Sunday, June 5, 2016

The IT Team are the unsung hero's of today's workplace.

The Information Technology Team are the unsung heroes of today's work place. You may not always see them or know everyone in the group. You may never see them come in during the morning, because they have come in early before everyone came in and they left late at night well after everyone went home. All the upgrades and the improvements that your computers and network needs has to be done with minimal disruptions during the day. So all those upgrades have to be done late at night. And if it breaks while being done then the IT team has to stay there until it's fixed. Sometimes that's an all nighter.
You may walk past their desk and see papers all askew and see them staring intently at their monitor. You may wonder if they are working on something or just reading about the next installment of The Walking dead. Believe me they are working. They might be looking at multiple monitors and be looking at multiple things at once. One screen may have a chart showing the network performance as things go to and from the office via the internet off your network. The other may have a desktop display of a server in another state and the person is trying to figure out why it keeps rebooting when no one asks it to. IT people have a lot on their plate just like everyone else. Lots of times they are working on 2 or 3 things at once because they have so much going on. Especially if they are understaffed like many are. Companies do not like to spend as much money as they should on IT because they feel there is no return on investment. If only they understood that all that time the IT crew spent upgrading the network really does make a difference for the performance of people being able to get to their information faster. If only they knew that expense for that new backups server already saved data that almost was lost because a server crashed during a busy budget time. You cannot put a price on some of that data so its hard to show a dollar expense for it.
IT people constantly have to think ahead and anticipate possible issues. If you see an IT person deep in thought they may be wondering about that small glitch in one server that makes the printer stop printing at times. It hasn’t happened in weeks but the IT person is thinking about it and trying to figure out what causes it to stop it before it happens again. IT people sometimes stay up laying in bed wide awake wondering about why something broke that day and what caused it and how to fix it from happening again. IT people have to think on their feet and when faced with multiple issues at once they must be able to figure out the one to go after first that is the most critical. You may not think that issue is the one that should be looked at first but there is a reason why they went for it first.
If you have a decent IT person at your company then make sure you thank them for their hard work. A good IT person is hard to find and they just want to know someone appreciates the work they put into keeping the IT running smoothly.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Toshiba Tecra A50 Laptop review

My HP laptop that I have used for the last 3 years for work was getting old but still running well. We just got a refresh of Toshiba laptops which is our company standard. So I traded mine in to check the toshiba out and it has been a good trade off. Gone is the bulky tecra a50 of last year and in its place is a sleek light weight machine that has a lot of great features for its price point.

The Tecra A50C is powered by an Intel Core i5-6200U CPU. Mine is clocked at 2.30GHZ and comes standard with 4 GB of DDR3 ram. I was able to upgrade to 8 GB of ram to make sure all my server and cloud usage would not tax the machine while on the road. There is a 500GB Toshiba hard drive for storage and it is 7200RPM and works very quick to shuffle data around and has a great transfer rate. An Intel chip set powers the network connections which includes AC capable WiFi and gigabit Ethernet for being wired into the network.

On the left side you can see you have your Ethernet port along with 2 USB 3 ports and the head phone jack. A slim line DVD Burner completes the line up for the left side items.

On the right side you have your ac adapter plug in which is a smaller power brick to keep weight down. Then you have a fan vent for cooling along with your VGA and HDMI inputs for monitors and projectors. 2 more USB 3 slots round out the right side and then a SD Card slot for memory cards. They did away with the worthless dust cover for the SD card slot which is a good thing, one less thing to get lost as you transport your laptop to and from.

The keyboard has been completely redesigned and the key spacing is very well done. HP has always been number 1 for me with keyboard layouts but this toshiba really shines when you need to do some heavy typing. Also gone is the horrible track pad of old that used to click randomly even if your palms sat no where near it. The new track pad is a full featured pad that has built in right and left click buttons and feels very fluid and smooth to move and click with. There is also a track ball and keys if your used to the track ball coming from a Lenovo laptop. Both work very well to move around the screen and the amount of mis clicks is very minimal. Im just now getting used to the scrolling which makes more sense to scroll with 2 fingers on the pad rather than one finger on the far right of the pad as HP used to have setup.
The lower part of the laptop below the track pad has a very well placed finger print reader that works very well once setup. You can use Toshiba's finger print software to manage log ins or you can use Windows Hello which was very easy to setup and execute. Did I mention the keyboard is backlit? That alone sold me on swapping my laptop. I sometimes sit in bed at night with the laptop (Yeah I know blue light is killing my sleep and all...) And being able to find the keys and see them easier is very convenient. Most laptops at this 800-900 dollar price point should have this feature and some do not.

Lets discuss the one thing that is my most important feature in a new laptop and that is the battery life. It has to get me 6 hours or more to win my approval and my old laptop only did that with the help of a larger capacity battery that was bulky and added more weight to carry around. Thankfully this laptop is powered by a 45 Watt 4 cell battery that can achieve 6 hours of usage with medium screen brightness which is more than easier to see while typing away. The charge time can be long as now I ran the battery completely down for the first time and the chart is telling me it will charge fully in 2 and a half hours. The battery is removable so you could buy an extra to keep with you for long travel if your not going to be near an outlet for a while.

There is DTS studio sound and the speaker is very loud and crisp. No tinny sounding videos for the traveling professional! The screen is a 15.6 inch HD TFT LED Backlit screen and has 1366x768 screen resolution and supports 720p content, 16:9 aspect ratio. Pictures and videos are very clear and crisp and the Intel video chipset has a world of features if you want to tweak color settings and gamma options. There are also plenty of power settings that can be used to tweak the most juice from the battery to keep the laptop going longer when away from a power source.

The laptop has the docking station connector on the bottom and is compatible with the same docking station as last years model which is a savings of not having to buy a new docking station.
The laptop configuration that we order comes with the Windows 7 downgrade installed and the discs included if you want to upgrade to Windows 10. Being that my home desktop runs windows 10 and has no issues I did a quick backup of Windows 7 and upgraded to Windows 10 as soon as I setup the machine. My settings for my profile carried right over and the performance of the system felt very snappy and bug free. I have been using the laptop heavy for the last few weeks and it has not given me issues yet.
Did I mention its light? A mere 5 pounds which is a great thing when travelling. I already have a lot of weight with my extras in my bag and this will help keep the shoulder from complaining much when carrying around the laptop in the bag. Its light enough to walk around with and hold to look at the screen if there is no table or chair to rest it on while working. The build quality feels very solid and the tecra series was always well designed for long life and usage for the business professional. Some might say "why no touch screen?" Well our configuration we build we opted out of that as its not needed in the line of work we are in and it would possible confuse some of our end users while they were working in the cloud. I am also not sure that I personally would use it that much.
All in all this is a very solid laptop and a great value to purchase and use if you need a lighter laptop and something that is durable and will last for some time.
What are some of your favorite models laptops that you use for work? Comment and let me know.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

How long will this go on?

How long will this oppression go on? How long will the leaders who cant lead go untouched? Why do people allow this to continue to go on? Will it ever get better?
these are a few of my questions as I take a drag of my cigarette and scan the current news for the day on my local paper. I glanced up and looked all around at the sea of faces before me. many reading the stories I just had read and I did not see one face get angry with rage at the injustices their eyes just scanned. Everyone just sat there sipping their coffees and let that story sit. Some scrolled across things on their phones not seeming to be interested in the news that will affect them greatly. The shop was busy during the morning rush of people looking to get their caffeine fix before starting the day. It was warm on this autumn day. But the sun was fighting for space in the sky with the clouds. The week before had brought heavy rains and ran off fears of droughts. Now this week we were starting to see the autumn weather we all loved. Crisp air with bright zaps of color as leaves fell down from the trees. It was cold enough to run the heat in the morning but then you turned it off in the afternoon and maybe fired it up again in the evening.
I had spent the previous evening on the phone trying to convince my attorney that we should start a class action suit against a company making sub par parts on a popular vehicle. He tried to tell me that my thinking was out of line and my drinking was blurring my thoughts. I argued my case back and fourth with him for half the evening but in the end he finally gave up and hung up on me. Wait till he sends me his latest bill. Ill make sure it gets lost in the mail. I am sure this company should get heavy fines and lots of bad press. They cannot keep making these cars so shitty. Never mind the safety impact but the people will stop buying them and then they will complain that they cant compete in the global market place. The auto market place is a rough place to be in right now. Every one is cut throat with their pricing and if you don't give the customer the best bang for the buck your sales will fall. I decided to go look for a new car after I finished my coffee.
I dropped a tip on the table and left the coffee shop. A few moments later I was zooming down Smith street at 80 miles an hour looking to beat that god awful red light that comes up suddenly. I got through it as it was pink... Some honking and a few angry drivers, eh, let em bitch! I decided to head over to the car shops at North street. At least there I could get a good selection of cars from all the dealerships and see which one I wanted to buy. I was thinking a new BMW was in order.. I had grown tired of this red Audi with the turbo charger. Maybe I would go with a 7 series with some nice leather. It had been a while since I got leather in a car. I stopped getting it because the heat from the summer sun made sitting in shorts so unbearable. Too many days I had spent driving a useless car that I hated to drive. Now that I have the choice and the power to choose what I want I will always buy the car that I want without settling. If it does not have all the features I want, then I am not buying it. If i want it to have a button press that flips off the person behind me then i better have that option to put that in. Otherwise the car is not for me. Since I came into this fortune I have become the annoying consumer that most sales people don't want to deal with. Because I know exactly what I want and you cannot upsell me unless I planned to go all out on that item anyway. And I'm pushy. If I don't like you I will tell you and you will not be selling me anything. Ill go to a different sales person and ill keep moving around till I find the one that I want to deal with.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Are smart devices causing us attention issues?

You see it all the time. Your out eating and you look over and there is a family of 4 at the other table. No one is looked at each other because they all have their noses buried in their phones. Then you keep watching and one of them asks a question to the other person and the answer is "HUH?" Then they are trying to place their order with the waitress and they cant accurately convey the message of what they want so they get upset and blame the waitress as if its her fault they cannot speak correctly.
Mobile devices have given us unlimited access to countless Gigabytes of data. But what cost does this come with? The ability to work anywhere and look up anything at any place is an awesome concept. But does it cause us to forget common logic and keep us working at times when we should be doing our own things? People tend to lose the ability to unplug and disconnect and take time for themselves. I have done this before and now make sure I take time for myself and let the phone beep and buzz with its updates. I tell myself "we can check them later". Same goes for the other way too. The person sending the email at 1 am may even expect a response, smart devices have created this effect as well. People send messages and think the other person is looking at their data 24/7 no matter what time it is.
I have talked to people of all ages and noticed those who grew up with this technology and use it heavily seem to have some difficulty speaking to people face to face. I do feel that these devices take away the ability for people to communicate if smart devices are used at a younger age. Now there may be classes that will be taught to reinforce proper communication and general conversation skills. But these may be a way off and will not get to all the people that need them now. Is limiting children from using these devices frequently a good way to stop this? Perhaps setting an age limit to say 12 before introducing children to these devices. By this age, they should already have developed decent communication skills and have been through quite a bit of English and grammar teachings.
Smart devices are here to stay, but we need to make sure they do not make us dumb at the same time! People need to learn to "unplug" and truly go off line to relax and keep stress from work to a minimum.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Your post here!

As I posted on my Facebook page, I want the audience to suggest a topic for me to blog on that is tech related. It mayb be something I don't know much about. If it is I will research it and find out more about it and post about it. I love to learn and read about new things and always enjoy expanding my knowledge. My goal for this portal is for it to be a place for people to come and discuss technology. I want the audience to give their feedback and post their love of tech. So think about something you want to read about, suggest it and I will look it up and post a blog about it.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Even if you love your career frustration can set in...

There comes a point in every career that you start to have bad days and start to think things, like why do I do this? What is my goal? Do I even want to do this anymore? Does what I do matter to anyone?
If you job is high stress this can come on quicker than in other fields. When it comes to the IT Field you can face high stress almost every day. I started feeling like this about a month ago. The calls would come into the help desk and while trying to deal with those I was doing other projects that required a lot of attention to detail that I could not provide because I was on the phone helping users and doing other things at the same time. I used to wake up and look forward to going to work and facing new challenges. Now I wake up and I have to talk myself into it. I knew there were a ton of projects that I needed to work on but I just did not have the drive. I felt like why bother, there will just be another one right after it and no one cares. Going back to a retail store to stock shelves all day seemed like a better alternative than this. Basically I forgot some of the most important things about myself.
I lost sight of why I got into this field. What I loved about it. What used to drive me to try to be better every day. I wasn't sure how to get it back. Even my co workers could see I was stressed out. I would normally just answer a question and talk a little about something related. Now they would get a one word answer and I was short and barked at them gruffly. I knew it wasn't right to do and they were all working as hard as me, but I felt like I was drowning.
But then one day something good happened. I had several calls in a row and everyone thanked me for my help and told me how wonderful I was to work with. How I always can get them out of a jam and that I was truly a valuable person to have at the desk. Then as I was going through helping people by email requests, they were each coming back saying the same thing. One person said, "I know you guys don't get the respect you deserve sometimes, but this office really appreciates all that your team does for us. That email got flagged and marked in a category called "keep going you're on the right path".... I then had a moment to myself, it was quiet on the desk and my projects were waiting on updates from others that would not come for at least a few hours, so I started cleaning out my desk drawers. They get to become a disaster If I don't try to keep up with them. As I was going through the one drawer a small card fell out, It was a thank you card I got one of the first years I started working there. The person had written up a small note thanking me for the amount of time I took to make sure her offices were up and running and how she was so thankful for the amount of time and effort I put into the task. She said I went above and beyond what was needed and she was thrilled. I had forgotten I had that card. So I put it on my desk near where all my papers sit that I have to work on every day so I could always see it.
I went home that night and made sure I replayed all the good comments and remarks I heard and read throughout the day in my head. I asked the important questions that needed to have answers to make it all clear, "Why do I do this work?" "What gave me my passion for this role so long ago?" I remembered how back when I first got into the computer field, I was not sure what I wanted to do, I didn't know where to start. There were a few people in my neighborhood I talked to all the time, I told them I was looking into getting into computer work. they all asked me for some small help on the computer. Basic stuff, how to get AOL to dial up right, (I know, no body remembers that stuff!) How to make Windows 98 run a little quicker. All small things I knew how to do. And each person was so happy I could help them in some small way. They all said I had great patience to work with them and I would go far in the field. I realized then that was what I wanted to do. I wanted to be in a support role to help people with the computer. People need someone who can give them help stay focused and not get upset when its hard to explain to them how to do something. I remember how I would work hard on learning how to talk to people and explain technical things in a way they would understand. I felt better that night.
I woke up the next day and went back to work with a new recharged feeling. It was a hectic day, the desk was really busy. There were several issues going on that needed to be fixed with a few steps each time. I worked with every person until they were working and happy, I stayed calm, focused and did not feel stressed. I was enjoying the challenge. The day went by really quick. It was a great day. I made sure to remember how I felt that night and thought about more ways I could improve. I started reading about some new technology we were going to be using. I made sure to know how to work with it and thought about what issues I could face with this new stuff. I was back. It was great again.
So how do you get back to a place where you love what you do? I don't have all the answers but reminding your self of why you went into that field can help. Also get feed back from others. Find out what drives your peers in the field and why they started in the field as well. Ask co workers to evaluate you and tell you what they feel you need work on. When you have a bad day, before you leave, make sure to shake it off and leave it at work. Go home and doing something you love to do that has nothing to do with your work. Once you feel better try to think about the day and how things went. See if you can find ways to improve things. If you do that after working on a hobby or something you love to do, your mind set will be better and you can look back at the day with a fresh outlook and it may help you make the next day better. If you can do these things to help you feel better about your path again, you will start to have better days. It will bring you back to enjoying what you do again.

Friday, July 3, 2015

A look at what being in IT is like

A lot of times I get asked what is it like to be an IT person? I can sum it up in one word... EXHAUSTING
There is always something new to learn. When I started the company I am at currently, in my first week I had to learn 7 different applications. AT warp speed... a call would come in, this application is not working right.... Ok, what is the application, how do I use it so I know how to tell the end user how to use it or what they are doing wrong. Then I have to learn this other application that helps me do MY job. It was a crazy time.
We as IT people don't get the luxury of taking a weekend to sit down with the manual and read about a new program and figure out how to make it do what we want. we usually learn it during a call with an end user, they need it to run right now and its not a common application like your standard say... photo editor program. When this happens you have to rely on you knowledge of how other applications work and how they are laid out. You have to remember the common things that all applications have that you have seen before, like an options menu, or that the Print command is always in the file menu.
Then on top of learning the 12 new versions of the software that you support that just got released yesterday, you have to be able to rapidly figure out what issue is happening as the next call comes in and be able to use your tools and skills to figure out why a network connection went down. Now there is no internet... and people cant get to their files.... this is a situation that can get even the calmest of managers seeing red and taking swigs of Maalox. If it were still 1999 the internet being down would not be a big deal, the users would have their applications in front of them on their local computer and they could get other things done and calmly wait for the internet to come back up to check their emails. Not so much anymore... Business happens at the speed of the internet and the internet has everything connected. If the internet connection goes down business stops. Money stops flowing. You get that call, you have to get the internet back up if you can or be able to work with the local provider to get the issue fixed. Now you have to be able to quickly troubleshoot from simple to more complex and make sure if its just one user or all the users. Again you have to use all the experience of doing this before to try to determine this quickly so that you can get to a resolution fast and move on to the next call. Now you find out it is the provider and that its out of your hands. Now you have to make sure to convey to the internet provider that the connection needs to be restored and that it needs to happen quickly, and then you have to tell the manager the news and convey that it will be ok and this happens from time to time and it will all get resolved quickly. That brings up another skill you need, the ability to put this into words that anyone can under stand. You cannot tell the finance manager that the T1 circuit is in fail over mode and there is a fiber splice. He will not know what that means and not know what the situation is. You have to be able to tell him that there is a connection issue but it will be resolved but there is physical damage that will have to be repaired by the provider and a crew will be out working on it. You have to be able to explain technical things to a non technical person. That can be hard to master. You are around other It people all day you throw the terms back and fourth constantly all day, "fiber splice," "CAT 5 Cable" Defragment the drive. Then you talk to a non It person and forget your not in the same field. You have to change your explanation on the fly as to what is going on. I see IT people all the time who are good but have trouble putting it into words that someone else can understand.
Its also good to actually learn some of the business aspects of the company you work for. It makes it easier to understand why things are done the way they are in the office. If you learn how the A/P department process payments to go out, you learn more and you may even find ways for them to do it differently that is better than whats done today. Learning some non IT skills is also good. Management love having an IT person that is well rounded. They will feel more confident in your ability and know you have a desire to know your company and learn new things. It can lead to better opportunities and even a little more pay. Which is always a plus.
So the next time you see your IT person and they have their head down and they are staring at their screen, they are not reading some non work thing just goofing off like you think, they are learning the new financial application which is rolling out next week and trying to figure out how to get the California office back online all while trying to explain to the CFO why the cloud costs so much if there is no physical server here in the office!