First Coffee for 11 March 2006

David Sims : First Coffee
David Sims
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First Coffee for 11 March 2006

By David Sims

The news as of the first coffee this morning (in my cool new “Istanbul” mug from Starbucks; every mug in my cupboard has some story behind it, there’s the one I got in Zurich for my wife when we were engaged, the one we got in New Zealand last Christmas, the one I got for her in Verona, the one I saw for a buck in a grocery store which just looked too cool, the Moose Drool ones the brewer sent to thank me for an article I did which used the company as an example of good CRM, the one with the Maori design she keeps saying would make a great pencil holder, the one her brother sent from Canada, etc.) and the music is Tom Waits’s Alice, whose last song, “Fawn,” is one of the most beautiful pieces of recorded music I’ve heard recently:

Business & Decision, the consulting and data engineering company specializing in Business Intelligence, Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Enterprise Resource Planning and E- Business products, today announced the acquisition of Mi Services Ltd., the international IT and Management Consultancy company with offices in the USA and the UK.

Founded in 1984, Mi Service earned its money working with organizations to improve their communications, interactions and transactions in their stakeholder relationships. The company has provided ERP products for clients from the life sciences, public sector and financial services industry sectors and has sold validation and compliance products to life sciences companies.

Clients include American Pacific, BP, Johnson & Johnson, Keystone Foods, Novartis, Philadelphia Youth Network, Smith & Nephew, St. Jude Medical, SunGard Availability Services, Teva Pharmaceuticals, United Utilities, the Universities of Manchester, Oxford Brookes and Southampton, VaxGen, WageWorks and Wyeth.

Sylvain Thauvette, President & CEO, Business & Decision North America, said the acquisition was driven by “three strategic objectives: an expansion in our critical mass both in the USA and UK, the acquisition of a strong ERP practice with specific strengths and competencies in the pharmaceutical industry and an increase of our customer base in the USA and UK to which we can extend our other areas of expertise.”

Mi Services is a privately held company with staff in the USA and UK. For the fiscal year ending December 31, 2005 Mi Services reported revenues of around $25 million.

Here’s some genuinely good news: Carnegie Mellon University has entered into a collaboration with Electronic Arts Inc. to help underwrite the development of Alice 3.0, a popular object-oriented, Java-based computer-programming environment created by Carnegie Mellon researchers, and provide essential art assets from The Sims, the best selling PC videogame of all time.

The idea is to make computer education more fun and understandable for students from middle school through college. Bravo.

The Sims (no relation) content “will transform the Alice software from a crude, 3-D programming tool into a compelling and user-friendly programming environment,” according to CMU officials. Development for Alice 3.0 will begin immediately and will span the next 18 to 24 months. The hope is that the new programming environment will be in position to become the national standard for teaching software programming.

“Getting the chance to use the characters and animations from The Sims is like teaching at an art school and having Disney give you Mickey Mouse,” said Computer Science Professor Randy Pausch, director of the Alice Project at Carnegie Mellon. “The Sims is EA’s crown jewel, and the fact that they are willing to use it for education shows a kind of long-term vision one rarely sees from large corporations.”

Of course EA benefits, as their game becomes known to millions (more) kids. It’s called “doing well by doing good,” kinda like the NFL running youth camps or how fond Bill Gates is of giving schools and libraries free computers (which use Microsoft products).

Alice is an open-source system developed during the last 10 years and provided as a free public service by Carnegie Mellon. In combination with novel educational materials developed by computer science professors Wanda Dann of Ithaca College and Stephen Cooper of St. Joseph’s University, Alice is already used at more than 60 colleges and universities to teach various introductory computer science/computer programming courses.

Introductory computer programming has historically been frustrating for many students. Recent attempts to include object-oriented programming in first-semester university curricula have only compounded the problem. There has also been a 50 percent drop in the number of computer science majors in the last five years, according to a UCLA study.

More good news: DM Europe is reporting that France Telecom announced today that it has passed the one million customer milestone for its residential VoIP services.

The telco’s VoIP services, which run on products from Netcentrex, are available not only in France, but also the Netherlands, the UK, Italy and Spain. So it’s not one million VoIP customers in France itself, which would have been shockingly good news, but still, one million across the heart of Old Europe ain’t chopped liver.

“Netcentrex has been France Telecom’s primary VoIP technology partner since the telco’s initial VoIP deployment in 2004,” DM Europe says. “The service is now signing up over 150,000 customers every month, according to France Telecom.”

France Telecom’s residential VoIP telephony services are based on Netcentrex’ My Call application server.


And now some bad news: According to Reuters, the world’s 2006/07 coffee supply and demand are “near a balance, although low carryover stocks in producing countries is ‘very worrisome,’” quoting the head of the International Coffee Organization.

“Never before have we seen a situation in which producing countries’ stocks are at such low levels,” Nestor Osorio, executive director of the ICO, told a coffee industry conference on Friday.

“By the end of March, carryover stocks in Brazil, the biggest coffee producer and exporter, are likely to be about 9 million 60-kg bags, down about 50 percent from the same period last year and the lowest since 1957,” Reuters cited Osorio as saying.

Oh, by the way, just so you know, Starbucks recommends two tablespoons of ground coffee (10 grams) for each six fluid ounces (180 milliliters) of water.

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