Category: business

The Old Gray Mare Ain’t What She Used to Be

The Old Gray Mare Ain’t What She Used to Be

This might seem like a blog about horses or livestock but we will be talking about technology, and how to breathe new life in to your old computers.

In 1946 they designed the ENIAC to be the end all be all in technology.  Twenty minutes of Computer time would replace over 240 man hours where calculations were concerned.  The economic model fell apart with the amount of man hours needed to maintain the computer, not to mention the parts, ‘tubes’ and the energy needed to power it.  

Today in this modern era of technology we have something known as Hardware Asset Management.  If your CIO gives you a blank stare if you talk with him or her about it, consider hiring a new one.

CFO’s hate surprises. Without asset management one quickly learns there are no good surprises in business.

The modern day desktop has a life cycle of five years and the laptop, three.  What if there was a way to extend that life cycle for a minimum investment?

They rate components in computers in something known as MTBF or Mean Time between Failures.  Notice that does not ‘if it fails, but when.’

Looking at the different components within a computer, one of the most fragile and arguable important is the hard drive.  Next would be the power supply, and any moving parts, which would be the fans, drives and cd-rom.

How do we mitigate this to an acceptable level of risk, and push the envelope out one to two or more years?

Normal physical maintenance should be at the top of every ‘engineers’ duties.
·         Visiting with the users looking for clues about what they are dealing with.
·         Visual inspections of how the machines are installed and cared for.
·         Regular dusting of the CPU and other fans looking or listening for bearings, etc.
·         Frayed cables or broken tabs on network cables.
·         Non-authorized software.

Managers of those individuals should be mindful of updates, security and so on.  License compliance is part of Software Asset management and not in the scope of this document.

Now what about extending the life cycle of a computer?

The secret is SSD drives.  As developers constantly up the requirements for applications to perform, we cast aside perfectly viable computers for newer hardware.

What if? 

What if we could solve some of those issues with a simple upgrade? SSD Drives are under $100 for a Terabyte drive.  A disk duplicator cost around $40 or certainly less than one hundred dollars.

Taking out the hard drive, placing it in the source compartment of the duplicator and the new SSD drive in the target; in 4 hours’ time you have a solid state drive that is no longer subject to accidental jars such as in laptops.  More importantly than this, is the speed issue.  You also have a perfect clone of the original meaning, you have a backup should something happen.

SSD drives are much faster than regular hard drives and there are no moving parts.

The laptop I am writing this on, was a retired HP with an I 3 processor and 6 gig of ram.  One $100 drive later this laptop performs like a new one.  Yes, the Office applications are still 2010 but, I have Windows 10 and it runs just fine.
Boot up time went from over three minutes, to under thirty seconds.

Application loading time is incredible and if Windows needs to swap, it is swapping to memory and not a slow hard drive.

Bottom line, I have a perfectly good laptop pulled from the retirement pile, for $100 and four hours of my time.

Since the copy process is automatic, you put the two drives into the machine, hit copy and go do something else until it is finished.  Actual human hours involved were less than 20 minutes.
The old Gray Mare now is running like a colt, and I can save the money I would spend on a laptop and new software for something else.

For an individual this is an easy decision to make.  Multiply this by ten or a thousand employees.  Could your P&L use the extra boost?

Like always, I am a consultant and would be happy to visit with you about how you are doing business, and if there are ways to improve upon them.

Bio:
I was working with computers before Bill Gates was a household name, and Steve Jobs was still a criminal working out of his garage, designing and building ways to scam the phone company.  I met him while supporting Next Step Computers during one of my jobs years ago.
From before ‘Al Gore’ invented the internet, to performing disaster recovery strategies for large and small companies, I stay active. Reach out to me on Linked In, or through this blog.
-Best

 

Apple Update: Do you want to do it now or later, or never?

Apple Update: Do you want to do it now or later, or never?

 

This notice used to be no cause for alarm. Having been in the computer business for some time updates were always rather innocuous.

Novell was the first program that I dealt with that you had to read each and every “readme” and decide if you indeed wanted this patch or that.

Patches were not mandatory they were written for specific bugs or concerns.  The problem with patches like that are, they can only be applied during a “service window.”

A service window is a time of the day and week when ordinary people are sleeping or not thinking about work. Holidays were great times for service windows as applying a patch would be the least disruptive for business functions.  Midnight to five AM Saturday night into Sunday morning was usually a good time for a service window.

While Microsoft has taken the guesswork out of service windows, it would seem that Apple has as well.

You turn on your PC, and it says, applying updates, please stand by.

No matter how urgent your need is the updates will commence, and you will be patient.

With this latest phone update that crippled my one-year-old phone, I am a little gun-shy about taking any more updates from Apple. I am thrilled that they are going to repatriate billions of dollars bringing it into the US as well as providing jobs for Americans, I am not so excited with the fact that my phone is barely usable. The old 4S that I did not update is faster than my 6S.

To say that this practice of slowing down older product is reprehensible, does not begin to cover it.

I was seriously thinking about looking at an Android-based smartphone when I received an Apple watch for Christmas. Great Timing!

Now I have a watch that tells me when to stand and breath but works very slowly as far as my phone is concerned.

My first iPad worked just fine until I was going to give it to an older gentlemen to watch Netflix on or read Kindle stuff.  I reset it and managed to brick it as they don’t have any software that works with that OS, and they don’t have the version of OS for that iPad available.  Resetting it from a usable tablet to original killed it.

I don’t know why they cannot make the server smart enough to detect which product you have and offer you an IOS or apps that will work on that product?  Oh, wait I do to know.  They want you to buy more hardware!

I met Steve years ago while supporting Next Step Computers.  I wonder how he would feel about what is happening today.

I would imagine he would be ok with it.  Like the Schick razor they want to sell you new blades, or in this case more product into perpetuity.

I would think that consumer watchdog groups would be all over this nonsense. A thousand dollars for a phone is over the top, one should get more than a year out of it.

This Pc that I am writing from today, I built seven years ago.  When I designed it, I put in components that were capable of playing the most aggressive video game of the day.  Why?  Here we are seven years later with the latest version of Windows 10, and it is still plenty fast.

An important note to keep in mind.  Hardware is measured in MTBF which means Mean Time Between Failure.  Hard drives die!  Fans Die!  Power supplies Die!  Moral of this story is to keep your files backed up.  If your data are only on your PC, you are living dangerously.

By files I mean data.  Document and pictures, email PST files, excel documents and so forth.

Whether it is an apple update or windows update keep in mind that I have seen Microsoft updates brick computers.

As far as Apple is concerned, I am in hopes that they will correct their error and think twice about that kind of activity in the future.  To screw up their brand in such a cheap way is beneath them in so many ways.  If you want people to purchase, the latest greatest, make it stand head and shoulders above the rest. You might also work on the price!

-Best

 

Is Buffoonery the new American Norm?

Is Buffoonery the new American Norm?

 

“Doctor, when I do this it hurts.  My hair is thinning, and I am tired all the time.”

“Is that all?”

“Yes, other than this strange growth on my neck. What can you give me to make it better?”

“We must run some test first to see if these symptoms are related and then figure out what is causing them.”

“You doctors are all alike, you just want to run my bill up with unnecessary test, so you can make a car payment or even a house payment.  Just prescribe something, and I will be on my way.”

The patient in the above dialogue is a Buffoon.

Oddly enough, I get this same kind of rhetoric when I am called out to come up with a disaster recovery plan and discover that they have many other issues.

“Do you think you can fix these issues we are having?”

“What are some of the issues?”

“Computers drop off the network for no reason.  Printers often don’t get their print jobs, we think it is the printer, so we keep calling Cannon out, but they never fix it! The internet is slow and sometimes unresponsive.  Our phones don’t always work.  The phone vendor keeps telling us it is not his problem but you know those vendors, get your money and then forget they know you.  My lead guy tells me we need more internet bandwidth, would that fix it?”

“It sounds like you have some serious issues, when would you like me to start?”

“Start?  Just go push the right button and fix it!  How long will it take?”

“It depends on what I find.”

“What do you charge?”

“$125 an hour unless you would like to have me out here on a contract for a set amount of time.”

“What would you charge if I contract with you for two hours.”

“$250, (and it may be more if I have to deal with stupid nonsense like this, while I am working.)

“Truly I get this kind of stuff from CIO’s no less.”

The old joke about a thousand dollars regarding kicking a computer to make it work is just a joke.  While that might end up being the final diagnosis (which I doubt), this is a mindset from those who have no idea of what they are talking about.

Truly if it is from someone outside of IT, it is not their fault. Their job is to run the company, turn a profit or drive the business to produce more of what they do.  It is not to run IT.  Now if the CIO has this dialogue with you as a consultant then you have issues.

Some people are in high up positions because of who they knew and not what they knew.  Some are there because their parents own the company.  I personally try to stay out of situations like that because it hardly ever ends well.  I have done it many times in the past.  One of the most frustrating things is working for a guy “CIO” who did not even have a computer at home.  He knew little about computers or technology other than green screen 5250 stuff as a programmer, using RPG or Cobol.

When I walk in your door to resolve an issue or create a disaster recovery plan, there are things that I want to see.

  • Up to date network map.
  • A runbook
  • I will want to see the recent logs from the servers.
  • I will want to see your notes from the change control committee. (living document)
  • I will ask about your issues from the past to current. Are there pain points and what are they?
  • I will want to know what you would like to see as a deliverable. (an end goal)
  • I will want to know about your business model, so I can best position you for the future.
  • I will ask about the age of the hardware and what your hardware asset management looks like.
  • I will also want to know the same about your software. S.A.M.
  • I will want to see the licenses for the software that you have and I will want to see where the software is and when, if ever was it updated.

If you asked your CIO for these things, could he provide them?

As the CEO, ignorance is not an option.  There are seldom good surprises in business.

There are many other things I will want to have handy before I even begin to diagnose, troubleshoot or create a disaster recovery plan.  One of the most effusive displays of frustration from a client was when I discovered through digging that someone had spliced network cable improperly and it would need to be replaced.  Cat 5 to Cat 3 no less.

Yes, I will want to know about the cable plant. Was it installed all at one time or has it evolved over the years?   When you climb into the overhead ceiling to find a gob of electrical tape or even scotch tape holding network cable together, that will make your blood run cold.  If they are that stupid or cheap unless they are under new management or are willing to hand you the checkbook, you probably should just walk away.  Life is too short.

When I talk with potential customers, I can get a sense of their knowledge level quick enough.  How is that done?

I was in data processing long before Bill Gates was a household name.  Steve Jobs was still a criminal selling blue boxes made in his garage and CPM was the operating system.  What I do is not cheap but, it is worth it.  Most companies that have a disaster if not resolved within three days go out of business.

“We live in Dallas Texas, what kind of disaster could we have that would put us out of  business?”

The disaster that I see the most often was caused by employee error.  I do a risk assessment as part of the deliverable which many companies need for their insurance provider.

Now that we are in 2018 is this the year that you pay attention to your network and other infrastructure?  Is this the year that you look at security both digital and physical? “yes, I do that too.”

If you like my blog, please consider following me.

-Best

 

Ready, Fire …Aim

Ready, Fire …Aim

After the recent storms, one might have guessed that my phone has been busy.  Firstly let me say that Disaster Recovery by its very title is a bit of a misnomer.  While I have some abilities to recover lost data using some forensic skills developed over decades of twiddling bits, that is not really disaster recovery.

Disaster Recovery and business continuity are about planning for an event which may or may not happen.  The “plan” assumes that your business systems will be affected negatively and puts forth a tested strategy to recover from the said event.

With the recent devastation by hurricanes and earthquakes, one would think that those businesses not affected would be learning from those that were.  If you search my blogs on this site, you will see that I have laid out

Do not ask him or her, are we covered just in case, ask them specific questions laid out in this blog here.

Yes is not a satisfactory answer, demand the details and the proof.  I don’t care how much of a friend he or she is, demand the evidence.  The devil is in the details, and the last thing you want is a bunch of excuses.

I am learning from phone calls that too many have been assured that they are covered, and that is very possibly why today they are looking for ways to recover data from destroyed equipment.

Disaster recovery is not some dark magic spell cast under the voodoo magic of bits and bytes in the wiring closet or back part of the computer room.  The bottom line is to test it, whatever your people come up with, check it.  Keep checking it until you can recover your business with outside contractors and hardware with data and documents prepared by your staff.  There is to be no input from you or your staff during the test.  The hurricane, earthquake, fire, attack from zombies or employee error took you and them away from the scene. The plan provided must work!

This is why we who do this insist that companies use “best practice” standards in the industry when creating your individual networks and systems.

One such company has a senior IT staff littered with programmers.  These people think they know more than Microsoft.  Using kludges from Unix, Linux and other programming wizardry to subvert some of the basic tenants of networking, they have made their network so unique that it will depend on them to be there to recover.

If it is not broken, don’t fix it!

Writing programs that workaround things like DNS is just crazy stuff and now it is dependent on the network never changing, at all.

If your data is successfully mirrored offsite, an excellent team of engineers might get you going in weeks, not days if you have failed to follow best practices.  While your data might eventually be usable, you and your company will be on the sidelines as most businesses do not recover from such a catastrophe.

Folks I have been at this since 1982, I have learned a thing or two in those years.  Ask your team the questions or be prepared for unpleasant surprises should you ever face a business stopping event.

Got to go and explain once again what disaster recovery is and is not.

-Best

What If?

What If?

Every day someone finds something.  This day was no exception.  The more creative the attack the more interesting the day.  If you call that number they try to get you to give them $199.00 to unlock your computer.

You can send me some money if you like but, here is the fix for this…

CTL ALT DEL , task manager, kill the process, aka browser and then do not restore the page when you reload the browser.

I am not affiliated with CCleaner but I sell a heck of a lot of it for them.  Install it and let it clean your browser after every use.  $25 a year and damn well worth it!

As one might use an explicative to emphasize a point, I often use a somewhat tawdry analogy for this purpose.  Surfing the web with inadequate anti-virus software is like “hooking up with a stranger” without using protection.   Not only is it idiotic, but dangerous!

Having been in Data Processing, or the IT business since before Steve Jobs or Bill Gates was a household name, I know a thing or two.  The scars on my back are from arrows taken in the trenches of digital mayhem. This bedlam was caused by such things as bosses wanting to be on the bleeding edge, to software not ready for prime time, been there done that.

Free antivirus software is not worth what you pay for it!  

The best security software is going to have a price or cost to it.  Why?  It takes many engineers, coders, and much research to create and maintain a massive program like anti-virus software.  Who is going to do that for free?  More importantly, why?

While someone might write an app for free, to get their name out there; anti-virus software takes a village.

Much like hiring someone to sell your home, you don’t hire someone who does it part-time or as a hobby. If you want to get something done, give it to a busy person.  If you want to sell your home, hire someone who’s lively hood depends upon them being successful.  You want a secure computer, hire or purchase the product with the most to lose if it fails.

There is much more to the process of considering which product to purchase but, free is not a reason.  I would argue that free is a cause to eliminate that choice.

The reality is that the internet has become the wild west.  The bullet that finds you can come from almost anywhere. Every company that uses computers should have a security officer.  His or her job should be to focus their attention on threats out there and the best way to keep them from affecting that company.

I find it surprising that politicians are screaming about Russian hacking of our computers.  What the hell do you expect?  You just assume that someone with a certification gives a damn!?

What worked in 1982 does not work now.  Having a “PC Wizard, or your grandchildren” working for you is tantamount to a trapeze act, blindfolded and working without a net.  Insurance companies and credit card companies are now aware of this and demanding your strategies to be secure in the world of cyber threats.  They should audit you, and they should hire folks like me who know what to look for.

White Hat hacking allows us an inside look at what one might expect.  We learn many ways to infiltrate a company.  The same applies to the TSA in homeland security.  While I would probably choose a job to be that guy that test the security systems of the homeland, airports and such, it is much easier to check companies.

The first thing I must do is understand you.  More importantly, know that entity many of us in the biz call “users.”

Too many infiltrations are accomplished with something called click bait.   “Ten pictures that should never have been made public…” With half a picture of some scantily clad woman visible, how many will click?

Human nature dictates men will want to see what the camera saw. “Boom, you’re infected.”

Good antivirus software will stop any activity created by software manipulation but, the caveat or keyword there is “good.”  What if you bought the bargain basement software or just used the free stuff?

For the coders to write the fix, someone must fall prey to it, report it, and then they must institute a fix.  That is why Software of this type is never static.  Updates are consistent and often.  New threats are released hourly.  To run a company dedicated to this is no small task.

Maybe you own a plant which produces widgets.  Your widgets are better than others, and your competition wants the skinny.  You hired someone like me for your IT manager or CIO so they cannot get in through your firewalls.  Your safe, or so you think.  Industrial espionage is rife in the competitive world of gadgets and widgets.  If I want in bad enough, I will contract one of my guys to write a program that will hide on a computer until certain key phrases are typed, and then it will activate.

“Wait, you said my firewall is secure, Fort Knox secure!”

“Why yes I did, so I am going to place this little program on a thumb drive and…I am going to put some naughty pictures on it with some commercial looking writing on the outside of the device to make the person who picks it up from the parking lot where I dropped it, think that they have something juicy.”

Possibly just tossing a thumb drive out the window of my car near the parking lot with a few files on it, and the Trojan would be enough to get me into your network.  I will purchase some chrome colored or fancy looking thumb drive to be sure that it is spotted.  I will know when the landscape folks work, so I make sure and plant it after they have done their thing so that one of your employees will find it.

Maybe I send one of my spies out to places that your guys eat and leave the drive on the table by the ashtray or the salt and pepper shaker at the table they eat every week on a given day and time.

Possibly I get one of my people inside your company, hired by you.  They install some remotely controlled program like Team Viewer on their PC and Viola; you are hacked.

Because your IT guy is so sure that his firewall is good enough, or your engineers are so demanding that he left the USB ports open for use by them, with lax policies he leaves your company vulnerable too.

How do we stop the threats?

One way we do this is with training.  Every employee should sit through CE training on the essential use of the corporate computers.  This is information that they can bring home and share.  Education is by far the best tool one can have in their arsenal.

All of the policies are trumpeted for them to hear and before they leave they sign a document saying they will adhere to them.  With it harder and harder to fire people these days, that too is one more tool in your belt.  Good employees, you want to keep, those that prove lacking, they need to go.

I could easily make the argument that good computing practices are patriotic.  I could certainly apply this to purchasing respectable anti-virus software and creating policies and procedures that protect your business but, the bottom line is, in the end, it will save the company money.

I was making this argument to a CEO of a good-sized company when he stopped me and said, but viruses help your bottom line too.

I argued that I would much rather use my time and talents to design safe environments for companies like his than put out fires.   It is considerably less expensive to install a good fire retardant system then to try and rebuild.  Yes, a metaphor for using robust best practice standards in computing vs. reacting to noise.

Noise is the result of a problem created by an event that was unplanned or caused by employee error.

A good security person is somewhat paranoid and is always asking, what if?  I do this in disaster recovery scenarios balancing those “what if’s” against statistics and a risks assessment.

With proper education, we can mitigate the employee errors.  Using proper procedures and policies, we can diminish the unplanned events, i.e. viruses or other malicious code.

When I run into companies that think free antivirus software is adequate, it makes me a little crazy.  If they are a public company, trust me, I will not purchase their stock.  Flirting with disaster out of sheer frugality or ignorance is idiotic.

If you keep your guys around because you like them, think again.  I may love some folks, but I would not hire them for certain positions if I could find someone better.  I don’t have to like you, for you to work for me.  If you are the best person for the job, you get the job.  P&L trumps feelings!  Feelings can be costly and can be a liability.  Logic in business is your ally.  Logic must always be forefront when making business decisions.

I have walked away from companies who have their kids working for them.  By hiring the children, you open yourself up to losses that could be untold.  One company had their children not doing the paperwork necessary to complete the task, thus losing money in that department.  Hiring me to do an analysis, it did not take long to find the problem.  I fired her children after trying to work with them.  I kid you not one of them actually cried in my office after telling him time after time he must do all of the job.  A grown man crying!  There is no crying in IT.  Either perform the work or get the hell out!  Either do all of the job or learn to ask, “Do you want fries with that?”   Is that too tough?  I felt for the kid but, feelings do not dictate policy.

Do your kids a favor and don’t hire them.  The real world does not work that way so why in the world handicap them, and make them believe that it does?

Over the years there are best practices that have been created by time trusted procedures and policies.

Some are things like:

  • Hardware Asset management.
  • Software Asset Management
  • Security both physical and digital

I could write a book on the subject, but I will spare you the details.

Today, now more than ever we must harden our networks.  We must have sound policies and procedures in place, and they must be adhered to.  Documentation is essential, and it must be updated.

I don’t relish firing people but, sometimes their people are the problem, and the CEO is so far removed from the process they just don’t know it.  If training can fix it, I am all for it.  Attitude too plays a crucial role in the process, and I will not tolerate a crappy attitude.  Life is too short, and the subject matter is too important.

I love the HR folks because often they are the gatekeepers, saving the CEO from disaster.  Good HR folks are worth their weight in silver.  Gold, maybe not, so let’s stick with silver. Worthy people are not that hard to find as many would have you believe.  Upright people are around, but they may not have everything that you are looking for immediately.

Instant gratification is an expensive luxury and can be elusive at best.  Where employees are concerned, I want to start with a “good foundation.”

We place certifications above character, and that is part of our modern day conundrum.

I hired a grocery store manager and trained him for a job in IT.  He had little experience in the job I hired him for, so why did I hire him?

He had the right attitude and wanted to learn.

I had the time to train him.

The money used for training him was penny’s compared to hiring exactly what I was looking for.

He did not have the bad habits that come with so many “experts”  with the certifications, and their egos.

He ran a grocery store and let me tell you; he was not afraid of work!

Back in the day, we had interns or apprentices.  Folks, we need to look carefully at that once again.  I have hired many over the years that had the right attitude and the skill set to learn.  American people are out there struggling, and we won’t give them a chance.  Why?  Instant gratification.  We need someone who can step into the job right now, and we run with minimum employees because of what?  Because it is so expensive to have employees.

That is one of the things we need to push back on Congress and health care to fix, but the reality is, internships and apprentices I think are essential to finding and creating good employees.

Every job fair that I go to has thousands of workers looking for work.  If you can’t find them, you are not looking!  I spot good employees daily.  There are times I would love to go work for a recruiter just because I can spot talent!

Are they the exact racehorse ready for the Derby today?  Maybe not, but can they be trained?  There are virtual diamonds in the rough everywhere, looking for a chance! We are begging to bring in more H1B folks instead of taking care of our own.  That is not very damned patriotic if you ask me!

Our schools are a disaster in my opinion.  In speaking with college graduates today, I am frequently amazed at just how ignorant and totally out of touch with reality that they are.  Someone somewhere screwed them to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars for an education that is worthless.  When they think voting for a socialist is a good idea, they were screwed by their college and should demand their money back!

Today we have kids tens of thousands of dollars in debt, and they cannot find a job.  I know of several college grades making much less than $15 an hour.  Our educational system needs an overhaul.

As quickly as a company can get a process documented and packaged, they send it overseas via a VPN over the internet, sending jobs out of the country.

Trades are being overlooked for white collar jobs which are going the same way.  IT jobs are vanishing in the states.  Virtual IT shops are set up in some foreign country, hiring an English speaking American to act as a liaison between them and their Indian or other counterparts.  With an American point of contact, it is then up to the American to manage the folks in another country who speak little English, making little money, to be the IT shop for these American companies.  This same person puts an American face on their business while working with their client managing the “noise.”

“Do you see any security risk there?”

You have no clue where your intellectual property is going or who is seeing it.  Maybe you have a contract but so what.  Much like HIPAA was created to protect your health information, do you honestly feel as if your information is secure?  If you do, you are fooling yourself.  Read the documents you sign when you visit the doctor.  You sign things saying that your information is protected and then you sign a document which pretty much gives them a pass to do whatever they want to do with your information.  Smoke and mirrors.

Doctors and hospitals are hacked and the information is stolen all too often.  Why?  How?  Piss poor planning on someone’s part. Using some cheap method to get things done perhaps?

Your contract with your Virtual IT company is as worthless as the paper it was printed on.  Yes, that deal might make you feel better but, know if you are a developer, someone in some other country has your work and if they can use it, they will.

I want to touch on Software Asset Management as it is germane to this subject.  All of the subjects are salient, but that one, in particular, is in the case of security.

There are tools which you can use to inventory every program on every PC.  Why?  Why would you want to do this?

Licensing of software is an issue, but more importantly, you should want to know what is on those PCs.  The first time I did this for a company I was struck with the reality of the sheer number of programs designed for remote control of a PC, that was active.

In this world we live in, corporations can ill afford to have the wild west inside their computer networks.  Besides the games and other foolishness that was identified, the risk to the infrastructure was phenomenal. The company is liable for every program on their PC’s, no matter who put it there.  If they are audited for their licenses, and someone like myself does an audit and finds them, they must then produce that license.  Can you?  Can you put your hands on all of your licenses?

Ignorance is no excuse!

Having been part of the evolution of the business process, dating back to the secretary and the typewriter to current day, I have seen the learning curve first hand.  Fighting the first virus on a network before there was anti-virus software; asking “what if” became second nature.

Back when Gregg shorthand was used, a business letter cost an average of $100.00 back then.  Now we type out e-mails with the ease of few keystrokes and dictation is a thing of history.  Technology has improved the business process, but the bad guys have found a way to make it interesting.

The very tools we use to make our lives easier are under constant threat by evil forces that look for ways to extort money or steal your property either through the exploitation of your network, or your employees themselves.

We use the cloud as if it were a hard drive in some vault in our closet.  We send information to the cloud without a clue where the cloud is and who has access to it.  Why we don’t encrypt that data before it leaves our computers is beyond me.  If I were a villain, I would be looking for ways to infiltrate the “cloud.”

“What if?”

The opinions expressed are my own as well as the intellectual value of the information put forth for your consumption.

© All Rights Reserved 2017

 

How often Should I Change the Ribbon

How often Should I Change the Ribbon

 

 

By far this is the most often asked question when I am speaking with a customer.

First things first, however.  There are three different types of ribbon for your consideration.

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By “type of ribbon,” I mean what fabric was used.

  • Nylon
  • Cotton
  • Silk

Nylon, most probably the least expensive of the three has plusses and minuses.

Nylon takes more abuse but, does not hold as much ink as some others.

Cotton, also not the most expensive holds much more ink for a longer period. However, Cotton pulverizes much easier than Nylon.

Silk, the most expensive of the three holds together longer and is in the middle of the road as far as its ability to retain ink.

“Great, there are three types, which one do I need?”

There are a few different factors to consider.

Your average humidity.  The moisture in ink will evaporate much faster in Arizona, than Florida, for example.

“Why do I care about how fast the moisture evaporates?”

The medium for the ink is the moisture.  When the ribbon is dry, the quality of the print is diminished.  Also, it is my contention that the moisture from the ink assist in lubricating the type section allowing it to wear much slower than pure metal on metal.

Pulverization

As the solenoid under the type section rises to strike the type section, it places the imprint on the document of the date, time and whatever other information you may have on your individual plates.

Each time it does this, it breaks the bonds in the fabric a little, which is the ribbons substrate or media which holds the actual ink.

During the ribbons life cycle, the spooling mechanism rolls the fabric back and forth as it nears the end.  Several passes of the ribbon are possibly before the ribbon should be replaced.

I tell customers to make an imprint right after they change the ribbon.  Take that example hang it by your machine somewhere.

Much like the brakes on your car, you have no idea that from the get go they are performing less efficiently until one day you hear the ubiquitous squeal from a metal warning indicator telling you to service your brakes.  Each day they wear just a little bit more and stop just a little less efficiently.

Your ribbon from day one slowly loses ink, and before you know it, you are not able to clearly see the imprint.

“Why is this a problem, I want to get the most out of the ribbon I can!”

“No, no you don’t.  Most of you are scanning or imaging your documents.  That means that the original text must be legible.  Since most scanners do not get 100% of the original “value” or the image darkness, the original needs to be as dark and definite as possible.”  Secondly using a ribbon too long will cause pulverization of the substrate.  If you have ever looked inside your Rapidprint or Widmer file date stamper and seen “gunk” in the wheels or plates. That is from ribbon fragments and paper dust bound together with ink as the glue.”

Do not try this at home!

Many of you have attempted to clean this yourself.  Once you try this, quickly you will see the error in your way.  Using an old toothbrush and alcohol should be an easy task!  There is a reason that I do very little service in the field.  One customer did this and told me of the experience.  I did not mean to laugh but, the walls appeared as though an inkwell blew up.  Her clothes, desk and anything within proximity was spotted with ink.

Never mind the mess that this process makes here is the real bugaboo.  When cleaning the machine, you take the oils and other chemicals away which lubricate the wheels and mechanism.

I disassemble each machine after cleaning it replacing the worn parts, and then I replace the lubricants.

For these to function properly the tolerances are critical.  Some have tried to replace parts by themselves to find they got into more than they bargained for.

If the machine full of gunk is left untreated, the mechanism will wear faster, and the imprint will not be clear but smeared as the letters like “O” will be filled in and appear as a large dot instead of an “o.”  The same applies to the numbers 0 or 6 or 8 or 9 and any other letter than has a closed circle of some sort.

Since these machines can cost up to $1000 each, it is a super good idea to have them serviced occasionally.

Changing the ribbon when the print starts to get too light is also a good idea.

At TimeDok we sell and service these machine and have done so since 1995.

If you purchase a dozen or more ribbons from me at one time, I pick up the shipping.

In summary, Silk is the most robust ribbon for those of you who don’t like to change them as often as you should.

Cotton will render the best print image but will pulverize and needs to be changed when the print gets too light.

Nylon is less expensive than Silk and does hold up better than cotton but will not last as long as cotton or silk.

One of the other things I see too often is this.  “The spooler is not working!”

Go here and check this out before you send me your machine

http://www.timedok.com/Support.html

The other guys won’t tell you that…

While I actually want your business, I don’t want it under false pretense. Many times the ribbon was installed improperly, and it will not spool if it is.

Follow me on Linked In or check out my website at www.timedok.com.

“Is it feasible to use Timedok for my service as I am not in Texas?”

If you can get UPS to come to your location then yes.  I currently have customers in all 50 states and in some of its territories.

Call or write for details.  Many times a machine will just show up with no advanced warning from a new customer.  That is ok too but, a heads up would be nice so I can get to know you a little and vice versa.

http://www.timedok.com/contact.html

 

 

 

When is the right time to think about Disaster Recovery?

When is the right time to think about Disaster Recovery?

 

Spring rains bring on more than just flowers or in my case, weeds.  The phone started ringing early the other morning.  My coffee was still brewing when the continuous ring of the phone demanded me instead of the regular answering service.

It would seem that lightning hit a pole close to one of my clients.

Lightning is far from respectful of your deadlines or the amount of work that your staff has lined up to accomplish.  From simple power outages to fire, lightning all by itself is a disaster in the making.  Some simple steps ahead of time can keep your company from being a victim to what this client was.

One girl had her headset in when the lightning struck and was shocked. Happily, she is ok, but their systems were not so fortunate.  Had the grounding been worse; she may have been the path to ground.

Once the power was restored the server, router, and switch, did not recover.

The one machine on a UPS died as the power went out.

What went wrong?

Surge protectors have a finite lifetime.  People buy these power strips with surge protectors and forget about them.  Surge protectors are nothing more than a power strip with something in them known as a “Metal Oxide Varistor or MOV.”

Any power surge above an acceptable voltage is clamped or shorted to ground by this device.  The problem is the MOV only last so long before it no longer functions.  Every time there is any spike in the line from compressors shutting off to other electronic “noise” these components are adversely affected.

What is better?”

A UPS of enough wattage to allow the computer to be safely powered down in the event of a power failure.  Along with the backup power ability, these devices have more sophisticated line conditioning circuitry protecting your equipment from stray voltage spikes.

One note to remember, these too only last so long before they must at least be maintained, or replaced.  Any CIO worth his salt is familiar with Hardware asset management and has this is mind for his budget.  CEO’s hate surprises like unexpected expenses.  It is much easier to argue a budgeted expense than going hat in hand begging forgiveness for your ineptitude.

Suffer a catastrophe like this client, hope your boss does not hire someone like me to do a root cause analysis.

At the very least batteries must be changed out but keep in mind that an MOV is also part of that piece of hardware.  I would budget the replacement of a UPS, rather than just the batteries if it were me.

Unless you have electrical engineers on staff, who are qualified to re-certify that equipment, it is too cheap not just to replace it.

 

Along with outdated hardware or not enough of it, I have seen too many times the ground plug defeated to save a dollar from an electrician.   Those ground plugs are there for your protection, not because someone wanted to make it difficult for you.  The problem with temporary is all too often it becomes permanent.

Lightning struck outside one of my client’s offices hitting a pine tree.  Finding the electrical ground for the building, which was poorly grounded, everything in the building suffered a power surge knocking out much of their equipment.

Many times, building management will only do what is necessary by code and leave the gamble up to you the tenant.

Depending upon your location, achieving a good ground could be difficult.  The type of soil must is taken into account among other things. Again, depending upon your location, you might want to invest in grounding your building with lightning protection equipment including lightning rods or now they call them “air terminals.”  The idea is to have some amount of confidence that if lightning hits, it will strike your planned target and be dissipated safely into the earth.

Since all computer equipment and now phones are wired through the network, this last customer lost computers and phones along with the network infrastructure.

Failure to plan is planning to fail.

The cost of the hardware and time to repair was minimal, compared to the amount of time the company was out of business.

Insurance will only get you so far.  As these spring storms fire up, there is a real element of danger to your building, business and, like the one young lady found out, to her person.  Had proper grounding been utilized I doubt the girl would have felt the shock in her ears.

While a tested, reliable disaster recovery plan will allow you to sleep at night, preventing the disaster in the first place is what you should shoot for.  That starts with planning.

From your building security to network security, right down to protecting your infrastructure from mother nature, accounting for every contingency is paramount.

Truth told, there are seldom good surprises in business.  Mitigating the surprises with proper planning can prevent poor performance.  Asking “what if” is key to any plan.  Weighing cost vs. probability allows anyone with some business acumen to make sound decisions without breaking the bank. Understanding the risks, are the starting point.

 

-Best

 

#RapidPrint #Widmer #Year #Wheels and #Budgets

#RapidPrint #Widmer #Year #Wheels and #Budgets

 

 

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As we get to this time of year, I think about many things including starting that Christmas shopping experience.  Thinking ahead is key, so we are not surprised.

 

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Year Wheel for Rapdprint and Widmer products

 

Usually the second week of January I get many machines sent to me with year wheels that stopped in that year.

This is a good time to get your machine cleaned up, tuned up and checked out.  Usually, a repair is less than a fourth the cost of a new one.

 

 

print head before cleaning with flash
Before cleaning

 

 

 

 

 

 

after cleaning II
After Cleaning

 

 

If by some chance that your machine is worn out, now would be a good time to replace it as budgets need to be submitted and this year’s money needs to be spent.

 

Things are slow right now, beat the rush and get in front of the pack.  First in first out!

 

I sell and service these machine and have done so since 1995.

 

Rapidprint, Widmer and of course the ribbons.

As always I appreciate your business!

WWW.TimeDok.com

 

-Best

 

 

 

 

 

#Ransomware

#Ransomware

 

Just this morning I wrote about this topic; this afternoon we learn that a California hospital was hacked.

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You see this and you are screwed… 

Firstly, someone executed that ransom-ware in an e-mail or some other way. The payload most probably came in as an attachment through a phishing scheme, like the one that I wrote about.

  • Secondly, this tells me that they do not have a good disaster recovery plan.
  • Thirdly, this tells me that their firewalls were inadequate to block “zip” files.
  • Firewalls should be set to strip any attachments from messages. 

“You say, oh that is just great, my business uses attachments all the time!”

Most probably, attachments could be directed to a virtual machine, much like a bomb disposal box, where it could be executed in such a way that if it were a virus or worse its damage would be mitigated.

Fourth, what kind of anti-virus were they using? Were they using group policies stopping the execution of executable s?

Someone on his or her IT team messed up, and it starts with the “CIO!”

The bottom line is you never want to be a position where you have to pay money to terrorist.  Folks, make no mistake, people who extort money like that are terrorist.

I would be doing a serious root cause analyses to see how it happened, and why they paid the ransom.

The news tonight said it happened on the 5th.  Are you telling me that a hospital being down for 13 days cost less than a good disaster recovery plan and of course an audit of your system?

Do not open attachments that you are not expecting and if you are, make damned certain it is what you are looking for.

It might be a real good idea to keep a standalone pc that employees take their files to on a thumb drive and open it there.

Once infected you options are, pay the ransom or start from scratch.

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With a tested DR plan, you could be back up a lot sooner than being at the hands of the terrorist.

Lastly and I cannot stress this enough, don’t get cheap on your anti-virus software.  MailWareBytes has been working on software to mitigate this threat.

You would be surprised at the companies that I run into who use the cheapest damned software that they can find.  Often Free!  Whoever does this should be dismissed as they clearly dont value your data or your company.  This is a hill to die on folks.

You can take the cheapest CFO and argue or “negotiate” the need for the expense, or you should not be there.

Excuse me but that is like living in a high crime area using using a bathroom lock set for your protected, you know the kind, the one you stick a small pin in to unlock it…

To recap…

  • Education
  • prevention
  • disaster recovery plan

 

-Best

© All rights reserved. 2016

 

 

 

 

 

Dear #CEO #Recruiter #LinkedIn

Dear #CEO #Recruiter #LinkedIn

 

I find myself between contracts on occasion. If there were something, that is a good match for my skills and talents, I would love the opportunity to speak with them or you about it.

As a seasoned professional, I bring many things to the table.

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If I had a nickel for every time someone would ask me, “I got this C:\> on my screen, what do I do now?”  Family is the worst, you cant charge them!

I started working with computers when DOS was in its infancy; nobody knew who Bill Gates was and  Wang, IBM and Xerox were the major players with Atari, Tandy and the Commodore PET was in vogue for the affluent home user.

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Early hard drive which had to be in a really cool room.  The media was removable, the heads would stay inside the machine. 

Steve Jobs had just stopped being a criminal with his phone freaking hardware, but still was a nobody, while building the first apple in his garage.

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Alex Gibney’s newest documentary, “Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine,” chronicles the famed Apple founder. Courtesy photo
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Blue Box

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BBS’s or Bulletin Boards hanging off a POTS line at 300baud were the standard.  1200 baud was certainly not common as some were still using acoustical modems.

Al Gore had not invented the internet yet…

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Truthfully I think he had something to do with legislation allowing the public access to it. Somehow it got conflated with him as the inventor.

Main Frames were what most companies used complete with water-cooling.

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Networks went from different coaxial types for the physical layer.  Arc net was the least expensive, Ethernet was still in the works, and Token ring, IBM’s idea was the standard; but few could afford it.

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Starting on the ground floor of this industry, leaving a rather successful career in electronics was a valuable experience for me.

Witnessing the demise of the typewriter, dictation equipment, Gregg Shorthand and the secretarial pool replaced with high-powered laptops and smartphones has been quite the thing to see.

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Yes, I actually worked on these…Mylar belts were the media.

The cost of one business letter in the 70’s was well over $100 in 1970’s dollars.  Today a quick e-mail re-defined the way we communicate. In today’s 2016 dollar, that is $627.38…

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Before my time but not by much!

If you do not believe me about the price of a business letter, ask me about it.  I was there.

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Gregg shorthand

 

The first virus I fought was before there was anti-virus software.  The cleverest virus I fought was the “pong” virus.  Modeled after the Pong game, one would be working in some program and a ball resembling the ball in pong would appear.  As it struck a character, the character would fall to the bottom of the screen.  This of course was destroying your document but at least you had some entertainment while it did it.

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Pong or “ping pong virus”

Moving from the XT Based 8086 systems in the late 70’s up to the recent, has been a nice ride and I have enjoyed being part of that evolution.  As hardware hits the brick walls of physics and bigger better faster slows down, software must carry the advancements forward until such a time that chip manufacturers figure out how to get more speed and throughput maximizing everything from RAM to video and disc performance.  Embracing advancements while constantly positioning the company strategically ahead of the curve, but not on the bleeding edge is my long-standing history.

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These were great!

Once included in your world, seamlessly; I will become part of that world knowing your business and how technology fits.

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Every part works in concert to fulfill its intended purpose. Employees must necessarily “fit.” 

While focusing more on business applications vs wiz bang hardware, I specialize in providing an ROI to the people who have to pay for it.  Is this technology necessary? How will it help?  Will it prepare me to transition in the future?

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Spending much of my life with technology, I have run a business now for the last 10 years providing ad-hoc IT services, while performing disaster recovery services.

My specialties include, but are not are limited to:

  • Over 30 years hands-on IT projects.
  • Over 15 years in Management.
  • Data Center design and installation
  • Power
  • Placement
  • Controls
  • HVAC
  • Fire retardant
  • ADA compliance
  • Security design and audits
  • Physical security design
  • Disaster Recovery
  • Best Practice
  • Business Acumen
  • Compliance issues with SOX or other regulations, as the need requires.
  • Visionary and forward “out of the box” thinker.
  • Troubleshooter

From the desktop to the cloud, I have it covered.

Some of the typical calls I receive while on site. 

  • The internet is slow.
  • The server crashes.
  • We think we might have a virus.
  • This computer cant “see” the printer.
  • I don’t know what we have?
  • I thought we paid for that software?
  • Somehow this computer got hacked.
  • Cant get on the Internet..

If these sound familiar the underlying causes may surprise you.

Through best practice, a complete inventory of your hardware and software it usually does not take long to figure out why?

Lack of documentation is generally the common denominator.

From a startup that just needs things set up right the first time, to a company that let some family member set it up, and now needs help, I am your person. No sugar coating…

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This letter is meant for those of you who see my profile on Linked in and wonder if I am available. Drop me a note, I might be!

Unlike others who will blow smoke, I will not.  If you are seeking a trip to the moon with funding for the carnival, I will tell you. If I cannot help you, I will not waste your time.  I know many people in the industry, I might simply refer you.

As someone who has written many job descriptions, hired and let go more than I care to think about, I am a tried and tested realist.   I find options for you, and then you decide.

-Best