The Biggest Reason Not to Read “The $100 Startup”

The tagline on the front of the book reads…“Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future”

This sounds fabulous, but what it doesn’t tell you is that – The entire book is focused on creating micro-businesses.  

What’s a micro-business?  Simply put, a micro-business is intended to provide maximum freedom by keeping a business as small as possible but still providing enough income for a nice lifestyle.  Every business discussed in the book is small both in terms of revenue and in terms of company size.

If you’re interested in building a nice scalable business, then the focus on micro-businesses is the biggest reason to pass on this read.

After reading this, I’m surprised it was chosen for a handout at Big Omaha since most of the attendees there are interested in trying to be one of the next successful tech startups.  The other book, Delivering Happiness, which I reviewed previously was a better fit.

That said, Chris Guillebeau did a nice job laying out many of the creative approaches that micro-businesses are using to be successful.  Some of these tips and approaches would apply to a tech startup and others would not.

Overall, I liked most of the advice on staying small and using some ingenuity in the way we market and produce our services/products.  I plan to go back and do some of the exercises that were a part of the book to review my sales pitch and work on a pricing model among other things.

I would recommend this book for someone who is unhappy with their day job or has recently become unemployed.  

And I’ll leave you with a couple of my favorite quotes:

“I spent some of my time learning how a real business works, but I didn’t let it interfere with a busy schedule of reading in cafès during the day and freelancing as a jazz musician at night.”

“To start a business, you need three things: a product or service, a group of people willing to pay for it, and a way to get paid. Everything else is completely optional.”

A Brief Technical Professional Bio

I was asked by a friend yesterday for a short biography of my technical professional accomplishments so I figured why not throw it on the blog.

Computer Engineering at Purdue

I went out of state to attend Purdue because of the quality of their engineering school.  The computer engineering degree gave me a great foundation in both electrical and software engineering.  

By the time I was a senior, I knew I enjoyed software and web development in particular.  One of the electives I worked on there was a Java website for volunteers and agencies to connect and fill open volunteer slots.  I was using CVS, tomcat, and automating tests with Junit.  Graduated in 2004.

Database Performance at Cerner

I then joined Cerner over an equally competitive offer from IBM mainly because of the benefits of a gym at Cerner.  Neither company was offering me web dev.

I spent about a year doing database performance primarily for Oracle.  During my time, I wrote the book and class for which most of Cerner engineers eventually went through to learn how to troubleshoot and improve the performance of a traditionally used relational database.

Although I was doing well, I wasn’t happy with this work.

Java Web Services at Cerner

Then I was able to join a web development group.  When I joined, we were doing all kinds of things worse than the Java sites I had worked on in college.  It was a big Struts site using Apache Tiles, Jsps, an Oracle db, building with ant and deploying on WAS to top it all off.  It took over a month just to get the local development stack set up.

A year later and I’d done a bunch of i18n, SOAP services, paypal, and other kinds of work, but for the most part the stack remained unchanged.  A little after this at the beginning of 2007, I was promoted to lead the team and we made a bunch of wholesale changes.

Local development started to be on jetty, tomcat became our dev server, and we saved WAS hell until pre-release.  We upgraded to struts 2, fixed the crummy urls, switched to sitemesh & freemarker templates and began using SVN with maven builds.

It was a little better, but I kept grasping for more.  I played with GWT, play, Rails and others but ultimately Google app engine introduced me to django and I couldn’t get enough.

Python Web Development at Home and Cerner

I was fortunate enough to have a manager and cohort, Ryan, be very supportive of switching to python+django and we dumped java for new development.  At the same time we began working on nyroo.com outside of work work.  We coded up a site that used twitter and facebook apis to let you share lists of concepts with your friends.  Google search apis ( which are no longer around) made it easy to embed images, videos, or links to content in your lists.  We deployed to EC2, ran mongodb as a backend, and rolled a basic nginx/apache django stack for our app server & content.  

It wasn’t long before we had introduced much of the side project learning back into the company and we ended up creating the most efficient teams building websites inside of Cerner.  Along the way we learned some lessons on development from Etsy and other forward thinking companies.  Eventually nyroo got boring so we tried something else…

instin & myHomework

Mobile web sites and skinning the site for any device we’d pretty much mastered so we moved on to native code.  We picked up a third guy, Rodrigo, or you could say Rodrigo picked up us 🙂  After 15 months of building ios, android, and web that all worked together, we had a product successful enough that we thought we could take it full time.

And that’s where we’re I’m at now.

I left out a ton of details and buzzwords but hey, it was supposed to be brief.

Quick Review of Delivering Happiness by Round Table Comics

I just got finished reading the comic book version of Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose.

This was one of the two books given out to everyone at Big Omaha this year.

Quick and Entertaining Read

Front to back, this book only took me a little over an hour to finish.  The comic book layout makes it fun to read and makes the story flow quickly.

Lacking in Depth and Explanations

As you might expect to happen with a book this short, there wasn’t much detailed information about the what’s and why’s regarding most of the decisions.  You get a high level story of Tony Hsieh, the zappos CEO, and then the book ends with an overview of some of the simple lessons he’s learned.

Each of three different happiness frameworks is explained on a single page.

This is a Great Book for Business Leadership & Management Classes

The succinct nature of the book would make it ideal for reading with a class and then being able to go into more detail as groups on the different pieces of the book.

If you’re purchasing a book to read on your own, I’d say you can find something better…perhaps just go with the text version of the same story.

My Favorite Quote

After he’d already made millions of dollars on the sale of Link Exchange, and before fully committing himself to Zappos, he found himself asking his friends “What do we want to be when we grow up?”

I’m not sure why that particular piece stuck with me but it does have some strong parallels to some of the questions I was asking that ultimately led me to quit my day job.

How to Upload a Sign In With Facebook App to the Amazon Market

The Amazon market signs apps in a way that will break your app if it uses Sign In with Facebook or any other solution that depends on the signature of the app matching what’s input into a developer site ( Google maps is another example).

Contact Amazon 

Contact through the developer portal and tell them that you have this problem.


They will set up your account so you can sign the app yourself.

Here’s the steps they sent me ( Directions for steps 7 & 9 will follow).
1. Log in to the Developer Portal 
2. Find the app you want to sign on the My Apps page 
3. Mouse over the Actions button for that app and select App Details 
4. From the application details page under the Upload Binary section, click Edit 
5. If you already have a binary uploaded, click the Remove button 
6. Make your DRM selection and select No, I will sign my binary under Signature 
7. Upload your unsigned binary (shown as Step 1. Upload unsigned binary)
8. Download the processed binary (shown as Step 2. Download processed binary)
9. Sign the downloaded binary
10. Upload your newly signed binary (shown as Step 3. Upload signed binary)
11. Click the Done button 

Upload your unsigned binary 

If you’re like me, you’ve never exported an unsigned binary.

Here’s the docs from google…http://developer.android.com/guide/publishing/app-signing.html#releasecompile

For eclipse peoples, here’s what it says:
To export an unsigned APK from Eclipse, right-click the project in the Package Explorer and select Android Tools > Export Unsigned Application Package. Then specify the file location for the unsigned APK. (Alternatively, open your AndroidManifest.xml file in Eclipse, select the Manifest tab, and click Export an unsigned APK.)

Note: When I did this on my macbook, I had to edit the source code of the amazon website on this step to the right file path because the filepicker tried to do something strange and used C:/fakepath/….

Sign the downloaded binary 

Then after downloading the processed amazon file, you’ve got to sign it command line using jarsigner and zipit.

http://developer.android.com/guide/publishing/app-signing.html#signapp jarsigner -verbose -sigalg MD5withRSA -digestalg SHA1 -keystore /Users/youruser/name.keystore unsigned-amz.apk keyalias

Now the unsigned-amz.apk is signed. With some extra parameters you could create a new one instead.

The final step is a zipalign command for performance.
zipalign -v 4 /path-to/unsigned-amz.apk /path-to/signed-aligned-amz.apk

That’s it.  Upload it back to amazon.

HTC Hero Mount USB to Mac Os X (macbook pro)

I wanted to get the media off of my htc hero and onto my macbookpro, but plugging the USB cable in does not result in a notification on android which allows me to mount sd card through the USB cable.

I found lots of promising articles, most of which pointed me to either Twisted, which didn’t work for me, or to the Android developer SDK. I’m fully capable of using the SDK but this seems like overkill for such a simple issue.

My Solution: Close the lid on the macbook. Plug in the phone and then I get the notification allowing me to mount a USB. Once mounted, its the same as working with any other USB card.

Anecdotes on India’s Healthcare

Both of my children got sick while we were in India this trip so I got a chance to see the healthcare system in India at work. I made the trip to the doctor twice with my daughter.

Encounter 1.
My daughter got a fever on the night train and had stopped eating. The previous day she had a couple instances of diarrhea. I told the doc that i had been alternating doses of motrin and tylenol every 4 hours and that it was keeping the fever under control.

After a brief exam with a stethoscope, I was told to only give the tylenol and to start her on an anti-biotic for her stomach. Total: 80 Rs. Medicine included.

We were extremely concerned that an anti-biotic without any tests might not be the best option, but we took the advice on tylenol only.

Encounter 2.
Next day, daughter is still not eating and still showing some symptoms of fever. This time I had done a throat exam myself and knew there were swollen tonsils with some white cold sores in the back of her mouth. The doc was able to identify the throat problem easily but I wonder if it would have been identified if not for my own inspections.

Medicines were prescribed to help start eating again and help fight the infection. Total: 150 Rs. Medicine not included.

Takeaways.

  • Cost of care is very cheap.
  • Quality of care is suspect(anti-biotic prescription w/out any exams).
  • Waiting times were normal.
  • Payment was at time of care in cash.
  • Equipment was lacking

For me, the care i receive in the USA is hands down superior to what we received while in India. However, the cost to receive care in the Indian system is dramatically lower to the USA system.

Back From India

I’ve spent the past 2+ weeks in India for a family wedding. My wife’s birthplace is in Kerala, India and her sister chose to be married there so we packed the whole family up and travelled halfway across the globe.

While most of our trip was dedicated to visiting the family, we did find a little time to escape to munnar, walk the beach in nager coil, and a do a little shopping at Seemarti.

So here’s some of the things i’ve learned after 2 trips to india:

  1. Get a Driver
    For 1350 Rs./Night, we got a driver and an SUV with 80km included. 10Rs. per additional kilometer and our total expense under $40/day. This is an absolute steal and the additional comfort of a dedicated driver is worth every penny. I’d plan for one of these to pick
  2. Use the AC Night Train
    The roads are terrible. It takes 2-4 times as long to go anywhere by road in India as it does in the USA. If you are planning to go from state to state or any trip over 200km, i advise the night train or a plane. To get tickets on the AC night train, you have to book at least a week in advance, so set your itinerary and book your ride.
  3. Take Packaged Drinks
    If you don’t want to get sick, don’t drink their drinks. The packaged waters there(Aquafina, Himalaya, and Kingfisher) all checked out with me. The other waters, tap water, milk, juices, sodas, and anything with ice have all given my stomach trouble at one time or another.
    Horizon Organic Milk, Apple Juice, Orange Juice, and Gatorade will all be in my bags next trip. Each piece of checked-in luggage gets 50 lbs, weigh your bags and fill in the additional weight with fluids.

Some other things i’ve learned about travelling to kerala with an infant and a toddler:

  1. Pack N Plays fit inside a suitcase. We took one for each kid and without them we’d had to have had both kids in our beds or on the floors. Given the general cleanliness being much lower than i’m accustomed to, the floor is not an option.
  2. February is too Hot. Go in november, december, or january.
  3. Combat the barrage of spicy foods with a steady dose of snacks from home. My favorites are trail mix, beef and cheese, granola bars, and cheese crackers.
  4. Try the Fried Fish, http://bit.ly/clBGyU, it can be spicy but it’s worth it.

I may write some more on some of my favorite spots, where i might go next, and any of my other thousands of opinions after travelling in india again.

HTC Hero Review

I’ve had the HTC Hero from Sprint for about a month now and i’ve had enough time to digest all the features.

Advantages:
1. Extremely well integrated with twitter, facebook, and flickr.
2. Very flexible customization with seven pages of personalized layout
3. No keyboard means lightweight and small (I’ve no problems using the touchscreen keyboard)
4. Phone, especially Speaker Phone, work better than my old LG phone.

Cons:
1. Shaky software. i.e. Alarm Clock crashes instead of alarming and calendar app crashes.
2. Advanced Task Killer App is needed to control usage and save battery life ( couldn’t android have a built in way to kill apps?)

All in all, I love this phone. My wife has the samsung moment and my preference is definitely for the hero over the moment.