mrc's Cup of Joe Blog

Join us in exploring the world of modern development, evolving technologies, and the art of future-proof software

Month: November 2012

Weekly recap: 4 trends revitalizing BI, useful jQuery snippets, and more…

EducationEvery week, I share the most interesting and useful tech articles that I’ve found over the past week. This week’s top articles focus on BI trends, useful jQuery snippets, and more. I hope you find them useful:

14 handy jquery code snippets for developers
If you do any web development, here’s a page you’ll want to bookmark. It provides some of the most commonly used jQuery snippets all in one place, for easy copy-and-pasting during web development.

3 ways IT causes Shadow IT (and how to fix it)

EducationSuppose your car’s “check engine” light turned on. What do you do? Do you take it to the mechanic and ask him to find the problem? Or do you ask him to remove the light?

Of course, you fix the problem. Everybody knows the light isn’t the problem–it’s a sign of a larger problem.

I mention this example because it ties in nicely to the growing “Shadow IT” problem. For those unfamiliar with the issue, Shadow IT is the term used to describe IT systems and solutions built within an organization without the IT department’s knowledge or approval. The IT department cannot control these systems, which creates all types of data security problems.

CIOs and IT managers around the world are asking the same question: How can we stop Shadow IT? I’ve seen some companies try threats. Others try to limit procurement budgets. Unfortunately, these types of approaches rarely work.

Why? As it turns out, they’re asking the wrong question. Asking “How can we stop Shadow IT” is the equivalent of asking a mechanic to remove your “check engine” light.

Why? Shadow IT is not the problem. Like a “check engine” light, Shadow IT is a sign of much larger problems. When business users aren’t satisfied with the services and support they receive from IT, they look for other solutions. Users aren’t maliciously trying to harm the company. They just aren’t getting what they need from the IT department.

So, if you want to fix the problem, you must first identify what’s causing the problem. Rather than asking “How can we stop Shadow IT?”, perhaps IT departments should be asking, “How are we causing Shadow IT?” Why would end users want to bypass the IT department in the first place? To help identify the problem, I’ve created a short list of the most common ways IT departments unwittingly create Shadow IT:

Spreadsheet misuse: Why it happens and how to stop it

Save MoneyDo you know why end users still use spreadsheet programs (like Excel) so frequently, despite all of the security concerns? The answer is simple: Spreadsheets are easy.

Sure, maybe they’ve sat through training classes on how to use your enterprise software. Maybe they already learned about the dangers of spreadsheet misuse. Maybe you’ve even given them a safer alternative to spreadsheets. But, here’s the problem: If the process isn’t as easy (or easier) than Excel, they probably won’t use it.

The solution: Give users simple, secure web applications that replace the most common Excel uses. In what ways is Excel most commonly used? When you boil it down, end users typically use Excel in three ways:

  1. They enter data
  2. They manipulate (edit, sort, and filter) data
  3. They analyze data

If you want to eliminate spreadsheet misuse, give users a better, safer way to accomplish the three tasks listed above. The best way to accomplish this: Give them web applications! Don’t know where to start? Here are some great web applications that replace the most common uses of Excel.

Weekly recap: 5 ways to prepare IT to drive productivity, BYOD risks, and more…

EducationEvery week, I share the most interesting and useful tech articles that I’ve found over the past week. This week’s top articles focus on IT productivity, things you need to know about javascript, and more. I hope you find them useful:

10 things you need to know about Javascript
If you do any type of web development, you’ll likely need to understand Javascript. This article lists some of the most important aspects of Javascript that any developer must understand.

Thanksgiving Football: Fun facts and mobile apps!

In honor of the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, we decided to celebrate in true m-Power fashion: We made a mobile app! But not just any mobile app. This mobile app is all about the long-standing tradition of Thanksgiving football! It answers the big questions like:

  • What is my team’s record on Thanksgiving Day?
  • When was the first Thanksgiving day NFL game played?
  • Who won last year (or any year, for that matter)?

Sounds exciting, right? The application works on all devices (PC/Tablet/Smartphone), and you can find the it right here.

One thing to note: The application adapts to the device on which it is viewed. So, if you access it on a PC, it will look like a PC app. But, if you access it on a smartphone or tablet, it will look like a smartphone or tablet app. Go ahead and try it to see for yourself. If all of that sounds confusing, this page explains m-Power’s approach to mobile in greater detail.

But wait…there’s more!

While we were building the mobile app, we ran across some great facts about the Thanksgiving Day football games. So, we’ve pulled some of the more interesting “fun facts” and listed them below. Enjoy!

Help us stop Copyright trolls: Sign the petition

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”
Edmund Burke

We are asking for your help to end the predatory practices of Copyright trolls.

Copyright trolls are companies who misuse copyright laws as a way to make money through litigation. They prey on ignorance and misuse the law for their own personal gain. In fact, many of these Copyright trolls use litigation as their primary business model.

Why should you care?

1. It’s morally wrong: These Copyright trolls are misusing the law to attack individuals and companies who unwittingly infringe on copyrights. They make it easy for their victims to unknowingly infringe on their copyrights, and then spring into legal action once their victim falls for the bait. While technically legal, this practice is morally wrong.

2. It hurts the economy: These Copyright trolls are attacking small businesses, claiming damages up to $150,000 per infringement. Any money paid to copyright trolls is money that can’t be used creating new jobs, or purchasing products/services from other companies.

3. It could affect you: Have you created a web site or web application? Have you ever published anything online? If so, have you ever used an image that you didn’t pay for? Maybe you just grabbed an image from Google images for use in a blog post. Maybe you used a seemingly free image that came bundled with your design software. If so, you can expect a letter demanding a hefty settlement for copyright infringement. Here’s a real-life story of one blogger’s experience.

We want to put an end to this predatory practice, but we need your help. What can you do?

Here are two ways to help

1. Sign the petition: We’ve created a petition with the government to reform Copyright law. I would greatly appreciate it if you took the time to sign this petition.

2. Tell your friends: Make others aware of this growing problem. Tell them about this article and the petition. Spread the word. We need to fix this problem before it spirals even farther out of hand than it already has.

That’s it. If you could do those two small things, you would help make America a better place. Also, I would be eternally grateful.


Weekly recap: HTML5 features you didn’t know existed, BI adoption, and more…

EducationEvery week, I share the most interesting and useful tech articles that I’ve found over the past week. This week’s top articles focus on HTML5 features, BI adoption, and more. I hope you find them useful:

How well do you know your ide/development tool
Some developers worry that if they start using a tool or an IDE, they’ll become dependent on that tool and turn into a worthless developer. This article explains why you should stop worrying, and love your development tools.

The big tech trend that you can’t ignore

EducationWhat’s the most important tech trend going into 2013? Some say mobile. Others say cloud computing. There’s also lots of buzz surrounding areas like BYOD, consumerization, shadow IT, and business analytics.

They’re all wrong. There’s one trend that’s more important than all of those trends combined, yet is widely ignored. It’s a trend that determines a company’s ability to take advantage of many of those new “hot trends” (mobile, cloud computing. etc…) that everyone is talking about.

What is that trend? This important, yet widely ignored trend is the shift towards modern application architecture. Yes, I know it sounds boring. Who wants to talk about architecture when they can talk about exciting trends like mobile apps, cloud computing, and analytics? You might…once you see what good architecture lets you accomplish.

What’s driving this trend? Companies are slowly realizing that their outdated application architecture is holding them back. They’re realizing that without modern architecture, they’re not even ready to think about the other new trends of the day.

So, the big questions are: How does outdated architecture hold you back from new trends? How does modern application architecture help your company adapt to current trends? To answer these questions, let’s take a look at the impact application architecture has on a few of the current tech trends.

3-Language, cross-platform mobile apps in 3 days

ProductivityMobile apps have dominated the news for the last year, with seemingly every development software vendor adding mobile capabilities. With so many vendors offering mobile apps, how can any company know which option to choose?

The organizers of the annual IBM International Power event in the UK decided to help companies with this problem. They recently organized a “Data Challenge”, giving mobile app software vendors a chance to put their money where their mouth is.

The rules were simple: Participating vendors had one week to build a mobile application over the same sample database. At the end of the time, each vendor presented their mobile app to the event’s attendees.

Weekly recap: 4 possible futures for IT, HTML5 is growing, and more…

EducationEvery week, I share the most interesting and useful tech articles that I’ve found over the past week. This week’s top articles focus on four possible futures for IT, HTML5, and more. I hope you find them useful:

HTML5 use is real: Majority of developers find it important for their job in next 12 months
If your company is considering mobile apps, you’ll face one big question: Should we build mobile web apps or native apps? While native has been popular among consumer recently, a recent survey indicates that developers think that HTML5 importance (particularly with mobile web apps) is growing.