Friday, September 19, 2014

Small Companies Bought by Huge Companies - the Death of Independence?

Yesterday I saw an announcement that a small video game firm called Mojang has been purchased by Microsoft.  My kids both love the game Minecraft, as do many of their friends, and it's a product of Mojang.  I had no idea that Mojang was such a lucrative company that they would attract the notice of a Goliath like Microsoft.

The original creator of Minecraft has also announced that he's leaving the firm as part of the Microsoft deal.  It's a bit of a sad thing that such a creative guy has to be cut off completely from the product that he created.  Of course, when he originally built it, he had no idea how popular it would become.  According to his own farewell statement, he's not been working on Minecraft directly for a while, but he's one of the original founders of the company.

When the big fish gobble up little fish like Mojang, it's a bittersweet thing for me.  In one sense, the purchase of your company by a larger one is a sign of great success.  It shows that you've built something of great value ($2.5 billion in this case).  In another sense, it's the end of an era for your company.  The culture of the firm will no doubt be absorbed by Microsoft now, especially since several key people are all leaving Mojang, including the Minecraft creator, as part of the deal.

While my own company is unlikely to be acquired by Microsoft, it does make me think about being in that situation.  Sometimes it's both good and bad to be as successful as Mojang apparently is/was.

Best of luck to "Notch" and all of the former Mojang folks in their future endeavors.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

iPhone 5 vs 6 - How to Decide

I'm due for a new mobile phone and I currently have an iPhone 4s.  I've loved my iPhone so I'd like to upgrade to one of the newer Apple models, but I'm not sure whether I'll go for the 5 or one of the new 6/6+ models.

I'm sure a larger screen would be nice, but the 5 is already bigger than my 4s.  Is it worth it to me to pay more for the "latest and greatest" to get one of the 6 models?  I'm not sure.  I think I need to see the 5 and 6 side by side, in person, and see how they actually fit in my hand, pocket, etc. to compare.  I've read a few reviews of the new features on the 6 and I may or may not need to newest model.  Usually the previous model is available at a big discount so my aversion to high cost may win out.

Once the 6 phones are actually available in store, I'll have to go check it out.  I'll post again once I've done the comparison and made my choice.

Using KTN for Easier Travel

Have you traveled by air recently and noticed a shorter security line at the airport with a sign posted for "TSA Pre-Check"?  Or have you been lucky enough to have a notation on your boarding pass that said something like "TSA Pre-Check"?

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) now has a program called Pre-Check which selects random air passengers to go through that shorter line at the airport security point.  They are not required to remove their shoes or belt, nor to take their laptops out, when passing through security.  Obviously, getting through airport security is a much simpler process without those conditions.

If you'd like to increase your chances of being selected for the Pre-Check line, you can request a Known Traveler Number (KTN) with the TSA.  It's a simple process that you can initiate online.  You have to visit one of the TSA's local offices to finalize the process and provide a set of your fingerprints.  Then they do a full background check on you.  If you can pass the background check then they create a KTN for you.  There are some conditions that you should read before you start this process.  It does cost $85 but it's good for five years.

See this link for more information:

Once you have a KTN, you just need to include it in any airline reservations that you book.  You can also add it to your profile if you have an online account with any of the airlines, so it will be automatically included on any future reservations.

I've recently gone through this process and found it pretty simple.  I started my application online and booked an appointment to go to the office.   When I arrived, they took me right in, reviewed my online application with me and helped me to use their digital fingerprint machine to create my fingerprint images for my records.  The whole thing only took about 10 minutes.

To me, it's well worth the $85 fee to make my travel just a little less stressful.  I most often travel with my kids.  They can go through the pre-check line with me until they are 13, then they have to get their own KTN.  I'm hoping I'll never have to wait in the long "cattle call" lines at airport security again...