Category: Work


Lida In Real Life


Slackin’ on the posts. WordPress erased a really long post a few weeks ago. To sum up:

  • went to gilis
  • went scuba diving for first time
  • almost freaked out because of claustrophobia
  • got over it,  loved it went again
  • Lida attacked by Titan Trigger Fish
  • New York City leg of my US trip cancelled
  • Dallas Leg added

That about gets you up to speed. We are going back to Gili Trawangan next week when another one of her friends is coming to visit and while are there we will be getting our Open Water certification. Then I leave there and go directly to the US.

So Lida has finally been able to find work here. Despite her best efforts not to, she is now doing a lot of modeling. While its not the best paying job, it does give her something to do as well as a social life. Her first photo shoot was a 6 page Halloween spread (Moonlight Saga) in Hers Magazine. Ill post the link when I get my computer back online.

We met an Uzbek girl at Boxmart (like Circle K) named Sabina, who is here modeling. As usual, her modeling agency is basically practicing indentured servitude. They take 40% off the top of all contracts, minus expenses which include rent, food, transportation, visa services and on and on. All of which she is charged about 200-300% of actual cost. So she moved out of her room at the agency which she was being charged 3 million Rupiah ($340 USD) for and into our upstairs room. Lida and her go to casting calls or photo shoots during the week and watch movies while I work. I love hearing them converse in Russian and I find myself repeating words and phrases I have no idea the meaning of (shtotiko, nez nieu, ).

We dressed up for Halloween, first time in 15-20 years for me, as Madonna and Micheal Jackson. I went with White-T-Shirt-and-Wrist-Bandage complete with the hat and wig and she was Whos-That-Girl era. I thought it was pretty accurate.

Work is still pretty busy for me. I’ve got a great opportunity to partner Westwind with a US based Microsoft partner in the new year which I will hopefully be solidifying and be able to talk more about after my trip to the States.

Right now though having a bit of a computer crisis as my laptop won’t charge. I’m at the Lenovo service center with my baby sitting in front of me in 20 pieces. Hopefully the guy can fix it cause he doesn’t have replacement parts and it will take 7 days to order them. Makes me realize I’ve got to have a backup system.

UPDATE: They fixed it!!! Not only did he fix the problem with the charger he also tighted up my hinges and cleaned the keyboard and screen.  All while I sat there and watched in under and hour. If you’re in Jakarta and need a good computer repair shop, forget going to Ratu Plaza (IT Mall), they all just send it here and charge you extra. They didn’t even want to charge me, he said “What ever you want to pay”, so I gave the guy 100,000 Rupiah ($11 USD), their hourly service fee.

IT Service Center
Pt. Information Technology Service Centre
Jalan Balikpapan No. 11C-11D
Jakarta Pasat 10160
(021) 3850 200

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Oh How the Techno-Righteous Have Fallen


Son of....I cant watch the announcement I have Artic Lemming!!!

I started off my life as a techie nerd in Apple products working in PageMaker (yeah I was in the Year Book club, you wanna go?), HyperCard programming, Photoshop and Mark of Unicorn/Performer software.  This was partly because Mac was the leading platform in the recording industry and partly because of their monopoly in the education sector. I barely knew my way around a PC when I got to college in 1996. That was the last time I touched a Mac except to play the dinosaur game on my moms when I was stuck there for the holidays.

I came of age in my career as a Microsoft DBA and Database Developer which transitioned into a C# .Net development position (Microsofts Object Oriented Programming language) and while I dabbled in JAVA, I am and have always been a Microsoftie. Not by choice but merely by circumstance really. Its always been my contention that a Tool-is-a-Tool and if a tool is using a tool then of course it will suck. Yes, when benchmarking Oracle RDBMS against Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle processes more transactions or has better throughput.  Then again these tests are done with millions of transactions per second. Off hand I can think of 2 companies in the world this kind of data processing is relevent to (I would relate this to the Worlds Strongest Man competition, how many times does someone walk up to one of those guys and say “Hey can you pull this tracker trailer to the next block for me? Thanks buddy”).  In short, the technology is only as good as the user. And yes, Internet Explorer is more prone to virus attacks than Apples Safari, but then what decent virus coder is going to target 3.5% of the market.  Microsoft has also been slandered for the secrecy of their code with Open Source supporters saying they stole UNIX code. For years Ive heard the self righteous drone on and on about the evils of Microsoft but this year the playing field is being leveled. Evil is afoot at your local ISP. We are finally seeing that all major technology companies are code-hoarding, ego-maniacal, money whores trying the honey pot approach of “free” licences while others use divide and conquer and still some just go for the Jonestown Massacre approach.

 

Oralce

Sun Microsystems was recently purchased by Oracle.  This is no surprise as Sun was struggling financially and Oracle has aligned their platform with JAVA for years. Prior to this though, Sun declared JAVA Open Source. Of coarse, if you are a commercial company that wants to utilize the code you have to pay licensing fee, which in turn means you dont have to share your code modifications with anyone, thus creating an alternate JAVA universe where only the über rich corporations are allowed to venture and consequently, mature. So what does this tell us about our white hat Open Source friends?  Much like 1919 Chicago White Socks, JAVAs open source has a price to make it magically turn into a proprietary platform.

Google

Google has had a great year in taking over the Evil Empire, starting off with Androids “Open Source” framework which, according to Oracle, infringes on their copyright and patent by using JAVA apps in its framework and Google hasnt paid the toll (see above). Oracle is looking to recoup what they amount to “lost revenue” but what I think should be more accurately characterized as a forced loss of market share for Googles mobile aspirations.  Its hard to decide who is being more evil here.  In 2007, prior to the release of Android, Google formed the Open Handset Alliance, which seemed really kumbya-ish then, with people talking about how Google was creating a mobile platform that would enable us all to have free mobile service.  Yes and immediately following that we would all go out for ice cream and talk about our feelings.  Now, with the lawsuit looming, this seems like a shrewd way to defend themselves in court.  Its much more difficult to prove Google violated copyright and patent laws when T-Mobile, Sprint, Nextel, Vodafone, HTC, LG, Motorola, Samsung AND Google all developed the platform. By the time the court system figures this one out we’ll all be using nano computers running on corn syrup.

Not to let the skeptics sit and wonder who is more evil, Google has tried to solidify their place with their about face on Net Neutrality. Personally, I think the concept alone is delusional. You want to take the largest commercial market place in the world and try to get fiercely competitive companies to agree not too compete?  The Cincinnati Shuffle Google played on the FCC and the industry is one for the play books. “Yes we are all about internet access for all parties regardless of size, oooh one second Ive got a call I have to take……Yeah, Verizon, ok cool, we will wire that over to your account in the morning.”  Personally I have nothing against the move.  I think it was inevitable that this would happen, Google just preempted everyone else.  Now every content provider is scrambling to make a similar deal with any wireless provider that will talk to them.  The real depressing part is the previously incorrigible, if not technologically stifling wireless providers now have more power and money than ever before. Forget about choosing which provider has the latest and greatest phone you want.  You now have to decide which one will deliver ICanHasCheezBurger pics the fastest.

Apple

Now my favorite to slander. Its not so much the company that bothers me, its the users. Always talking about how superior it is, no virus, so easy to use, never crashes, they dont control the platform like Microsoft and on and on like its some wonderkin. This year Apple steps out from behind the curtain.

While nothing is new in this revelation, as its been a fact since the first iPhone in 2007, Flash is not supported on any of the Apple touch screen products (iPad, iTouch and iPhone).  Recently Steve Jobs sited (amoung other reasons) that it was nothing personal, its just they feel Flash was developed for the mouse and keyboard world which will be obsolete with the next generation handheld products and Apple didnt want to dilute their brand.  Oh right, you mean like developing a YouTube app to watch 15 second grainy videos of a 4 year old kicking his dad in the balls? Yeah, cause that really showcases the next generation of handheld gadgets.  There had been much speculation in 2007 and 2008 that Apple would buy Adobe. Perhaps its just conspiracy theory on my part, but I cant help but wonder if a deal was in the works and fell through, creating animosity for Jobs, who has a reputation for a short temper in business dealings. Either way, Apple is showing the same attributes of control and diseminate that has been attributed souly to Micrsoft over the past 2 decades.

The super secret announcements Apple makes on a quarterly basis are very reminiscent of a Jonestown cult type leadership.  Yesterdays event being limited to Apple OS running Safari is so brazenly egotistical and all just to announce a revamped iTouch and another version of a previously failed product? It seems that technology companies excluding users that dont strictly conform to their corporate policies and roadmap is now the norm instead of the exception.   

Regardless of your alliances, I am reveling in the fact that the market it so muddled with companies that cant decide whether to champion the purity of an open market place or get a leg up, that we cant even tell friends from foe. Maybe its time to go back to the wilderness and send each other smoke signals.  At least there is no debate about platform and methodology,  light a fire and get a blanket. Whats the battery life on that you think?


Ok, I know I havent posted in almost a month but its for good reason.  Business has been exploding, Lida left for Russia and I moved out of the apartment.

im still juggling work in the States, working on Eastern Standard Time and developing the business here. I swear the security guards at my office probably think Im a vampire as I get to work around 6 or 7pm and leave before 6am. I dont know what happened but about 3 weeks ago things exploded.  Someone contacted me via our website to help them bring their business up-to-date, I have a proposal into one company to do their website and a small CRM, I met with a guy that pitched a great idea about developing VPN access clients for South East Asia (which Im keeping quite until we close the deal) and I met the Indonesian equivalents of Larry Page and Sergey Brin. They have about 5 different ventures including payment gateway (ala Paypal) for online gaming in Indonesia (soon to release for hotels and airlines), Golf course reservation system targeting the foreign market and they own their own submarine fiber optic line from Singapore which they use for their businesses as well as lease to hotels in Jakarta. Their CTO is no more than 25 and was offered a job with Yahoo Indonesia at twice the salary.  He turned them down because he was given stock at the current company. The main investor went to Loyola Marymount and speaks a minimum of 4 languages (Bahasa Indonesian, English, Mandarin and Japanese). They wanted to talk to me about the VPN concept as well as developing an ERP system for the largest palm oil plantation in the country (yes, all my activist friends would be proud of me, what? Ive got atleast one).

These guys were amazing and they helped me realize something about my own business model. Ive been trying to find Indonesian talent at a cheap price, banking on them growing and my experience to create a solid brand, but thats not going to fly.  Ive got to get my self a partner that is as technologically gifted as I am experienced and driven.  I need to pay a premium price for that individual and offer them a share in future profits. I may have that person, I will start working with him later this week on one of the projects. Hopefully it will all work out.

Lida is in the Ukraine right now at her families farm house. Apparently there is much contention in the house, not helped by me sending a text to grandmas phone that said “You should donate your body to science.  Im Science”, I thought Lida had the phone.  Apparently her uncle was nice enough to translate it for grandma.  I was talking to her the other day on the phone as she was pushing the trash cart down the road (love that mental image).  I could hear all the babushkas coming out and talking to her, apparently asking her to take their trash as well.  The stereotypical old Ukrainian woman blared through on the phone and made me miss her and being there even more.  Shes been gone 3 weeks and she wont be back for a little more than 3 weeks.  One thing is glaringly obvious now, I didnt come here for the business. It was a good disguise but the prospect of her not coming back made me think I didnt want to be here.  But luckily she will be back and their are some good leads on a job for her, including teaching art classes at an international school.

So I moved out of our apartment after Lida left. I want to get a house with some outdoor space but even though cost of living is cheap in Jakarta, in a city of 25 million, space comes at a premium.  In order to stay within an hours drive from the main business area (The Golden Triangle) and be in a house its looking like US prices ($1000 a month give or take).  To make matters worse, all landlords expect 1 year + 1 month security deposit.  You really dont realize how much you pay for rent every year until you have to pay it all at once. I found the perfect place, including my dream, a Koi fish pound.  They want $1300 a month, Im gunna try to talk them down to $1100 or $1200.  Its in an area called Kebayoran Baru.  Theres a great warung that serves Turkey shanks and a traditional butcher shop that even sells pork!  On a good day its 15 min taxi ride from The Golden Triangle, on a bad day 45 min.

So in the mean time Im staying with my friend Robert in his maid quarters. The shower is a bucket shower, which is surprisingly refreshing if not colder than a well diggers ass. Miu Miu was kind enough to pee on my mattress and blanket the first night so now the room smells like cat piss.  Yea for me.

So I think that gets everyone up to date. Just sittin at a coffee shop about to give a presentation on Business Intelligence to a group of developers at a large magazine publisher.  Its my first one since January so hopefully I can get back into the swing of things. Ill try get back into posting more often.


     

Two Indonesian girls search how-to-start-a-trash-fire at an Internet shop in Jakarta

 

When I decided to move to Indo (the Coco, the No-No), I had a number of explanations that made it seem like I was making a logical decision based on a professional diagnosis of market, among them were:   

  • Indonesia is a developing country with an untapped technology market
  • South East Asia will be the gateway into the Chinese market place which will have global dominance in the 21st century
  • Low overhead for business startups
  • Less competition
  • I like  beaches
  • I like Lida

2 of those were somewhat unfounded, but I thought it made me sound logical and less like I was just ditching out on my responsibilities. I came across a few articles that help support that and generally validate my decision, since as stated before, I have a very weak constitution and am constantly searching for validation.    

The first is about Googles intentions in Indonesia. Personally I think the “40 million internet users” is a bit misleading.  I believe they are including mobile web-user which really should be a completely different segment since delivery, product and demographics are vastly different. Data services for your web enabled cell phone here are about $15 USD/month where as a decent internet connection is gunna run you about $100 USD/month.  Since the average monthly Indonesian income is $100/month, you have to assume that the broadband user is far more affluent. The 40 million number indicates that 15% of the country are internet users.  I believe the actual PC (dont get offended Mac/-nix users, its the royal “PC”)  user base is more like 5-10 million and Id venture a guess that a good portion of those dont actually own a PC or have internet access at home, they just go to internet cafes. I think before the real internet boom can happen in Indonesia two things have to happen:    

  1. Im no network technician but there is an inherent problem with bandwidth in Indonesia.  I cant find a good resource but from what I have read and heard there is really only one exchange point in Indonesia through which all ISPs connect too.  This governs the traffic inside and outside of Indonesia (read: hops from your access point to your destination).  Because of this there, is a limit to the speed (through-put is probably the more accurate term). There has to be a more concerted effort to provide multiple exchange points beyond the current infrastructure, which Ive been told, is via a Singapore backbone. With a redundant network not only will the bandwidth increase but reliability (less packet drops) will occur, allowing us to download unlicensed music and movies quicker.
  2. Cost prohibitive taxation on luxury items not built in Indonesia (sometimes upwards 0f 300%) makes technology purchases for the middle to lower class Indonesians unrealistic and will keep the market stunted. While the cost of living in Indonesia is exponentially lower than many other countries, this model is not reflected when purchasing electronics.  Used PC and laptops sell for the same price as new models and the new models are unknown and unreliable brands with warranties that are unproven.

The second article is a bit old but I think brings up an interesting scenario.  Yahoo recently purchased Koprol.  In addition they have announced plans to open an office in Indonesia, although they have delayed the opening and havent announced a time line. I cant help but wonder if Google and Yahoo truly feel there is an immediate potential or if they are just hedging their bets and waiting to see what the market bares.    

Finally, the Chinese connection (requires WSJ login) seems to be materializing much quicker than I expected.  In this opinion article by one of the sons of the Jakartan business tycoon Aburizal Bakrie (Bakrie is feard if not respected, by everyone in government and private industry across Indonesia), there are some interesting suggestions (read: warnings) to western government that Indonesia shouldnt be discounted if there is to be an emerging relationship.     

Perhaps a third point to bring up about the internet boom in Indonesia is that there must be standardization and regulatory infrastructure to support the kind of growth seen in the Dot-Com era of the late 90’s/early 00’s or perhaps more relevent to Indonesia, as seen in the Industrial Revolution. Without this we will see a monopolistic private industry where government regulation is directly tied to private industries desires. A worrying trend seen with Mr. Aburizal Bakrie position as the chairman of Golkar party, as well as previous posts including Chief Economic Minister of Indonesia, Coordinating Minister for People’s Welfare and chairmanship of the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.  Not to say that this is specific to Indonesia, we’ve seen this cross-over in the U.S. as well (read:Haliburton and the Bush Empire), however, Im not confident there are checks and balances in Indonesia as we have in the states (however this could just be my own ignornace).    

 Selections from the articles above:    

Google eyes Indonesia for expansion

Google is collaborating with a local wireless broadband Internet company Bakrie Connectivity, whose new modem will come with Google Chrome web browser as a standard feature.    

Paging for Mr. Obama in Indonesia

The longer the United States waits to demonstrate its interest in renewing ties in its backyard, the easier it will be for China to fill in the gaps. Beijing has already inked a free-trade agreement with the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Chinese investment capital is pouring into Indonesia to build much-needed infrastructure. For example, China’s state-owned energy and investment firms are reportedly looking at Indonesia for takeover targets and joint venture partners. Beijing has been a strong proponent of giving Jakarta, already a member of the Group of 20, a stronger voice in international economic fora.    

Selfish Altruism


One thing that is really missing in Jakarta are user groups and general forums devoted to technology in business.  Ive always felt they were the best method for leaning about new technologies, networking and staying excited about your job. The only one Ive found in Jakarta is a SQL Server user group and an executive council, which is sponsored by a management consulting group (its like inviting a pig to a BBQ).

So, with the encouragement of a couple of expats Ive connected with recently, Ive decided to take this on myself. Not that I really need anyones help with choosing a name, or that there are more than 5 people even reading this brog (DONT BROCK MY BROG!!!), but I wanted an excuse to use the polling feature. Also seeing as my life revolves around the visualization of data I felt this was proper use of this space.

I tried to come up with a name that had a dirty acronym but I cant think of any that have a “J” in it. Darn.

My First Google Visualization


Ok, so I promise I wont make this into a work blog but I do want to share something that Ive started working on.

I gave up application programming in 2005 in favor of focusing on Business Intelligence and Analytics implementations. I spent 7 years trying to create websites and Business Intelligence applications from scratch and found it highly unsatisfying.  Mostly because of my lack of talent.  I would spend months working on a component or website tool and upon completing a mediocre version of whatever it was that I was working on  I would typically find some free version or example of what I did that was far-and-away better than what I had created. I found using the tools that others had created to customize or enhance its usage was much more effective and satisfying.

One of the things that has worried me about selling Business Intelligence solutions in a 3rd world country has been software licensing cost. Indonesia is still an industrialized nation and many companies havent realized the value in large investments in technology.  Trying to sell the average company millions of dollars in hardware and software is a daunting task.  Those companies that are willing to invest that money are typically government-owned, which are the most corrupt sector of the market,  not to mention, require an extensive vetting process for any potential vendor.

With this I am testing out a new tool set released by Google called Google Visualization API which makes use of the Google Chart Tools. The API is based on JavaScript.  You can build great looking charts from line, bar, gauge and motion charts. Additionally, you can manually build your data in JavaScrirpt, link to Google Documents or write your own data source connections to live databases.  The API is simple to start but has the depth to be a very robust tool and Im really excited about code-diving with it.

So here is my Developing Asia Google Visualization, the data is from the International Monetary Fund, it took about 4 hours of reading and practice to create this but now that Ive got it down, as long as I have the data in the appropriate format I can turn these out in a matter of minutes. Click around and change the options, its quite amazing how interactive this tool is. Im going to continue working with this and Ill post some other examples I come up with in the future.


For the first time since the end of January I put on my business cloths and went into an office. Lida and I had diner with the Indian guy we made friends with a while back at his place.  He invited us to come down to his office so Lida could meet the team, he said he might be able to get her a job there.

When we got there he asked me to give an impromptu talk with his team about team dynamics and efficiency.  Some how he got the impression that this was my specialty or he was just testing my ability to think on the fly. Either way it was definitely nice to get back into the office and do something other than brainstorm or come up with marketing material.

I’m becoming more skeptical that this business is going fly. The prospect of that doesn’t bother me so much per-say. I’ve grown accustomed to failure by now. After so many you learn to parlay your failures into credentials on your resume. It’s the prospect of going back to an office job and not being able to sleep in until 1pm.

I just need to make about $2000 a month to live very comfortably here. Its time to defy define mediocrity.


So the internet went down 2 days ago. Still can’t get it working. Tech has been here 2 hours and still no progress. Looks like I’m going to switch service this weekend. Besides a massive loss of productivity (that’s a joke) I’m pretty sure my fantasy hockey team is taking a nose dive at the most critical point of the season.

Described Business Intelligence to a mechanical engineer last night and he still didn’t get it. Looks like I’m going to have to write Business Intelligence for Dummys to convey basic business concepts. Only problem is I’m having no good or original ideas.

The Fear has set in and I’m starting to have anxiety attacks and asking myself the proverbial “what the hell am I doing?” questions. Even though I prepared myself and told everyone that I didn’t anticipate making any money for 6 months, the reality of it is much more difficult to handle.