Tag: technology

Retirement or just the next phase?

Retirement or just the next phase?

I hit that magic age where no employer wants to commit to a real honest-to-goodness job. That’s ok; I knew it was coming, most of my friends are older, and I have watched this phenomenon play out year after year.

There have been unexpected occurrences starting in 2020.

Before Covid was a thing, I managed to catch it from a masseuse. She was from China and spoke little to no English, not that it mattered. This was not my first time in this business. While there was a language barrier, she managed to know where it hurt and was able to manipulate the fascia or what have you in such a way to stop the muscle spasms.

It was 68 degrees in the room, and she was sweating profusely. I remember thinking, she must be working hard. I better tip her extra.

Three days later, I was in my doctor’s office with a sore throat, breathing issues, and a fever. At this stage of the game, the virus was not transmissible from humans to humans. It was not airborne and was only in Wuhan near the wet market.

We were assured by the CDC and the WHO not to worry. Pelosi was taking photo ops in China town along with its population, and the head of the health department in NYC was among the Chinese folks in NY, telling the world it was safe to go amongst them and…enjoy Chinese New Year’s Celebrations.

Words Matter and they all lied to us. While they might have given a get out of jail free card to Big Pharma, those that lied to us should be held accountable. They knew they were lying.

Backing up in history, about 30 years, I was in a head-on collision with an 84-year-old man who was drunk. I wrote the story as a memoir for the Anthology my writer’s group put together.

I wrote it as a cautionary tale. I will put a link to the Anthology for those of you interested in such stories. My story is the very last one in the book. The Roads We Take

That fateful day changed my life. I was forced to re-invent myself. The impact had a combined velocity of 110 mph.

There is a reason football players make the big bucks. The abuse they put their bodies through has a cumulative effect, and they will pay for it later in life. Much like every injury, broken arm, or leg you might have had will cause a twinge of pain during a weather change, imagine your entire skeleton as if it were on fire.

No, there were no grand settlements. One of my lawyer friends told me he could make me a rich man. The persons who were culpable had the same insurance company. They would not have paid the price for what she enabled, and he did. He was obviously well known in that town, the cop protected him, only wrote him up for left of center.

I heard the argument between him and his wife. There was only a thin curtain that separated the two of us. “You promised me that you would not drink and drive if I got you that new car!”

“Well, we were out of beer and it was halftime. I was just going to Kroger.”

Pffft! Every day, over thirty years later I pay for his lack of judgment and her enabling him. I am certainly not alone.

Life goes on; you do the best you can. Hence the massages and chiropractors and the occasional doctor who remarks while looking at the x-rays…’I would hate to be in your body.’

It could be worse; I know it, so I press on. Hence retirement.

Many, too many, in fact, have given up. They have taken the government up on whatever entitlements they can get and just survive.

It is always a red flag to me when I speak with a friend, and they ask have I seen this or that on TV?

I don’t watch TV. I know how that sounds, but to me, it is noise. Those that you see on the screen cannot relate to you or me for the most part.

If it were not for writers, many would be as vapid as the force that makes balloons rise, hot air. Don’t believe me, find some on Twitter and read the garbage that they spew. From their ivory towers and gated communities, they scream, “let them eat cake.” ‘Cake was a metaphor for the scraps that fell off the table that the dogs got.’   

With few exceptions, there are not many I would like to meet. Introduce me to the writers; those are the geniuses.

You might have guessed by now that I had to re-invent myself once again.

I went from an engineer to computer support to the management of teams of folks working in the IT field. Back when I started, it was Data Processing, that tells you a little.

Today I am winding down my company www.timedok.com. The company serves many but mainly takes care of municipalities. All good things must end. The machines I sell and service are used less and less. The pandemic has expedited the process. The supply chain failure by this administration have not helped.

Currently, I am in the middle of writing a science fiction novel which you will hear more about if you follow me.

Why not just retire, you might ask?

One of the most repeated failures by retirees is they don’t plan for what they will do after the job. I cannot speak for women, but as a man, I can tell you that most of us identify with what we do for a living. Most of us take pride in what we do, and we do the best we can.

Suddenly you find your pay has reached some magical number that a bean counter has decided is too much. Around your company’s fiscal year end, your boss is given his budget. He or she is forced to let someone go to raise your salary or find someone less expensive than you, and keep as many employees as he or she can.

Usually, that happens long before you reach retirement age. Then what?

I started this blog at a certain age nobody wants you. It is not because of age discrimination per se but they know you were probably making a salary that would exceed what they could or are willing to afford. The application, which is a legal document, most of the time asked what your salary was.

If you didn’t plan for retirement both financially and with an idea of how you will occupy your time, what do you do?

The house you paid for undoubtedly you will find yourself taxed out of.

Thanks to the failures of the government of California, my taxes have exceeded what the original house payment was, and there are no signs of the taxes going down. In fact, if I were attempting to live off social security, the taxes would take most of it.

Why California? There seems to be a mass exodus from the west, because of the cost of living and taxes. Those from the West who voted for the policies which have destroyed their state are heading East. They most probably will not have figured out that their ideology, and the way they vote is why they are having to find jobs back East.

Government is good at taking what’s not theirs. It becomes easy to understand why there are those who learn how to take advantage of the system and live on whatever handouts they can get, including housing.

It is a form of socialism but shhh, the right is not aware of it yet. They still think if Bernie is not in office, we are fine.

The re-invention of myself is nothing unique. I see retired people in the hardware store earning whatever the government will allow them to earn without subtracting that amount from their (entitlements.) I was offered such a job not long ago. I chuckled at that offer and left with my purchases to play plumber at my home.

With this book I am working on, do I expect it to make me millions? No, I am, in fact, a realist. One of the largest issues with getting published today is that everyone thinks they can write.

These people range from school-age kids to retired people who have a story to tell. Once they create their tomb, they send it off to agents, where it sits in what is known as a slush pile.

The slush pile of want to be authors sits for days, weeks, or months until either they have time to sift through it or they hire their teenage child to sift through the thousands of entries, while he or she plays games on their phone.

No, I don’t expect the weeks to months I have invested in this project to make me rich. This project, much like learning to 3d print, or teaching myself python, is simply a transitionary device from working to retirement. Everyone needs a reason to get out of bed in the morning, or they die.

You can be old and have a terminal illness, and still have a quality of life while you are sucking in air. Don’t waste it.

If you want to understand why writing isn’t a get-rich scheme, look no further than Kindle Unlimited. Ten dollars a month to Jeff Bezos and read all you want. That book that you might have spent a year of your life creating is basically free to anyone that subscribes to KU.

Unlike those books in Barns and Noble that sell for real dollars, e-books are worthless. Services like his and others have programmed the reading public to believe that your efforts should be free to them.

I know of an author who spent 35 years creating one novel. No, I don’t think writing a book is a get-rich scheme unless you are a tv personality and can hype your book multiple times a day.

Writing the perfect novel, is only a small part of the puzzle. In the future we will be examining what those other parts might be, and how to pull them off without an agent.

Make sure you hit that follow button.

-Best

3 D Printing, Why?

3 D Printing, Why?

Like many of you, I suspect you might find you have more time on your hands these days.  Yes, there is still work but, virtual work?

Human interaction distinguishes us from furry friends who now have more freedom than we do.

This summer, as I watched a squirrel eat the last of my peaches, it was not lost on me that I was on the inside looking out.

Sanity is not overrated.

I began the ‘two weeks to flatten the curve’ much like Tom T Hall did in his song ‘A Week in A County Jail.’

I scoffed at the toilette paper shortage reports and laughed at the nutcases who scrambled to buy masks; after we were told we didn’t need them.

After a month went by, and we were commanded to wear masks, I wasn’t so antagonistic toward the people in the store yelling at others who did not have a mask of some kind on.

Much like the Bologna and scrambled eggs fed to our singer, songwriter friend, single ply TP wasn’t that bad when you could find it. 

It became apparent that the TV had to go.

Systematically, the different news feeds on my phone were also turned off or deleted one at a time.

Nature abhors a vacuum.

If I were not going to get my social addictions met via my usual methods and I had turned off the TV, what was my strategy for keeping sane to be?

While I am book smart, I am also one of those who can do whatever I put my mind to—not bragging, just a fact.

After catching up on a myriad of things I wanted to get done and with no reprieve from the pandemic insight, the next logical thing was to give Jeff Bezos more money.

Purchasing a 3D printer, much like waiting on the secret decoder ring from Ovaltine, the day arrived when Alexa announced there was movement at my front door.

By this stage of the game, I eagerly answered the door, speaking with salespeople, making friends with every kind of delivery person, and even social distancing with the landscapers who were not wild about talking with a customer. Whatever happened with the Jehovah’s Witness?  I have time…

Opening the box was eerily reminiscent of my erector set from about the same time as the decoder ring.

Assembling this thing was not for the faint of heart.

Up to the challenge, I spent the next two hours watching videos, with each one telling the viewer something a little different. Armed with the basics and lots of ‘tinkering experience,’ the games began.

At this point in the story, I was reminded of the Internet back before graphical user interfaces.  The only people who took advantage of the Internet were geeks. It was command-line driven, and like PCs as a whole, it was the interface that made it possible for Greg Shorthand to be placed alongside typewriters and stone tablets in the dustbin of history.

3D printers have been out for a while, and I waited for multiple reasons.  Time to tinker with it, was one of the main reasons.

Like installing rev 0 or 1.0 of any software is an invitation for arrows, or at least scars on your back, the bleeding edge of any technology is usually fraught with disillusionment.

While there is no doubt in my mind that someone will create a 3D printer that anyone can pluck out of the box, turn it on, and print stuff, today is not that day.

I entertained this idea in the first place, as I restore old radios. Knobs, other hardware, and maybe even cases could be printed. Would they have the same value?  No, but it would still be entertaining.

As of today about the only thing I have found this useful for is eating up lots of time, and making tchotchkes, or as I call them, dustables.   

While this is a popular model printer, it is from 2018, which is ancient in dog years. We heard how they were looking for people with these things to make parts for face shields.  

I find it humorous that one of the places you can use to create things is a place called ‘Tinkercad.’

After attempting some of the ‘highbrow’ cad software, Tinkercad is easy to use. If you get one of these printers, you had best like to tinker.

The two weeks to flatten the curve are now ten months. The curve appears alive and well.  

With winter on our back doors and, of course, the holidays, I would encourage everyone to do something positive and not dwell on what you cannot control.  Every subject that I loathed in school I went back and visited. Why?  Why not. When I think of the information at our fingertips, and it is taken for granted, it boggles my mind.

Social media is rife with animus from people who I would never expect. Then you have the fact-checkers who blatantly post their obnoxious views on anything they don’t happen to like. 

Yes, Facebook does not get much of my attention these days.  I don’t need people telling me what to think; you don’t either.

I might look at resin printers next after I push the envelope with the filament variety.

I sincerely hope you have a Merry Christmas.   If you are a 3D enthusiast, drop me a note. One can connect with communities, but why not connect with people who at least read what I write? 

Yes, the Jailers wife got much prettier each day, and so it goes.  -Best

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

 

Who is Steering the Ship?

Who is Steering the Ship?

 

  • Is the captain of a company the CEO?
  • Is it the board of directors?
  • Is it the Stockholders?

I would argue yes and no.  The customer most probably guides or “tugs” your ship through the turbulent waters of the industry you are in, more than you might think.

Since the driving force is out of your complete control, can your ship stand up to the pressures of high winds or traversing into territories which are uncharted? Is there a reef ahead waiting to break the spine of your vessel? Will Sirens lure your men into a false state of complacency?

While need necessitates the possible paths that you as the captain choose to follow, the infrastructure and robust nature of your data systems will be part of the viability of your success.

Companies must be robust enough to change directions or take on more massive task as the customer demands.  As an SME in Data processing (Information Systems) and Disaster Recovery, frequently I find through the audit process that the ship is traversing the waters without a rudder, and an engine that is held together with duct tape and bailing wire.

Some of the critical problems in this industry are human nature, underperforming CIO’s, and lackadaisical staff. Other issues often include a CIO taking on the job of CFO.

Encouraged by upper management to rain in cost, the CIO might look for ways to cut the budget using poor quality sheets, and used line, taken from derelict ships that have already made their way to Davy Jones locker.

When the proverbial fork in the road or in keeping with the metaphor, when the winds change, will your company be ready?

Often, Board Members or CEO’s look at disaster recovery like insurance.  It is much more than some policy that you purchase.

When you bring in a person or company, who specializes in Disaster Recovery many things happen.

The first two are a risk analysis and an audit of how you currently do business regarding Data processing. The scope, of course, can be more than just your data processing capabilities and often it is expanded to include all functions of your company.

Depending on the size of your company and its complexity this could be a project for a consultant, or it might include one or more FTE’s that maintain your ships viability into perpetuity.

While the Risk Analysis may or may not be a surprise to you, the audit will almost certainly be a surprise.  Nobody wants someone poking around in their business.

Frequently those in charge of the department will make themselves scarce.  While weekly meetings and deliverables are a must, I often find that an audit shakes things up, and that can be a good thing.  This process also exposes any weak links in the proverbial chain.

Your IT department is a dynamic part of your company and often is the engine which drives your ship. While frequently looked at as a cost center, without it, your company I dare say would die on the vine or flounder.

In the final examination of your company, we will discover if you are ready for the next opportunity or the next fork in the road.  We might also learn that you are treading water.

When the prevailing winds shift directions, will your ship be able to adjust?

Smooth Sailing!

© All Rights Reserved 2018

Scott Taylor

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

 

When Should You Replace Equipment and Why

When Should You Replace Equipment and Why

 

 

Today I thought I would talk about a subject that is near and dear to the hearts of most CFO’s.  Money and budgets.

 

In the IT ARENA as it were all hardware has a lifespan.

 

  • Desktops 5 years
  • Laptops 3 years
  • Tablets, PDA’s and phones about 2. *

 

HAM or Hardware Asset Management is close cousins to SAM or Software asset management.

Many that I deal with in this industry are loath to do either of these.

 

Why?

What seems so intuitive to a business minded person is out in left field to the IT Manager.

 

While most hardcore IT people will undoubtedly have the updated newest most magnificent PC at home, they will be loath to keep the hardware at work current.  Either budgetary constraints, lack of planning on their IT staff, laziness or foolishness on managements parts while keeping the dinosaurs alive.

IT is a moving target.

One of my clients was experiencing a strange anomaly on one of their machines.  I was there for other reasons, and they ask me if I had ever seen anything like it.

 

On occasion, the mouse pointer would change with some strange addition to it, making the original tip Indistinguishable from where it should be pointing.

 

Nobody has seen everything and the same is true for me.  Offering my services, as they did not have the time for this, I did the usual stuff.

After hours of doing my routine including removing the hard drive and running scans on it outside of its operating system, the problem looked more and more like hardware.  Faulty graphics adapter perhaps.

After moving the PC into the shop, the problem disappeared.

Going back to the work area where the PC was, under the desk was an old UPS.  Taking the UPS into the shop and checking it out, I soon discovered that the sine wave of 60 cycles was anything but clean and, it was not holding the right voltages even though the battery was good.   Upon further investigation, I learned that they had a routine of replacing batteries in old UPS’s and putting them back out.

Putting a new ups under the ladies desk, solved the problem.  It was a $79 solution which should have been automatic.

I don’t want to go into the weeds here, but electronics have a lifespan.  Things called MOV’s for one (metal oxide Varistor) are sacrificial devices that are designed to clamp power spikes keeping them from going downstream, in this case, into your PC and monitor.  They have a finite lifespan.

UPS’s or Uninterruptable power supplies are insurance.  When the battery dies, replace them.

Recycle them after you remove the battery and dispose of it accordingly.   I would bet that all over every office building they have surge protectors that are no longer functioning.  For the same reason, they too have an MOV across the 120V AC line.  They die!

I have written about PC’s lifespan before, so I don’t want to repeat myself.

Hardware Asset Management protects the company in many ways.

You should never put an old machine at someone desk having them limp by with a clunker when they need a Corvette. The software today is memory and CPU intensive with the ever growing demands of anti-virus software and the numerous updates, it is worse.

Soft dollars are real.  If you have employees that cannot work because their network is down, that is real money!

Employing a good software deployment strategy along with keeping the same model of machine in the business is wise, and worth looking into.

Software and Hardware management are critical pieces of a business strategy.

One client I had, bought whatever was on sale on New Egg.  Support was a bloody nightmare and oh by the way, why do you think it is on sale?

Always purchase from a VAR, and build that relationship with them.  You may need them one day!

Leasing vs. owning is worth looking into for many reasons.  Bottom line, you change out the PC’s every few years, and you get the same PC to support throughout the company.

The clunkers end up on eBay and eventually, someone somewhere will be playing solitaire on it.   Today’s Corvettes are tomorrow Clunkers, simple truth! 

Depending on the size of your company software licensing needs to be evaluated and care taken to make sure that you are in compliance. An enterprise license is excellent to have if you are large enough. Software and licensing are evolving daily it seems, with lease being the operative word.  Subscription services much like antivirus software is commonplace, ensuring a revenue stream for the developers.

Gone are the days of buying a box of software with a few floppy disk and using it forever.

I was visiting some friend when I saw an old 486 computer sitting on his mother’s desk.

My first computer was a Kaypro, and I went through the 8088 @4.7 mhz to GHz and beyond.  To see the old 486 running with Solitaire on the screen and windows version three, you could see the mindset and how it evolved.

I recently trashed (recycled) a bin full of disks with programs, backups, and god only knows what all.  The next week I tossed an entire bookshelf full of technical books from Novell to MSCE windows NT stuff.  Thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours studying in the bin.  SAD

Your PC is not too dissimilar from your car.  You don’t buy it as a thing but as a resource. When your vehicle starts to spend more time in the shop than on the road, you trade it in.  The same is true of your PC, Laptop and the rest.

Somewhere in my closet I still have a 16mg stick of memory that I paid over $500 for back in the early 80’s.  $500 back then was a lot of cash.  The stick of memory is nothing.  What it did for me was why I bought it.

If you are not connected to the internet as long as you can keep your 486 running, and it does what you need it to do, it is viable.  If you still have a copy of lotus 123, you too can relive the days of / .. 🙂

 

*  2 years on the average portable device is recommended because they are portable, and often dropped.  If you budget 2 years, you can indeed budget correctly.

 

If you find my blogs helpful or entertaining, please follow me.

 

-Best

Why should you use Rent-A-Geeks for your disaster recovery drills?

Why should you use Rent-A-Geeks for your disaster recovery drills?

 

The pushback I get on this one topic is phenomenal.  Their IT people who know their boss better than I, always question the need for a disaster recovery audit in the first place.

“I Get it!  To them, that is synonymous with taking your shoebox full of tax information to the IRS and asking them for an audit. Please let me suffer through an audit because I love pain!”

So who in their right mind would do it?

I can think of no better argument than Puerto Rico.  That island was wiped off the map.  They have no power grid left.  They have no data communications and let’s face it; It will take years for them to recover.

I had customers there, but I bet that those businesses may no longer be viable.

They are requesting of all things truck drivers, among their many lists of needs.  Why?

Their truck drivers were affected by the buss’s called Irma and then Maria.

I am speaking to the owners of businesses with this next sentence. “Folks, your IT guy that tells you that you don’t need an outside firm or audit, is setting you up for disaster.”

Objectivity is essential.  You need an honest assessment by someone who does not have a dog in that fight.

If a team of rent-a-geeks cannot restore your company at a warm site, the DR plan that you think you have is worthless. It may satisfy the ISO folks or the other government or banking or insurance companies, but the sad truth is, in an actual Disaster your people may not be around to add their collective knowledge to the process.

One client did not even look at one I prepared for them.  When I asked if he wanted to go over it he shook his head.  “No, I just need something for the auditor to show that we have one.”

My reports go to you the customer, nowhere else.  My recommendations are put forth in a clear, concise manner that you will not need your IT guy to explain to you.  Read and understand my blogs on the topic and then ask the critical questions.  If you hold your SA’s feet to the fire or your CIO’s feet to the fire, you will far better off than most of the firms I deal with.

One firms CIO that I worked with was not suited for desktop wizard much less the end all be all guru of all things technology.  Now if numbers are what interested the CEO, this was his guy.  He could pinch a nickel with the best of them. “Penny wise pound foolish,” should be on this man’s card.

It does not take an Irma or Maria to sink your business.  It only takes a Ted or Bob or a fire of some small part in the computer room to decimate your company.  Assume nothing!  Do you have the right employees doing the job?

Pray for our brothers and sisters in Puerto Rico, and if you have the ability, you might consider donating something to some of the excellent organizations who are working so hard to bring some relief to those affected.

Having lived through Alicia, I would not wish that on my worst enemy.

 

-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

Are we cooking ourselves? Here is some food for thought.

Are we cooking ourselves? Here is some food for thought.

 

As a technology minded person, I often wondered about those who design cordless devices.  In particular, I am addressing phones.  I assume some government agency somewhere spent millions of your tax dollars to come up with what someone thinks are safe levels of radiation.

Maybe these people know more than the rest of us, or maybe they don’t.

Case in point.

The standard cordless phone in 2017 most probably transmits to the base either at 900 MHz or 2.4 GHz.  While your phone may advertise the higher frequency of 5.4 GHz that is most probably from the base to the phone.

Split frequency designs like this are prudent as it takes more power to transmit higher frequencies.

Now, these cell phones that we all carry around transmit either in the 850 MHz range or 1.8 ~1.9 GHz range.

MHz (Mega Hertz) stands for millions of cycles per second,  GHz is (Giga Hertz) or billions of cycles per second.  So every second depending upon the frequency, the RF (radio frequency) cycles millions or billions of time.  IE 2.4 GHz is 2 billion, four hundred million, cycles per second.

Frequency should not be confused or conflated with power.

Power for our conversation today is watts.  How much power or how many watts of RF (radio frequency) are we talking about?

Cell phones transmit up to 1.7 watts of power.

Cordless phones transmit as much and possibly more than a cell phone.  The interesting aspect of this is there is this DECT (Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications) technology that has been around for a little while now.  They sell it as a plus but European studies have shown this might be more hazardous to your health than its predecessor.

The base of this technology is transmitting full power all the time whether your phone is in use or not. If the base is next to your bed or on your desk you are constantly bombarded with 5.4 GHz or at the least 2.4 GHz of radiated power in the form of RF.

Move it away from your body.

Why am I writing about this?

Ever since the first cell phones came out I wondered what they were doing and why.  These phones are always talking to the cell towers announcing their availability and telling them where they are while checking in.  The phone was and is smart enough to adjust its power level depending upon what is needed to communicate with the tower effectively.  The reasons are many but the main idea is to “talk” with one cell tower at a time.

My phone, even today will often time be warm in my pocket, or just sitting on the desk.

While we really have no idea what a smartphone is doing all the time, you can bet if it is warm, it is transmitting something.

IMG_4513

I built this little device with a few diodes.  I will not belabor the technical aspects of this device other than to say it does not have any batteries.  These devices are passive in that the only way that they are energized would be by outside energy fields or EM (electromagnetic) forces.

I got the idea from the crystal radio of my youth.  Yes, I built one and housed it inside a pen casing.  With a single diode and a coil and very little know how I had a radio that would pick up local radio stations and never needed a battery.

Since my original device that I designed and built years ago, I found this version on the internet for a few dollars.

Setting this thing on top of my phone it soon became obvious that the cell phone is transmitting constantly.

  • Is it looking for data?
  • Is the phone talking to the tower?
  • Is the phone talking to my Wi-Fi network?

The answer is yes.  We really have no idea if the phone is doing anything else in the (tin foil hat category).

Now with 1.7 watts of RF at 2GHz, give or take, right next to your ear hole, one has to wonder if that is healthy.

Out of curiosity, I moved my device around the phone to discover that the most of the radiation or highest amounts come out of the phone right by the earpiece.  Why?

Knowing RF and the possible link to brain tumors, lymphoma and other nasty things why would the engineers put the transmitting antenna where it would be closest to your head?

This is the iPhone 6S.

IMG_4506

My curiosity got the best of me so I checked my cordless phones.

IMG_4513

The light powered strictly by RF from the phone is very bright, right on the ear hole and down by the mouthpiece, the light, or power output is nonexistent.

IMG_4510

Imagine that your phone has enough RF power to illuminate an LED to full intensity and that energy is being pumped into your head right through your ear hole and of course next to your skull.

Tell me; why in the hell would you not put the antenna at the base of the phone where it would be furthest away from the body/brain?  The energy required to light the led dissipates with distance.  Logic would dictate that the less energy radiated close to your brain would be a good thing.

The pictures speak for themselves but now you know what you are looking at.

What can we do?

First off, we should ask the government for our money back that they paid for these studies.  One would think that if they can come up with SAR (specific absorption rate) and what is safe that just maybe they might have said, “you know, you phone makers should place the transmitter/antenna away from their brains.”

It is kind of like that commercial where the bank is being robbed and the guard says, “Oh I am not a guard, just a monitor… you are being robbed.”  What good is the FCC if they cannot think outside the box? The government, which they are part of, is to protect its citizens from faulty designs, much like the Corvair of the 60’s.  Where is Ralph Nader these days?

It is amazing to me that they did scientific studies to figure out how much tissue would cook or be damaged by rf.  Then they came up with the acronym SAR and finally did nothing more about it.  “Look for a phone with a low SAR rating.”  Are there labels, using this phone can cause brain cancer?”

What is so germane about 2.4 GHz and why am I sounding a little stressed about this?

That box in your kitchen that burns popcorn so nicely happens to work in that same frequency range.

Since there are millions of microwave ovens out there the FCC put broadband Wi-Fi, cordless phones, and many other unlicensed transmitters that the public uses in that same frequency range as the microwave oven.   Part of your license on each piece of equipment reads something to the effect that this device must accept and deal with  RFI or radiofrequency interference.

How does the microwave oven work and what does that have to do with my phone?

Microwave energy excites the molecules in stuff causing them to move faster.  Much like rubbing your hands together you get friction which causes heat.  That is how a microwave heats your lean cuisine dinner or left-overs from Sunday Brunch.  Yes it uses more power but I ask you, would you stick your head in your microwave to see how long it takes to fry your brains?  Consider the cell phone or cordless phone like a microwave crock pot, it might take longer but eventually, something is bound to be heated up.

Just for you people who think that I am a tin foil hat kind of person think of this one. 

How many of our urchins you call grade schoolers now have the very latest iPhone sticking out of the back pocket.  A trip to any mall will answer this question.  Even if it is a hand me down generation 5, it puts out all sorts of power right next to that thinner more malleable skull and younger more tender, still forming brain tissue.

Then there is this whole blood brain barrier thing that doctors talk about.  Does it really seem like a wise idea to put that kind of power that close to those newly formed brain cells?  They are future tax payers you know. Wink wink…

Possibly one of them will say, “someone should really put the transmitter in the base of this thing away from my brain.” Will it take a child to figure this out?  Maybe a riot on the Berkly campus to get the attention of corporate america who might tend to overlook such things.

I know, I am gettin my tin foil out… 

With telecommunications being a multi-trillion dollar industry it is no wonder that this is overlooked.  Much like the back scatter x-ray porn scanners at the airport which virtually strip search you, there is a greater good.  Bombarding our bodies with ionizing radiation is not harmful as long as the government says that it is ok. (sarcasm)

Calling attention to it might cost Nokia or Apple or Panasonic a few dollars.  What is the big deal about a few brain tumors, “can you hear me now?”

Since industry will probably not respond, how can you protect yourself?

Blue Tooth technology also uses RF in the same 2.4 GHz range but the power is very low.  A class one transmitter uses about 1mw or Millie Watt.  There is a newer headset that wraps around your neck with the earpiece extending from them.  That would put the blue tooth transceiver around your neck away from your brain.

Try to always use a headset or speakerphone, and if they still have them, a corded phone.

Use e-mail or text and by all means try talking to people face to face.  I know that is a radical concept but, I don’t think you are in danger of getting exposed to radiation that way.

About the device…

While the original crystal radio of my day used a 1N34 germanium diode this device uses nine 1SS86 diodes one tied to the other with an LED as one of the diodes.  The legs are purposefully left long like that as they act as the antenna to capture any energy that might be present.

If you are creative you could make it look like a bug with a tail and a head that glowed.  Just a thought.

I am not claiming to be an expert on any of this.  Just a person who thinks common sense is in limited supply.  These days we too readily accept that which is, without asking why.  Ask Why!

Cheers!

Scott