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Keep it in Your Pocket…

Here’s a tip for travelers going through Airport Security: you are going  babe asked to empty your pockets … Everything, including wallet and car keys and passport. It all has to go in one of those plastic bins. Lots of coins? Put em in da bin. Matches? Bin em.

You also have to take off your jacket.

If you want to make your life a lot easier (not to mention faster for the people in line behind you): As you make your way to the front of the line, transfer everything from your pants pockets to the pockets of your jacket. That way when you get through you can quickly grab the jacket and go… And transfer everything back at your leisure.  It’s faster and easier for everyone involved.

Don’t have a jacket? Fine… Use a plastic (or paper) bag to achieve the same results.

Good luck and fly safe!

Since When…?

Those of us who have been in the IT industry for a while remember the heady days of never having to reboot a server… otherwise known as ‘The days before Windows Server.’  Those days are long gone, and even non-Windows servers need to be patched and restarted.

But how do you know when it last happened?  If you have a proper management and monitoring infrastructure then you can simply pull up a report… but many smaller companies do not have that, and even in larger environments you may want to figure out up-time without having to go through the entire rigmarole of pulling up your reports. So here it is:

  1. Open a Command Prompt
  2. Type in net statistics server

There will be a line that says Statistics since m/dd/yyyy… That is when your server last rebooted.

If you want to shorten it, you can also just type Net Stats SRV.  It provides the same results.


Incidentally, while the command specifically states Server, it works for workstations too.

…And now you know.

Smartphone Etiquette

I have often heard discussions on how rude it is to pull out your smartphone during meetings, during meals, and so on.  Personally I am against it, but I understand where there may be mitigating circumstances – sick parents or sick children for example.  With that said, there are a lot of people who will disagree with me, and that is fine… it is their right to be wrong Winking smile

Yes, I say that as a joke… some people will accept it more readily than I would, just like some people would sit in a restaurant wearing a hat.  According to the etiquette of polite society that is completely wrong, but welcome to 2016, right?

Because it has not been drilled into me (the way the hat thing was) I am never tempted to tell people sitting at other tables in restaurants to put their smartphones away.  It’s not my business what they do, and frankly I don’t care.  It doesn’t even bother me.  Yes, hats in restaurants do bother me, but again, I can’t save the world… I can only be responsible for myself.

So the question is, when does it become my business?

Several times over the past couple of years I have been sitting in a restaurant when someone at another table starts playing a game, watching a video, having a speakerphone conversation on their smartphone.  They make no effort to silence it – they don’t wear headphones, they don’t mute it, they don’t even turn the volume down.  That disturbs me.

Let me clarify… I am not talking about loud restaurants or fast-food joints like McDonald’s.  I am talking about sit-down restaurants with menus and cutlery and wait staff and all that.

What should I say?  So far I have not said a word… I have just sat there grinding my teeth at the disturbance.

I had the conversation about this with a friend recently, and he was on the fence about it.  After all, he said, except in the hoity-toitiest of restaurants patrons are not expected to remain silent… is their electronic device (smart phone, tablet, hand-held game machine) not simply an extension of them and if so, is the noise from said device not simply the same thing as them talking and having a conversation?

I thought about this for quite some time, and I do not agree with this position.

I am not an audiologist; I am not a sound engineer.  I am however a pretty observant person.  There is a difference between the noise generated by conversation and the noise generated by an electronic device – especially if one is watching a movie or playing a video game with diverse sounds effects such as beeps, explosions, music, and whatnot.  Sitting in a coffee shop with people having conversations all around is not at all the same thing as walking into the middle of a video game arcade or a movie theatre.

And then there was the family who decided to call grandma while they were having breakfast together.  Everyone else in the restaurant was having a nice, quiet meal, and then all of a sudden this family has grandma on the speakerphone… and I have no issue with grandma, but when speaking into a speakerphone and especially speaking to grandma… and especially speaking to grandma on a speakerphone where there is ambient noise trying to compete with you… you are going to raise your voice; it is natural and expected behaviour.  That is not to say that in the middle of a restaurant it should be acceptable behaviour.

I know society has changed… and G-d knows I do not think that I was raised well in a lot of respects; but when it comes to manners in public my parents made it very clear: behave according to polite society, or face the consequences.  The consequences with my mother were not idle threats – they hurt.  While I am completely against corporal punishment, I think it is a shame that when I see someone wearing a hat in a restaurant or playing video games or watching movies at full volume the answer is not to confront them, rather ‘Hey, it’s the new millennium… what can you do?’

Unfortunately I seem to be in a minority… and the words ‘publicly acceptable behaviour’ seem to have been changed from what I was taught to what is not specifically against the law.

Sigh.  Welcome to the new millennium.  Have a great week-end.

A Day In The Life? How about a cycle?

I recently performed an IT Infrastructure audit on behalf of a company in Canada.  The client was basically satisfied with what I gave them, but wanted me to elaborate on something.

“Mitch, what do you mean when you say we should fully document our processes?  What processes?  How do we even start?

Now, as a consultant looking for my next contract, the easy and profitable answer would have been ‘Hire me and I’ll do it for you.’  However that would have made true the old statement that a consultant is someone who looks at your watch to tell you what time it is.  I did not want to do that.

Documenting a process is easy, depending on how deep you want to go.  The easy way for Windows is to open the Problem Step Recorder (psr.exe) and record your keystrokes.  For more complicated environments, especially remote desktop on other remote environments, I use Camtasia Studio to record my screen, and then go back and watch what I did.

With all that, the best answer for my money is this: Tell your IT guys to keep OneNote open on their screen for a month.  Every time they do anything, log it… detailed steps and all.  By doing this over the course of a month you should capture all of the processes that you do in the course of your regular duties.

I was having a chat recently with my friend and colleague Colin Smith recently, and I told him about this methodology.  He said to me what I thought was obvious… ‘On any given day you likely won’t do everything… but over the course of a month, with the exception of reactions, you should capture just about everything.  It’s like doing A Day In The Life of An IT Guy… but more conclusive.’

Thanks Colin.

Yes, that is true.  While you may want to expand it to whatever period is a cycle (for some companies it might be quarterly), by forcing your IT folks to log and record everything they do in the course of their daily activities, after a while you should have a pretty inclusive set of procedures documented.

A day in the life won’t be enough… Do you monitor your logs every day?  Sure.  Do you perform every task every day? No.  Determine what your cycle looks like… then get to it!

2015 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 210,000 times in 2015. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 9 days for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

If It’s Serious Do Not Facebook Me!

I was standing outside in the cold filling my gas tank recently when my cell phone rang.  A friend of mine called, but because he was calling with an international calling card his number was not displayed. He had just moved to a different country so his phone number changed, and I knew I wouldn’t have it in my phone yet. I asked him to e-mail it to me so I could call him back.

Oh you have it… I sent it to you on Facebook a while back.

This is not nearly the first time I have heard this. So for everyone to understand where I am coming from let me make my position clear:

  1. Facebook is not a serious method of… Anything. Don’t use it to contact me if it is for anything serious.
  2. While Facebook has all sorts of algorithms for mining your data, thus far they have not shared any of it with me. So please assume that if you sent it on Facebook and it was not in the last five minutes, it is gone forever.
  3. While I have no problem using Facebook for personal communications, if it has anything to do with business, serious family issues, dinner plans for Friday, tickets to a baseball game, whatever… Facebook is not a good way to get in touch with me. Yes, I use it… But not reliably. For RELIABLE communications I use e-mail and phone calls and that’s about it.
  4. If I am standing outside in the blowing snow for any reason, I am going to get off the phone fast. Sometimes it will be politely… But only if you say ‘ok I know… Please call me back.’ Anything else will likely be responded to harshly (without rude intent) and will likely be followed by your discussion continuing with a dial tone.

Now please understand that none of this is because I do not want to talk to you. If that were the case I would blow you off very politely and then not call you back, and I would not take the time to explain all of this. I DO want to talk, but in order to do that I need to be able to reach you.

Have a great week!

Greetings from Cuba!

I will be honest folks… I was going to say that we are loving it and I wish you were all here, but it would be a lie. Stephanie and I are having the most wonderful time here, and we are enjoying the quiet and calm. I look forward to seeing you all next week! 


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