President’s Day Tech Reading

One of the best parts of my work life is deep-diving into the industries, issues, and ideas that touch on my clients. Now that I am back working with the most innovative company in the telecommunications business, topical reading is at least half of my list.

My daily client contact just finished Brad Smith and Carole Ann Browne’s Tools and Weapons, so I am nearly done with it. Smith shares his thoughts on the double-edged nature of the innovations that are pushing into our lives – a critical mental warm-up as we guide our client through the rollout of 5G wireless networks.

Jon Gertner’s The Idea Factory has been perched on my shelf for years waiting for its moment, and that moment is now. I see a lot of interesting parallels and contrasts between my client – who has spent $60 billion on R&D in the past three decades – and Bell Labs, all good. Bell Labs, like Xerox PARC after it, made some profound mistakes in its efforts, most notably spending vast sums on R&D without building the business and legal structures to capture the value of all of that investment. That’s my superficial understanding: hopefully, Gertner will offer some important nuance.

Wrapping these – and catching up on back numbers of The Economist – should round out my long weekend.

Sunday biz travel brunch

Showed up on a busy Sunday afternoon and they sat me right down. They were so fast with an immense iced tea, so accommodating with my obsessive-compulsive substitutions, and so tolerant of my flagrant head cold that after lunch I ordered dinner to go.

The Broken Yolk Cafe is now my official North County (San Diego) bruncherie.

The Cloud Warrior: Mobile Computing and its Discontents

The first-world problem of the year: I have been exasperated with my mobile computing experience for a long time. Whether I’m working from my client’s office, from the back of an Uber, in an airport, at a train station, in my camp chair, in the passenger seat while my wife drives, or on the upper deck of the Pacific Surfliner, it has become painfully clear that I cannot work on-the-go trusting in a kludged combination of my phone and my laptop

IOS on either the iPhone 8 Plus or my laptop-sized iPad pro simply does not have the juice for handling my Office 365-dominated workflow. Trying to deal with highly formatted Word documents on an IOS app gets awkward pretty quickly.

My laptops – both my MacBook Pro and my Microsoft Surface Pro 6 – are fantastic machines, but connecting to the internet on the go is dicey at best. I’ve either got to scramble to find a coffee shop with Wi-Fi, or I have to mess with my phone and hope tethering works. (And oh, by the way, my carrier charges more for the tethering capability.)

This all came to a head one Friday morning last spring. I had dropped my family at LAX for a trip to China and was just driving home when I got a call from a client. She needed revisions to a press release we had drafted the night before. I drove around looking for a Starbucks, finally gave up, and pulled to the side of the road to tether to my phone. By the time I had found a spot, stopped the car, set up the hot spot, got the hot spot connected with the computer, downloaded the document with her comments, made my revisions, uploaded the document and got her acknowledgment, it had taken 35 minutes. We went through this three more times. In short, a 75-minute trip wound up taking me 4 hours. I have been praying for a better way ever since.

Next: I Need a Mobile Computing Carbine

Today’s Virtual Workplace – Strasburg, PA

Virtually seated here in the tower above the main yard of the Strasburg Rail Road, the oldest continuously chartered railroad in America, if not the world.

How goodly are the days that even approach the delights of working to the sound of the pufferbellies as they meander to and fro across the farm fields of Lancaster County? Now and again, between trains, the sound of the breeze is punctuated by the clip-clop of a horse-drawn buggy as one of the local Amish families make a trip into town.