Help YourselfLooking back at the 4+ years I have been posting on this blog has been rewarding.  I think there are times where others have been helped (at least that has been word on the street…).  I can see the searches performed and know of the information that was reviewed to some extent by folks – and I’m humbled / gratified that some have taken the advice I muse about.

For some, the advice has gotten them out of a jam (malware, spills on computers, computer maintenance, even ethical dilemmas).  Others have been able to do things for themselves and not need to depend on others.  Still others have rescued email and transitioned to other ways of communicating (like social networks).

It’s great to be able to help others!  I pray that those who have been helped pass on the knowledge and effort so the gift keeps on giving.

What about helping yourself?  Here is where I want to mash up a couple of things.  These are things you should help yourself to – take the medicine even if you don’t like the taste!

  • Backup – take time to organize yourself for future problems by backing up your data/files.  Whatever it is that was important enough for you to create and keep (pictures, documents, graphics, emails, music, videos, or whatever else that is…) make sure you back it up.
  • Do Maintenance – I still have not figured out why there is such resistance in this chore.  Yes, it takes time, and it can be a pain, but the payback is using your precious device longer and better (performance).  Take the time to clean up those temp files, update and run your anti-virus/malware programs, and ensure you have the latest patches / hotfixes / updates installed for your operating system and software!
  • Clean It – here I’m talking about physical maintenance.  Clean your screen, use canned air to blow out your ventilation areas and keyboard of your equipment.  Keep it clean!
  • Be Skeptical – just because Aunt Suzie sent you something doesn’t mean you have to click on the link or open the file.  That tweet from a friend should not compel you to click on the link it contained.  That post or tagged photo – yes, the same applies there as well.  Crafty folks are working hard to get you to click on things, don’t rush into that trap!

Those of you that have been reading my posts for a while already know that you will find links to each of the areas I have addressed above in this blog.  And – know I thank you for your time and encouragement to continue to write!  Feel free to comment, until next time… Happy Fall!


 

When you think of ethics, what do you think of?  When you go to a business, do you make your decision to do business with them based on price alone?  Product selection?  Treatment by employees?  Does ethics even make it on the list for you?

Many businesses believe strongly in the ideals of operating in a fair and ethical manner.  They understand that by following good ethics they are less likely to experience conflicts with laws and are more likely to attract loyal employees, suppliers and customers.  So most businesses expect all members of their organization to operate in an ethical manner.

What is ethics?  Simply stated, ethics is knowing the difference between right and wrong and deciding to do the right thing.  It includes upholding qualities of personal integrity, such as honesty, fairness and truthfulness.  As an employee at a business it is your own personal integrity while at work that is something only YOU can control.  This includes the following:

  • Cheating, stealing and deception undermine trust and should not be tolerated.  When you or the organization says something will happen, it should happen as stated.  If you promise to someone that you will do something, and then run into an obstacle, go back to that person and explain the difficulty.  Then see how you can move forward to make good on your promise!
  • Lies and trickery are poison to ANY organization.  If you do not know the answer, simply say so! Admit that you do not know or that you cannot answer.  Then – if possible – go find out the answer from those in the management / authority chain above you and convey the right answer when possible!
  • As you represent the business you work in, consider the interests of others.  That does not mean you give co-workers, vendors or others everything they want.  But it does mean that you are respectful of others, and you will take time to weigh their needs and even discuss with them your thought process as you seek to resolve a conflict between them and you or the business.
  • You should pursue the organization’s interests, free from secret motives to advance others (or yourself).  In addition you should not be bad-mouthing the business you work for (after all, you represent them and are a part of the organization).  That doesn’t mean you keep quiet when you see areas of improvement – speak up to your management and let them work as appropriate to address the issue.  Oh – and if it is not addressed the way YOU think it should be addressed, don’t take it so personally!  There are probably pieces of the puzzle you were not aware of that influenced the decision.

To know what is the right and ethical thing to do is not easy in every situation (and at times in most any strange situation).  Conflicting interests and differing points of view may be present.  For example, a coworker might ask you to send an email stating that he or she was present at the office when in fact they were not.  They may tell you they needs you to tell this “white lie” so they can claim to an insurance company that their car was in the company parking lot when it was dented.  What should you do?

There are good ways to resolve ethical questions like this.  If you are not sure what is the right thing to do, seek help (and by this I don’t mean ask each and every coworker their opinion of what to do!).  Perhaps you could ask your supervisor (and this may be appropriate since they can mediate issues and have additional resources they can lean on in strange situations).  Ultimately help can be available by consulting higher levels of management, a human resource department or even the legal branch of your company.

If you believe you have not been given thoughtful guidance, it is OK to be persistent in a tactful way while seeking advice from the proper authority within your company.  An important part of ethical behavior is being diligent in seeking to find the right outcome for any disagreement or controversy.  Just remember, if it is not the outcome YOU think it should be, don’t become Debbie Downer or Donnie Downer.  You probably are not the authority of all things ethical (I know I am not).

If you maintain your own personal integrity, you not only help your organization; you build a reputation that will reward you throughout your career.  And this is something you can control.  You can take the high road!  You will make a difference in your outlook and the way others perceive you.  Thoughts?  Leave a comment!


 

Passwords...they should be strong and secret...Passwords are a wonderful way to authenticate you – it’s a simple way of authenticating you are who you claim to be and should be able to access the information you are attempting to get at. I say it’s a simple way because there are many more complicated ways to do this! I also say it is a simple say because this is the most attacked way to gain entrance to systems by others who are not you! Simply put – passwords are how you log in to a system.

If someone can gain access to your password, they can steal your digital identity and have access to all of your information. We often take passwords for granted, forgetting that we need to craft / create / protect them well. Let’s learn more about what makes a good password and how to use them to our advantage. There are two key points to strong passwords.

First, you want passwords that are hard to guess. This means do not use passwords such as words or phrases you can find in the dictionary, your pets name, your address or your birth date.

Second, use passwords that are easy to remember. If you keep forgetting your passwords they are not very helpful.

Cyber criminals have developed programs that automate the ability to guess, or brute force attack your passwords. This means they can break into your accounts if your passwords are easy to guess. To protect yourself follow these rules for good passwords.

  • You should have at least one number in your password.
  • You should have at least one lower case and one upper case letter in your password.
  • You should have at least one symbol in your password.

But how do we a password that is easy to remember but hard to guess? At first glance this password looks very difficult. However by using the first letter of each word in a sentence, it becomes much easier to remember:

M1swb@MIH@11:25

My 1st son was born at Mary Immaculate Hospital at 11:25.

By using phrases you can pick passwords that are easy to remember and hard for people to guess.

In addition to using strong passwords, you must protect how you use and control them.

First, it is important to use different passwords for different accounts. For example, never use the same passwords for your work or bank accounts as your personal accounts, such as Facebook, YouTube or Twitter. This way if one of your passwords is hacked or compromised, the other accounts are still safe.

Second, never share your password with anyone else, including a family member, co-worker or supervisor. Remember, your password is a secret, if anyone else knows your password it is no longer secure. If you accidentally share your password with someone else, change it immediately.

Third, never use a public computer such as at hotels or libraries to log into a work or bank account (or other account that you don’t want compromised – like your email or LinkedIn account). Since anyone can use these computers they may be infected with a malicious code that is capturing all your keystrokes. Only log in to your various accounts on trusted computers you control.

Fourth, if you are no longer using an account, be sure to disable or delete it. That’s right, remove it, trash it, get rid of it – don’t just abandon it!

Finally, be cautious of websites that require you to answer personal questions. These questions are often used if you forget your account password and need to reset it. The problem is the answers to these questions can often be found on the Internet, or even your social networking pages. Make sure that if you answer personal questions you use only information that is not publicly known. If the website provides other reset options, such as a text message to your mobile phone, you may want to consider these alternatives.

I don’t share this to scare you – I only want you to be aware of what you need to do as you practice safe computing. I hope you examine how you craft and use your passwords and make necessary changes to keep your information free from those that want to hack!

unplug-n-playThe year has been going by quickly (don’t they all as we grow more mature).  The company I work for decided to make some changes to the time we accrue for vacation.  Because of that, I needed to unload some of my vacation time at the beginning of the year just to get under then new accrual cap.   After taking 3 weeks off between January / February, I thought that would be the end of that!

But that just got me to the ‘new’ limit.  In the past, the company would have paid me for accrual time instead of it just not being used.  But now, with an emphasis on work/life balance (don’t you love the new trends and all the ways others know what is best for us), we are repeatedly told to take time off.  This year, I have taken that to heart (I got the message, HR!).

To better keep my accrued time below the newly lowered cap, I took off in July for a week at the beach.  And, as I type, I’m on another week off in the mountains.  So this post is a bit of reflection about vacation and being unplugged from work, the side business, and much of the news.  Is there any impact?  Or any benefit?

First let’s examine an odd happening while at the beach. I need to come clean and let you in on a secret.  I’m … Caucasian.  Put another way, I’m a white guy.  And I mean it – I don’t tan, I just turn red.  Over they years I’ve learned to cope with this, and one of the coping mechanisms is I don’t go to the beach much (why should I, I’m fortunate enough to have access to a pool that is awesome fun without litter, danger of sharks or other critters, and – no sand except in the filter!).  The reality is that my wife loves the beach.  It is her ‘release’ and truly one of the things that makes her world spin correctly.

What is a good compromise?  For me, a fascination of digging up buried treasure came to the rescue as I became older (and could afford to purchase equipment).  I bought a metal detector.  It isn’t top of the line, but it isn’t the one you would get at Kmart either – it a nice White’s MXT I purchased around 2001.  So I normally enjoy the beach in the morning when there are few folks on it, just being that old guy in a hat swinging a metal detector.  It won’t get me rich, but it is just what I need to shut down the mind and relax!

It is not uncommon for others to come up and either compare notes (they also metal detect) or to ask what I’ve found.  This morning on the beach I saw it coming – a middle aged woman making a beeline towards me.  At 6:30 in the morning, I understood someone must have lost something and I had the tool that may help them find it.  Sure enough, she told me that a young lady saying with them had lost something of value that they were not able to find – their iPhone.

While I’ve never found something like that, I’m thinking to myself ‘Piece of cake, large surface area and should make a sound that will make my ears ring’.  But she continued and told me it was lost – in the ocean.  Since I had been detecting along the beach, she really wanted to know if I had seen it washed up on the shore.  I asked was it in some type of protective case?  You bet!  They had purchased an iPhone Waterproof Case but when this was put to the test were surprised that it did not float.

As much as I enjoy helping folks, I told her I did not see this during my swinging that morning.  But it got me thinking of how we have the sustained need to stay plugged in.  An iPhone, not just at the beach, but in the Ocean with you – as you frolic in the surf?  Do we really need to be plugged in that much?

I read quite a few articles about unplugging.  Some tout a ‘digital sabbath’, others encourage us to destress by walking away from our constant reliance on technology and reading a book, and others defend our dependence and claim there are no issues to be seen here (just move along…).   I’m certain there is a spot in-between that is right, a balance between our use of electronics and our need to interact with actual humans (you know, the ones that are around you, that you shop with, work with, live and go places with).  And I’m pretty sure that an extreme is taking your iPhone in the surf (what message could you possibly get of any value in that mixing bowl… other than ‘shark!’).

How do you find balance?  What are the limits for your use of technology?  How long can you go without peeking at your phone/tablet/computer?  When was the last time you unplugged?  Thanks for reading, I look forward to hearing from you!

Processes (and a BigMac)As an introduction to this post, I initially wrote this up to show / make a point in 2007.  At that time the group I was in had lots to do, and everyone was trying their best to do anything and everything asked of them – however – we had no processes to follow.  This led to a bit of frustration when I was asked to give the customer something in the IT world but did not have enough information to actually fulfill what the customer actually ordered / paid for.

Also, since this was done in 2007, I did not go back and do any updates to the drinks or even look up the many changes that have taken place in this particular franchise or the fast food industry as a whole.  If you see issues, I’m certain I am the one that caused them.  However, I hope this helps to point you to the need for processes – where you take inputs and they produce specific outputs.


In the world of processes, we can draw some parallels from a Big Mac®.

You drive to your local McDonalds™ to grab a tasty treat. You pull up to the ordering kiosk and see choices. A lot of choices. For this exercise, we will only focus on one – the Big Mac®.

You place your order. The person taking the order speaks the order back to you and you confirm it. They instruct you to drive up to the first window to pay. You pay. Then you are instructed to drive to the 2nd window to receive your order (which you do). Then you wait.

There is a problem. The person that is actually delivering the food order has no screen that tells them what you ordered. The kitchen staff has a screen – and there are lots of Burgers and fries available to you to pick from, but you don’t know what the customer ordered!

So, the customer waits. And waits. Finally, you get a message in your headset from the employee at the first window – ‘Hey, cars are backed up here, did you get the order for the car at your window?’

You talk back in your headset and let them know that you didn’t get the order, however you have a lot of food to pick from and would be more than happy to fulfill the order if they would let you know what it is.

‘The customer ordered a Big Mac®.’ is the reply.

Great – 1 Big Mac®. You place it in a McBag (probably ® as well) and hand it out the window. The customer doesn’t move. You ask the employee at window 1, ‘Umm, is that all the customer ordered? They aren’t moving…’

‘You know, a Big Mac® meal!’

Ahh…so you get a small fry and small Coke® hand those items out the window. The customer takes them and then hands the bag back through the window with the Big Mac® inside. “This isn’t prepared the way I ordered – please give me my order.”

Now you’re in a pickle (no pun intended). You feverishly speak into the headset. You ask exactly what the customer ordered so you can fulfill it properly.

You see how this is going…that is a recurring issue we are having concerning communication among the other disciplines in our organization. There is no communication that states specifically what any customer has ‘ordered’ from the us. Such a communication would be the trigger to turn the other groups within the organization to begin to fulfill and ultimately deliver what the customer has ordered.

Using the Big Mac® model. How many combinations could the customer have ordered?

Here are the components that make a Big Mac®

  • Big Mac®
  • Beef Patty
  • Big Mac Bun
  • Pasteurized Process American Cheese
  • Big Mac Sauce
  • Lettuce
  • Pickle Slices
  • Onions (Dehydrated)
  • Grill Seasoning

Depending upon what the customer exactly ordered, there is a 1 in 40,320 chance that the person at window could choose the correct Big Mac®.

Then comes Fries. If you don’t know exactly what the customer ordered, there is a 1 in 6 chance you could choose the right size (small, medium, large) fries and either have them salted or not salted.

And drinks. If you don’t know exactly what the customer ordered, there is a 1 in 910 chance you could choose the right size (small, medium, large) and fill it with the right beverage and fulfill their wish for ice or no ice.

Beverages:

  • Coca-Cola
  • Diet Coke
  • Fanta
  • Barq’s
  • Hi-C
  • Sprite
  • Dasani water
  • Minute Maid Apple Juice
  • Minute Maid Orange Juice
  • Milk
  • Iced Tea
  • Coffee
  • Chocolate Shake
  • Vanilla Shake
  • Strawberry Shake

(taken from http://app.mcdonalds.com/bagamcmeal and http://www.mcdonalds.com/usa/eat/quality0/beverages.html)

Conclusions – since I’m not a statistician and don’t even know one, I have no idea how to combine the chances above so that we know the odds of the person at window 2 in getting the customer’s order correct. In fact, I’m not positive I have the right calculations that give you correct odds for our diatribe above. But this I do know – we are not getting information on what our customer ‘ordered’ so that we can fulfill it. And this is an area I would like to see addressed so we can better serve the customer.


Processes are an important part of many of the things we do.  If you are noticing mistakes in areas that should be repeatable – perhaps there is a process that is not being followed or needs to be written so that specific inputs get specific (and repeatable) outputs!

LifecycleThis is a post to look at the ways folks can plan to move on with their hardware and software needs.  Recently I assisted with putting together a PC for family that was only 3-5 years old from a technology standpoint (but be of good cheer – it was replacing a well used 10 year old Gateway computer).  One of the questions I had, other than the necessary ones that had to do with hardware needs (it was a pre-used Dell PC that had no hard drive) was what software needs were.

Why is this important?  Well, the Dell – at one time – had Windows XP Home Edition installed on it, because that was the license key on the case.  My family was comfortable with that software since that is what was on the old Gateway PC.  And that is where we will start with our introduction to the Lifecycle!

To get this out of the way, how exactly do you spell lifecycle?  All together (concatenated)?  Or separate (life cycle)?  Or perhaps hyphenated (life-cycle)?  For our purposes, let’s not quibble over this and just stick with it all together, because it sure shows up in each of those ways and is more often than not conveying the same idea.   Whew, that’s behind us…

My concern was not getting my family to update to the latest and greatest operating system Microsoft had to offer.  The fact is, to do that we would have needed different hardware.  My concern was over the continuing support of an operating system that was pushing 2 years past its published end of life date.  Things break, software at times experiences issues and needs to be fixed or reinstalled, was I leaving my family is a good spot or just putting them on the spot?

So what is a lifecycle?  The lifecycle starts when a product (hardware and/or software) is released and ends when it is no longer supported or sold.  This gives businesses (and just you and I as general consumers) information that is needed to make informed decisions – like when to upgrade or migrate because of items ending their useful lifecycle.

If you are curious about lifecycles of products you use or depend on, here are a few links for you to review.  Look at the manufacturer’s website for a specific product you need information about.

If you are looking for information for your specific item (HP, Toshiba, Dell, etc.) feel free to visit their page and look for information on ‘end of life’, ‘lifecycle’, ‘end of support’ or ‘retired’.  Plan ahead so you are not left behind!  Thanks for reading.