Leadership Lessons from Star Trek’s Captains

Ok this is not a tech article…. but it’s important regardless. Last week CBS Entertainment finally started releasing Star Trek: The Next Generation on Blu-Ray. There are 7 seasons so it will take a couple of years to get the entire series in high definition. It will be fun to watch the series in an entire new way but one thing is for sure. The lessons learned are the same.

I have been a big fan of Star Trek since my earliest memories. I remember as a child, even at an early age that while watching Star Trek I was intrigued by every moment of every episode. I was especially intrigued and impacted by everything that Kirk, Spock and McCoy ever said and how they acted towards each other. Even at a young age the manner in which the characters treated each other and how new aliens were introduced and respectfully handled blew my mind. Drama without disrespect.

Even today at my age, I feel that there are many things that one can take from Star Trek. Each Star Trek series presents ideals such as tolerance, kindness, empathy, leadership, teamwork and science to its stories.

This is the first in a series of articles to demonstrate the story telling greatness of the Star Trek franchise and what each and every one of us can learn from it.

The series always and consistently presented a lesson on leadership.

It is surely not easy to be captain of Star Trek Enterprise. You are required to be physically fit, possess knowledge of federation rules and you must be an excellent commander, motivator and tactician. You have to perform under pressure and often under very stressful conditions. You have to gather your team around and inspire them to work together to determine solutions to almost unsolvable (and often unbelievable) situations.

Captain James Kirk is an example here, although every Star Trek captain from Kirk through Archer are stunning examples of the best in leadership models. Captain Kirk always leads from the front. You would say ‘of course’. He is the protagonist. He has to. I agree. That is the job of the leader. He has to command from the front. Many times, Kirk was involved himself in say rescuing people from a planet, fighting tyrannical lords and putting himself in harm’s way. Of course he is helped by Spock and McCoy but they cannot match the wit and creativity of their commander.

Captain Kirk keeps his cool in adverse circumstances.

In most of the episodes, Captain Kirk and his team found themselves in most difficult circumstances. Kirk is sometimes trapped in situations, where there is no chance to escape. But he keeps his cool all the time and manages to get out of difficult situations. In the ‘Corbomite Maneuver”, when faced with ultimate extinction, he plays a trick on the enemy and manages to avoid destruction.

Captain Kirk treats his people with respect.

Kirk understands that each and every team member is important. Be it Sulu, Uhura or heavy weights such as Spock or McCoy. He listens to everyone’s suggestion and then applies his intuition and skills to find a solution.

Captain Kirk always stands up for his people.

He never lets his people down. The ship and its crew come before anything else, even before himself. He is always worried about the safety of his crew and their wellbeing. He acts as a great leader because he is able to empathize with the crew members. Captain Kirk takes immediate steps and decisions with his crew in mind. Because of this his crew never lets him down and they all work together as a team with the same unified objective in mind.

In one of my favorite episode “Balance of Terror”, the enterprise assails a Romulan ship which has a cloaking device. Working with his team and taking immediate decisions, he is able to decimate a deadly enemy which is more powerful. He makes calculated decisions on firing the weapons and trailing the ship. He adjusts his decisions from time to time and takes action as quickly as possible.

I could just as easily write an article about these same leadership traits and more about each of the other captains in the Star Trek franchise. All of them, from Kirk to Picard to Sisko, Janeway and Archer each who bring their own specific leadership skills to their position. However all of them at their most basic level rely on each of the above examples in how they lead their crews.

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Microsoft Expands the Cloud

Microsoft is betting on the cloud in a big way. For the past few years Microsoft has been offering email services in the cloud (software as a service or SaaS). First with “Exchange Online” then the more robust service “Microsoft 365” followed which offered more services such as Lync, Sharepoint and the ability to install their latest Office product on up to 5 computers for each subscriber. Microsoft is preparing to expand its influence in cloud computing. You can see this strategy simply by looking at their three newest products.

“SkyDrive”

SkyDrive is exactly what it sounds like. With SkyDrive you can store and access your files in Microsoft’s cloud service. Anyone can sign up for a SkyDrive account for free. Yes I said free. What do you get for free? 25GB’s of storage. That’s about 23 gigs more than the free 2 gigs of free storage than Dropbox currently offers. The price is exceptionally reasonable if you need more. $10/year buys you 20 more gigs, $25/year buys you 50 more gigs while $50/years brings you up an additional 100 gigs. You can sign up today at www.skydrive.live.com. Why would Microsoft offer so much free online storage? Well we will get to my opinion on that shortly.

“Windows 8”

Windows 8 is scheduled unofficially to enter the market around October 2012. For the past couple of months a “Consumer Preview” has been available and I have been using it on my home office pc and laptop. Although I was impressed with the early preview releases there was some clumsiness to it in respect to performance. However the latest preview is said to be nearly the finished product everyone will see this fall. The new interface is a huge leap away from what everyone has been accustomed to since Windows XP launched in 2001. The interface is tile designed. This can be somewhat cumbersome at first, especially for those not experienced with tablets. You see Microsoft is also betting that monitor technology will make the next leap as well and become the standard for computer users. Windows 8 is reportedly at its best with touch based monitors just like those we use today on our tablets and smartphones. Don’t be afraid because once you figure out how to use your mouse on Windows 8 you are fine. However it will probably be more natural with a touch screen. You can find touchscreen LCD monitors starting in the mid-$300 range so this move towards touch screen monitors will probably happen faster than the move from CRT to LCD. Microsoft will be releasing their own tablet in the near future as well, “Surface” and Windows 8 will be its platform. There is a “Desktop” option which does take the user back to a desktop that is similar to Windows 7. Microsoft realizes that the keyboard is not going away anytime soon as it will remain prominent with Microsoft Office products for writing, programming and designing applications. I see the touch screen ability to use gestures as the predominant way for internet surfing, gaming. This is not to be unexpected because this is how we already use tablets and smartphones. SkyDrive is built in to Windows 8 so access to your online files could not be easier. Your SkyDrive simply appears as another drive on your pc.

Microsoft Office 2013

This past weekend Microsoft also released a “Consumer Preview” of this product. I have been using this at three locations for a few days now. Just like Windows 8, SkyDrive is “built in” here and linked to each of the office products. Therefore right from Word, Excel, Access, PowerPoint and Outlook you have immediate access to your online files. This is where the “free” and inexpensive storage from Microsoft makes sense. Although pricing has not been announced yet you can be assured Microsoft Office 2013™ will be pushed as a “subscriber service”. For a monthly fee of somewhere probably between $5 and $10 a month you will get access to all of the newest Microsoft Office products no matter where you are or what type of device you are using. Those of us already subscribing to Microsoft 365 will grasp this concept. However for others it may be a little more difficult to accept. The free SkyDrive storage and the easy access to your data will probably inspire more people and organizations to jump into the cloud with Microsoft.

My first impressions of the new office is….. “wow”. Unlike previous versions you simply download the application while logged into your Microsoft account and within moments you are using Office 2013. After linking the products (Word, Excel etc.) to your SkyDrive account you have immediate access to all of your online files. The files on SkyDrive are synced and also stored (locally) on any computer you use as well. Microsoft Office 2013™ also makes integration to social networking sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn extremely easy. Obviously Microsoft believes that social media is here to stay and in fact sites such as Facebook which were once for personal use are beginning to merge and be accepted in the work place.

Thanks to this integration of products in the cloud I was able to work on this article at my home office pc, on my IPAD and finally completed at my office pc. All in the cloud, seamless and effortlessly. Welcome to the cloud friends.

You can learn more about SkyDrive at www.skydrive.live.com.

You can try out Windows 8 at http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows-8/release-preview.

You can try out Office 2013 at http://www.microsoft.com/office/preview/en.

Employees should not download and install the previews for Windows 8 and Office 2013 at the work place without the approval and guidance of the information technology staff.

I will preview these applications at the next technology training scheduled for August 9, 2012.

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July 2012 Newsletter Released

The July 2012 issue of the “Borough of West Chester – Employee’s Technology Newsletter” has been released. Included in this issue:

1. Technology Challanges in Local Government
2. Social Media & Local Government
3. Microsoft Releases Free Security Tool
4. What is Moore’s Law?
5. Newsletters, Tweets & Blogs
6. App of the Month – Zite
7. Shared Calendars … and more
You can download the newsletter by clicking here or the right menu bar of this fine blog.

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Microsoft\’s Cloud Expands

by QUENTIN HARDY, bits.blogs.nytimes.comJuly 16th 2012
Microsoft says face it: work is everywhere and you should get used to it.

Microsoft is probably going to have to get used to a few things itself, including how it much money it makes in this world.

On Monday the company showed off the next version of its Office product for documents and spreadsheets, as well as changes to its Outlook e-mail and calendar service. The products are now cloud based, which means that powerful computers access over the Internet enable customers to access products from anywhere, and the products remember where a customer left off using them. A document that’s being edited, for example, will open up at the last point in the text where a change was made.

In addition, Microsoft showed how these products tie into other Microsoft products, like Skype or the Yammer corporate collaboration service. Bing maps can pop up in email to show where an address is, and customers can make notes on the map.

“This is the biggest, most ambitious release of Office that we’ve ever done in our history,” said Steve Ballmer, chief executive officer of Miocrosoft. Nowadays, he said, “people work in much more social and collaborative ways.”

The cloud does potentially tie together a number of Microsoft’s acquisitions, and things it has been working on, in an attractive way. Office was shown on tablets from Samsung running Windows 8. There was a demonstration of documents stored in SkyDrive, Microsoft’s cloud-based storage service, and opened up on a Windows 8 phone (which will be out in October.) There was a mock-up of a collaborative meeting that used a large high-definition video monitor from Perceptive Pixel, a company Microsoft bought last week.

What wasn’t clear was what any of this would cost, and how that would go over. All Mr. Ballmer said was “we have a lot of work to get the cost down.” The more he does, however, the more he may undermine the profitability of Office, Microsoft’s flagship product. Wall Street won’t like that. Microsoft could win in the cloud, but survival could be costly.

There was one other unintended note in the presentation: While the early demonstration supposedly focused on home use of the product, the stress was on being able to work from home. Brochures were redrawn, e-mails were attended to, people worked on projects near their kids. Even testimonials from customers flown in for the event underlined the world Microsoft sees.

“The neat part is, my office is now everywhere,” said Kim Grant, a mother and part-time lawyer from Houston. “I can get my work done from my daughter’s volleyball game.”

Say what you will, Microsoft understands, and shapes, the times we live in.

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Subscribe to the WC Tech Blog

You can now subscribe the the “West Chester Employee’s Technology Blog” and receive an email when new articles are posted. On the right side panel of the blog you will see an option to “Follow By Email”. Enter your address, then enter the letters in the verification window. Afterward you will receive an email message confirming your subscription. Boy – it can’t get any easier then that!

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New Password Warnings!

Once again more security breaches are in the news. This time, it deals with a subsection of Yahoo, called Yahoo Voices. Hackers posted more than 450,000 login names and passwords of Voices users, and it was said to be done as a wake-up call to Yahoo and others to step up security. The Voices section of Yahoo was slacking in security and did not hash passwords or require complicated strings.

CNET\’s Declan McCullagh wrote a program to comb through the most frequently used passwords that surfaced in the breach. The most common password was 123456. Other popular choices include the word “password” and pop-culture terms like superman, starwars.

This should be a warning to everyone. Put some thought into your passwords, mixing up letters, numbers and special characters. And just as important DO NOT use the same password on all of the sites and services you use.

If you need help with coming up with passwords try a free password generator like the one you can find at http://strongpasswordgenerator.com

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IPAD Test

OK friends it looks like I can post stories and articles quickly and easily right from my IPAD and IPHONE now. This is important because I often have great stories in my mind but they are often fleeting and after a few moments I forget them! Now I can post them as soon as I think of them.

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There seems that there is a security alert issued almost weekly for those of us traveling on the internet. This week a DNS Security Alert was posted for July 9, 2012.

First things first. What exactly is DNS anyway? Basiclly DNS is short for Domain Name System. A Domain Name System Service resolves queried internet site names from [numeric] IP addresses for the purpose of locating computer services and devices worldwide easily & quickly. For example, without the DNS system, everytime you wanted to shop online at amazon.com you would need to remember 72.21.211.176 as opposed to simply amazon.com. What an inconvienance that would be, although it would probably save alot of us some money!

Apparently there has been a problem with this for some time and If you are one of thousands of people infected with the DNSChanger malware, you should get rid of it before Monday.

On July 9, the FBI will be switching off servers it has been using to keep those networks infected with the malware working on the Internet.

DNSChanger was first discovered in 2007 and was found to have infected millions of computers worldwide. It effectively modified a computer’s DNS settings to redirect traffic through its rogue servers. When users typed in a domain name in a browser, the servers would direct them to other sites for the creators’ evil plans.

Late last year, the FBI disrupted the crime ring and converted the rogue servers to clean servers to give infected users time to fix their systems. A host of tools and techniques have surfaced for removing the malware, but thousands of machines are still affected. If DNSChanger is not removed from those computers, users won’t be able to connect to the Internet.

The good news is that we are OK here at the Borough. I double checked our server’s DNS and we should be crusing the internet normally long after July 9, 2012. You can check at home to see if you are ok by clicking here. I will also cover DNS a little more detail in the July technology newsletter.

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