Diary of a Network Geek

The trials and tribulations of a Certified Novell Engineer who's been stranded in Houston, Texas.

10/27/2011

The Half-Life of IT Skills

Filed under: Career Archive,Certification,Geek Work — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:44 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a New Moon

There is one, apparently.

So, it seems someone has figured out the answer to an old question which has often plagued IT professionals: How long are your skills good?  According to Eric Bloom, over at IT World, longer than you think.  He claims that the tech skills you have now will be half as marketable in two years.  If you read Slashdot, you’ve seen this article and the comments that followed.  Here are my thoughts, though.

First, I think it depends on the skills involved.
For example, if you’re working on Windows Server, your skills will probably translate fairly well and that two-year half-life is about right.  For Unix, maybe a bit longer than that.  For Novell, well, sadly, I’m not sure who actually uses that old warhorse any more, as much as it makes me sad to write it.  For other, less vendor oriented skills, I think two-years may be a bit short-sighted.  Take routers, for instance.  Now basic routing hasn’t really changed in quite a long time.  Even Cisco routers, the creme-de-la-creme of enterprise routers, haven’t really changed that much on the inside in the last 15 years.  I was in one the other day and I have to admit I was shocked at how quickly the skills came back to me after quite literally years of disuse.  Far more than two years, I might add.
Also, skills that are a little harder to quantify certainly stay “fresh” longer than those hypothetical two years.  Things like troubleshooting and the so-called soft skills involved with user support are something that I think are deeply engrained in someone.  They’re part of a work ethic.  So the customer service skills I learned more than 20 years ago when I worked for Hyatt Hotels are certainly still more than “good”.

Secondly, Mr. Bloom is talking about marketability, not actual utility.
So, the fact that, for instance, I don’t have a Cisco certification, even though I’m clearly capable of configuring a Cisco router, means that quite probably was never what he would have considered a “marketable skill”.  In fact, based on what many recruiters may have felt about the marketability of my skills, I should be farming beets right now, not working as the Lead Tech/IT Manager of a fairly prosperous design and manufacturing company.  Instead, of course, all through my career, I’ve managed to talk my way through the door and then show the people in charge that versatility and adaptability, not to mention mad Google-query-crafting skills, are far more important than any specific past experience or certification.

So, what about you, gentle readers?  What do you think?  How long are tech skills “good”?  And does working on legacy systems harm your future employability?

4/22/2009

Upgrading My Laptop Hard Drive

Filed under: Fun,Fun Work,Geek Work,GUI Center,The Network Geek at Home — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:18 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

Right, so this weekend I upgraded my laptop’s internal hard drive.

SeagateMobileSATA500GB

My trusty Toshiba Satellite, which I used all through my chemotherapy treatments almost two years ago, came with an 80 GB hard drive and was starting to fill up. All the pictures I take add up, I guess, especially when I shoot in RAW format. So, I decided that with drives being as cheap as they were, it was time for an upgrade. As I wrote Monday, I scooted over to MicroCenter and picked up a 500 GB Seagate 2.5inch, mobile, SATA drive on Saturday. They were on sale for $115, which is, I think, a pretty damn good price. I got a couple other things, too, since the drive upgrade and a previous memory upgrade makes my laptop the most capable machine in my house, outside of the servers upstairs. (Why are so many non-tech people surprised when I mention that I ran cable and have a server room, with servers?) Oh, and before I get too far, let me mention that you can click on any of the pictures here for larger versions if you want a closer look than the thumbnail. Just click back when you’re done admiring my work.

KingwinEZ-Connect02

The other essential piece of hardware to start out with is an external USB drive adapter of some kind. I bought the Kingwin EZ-Connect, pictured here. I got that at an earlier trip to MicroCenter, with whom I do NOT have an endorsement deal, by the way. I just love their store. In any case, I got this particular one for two reasons. First, it was under $30. Second, it could handle the three major types of drives that I’m likely to encounter on a regular basis.

KingwinEZ-Connect01

What you get in the box, as you can see, is a USB cable, a drive adapter, a power adapter and a power supply. Oh, you also get a small CD that has some drivers, which you don’t actually need if you’re using Windows XP, and some simple backup software. I didn’t actually use this software, but, rather, I went to Seagate’s website and downloaded their free utility called DiskWizard. There were a number of reasons why this made sense for this situation. For one thing, I didn’t want to just back up the drive, but I wanted to make a bit-for-bit mirror copy of the drive so that I can replace the old one and still have a bootable, working computer. For another, I’m familiar with Seagate’s utility and have successfully used it before.

So, after installing DiskWizard following the default prompts, I hooked up my new drive via the USB adapter.

CloningDrive

I did install the included software and the drive was immediately recognized. Then, again, I simply followed the DiskWizard prompts with a single false step when I had to go back and change an option in the cloning configuration to make sure the new drive was set to be bootable. I cannot stress that enough! When doing this, you absolutely must make sure that the new drive is being configured to be bootable, system drive. If you don’t do that, your machine will not boot when you change out the drive. If you use DiskWizard, it will require a reboot. In fact, after setting your configuration, the software will prompt you to reboot and, after the software reboots your machine, it will automatically launch and start the cloning process. The actual drive cloning took about an hour or two. I was running around doing other things, so I didn’t get a good time on it. Best just to allow several hours and, like I did, do other things to amuse yourself while you wait.

UnplugandRemoveBattery

Now, it’s important to remember to both unplug your laptop and disconnect the battery. Just unplugging won’t be enough to make your laptop safe to work on. As long as that battery is in there, you could suddenly have a jolt of electricity jump through the circuits and make any planned upgrades pretty much useless. Also? A little jolt of juice can bite you pretty hard, especially when you’re not expecting it!

The next step, obviously, is to remove the old drive.

OldDriveOut

In my case, it was pretty easy. In the past, on some laptops, getting the drive out required taking the whole machine almost totally apart. I’ll never forget having to take a laptop’s entire keyboard off the top of the case to get to drive bay! I had to take the screen off at the hinge and everything! It was a dangerous, delicate mess! But, on today’s laptops, you mostly just have to take off a single panel, as you can see in the picture. The drive was in there really snugly, thanks, in part, to the rubber, anti-vibration sleeves meant to keep the drive quieter in a laptop. What I found interesting, however, is that there were no screws holding the drive itself in. No cages or straps or anything outside of the SATA connections and the tightness of the fit. Because, the drive bay door fit very snugly and I had to apply pressure to get it in place correctly and screwed shut again.

NewDriveIn

On the right, you can see the drive bay still open with the new, freshly cloned drive in it and the old, small drive laying next to it.

This was actually a pretty simple upgrade to make. It was what I generally refer to as a “one screwdriver job”. By that I mean that I could mainly have done it with the tiny pocket tool I carry with me in my pocket. Though, in this case, I used the old, cheap red-handled screwdriver in the picture. It’s a freebie that is often used as a giveaway by tool companies. I’ve had that one since my first IT job, back when I worked for Hyatt Hotels. It’s a little beat up now, but it can still handle a nice, easy job like this.

NewDriveVeryGood

As you can see, the formatted drive is a little smaller than advertised. Also, they tend to round up a little and bytes and megabytes and gigabytes aren’t round numbers, so the math gets a little funky. Oh, and there was a special 251Meg partition that couldn’t be clearly identified by DiskWizard, even though it cloned the partition just fine. So, when you factor in all those things, you can see the nice, big partition, which is mostly empty and waiting for me to fill it up with great pictures!
Well, that’s the plan at least.

In any case, now you have some idea how to change out a laptop hard drive if you should ever want to upgrade for yourself. I really left out a lot of the nitty-gritty detail that I felt was either self-explanatory or that you should really know how to do before attempting this in the first place. Perhaps not the best tutorial, but at least a good step-by-step overview of how to get it done!

1/7/2008

Be the Change

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Deep Thoughts,Life Goals,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:38 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a New Moon

I’m trying to make my life congruent with my beliefs.

It’s not always easy for me to live morally and ethically. Not that I have such high standards, mind, but, well, sometimes I can be a real bastard.
Back just shortly after starting my first job, I started donating money to the Untied Way via my paycheck at work. At the time, they were running a contest to get more people to give and I won it. That wasn’t my intention when I started giving, but I still enjoyed the vacation I won. A college buddy and I used that vacation to go to Los Angeles and, thanks to my free room nights I got as a benefit of working for Hyatt Hotels, stayed for a week and did a bunch of sight-seeing. One of the places we went was the Hard Rock Cafe, LA. We went because I saw a camera man wearing a letterman-style jacket from there and I just had to own one. My buddy thought it was hilarious that the motto on the front was “Love All, Serve All” because I’d gotten a degree in Marketing and was a well know bastard in college. The idea that I might server anyone, without getting compensated for it, apparently amused him quite a bit.

Well, I’ve grown into that jacket a bit in recent years. Especially since the divorce and surviving cancer. The older I get, the more I find myself wanting to give back a little more to the world at large.
So, when I came into a little money near the end of last year, I decided to give a little more than a third of that to various charitable causes. First, there was someone at church who was in a tight spot due to a nasty divorce. When there was a collection for her, I contributed what for me was a healthy amount. Then, too, I wrote a decent check to my church directly. Those folks really supported me when I was diagnosed with cancer and I was eager to give a little back.
I also donated some money to WordPress, which may be an odd “charity” considering how well they’re doing. But, that was about putting my money where my mouth is. I love WordPress. I used to use other software to blog with, and every once in a while someone suggests others to try, but WordPress has a philosophy that I can really stand behind. That group of folks makes damn good software, and gives it away. That deserves my support, so I gave it.

Finally, in an effort to act globally, I gave some money to Kiva.org. They do micro-loans to small businesses in third-world countries. The loans may not seem like much by American standards, but they can make the difference between prosperity and despair in a small village somewhere.
You can see who I loaned to, and how their business is doing, here:
http://www.kiva.org/lender/james5285
It’s a small thing, to me, but I hope it will make all the difference in the world to them.

So, in short, I’m trying to live up to the arguments I used to make in college about how society should work.  I’m trying to live my beliefs for a change.
I’m doing my best to be the change I want to see in the world.


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"Millions long for immortality who don't know what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon."
   --Susan Ertz


Powered by WordPress
Any links to sites selling any reviewed item, including but not limited to Amazon, may be affiliate links which will pay me some tiny bit of money if used to purchase the item, but this site does no paid reviews and all opinions are my own.