What is a cheap, but good, alternative to Polycom conference phones?

Have you tried out Sqwiggle? It uses the hardware built into your computer to provide really great presence with your team throughout the day. You can also start a video discussion with a single click. I'd recommend taking a look!

Sqwiggle – Remote Working, Collaboration and Communication

Full disclosure: I'm a cofounder

What are some things I can try to fix a desktop PC that doesn't turn on?

If absolutely nothing happens when you press the power button, I would first check if the button is properly connected to the motherboard. Second is probably exchanging power supply, and then lastly the motherboard. If CPU starts spinning but doesn't go further, there should be a series of beeps (known as POST: Power On Self Test) which should indicate what is causing the failure. You can read through your m/b manual to see what the beeps mean.

What are the top Application Performance Management (APM) companies/services?

A lot of the top tools have been mentioned here already, but don't forget about new companies like ruxit.  Coming from the background of being in the founding phase of APM startups they often offer innovation that existing solutions fall short. Just to give you two examples. dynaTrace was they first company to introduce end-to-end tracing a.k.a. PurePath technology or New Relic was the first company to offer SaaS-based APM.

New companies like ruxit – which I am a proud member of the first hours – focus on automated analytics and support for really large scale environments. Even if you rather want to go with an established companies. It is worth checking these companies out, just to see where the market is heading and what the answer of existing leaders to future directions in the market is.

When should a technology-savvy startup hire its first corporate IT person?

At Playdom I hired our first IT guy at around 30 employees. There was initial resistance – many thought they could pitch in and do it themselves. But at the end of the day, logic won – it doesn't make sense to have senior staff and engineers troubleshooting printer issues. Our guy came on, was instantly fully utilized and made a big impact.

I'm now onto the next 30-person startup and looking to fill the same role.

When does it make sense to use WLAN instead of Ethernet?

E.O. Stinson has it right. WiFi is absolutely capable of supporting 60 clients – it's just a question of what kind of performance you expect.

Things to look for in a wireless solution (full disclosure: I work for http://meraki.com which does precisely this kind of thing.)

  • 802.11n: not only faster, and avoids interference, but will help deal with many clients in a small area.
  • Simplify your life and get a managed wireless network. Most all the enterprise-class solutions use a controller of some kind to give you control of your entire wireless network. This is a lot easier than having to set each access point's setting individually.
  • Think about security. If you're not going to have any wires, it's going to be important to lock down your WiFi security. The standard enterprise way of doing this is via a RADIUS server and 802.11x. This employs Microsoft's Active Directory system which is usually used on corporate networks anyway.
  • Many enterprise-class access points can use Power over Ethernet. I'd highly suggest this in your case since it will significantly reduce the number of wires you'll have to run.

Let me know if there's anything else you'd like to know!

Why do many people still use Excel as a pseudo "database"?

The premise is misguided. A spreadsheet is not a bad 'pseudo-database' anymore than a database is a bad 'pseudo spreadsheet.'

One is a workspace for humans, the other is a store for programmatic manipulation.  VB macros blur the distinction only slightly.

A db is terrible or completely useless for 90% of the things I use spreadsheets for. If you have a small scale but structurally complex dataset Excel can produce answers while a db bureaucrat is still obsessing over the right data model. The ability to run computations on the data and visualize the results immediately don't even exist intrinsically in db software. You'd have to build a software app to do some things people routinely do with spreadsheets, and that's simply silly when you expect to run the model 3-4 times.

To add a clarification, this is the part of the linked article that raises red flags for me:

It would be a fair statement  to claim that "An alarmingly large number of individuals use Microsoft Excel to store non-numeric arrays of information that should probably be stored in a database / be created by a simple web application"

I would argue the opposite, that this symptom is probably NOT a sign that the information should be stored in a database or web application. Productizing every ad hoc business process is a very dangerous. You need some work practice and ethnographic data to back up the claim that your apparently more "rational" and clean-edged solution works better than such jury-rigged solutions.

How long do universities typically reserve email addresses after you leave?

As of 2009, Cornell's policy is:

Starting with the Class of 2009, students who had a Cmail account when they graduated can continue to use it without taking any action for as long as Google offers the service.
Students who graduated before 2009, or who did not have a Cmail account when they graduated, can use Cornell's email forwarding service to direct their "@cornell.edu" messages to another email account.

Hence, one can use his or her Cornell email "forever," provided that Google provides mail services forever.

Source: http://www.alumni.cornell.edu/se…

Are there schools that do not retain email addresses for alumni?

Stanford does not.

Stanford alums who pay the ~$400 to join the Stanford Alumni Association can get @stanfordalumni.org email addresses, but they are completely separate from the @stanford.edu email addresses distributed to all students, which expire a few months post-graduation. Unfortunately, the user ids are not retired from the @stanford.edu namespace (at least as far as I can tell; people's user ids from 20 years ago are still being held and cannot be reused).

I get lots of autoreply emails around June of every year saying "Please update your address book to my new email address…"

(Earlier in the 2009-2010 school year all graduates from Spring 2009 onwards were promised that they could retain their @stanford.edu email addresses permanently, but this promise was retracted. Luckily for me at least, CS students get to keep their @cs.stanford.edu email addresses forever. One of best perks of studying CS at Stanford :))

Is it dangerous to consider joining Novell at this moment?

I think there is a much more interesting question embedded in this one, which revolves around the use of the word "dangerous."  The question is are you interested in "career security" or "job security?"

For "career security," I think it is never dangerous to join a company where you are learning, are improving, working on great stuff, meeting great people, and are in a geography where you can jump to the next opportunity without relocating.  Obviously this describes most startups as well as some of the better high growth companies.  Even if you lose your job you'll be off to something even better (maybe you'll start a company with some of the dynamic people you have been working with).  You will also have more fun.

For "job security" you can try to find a slow-moving, staid, stable situation where you can try to avoid the axe for as long as possible.  But when the axe comes (and it always does since these companies end up doing layoffs and outsourcing often even at a greater rate than more dynamic companies), you may be stranded with nowhere to go…you may be an alumni of a second-tier company, and your interviews will all begin with "so, why did you stay at X for so long?"

I think one of the great ironies of our industry is that people who disregard "job security" end up with the most "career security" of all.  Folks who seek out "job security" often end up with neither career nor job security. 

My last company (a "career security" startup) got acquired by a larger public company (the ultimate "job security" situation).  I watched a two year bloodbath of layoffs, outsourcing, offshoring, reorgs, and found myself wondering "hmm, where is all of this job security that is supposedly the reason people work here?"   

In the case of Novell, I wonder if you would literally be getting the worst of both worlds.