August 27, 2009

The Little Launcher that Could

Launchy is a launcher application for Windows and Linux. It hides in the background and allows you to launch an application, a document or go directly to a web site by just typing a few keystrokes. Its interface cannot be any simpler and works like Google Desktop Search.

I have been using it for a couple of weeks and I am truly impressed. I have indexed my web links, folders, pdf files and Office documents. That covers the large majority of documents and files I access on any given day. I am also using Google Desktop Search, but found that as the number of indexed documents increased, it is not as effective and it takes me more time to find my files. Launchy does not replace Google Desktop Search, but it has cut down on the amount of time I was spending looking for files and other information. Great add-on and it's an open-source project! You can download Launchy from by clicking here.


August 21, 2009

Can IBM Hit a Home Run with SPSS?

Bing, Microsoft's new search engine offers a very interesting travel search capability. At first sight, Bing travel search engine is not so different of what you would find on Sidestep, Kayak or Mobissimo. You type your from-to flight information and get a selection of flights to choose from. What sets Bing travel search engine apart is his predictive capability. Bing predicts if the price will go down, up or hold steady. It even provides a confidence interval (expressed as a %).

Microsoft has acquired this capability from Farecast about a year ago for a cool 115 millions. Beside the steep price and the debate around its valuation (read the The Value of Statistics by Ian Ayres and Expected Value of Information), travel is nevertheless a clever application for predictive. It will be interesting to see what's next for the Farecast folks at Microsoft.

It makes me wonder if IBM could do a similar trick and bring SPSS technology to the business audience the same way Microsoft did with Farecast for the consumers / travelers. SPSS has been the big gorilla in the predictive space and it's not too difficult imagining Big Blue being reasonably successful with this acquisition.

As one of the dominant infrastructure players on the planet, IBM has likely heard the call for help coming from customers with tons of corporate data having difficulties figuring how to leverage it for their decision making. IBM can and probably will attach SPSS to its BI portfolio, but whether or not they can integrate predictive analytics to other technology assets remains to be seen.

As Timo Elliot, one of my colleagues has pointed it out in his blog, it would probably make more sense to embed predictive capabilities into business applications. Trouble is IBM is not really a provider of business applications. Unless there's a major strategic shift, the elusive predictive 'home run' will have to come from somewhere else...


August 8, 2009

Thinking Outside the Box

I recently came across a very inspirational story, one that got me thinking that even when facing complex problems - such as access to clean, drinkable water, human ingenuity seems to prevail.

Not only Michael Pritchard has invented a remarkable water filtering solution, he is also challenging the way humanitarian organizations approach the distribution of water after natural or man-made disasters. Imagine the resources currently wasted just for transporting and distributing tons and tons of bottled water in disaster zones where in many cases, all people need is a basic filtering system. The cost seems expensive at first, but if you think about all the logistical costs associated with bringing water (1 liter = 1 kg), his solution seems to make more sense. Kudos to him for his thinking outside the box.

August 1, 2009

eBooks and Design

The author Seth Godin has recently written a short post about raising the pdf document bar. I feel the same way with regard to traditional Word document simply exported as PDF format. I've been reading Web Ink Now for a few months and David Meerman Scott ebooks have certainly impressed me.

His design has striken a good balance between bling and good'ol Word doc rendered as pdf. I recommend having a look at his free eBooks. That said, he (or his designer!) uses Adobe Illustrator, not necessarily the easiest tool available to all of us. I would be interested to know what people are using to design and create visually interesting eBooks.