Bankruptcy.

Author: admin  |  Category: Consumer, Life, Observations, Politics  |  Comments (0)  |  Add Comment

Late last year my wife and I came to the conclusion that we would have to file for bankruptcy.  She was laid off in June of 2008 and my company had halted many benefits including overtime and pay raises, all due to the economy.  I know, a lot of people reading this now are rolling their eyes at me, probably even labeling me as “irresponsible” and “greedy”.  This is not the case.

When we moved to south Florida all we could really afford was a town home, it was the second cheapest property we found here (the cheapest was a “fix-er-upper”).  The home was a good deal, newly refurbished (the previous owner bought it as a fix-er-upper), all new appliances except the AC unit and we needed to purchase a washer and dryer.  Everything else was new and up to code.  Since then we’ve had to buy a new car (ended up with a Kia Rio Cinco), a new air conditioner, plus a couple of thousand dollars defending ourselves from an oppressive HOA.  We never lived a lavish lifestyle (no luxury cars, no big screen TVs, no long vacations).  We tried to do things the right way and unfortunately the economy caught up to us – the tipping point of our finances was when I needed to use a credit card to pay for basic things like food (and not being able to pay off the balances).

We started talking to our attorney in December of 2008 (who has been great throughout the process, even after the filing).  We couldn’t afford it at the time but probably could in a month or two.  He gave us information on online courses we’d need to take before filing.  The courses cost money but the good news is that the University of Nebraska (one of their departments) is doing a study.  You take a survey before and after the course and they’ll pay you $35 (the course was $20 or $25).  There was also the option to take another survey three months down the road for another $20.  Yes, you’ll make money with this.

During the time we gathered what paperwork we needed.  The attorney stated that we were a classic example of people who should do chapter 7 bankruptcy (all assets liquidated but the slate is completely clean.  This is unlike chapter 13 where you keep everything and the court sets up a payment plan to repay all of your debts).  The rules were simple for chapter 7:  You had to make less than a certain amount in the past 6 months.  My wife’s unemployment and my pay were way below this.  We could only keep $1000 worth of “stuff” each (worth in the resell or used market).  Since we never bought high end luxury items – we were also well below this.  We were also allowed to keep $1000 worth of cash each.  Again, the only time we saw that many digits in our bank accounts is when I had to send out a mortgage payment.

One advantage of Florida bankruptcy laws (I don’t know about other states) is that you can “reaffirm” secured debts – mortgage(s), car payments, and so on.  We reaffirmed the car loans and the mortgages on our home.  Since what we owned on them was close to what they were worth we could keep them as long as we kept our payments current.

We officially filed in January of 2009 – once the paperwork was signed and submitted all creditors were not allowed to contact us and we were to forward all correspondence to our attorney.  He said it could take up to a week for them to get the word so give it a week for the phone calls to stop and 2-3 weeks for the letters to stop.  All debts incurred before this were put on hold (except reaffirmed debts) and any money we made afterwards were inaccessible to creditors (technically if we won the lottery the next day they couldn’t touch it).

Our appointment with the creditors was in March.  This was a lot less intimidating / stressful than I thought it was.  We sat in a room with other people filing and there was a table.  We sat at the table with the attorney and the “creditor” (someone assigned for your creditors).  They ask some basic questions, ask for ID (drivers license).  The whole process was over in less than 15 minutes (I was expecting at least an hour).

The final part of the process was when we got a letter in the mail sometime in late May, 2009.  All of our debts were discharged (in long-worded legal mumbo-jumbo, we had to call our attorney to find out exactly what it meant).  Our slate was clean and we didn’t have to look back anymore.  I honestly wish we didn’t have to, but it was great to be able to breathe a sigh of relief from all of this.

This is something I’d never want to go though again but I am glad it is over with and I’m glad ours went smoothly.  Yes, I am sure our credit score took a large hit on this but we haven’t needed to apply for any loans or credit cards recently.  We’ve been able to meet our expenses with our bank check cards and even, on occasion, go out to see a movie.

I do have some pointers for people contemplating filing for bankruptcy.

1)    Consider all your options.  Is it worth filing or not?  There is the expense and the hit on the credit score to consider, and the possibility of losing things like your house, car, and any expensive luxury items you may have.

2)    Hire an attorney and ASK QUESTIONS.  There are little things here and there that will confuse any average person.  If you hired an attorney, this is exactly why you hired him – ask away.  Be 100% sure you understand everything before you sign anything.  They’ll even go through your credit reports with a fine tooth comb with you – if anything looks odd, ASK!

3)    Educate yourself.  Going back to #2 – ask the attorney any questions you have.  Look on the internet for information regarding bankruptcy.  Learn how money and credit work.

4)    Build up a small stash of cash.  No, I’m not saying hoard tens of thousands of dollars but you should have a small stash incase something happens – car repairs, new appliance needed etc.  You should have one built up anyway but if you do not – start now.

5)    Throw out those pre-approved credit card applications.  You can’t file for another 10 years and they know this.  You don’t want to get stuck in the same situation you were before and the banks know people will be tempted with pre-approved applications.  Just throw them out.

6)    Keep up to date with bills that are not on your credit – especially when your home is involved.  Reaffirmed mortgages, association fees, taxes – all of these are NOT covered by bankruptcy but they can take your home if you do not pay them.  Even though utilities cannot take your home, living without them can be a pain.

7)    Start a financial plan.  Budget all of your expenses and build up a plan to start saving – put as much as you can afford to into your savings, even up your 401K contributions or if you have direct deposit, have some of it go straight into a savings account.  Bank of America offers “keep the change” – if I charge $7.25 on my check card, they’ll take $8 out and put the other $0.75 into my savings account.  I know it doesn’t sound like much but it is turning out to be about $20 a month for the little I use my card.

8)    Recover and move on.  Once the filing is done, the meeting is done, and the process is over with, reevaluate your situation and plan for the future.  If you do decide to get a credit card to help build your credit back up, get one with as low of a balance as possible.  Charge some things on there but pay the balance off in 2-3 months.  Don’t get over your head (again).  Be very wise about your money.

How to be a good tech.

Author: admin  |  Category: Business, Consumer, Observations  |  Comment (1)  |  Add Comment

I’ve written a few posts about bad users, clients, customers, and whatnot.  This has gotten a few people to email me that not all users are bad and that there are some bad techs out there.  This, I fully agree.  I’ve worked with some in the past.  Just as there are good users and bad users, there are good techs and bad techs.

That’s why I’m dedicating this post on how to be a good technician.  This is going to be a surprise to a lot of techs out there but it is not based on what you know.  Seriously.  While I do admit, being able to solve the user’s issue in a minute does help, it’s not the end all to customer satisfaction.

First – and most important:  LISTEN.  That is a human you’re interacting with.

I don’t mean sit and listen to a 30 minute rant at how they are terrible with computers, they always have problems with computers, and Microsoft is in existence just to make their lives difficult.  When they are describing the issue to you, listen to them, make eye contact.  Don’t just plop down in front of their computer and start taping away at the keyboard – that will make you look like a robot (and that’s only OK if you’re JP from “Grandma’s Boy” – but even he was annoying).  Plus, this makes the user feel like a number as opposed to a person.

Listen to their concerns, don’t be afraid to ask questions (believe it or not it does not make you look incompetent, in fact, it makes it look like you are paying attention!), even repeat what the user said to make sure you understand what they are saying.

Second – don’t rush the job.  Yes, some issues only take a minute or two to fix but many don’t.  Don’t try to fly through it.  Take your time.  If you rush, the chances of you making a mistake are greatly increased.  Even double check your work if you need to.  This leads right into:

Third – Make sure you have resolved the issue, if possible.  Sit down with the user, explain to them what you did (in non-technical terms), and have them verify that the issue has been resolved.  If they couldn’t print, have them send something to the printer.  If they couldn’t access a site, have them access it.  One of the worst feelings I get is when I get a repeat user with the same issue and it’s because I didn’t solve it the first time.

Next – I’ll let you in on a little secret – build up a good and solid network.  If I find myself with an employer for more than 2-3 months, I start building up a network (and not just those I directly work with).  Get to know people, even if it is purely virtually (though email, phone calls, IM etc..).  When you get these connections established, don’t be afraid to help them out if they ask for help, most will quickly return the favor when you need help in the future.  Plus, the more people you know, the more people you have to ask for good letters of recommendations when it comes time to ask for a raise or promotion.  :)   Building up a network does NOT mean you’re kissing their rears, too.  No one likes a kiss-ass.

Keep in touch with that network.  As long as you do this, your network will grow.  Yes, people will leave but others will come into the groups.  Your group will grow and the knowledge base of the group will grow with it.  Even if you’re alone there are many techie sites out there that you can join for quick answers (for example, Windrivers – http://forums.windrivers.com).

Also, it’s not about what you know but can you find the answer?  I worked with a guy once who had his CCNA, MCSP, MCP+I, A+, N+, and graduated “with honors” from a local well known computer school.  Let’s just ay he spent over 10 minutes arguing with a customer (over the phone) claiming that they knew nothing about computers since they didn’t know what operating system they were running and he couldn’t help them.  He never heard of Windows 3.1 (and this was back in 2000).  Now, who do you think the customers would rather deal with – him, who didn’t even know how to install drivers but had that education, or me with no education but someone who would be willing to jump onto Google.com or ask a few co-workers for the answers?

Don’t be an arrogant jackass.  This is one of the biggest complaints.  Seriously, you’re talking to a human.  Just because you know (allegedly) know more about computers than they do doesn’t mean you can treat them like bubblegum under your shoe.  I’m sure there are areas they could whoop your rear in, sales, engineering,and  SOCIAL SKILLS.

Be presentable.  Don’t go to work dirty in raggedy clothes.  Well, this might be OK in a surf shop or a grunge store but not many techs work there.  Adhere to the dress code (my office is business causal, I either wear nice jeans or khakis and a polo shirt), shower, etc.

Respect their time.  Yes, I’ve said people need to respect the techs time but techs need to respect the customer’s time, too.  They are your customer, even if they aren’t directly paying you.  Just because you just logged onto World of Warcraft doesn’t mean you can tell everyone to wait.  They have things to do or else they wouldn’t need the computers.

Don’t be the militant police.  Every day I see software on computers that shouldn’t be on there (including mine) but I understand that corporate either gives us horrible options for what we need or no option at all.  Unless it is a security risk (torrent software, etc..), a resource hog and shouldn’t be there (once I found someone had installed Pirates of the Caribbean online on their computer) , or has absolutely no business on a work PC (porn), I don’t care.  So what they have TradeWinds Legends on their computer.  So what if they have iTunes.  I don’t care as long as they fully understand I will not support them and will not reinstall them if I need to reinstall Windows on their PCs (and I will let them know if that is causing the issue, too).  I did once report that some employees were using a hacker site to go around the internet firewall while working in the stores.  My issue with that:  they’re allowing you to see the whole internet, what do you think you’re allowing them to see on your computer that has complete access to all of our customers’ information?  Trust me; I’m willing to bet you have skeletons in your closet, too.

I’m sure there is a lot more I could write on this subject but it’s a Friday evening (and I’m blogging?), it’s been a long week, and David Byrne’s film “True Stories” just came in and I want to watch it.  :)

I saw Star Trek this weekend (in iMax)- no spoilers

Author: admin  |  Category: Observations, Rant  |  Comments (2)  |  Add Comment

Don’t worry – I won’t give away any spoilers.

I really liked the movie (as a Star Trek fan) and my wife enjoyed it a lot, too (and she doesn’t like Star Trek).  The cast was great – Scotty and Bones were perfect but Checkov was a little too much (they stressed too much on his accent (remember “Vere are the nuclear wessles?”).  Spock and Kirk were also pretty good.  It is a great action film (more action than your average Star Trek film) and great special effects.  I saw it in iMax and it was very impressive.  And yes, Kirk gets a green alien woman (OK, so I lied about the spoiler, but I promise this is the only one and the long time fans will enjoy this).

But – this isn’t about the movie.  I had some assholes behind me in line poking fun at the people dressed in Star Trek gear (mostly TNG / DS9 / VOY uniforms – no aliens that I noticed).  Sorry, but get a life assholes.
First – do they make fun of you when you go to your favorite sports team with your face painted in their colors, your favorite player’s number painted on your chest, dressed in their uniform, and yelling and screaming all the time?  Do they make fun of you because of the way you dress when you go clubbing?  No.

Take a look at yourself – you look ridiculous, seriously, but they don’t make fun of you.  They understand that is your thing, your vice.  You enjoy dressing like that to show your support for your team, your player, your clubbing tradition.

This is their thing – they’re Trekkies (a.k.a. Trekkers).  They love the shows and show their support by spending money on uniforms.  Don’t worry; they don’t dress like this every day.  In fact, unless you knew they did it, you wouldn’t know about it if you met them on any other day that wasn’t a Star Trek movie or some sort of Sci-Fi convention (well, maybe Halloween, too).

We all have our thing where we dress very differently from what we would dress like on a regular basis.  Just because their thing is Star Trek, don’t put them down.  They’re obvious big fans of the franchise and are very happy they are going to see another film.  The last thing they need is some asshole acting like, and with the mentality of, a middle school bully.  Grow up.

Star Trek has given us a lot – it gave many inventors “great ideas” that are a reality today, many we take for granted.  It’s inspired generations of inventors, engineers, entertainers, and scientists which all contribute to the popularity of your own “things”.  If you’d like, I could include a list in a future post.

FPL – you’re funny.

Author: admin  |  Category: Business, Consumer, News, Observations, Rant, Thoughts  |  Comments (0)  |  Add Comment

About a week ago I called FPL (Florida Power & Light – our electric company) about electric arcing from the wires to a palm tree in front of my house.  In my call with them they said it could take up to 21 days before someone came out to look at it.  You can imagine I wasn’t too happy considering the severity of the situation and how this was a fire hazard to my home and family.

This morning I noticed a pamphlet on my door from FPL – I looked at and was shocked at what I saw.

Wait did I read that right? Seriously, I misread it, so I took a closer look:

Yes, I was not reading it wrong. Their comments were “No current hazard, palm fronds are burned away from wires” (nice pun, by the way). So, there is no hazard because there was already a fire and it was burned away from the wires. Now, I’m no alarmist but when I saw the arcing, I was estimating it was between 6-12 inches long. That’s a lot of power – most armature Tesla coils don’t even go out that far.

Mind you, this is a company that owns and operates multiple nuclear power plants. I can see FPL now, as an online buddy of mine put it, “Oh meltdown, it’s one of those annoying buzzwords. We prefer to call it an unrequested fission surplus”. Can’t wait to see them use that one at Turkey Point or in Seabrook, NH.

What will FPL do next?

Dear “my” Federal Government:

Author: admin  |  Category: Observations, Politics  |  Comments (0)  |  Add Comment

I don’t even know who to address to.  President Obama?  My senators and congressmen?  The secretary of the treasury (Timothy Franz Geithner), Uncle Sam?

Since I don’t know, I am putting my request in the best place I can think of – the internet.

We see on the news every day how large corporations are crying poor and how they’re laying off tens of thousands of workers every day.  We see them begging for help from the government and the government is hading out BILLIONS of dollars to these people.  We also see how the executives for most of these companies take these billions and selfishly stash it away in their banks, they sill go ahead with the layoffs, cutbacks, and outsourcing thus making our economy worse.

I am putting in my official request -

I am requesting $5 million US dollars ($5,000,000) to help me and my family with a stimulous package of our own.  First of all, this is less than 1/10 of a percent of the smallest “bailouts’ that our government has given so it sould be looked at as not even a small drop in the bucket.  What’s 5 million when you’re throwing around billions and trillions?

Why should I get it?  We would do our best to pump this money back into the economy, directly. We would:

  • Pay off our debts (home loans, car loans, student loans, etc…)thus making more money available for bank loans, thus directly helping with the credit crunch.
  • We would invest the money so my wife and I can peruse our own careers and starting our own businesses.  Not only would I be able to quit my full time job, I would be opening up a position that someone who is collecting unemployment would be able to get.  It would create one more job in the economy.
  • With our increase revenue, we could continue our schooling and hire people to help us with our ventures, thus improving our educating, our productivity, and creating new jobs.
  • We would be able to afford to “upgrade” our services (faster internet, cable TV, even long distance on our phone) to send more money to these troubled companies allowing them to possibly hold onto more workers.
  • We would be able to upgrade our existing equipment (computers for work, fuel efficient cars since my wife would be traveling a lot visiting clients), maybe even be able to afford some office space for our ventures, thus improving on the commercial real estate market and helping out the retail and manufacturing sector (we would try to make sure anything we purchased was made in the USA).

As you can see, just from this short list, I would do far more to help the economy than what these large corporation are doing with over 1,000 times the amount I am requesting.

So, now the ball is in “my” government’s court.

Will you take me seriously?  if you do, I’m sure you can find out who I am and call me on my cell phone.  Don’t worry if I don’t answer – we have creditors calling us and I don’t answer the phone unless I know who it is.  Please leave a message with legitimate contact information.

Please do not ask me to travel anywhere, unless you pay for the tickets (you can take it out of my $5 million when I get it).  As things are extremely tight with my family, we cannot afford any travel at this time since my wife hasn’t had a job since June of 2008 and my company is laying off people in the thousands.  As you can see, I’ve even fouled this site with AdSense to attempt to hope to pay for some bills (and other living expenses).

If you don’t care about me, ignore this please.  This will be a sign to over 300,000,000 American citizens who are sufering in this economy while theelite few squander every penny they can so they can afford caviar for breakfast before flying in their private jets to some foreign vacation spot.

So you think your IT person has an attitude? It could be because of you!

Author: admin  |  Category: Observations, Rant  |  Comments (2)  |  Add Comment

Ever wonder why our IT guy might have an attitude?  Most people think that it’s because we know computers well enough to have an elitist attitude with it, that “we’re better than you”.  Well, for the most part this is not true.  I’ll admit – there are some bad eggs out there (and I’ve worked with some) but most of the time it is because of the users we support, sadly.  It’s not just one person (but there usually is one or two people who do deserve it).  It’s the whole collective we call “users” and some times, even to go as far as calling some (L)users (or L-users, a.k.a. I.D. 10-T).

First of all, the redundancy.  No, I don’t expect my average user to know how to reinstall Windows, configure their wireless network, put their computer on the domain, or manage DNS but when something is as simple as going to an intranet (internal network) site, entering some information (supplied to you) and clicking INSTALL, it gets tedious after having to either walk though or do for several dozen clients.  At my work, we had a new print queue installed though a new server so none of the mapping though the old server would work.  Sounds like a big problem, right?  No.

We sent out instructions, go to this site (type SITE into your browser), enter in the building ID (supplied) and then select the floor you’re on (you push the button on the elevator several times a day).  Find the printer(s) you use, they’re named after the room number that they’re in but attached was a PDF of the floors with the names in each location.  Then, click INSTALL next to that printer and when the window appears, click RUN.

Simple, right?  Nope.  I had to do over 40 of these the first week.  I guess those instructions were to complicated for most people.  

Next – many issues are caused by the users.  I’m not talking routine maintenance (update drivers, defrags, cache scrubbing etc..).  I get tired of having to sit and figure out how to remove a spyware you installed which is preventing your computer from working.  Sure, go ahead, install the Google toolbar, the Yahoo toolbar, AOLIM, Yahoo messenger, Opera, Firefox, and tons of unapproved software then complain to me because “your piece of shit computer is too slow”.  Well, don’t install anything that you shouldn’t install.

On that subject – if I tell you a new piece of software is coming out, that is NOT permission to go ahead and install it.  So what if Google has their own browser now, it makers changes to your internet settings and will prevent some of our web applications from working (and then read back one paragraph).  If it’s on our intranet’s software installation page, then you’re allowed to have it.

Appointments.  I don’t know why IT is the exception.  If you have an appointment with your boss at 9AM, you’re there at 9AM.  If you have an appointment with one of your subordinates at 9AM, they better be there at 9AM.  Your time is important but why do people think mine isn’t?  A 9AM appointment is for 9AM not when you feel like meandering into my office sometime between noon and 3PM.  Also – don’t get pissy at me because I’m working on someone else’s computer and you now have to wait – my time is important, too.

I get lunches, too.  Don’t be 2.5 hours late to your 9AM appointment expecting everything to be done while you’re on your lunch.  I get one too.  If I’m heading out the door with my hat on, jacket on, and keys in my hand, it’s because I am going out.  This is NOT the time to decide to approach me with a dozen questions (this also includes when my hand is on the bathroom door and I am trying to open it).

Also, don’t tell me “I’ll be there in 5 minutes” and take over 2 hours to get to me.  Again, my time is important.  I don’t like sitting on my ass waiting for you while I need to be elsewhere with someone else.

Vacations – don’t submit a ticket 10 minutes before you leave for vacation and expect me to pull the perfect fix out of my ass before you go.  You’re going on vacation – that means you can leave it since you won’t need it (it’s supposed to be for work, that’s why work paid for it).

And while we’re on the subject of vacations – I get them too.  Don’t get mad because I don’t answer your 10 emails (including the out of office reply stating that I’m on vacation), 15 voicemails (where my message says I’m on vacation) and countless text messages.  Also – complaining to my boss won’t help you.  He knows I’m on vacation.  The world will not fall apart while I am gone.

“Freebies”.  We’re an IT department – we fix things.  We’re not a kiss-you-ass / free-upgrades department.  If you want an upgrade – contact your boss and have your boss go though the proper channels.  Don’t have them tell me to give you a freebie, I don’t answer to them (and yes, I’ve said no to vice presidents before – quite harshly).  Our equipment is though warranties.  When your car breaks, you don’t expect them to give you the latest and greatest at no cost, do you?  Then why do you expect it from me?  The same goes for software.  No, I won’t install Dreamweaver.  You’re a sales rep, not a web developer; learn how to use Office first.

We are not trainers nor are we grand masters of all knowledge.  Sure, I may give someone a quick hand on how to do something simple, but don’t expect it all the time, don’t expect redundant trainings (no, I won’t show you how to turn on the out of office reply for the 20th time) and don’t expect me to teach you how to make a word document pull specific pieces of information from Excel and integrate it into a PowerPoint presentation.  There are two things:  one is called the Internet, learn how to use it, and the other are called books – learn how to read (it gets tricky when you want to buy books from the internet, though).

It can take time to get parts in.  No, I don’t (my department doesn’t have the budget) to stock every piece of every piece of equipment we’ve had in our office.  Sometimes I have to order parts and sometimes it takes a while (3-5+ days) for them to come in.  My ass isn’t a magical bag of holding where I can pull anything I need out of it.

Don’t expect me to fix things I don’t support.  Don’t bring in your home computer and drop it off at my office expecting me to fix it – legally I can’t.  Don’t expect me to fix something I don’t support a few examples include (but are not limited to): plumbing, elevators, doors, electrical wiring, cars, chairs, and windows.

The old “woe is me” story.  No, I don’t have time to spend to listen to your life’s problems – how all computers hate you, and how nothing works right for you.  Get to the point.  Again, my time is also important.  Also – don’t speak cryptically and don’t leave out important details.  Don’t expect me to be able to know what is exactly wrong if you only tell me “I got an error message”.

Second guessers – I don’t care if you’re neighbor’s kid’s school friend’s nephew plugged in his parent’s computer.  That does not me he knows more about it than I do nor does he know our systems.  But – if you really want to, go ahead (and good luck without admin rights).  I’ll see you tomorrow grinning with a Windows disc in my hand to reformat your drive. Also, for the most part, you are not more knowledgeable with computers than I am, if you truly were, then you wouldn’t have the problem in the first place.

So as you can see, your average IT person deals with a lot on a daily basis.  Next time you think they are giving you an attitude, think for a minute of this post.

The economy sucks

Author: admin  |  Category: Observations, Politics, Thoughts  |  Comments (2)  |  Add Comment

I know, and after watching “The Secret” I’m supposed to keep a positive attitude, which I try to do all the time and are successful many times but I feel I need to get this off of my chest.

The economy sucks. Yes it does. But why?

People are blaming the government – while allowing companies to outsource jobs (and give them tax breaks for doing so) seems to be one of the major factors, it isn’t. The credit crunch now is hurting a lot of people from making large purchases, but most of us still have the credit cards.

The recession is caused by people not spending. Why aren’t they spending? We’re seeing less money or not an increase in money. Why is this happening? Easy – large corporations are hoarding money. I saw a news report this morning about it and I wish I saved the link. Companies are hoarding the money at the top of the chain, including (for the most part) the “stimulus” that the government GAVE to these corporations. They’re being stinger than Montgomery Burns and Ebenezer Scrooge put together. My company didn’t give out ANY pay raises last year and are not giving any out this year (plus no 401K match, and a few other benefits gone). Sure, “temporary” – we all know what that means. I know if I’m lucky I’ll see a raise sometime in 2010 (doubtful, though).

The really sad part is that Wall Street is rewarding this behavior (and why do companies stress so much on the price of their stock?). Large business A says that they are going to lay off thousands of employees – thus contributing to the bad economy and Wall St rewards them by people buying their stock (making the price go up) and making the high-ups who can afford to purchase millions of shares richer.

So, here we are, the worst the economy has been in an extremely long time, at least in my lifetime. What can we do? Unfortunately, not much. What I can suggest is find a niche, something you’re good at, and promote it. Who knows, maybe you can make some extra money with this. But don’t try blogging – I barely make enough though the ads to pay for the registration and hosting fees. J

One of life’s great mysteries – magazine inserts

Author: admin  |  Category: Humor, Observations  |  Comment (1)  |  Add Comment

I’m not kidding – these things are a huge mystery to me.

I get a few magazines, most come unwrapped (not in any packaging like many come today).  What I don’t get is, these things are in-transit to me, when I get them I fan them out to let any of the loose inserts (usually asking me to subscribe to the magazine I just got, though my subscription) and nothing happens so I think “OK, they just attach them inside now, no more loose ones”.

Wrong.

I lie down to read the magazine and within 3 pages I have pamphlets falling onto my chest, floating to the floor and wherever else they may go.

How the hell do they do that?  Is there some sort of invisible seal that prevents form falling out until someone starts to read the magazine (faning it out doesn’t help!).  Is it some sort of adhesive that is sensitive to being read?

Imagine the applications this could have.  Nope, Mr. Robber, I don’t have any money, just this books, see (as I flap the bookaround), knowing that my money would not come out until I get home.  This could also be a great step forward for the IT world, forcing people to at least START to read manuals until a critical part of their device falls out of the manual (or else it wouldn’t work!).

Of course, it would only be a matter of time before our military starts to use it for their own purposes.  Place a bomb in a book that won’t detonate until someone (preferably an enemy) reads it.  Hide ammunition in them, whatever.

The different types of users – for the IT professional

Author: admin  |  Category: Humor, Observations  |  Comment (1)  |  Add Comment

These are the different types of users for the IT professional:

 

The quiet user:

This is the person who lives with minor issues.  The PC is a little slow, eh, they’ll live with it.  Outlook sometimes won’t load?  They’ll live with it.  They’ll only contact you if their PC is completely out.

 

The uneducated user:

This is the person who claims they know nothing about computers so they’d rather contact you before they do anything. They’re too afraid that if they do something wrong, they’ll break the PC.  You’ll spend a lot of time with these people but most of it will be very minor issues.  These people do have the tendency to learn and, with a lot of time, may become a knowledgeable user.

 

The ignorant user:

Similar to the uneducated user but they never learn.  They ask you the same question again and again, many times in the same day.  You’ll spend a lot of time with them and it will be extremely redundant.  If you are graded on the number of issues you resolve, these people will make you look good, on paper.

 

The vague user:

This is the person who doesn’t know what went wrong, what is going wrong, why they know it’s wrong, but they know it’s wrong.  They’ll also tell you hat “they’re having an issue with Microsoft”. If you’re lucky, they’ll give you half of an error message (usually the unimportant half) and can’t (or won’t) get into describing what is going on but expect you to know how to fix it quickly.

 

The wrong-answer user:

This is the person who won’t answer your questions, for example, “What is your asset number?”  “Um, Windows?”.  “What model printer is it?” “Um, my laptop is an HP”, and “What cubicle are you in? “My phone number is….”.  Good luck with this one.

 

The knowledgeable user:

This is a person who knows how to do basic things on their computer (other than their job).  They can make shortcuts, store favorites, they know the search command, and once in a while they’ll know how to connect to network printers and create new PST files.  When you get a call from them you know it’s something good.  A good sign of them is that they’ll never claim to be a PC expert.

 

The “I know computers” user:

This person claims they know all about computers and they don’t need you, even though they can’t get their PS/2 keyboard to plug into the serial port.  They have 250 icons on their desktop, never clean out their cache, never update anything, and have hundreds of thousands of files in their MyDocuments folder then wonder why their PC is running slow.  They tweak their own system to “improve it” but then it won’t work properly and “what they did didn’t cause it to not work”.  (i.e. “I changed my DNS settings to allow my computer to connect to the internet faster but now I can’t get to our intranet sites, don’t tell me that what I changed did it, I know for a fact that they are unrelated.  The worst is when an ignorant user teams up with this person.

 

The “I’m important” user:

This person doesn’t care about other people (usually a member of management).  They don’t care that you’re trying to get the LAN back on line for over 100 users, their issue with their Internet Explorer favorites is far more important.  They are also usually on their way to a meeting or a trip and need it fixed ASAP.

 

The buddy user:

This person will act like your buddy.  They’ll try to chat you up whenever they can (including when you’re trying to learn) for two reasons.  First, being their “buddy” they feel that they are a higher priority than everyone else (see “I’m important user”) and also to pick your brain on PC troubleshooting (see the “I know computers” user).  They’ll take take take but when you ask them for a favor they’re too busy or can’t.  They’ll expect you to go to their house to set up a 128 bit encrypted WLAN with 5 PCs and 3 printers on a Saturday night but never let you borrow one of his (many) pens.

 

The funny user;

They think everything is funny and laugh at it.  Their voicemails are usually something like: “Ha ha!  This is so great, our server got knocked over and parts are all over the floor, it’s so funny, but now no one can get to the internet!”

 

The “I hate computers” user

These are the people who think the whole computer industry is out to get them.  They make programs that deliberately not work for them and they have nothing but issues with every computer that they’ve ever had.  They are usually also long-winded users.

 

The long-winded user:

This is a person who will go over their issue, in depth.  They’ll spend 20 minutes explaining a while chain of events, this lead to that, just to get to their issue, which is usually something that could have been explained in a few seconds.  They’ll also leave 3 page emails to let you know that their fonts aren’t working properly.  You’ll quite often want to shout at them “Get to the point!”

 

The “I deserve the same” user:

This is a person who expects to be treated like everyone else, all at once.  One person gets a new computer, they deserve a new computer.  Another person got a new mouse, they deserve a new mouse.

 

The “I don’t care about the rules” user:

They are also usually “I’m important” users.  They don’t care about rules, policies, costs and so on, and why should they?  It’s not their name on the work order, it’s yours, so if someone gets in trouble, it won’t be them.  They also don’t want to go though the proper channels, they expect you to do everything for them (even if you can’t do anything for their issue).  They also usually also have your boss on speed dial.

 

The OCD user:

This is the person who will call you, then send you an email, then send you a text message, send you a message though IM, another email, another call, another email, another text, another email, another IM, another call, another text, 3 more emails, 2 more calls, 5 more text messages, 3 more IMs, and 2 more emails.  All in 15 minutes.

 

The impatient user:

This person expects you to be where they need you when they need you.  You also need to fix their issue in a matter of seconds regardless if you have parts in stock or not.  If you don’t have the parts in stock they expect you to pull it out of someone else’s computer.  These users also love to come and see you right before they go on vacation (I always found it’s interesting how people need their work computers when they’re on vacation).  These are usually also “I don’t care about the rules” and “I’m important” users.

 

The exaggerating user:

These people exaggerate everything.  “I’ve been having this problem for months!”  “It takes over an hour for my computer to turn on!”, “I get the blue screen twenty times a day”.  Rarely do any kind of reporting support their claims, though.

 

The appreciative user:

This is the one person in your office who will say “please” and “thank you”.

Global warming vs. the real threat to humanity

Author: admin  |  Category: Nature, Observations  |  Comments (0)  |  Add Comment

Seriously, I do not think global warming is going to be a serious issue. Sure, there will be issues with a serious climate change like this but it would open up many more opportunities. Imagine the Midwest able to farm all year round and even parts of Canada and Russia can farm all year? It would open up more shipping routes in the Arctic ocean allowing much faster shipping from Europe to the far-east (which would hurt Panama’s economy with fewer ships going though the Panama canal).

Sure, hurricanes would be more intense but due to increased wind shear, there would be fewer hurricanes. Arctic and Antarctic ice would melt and raise seal levels so we’d have to leave some coastal areas (most of the people who live on the coast can afford it anyway).

Our real threat, which I’ll admit may not be a threat for a few to several hundred years, is the end of our current warming cycle. No, I don’t mean our 150 year trend of warm weather (after the last “mini” (really a micro) ice age). We had a similar warming period about 2,000 years ago when the Roman Empire was in its height. There was a lot of good farming. Warmth allows us to grow more food, raise more cattle, and opens up trade routs that formerly would be inaccessible.

I mean the earth, over the past 10,000 years (the time we, humans, have thrived) has been though a very long warming period. We had a sample of the real threat about 150-400 years ago. We had a mini-ice age (the worst was around the 1850s). Most of Europe has to think of new agricultural processes etc.. Luckily, the “New World” was discovered and foods that were available in Central America (potatoes, yucca etc..) were able to thrive in the cooler environment but the cooler age was devastating to Europe, which thrived during the previous warming period.

Our real threat is the next ice age, even if it is as minor as the one that ended roughly 150 years ago. Imagine the polar ice caps reaching South Carolina, Texas, and central California. Imagine Europe much like Siberia.

And we need to keep an eye on this, no one knows when it would happen and back in the 1850s when the ice age ended things went pretty close to normal after the worst of it which means the Earth has the ability to switch the environment as needed.

One thing we need to look at is the “belt” in the Atlantic Ocean that brings warm waters to north-western Europe. People think of New England and New Brunswick, Canada as cold places but think of northern France and southern UK as warm, but in reality, the European counterparts are actually further north than the North American locations. Why? That conveyor belt.

It has been theorized that global warming can slow, even halt, this warm current which would create a much colder environment to north-western Europe. Big deal, right?

A colder environment will create more ice and the Arctic Ocean could start to freeze again. This will slow the motion of the water in the Arctic Ocean. Moving water doesn’t freeze. If you don’t believe me, try to freeze a pot of water while you stir it. It will not freeze. So, this ice will not only reflect more sunlight but it will also slow the movement of water in the Arctic Ocean, thus allowing more of the water to freeze. Once the Bering Straight is frozen over, then the movement / circulation will stop, creating a very large icebox. As the ocean freezes, the ice will creep down over northern Asia, Europe, and North America. All of a sudden, all of these great farmlands are now unfarmable. The US’s Midwest will become a permafrost (like modern day Siberia). With more ice in the Arctic (and Antarctic) there will be less rain so places that could become farmlands (the Middle East, northern Africa, and northern South America) may be deserts.

I’m not saying this will happen overnight but it is something we will have to face generations ahead of us. Global warming will be an inconvenience for us compared to what the next ice age may do.