Tuesday, November 27, 2007
A few evenings back, I was twiddling away in my home office when the phone rang. It was an old friend; hadn't heard anything from him in awhile. He had a friend who was a professional photographer.
It turns out the friend of a friend had recently completed some customer sessions (with obviously irreplaceable photos) and was editing them on an external enclosure. When he turned to take his laptop computer to another room, he forgot it was attached to the enclosure. The enclosure slid across the table, and quicker than you can say "uncontained disaster", the hard drive hit the floor.
Thereafter, it made funny clicking sounds. If it was a living creature, you could almost imagine blood flowing out of it as it made moans of death!
A couple of days later, we sent the damaged drive to Drivesavers. They have a thriving little business (actually, it's not so little) helping folks recover from these disasters.
Now the bad news: they had no good news, and there is no happy ending to this story. They pulled it apart and discovered that the drive was irreparably damaged, and the irreplaceable photos were gone forever.
The moral of the story: ALWAYS make a backup of your data.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Monday, November 12, 2007
Monday, September 24, 2007
Shortly after the death of my Father-in-law, I disappeared into the Idaho wilderness for a week long camping trip. I took 3 of my friends and we ended up camping at Fish Lake, Idaho. The first picture shows (L-R) myself, Mike Andrews, and Don Isaac. Jesse Penna joined us later in the week.
Fish Lake is a wilderness airstrip location that features pristine camping, hiking, and fishing opportunities beside a wilderness lake. There are no roads; the location is accessed via trails (20-ish miles) or by aircraft.
The airstrip is approximately 2800 feet long and is suitable for rugged, high performance aircraft such as my T206, or perhaps Maules/Super Cubs and similar aircraft. This airstrip is kind of like the Hotel California: it's easy to check in but hard to leave. You have to be very patient for favorable conditions. I found that leaving early in the morning, when it was still and cold, was the only way to haul a heavy load out safely and easily. YMMV. Pilots, check density altitude and your POH!
The pictured aircraft is a Maule (not my plane) and was in/out a lot during the time we were there. He was hauling mostly elk hunters (bow season was open) into the location.
We were pleased to see that the USFS cabin was staffed with an onsite wilderness host. This volunteer's responsibility is to look after the campers and the outfitters in the area; while we were there, there was about 5 groups in the neighborhood.
The area has incredible beauty and some pretty good wildlife as well. We saw deer, moose, and black bear and heard bugling elk. We caught cutthroat trout out of the lake; they were incredibly brilliantly colored.
The photo on the left shows a little stream that runs along the airstrip; it's mostly dry but has a few holes with water (and even fish).
The colors of the trees, grass, sky and water are extraordinary. I hunted for the right word there; even extraordinary falls a little short. We don't have scenery like this in Kansas!
We didn't experience any problems with mosquitoes; apparently they can be a hassle, but we saw lots of frost in the mornings and the biting critters were gone.There are trails in the area for hikers; more on a hike I did in a few paragraphs.
The airstrip has killed quite a few aviators who made poor decisions; always concerning takeoff. Prevailing winds are almost always tailwinds upon takeoff, and they can get quite strong. When combined with rising temperatures and the high altitude, effective takeoff run lengths can easily exceed the field length. Making it even more questionable is the uneven sod surface on the runway. You keep hitting holes on the takeoff run, and they keep slowing the plane down. Finally, it skips into the air and keeps climbing. Whew! The warning sign accident numbers are outdated; to date there have been 8 accidents with 13 or more fatalities.
On our last day, Jesse and I climbed to the top of a nearby ridge. We had a great view of the lake and the airstrip. I found a passing sasquatch that was willing to take our picture; he did a really great job.
My airplane is barely discernible as the small white spec in the middle of the airstrip. I'm wearing my WiebeTech orange T-shirt; Fish Lake is clearly visible, and so is an old burned out part of the forest in the distance. The elevation gain required to take this hike was 1100 feet above the field; trail length is two miles from the airstrip to this point. It's great for your heart!
Friday, August 24, 2007
Thursday, August 23, 2007
We knew Dad's health wasn't great. Degenerative heart failure... diabetes... old age. Not good.
I last had breakfast with him perhaps four months ago. There was a time when we would often catch up over breakfast. He always wanted to know how the business was doing. He was concerned about our stability and financial well-being. Over the years, I learned to gently deflect some of his questions, yet at the same time strived to assure him that all was well in the financial world of Wiebe.
As time went by, I wondered about our breakfasts. It looked less likely that we'd ever be able to get together in that way again.
A few weeks ago, his health went downhill rapidly. The walk became a shuffle. Other health issues cropped up. The family briefly considered letting doctors take a look at his heart one more time, perhaps a stint. Not to be.
His cardiologist made comments such as: "it's amazing that you're still here" when asked how long Pres had to live. Other medical comments reflected on the fact that he would be a candidate for a heart transplant, if he were quite a few years younger.
Then last week, he went into the hospital. It provided another opportunity for him to physically slow down some more. Now the speech was erratic. Not all of his reality was tightly connected.
I left on a sales trip. How long to live? 2 hours? 2 days? 2 weeks? 2 months? Don't know. I resolved to go about my life as normally as possible.
While I am gone, he is discharged from the hospital, away to home.
Hospice shows up. A hospital style bed in a bedroom. Turning off a pacemaker, seeing a coma develop.
I'm in a restaurant near Washington, DC, with my sales manager and my mid-atlantic salesperson. My wife calls me. She needs support. Dad's health is quickly failing, step by step. I leave for home the next morning.
While I am traveling, my wife and her sisters singing to him, "Silent Night". She said he responded by lifting his hands. They pray, they thank him.
Then I got home... Talking to Dad one more time... "I love you", and more.
How can we have breakfast, one more time? I wait for the next life.
I miss him severely in this one.
Pres Huston was a giant in Wichita, KS. He ran one of the largest advertising / marketing companies in Kansas, which was Associated Advertising Agency (now Associated). My wife, Kathy, worked for dad for about 13 years, eventually rising to the position of VP/Operations. Dad wanted her to run the agency. She didn't want the job, although she would have been magnificent.
Over the years, Pres worked with a genuine "Who's Who" of Wichita and regional companies.
For obituary and so forth, check here.
Thursday, August 16, 2007
It was after a day at MacWorld. We'd had a busy time in the booth, but this evening was to be far more special. I'd been invited to an Apple VIP party. It was to be held in a hotel somewhere near Moscone, in downtown San Francisco.
I remember walking around the room and looking at name badges. For whatever reason, I remember seeing and meeting Jonathan Ivy, design guru.
Steve Jobs walked into the room, as all oxygen in the room exited simultaneously.
We were seven feet apart.
He said: "We don't like it when you introduce accelerator cards which are faster than our computers." (At that time, I was the CEO of Newer Technology, which ultimately sold somewhere around 150K+ CPU accelerator cards for Macs.)
Well, that was a nice Howdy Do.
I had an Apple handler with me. He was as flustered as I. I certainly didn't know what to say; but the handler stepped in, saying: "Newer Technology is a big supporter of the Apple platform" or similar words to that effect, as if a pithy statement about our Mac attitude could save us from the fact that we were competing on Mr. Jobs playground.
Yeah, I got it.
Newer Technology ultimately failed. Perhaps one of the reasons was that we competed indirectly against Apple. The company that exists today using the same name bought that name and trademark through a Chapter 7 asset liquidation. They gained the right to use the Newer badge to sell anything they want.
Over the years, I also had the pleasure of meeting Gil Amelio (a decent guy, I ended up seeing him several times) and Jon Scully (met him once).
That's enough old times for now. See you soon.
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
WiebeTech products were also utilized a couple of years ago in the hit TV series '24'. The nuclear override device, which Jack fervently sought, was in fact a WiebeTech ComboDock. It was clearly visible on screen, as was the innard cutouts of one of our Forensic Field Kits.
You've probably seen the movie Jurassic Park, right? Another company which I ran had products in it as well. The company was Newer Technology, and Newer's memory was inside the Mac computers in the control room scenes. The large amount of real memory in each computer facilitated (among other things) smooth QuickTime playback on the screens of those computers. Newer received a credit at the end of the movie (go ahead; load your DVDs/VCRs; the credit's still there...)
OK, now lets go all the way back to the beginning of time, which, of course, was the movie "The Net" starring Sandra Bullock. The Pan American Computer show within that movie was in fact MacWorld/San Francisco and the venue was Moscone Convention center. The bad guy is filmed chasing Sandra Bullock through the convention floor. He passes directly through the booth of Newer Technology, and was very close to me. I'm in the movie. I'm looking away; the camera shot clearly shows the top of my balding head. :-)
I was recently interviewed by Carrie Rengers of the Wichita Eagle in reference to Transformers. That interview is contained within this article.
The Eagle also recently ran an in-depth interview of me. Unfortunately, a subscription to the Eagle archives is required to view the article. If you're still interested, it's posted here. Look for the article in kansas.com archives by Dan Voorhis, entitled, "A Conversation with James Wiebe".
Monday, August 13, 2007
On a personal note, my wife (Kathy) and I made the trip down to Tulsa so that we could watch the last two days of the PGA championship. I was most impressed with Woody Austin, who lives in Derby, KS, just a few miles from here. It was blazing hot. Tiger Woods won, but Woody was close behind.
Inventory Management is an absolute requirement in small business. One of the things that I learned through the bankruptcy of Newer Technology many years ago is that management must cast a careful and prudent eye on inventory. We do that a lot here at WiebeTech - we've developed several different ways to examine our inventory so that it well balanced, well stocked, and not obsolete. I hate obsolete inventory! I also hate not having inventory in stock, ready to ship to customers!
We've developed a system which allows us to examine our inventory by line item, complete with detailed usage and aging information. As a result, we are able to easily calculate obsolescence on our total inventory and scrap our junk. We have many different ways we can 'look' at our inventory using this system - we can change aging periods; we can set different cutoff levels for what constitutes an inventory obsolescence issue per line item.
Inventory in a technology company is kind of like inventory in the produce section of a grocery store. Lettuce looks great when it's fresh, but no one will buy it when it is stale and old. That is why our selection of hard drives is higher in capacity than many of our competitors - we tend to stock capacities that are new, in demand, and are likely to remain in demand for some time. We don't like to stock older drives with small capacities. They are poor values for the consumer, and they are poor inventory risks for us.
Our inventory control system is really composed of three major components: a) our enterprise financial system, b) which works in conjunction with FishBowl inventory control software, c) for which we have developed many custom reports. (I can't recommend FishBowl - it is cumbersome and buggy - we've had to work around some of its issues.) Email me if you'd like to hear more about FishBowl.
Wednesday, August 8, 2007
Things got very busy at WiebeTech, especially in Q2 of this year. We were preparing the introduction of our RTX product line - it's now been shipping since June and is a success! Sales, margin dollars, profits are moving up. July was the best sales month since January (January's always huge) and August looks like it will easily move past July. Thankyou, hardworking WiebeTechers and faithful customers!
I spent July 1 through July 18 in Alaska, on a short term Church affiliated mission trip. The public view of the trip may be found on another BLOG:
There's lots of pictures there; also some posts which I wrote.
The reality of this trip was a little more adventuresome than what was posted. We were turned back by wind & waves; we were in overloaded boats; we were in risk of being swamped (had we not turned back) and that would have lead to bad things; we spent 18 hours in 'whale camp' at Elephant Point, somewhere between Kotzebue and Buckland, Alaska, waiting for weather to improve. (Ultimately, it did not improve; we returned to Buckland and flew back to Kotzebue in Cessna Caravans. We gave up on boats.)
Anyway, I survived and learned a lot about Eskimos, Christian faith, and how to survive with a large group of high school and college age youth in the wilderness.
I also developed a new hobby. Kind of. I've taken digital pictures for several years; and always wanted to pursue print my own pics. I recently purchased an Epson R1800 printer, and am now printing superb 13 x 19 inch prints using my Exilim 10mp camera.
This activity is bringing me a little closer to the WiebeTech digital photography customer base -- a great customer segment with enormous storage needs.
Later this week, I'll be attending the Leadership Summit which is put on by Willow Creek Church across the nation. Friday evening, Kathy and I are heading down to the PGA Championship in Tulsa. We'll bake, along with Tiger and the rest of the professionals.
I have trips scheduled out to HTCIA / San Diego later in August, also a week long sales swing through DC with my sales manager and my east coast sales rep (Jeff Hedlesky and Jerry McLean, respectively). Jerry worked for Lacie (WiebeTech's largest competitor in the commodity storage space) for 7 years prior to working for WiebeTech. Both of these trips are planned for our trusty corporate airplane, N206KJ.
On Labor day, (Sep 3), I'll be firing up the Cessna and flying out to Idaho for a camping trip in the remote parts of the wilderness. I should come back with some amazing pictures.