who raise up other people
This is the most elusive group for most of us, but membership in this group extreme signifies accomplishment in each of the preceding four groups. You can't nominate yourself for membership, nor can the leaders you've raised up. Only their progeny can do that, and then, only by their actions.

Consider the people around you; which group do they fall into? Which groups are you a member of?

Here's an exercise for you: take a sheet of paper and draw a pie chart; let each slice represent one of the groups above. Make the size of each slice represent your value in each of the five areas above. What does it look like? Are the slices of even size, indicating balance and value across all aspects? Or, are some slices extra-thin, indicating areas in which you can improve? If your pie chart is balanced, don't pat yourself on the back just yet - how big is it? You may be balanced but not contributing as much value as you possibly could.
As a continual learner, I read many books; many of them are big and heavy. I've tried reclining on my bed or the couch with the book propped up in front of my face so that I could be more comfortable while I read. Perhaps you've tried this, too. This arrangement usually works fine for me for a few minutes, at least until I'm woken up by the sharp nasal pains caused by big and heavy book falling on my nose.  

After encountering this situation on one too many occasion, I decided to do some observation and study into its root causes. I concluded that the problem was that there was no way to easily turn the page from this position; this in turn led to boredom [continually looking at the same page]  which lead to a relaxed state of being, [while waiting for the page to somehow turn by itself] which led to slumber, which lead to a near-broken nose while studying.

I did many repeat experiments under similar conditions to validate my findings (which is why there's no photo of my smiling face with this blog entry).

A few years ago, I determined that I should do something about this problem.  As a robotics enthusiast, I decided that there must be a way to build a stand to hold my book with an automated page turner. I scoured the Internet for ideas; I even wrote to The Christopher Reeve Foundation to ask for ideas and to offer to share mine. Surely I was not the first person with this interest/need. My initial searches & inquiries returned nothing.

Well, that was a few years ago; I eventually did find a mechanism that would automatically turn the page of a book; I found it in a medical supply catalog for patients with disabilities. Unfortunately, there were approximately 3,950 reasons why it might not work for my application.

A few months ago I purchased Tecra M4 Tablet PC. This allowed me to scan in my text books and other materials that I wanted to study and read them on the tablet from a relaxed position. Once again, I thought back to my book stand/page turner idea. With the Tablet PC, I didn't need the robotic page-turner. I could used timed page turns or use a a Bluetooth mouse or Logitech cordless presenter to let me control the turn of each page. This was great.

But it wasn't. I soon realized that I had another more serious reading hazard to contend with...

A Tecra M4 Tablet PC falling on my face could kill me

Not one to be easily discouraged by technical problems - even in the face of life-threatening risks such as these, I renewed my search for the ultimate Tablet PC stand* - one that would allow me to [safely] read in any position, no matter how relaxed I got.

If you're still reading this far, you'll be delighted to know that I recently found my ultimate Tablet PC stand.*  I do not have one - yet- but I've sat in front of one for several days now, and I'm inspired to think about getting/building one for myself soon.

Still interested? Let me know, and I'll post some pictures soon.

* I thought about calling this UTPCS, but I didn't want to torture Marc Orchant and James Kendrick with Yet Another Acronym, so for the time-being, no cute name.

Computing in the ICU

Friday, August 19th, 2005
My Domino server at the office collects my inbound faxes, email, and voicemail, identifies them, and routes them to my database to be picked up at the next replication. So, whether I work on-line or off-line, I have everything I need with me at all times.

There's no wireless internet at the ICU, in fact, no wireless devices are allowed in the unit. When I'm in the waiting room, however, I'm able to use my Sprint Treo 650 and PDANet to replicate Lotus Notes to my M4 Tablet PC.


Once I'm done replicating, I can walk back into the ICU with my tablet and process off-line. I'm actually not doing much in the way of processing anything lately, but at least I have the systems in place to do it if I wanted.

SprintPCS has a $15/month all-you-can-eat data plan and the PDANet software is $35. That's all you need. It's not as fast as an EVDO connection, but it allows me to surf the web, access my servers with PC Anywhere, and replicate my notes databases to pick up my email, faxes, and voicemail. I don't use it often, but when needed, it's been a valuable tool.

On the subject of cool tech in the ICU, lots of cool gear here. As long as I'm here, I'm going to explore and learn. If there's interest, I'll even come back and take some pictures of what I think is the ultimate Tablet PC (or book) accessory to show you....

Technologists in training

Friday, August 19th, 2005
When I lived in Mons, Belgium, as a kid, I apprenticed to a master craftsman for about a year or so. The man was a fine woodworker and he taught me many things, a few of which I actually remember. (Like pointed end of the tool goes away from the body.) In addition to learning how to sweep, sand, and carve, I learned about pride in workmanship and the reward for focused effort. Though I did not understand or appreciate it at the time, I became a part of a rich heritage and tradition of knowledge transfer from master to student. Now it's my turn, as a parent, to do the same


Two weeks ago, I brought Amy & Wendy along to David Allen's to help me deploy several new T42 ThinkPads for David's ever-expanding staff. We'd rehearsed the software loading and deployment process back in my lab, so when we got to Ojai, Amy & Wendy knew what to do. It's a great way to expose my children to technology, teach them the value of work, and allow them to earn money to put towards the new computers they plan to buy. (Yes, they get paid when the work they do brings value to a client)

My colleague, Michael Sampson, is also mentoring his children as Technologists in training. That's neat!

I think of this as a modern day version of one generation passing on their skills to the next.

Ready for Anything

Wednesday, August 17th, 2005
A friend of mine, talks about how sometimes the most strategic thing you can do when your mind is numb is to water your plants or refill your stapler. This week is such a week for me.

My mother-in-law suffered several small strokes last week. She came down to Ojai to visit with us and watch the children in the evenings so that Kathy and I could attend the DavidCo staff dinners. Now, we are now dealing with sudden and dramatic change in all of our lives in the face of long-term care. The amazing thing is the long list of extraordinary events that have unfolded (or "shown up" as some may call it) to support us this week. Events that by themselves would be amazing enough, but when considered as a whole, point to providence.

I'm thankful for my family and for my faith - faith that God is omnipotent and omnipresent. We have been surrounded in prayers from around the world. For these, I am truly grateful.

It is absolutely amazing to me how physically draining this week has been. At the same time, I see God at work in my own life, in the lives of the people who've reached out to us in kindness, and in the opportunities I've had to reach out to others. Case in point, over the past few days, Kathy and I've made a friend in the ICU unit. Her name is Janet and she's caring for her sister who's in the ICU room across the hall. We've had the opportunity to share stories, to be an encouragement to one another, and to pray together. I know it was not a coincidence that our paths crossed when they did.  

In addition to sharing my faith, I want to share how valuable my GTD training has been this week. At a time when I'm low on energy and limited in my attention, my GTD skills keep me focused on simple next actions, moving forward, one step at a time - even if that step is only to water my plants, refill my stapler, hug my wife, or make this blog post. (I've actually drafted a few blog entries from the ICU this week, many about my observations of tech and productivity in the ICU. I'll get to them, I may just need a small break.)

So, while I may be numb from the information I've received this week, I'm not without hope or without anything to do. I'm very much alive - alive with the awareness that although I do not have all the answers, I can know and trust the One who does.

I know that God has a plan. I know that I don't know what that plan is beyond that which can be found in His Word, but I can read, pray, understand, learn, and grow. I can also move forward in faith, one step (or next action) at a time, trusting and resting in Him along the way.

I'm doing that; so in a spiritual. sense, I you might say that I'm ready for anything,

Photo of the week

Tuesday, August 16th, 2005
I saw this sign in the hospital elevator today on the way to the ICU:

 (emphasis mine)

For some reason I found the contrast between the first two sentences very funny.

Perhaps I'm just tired.

Meteor Shower Tonight

Thursday, August 11th, 2005
In case you're still up, the best viewing of tonight's Perseids meteor shower is still to come.
Jason Womack's already posted the details from my e-mail to him, so I won't post them again. Check out Jason's site for details.

We are very fortunate to live below Mt. Pinos as we have one of the most remarkable views of the night sky. Each year, we are treated to an especially fantastic view of the Perseids and Leonids meteor shower.

A few years ago, the girls and I logged over 750 meteors in one hour! And those were the ones we could count!
It's been a busy week, with meetings, family health issues, product development, and management courses. I hope to upload some draft blog entries soon. Meanwhile, I'm sure that my friends, Jason and Michael will be happy to say anything I would say. :-)

Happy Birthday to the Lotus Ranger

Saturday, August 6th, 2005
Here's to another year, Ed.


If this makes no sense at all, Ed's a year older. As for the cool birthday suit, you can learn more here and here .

BTW: Steve Castledine tells me he's fixed the images in RSS. (Thanks, Steve!) This is my first test with the new code. Feedback welcome..

Leadership Principles to Live By

Thursday, August 4th, 2005
Think you're a good manager? A good leader?  Consider these leadership principles to live by:
  • Eagerly start the day's main work.
  • Do not murmur at your busyness or the shortness of time, but buy up all the time around.
  • Never murmur when correspondence [or e-mail] is brought in
  • Never exaggerate duties by seeming to suffer under the load, but treat all responsibilities as liberty and gladness.
  • Never call attention to crowded work or trivial experiences.
  • Before confrontation or censure, obtain from God, a real love for the one at fault. Know the facts; be generous in your judgement. Otherwise, how ineffective, how unintelligible, or perhaps provocative your well-intentioned censure may be.
  • Do not believe everything you hear; do not spread gossip.
  • Do not seek praise, gratitude, respect, or regard for past service.
  • Avoid complaining when your advice or opinion is not consulted, or having been consulted, set aside.
  • Never allow yourself to be placed in favorable contrast with anyone.
  • Do not press conversation to your own needs and concerns.
  • Seek no favors, nor sympathies; do not ask for tenderness, but receive what comes.
  • Bear the blame, do not share or transfer it.
  • Give thanks when credit for your own work or ideas is given to another.
How did you do? What if everyone managed according to these principles all the time?

As I typed these up for this blog, I was convicted as memories of my own violations of each of these principles came to mind. A very sobering experience. I'm going to print these out in a card on my wallet and try to read them often .....

These ideas are not my own. They were penned by Edward White Benson, Archbishop of Canterbury. J. Oswald Sanders writes of Benson, in his book Spiritual Leadership:
Even though he lived in another era, his noble rules for life carry relevance today.

Here's a challenge for you. Start your day by writing down these principles in your own handwriting. Personalize them if you want. See what kind of impact it has on your leadership.