Diary of a Network Geek

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

10/9/2019

Value vs Expense

Filed under: Career Archive,Geek Work,Never trust a Network Admin with a screwdriver,The Day Job — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Snake which is mid-morning or 10:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

Sometimes, the raw numbers don’t really tell us how expensive something is.

One of the regular struggles we have in IT is that we are an expense. The bottom line is that, for most businesses, we don’t generate revenue and are strictly a cost center. And, unfortunately, in my experience, because we’re a cost center, spending on technology is resented almost as much as paying the electric bill or paying taxes; a necessary evil. What gets lost, I think, is the value provided by technology. To start with, much like electricity, business generally doesn’t work at all without IT. Technology runs the point-of-sale systems and the Accounting systems that even make it possible to collect and track money. Without it, business would simply halt. But, beyond that, the cost of the actual technology often overshadows the value provided.
Not too long ago, I had this same argument with a fellow IT professional who was mired in the numbers. To their credit, they were examining a potential equipment purchase from a strictly financial point of view. Since the Accounting Department or CFO are often the final decision-makers on technology purchases, seeing this process through their eyes can be beneficial. The problem is that the full potential value of upgraded equipment can easily be forgotten in the drive to spend the absolute least dollar amount possible. Don’t get me wrong! Technology costs absolutely have to be kept under control or IT people will focus only on getting the newest toys to play without considering the cost to the organization. But, the actual spending has to be appropriately balanced with the value provided by the purchase. As technology professionals, it’s part of our job to present not only the minimum and best options available, but what advantages there may be to making a particular purchase. Sometimes, the value of upgraded technology goes well beyond the dollar value.
Take, for instance, the opportunity to upgrade from a standard two server, one storage area network system, that was new technology fifteen years ago, to a hyperconverged system that spreads computing and storage capacity across four servers or hosts. It’s absolutely valid to look at the raw cost of the two solutions. And, you will absolutely see that buying two classic servers is less expensive than buying four modern hyperconverged nodes. But, if you stop there, you don’t see the added value of less downtime due to a hardware outage that can be avoided by upgrading to a newer, redundant technology. Or, the increased speed and efficiency gained by upgrading to a modern system purpose-built to run in a cutting-edge datacenter. Maybe there will be more opportunity to add capacity to the new system as the company grows. Or maybe there are business continuity advantages to a hyperconverged system beyond additional, redundant hardware. Though, to be honest, I think that’s reason enough!
Regardless, my point is that as technology professionals, we need to clearly communicate all the risks and benefits, expenses and added values, of our purchases. As subject matter experts, it’s in everyone’s best interests for us to educate decision-makers beyond the dollars-and-cents bottom line, to give them a true understanding of the value to be gained beyond the simple expense of a purchase.

This post originally appeared on my LinkedIn profile.

9/26/2019

Customer Service

Filed under: Career Archive,Geek Work,Never trust a Network Admin with a screwdriver,The Day Job — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Snake which is mid-morning or 10:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

It never stops being important.

I think of myself as lucky in many ways. I trained in sales, but fell into IT work early in my career and found that I was good at it. I also was lucky enough to win a free training course and series of tests that got me my first big IT certification. But, I think the luckiest thing that happened to me in my early career is getting trained in customer service by Hyatt Hotels, known the world over for their excellence in service and training.
Of course, I’d worked retail jobs before working for Hyatt so I had at least some idea what it was like to work directly with the public, but Hyatt’s training really drilled us to be always thinking about the customer. I was taught to be thinking about the guest, or customer, as soon as I was visible in public areas, which in the hospitality industry is called “front of the house”. The last part of my uniform I put on was my smile, because, regardless of how I felt, I was there to do a job; make the customer feel welcome and important. But, there were the little things, too, like how we’re all part of a team serving the customer and if we saw trash in the guest areas, we should pick it up and not wait for cleaning crews to get to it. We were taught to work as a team, all the time, to make our customers feel as though we cared. And, the funny thing is, the simple act of pretending that we cared eventually meant we did.
As an IT professional, I am still in a customer service role. Even if I’m working with department heads or C-Suite executives, in the end, I’m still providing a service and need to pay attention to my customer, internal or external. But, don’t think that Accountants or Sales Managers or Truck Drivers or any other person delivering a good or service doesn’t have a customer and that those customers deserve good service! It’s something I think is forgotten or ignored. As an employee, I always have someone who is benefiting from my work; my internal customers, if you will. And, those people are entitled to me helping them to the best of my ability with as much friendliness and cheer as I can manage.
I know the idea is old-fashioned and falling out of vogue, but I still believe that good customer service, regardless of who my customer may be, is just the final layer of professionalism that can set us apart, as individuals and organizations.

This post originally appeared on my LinkedIn profile.

9/10/2019

Internal Customers

Filed under: Career Archive,Geek Work,Never trust a Network Admin with a screwdriver,The Day Job — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Snake which is mid-morning or 10:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

The metaphor of “internal customers” is unfortunately falling out of favor.

Lately, I’ve seen articles criticizing the idea of having internal customers. It’s a shame, really, because the people who are so willing to abandon that idea seem to be doing so because they don’t understand why it’s so powerful. The criticisms I’ve heard fall under two basic categories; accounting-focused people who don’t want to “charge” departments for internal services and people who seem to think the need for collaboration with other business units removes the need to provide customer service to end users. They’re both coming from some incorrect assumptions and, I’d argue, a misunderstanding of what services IT provides in an organization.
As technical people, in most organizations, we provide support functions. Any service-based group absolutely must pay attention to the service provided to those who use that service; their customers. People who incorrectly think that the old practice of charging the cost of internal IT services back to the departments who use them is a reason to abandon the entire idea of internal customers are losing sight of the goal behind the metaphor. The goal is not, as they seem to think, to make sure everyone pays equally to support the IT department. The goal is to remind technical personnel that the systems and networks we manage aren’t defined by the hardware and software, but rather the end-users who actually use the technology we provide as tools to do their jobs. When we forget that, we forget that our goal is to serve those end-users, not the systems. That sad, mistaken idea is clearly expressed in the old system admin joke, “My network would run perfectly if not for the users!” I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard technical experts grumble about what a waste of time user requests are instead of seeing how it’s our only reason to exist. As a technical expert, my only reason to be employed is to solve other people’s problems, to provide service to my customers, the end users.
And, that leads directly to the second misunderstanding I see used as an objection to the end user as customer metaphor; technical experts cannot collaborate to provide solutions AND be mindful of customer service at the same time. We would do well to remember what the genius R. Buckminster Fuller said about solving problems, “When I am working on a problem, I never think about beauty but when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong.” If I “solve” a technical problem for a user, but they wrestle with my solution so much that they never use it, then I haven’t actually solved their problem at all (ie. It’s not a “beautiful” solution to the problem.). A perfectly workable procedure that the user doesn’t understand or finds too difficult to use regularly is as good as useless and I’ve failed my customer. I can’t make my internal customers happy every single time, but I ought to be trying because the only reason I’m employed is to solve their problems well and in a timely fashion.
I could go on a great length about all the ways I’ve seen technical people abuse their internal customer, the end user. In the old days of “big iron” mainframes, it was unfortunately all too common. Today, we should know better and embrace our roles as service providers making business run more smoothly, efficiently and well. Let’s stop making customer service a joke and help our users be better.

This post originally appeared on my LinkedIn profile.

7/19/2019

Free Windows 10 Tools

Filed under: Better Living Through Technology,Fun,Geek Work,MicroSoft — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

Two free utilities to help tame Windows 10.

Y’all know I love free stuff and share it with you often here, especially on Friday. Actually, I pretty much exclusively post and share anything at all on Fridays, but, still, you get my point. In any case, virtually all consumer laptops and desktops are sold with Windows 10 now, but most of us are still trying to get all the settings and configurations locked down the way we like. Or maybe that’s just the professional geeks like me. Either way, with the goal of taming Windows 10 just a little bit more, I have two utilities from the same company to share with you this week. Both are free for home (ie. non-commercial) users.
First there’s O&O ShutUp10, which lets you get tighter control over what parts of Windows 10 communicates with Microsoft and advertisers. You don’t even need to install it. Just download it and run it. It will give you suggestions and hints on locking down location services and privacy settings so that you aren’t leaking information you don’t want to share.
The other is O&O AppBuster which lets you remove the automatically installed apps that Microsoft includes with Windows 10, whether you want them or not. It also lets you remove the hidden apps that seem like they’re part of the operating system but really aren’t. So, for instance, if you wanted to get rid of all the XBOX 360 cruft on your Windows 10 laptop, since you don’t play games but are writing the great American novel, this app would let you do that. Also, just like the last one, it’s free and doesn’t need to be installed to run and do its magic.

So, not quite as exciting as free games or stories, but maybe more useful.
Enjoy!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

6/7/2019

PowerToys 2019

Filed under: Better Living Through Technology,Geek Work,MicroSoft,The Day Job — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

Some reboots are better than others.

Sometimes, I talk about really geeky things here, mostly because I AM a geek, but also because I am a professional geek. This is one of those times.
Back in the days of Windows 95 and Windows XP, Microsoft made a whole set of little tools that fankly should have been included in the operating system to begin with. Things like TweakUI that let you change almost every aspect of the look and feel of Windows, including where some system folders resided. There were other tools, too, like things thta would let you synchronize folders and autoplay CDs and, one of my favorites, Command Prompt Here that let you open, you guessed it, a command prompt in any folder from the Windows FileManager. Those little tools sort of fell off in popularity after those versions of Windows, but hard-core users and oldsters like me still remember them fondly.
Well, according to Lifehacker, Microsoft is bringing PowerToys back! What’s more, they’re making them open source, so you’ll be able to download the source code and write your own! Of course, they don’t have TweakUI in this batch of goodies, yet, but I’m sure some enterprising, young programmer will dive into the Microsoft GitHub PowerToys repository, and figure out a way to make all our old favorites. In any case, it’s a good space to watch for new utilities that may be useful to you. And, of course, it’s free, which is why I’m sharing it with you on a Friday.
Enjoy!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

10/26/2018

Save Your Work

Filed under: Better Living Through Technology,Geek Work,The Day Job — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning or 7:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

Have you ever lost form data on the web?

I hate when I’m typing into a form on a website and something happens, then all my data goes poof. Seriously. It’s super frustrating for me, because sometimes, when I’m putting in a support request for work, those forms have a LOT of data in them and losing it can really throw a monkey-wrench in my day.
Or, worse yet, when I’m setting up blog posts, I can really get into a writing groove and then my internet connection might blink and, again, poof, all that hard work is gone. Granted, I should be saving the draft as I go along, but, even though I may seem like a tech god to some, I’m really just a regular human who doesn’t always follow best practices. Sad, but true.
In the past, I’ve used a great Chrome plugin called Lazarus to help me recover lost form data, but that plugin has gone away. Now, though, there’s Typio Form Recovery. Sadly, it’s only available for the Chrome browser, so if you use Firefox or something else, you’ll have to find another alternative. It IS free, though, so there is that. Also? If you know of a similar plugin for Firefox, please, leave a comment with information about it!
And, yeah, I know, not exactly “fun”, but, hey, come back next week and see if I can do better!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

10/19/2018

Scamming Scammers

Filed under: Fun,Geek Work,The Day Job — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning or 7:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

There’s a special place in hell for scammers that take advantage of the technologically weak.

Okay, yes, in some sense, my entire career is based on being more tech savy than pretty much everyone around me, but I’m pretty open about what I’m doing. Also, I’m actually trying to help and, frankly, it’s what I get paid to do. I mean, I make a deal with someone to actually help them with technology for money. What I don’t do is create a problem before I help solve it. That is both unethical and, for the most part, illegal.
Two plus years ago, when I was looking for work, I actually got a call from someone claiming to be from the “Windows department” and trying to convince me that I needed to let them on my computer so they could fix a Windows problem for me. I’m afraid that my twenty-five year and change of IT experience and having to fix the problems caused by these bastards led me to really hammer this scammer hard. I mean, to the point of calling him back and literally yelling at him over the phone about how he was a terrible human-being for trying to take advantage of people who are afraid of technology on which they rely. And, my own mother, who is in the scammer’s favorite category; older, retired, and with at least some disposable income, has stories of dealing with scammers like this trying to get her to give up her credit card information. Thankfully, I’ve trained her better than that and she didn’t fall for it.

Now, I know that these scammers aren’t limited to tech-related issues. They’ll come at you trying to convince you that they have cheaper airfare for you, or some other “too good to be true” deal. My mother and I have both been know to play with scammers like this, I suppose because we have a similar sense of both humor and justice. But, guess what? There are people who have elevated this to a real art. Or, maybe a sport. In any case, they’re brilliant and some of them have recorded their exploits for our entertainment. You can finally see and hear some of these scum-sucking bottom-feeding scammers get what’s coming to them at the hands of some scam-baiting artists over at Engadget’s blog post Making A Living Scamming The Scammers. Some of these go on for quite a bit, but it’s terribly fun to watch these scam-baiters messing around with terrible, heartless scammers.
Besides, how are you going to waste time on a Friday?

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

8/31/2018

WiFi Analyzer

Filed under: Better Living Through Technology,Fun,Geek Work,GUI Center,MicroSoft,The Network Geek at Home — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning or 7:05 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

Now, available for Windows!

I’ve actually been using this particular program on an Android tablet for quite a long time. Come to think of it, I started out using it on a rooted Barnes and Noble nook tablet close to ten years ago, then when I upgraded, just kept using it. Often, I’d pull out my tablet, especially when on the road, to find the strongest local wifi signal to see if I could join that network. When I was in San Francisco for WonderCon in 2010, I used it to discover that the fastest wireless internet connection I could find was the yoga studio next door to the little, boutique hotel I was staying in. I also used it to tell the hotel staff what to change their wifi channel to for better performance.
More recently, I used it in my own neighborhood to tune my home wifi to the best channel so we got a stronger signal and weren’t sharing the same frequency with all the neighbors. Sure, it may be a small improvement, but I think it’s significant enough to make a few minutes spent with a free app worthwhile.
In any case, I saw recently on Lifehacker, that there’s a free Windows version of WiFi Analyzer available now. You just need to follow the links and download it. I linked to the Lifehacker article, instead of directly, because they go a great job showing you why it’s a good thing to have and use. Also, I’m too lazy to write all that out again. So, go hit their site, give them advertising revenue, and enjoy!

9/8/2017

Ulitmate Free Linux Software Collection

Filed under: Fun,Fun Work,Geek Work,Linux,Novell,The Day Job — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

That’s a long title for something only a few of my hardcore readers will be interested in.

I used to blog about a lot of hardcore geeky things, professional geeky things and personal geeky things both. But, for a while now, I’ve drifted away from some of the geekier stuff. It’s not that I have less interest, because I assure you I’m still a pretty hardcore geek. For instance, the other day, I rooted an old Android phone so I could install Kali Linux on it for some mobile penetration testing. Except, I wasn’t happy with the rooting tool I had used and how the whole thing turned out, so I wiped it and, when thing settle down a bit from the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, I’ll take another crack it, if you’ll pardon the pun.
I’m still an IT professional, and have gotten more technical again in my most current several positions. Which really means that I have spent more time managing systems than people, which is just fine with me. And, as I just mentioned, I’ve spent some time thinking about security, which for me always includes Linux in some form or flavor. Of course, it helps that I’m an old Novell guy and picked up my CompTIA Linux+ back before they changed the requirements to include regular recertification. Now, that doesn’t mean I don’t work to keep my Linux skills sharp, just that I’m not required to for the certification.
And, that’s what inspired me to bring my fellow geeks this week’s link; The Awesome Linux Software repository at Github!
If you’re interested in Linux, this is a fantastic collection links to four of the most popular distros (Arch Linux, CentOS, openSUSE, and Ubuntu), and dozens of programs for your every Linux-based need. The maintainer, Lewis Vo, has links to Linux software for Audio, Chat Clients, Data Backup and Recovery, Desktop Customization, Development, E-Book Utilities, Editors, Email Utilities, File Managers, Games, Graphics, Internet, Office, Productivity, Security, Sharing Files, Terminal, Utilities, and Video, as well as Command Line Utilities, Desktop Environments, Display Managers, and Window Managers. I mean, there are links to EVERYTHING a Linux geek could want.

If you’ve never tried Linux, I highly recommend you do, or talk to a geek friend about it. We’re happy to talk about it for hours!
And, next week, something for a wider audience, I promise!

8/4/2017

Surveillance Self-Defence

Filed under: Fun,Geek Work,News and Current Events,The Dark Side,Truth and Consequences — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

Also known as “opsec for computer users”.

Though, to be fair, most computer users don’t actually need this kind of operational security. And, they certainly don’t refer to it as “opsec”, like I just did. These days, I pretty much keep my nose clean and my mouth shut, even online. I mean, look, the average troll on a message board really isn’t worth my time, especially at my consulting rates. What’s more, I have never, ever seen anyone convince someone with an argument, no matter how well reasoned, that the listener’s position is, in fact, wrong and the speaker really is the political/cultural/media genius that they both think they are and claim to be. I mean, literally, not a single time. Not even when I’ve been the one making the arguments!

Still, there are those last few idealistic “true believers” out there who continue to throw themselves against the colossus that is the internet comment board, or, worse, the government. (And, let’s face it, no matter who’s government it is, getting them to change is a pretty monumental task!) Those brave souls need to keep themselves safe. It’s for those crusaders that the Electronic Frontier Foundation created their series of tutorials which they’ve grouped together under the heading of Surveillance Self Defence. And, let me tell you what, these are some really smart people who have made some really great tutorials on staying safe, and as anonymous as necessary, on the internet while you protest against or agitate for your cause.
They’ve also been fighting for you, whether you know it or not, for years. Since 1990, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, also known as the EFF, has been fighting to keep your free speech alive, especially on the internet. They’ve fought everyone from the MPAA to the U.S. Federal Government and won often. You can read about their legal victories on their website.

In any case, the EFF is a worth cause, to whom I donated anonymously at DEFCON 20, and opsec is pretty important, too.
So, all in all, not my usual “fun” for a Friday afternoon, but still good to talk about.
Come back next week to see what else I have to share!

This post originally appeared at Use Your Words, my other blog!

Next Page »

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.