Tuesday, November 14, 2006

We launch a new product -- Internet speedbump -- iSpeedbump

Product launches are always an adventure. We finally got our new product "iSpeedbump" out the door. Since it is very different than our other products (network protocol test products), we thought it should have its own website: www.ispeedbump.com

Since "speedbump" was taken as a URL, we added the "i" for Internet speedbump. That's exactly what our new product does. It gives priority to classes of traffic for small offices and home offices.

So, if your teenagers are playing "Worlds of Warcraft" and you are trying to use VoIP to talk to your sister who is stationed in Lagos, Nigeria, you can give the voice traffic higher priority than the game traffic. If you have a website in your house and outside users are constantly downloading photos or home movies, you can give that much lower priority. So basically you are in control of what traffic gets what priorities.

Another version of iSpeedbump can go into your colo to help you manage the billing situation with your ISP. Many ISPs use the 95th percentile billing model. This means that if you are at all close to using your available bandwidth, you could have a big problem and get a much bigger monthly bill than you planned. ISPs check every few minutes to see if you are using more than the available bandwidth you contracted. If you are, but you are doing it less than 5% of the time, then no problem, but once you go over 5%, they put you in the next up billing category! So, instead of paying $300 per month for DSL, you get a bill for $1,000 because you went into T1 territory. So, how do you avoid that problem? iSpeedbump checks every few minutes just like the ISPs are doing, but unlike the ISPs, iSpeedbump will throttle back your traffic. That's right, iSpeedbump will intentionally slow it down so that you stay within the 5% limit. Keep in mind that it doesn't take much to get a big surge in traffic that puts you over. Good things can make it happen -- like a favorable story in the Wall Street Journal about you or your website. Or, bad things can make it happen -- like a scandal or negative news. You don't want to have to turn off your website, you just want to slow down access.

iSpeedbump is not for everybody, but for people who have the issues described above, it is great value for the money! Less than $500 for the little box. See www.ispeedbump.com.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Hemingway in Mendocino

We drove to Mendocino last week. It is a different sort of coastal California here. The air is very clean. Black hawks fly above the ocean cliffs. Deers congregate on the nearby fields at dusk. I can see all this from our room at the Heritage House.

My husband and I are here for a few days to help his recuperation. He suffers from back injuries that prevent him standing or even walking more than a short distance. He has been spiraling downward emotionally; constant pain takes its toll. A change of scenery seemed like a good idea.

Our room at the Heritage House is Deerfield Seven. It is done in a sort of faux French provincial; a throwback to the 1950s. One critical Internet reviewer called it "decorated like your grandma's house". I don't mind much. Sometimes all the modern marble and granite and shades of beige in modern hotels can get rather boring. This place evokes memories of the 1950s -- cocktail hour, the Cold War, and Hemingway.

It is different; a change of scenery.

Our room looks out on a field and cliffs and the ocean. This is a big view. A panorama. One wall of the room is all windows with a big sliding glass door. We look through this wall of windows and view the ocean while we are comfortably seated in the blue upholstered swivel chairs in our French provincial parlor.

There's no television in the room, no phone, no Internet access, and no cell phone service. My husband dozes off, reads a little, and watches the ocean. I am reading and re-reading Hemingway. Every hour or so I get up and stretch. I check out the effect of the light and wind on the water. Then I go back to Hemingway.

I finished "A Farewell to Arms". I was vaguely hoping that the story would have a different ending and that Catherine Barkley would become a feminist in her old age. Of course it did not happen. I still enjoyed re-reading the novel.

I forgot how much the characters drink in Hemingway's novels. Reading about all the drinking has made me thirsty. Our room has a complimentary minibar (first complimentary one I have ever seen), so although I would normally have a cup of tea, I decide to plunge into the total Hemingway experience and fix myself a gin and tonic. It is very refreshing.

The taste of hard liquor brings me furthur back to the 1950s and now I start in on "For Whom the Bell Tolls". I have never read it before and I am feeling the thrill of reading a classic for the first time. Unfortunately, "For Whom the Bell Tolls" is harder going. The cast of characters are mostly Republican banditos fighting the Fascists in Spain's civil war. They are not very likeable. One is a drunk. The others like to argue a lot and bait each other into arguments. It seems like a sort of competition of aspiring alpha males. This does not interest me. These unlikeable people are banded together on a mission to blow up a bridge.

Time to get up and stretch and look at the light and wind on the ocean. It dawns on me that there is a reason women readers like Hemingway's novels. Hemingway's male characters are realistically drawn, heterosexual men who develop deep feelings for women. Of course, they are interested in sex, but they are also deeply connected to one woman. I think this is comforting to most women. Hemingway's universal theme -- that none of us goes through life without significant pain and loss -- makes his work appealing to all readers. Love, pain, and loss.

Now it is time to awaken my husband to dress for dinner.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Do Financial Planners Come from Hell?

My husband and I have been working with a financial planner for a couple of years. The financial planner is Steve Brown of Asset Planning & Management in Aptos, California. In general, the financial planner has done a better job of managing our investments than we would have done on our own.

We had a meeting scheduled today to specifically discuss the plan for my retirement. After reviewing the status of some of our assets, Steve Brown, turned to me and said "Your last email to me is a complete waste of my time."

A copy of that email follows.

----------------------------Email Start---------------------------------------
To: Steve Brown
From: Chris Wellens


I think that you, my husband, and I need to have a meeting to get back on the same page. We seem to be going in different directions and that is not going to work out very well for our financial future.

When we first met with you and started this process, you felt that we had a "mishmash" of investments and you were going to straighten that out. I think we got started on that path and made some progress. However, now we seem to have wandered back into mishmash.

I would like to see a coherent plan to get us to our goals. I think we should be defining how much of each type of investment we should have (real estate, stocks, bonds, cash, gold, art, etc.), by what date, so we can live off the interest and dividends. I would like to start with my end goal of retirement, and work backwards from there.

Please let me know when we can have this meeting.

-----------------------------------Email End----------------------------

(1) If financial planners are not coming up with a plan for your retirement, then what are they doing?

(2) Is it normal for financial planners to tell their clients that the client's questions and goals are a waste of time?

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Outstanding Females in Technology Are Exhausting

I belong to organizations that support and promote women in technology.

There are not that many of us.

Some of our challenges concern achieving our goals in an environment where style, cultural values and norms created by our male colleagues are not comfortable for us. We try to bridge the gap through discussions, workgroups, presentations, etc. Our goals are diverse, but we generally want to help each other. I have met many fine, brilliant, and highly ethical women in these organizations.

Then there is the annual honoree dinner.

Many organizations have their "Outstanding Person of the Year" dinner. I know there is a "Realtor of the Year". I suppose there is a "Mayor of the Year", "High School Teacher of the Year", and so on. The women in technology organizations also have an annual honoree. The dinners are generally upbeat, positive, and fun.

Having attended many of these dinners over the years I have made some observations.

The master of ceremonies reads a long list of the honoree's accomplishments. The honorees have advanced degrees, multiple offspring, professionally successful husbands, track records of successive advancement in their professions, and high level positions demanding 60+ hours per week. Then there is always the quirky component. For example, "Rebecca creates jewelry in her spare time." "Sara is an avid sky diver, placing first for women over 50, in the national competition." "Leslie's water colors have been featured at the Met."

Not only have I not accomplished these things, I feel exhausted listening to these long lists. Then it seems that whoever has the longest list wins.

At one dinner, I talked to the honoree, Peggy Taylor. People were in line taking turns to chat with her for a few minutes each. I told her that I admired and was impressed by her many accomplishments and the number of people who said she was their best friend. I asked her where she got the energy to do so much and to invest so much time in maintaining so many close friendships. To my amazement, she replied that she was very fortunate to be a high energy person who got by with only five hours of sleep a night. I was impressed with her directness and honesty.

What is wrong, though, with just living your life and making one contribution to your community? Isn't it enough to work at your job and then maybe volunteer at your church? Why does the woman who has the longest list win?