Consulting

This is a “quick” recap of my thoughts.

My 1st 3D modeling machine was a Quadra 800

What has been up with me some may wonder. Well, a lot. I moved, decided to pivot & am restarting my career. Oh course whenever you do that, you get a ton of recruiters emailing you with jobs from your old profession, that are no longer suitable to you. Thanks to life events, I can’t work the long hours demanded, and besides that — despite my deceptively younger looks — I’m not a spring chicken anymore. Along with that, I realized that I can’t do repairs of small devices anymore. This is somewhat sad. But considering that my iFixit kit has paid itself off at least 10 times over the years, it’s not that bad of an outcome. Another change is my outlook. Before April of this month, my view on life was that I had to clear my plate of everything put in front of me or let it pile up. However looking at my reading list, there are literally over 100 articles I simply bookmarked after the synopsis or intro that I never got back to. Add to that the countless languages (markup or compiled) I’ve looked at learning and we see a truly daunting list. I’ve decided that things will get my attention as they always have: as needed. The one thing I am putting on my plate over and over until I learn it is 3D. This follows my 2 decade old foray into 3D when I bought some, now defunct, program to run on my Quadra 800. It took hours to ray trace a simple render test. However now it is for modeling objects for 3D printing. While you will never hear me call myself a 3D artist, it is one skill I know I can pickup again. My skills are in a constant state of flux. Last year I spent recuperating from yet another person who overestimated their stopping distance and ended up plowing into my car and injuring me. The more things change…

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The commercially available GUI is now over 30 years old. We all know that what was once a paradigm altering way that communications engineers, researchers & computer scientists could interact with their machine has firmly cemented itself in the landscape of interfaces, as the mice and trackpads that came with it. Initially the GUI was called a novelty that would quickly wear out its welcome by companies that have since staked everything on their misunderstanding of how a GUI should act. Now that a more common use paradigm is direct touch. The conventions useful & familiar with the desktop metaphor have been replaced by a graphic icon collection to open an app suited to the task. Again people who’s thinking is still bound by conventions of prior use paradigms that either work poorly or not at all without alteration to fit into new paradigms is hobbling the efficiency of their user base. The base-line of porting UI to a tocuh UI has been accomplished: where it was a double click to open, it is just one tap; where it was a menu bar window, it is now a navbar & bottom “tab/panel/view.”

However, Before this current paradigm shift happened, the GUI had already been mutating between versions & various OS platforms until new conventions were tried & failed or took root. Often multiple ways to interact are allowed in most desktop OSes, & between platforms some interactions are preferred, while other are simply cumbersome. Somewhere along the way the fundamentals of UI design were forgotten & exchanged for the slickest looking UI and usability took a backseat to aesthetics because the people who placed aesthtics fist didn’t realize that aesthetics and usability are tied together.  Thus the interactions needed to perform an advanced task became unnecessarily cumbersome, and furthered the knowledge gap between the novice and the competent.

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Dear all you great companies making awesome products,

For most of you, I like to be informed of new products, and some I already bought your product and really don’t NEED to know about promos for gadgets & software I already have. So, If I were running the communications for the company, I would do what I have done on my blog, but better. Read on for my idea of how to make the most of your communications.

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I’m a freelance IT consultant. I So, get asked a lot of questions. Unfortunately, I wish people would ask me what the last article addressed more, but this is about how I handle calling tech support. Clients pay consultants for answers and output, but often the online knowledge bases for larger companies are labyrinths of outdated dead ends and no way to filter as fine grained as advanced/extendable schema database apps can be — I know, I’ve designed a DB that could reduce and search to one text entry and 2–4 clicks. It’s crazy only a few web apps have this — well, kind of.*

I’ve been a fairly successful consultant who gets most of my business by clients referring me to someone who needs my skill set. My years as a support tech taught me how to quickly sync with a mode of communication the client understands to quickly gather symptoms and explained things in concepts they can grasp. In short, I handle clients at various levels — from SoHo end users to local businesses of various sizes.One skill I have from working in many shops is calling tech support…

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I’ve been at my present address less than 8 years, and for about half of them I’ve been  looking for a ISP that doesn’t throttle, scan packets for the MPAA, nor overcharged for decent internet speeds. Unfortunately, until this past month, I was stuck with a slower connection since dealing with the high price and horrible customer service from a certain very large cable and internet provider was something I didn’t want to deal with both personally and professionally.

Professionally, someone is paying me to call ISPs* and handle setup and outages.

In business paying a $120/month for a monthly business-class ISP is not really that much considering business speeds, but $60–$100 for something they use a few hours a day, mainly for simple communications and entertainment, it’s pretty steep.

So, at home I went with DSL, with its more modest bandwidth (<8Mbps) & $25/month that went up to $35/month. Considering Comcast (now Xfinity) charges $50+equipment rental fees of $7/month–$14/month, and after adding in fees and taxes the bill comes out to being in $60s per month for that speed (despite what it’s introductory pricing says). However, many people want faster speeds such as 50Mbps than DSL can offer. So, they go with Comcast where it’s not uncommon for people to pay at least $70/month for faster speeds.

I signed up with sonic for their introductory DSL package switch over that simply meant paying sonic the same price for faster speeds. AT&T was providing 6mbps as well, but it would have been $35/month (up fro $30) vs. Sonic’s 12 month $10 discount to more up to that speed. So, we saved $60 in a year while upping our speed from 3Mbps to 6Mbps. This is where it stayed until Sonic’s Fusion (up to 50Mbps) bundle became available in my neighborhood this past quarter. Again, I am finally able to switch to a faster connection and bundle in phone service (with 8hr/month long distance free) for ~$45+. The difference: $10/month more. But it got rid of the $36/month AT&T bill. So, we will save $25/month.

So, in total if I had Comcast ($66) & AT&T ($36) instead of Sonic (~45$), I would be spending over twice as much for pretty much the same thing. I just wished I could have gotten this when I heard about it, I could have saved over $1500 by now. My hope is that they continue to expand and reach more people. If you want to save money or like all that sonic wants to do: make internet better in both speeds and money for everyone, vs. what everyone else is doing: increasing rates with each speed boost and slowly over time. (when I first moved in we had a Comcast bill half of what it was when we cancelled them a year and a half ago)

*More about this later…

QualtyNerpFowndThis is actually the first time in a long time I am not taking an iTunes update, given that it doesn’t fix the graphic artifact during scrolling issue, and other users are reporting worse things happening. In retrospect, I should have stuck with 11.x . iTunes 12.x is looking more like Windows Millennium everyday.

Sad.

This was once SoundJam, an app so good that Apple bought it. But this is now another example of an app in the care of a company too big to care to give it the attention to detail, and true UI/UX modernizations and feature enhancements an indie would have. A third party company would have listened to their customers or face declining sales. Apple is too big to truly care about the declining quality of iTunes. Whomever is sitting in charge of shipping product quality control is obviously not paying attention, and this toxic style of management is what can and has brought once great companies down.

Since v4 the only “improvements” have been cosmetic and the addition of the various stores. Apple has never addressed iTunes key failings and has instead focused on bloating it u to the point where once loyal users are looking elsewhere for leading edge features.

But this isn’t really about Apple. Apple is really an example. This is about a mentality epidemic in proportion of people who think that marketing, money or someone else can make up (or take the blame) for subpar products. The logic is as follows:

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If I like an application or see one with potential, I usually write the author or company that made it with a feature suggestion explaining why I want to do it, and how it would add value to an application — sometimes a great amount of value. Occasionally, I’ll receive a human written response that explains upcoming features along those line, says they’ll consider it, or explains some technical limitation. Either way, I will have to wait months if not years to see a feature added if it is ever added at all. I appreciate the feedback to my feedback. It lets me know the company or individual is receptive to comments.

One of the things I cannot stand is when a company sends me is an automated reply thanking me for the feedback. Big companies, I forgive slightly more, but small shops should probably take a minute to let users know their breath wasn’t wasted if they want to foster a good relationship with their customers.

After a programmer makes a great app, their next challenge is getting the word out. Unfortunately engineers tend to think differently than mere mortals: in general, the more brilliant an engineer the less likely they are to have the social skills to market their great apps, I have found.

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A few days ago I was in a Costco and I came across a display of solar portable panels with a company representative giving demonstrations to whomever would stop long enough to speak to him. Me, being always curious about the current state of various technologies, stopped to speak with him. After discussing the power output per panel, how many it would take to power my laptop (4) and how the system worked, he asked what sort of engineer I am. I admitted to him I wasn’t an engineer (at least in the sense that he was thinking), but I knew a bit about pretty much anything with electrons running through it.

Last week, Dice’s Mark Feffer sent an email to me asking what my specialty is. Meanwhile, I have met at least 3 other people in the IT field this past week and a half. All of them eventually asked what my specialty is. The thing is, my specialty is actually the opposite of a specialist: I know most if not all of technology available, what is coming and what is possible now to integrate them. This allows me to do my job of recommending electronics and computer technology pretty well.

How do I do it? Read on to learn what resources I tap every time it is time to buy any electronics…

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RAM Speed Calculation

I see a lot of confusion about this subject so here is a quick guide for finding out what sort of RAM your computer takes. Let’s say you are out at a store, and see what looks like a great deal on some more RAM for your computer, but you don’t know what type to get. To find out what memory “PC#-XXXX{X}” your computer needs but you don’t have a manual handy, do the following:

If you know your data rate (1066 or more commonly 1333 these days) multiply it by 8 and round to the nearest hundred (but most manufacturers round down) and you can figure out what goes in the XXXX{X}. A data rate of 1333 * 8 = 10664 or “10600,” the “#” is for the data rate type. So  PC3-10600 (SO-204pin) is what 2011 MacBook Pros take. It is DDR3  1333 Memory.

My MacBook Pro (2009: 5,5) takes DDR3 – 1066. Using a quick bit o’ Math, that translates to PC3-8500

Macs Are Easy

If you happen to have your computer handy and you are on a Mac, you can also open the System Information Application located in

Applications/Utility/System Information (System Profiler in previous OS X releases)>Memory

or

Apple Menu>About This Mac>More Info…>Memory and it will tell you what type of DRAM it takes and how many slots are full.

Where to Buy

Among my favorite Mac hardware resources is Other World Computing because their prices are competitive and they stand behind their products. I had purchased RAM from OWC that ended up being defective. I did not find this out until my new installation of Leopard started crashing under heavy memory loads. (they change how OS X uses memory to use more of it if available, and when I upgraded the memory that was usually not used in 10.4, was activated in 10.5 to speed the system up.) But this discovery took place over a year after I purchased the memory from them. I was hoping “lifetime guaranty” meant what it suggested—a hassle free exchange. It took one phone call, my invoice number and about 10 minutes for them to cross ship a replacement set out to me. It was truly hassle free. Since then they are my first consideration when buying new memory. So, if their prices are within $10–15 of competitors, I go with them.

Everyone makes Mistakes. It is inevitable. If you never make a mistake you are either unrealistic with yourself, you never try anything new (which is a mistake unto itself), or you are an alien whether you realize it or not. My mistake in relation to this article was not keeping up with all the apps flooding out of the iTunes Music Store.

So, when it came time to actually look for apps, I had almost no clue what was out there. Nor did I know how much trouble it would be narrowing down the multitude of choices when it comes to singling out one of potentially hundreds of apps that perform the same basic function. Just type in any common task or remotely popular thing into a search in the store and often you will have to click “Show 25 More” more times than you’re willing to in order to see all the choices. Just to test this, as I was writing I typed “job search” into the AppStore search: I had to click “Show 25 More” 10 times before I ran out of apps. On top of that, how does one narrow down your search especially in light of scams on any store that allows buyer reviews? I eventually found salvation that came from an unexpected source…

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