Archive for May, 2011
PC headsets are one of those things that we tend to purchase, intending to use on services such as skype, and then chuck them in a draw – never to see the light of day again. Well yesterday, I had a brainwave – why not use them with my mobile phone?!?!?
The problem with my phone is – there is no good way of using it whilst also working on your computer. Typing whilst holding a mobile is almost impossible (or at least reduces typing speed to a crawl). But when using a mobile hands free via its speaker phone – it tends to pick up all the dings, clicks and keyboard taps from your computer – making chatting with a customer impossible.
But a quick search on Amazon revealed the perfect answer – connectors and converters which take standard headset inputs (generally USB or twin 3.5mm din plugs) and converts them into a single din plug for Android/Nokia type phones or iPhone plugs for.. iPhones. For 70p, I can connect my headset to my mobile for the perfect hands free kit.
I have the headphones for listening to the caller (or music when I am not on the call), a high-quality microphone right in front of my face for crystal clear communication, and best of – its totally hands free meaning I can type or work whilst speaking. It’s so much better than the all in one ear phone and mic systems where the microphone is on the earphone cable which dangles halfway down your chest.
All for less than £1 or $1 from amazon.
If you have a headset gathering dust, one not put it to use whilst you work??
Over the last 10 days, I have been battling with backups and restores. At one of my customer sites, they needed to recreate some business reports from a moment in time 2 weeks ago (which involved a restore of the live transactional database from 2 weeks ago into a ‘play’ area, and run reports off of that). The other battle I had was with one of my own business servers, which was targeted by some Chinese hackers who wanted to use my server for informing the world via a zombie email campaign about some dodgy cheap handbag replicas, or some knock-off pharmaceuticals.
Anyway, what I found in both instances was that the backups that were rigorously being taken were just not up to the job. In the case of my customer, we found that whilst their operations team were doing nightly backups, they had no licence for the backup software they were using so when it came time to restore the database, the software blocked the restore. This matter was made worse by the fact that the backup software was provided by a company which no longer existed, so a licence could not be purchased. Doh!! In my own case, the problem was that with my backups, the ROOT hack they had injected had been diligently backed up to my backup media. Double-Doh!
The battles to restore my customer data and my own servers were monumental. Luke Skywalker Vs Death Vader, Harry Potter Vs Volda-whats-it, Men of middle Earth Vs the Orcs – all of these pale into insignificance compared to my battle with tapes, disks and unlicensed software. In the end, I won on both counts. But the battles wasted an awful lot of time (chargeable time in the case of my customers data restore ). But these lead me to review my own backup policies, which I offer to you now:
- If it’s important to you, back it up, and back it up regularly.
- If it’s not backed up into at least 3 places, then it’s not backed up.
- If it’s an ongoing project that you are working on (with lots of changes) back it up as you go. I like to keep regular backups of my current projects to online services such as drop box. The drag and drop interface means it’s a 1 second process to keep everything secure for free.
- Keep backups away from the main data and away from other backups. Once every other week, I backup to an external disk, which I keep in my car. If my office/home office burnt down (where I keep my servers and other backups) I still have everything I need
- After you have backed up, now and again verify the data and check that you can actually restore the data (a backup that you can’t use is worthless)
- Backup to a media you can get your hands on quickly. In my case, I backup to cheap portable media disks. My customer sent their data off site, which took 3-4 days to get back. Not good in an emergency!
- Have backup rotation. In my case, I now have 3 portable drives – one for my weekend backups, one now which I use at the start of the month, and one for the start of each quarter. If I get another rootbot, it may infect my weekly but is unlikely to hit the monthly and quarterly drives. With portable disks being so cheap, it’s not even worth worrying about the cost.
- If possible, also use online web backups. There are several online web storage and backup systems such as Zmanda, BackBlaze and I have heard good things about Mozy. However, I have three problems with online as the final solution; (a) in the UK we tend to have low bandwidth available and ‘fair use’ policies could cause your ISP to hit you hard via internet throttling (b) if a file is damaged (corrupted, or truncated), the damage is set as your current copy to the web and (c) I have customer data which I KNOW they would not like going into the cloud.
- Don’t forget your other devices; laptops, tablets and phones. My own backups work in that all devices get backed up to the main servers, and the servers are then backed up (now, multiple times).
- Backups are only valid if you also sweep your system on a regular basis for viruses, Trojans, Roots and other nasty’s. I used to use just one anti-virus system for all of this – I now have 3 different checkers.
Humans are complex creatures – we all have our own wants, needs and desires. Nothing can cause more debate between individuals than trying to answer the fundamental questions of life such as:
- What do you want to eat tonight?
- Where should we go on holiday?
- What movie should we rent or go to the cinema to see?
- Which of our children do we really love the most/would save first in the event of a fire?
If such questions cause us such conflict, it’s not hard to see why making business decisions take such a long time. We all have our own ways of working, our own set of preferred tools, our own styles and skills. Getting a common agreement between individuals is always tricky, and when the agreement is sought on a technical decision, it becomes even harder. Personal technical one-up man-ship comes into play. Try getting 6 web designers in a room and ask what is the best technology or styles for creating a new web site – good luck in getting an answer this year!
Which is why we will always come across technology Ninjas; people who’s only agenda is to score points by stating that your product/service/knowledge does not fit with their own values/beliefs/view of industry standards. When you have put your heart and soul into a project only to get a list of 101 reasons why it’s junk, it can be heart breaking.
So here are my tips for dealing with the Technology Ninjas:
- First, get it out of your system. Allow yourself 10 minutes or so to slam doors, scream, swear and do whatever else you need to do. Just don’t do it in front of the customer.
- Next (and this is hard) accept that this has happened to every other freelancer and small business. The arguments will seem very personal, but every carpenter has been told they used the wrong sized wood, every programmer has been told their language is so last year, every web designer has been told their styles are not dynamic enough.
- Next, look at the big question – did you agree to work to their standards before the project started? If not, tough!
- Ninjas like to pull up web sites saying that your technology is out of date, and you should now be using the 2013 release of whatever. Don’t respond with your own URLs proving them wrong – this will just end up with a war of web sites.
- Is there a compromise? Generally, Ninjas have 2 or 3 BIG issues, but then add a whole lot more to pad out their argument. Can you identify the BIG issues are remove the noise from the conversation?
- In case you do need to fight to justify your case, is there anything the Ninja has gotten wrong through bad understanding? One really good rebuttal on one key point to the Ninjas boss may be enough to remove the all of the Ninjas arguments. But if you can find this killer argument, only use it as a last resort.
- If possible, offer to make adjustments after delivery and go-live, to conform to their made-up standards. But point out as the standards were not agreed, it would of course be chargeable as a separate and new project.
- The final risky option is, take it away. Say that if they are not happy, they are free to get their product from another source, you won’t charge for it, and you will remove/delete/stop the product. It’s a risky move, but it’s amazing how the major technology objections evaporate when the alternative is to do the project over.