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Celestial Mechanics

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Oct, 2017 Issue

The Great American Eclipse of 2017 has come and gone, and I was fortunate enough to see it. Although total eclipses are fairly common (one takes place somewhere here on earth every 18 months or so), they’re the result of an amazing cosmic coincidence: viewed from earth’s surface, the discs of the sun and the moon are almost exactly the same size. This is due to the fact that the moon—while 400 times smaller than the sun—is also 400 times closer to earth, allowing the moon’s disc to completely obscure the blindingly-bright disc of the sun without hiding the sun’s outermost atmosphere, the corona. It’s the corona that gives a total eclipse its otherworldly quality and scientific value.

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Taking the Screening Test

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Aug, 2017 Issue

Last month, I wrote about Triplebyte, a company that performs initial technical screenings for companies seeking to “hire great engineers.” The idea is to eliminate “bad” candidates before a company spends precious time meeting with them in person. This month I’m sharing my personal experience being screened by Triplebyte for a job. For context, I’ve been programming in a variety of languages for about 40 years.

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Trump and Tech

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Jan, 2017 Issue

In his 1997 book The Art of the Deal he [Trump] wrote "I don't even know how to turn on a computer."

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The Quick and the Dead

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Dec, 2016 Issue

While we may be deeply complex individuals, our expression of that complexity is sometimes markedly less apparent.

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A World Without Work

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Nov, 2016 Issue

When the cost of a robot is less than the cost of an employee (considering benefits and turnover), companies will increasingly turn to an automaton.

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Eye in the Sky

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Oct, 2016 Issue

PSS has made it possible to follow someone who commits a crime forward and backward(!) in time to see where they came from and where they go.

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Summer Doldrums

Author: Michael E. Duffy
Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Sep, 2016 Issue

It's nice to see an application that takes people outdoors and gets them walking.

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Neural Networks

Author: Michael E. Duffy
Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Jun, 2016 Issue

Whether it’s a real brain or an artificial one, the trick is to train the damn thing.

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What's Next?

Author: Michael E. Duffy
Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
May, 2016 Issue

Google has talked about 2020 as a target for fully functioning self-driving cars, and that’s probably a realistic expectation.

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Back to Work

Author: Michael E. Duffy
Apr, 2016 Issue

My number-one complaint with the online job process is that rarely do you hear much from the companies you apply to.

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RIFfed

Author: Micael E. Duffy
Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Feb, 2016 Issue

I'm fortune I have a skill set that (I think) remains in demand.

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The Internet of Things

Author: Micael E. Duffy
Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Jan, 2016 Issue

What does the IoT mean for you and your business? I think it represents a huge opportunity.

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The Dark Web, Part 2 of 2

Author: Micael E. Duffy
Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Dec, 2015 Issue

A peek inside the elusive world of the Dark Web.

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The Dark Web, Part 1 of 2

Author: Micael E. Duffy
Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Nov, 2015 Issue

A peek inside the elusive world of the Dark Web.

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The Cautionary Tale of Ashley Madison

Author: Micael E. Duffy
Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Oct, 2015 Issue

Is your business safe from hackers?

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Everything's Amazing

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Sep, 2015 Issue

As technology advances, are we starting to take it all for granted?

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A Little More Uber

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Aug, 2015 Issue

A closer peek under the hood at Uber

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Uber for Everything

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Jul, 2015 Issue

Service providers, like Uber, are cashing in on convenience.

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Trending Now

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Jun, 2015 Issue

The robot army is coming.

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Reusable Software

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
May, 2015 Issue

Why is software so expensive and time-consuming to build?

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Managing Engineers

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Apr, 2015 Issue

Honesty is the best policy.

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Programming, Then and Now

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Mar, 2015 Issue

Some things change, but others (like programming languages) remain the same.

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Kiss Me, I'm Neanderthal

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Feb, 2015 Issue

Mike finds out detailed ancestry information with low-cost, high-tech DNA testing.

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Software Design

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Jan, 2015 Issue

When it comes to designing software, doing it right the first time makes things much easier in the long run.

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Wolf Hunting

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Dec, 2014 Issue

A peek inside of the software you use.

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I, Programmer

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Nov, 2014 Issue

Maybe we shouldn’t take software for granted.

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Robot Slaves for Everyone!

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Oct, 2014 Issue

These are the most realistic examples of what the first robots will look like: functional bipedal machines with a very limited nod to “human” appearance.

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Crunch Mode

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Sep, 2014 Issue

Putting up with too much crunch time isn’t good for employees—or business.

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The Turing Test

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Aug, 2014 Issue

Defining intelligence might be in the eye of the definer.

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Energy

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Jun, 2014 Issue

A new source of abundant, cheap and portable energy would transform human existence.

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Right in Your Browser

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Jun, 2014 Issue

A faster Web benefits everyone (but no one more than Google).

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Just Browsing

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
May, 2014 Issue

Browser-based applications are changing the way we use the Web.

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Is Your Computer Watching You?

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Apr, 2014 Issue

Proper security measures are the answer to keeping your data private.

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10 Things

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Mar, 2014 Issue

What’s happening now in technology may provide a peek into the future.

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The Need for Speed

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Feb, 2014 Issue

There’s a lot going on in the background regarding how fast your Internet connection is.

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Healthcare.gov

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Jan, 2014 Issue

What happens behind the scenes when building a high-traffic website of this magnitude.

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The Surveillance State

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Dec, 2013 Issue

Striking a balance between privacy and security can be difficult.

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On Writing

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Nov, 2013 Issue

Medium could be your next source for good reads and even a chance to share your ideas.

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On Programming

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Oct, 2013 Issue

Creating code—is it for you?

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Intelligence, Artificial and Otherwise

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Sep, 2013 Issue

Can computers become as smart as humans?

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The Expectation of Privacy

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Aug, 2013 Issue

The government is spying on you—do you care?

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Some Thoughts on Google Glass

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Jul, 2013 Issue

Mike takes a close look at the latest wearable technology.

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Bitcoin

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Jun, 2013 Issue

Anonymous spending find a home in high tech.

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Send in the Drones

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
May, 2013 Issue

The increased use of drones raises many questions and possibilities.

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Advice for New Graduates

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Apr, 2013 Issue

Mike Duffy shares his take on how to succeed following college graduation.

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Scared

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Mar, 2013 Issue

What scares you about technology?

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One-Star Docs in a Five-Star World

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Feb, 2013 Issue

How reliable are online user reviews?

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Welcome to 2013

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Jan, 2013 Issue

Mike Duffy turns a critical eye to Windows 8.

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December Grab Bag

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Dec, 2012 Issue

Mike Duffy looks at a few new developments in the tech world.

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Presidents, Engineers and the Rest of the Story

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Nov, 2012 Issue

What’s the best way to measure political results?

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The Unfortunate Tale of Mat Honan and Other Security Stories

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Oct, 2012 Issue

It sucks to lose your stuff.

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Protecting Your Business from Cybercrime

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Sep, 2012 Issue

Mike Duffy offers tips to keep your business safe online.

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Salt, Hash and Sockets

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Aug, 2012 Issue

Your quick reference for online security know-how.

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Those Daring Young Men and Their Driverless Cars

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Jul, 2012 Issue

Google’s “driverless” car brings up some interesting questions.

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Reading This Column Will Make You More Attractive

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Jun, 2012 Issue

Some gadgets are must-haves—and some aren’t.

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The Quantified Self

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
May, 2012 Issue

How closely do you track your health? Technology just made it easier.

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Predictable

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Apr, 2012 Issue

Mike Duffy discusses Agile Software Development, collaboration…and motivation.

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Public Service Announcements

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Mar, 2012 Issue

Helping others and keeping your online privacy private.

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Throwing Out the Fax Machine for Good

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
NBB Top 500, Feb, 2012

You can use email, PDF documents and electronic signatures instead of a costly fax machine.

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3.5 Productivity Enhancements for 2012

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Feb, 2012 Issue

Mike Duffy spotlights  techniques to improve your business and personal productivity in various columns over the years—and they really work.

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A Pragmatic Look Ahead

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Jan, 2012 Issue

Mike Duffy surveys current tech trends, then offers sound advice to business owners.

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A Dollar's Worth of Information, Please

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Dec, 2011 Issue

Mike Duffy shares some ideas for getting the word out.

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You Will Be Assimilated

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Nov, 2011 Issue

Is a world of cyborgs upon us? It might happen sooner than you think.

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Abandonment Issues

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Oct, 2011 Issue

What’s in your customers’ online shopping cart? Mike Duffy explains how to make their transactions easier for both of you.

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Double My Speed and Other Follies of Tech

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Sep, 2011 Issue

Do computer registry cleaners actually help? Mike Duffy explores the possibilities.

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Prognostication

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Aug, 2011 Issue

Mike Duffy tries his hand at fortune telling.

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Midsummer Mailbag

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Jul, 2011 Issue

Mike Duffy checks the mailbag and responds to “reader” queries.

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Q Is for Questions (and Answers)

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Jun, 2011 Issue

Sometimes, you need a little help to find the right answer.

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B Is for Backup

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
May, 2011 Issue

Backing up your files is imperative—and easier than you may think.

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The End of the World As We Know It

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Apr, 2011 Issue

Is an EMP apocalypse going to be caused by a solar flare? What would you do to prepare?

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Tagging

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
NBB Top 500, Mar, 2011

Tech guru Mike Duffy explores ways to track and organize Web-found treasures.

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Changing Readers, Hoarding Pages

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Mar, 2011 Issue

Mike Duffy gets his blogs in order—and comes up with the next reality TV sensation.

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Grouponomics

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Feb, 2011 Issue

Mike Duffy examines Grouponomics and other daily deal websites.

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Have a Tech New Year!

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Jan, 2011 Issue

Mike Duffy offers more wisdom about using Facebook to your business’ advantage and advises restraint when faced with negative Web reviews.

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Looking Ahead

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Dec, 2010 Issue

Tech expert Michael Duffy spotlights three emerging trends that could affect your business.

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The Facebook Juggernaut, Part II

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Nov, 2010 Issue

Not on Facebook yet? It’s probably time to get with the program. Here’s why.

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The Facebook Juggernaut

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Oct, 2010 Issue

Not on Facebook yet? It’s probably time to get with the program. Here’s why.

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The Future Tense

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Sep, 2010 Issue

Tech guru Mike Duffy waxes nostalgic for the amazing, astounding, visionary future of the good old days.

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The Future

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Aug, 2010 Issue

NorthBay biz tech guy Michael Duffy prognosticates—and hopes for the best.

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The New Marketing

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Jul, 2010 Issue

Facebook, Twitter and mobile technology have changed the face of marketing, and NorthBay biz tech guy Michael Duffy explains how they did it.

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Let Me Show You My iPad

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Jun, 2010 Issue

Don’t be jealous: NorthBay biz tech guy Michael Duffy shows off his new iPad and describes the pros and cons of Apple’s newest technological marvel.

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iPads, MiFis and Satellite Blues

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
May, 2010 Issue

Since my last column, Apple has announced its long-awaited tablet device, the iPad, at prices from $499 to $829, depending on memory and connectivity. By the time you read this, there will actually be iPads in the wild, since the release date was April 3, at least for the Wi-Fi versions. I strongly recommend that if you’re responsible for the technical vision of your company, you invest $500 for the cheapest iPad (16GB of storage, Wi-Fi only) and get a glimpse of what the future looks like.

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Power Trip

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Apr, 2010 Issue

NorthBay biz tech columnist Michael Duffy explores the changing world of power technology.

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Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
NBB Top 500, Mar, 2010

NorthBay biz columnist Michael Duffy takes a four-fold approach to this month’s column—Foursquare, Proteus Biomedical smart pills, Google Chrome and 2010 tech trends are all on deck.

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Anything, Anywhere

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Mar, 2010 Issue

NorthBay biz tech guru Michael Duffy discusses two of today’s biggest technological trends—mobile computing (iPhones) and cloud computing—and what they mean for the way we do business.

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The Top Tech Questions of 2009

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Feb, 2010 Issue

From URLs and FTPs to website building and RSS feeds—NorthBay biz tech columnist Mike Duffy tackles Ask.com’s “Top 10 Questions of 2009” and gives readers a business-slanted spin.

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The Revolutionary New Tech Talk Diet

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Jan, 2010 Issue

Worried you won’t be able to keep your 2010 resolution of losing those pesky extra pounds? NorthBay biz tech correspondent Michael Duffy is here to help.

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Nothing New Under the Sun?

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Dec, 2009 Issue

As 2009 comes to a close, NorthBay biz columnist Mike Duffy reflects on the state of business technology and explains the basics of Google’s latest product, Google Wave.

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Windows 7 Is Here

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Nov, 2009 Issue

NorthBay biz tech correspondent Michael Duffy welcomes Microsoft's newest operating system, Windows 7, with open arms.  

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Why Is My Computer Slow?

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Special Wine Issue, Oct, 2009

As magical as they are, computers are constrained in a few very distinct ways. First, they have a limited amount of volatile memory (in other words, it forgets what it contained when the computer is turned off). You’ve probably heard of it referred to as random access memory (RAM), and most personal computers these days come with between 1 and 4 gigabytes.

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Are Websites Dead?

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Oct, 2009 Issue

NorthBay biz tech correspondent Michael Duffy celebrates the 18th anniversary of the Internet and stresses the importance of a strong online presence for small businesses.  

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The Turk and I

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Sep, 2009 Issue

NorthBay biz tech guy Michael Duffy has a menial task that only Amazon Mechanical Turk can accomplish. Will AMT’s “on-demand workforce” succeed before his next column is due?

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Bing

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Aug, 2009 Issue

NorthBay biz tech guy Michael Duffy discusses the pros and cons of Bing, Microsoft’s brand new, competing-with-Google search engine.

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Electronic Health Records

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Jul, 2009 Issue

NorthBay biz tech expert Michael Duffy discusses the shifting focus of national health information and the realistic outcomes of electronic record keeping.

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On Vacation, Off the Grid

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Jun, 2009 Issue

Even while on vacation, NorthBay biz tech guy Michael Duffy can’t resist plugging into the world grid and reporting his experience.

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The Best Companies Online

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
NBB Best Of, May, 2009

When NorthBay biz tech wiz Michael Duffy visits a company’s website, he wants consolidation of services. We think he’s on to something.

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Wetpaint and 99Designs

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
May, 2009 Issue

 

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Honey, I Outsourced the Startup

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Apr, 2009 Issue

Tech expert Mike Duffy explains why, because of outsourcing, it's relatively easy to get a startup off the ground and ready to move.

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The Day the Music Died

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
NBB Top 500, Mar, 2009

NorthBay biz technology guru Michael Duffy imagines a world without Google…and doesn’t like what he sees.

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The Internet Detective

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Mar, 2009 Issue

Educate your inner detective with NorthBay biz technology expert Michael Duffy’s report on the Internet’s most worthwhile (and free) information-gathering websites.      

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Netbooks Hit the Mainstream

Author: Michael E. Duffy
Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Feb, 2009 Issue

NorthBay biz technology expert Michael Duffy explores the growing netbook movement—and how it’s changing the way people experience the Internet. 

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2009 Forecast: Cloudy with a Chance of Windows

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Jan, 2009 Issue

For businesses, the benefits of cloud computing are numerous—but it still makes some companies nervous. Michael Duffy explains the ins and outs of this burgeoning resource.

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The Price is Right

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Dec, 2008 Issue

 As 2008 draws to a close and the uncertainty of 2009’s economic landscape becomes a reality, Michael Duffy reveals the Internet’s most convenient, effective and (best of all) free services to help ease the burden.

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The Very High Cost of Medical Care

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Nov, 2008 Issue

In the world of medicine, there are two trains headed toward each other with increasing speed. The first is the growing number of treatments available to prolong life. The second is the growing cost associated with such treatments. At the collision point, we face a difficult question: How much is another day with Grandma worth? Of course, the answer can change dramatically when you are Grandma (or Grandpa).

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Return of the Browser Wars

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Special Wine Issue, Oct, 2008

Up until August, you had a choice of three or four Web browsers: Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 7, Firefox 3, Safari 3.1 from Apple, and Opera 9.5. Broad-based usage statistics show that about 70 percent of the market belongs to the two most recent versions of Internet Explorer, and 20 percent uses some version of Firefox. Safari weighs in at about 5 percent and Opera gets a measly 1 percent. The remainder belongs to oddball browsers you’ve likely never heard of.

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How IT People Think

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Oct, 2008 Issue

I recently received an email from one of this column’s readers, who wanted to better understand how information technology (IT) people think (as a basis for improving her sales and marketing approach to IT management). As I was writing my reply, it occurred to me that, since most of my readers probably aren’t IT people, it might make a useful column.

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Mr. Greenspun’s Modest Proposal

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Sep, 2008 Issue

As I write this, oil is selling at somewhere in the neighborhood of $140 a barrel. According to the CIA Factbook (available online at www.cia.gov), the United States consumes 21 million barrels of that $140-a-barrel oil each day. Multiply that by 365 and you can see that, as a nation, we’re spending more than $1 trillion on oil each year (probably more now, since that 21 million barrel estimate is from 2005). What does that oil get used for? Interestingly, only 1 percent is used to generate electricity. Electricity is generated primarily by coal, natural gas, nuclear energy and hydroelectric generators.

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Of Clean Energy, Ampersands, Doggy Doubles and Re-Malling

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Aug, 2008 Issue

In business, it’s always about power and money. And in no place is that more true than in Marin. Businesses in Marin are beginning to hear about plans to give Pacific Gas and Electric a run for its money [see “Buying Power,” page 43]. The Marin Community Development Agency has proposed forming a joint powers authority to buy clean energy on behalf of businesses and residents. The concept, Marin Clean Energy, would be a community choice aggregation (CCA), an entity that would sell power that’s at least 25 percent renewable and eventually sell energy that would be 100 percent green for less than what PG&E charges. At least this is what the county is proposing. PG&E would still handle power distribution and billing.

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You Can’t Get There From Here

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Aug, 2008 Issue

As I write this, the country is fretting about $5-a-gallon gasoline. There are lots of implications for higher oil prices, some of which we’ve already begun to see: People will drive less. People will drive more fuel-efficient cars, or switch to alternative means of transportation. And taking the bus, a train or a plane will get more expensive. Almost every physical thing we buy will become more expensive due to the increased cost of transporting it.

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Off the Grid

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Jul, 2008 Issue

It’s July, and wouldn’t you’d really rather be reading this by the pool? Go ahead. I promise nothing but summertime fun in this edition of TechTalk!

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Summertime Musings

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Jun, 2008 Issue

    It’s much too nice out to put together a reasoned treatise this month. So take your June issue of NorthBay biz outside, and enjoy reading these three short musings on technology in the cool shade of a tree.

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The Body Electric

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
NBB Best Of, May, 2008

    During a recent family trip to Disneyland (the happiest damn place on Earth), I was struck by the way people used cell phones to stay in touch with members of their group. To be truthful, with four kids from 12 to 17 in tow, we were doing the same thing: deciding where to meet, checking on kids who stayed until the park closed after their parents pooped out, finding out what the wait time was for Space Mountain and generally treating our phones as a way of having a casual conversation with someone not in the immediate vicinity. Sort of like having a voice that carries long distances with pinpoint accuracy, or a poor man’s version of mental telepathy.

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Colonoscopies, Virtual and Otherwise

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
May, 2008 Issue

    Thank you for reading this far, as any column with the word “colonoscopy” in its title is likely to invoke a strong page-turning reflex in most people. Nevertheless, I’d like you to keep reading, particularly if you’re approaching your 50th birthday (or beyond). I hope that writing about my experiences will demystify things a bit and make it easier for people to get screened. First-person medical stories are actually a bit of a business magazine tradition: Andy Grove (who was, at the time, CEO of Intel), wrote a cover article for Forbes in May 1996 describing his personal experiences with prostate cancer.

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Power Play

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Apr, 2008 Issue

As a country, we’re hugely dependent on electric power. This is true of most of the industrialized world, but it’s also good to remember that more than one-quarter of the world’s population has no access to electricity.

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Mobility, Telephony and Battery

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Mar, 2008 Issue

    A couple weeks ago, I took a flight to Portland for the 10th anniversary celebration of Who2 (www.who2.com), a biography website where I help run the technical side of things (tag line: Find famous people fast!). As I was driving to the airport, I realized I’d left my iPhone “dock” (charging station) at home and wouldn’t have time to go back and get it.

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Privacy? Get Over It.

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
NBB Top 500, Feb, 2008

Social networking sites are huge. Companies like Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn and others invite you to input data about yourself, and then make it easy for you to invite members of your various social networks to view your information. For a quick and painless introduction to social networks, check out the clever video “Social Networking in Plain English,” from the folks at Common Craft (www.commoncraft.com). Bottom line, social networking sites encourage you to document the connections you have to other people, letting you see the network that exists through those connections, and their connections and so on.

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Jott it Down

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Feb, 2008 Issue

Although I write about technology, I don’t have a big gadget fetish. While many of the people I work with carry fancy Treo 700 phones that automatically synchronize with their Microsoft Outlook calendar and in-box, I get along with a very basic Motorola RAZR, my trusty laptop and an EVDO card. But I was intrigued by a new service called Jott (www.jott.com).

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The Changing Face Of Business Technology

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Jan, 2008 Issue

    It’s January, when standard column fare consists of things you need to be doing (like finally making sure your system backups actually work, or consulting with a technology expert to map out a plan for your business) or trends you need to be aware of to out-do your competition (like telepresence and virtualization). The goal, of course, is a banner year for your business, large or small.

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myPhone

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Dec, 2007 Issue

    I did it. I bought an iPhone. Hey, I’m no Apple fanboy! My work and home systems are both Windows XP, I’ve never bought a single recording from iTunes and, although I do have an iPod, it’s an ancient original iPod Shuffle (the kind without a display) handed down to me by my 12-year-old. But here I sit, the owner of Apple’s latest consumer-oriented electronic device.     I’ve never had a combined PDA and cell phone like the Palm Treo or RIM BlackBerry. The last time my cell phone wore out, I got a Motorola RAZR, which I thought was pretty cool, since it had a camera and a color display. I liked it a lot: small, with an all-metal solidity. Alas, the flip hinge decided to die, and then the display wouldn’t work, and so I found myself shopping for a phone.  

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Technology, A to Z, Part 2

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Nov, 2007 Issue

This month, I pick up where I left off in our Special Wine issue and present the last 13 of 26 technology-related topics I think you’ll find interesting, informative or useful. Ning: Co-founded by Marc Andressen, the man who brought you the Internet browser, Ning (www.ning.com) is a platform for creating your own social networking site. If you have a network of people who are related in some way, Ning gives you the tools to create a website with the same features as sites like MySpace, Facebook or LinkedIn. Ning’s basic services are free, with additional premium services at a cost. It’s a great way to investigate and leverage the social networking aspects of your customer community.

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Technology, A to Z, Part 1

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Special Wine Issue, Oct, 2007

If there’s at least one thing in each month’s column you find interesting, informative or useful, I figure I’ve done my job as a columnist. Here are 13 of 26 things I think fall into one or more of those categories: Adblock Plus: If you’re one of the cool kids who uses the Firefox Web browser (www.firefox.com) instead of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, and you really hate online ads (studies show most of us don’t even really see them anymore), then Adblock Plus (www.adblockplus.org) may be for you. It completely (and nicely) removes text, image and Flash-based ads from Web pages. Of course, if you rely on Web advertising for income, you’re probably hoping this doesn’t catch on.

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Law, Sausage and Nootropics

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Oct, 2007 Issue

Otto von Bismarck reportedly said that to retain respect for sausages and laws, one should never watch them being made. I’d like to add professional athletes to that category…as well as monthly magazine columns. Last July’s Tour de France saw local cycling pro Levi Leipheimer on the winner’s stand with a third-place finish. It also saw the overall leader, two other riders and two entire teams expelled or withdrawn from the race as a result of failing or missing drug tests. Professional cycling has been dogged by allegations of enhanced performances for as long as I can remember. And I’d wager almost no one reading this column lacks an opinion about Barry Bonds’ breaking of Hank Aaron’s longtime home run record.

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Social Networking

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Sep, 2007 Issue

If you’re reading this near a computer, take a moment to visit the Common Craft website (www.commoncraft.com) and watch its “Social Networking in Plain English” video. It’s clever, fun and will set the stage for the rest of this column. If you can’t watch the video right now, I’ll summarize it quickly here: Social networking uses technology to make the relationships between people visible and useful. Examples of social networking websites that you may have heard of include MySpace (www.myspace.com), LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com), and Facebook (www.facebook.com), all of which are free to join.

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Where's My Laptop?

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Aug, 2007 Issue

As I wrote last month, I love my laptop (particularly with a docking station and dual monitors at my office). The only downside of living on a laptop is what happens if it gets lost. Estimates are more than a million laptops are reported lost or stolen each year. Even the FBI loses three or four a month! Fortunately, I’ve never lost one—but I get the shivers just thinking about it (regular backups help reduce this symptom).

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Laptops, Mice and Costco

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Jul, 2007 Issue

I love my laptops. I have relatively new a Toshiba consumer model for personal use (like writing this column) and a DELL Latitude D520 at the office. If you use a laptop (particularly a DELL laptop), I highly recommend a docking station and dual-monitors in locations where you spend a large amount of time. My office setup consists of a hardware dock (which means I don’t have to plug and unplug connections to my laptop), a keyboard and optical mouse, and dual 19-inch LCD monitors.

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Botnets and You

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Jun, 2007 Issue

Getting more spam lately? Networks of compromised computers, running hidden software controlled remotely by God-knows-who, are probably the reason. These networks, known as “botnets,” are responsible for an estimated 80 percent of all spam. What’s worse, your computer may be part of the problem.

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Medicare Risk Adjustment

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Apr, 2007 Issue

There are approximately 42 million Americans covered by Medicare, a well-known (but not well-understood) program that provides health services to senior Americans. The program is administered by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Medicare has two basic forms: fee-for-service (FFS) and Medicare Advantage (MA), which offers seniors a HMO-style approach to health care. About 7 million Americans belong to an MA plan.

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Death to Spam

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Mar, 2007 Issue

I usually write about topics that represent potential risks for your business, opportunities to improve productivity and new ideas that might set you apart from your competitors. But sometimes I just write about a technical challenge I’ve personally faced. For example, at the end of December last year, I finally decided I needed a better approach to dealing with spam (unsolicited commercial email).

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Being First in Second Life

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
NBB Top 500, Feb, 2007

You’ve probably already heard of Second Life. After all, it was the Business Week cover story last May, which makes Second Life an official mainstream phenomenon. For those of you who’ve been busy with your “first life,” Second Life (SL) is an online, three-dimensional world, populated by avatars, 3-D representations of the real people who participate in the SL world. You can walk around, fly, teleport and engage in conversation or commerce. Moreover, SL has a thriving economy built around “Linden dollars” (Linden Labs of San Francisco is the creator of SL), which have a value in real dollars (currently, one U.S. dollar equates to a shade less than 300 Linden dollars). You can buy clothes, objects, services—even land—using Linden dollars.

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Being There

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Feb, 2007 Issue

The inspiration for this month’s column came from two weeks of business travel, where it seemed that every flight I was scheduled to take was either delayed or cancelled, sometimes both. Was it really “weather in Chicago,” or merely the fact that United had three partially filled flights headed there and cancelled the first two, yielding a single full (and thus profitable) plane? In a universe where you have no control, it’s easy to become a conspiracy theorist. The one upside was discovering that Midwest Airlines serves fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies on flights after 10 a.m. Unfortunately, I was on a 7:45 a.m. flight.

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The Start of Another Year

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Jan, 2007 Issue

Let’s have 2007 be the year you no longer worry whether your computer/business is adequately backed up. Of course, I’ve said the same thing at the start of nearly every year since I started writing this column seven years ago. In fact, here’s my compressed summary of Things You Really Ought To Be Doing: regular automated backups; periodic restores of your backups to ensure they work; antivirus software (Norton AntiVirus 2007) and a software firewall (such as ZoneAlarm from Zone Labs) for every computer on your network; an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) for every desktop system, which can be (and has been) configured to gently power the system down when power fails; your own domain name along with a basic website and email addresses (let’s have this year, too, be the one where no one uses a personal account for their business email); dual-monitor systems and EV-DO cards where they make sense for your staff; and finally, an annual technology plan based on your business goals.

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Disaster Recovery

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Dec, 2006 Issue

Yesterday I got this email message from a good friend of mine: Argh! I’m writing to you from my new computer. My old one crashed in a BIG way. The Geek Squad removed the hard drive, in an effort to retrieve the data and so far, no luck. They assume my old data (ALL my business documents, taxes, email address book, etc.) is most likely physically on the spinning platters…. However, they’ve been unable to access it.

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The Worst Column I've Ever Written

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Nov, 2006 Issue

The good news: a headline like that virtually guarantees you’ll stop to read a bit more. The bad news? I might actually live up to it. And so, you ask, why is this the worst column he’s ever written? Because usually, I have some particular topic I want to explore, which leads to a reasonably coherent journey from the first paragraph to the last. At least that’s my intent. This time, however, I’m channeling Hunter S. Thompson. Where my stream of consciousness will flow remains to be seen.

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How Not to Build a Website

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Special Wine Issue, Oct, 2006

Websites. People still need them. New businesses start up all the time, and (believe it or not) there are still people just discovering that a website can make their business visible to the millions of people who use the Web every day. But getting great results is still way too hard. That’s why I still write about websites from time to time. Lately, people have been asking me for the names of Web designers I trust, so I figure another column might be in order, since looking for a designer is almost always the wrong place to start.

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Eee Vee Dee, Oh!

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Oct, 2006 Issue

Do you own a laptop? Do you travel frequently? Do you like to use idle moments while traveling to work online, catch up on your e-mail or just surf the Web (as opposed to, say, playing Windows Solitaire)? Yes? Then I have just the thing you need. If you’re not already aware of it, EV-DO (for Evolution-Data Optimized) is a boon for serious mobile laptop users. The other day, I was taking the Airport Express bus to SFO from the Charles M. Schulz (Sonoma County) Airport on my way to the heat and humidity of Fort Worth, Texas. A young woman was sitting across the bus aisle from me, and as soon as we got underway, she pulled a sleek little HP laptop computer from her bag, inserted a small, lumpy-looking card into the slot on one side of her machine and fired the whole thing up. Moments later, she was reading and replying to e-mail on her corporate network using Microsoft Outlook—which she did all the way to SFO, making good use of the two-hour drive. (I, on the other hand, caught up on my sleep.)

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Mr. Crankypants vs. Microsoft

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Sep, 2006 Issue

Here’s what I commonly see: A business starts up with a single Windows computer and ultimately ends up bound to the entire Microsoft product line—Windows, Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook), Exchange server (for e-mail, a calendar and an address book), Microsoft Server 2003 (the industrial strength version of Windows for servers), SQL Server 2005 (for databases) and so on—along with the upgrade cycle for each of these products (and the associated expense). For most companies, it’s the equivalent of using tactical nukes to swat flies.

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Skype

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Aug, 2006 Issue

I’ve been using Skype (rhymes with “ripe”) for a couple of months now, and it’s time to tell you about my experiences using this service. If you travel a lot with a laptop, have friends in faraway places or kids in college, you owe it to yourself to check out Skype. First, let me describe it. With a personal computer, some speakers, a microphone and an Internet connection, you can call other Skype-equipped friends over the Internet. If you add a Web camera for $50 to $100, you can have “picture phone” conversations with them. All for free.

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Google vs. The Yellow Pages, Part I

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Jul, 2006 Issue

The first sign was innocuous enough: The new AT&T Yellow Pages for Sonoma County arrived at my door. Next, I got a call from a local doctor who’s decided to cut back on his Yellow Pages display advertising (which costs him more than $35,000 a year), looking for advice on how to effectively spend some of that money to deploy an improved website. It was just too coincidental when the owner of another local company asked me how to make sure people Googling for his product will find it. At any moment, I expected to see a sign that said: Local Search—Welcome to the Twilight Zone.

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Wireless Broadband and Viral Video

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Jun, 2006 Issue

First, an amplification of my previous column on connectivity options for small businesses (April 2006). Right after the column appeared, I got a nice e-mail from Mike Donner at Vista Broadband (www.vbbn.com), pointing out that I had failed to mention wireless broadband, offered locally by Vista Broadband and Sonic.net (who resells service from Broadlink Communications as “wireless DSL”).  This is not the same as Wi-Fi (802.11a/b/g), which is simply a local radio that lets your computer connect wirelessly to a base station, which is in turn connected to the Internet by some method (typically DSL or cable). 802.11b uses the same radio frequencies as cordless phones and microwave ovens.

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Grab Bag

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
May, 2006 Issue

Sometimes when I sit down to write this column, there are a bunch of little items rattling around in my head. None worthy of a full column (at least not without putting my readership to sleep), but nevertheless interesting and potentially useful technology-related bits. As always, my goal is to get you thinking about what you’re trying to accomplish in your business, and how technology (new or old) might effectively drive those goals. That said, let’s open this month’s grab bag.

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Singing Those DSL Blues

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Apr, 2006 Issue

It’s February 15th, and my column (the one you’re reading right now) is due. Although I regularly crank out posts for my blog (blog.winerywebsitereport.com), sometimes writing this column, where I address a broad audience with diverse interests and needs, can be daunting. Today, it’s worse than usual because I spent the first two days of this week trying to get my AT&T (formerly SBC) DSL service back from the dead.

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Getting Started with Blogs, Part 2

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Mar, 2006 Issue

In my last column, I talked about how to get started reading Web logs (blogs) using a free, browser-based service from Bloglines (www.bloglines.com). I hope you’ve all taken my advice and experienced the power and convenience of subscribing to an interesting blog and receiving automatic notification when it gets updated. The ability for readers to subscribe to a blog’s RSS feed (that is, to receive automatic notification of new material), coupled with the ability of blogging software to create that RSS feed without any effort on the part of the blog’s author, is at the heart of the rapid growth of the blog phenomenon.

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It's the Customer, Stupid!

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Feb, 2006 Issue

Although this column is about technology and business (did I mention this is the second installment in the sixth year of Tech Talk?), cutting-edge technology probably isn’t essential to the day-to-day operation of your business—even if yours is a tech company. I do believe technology is critical to the future of your business, however. Think about how the first accounting firms to use computers (hell, hand-crank calculators) were able to outperform their pencil-driven peers. What is critical to your business, at all times, is the customer.  And generally, the more the better. We live in a world where, increasingly, businesses distinguish themselves on the basis of how they interact with their past, current and future customers. You can buy competent legal representation from any number of law firms. What makes a difference is how well they take care of you. This includes, of course, whether they resolve legal issues in your favor.

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Headache Remedies for 2006

Columnist: Michael E. Duffy
Jan, 2006 Issue

There are lots of tech buzzwords floating about at the start of 2006: RSS, blogging, podcasting, Flash video, Microsoft Windows Vista, Microsoft Office 12, VoIP, YackPack, Google Analytics, Google AdWords, Google AdSense, Google Base, pay-per-click advertising, AJAX, Asterisk, 64-bit computing, social networking, Web 2.0, Web services, BitTorrent, free video from AOL, phishing, spam, splogs, mobile computing, anti-virus software, Sarbanes-Oxley, Bioterrorism Act, RFID, WiFi and WiMax, DRM, rootkits, security, open source software, the “attention economy,” outsourcing and the list goes on and on and on.

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In this Issue

A Passion for Perfection

David Stare, founder of Dry Creek Vineyard, is sitting across from me at his vineyard garden. His demeanor is considerate and responsible, stable and kind. But, if it were not for his passion, this ...

Wine and Weather

There’s no argument that the wine in your glass showcases the skill of the winemaker. Yet it was Mother Nature who engineered the growing season that made it all possible. Rain at the right ti...

Napa vs. Sonoma

Napa and Sonoma counties are remarkably similar on paper. They appear as next-door neighbors sharing a mountain range on the map, and rivers, valleys and fertile agricultural areas define the topogr...

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