Author Archive
Time To Get Back To Blogging
  • October 28, 2009

After humping it for quite a few years with family and Contegix, it is now time to get back to blogging. It has been too long. I already have a few posts in draft format that will be ready to go over the next few days and weeks.

There will be a few changes. First, the blog at porterhome.com will be mostly focused on the personal side of the topics – family, tech, Contegix, and entrepreneurship. These will be more related to me and my personal experiences. Contegix Thoughts From Insider The Ether Blog will contain Contegix business, our infrastructure, etc. Keep checking it out!

For entrepreneurship, I will be launching STLEntrepreneur.com in the near future. Keep watching there!

And keep following my tweets…

Upgraded to WordPress MU 1.5.1
  • August 23, 2008
  • 1 Comment

Just upgraded this WordPress blog to 1.5.1 which is based upon the 2.5.1 WordPress codebase. While WordPress MU 2.6 has been released, the upgrade process appeared to succeed; however, it would not allow me to login as any user except ‘admin’ to access the per-user blogs.

C’est la vie. WordPress 1.5.1 will have to do for now.

Dear Apple Fanatic Lemmings…
  • May 22, 2008
  • 1 Comment

So, apparently people are lining up at the New York Apple Store. This is the same store that has been out of iPhones for about 2 weeks. This is also the store that is open 24 hours a day.

Here is the more interesting part – Some people have absolutely no clue why they are in line. See MacNN and Engadget articles for more details.

Saint Louis Entrepreneurs, Where Are You?
  • April 29, 2008
  • 1 Comment

The past few weeks, I have searching for Saint Louis enterpreneurs to attend a happy hour this Thursday. The event is being hosted by EO Accelerator to introduce the program. Accelerator is a great program sponsored by EO and Mercedes-Benz Financial. It is geared for businesses with revenue between $250k and $1m where the entrepreneur is under 35.

If anyone is interested, ping me at your convenience. The event is Thursday at ARAKA in Clayton.

UFC Match: iPhone vs. Kitchen Floor
  • April 29, 2008
  • 3 Comments

Tonight, my iPhone encountered a stronger opponent – the kitchen floor. While bringing in the milk from Oberweis, I dropped my iphone on the floor. The floor won.

iphone

EO Accelerator & Company Values
  • April 4, 2008
  • 2 Comments

Last year, I was invited to become a member of Entrepreneus’ Organization (EO), a global community of business owners. While the key focus of EO is the monthly forum, one of the programs I became involved with there was Accelerator. This program is designed for entrepreneurs who have a business that does not yet qualify for EO membership. Most of these businesses would be classified as first stage ventures that have already demonstrated success, in terms of revenue and growth. More importantly, these are businesses that are being built for growth.

Over the past year, I have grown truly passionate about this program. It provides quarterly full-day learning events that are networking and solicitation free. The participants get access to high quality material and business presentations on how to grow their businesses. All of this is done at a very reasonable cost to the participants thanks to the partnership with Mercedes-Benz Financial. More importantly, it occurs in a confidential environment. The single goal of Accelerator is empowering entrepreneurs with the knowledge and skills to help grow their businesses in a smart manner. Period.

Yesterday was one of the quarterly days. The topic of discussion was strategy. A core component of that is defining corporate values.

Somewhere along the lines, I have become one of the people who believe corporate values are more than just statements on a cubicle wall. I went from the person who mocked them as jibberish corporate bullshit to wanting to have a company with values and identity that people believed in and stood behind. For us, one of our core values is the realization that all of these switches, servers, firewalls, cables, etc. are not just equipment. They are the tangible representation of people’s livelihoods. Our engineers call this the “mortgage talk” since I give an example that this cabinet is so-and-so being able to make his mortgage payment every month. It is his livelihood.

During yesterday’s session, Paul Scheiter from Hedgehog Leatherworks discussed his corporate values. His conviction to these values has led him to post them to his website. One of which is the value “No Dry Humping!”. The meaning behind the value is that his company will never hard sell a customer. They will not overload the customer with sales calls, brochures, emails, etc. You become a customer because you love the product and want to be a customer. He treats customers they way he wants to be treated.

While this has to be the funniest value I have ever heard, it also reflects his passion and commitment to the customer and perfectly reflects his target audience – outdoor survivalists. I can not imagine a survivalist who would take offense to the message. Instead, the value speaks from the heart, entices a chuckle, and contains a story about a dog and the dog’s natural reaction. What survivalist does not love dogs?

Paul might be marketing genius for his target audience or, at least, his company’s values.

Dear TiVo, We Had Some Good Times But I Need to Move On
  • March 21, 2008

In November 2006, we purchased a high definition Panasonic 42″ plasma television for our family room. Our crappy 22 inch TV was developing dark spots and fading. Courtney wanted a panel television due to the odd layout of our family room. I am far from a videophile or audiophile – hell, I can not even tell you if the system is 720 progressive, 720 interlace, 1020, whatever. For me, I just want a decent picture and TiVo.

We were on of the early adopters of TiVo, having purchased our Series 1 Standalone unit in March 1999. (For reference on the time, I also picked up our first DVD player and the recently released copy of an Oscar-forgotten story detailing a young man overcoming his mental capacity obstacles.) I remember the day I brought the TiVo home. Courtney asked me point blank “Are you insane? This is the dumbest contraption I have ever heard of.” These are words she would live to regret years later watching the promiscuous life details of doctors (here, here, here). We later upgraded to a DirecTiVo and chose DirecTV solely on the TiVo feature. To put it simply, we love our TiVo.

Yet, it was the plasma television purchase led us into the slow slide of ending our 9+ year love affair with TiVo. When the television was first hooked up, the standard definition channels look pixelated but livable. It was better than the black spots and the TV just looked damn sexy. Last week is when everything changed.

On Friday, we began to hear the dreaded hard drive clicking sound. Every geek in the world knows this is not a healthy sign. Furthermore, the click was accompanied with random pauses of 2 to 40 seconds. The pauses were occurring every few seconds. It would take 2 hours to watch a 1 hour show. When I called DirecTV to replace the unit under my protection plan, I was nicely informed that they would be happy to send out a DirecTV-brand DVR. I told them I did not want this. I wanted a TiVo, my old buddy and companion for the past 9 years. The agent’s unauthorized recommendation – eBay. I was pissed as why I have a protection plan where the replacement is inferior. A bald-headed, wack job would call these stages “Shock, denial, and anger”.

Finally, I succumbed to the reality (resolution stage). If I had to get a DirecTV-brand DVR, it was time to upgrade to HD. The technician was out yesterday to perform the installation which was pretty painless despite the obtrusive satellite receiver. The damn thing looks like it could radiate a bald eagle from a hundred yards. I do have to admit that the picture is beautiful. The TV is now displaying image quality for which it was designed. The DVR is clanky and leaves a stark testament to the TiVo UI designers who built a better interface over a decade ago.

The only downside is that some people are not meant to be seen in high def.

The Joy of Travel… Or How American Airlines and Marriott Want To Kill Me
  • February 16, 2008
  • 1 Comment

Ah, travel. It’s one of those ideas that seems really sexy when you are younger. See new places, meet new people, all without hassles thanks to the modern day conveniences. In a past life, I even took advantage of those fringe benefits such as frequent flyer miles. This allowed me to earn premium status on American Airlines at one time and pay $25.00 to take my family to Florida last summer. Never once had those horrible trips described in magazines and folklore… until recently.

I needed to head to Portland, Oregon for business. My goal was to leave Saint Louis on Wednesday, February 6, 2008 and return the next day. I had arranged for 2 meetings in the late afternoon before heading to dinner with another customer. Patrick Lightbody and I had plans for breakfast the next morning just to catch up. Plus, I still needed to deliver off his wedding gift. Then, I would take leisurely metro ride to the airport before heading back to Saint Louis.

I had the airplane (with a stop through Seattle) and hotel booked. Everything was prepared and ready. I am an old pro at this having racked up over 300k frequent flyer miles. Hell, last summer, my wife and I took our 3 children all under the age of 3 to Florida. Yet, that’s when American Airlines and Marriott decided to tag team me into trip hell submission.

First, my flight departed from the gate as scheduled. This departure consisted of backing off from the gate by about 15 feet and, then, rolling back to the terminal. The pilot stated that a problem was found in the center fuel tank pump. It was failing to start and maintain consistent pressure. He hoped it was just a sensor reading. Since the all fuel tanks are needed to complete the trek to Seattle, this needed to be corrected.

After waiting 45 minutes, concern hit about whether I would make my connecting flight to Portland. I was advised by the flight attendants to depart the plane and talk with the gate agent which I promptly did. The gate agent assured me hat we should be taking off shortly and there would be plenty of other flights should I miss my original connection. While chatting with the agent, the pilot stepped off the plane. I am not an expert in the workings of an airline by any stretch of the imagination; however, I am pretty damn sure this is never a good sign.

Over three hours later, we finally depart Saint Louis. Curious what happened with the fuel pump? Well, that problem could not be corrected according to the pilot who was always polite, professional, and kept the passengers informed. The center tank was drained of the fuel. Therefore, we would be making a stop in Denver, Colorado for more fuel in the working tanks. This means that we needed to alter the flight path which would result in a longer flight.

At this point, we are late taking off, need to make a stop half-way, and my original connecting flight will be gone. American decided that these inconveniences were not yet enough. The flight was stocked with a complete lack of snacks for every passenger. By the time I was offered something, my choices was a candy bar or to suck down more recycled, pressurized air. At what point when we sat at the terminal for 3+ hours did American decide that people want to site on one of their fucking spacious airplanes for 9 hours without a drop of food with real substance? Maybe this is part of their grand plan to fatten the passengers so that we can buy two seats and have the extendo-belt.

I finally arrive in Seattle after 3:00 pm local time, but American is far from done kicking me. The gate agent informs me that he has little information on my connecting flight other than which concourse. I phone the AA reservations desk where I discover that I have been booked on a United Express “puddle jumper” flight from Seattle to Portland. If everything goes right, I should arrive in Portland around 6:00 pm local time. I may have missed my 2 meetings but will be able to have dinner with the customer.

Unfortunately, American Airlines has locked my electronic ticket. It takes the United Express gate agent five phone calls over 30 minutes to find someone at American to pick up the phone. The AA supervisor contacted then has no clue how to unlock it. Another 10 minutes go by. Finally, someone at American corrects the problem. I now have a plane ticket and head to grab a quick snack.

Thanks to delays imposed by Seattle Airport, the flight is restricted from departing for approximately 1 hour. It is just after 7:00 pm local time when I arrive in Portland. Thanks to American, my bag containing my phone charger and Patrick’s gift are lost. The United lost luggage agent informs me that there exists a possibility my bag was sent to New York by American. Once again, let me reiterate – I am not an expert in airline logistics; however, I do not believe the direct route from Seattle, WA to Portland, OR is through the east coast.

After an enjoyable dinner (thanks Eric, Michael, and Justin from fmyi.com!), I head to the Marriott with visions of my bag awaiting me. This dream even seems a reality when I check in at the front desk. The desk clerk informs me that I was already checked in which is probably because my bag arrived and was delivered to my room. Instead, American Airlines tagged the Marriott to continue the match in a move that would make The Road Warriors proud.

When I open the door to the hotel room, it is obvious that the room is not empty. How do I know? The naked male who attempted to engage me in a vulgar conversation on why I entered his room provided me a hint.

In all fairness to the Marriott, I was placed in another room and given a complimentary breakfast. Someone checked in under my reservation for the pre-paid room. Since I worked at the Saint Louis Airport Marriott in college, I can understand how this mistakenly happens on rare occasions. Sincere kudos to the staff working that night with their apologies and attempts to make it better.

I finally got my bag the next morning right before heading to the airport. This was after a good nights sleep and an enjoyable breakfast with Patrick at a local pancake place (beautiful blue corn pancakes!).

Obama, Train Your Campaign Callers : “I am not asking for your vote. I am asking for your money.”
  • January 3, 2008
  • 1 Comment

Choosing a political party has always been a difficult task for me. I am fiscally conservative but am relatively socially liberal. For example, I believe in small government, but one that should help its citizens and not care what happens in their private lives. I could honestly see myself voting for Ron Paul or Michael Bloomberg, should he ever announce. Right or wrong, I am registered as a Democrat despite voting for approximately 45% Republicans in the last election.

This means I get calls from the campaigns of our current batch of Democratic candidates. This included a call from a campaigner of Barrack Obama last Thursday. Here is an adhoc transcript of this insane call.

Campaigner (C):Hi, is Matthew there?
Me (M): Yes, this is he.
C: I am calling on behalf of President Obama… err, I mean Mr. Obama. As you know, he is running for Presidential.
M: Umm, ok.
C: The primary in Missouri is a tough race between Mr. Obama, Mr. Edwards, and Hillary. Can you make a donation of $150 to help Mr. Obama change America?
M: I can not make a donation right now. I don’t know if I will be voting for Mr. Obama in the primary.
C: Sir, I am not asking for your vote. I am just asking for your money, for a donation to Mr. Obama’s campaign.
M: Yeah, well. If I am not sure I am going to vote for Obama or even as a Democrat, why would I donate money to his campaign?!
C: Have you heard him speak?
M: Yes, I subscribe to his podcast.
C: Why won’t you vote for him then?
M: That’s a personal question. I don’t think I am not going to discuss that with you.
C: (rudely) Why not? You should talk to me about it.
M: No, I think I am done and now won’t vote for Obama. CLICK

This is just sad. My first impression with a live member on behalf of Barrack Obama, a candidate running for “Presidential”, is a person who sounded illiterate and was utterly rude. The line about not asking for my vote but my money signifies the view most people have of politicians – they are in it for the money and power.

Personally, I think this is just a poor campaigner. I do not think it reflects “President Obama” nor how his campaign is run. I have no clue who will earn my vote. Yet, it was funny enough to post in honor of the Iowa caucus today.

Applying for a Job – A How-NOT-To
  • December 8, 2007
  • 2 Comments

We recently advertised for a new administrative assistant. This person will have contact with our customers and have some minimal billing and HR responsibilities. Both additional responsibilities are relatively minimal since we have other people in billing and outsource HR to a third-party. I took interest in this hire since this person will be working directly for me.

After pushing through 60+ resumes on a plane ride, I decided to write this blog post. We received a number of good and a few great resumes; however, I was utterly surprised by the people who do not know how to apply for a job. After reading our replies for Linux admins, this holds true to those applicants as well.

  1. Read the job description. Re-read the job description. A number of the intros and resumes we received just did not apply to our job description. More disappointing, most of the applicants for our Linux engineering position completely failed to comprehend that it was a second shift position. If you can’t take the time to read the description, why should the employer take the time to read your resume?
  2. Spell check your submission, including any attachments. Spelling mistakes make the candidate look amateurish. Take the extra 10 minutes and send in your resume then. Most mail clients and webmail systems have a spell check. One of the submissions had the phrase “strong attention to detials”. Really? Could have surprised me with that one.
  3. Convey yourself and your uniqueness. There are numerous ways to do this – highlight a special project previously worked on, a special skill at which you excel, etc. We take a decent amount of time preparing our job description to convey our company’s uniqueness. The applicant should show the same.
  4. Be passionate and have your resume reflect that. Once again, we reflect this in every job post. We are passionate about what we do, despite hosting not being very sexy, especially the support aspect of it. Yet, that’s what we love to do.
  5. MySpace/Facebook/etc. Profile. Pay attention to what your social network profile say about you. A good employer could care less about your personal lifestyle, especially anything discriminatory, on these pages; however, ensure this is the presence you want publicly available and that it conveys who you are. For example, do not put phrases in your resume such as “Excellent people person. Love working with the public.” while your MySpace pages says “People suck. The world would be better if everyone died.”
  6. Remember where you applied. Yep, it happened a few times. Based upon the job requirements, the applicants who apply as an admin assistant are the ones the catch me off guard. Most of these candidates stress their organization skills.

There are probably a few hundred other points I should make, but these are the ones that constantly came up.