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Observations from the forced Work From Home experience

  • Everyone who was too busy to sign up for training before being sent home is suddenly available and wants to sign up for online training at the last minute
  • If you want to know how many older folks live in your community go to the supermarket during the 6-7 AM seniors only opening
  • Lots of people ignored the suggestion to “Take your laptop home and see if you can make it work” last week
  • We did ourselves no favors conditioning users to rely on mapped drives instead of UNC paths (see item above)
  • VPNs are very much mixed blessing and curse
  • But anything in O365 (or any other cloud service) instead of on an internal server is a win/win
  • Remote support can be very slow when both the support tech and the customer are at home on WiFi and every kid in between is playing games and steaming
  • Cable systems weren’t designed for this
  • Why did Microsoft drop the power user category in Windows that would allow users to install their own printer drivers (been gone since Windows XP I think)?
  • And why do printer manufacturers insist that you install software instead of using one of hundreds of drivers already available?
  • All the dormant blogs, like this one, will suddenly wake up now

Since we are without casual interaction in the workplace feel free to comment here, whether serious or social.

Revisiting Google Contacts on iPhone

A few years back I did a post on getting Google contacts on your iPhone if you don’t use GMail (https://davidschaffer.wordpress.com/2017/01/27/google-account-without-mail-on-iphone/). I recently got a new iPhone and followed the same method but login failed.

The trick is that since that post two-factor authentication has become a thing. The workaround is to create an app password on Google and use that to set up the CardDAV account.

Go to your Google account page and click on Security on the left. Then in the Signing in to Google section you will see App passwords. Create the app password for Contacts (or Calendar if that’s what you’re after) and use the code it generates as the password when creating the account on your device.

Year end 2017

Year end posts are cliche but it’s a nice occasion to take stock and catch up.

To recap, at the end of 2016 I left a long-time position as Director of Technology for a management consulting firm. It was a great learning experience as I worked with a variety of technologies over the years, managed a bunch of transitions, and was able to see how all the pieces fit together. I also learned to work with and support a variety of very smart, very focused staff who just wanted it to work with minimal effort or attention on their part.

In October I joined Kobargo Technology Partners, an IT service provider with offices in New York and Arizona. So far it’s been a good fit. Smart people, easy to work with. I’m primarily providing on-site support for one of their international clients with offices in New York City and Stamford, CT. I’m learning about really big networks, global tech support and highly segmented IT infrastructure. It’s somewhat frustrating after so many years of being super admin on everything I touched but amazing to see how multiple teams in multiple geographies work together to (in most cases) make everything run smoothly and seamlessly.

And in the intervening time?

I had some weird health issues affecting my balance. After many tests and some physical therapy I’ve been assured that there’s nothing threatening, but I still don’t have the leg strength or balance I once did. I can still ski but I’m going to back off on some of the ski patrol skills where patient safety is an issue.

On the career exploration path I spent a lot of time focusing on technology for marketing and social marketing tools. In the end that’s not where the job offer came from but it’s an area that’s going to have widespread impact on many of us in the years to come.

I had a nice opportunity to devote additional time to my volunteer work as President of Temple Sholom in New Milford, CT, and with the Ski Patrol at Thunder Ridge in Patterson, NY.

And I had the flexibility to travel more than usual.

So I’m looking forward to new learning and achievements in 2018 and beyond. Will post when there’s something of interest. Best wishes to all.

David

 

 

Update time

download    I’ve recently taken a new job with an IT service provider. So I’m in the process of getting set up on their systems (and probably soon on their clients’ systems).

I’ve got my first ever Outlook and Office 365 account. So I’m learning the Outlook web interface. It’s similar to GMail but there are always a few “where did they put that option” and “why in heck does it do that” surprises.

I installed Office 2016 to replace the Office 2007 I had inherited from a previous employer. Some learning there.

And to top it off I uninstalled Open Office, which hasn’t received any updates since 2016, and replaced it with LibreOffice.

And, if it ever succeeds, my iPhone is trying to install an iOS update.

I don’t know if I’m ready for the new role but at least my tech will be!

 

Are you ready for the next Hurricane, Flood or Sharknado?

flood

With today’s tech it’s easier than ever before to set your work life up so you can carry on in the face – or at least in the aftermath – of any natural disaster.

The key principle is to get serious about abandoning local storage and keeping everything that you need to function in the cloud. What does that entail?

Store all your files – documents, images, videos, etc. – on a cloud service you can access from any device. Google Drive, Microsoft 365, Dropbox and Box are common examples of such a service. You can set the cloud storage to synchronize to local copies on your primary computer so that once you’ve set up the cloud drive there’s no change to the way you work, you just need to switch from using the local Documents folder to a different folder that the service will create for you.

Be careful about proprietary or uncommon file formats. It won’t help you to have access to your files if you need a special program to use them and you don’t have that program for the new/temporary/borrowed device you’re on. When in doubt, get in the habit of saving finished documents as pdf to ensure you can access them from any platform.

Make sure your email stays in the cloud. If you use web-based email, such a Gmail, then you’re all set. If you prefer local email, such as Outlook, Mail on the Mac, or Thunderbird, then you need to make sure you’ve set the mail program to leave messages on the server (usually much easier to manage with IMAP than with the older POP standard). And you need to know how to access the messages when you don’t have your primary computer or mobile device available. Most mail providers now offer web access.

How will you know how to find everything when you sit down at a new device? You will need to memorize at least a couple of passwords. But the most imporant one is to your password manager or whatever home-grown variation you choose. Once you get the user name/password/url information back you will have access to everything you’ve put in the cloud. Remember you may have to provide that information for all the services for which you saved the passwords in your keychain or browser. (Increasingly you may not – with iCloud or Chrome you can usually rely on them being there once you’re logged in on a new system. But allow for the time that fails you.).

Finally, test regularly. Are your files really syncing to the cloud? Will your documents really open on another OS? In another program?

Once you’re confident in your ability to access your stuff from anywhere on any device you’ll have one less thing to worry about in case of a true disaster. You can also take advantage of the same capabilities in the normal course of events. Leave the laptop behind on short trips knowing you can sit down at any computer (a client’s machine, a hotel’s business center, etc.) and get your stuff. Instead of saying “I’ll get that to you as soon as I’m back at my desk,” you can say “Can I sit at your computer for a minute and grab it for you?”

One final security tip – be sure to NOT save your passwords on borrowed machines and to log out of any system you log into on a shared machine. On public computers it’s best to erase all history and cookies before closing the browser.

Questions or comments? Please leave a comment below or reach out via our contact page.

 

My Summer Vacation

Browns Lake, Burlington, WII just returned from a week’s trip to Wisconsin. It was a combination of helping an elderly relative complete the move out of her apartment into a nursing facility, visit with other family, and vacation. A few tales and observations:

We were supposed to fly, LGA to MKE on Southwest. But the flights were cancelled with no notice (i.e. we checked in the night before, got no update from Southwest, and showed up at the airport to find the flights cancelled). Since the lack of aircraft was blamed on storms the day before the late scratch was, at the least, poor customer service. And the lack of an email or text was egregious.

In any case, no alternate seats were available for three days so we decided to drive. Making that decision first thing in the morning before leaving for the airport would have saved us six hours or more. Leaving on a long car trip from LaGuardia airport on a Friday afternoon is not a good plan!

The first thing we learned from the trip was that I-80 is under construction pretty much from New Jersey through Indiana! We came back through the Southern Tier of New York along I-86. Not only was there very little construction delay but it’s a beautiful drive.

A second learning is that the days of stopping whenever you get tired and looking for a motel room are passed. Make reservations! We learned the hard way. And thank you to a very nice hotel night manager in Erie, PA, who made calls for us near midnight until he finally found an available room for us 40 miles away.

What else?

  • Even a single woman with no kids can accumulate a lot of stuff living in an apartment for over 40 years.
  • Everyone, but especially as we get older, make sure all your insurance, investments and income are well documented in a place others can find and understand it easily.
  • We spotted license plates from every one of the lower 48 states except New Mexico, as well as Ontario and Quebec.
  • Some great local beer in Wisconsin. Recommend New Glarus Totally Naked. New Glarus Totally Naked

TP-Link Archer C9 Wireless Router

As noted in a previous post I’ve started checking the security status and general well being of my home office gear and upgrading where needed.

I recently decided to replace my home office router. It was a Netgear WGR614v10. It still did the job but I was having trouble getting older devices to grab and hold a WiFi connection, had some strange hiccups on the laptops that could have been router related, and, most importantly, it was not clear that firmware to address the latest threats was being pushed out regularly. It also did not support newer high speed WiFi standards, had no provision for a guest network, and no way to share out a printer.

So I went looking for a replacement. I wanted to address the issues identified above but still stay in the home office price range. I found a few sources that recommended the TP-Link Archer C9. I found it for US$110 on Amazon so that seemed a safe choice.

Set up was straightforward although, as some of the reviews pointed out, you need to wait for a lot of reboots if you’re doing anything but the most basic setup.

So far so good. It didn’t help much with getting my original iPad Mini to hold a WiFi connection but everything else seems to have been checked off.

I upgraded it to the latest firmware (October 2016). The process of downloading the firmware from their website and then installing it was straightforward but it would be nice if you could just hit a “check for updates” button in the web console and not have to download it manually from a separate browser window.

Again, the takeaway is to pay attention to what you’re running – especially the stuff that “just runs” and so never gets looked at. It’s usually fairly cheap and painless to move something better and more current and avoid the risk of something failing or falling victim to a security breach (which always happens at the least convenient moment).