Tag Archives: software

Dropbox increases maximum free storage via referrals

Dropbox announced yesterday they are increasing the amount of free storage one can earn by referring people to the service!

I wrote a blog post about the service almost three years ago, claiming they made USB drives obsolete. Dropbox offers 2GB of free cloud storage that integrates seemlessly into Windows, Mac and Linux, and more storage (50GB or 100GB) for a monthly or annual fee. They also intro­duced a service for teams, which I could see being very useful for small businesses with remote workers in particular.

The old blog post was very successful for me, as seven people signed up for Dropbox using my referral link, netting me an extra 500MB each time!

If you haven’t yet tried it, give it a shot. The way it integrates with the operating system makes it so easy to use, and the web interface is great for those times when you don’t have admin­is­trator access to your computer but still need to get those files!

WSJ on why work tech sucks

You’ll have to hurry before Rupert puts it behind a paywall and blocks Google from indexing it, but the WSJ had a good article recently about technology in the workplace.

At the office, you’ve got a sluggish computer running aging software, and the email system routinely badgers you to delete messages after you blow through the storage limits set by your IT department. Searching your company’s internal Web site feels like being teleported back to the pre-Google era of irrel­evant search results.

I don’t have a sluggish computer at work (it’s actually newer and better than my personal laptop), but it does run Windows XP still. Email storage limits should be a thing of the past and likely will be in 5–10 years as more businesses take advantage of cloud computing (or are forced to compete with that level of service). And I think we’ve all had bad intranet search experience!

Even more galling, especially to tech-savvy workers, is the nanny-state attitude of employers who block access to Web sites, lock down PCs so users can’t install software and force employees to use clunky programs.

For me, preventing software instal­lation is much more heinous crime than blocking websites. Both treat employees like children, but the former serves to hurt produc­tivity much more so than the latter. Youtube is a bandwidth hog, but explain to me why the default browser is still IE6?

Virtual machine” software, for example, lets companies install a package of essential work software on a computer and wall it off from the rest of the system. So, employees can install personal programs on the machine with minimal inter­ference with the work software.

This is an inter­esting idea. Has anyone experi­enced this method of organizing a work computer? It seems like a good compromise.

When they get fed up with work technologies, employees often become digital rogues, finding sneaky ways to use better tools that aren’t sanctioned by the IT department.

Is this really what the company (or the IT department) wants? Clearly not.

Instant Messaging (IM) is one area where corpo­ra­tions have really dropped the ball. Before I graduated from school I worked remotely part-time for a dotcom and I used MSN to commu­nicate with my manager much more often than email. And it worked superbly. But that type of environment seems like a dream now.

The article talks about the changes Kraft Foods imple­mented to take better advantage of new technologies and improve worker produc­tivity. They give employees an allowance for a phone and let them choose which one they want (60% chose iPhones). They even let employees choose their own computer, with the rule that they must consult forums for technical support if they choose not to use Windows.

For many of us, our computers and mobile phones are the primary tools we use to do our jobs. Companies that fail to provide their employees with the best tools will not get the best results.

If you enjoy hardware and software freedom at work, tell me about it in the comments!

Google Docs to surpass Office in a year

Now this is inter­esting. Comments from Google’s president of the enter­prise division indicate he believes that Google Docs will “reach a ‘point of capability’ next year that it will serve the ‘vast majority’s needs.’”

He acknowl­edged that Docs is currently “much less mature” than Google Mail or Calendar. “We know it. We wouldn’t ask people to get rid of Microsoft Office and use Google Docs because it is not mature yet,” he said.

But this is expected to change in about a year, after the company’s intro­duces another “30 to 50″ updates.

Less mature by a long shot in my experience. Every time I’ve tried to edit spread­sheets using the software I’ve thrown my hands up in frustration very early on in each attempt. Granted, I think I’m nearing the stage of “advanced” Excel user (I should hope I am by now anyway), but I find the assertion that Google Docs will be eclipsing Office in only a year’s time to be unbelievable.

We shall see once those 30–50 updates are released into the wild. For now, hang on to your desktop office suite if you’re producing profes­sional documents.

Has anyone else attempted to use Google Docs (or Zoho) to replace Office for profes­sional work? How did it turn out?

Do we have a software valuation issue?

Soumitra Dutta of French business school Insead thinks so, as reported in this story on CFO.com:

Insead has developed a “novel technique” to value software assets. Using conjoint analysis — “a time-tested and widely used robust technique in marketing science,” Dutta claims — companies can place a value on software by identi­fying its individual attributes, compiling trade-off data from employee surveys and crunching the resulting numbers using “a complex form of analysis of variance.”

The report produced by Dutta asserts that companies are therefore “under-reporting” their software assets, which is a troubling leap to make. When it comes to financial reporting, we need to be conser­v­ative about the value of an asset like software and stick to objective data like cost and a reasonable amorti­zation rate. Compa­ra­bility and consis­tency as twin aims of any accounting framework are thus maintained.

There is great intan­gible value tied up in software — as well as the users of the software — but that’s not enough to warrant writing up software assets en masse.

The report also argues companies are not lever­aging these assets optimally, and cites the company’s brand value and patent portfolio as examples of more optimally levered intan­gible assets. But if this is the case, they shouldn’t be arguing that accounting treatment is to blame. Other intan­gibles are not written up using the types of analysis the report urges either. There are more important objec­tives to financial reporting.

What do you think? Would valuing software assets like this improve or distort financial reporting?

Preview Microsoft Office 2007 in the browser

As long as your browser is Internet Explorer 5.5 or higher, you can take the latest edition of Microsoft Office for a test drive without having to install a thing. Experience the bliss of the ribbon, the new UI metaphor that has already won my heart over. I loathe still having to do my work in Office 2003, which we still use at the firm. I can’t wait till we upgrade, but you don’t have to — test it now!