Monday, December 22, 2008

"ConnectComputer" Tips

Tip #1: Do not wirelessly connect a computer to a Windows Small Business Server 2003 domain using the ConnectComputer browser wizard.

If you do, the wizard has you disable the computer's ethernet adapter before you can run the wizard. At the end of the process, the machine is rebooted to complete the wizard and login to the domain. But, Windows does not load the wireless adapter before it tries to log in, so Windows does not find the network/domain to authenticate the user, and since there are no cached credentials yet, you cannot get past the login screen. And the wizard does not complete the domain join.

When this happened to me, I had to boot the computer into safe mode and try to log in as a local administrator. If the local administrator password has been set and nobody knows what it has been set to, you are in for some serious problems. I was lucky, and somebody knew it had to be one of a finite number of words, and we got in.

Once in as a local administrator, I enabled the ethernet adapter and disabled the wireless adapter. Following a normal boot and local administrator login, I plugged in the ethernet cable and re-ran ConnectComputer, joining the domain with a different/new computer name. Once the wizard rebooted and finished joining the domain, I logged into the domain with the machine's principal user's username and password to cache the credentials, enabled the wireless adapter and unplugged the ethernet cable. Success!

Tip #2: Change the name of the computer you are joining to the domain to be the same as it will be after you join the domain.

  • Alternatively, if it is consistent with the naming conventions for the computers in the domain, when you create a computer name in Active Directory for the new computer, make it the same name as the computer already has.

Sometimes when you join a computer to a domain using ConnectComputer, the computer name changes to the name you select for it from Active Directory but/and the old name of the computer is added to Active Directory and taken by or assigned to the newly added machine. Thus, subsequent logins from the newly joined computer fail because Active Directory does not find machine name among the active resources of the domain.

To fix the problem, you have to follow the advice in Tip #2 and run the wizard again.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Words of Wisdom

  • The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.
  • No good deed goes unpunished.
  • Greed is good.
  • If it feels good, do it.
  • It's only wrong if you get caught.
  • Finders keepers, losers weepers.
  • The law is an ass.
  • God is dead.

There may be kernels of truth in these cynical sayings. But believing them can poison the well of happiness in your life.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Bah, humbug!

In the past I have posted to this blog suggestions for anyone planning on gifting me during the holiday season. This year my expectations have been reduced, and my gift suggestions have been reduced to one - cash.

So to fill out my Christmas gift blog posting this year, here is a cranky list of the 5-worst technical innovations and gadgets on the market. Avoid these items and technologies in your giving and/or receiving.

5 - Cellphone cameras. Useless.
4 - Twitter, Digg, Facebook, et al. Passing fancies of the Web generation.
3 - Text messaging. Difficult and expensive.
2 - BlackBerry. Not busy enough? Get a BlackBerry! Keep on top of that SPAM!
1 - Microsoft Vista and Office 2007. Get Office XP Pro and a retail copy of Office 2003 from somewhere.

Friday, November 14, 2008

'Cheap' is the New 'Green'

Oil and gasoline prices have plunged from their historic highs of earlier this year. Based on past experience, you would predict that consumers would be back to their profligate ways, buying large vehicles and driving more. It hasn't happened. That's good for the environment!

But only the most ardent environmentalists want to reduce pollution by reducing consumption. "Going Green," as a sales pitch, is all about replacing old, dirty, inefficient products with newer, cleaner, better, higher-tech, and more expensive products.

Now however, economic activity is in the deep-freeze and 'green' is not enough to motivate people to become buyers. 'Cheap' is everybody's new hot button. Walmart's results in these hard times prove the point.

So, here are some recommendations for you for going cheap in the IT realm.
  • Switch to Open-Source software.
    • It is free. It is as good as or better than the crap from Microsoft, Apple and others.
  • Don't Pay More than $200 for a new computer.
    • For example: the Everex gPC3 with Ubuntu and lots of free software installed.
    • Virtualize new PCs to take advantage of the excess capacity you already have before buying new hardware.
  • Update your domain name.
    • For us that would mean registering
In recent years, the green message has been turned to help companies sell all manner of things at a nice profit, even McMansions, SUVs, and bottled water. Cheap may be a harder selling strategy to apply profitably. For example, it is hard to stick 'cheap' on non-essential items and luxuries, except at foreclosures and auctions.

Fortunately, experts agree, IT is cheap!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Cloud Nine

A couple of months ago, I started using a diskless, thin-client computer as my principal work machine, expecting to interface primarily with applications and data hosted on a muscular Windows 2003 Server machine that I administer.

However, following the lead of one of my clients, I decided to try using Google Apps. I migrated my email to Gmail, and I started using Google Documents instead of Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint. I've since switched Keystone's email host to Google, and we are sharing Calendars and Contacts via Google -- collaborating.

The combination of a thin-client and Google Apps has put me on Cloud Nine. The hardware is cheap, the soft ware is free, there is loads of storage, secure (?) in cyberspace, and it is all accessible from anywhere and at any time. There is hardly anything work-wise that I cannot do on my diskless thin client. And many things I cannot do are most likely not work-related.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Priesthood

Since the dawn of IT, there has existed a Priesthood whose role is the care and feeding of information systems and intermediating between systems and users and systems and the general public.

Within the Priesthood there is diversity.
  • There are charlatans that sell totems and indulgences to the needy and gullible.
  • There are priests that work in large organizations where they do everything "by the book," and woe to those users who transgress or do not believe.
  • There are missionaries who go out in the world to ease suffering and preach the gospels.
  • There are high priests that know "everything" and who minister mainly to others in the priesthood.

The Charlatans

The charlatans want us to believe that computers are becoming more accessible, useful and necessary to each of us.
  • Nicholas Negroponte and others imagine that simply by giving a primitive laptop computer to each of the world's poor children, those children will be lifted from poverty and some of the world's most difficult problems will be solved (see
  • Microsoft, Apple, HP, Intel and others want us to believe that their latest products are not merely expensive and different from their predecessors, they are better. But, is there substance beyond the sizzle?
    • Arguably, Apple has a better track record of substance (iPod, iPhone, et al.) while Microsoft's track record is worse (Vista, Zune, et al.)
    • Dell's latest idea for selling new PCs is to offer them pre-loaded with the movie "Iron Man." That makes them better for wasting time and killing productivity?

The Priests

In most organizations, there are staff groups that are charged with planning, implementing, maintaining, and upgrading information systems. They also are responsible for training and supporting users of the organization's systems.

In many organizations, these staff groups are underpaid, underfunded, and overworked. Rarely do IT staffers have career paths within the organization. Bottom line,
  • Most organizations are not able to attract good people for technical support.
  • Many IT staff personnel are passive aggressive and poorly motivated.
    • Think of Dilbert (comic strip), Office Space (movie), or The Office (TV show).
  • IT often resists innovation.
    • A case in point; wireless networking arrived in many organizations first as ad-hoc, workgroup networks set up by users, in violation of organizational policies.

The Missionaries

These are the technophiles who have good intentions, free time and they know more than you do about whatever it is that confounds you. Everybody knows a missionary, be it a teenager, a certain coworker, a neighbor or a friend-of-a-friend. The problems with missionaries are:
  • They don't always know what they are doing. In fixing one problem they may create another, or they may not fix anything and just create more problems.
  • They are not always there when you need them. They get busy with other things; they go off to college. They don't return your phone calls and emails.

The High Priests

These are the consultants who charge hundreds dollars an hour to develop a liturgical plan for your organization to solve one or more IT problems. These plans ritually celebrate the Best Practices of the High Priests.

Your plan is probably a retelling of The Plan learned by a High Priest long ago. But with each retelling, the truths must be rediscovered and the words reprocessed, which is why it takes so much time and costs so much for your plan.

And God forbid that The Plan should actually work! For then the consultants would gradually disappear from the Earth. Not that The Plan is bad or wrong; there is no evidence one way or the other on this point. Rather, the plans of the High Priests are never implemented, so we will never know.

The Caveat

If it is true, as I believe, that you get the tech support you deserve, then there must be more than the four levels I have described in the Priesthood, for not everyone deserves to be ill served. There must be Saints and Angels for the deserving. Find the deserving to find their Saints and Angels.

These are the qualities of the deserving:
  • Collaborative and trusting. The deserving recognize that information technology is so complex, and it is developing so rapidly that ordinary people cannot keep up with it, even if they wanted to. And the deserving don't want to; they collaborate with and trust their Saints and Angels.
  • Honest and reliable. What goes around, comes around, fostering a virtuous cycle.
  • Wise and understanding. Appreciates wisdom like:
    • An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
    • Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
    • Time is money.
    • The cynic knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.
    • For it is mutual trust, even more than mutual interest that holds human associations together.
I only wish that all my clients were among the deserving. And to the extent that they are not, it follows that I am not among the Saints and Angels. If I could afford to, I would fire those clients who are undeserving. Food for thought... can I afford not to?

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Financial News Update

Paulson's proof of the Greater Fool Theory has not survived review by Congress and the American people.

Seriously, see economist Steve Horwitz's analysis of the situation.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

kooky john

honolulu, kinky, jumpy, limo, imino, monopoly, pumpkin, unholy, mommy... these are a few of my favorite words. Why? Because I can touch-type (keyboard, kids) these words using my right hand only. And that is important to me because I broke my left shoulder on Sunday. All these other words entail hunt-and-pecking, which slows me down.

Looking on the bright side, I've got the time while I recuperate to hunt and peck and catch up on some posts i've been meaning to write.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Paulson Wins Nobel Prize in Economics

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson won the 2009 Nobel Prize in Economics for proving the Greater Fool Theory this week. The theory states that no matter how foolish an investment someone makes, there is always a greater fool who will buy the investment and absorb the loss.

In a Rose Garden ceremony, President Bush said, "Henry has found the Ultimate Fool, the Federal Government."

News of the discovery was cause for rejoicing on Wall Street where hedge funds and investment banks have built evermore complex strategies to try and prove the Greater Fool theory. The fact that some in their number were lost along the way and are not here to enjoy the discovery does not seem to have dampened the celebration. Stocks posted huge gains on the news.

In the afterglow of the celebration, one thing is certain: Capitalism as we know it is dead. Congratulations, Henry; long live the Ultimate Fool!

BTW, I've got some dotcom stocks I need to sell...

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Comcast Sucks!

We use Comcast Business-Class Internet at the office. Thursday night, service went down.

Friday morning, the service was still down when we got into the office. Fulfilling our role in Comcast's state-of-the-art network monitoring system, we called Comcast to report the outage (yeah, Verizon!).

Springing into action, Comcast's minimum-wage and/or non-English-speaking techs did their voodoo in cyberspace which failed to resolve the problem. One of their ilk was going to have to venture out to restore our Internet service. "Would someone be there between 3PM & 6PM today?" Yes, but the problem is probably not on our premises...

Like pornography, I know what's "business-class" when I see it. Like pornography, Comcast's Internet service is not "business class."

So, 6PM Friday rolls around. Still no Internet, and no Comcast repair man has appeared. Time for us to go home. One last call to Comcast. They say they'll have someone by on Tuesday (after Labor Day). I guess they don't work on weekends. Silly me... business class refers to the hours they keep... or maybe this outage has something to do with Comcast limiting our bandwidth utilization?!

Hurry, FiOS, hurry!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Attention Students (and Parents)!

Back to school time. One of the many documents you are likely to sign, if not read, is some sort of contract or code-of-conduct related to your use of the school's computers, network, software, data, email, Internet, etc.

Schools are afraid that a student will do something with his/her computer to create a liability for the student's school. To a lesser degree, schools are also concerned that one or more students will "overuse" resources and undermine service quality and reliability. So, schools have lots of policies to protect themselves, they reserve the right to monitor students' activities and they reserve the right to enforce such policies and punish people who violate them. That's what the document you signed allows the school to do.

Big brother is watching you. But, as one student has told me, "They never enforce those rules." At that school, at least, it would seem that the rules don't matter?! Not likely. At that school and many others, almost any student's good standing can be snuffed out at the whim of the IT people.

Selective enforcement of the rules to set an example and send a message to students is a cost-effective way for IT to protect the school and its information systems. Having the power to choose which student to go after and when is almost a perk of the job of the IT director. Woe to the student that ends up on the school's shIT list!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

"Open" thin-client solution

If you are looking for thin-clients that avoid proprietary elements as much as possible, here is one solution for you.

It starts with the VIA Artigo Pico ITX computer. Get it here for $310 assembled and tested. Shipping is another $20+.

The Artigo machine I got has 512 MB of RAM -- no hard disk. My plan was to put an operating system on a USB flash/key/thumb drive and boot the Artigo from the flash drive.

To keep the flash drive from burning out quickly, because of a lot of reads and writes to the flash drive, the operating system must be completely loaded into RAM when the Artigo boots. And there has to be enough free RAM with the operating system running to provide adequate swap or scratch space for the applications to run. Needless to say, my Artigo is not a Windows Vista machine.

VIA claims that the company is Linux friendly and that there are all sorts of open-source downloads available on their web site. But, damned if I could find any help there for running Linux on my Artigo box. In fact, drivers supplied by VIA for the VIAChrome graphics processor are reportedly inferior to open-source OpenChrome drivers. So, don't look for help from VIA.

A number of Linux distros claim to be USB-bootable. But in most cases, what that means is that you can put the Live-CD version on a USB flash drive and get it to run. That is not the same as installing the distro on a USB flash drive, since a Live-CD has all sorts of drivers and hardware discovery routines that run every time the Live-CD is started. There is no simple way to obtain persistence from one Live-CD session to the next.

Also, many Live-CDs do not load themselves completely into RAM; they read/load elements from the CD if/when a user selects them. For example, OpenOffice might be loaded from one distro's Live-CD only when the user selects it.

Bottom line, most of the Linux distros are not suitable for my diskless Artigo thin client.

Two Linux distros that I have gotten to work on my Artigo box are Damn Small Linux (DSL) and Slax. has instructions that I used to get DSL to work. It uses the Live-CD version of DSL and persistence is obtained by a clever(?) hack. The problem is that DSL is too small; it uses an older version of the Linux kernel and it uses a "frugal" window manager (Fluxbox or JWM) that looks cheap. Users/employees won't like the look and feel of the DSL desktop.

Download the Slax distro from here. Get the file that is specifically for install on a flash drive. It loads a Live-CD version of the operating system on a flash drive, but/and it provides persistence out-of-the-box. It uses the latest kernel and it uses the KDE desktop/window manager. It works like a charm on my Artigo thin client. It looks great. It loads itself completely into RAM, leaving about 70% of the 512 MB free for swap/scratch space. SWEET!

On top of this, as a Live-CD, I can take my Slax flash drive and boot it on my PC at home for secure remote access to my business computer systems. THIS is a great, open thin-client solution!

Monday, July 21, 2008

How to print your Outlook contacts.

Several months ago, I persuaded a friend to abandon MS Word as a platform for an address book and migrate it to MS Outlook.

The Word document was more like a series of biographical sketches than a database. In many instances it described who was born of whom, where they went to school, who married whom, where they had worked, and, sometimes, when they died.

There were thousands of names in the address book/document, and it was designed to be printed out, put in a binder and kept by the phone. In order to allow for the mailing of Christmas cards and party invitations, various children of the electronic document existed, suitable for printing mailing labels. So, whenever there were additions, deletions, and changes to the "master" list, appropriate changes needed to be made to the spawn. Or not.

In the course of the migration from Word to Outlook, once again I realized that no good deed goes unpunished. And that with friends like me, who needs enemies? After hours and hours of work and months of elapsed time, the address book data has been migrated to Outlook, for the most part.

The task at hand now is to print out a directory. How hard can that be? Pretty hard, it turns out. You can get a rudimentary directory by selecting Print/Directory in Outlook, but not the field-rich, biographical sketches that my friend was accustomed to having. For that, a MS Word mail-merge is required. Its an actual coding job, made somewhat easier by wizards in MS Word. But made a lot more frustrating by quirks (bugs or features?) in the way that MS Word interprets the code. Here's what's involved:
  • Field codes for all the fields you want to include and "If...then...else" statements to label and/or connect certain fields.
  • Careful attention to paragraph formatting in order to keep records from spanning columns and pages.
  • A kludge to break pages at the end of each alphabetical section.
  • A kludge to remove blank lines that MS Word fails to suppress (e.g., because there is font formatting associated with empty field).
Here's what the merge output looks like. I'd be happy to share the "code" with you. Get in touch with me if you want it. But, the right way to do this is probably with PERL, not MS Word.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Ubuntu Updates Warning

Is it just me or have there been A LOT of updates since Ubuntu moved to Hardy Heron (ver. 8.04) in April? I suppose that's a good thing, except that these updates have repeatedly broken VMWare server running on one of my Ubuntu desktop machines.

The problem initially happened when I was running an older version of VMWare server (ver. 1.0.4), and I got the message that VMWare was not configured properly. The message said I should run, VMWare.config. Unfortunately, doing so generated errors and did not restore my virtual machine.

So, I downloaded and installed VMWare server 1.0.6. There is a good set of instructions for this here: BTW, do not ignore Step 4. Post-install configuration. I ignored Step 4 and ultimately found out that that was a mistake. With Step 4, VMWare server 1.0.6 works on Ubuntu Hardy Heron

Now at least, when the updates crash VMWare server, I get the message that VMWare is not configured properly. Then, I run VMWare.config again, VMWare works again and my virtual machines are restored.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Email Frustration

One of the topics I speak and write about often is email. Email has become essential to business. Many of us rely on it in our everyday lives. And yet, there is a persistent frustration with email that indicates both ignorance and inflexibility on the part of many.

Back in 1986, Robert Fulghum had a best-seller with his book, “All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten.” That book came out just before the Internet got rolling. Even if it was true then, it is not true anymore.

But it is not just about learning, it is about change. People don't like to change. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door.” Baloney! The patent office is full of “better” mousetraps, and the world took no notice.

Email, on the other hand, the world noticed, so you and I cannot afford to ignore it. Be forewarned. In order to “get” email, you're going to have to change.

Here's your motivation.
  • Imagine if your letter carrier delivered your mail right to your door, immediately, whenever you had a new piece of mail sent to you.
  • Imagine if your letter carrier picked up each piece of mail you sent and delivered it immediately, too.
  • Imagine if your letter carrier, finding that you are not at home when he tries to deliver mail to you, tracks you down on the other side of the world and delivers your mail to you. Immediately.
  • Imagine if sending mail cost nothing -- no postage, no envelope, no paper and no ink. And you can send photos, recordings, and books et al. for free.
  • Imagine if you could find a piece of mail easily, whenever you needed it, without turning the house upside-down.

Email is like that; like magic. But if you don't understand email and/or you refuse to change, email can be like this; frustrating and annoying:
  • Imagine if much of the email you received was offensive and obscene.
  • Imagine if you sent an email containing your credit card number to a grandchild to buy a graduation present. Next thing you know your identity is stolen by somebody in Eastern Europe and thousands of dollars in charges are run up on your credit card.
  • Imagine if you got an email from someone you weren't sure if you knew. You opened it, and boom, your computer never worked again.
  • Imagine if you shared a secret or your feelings or a tasteless joke with a friend of yours by email. Your friend may not appreciate your sensitivity and forward it on to other people you know. How mortifying would that be?
  • Imagine if you went away, telling everyone that email was be the best way to reach you while you were gone. Then when you are on the road, you find you cannot get your email.
One day, you may want or need to know the distinction between POP and IMAP email protocols. If and when that day comes,you can Google those terms, and you will have the answer.

Let me talk about indoor plumbing for a moment. When I was in my teens, my parents bought an old farm house, way off in the country. They bought it from an old man who had lived there for a long, long time. The place had water in the kitchen, but no bathroom. There was an outhouse in the back. After he sold his place to us, he moved into a place with indoor plumbing. And he liked it, especially in the winter. But I was also told that he never did go in for bathing regularly/often.

Indoor plumbing has been around for a lot longer than computers and the Internet. If people can do without indoor plumbing, for certain they can do without computers, email and the Internet. But why would you want to?

Let me bring this discussion back to email and change. What kind of changes you need to be prepared to make?
  • Think about how you want to interact with people using email. Let's say you want to check your email once a day, every day from here. Or maybe you want to be always available via email, no matter where you are. Make a decision and stick with it for a while. If you want to change it later, you can.
    • This decision help you determine what hardware, software and services you need to support your email activities.
  • Learn how to use one email client. G-Mail, Outlook (business), Outlook Express (personal), AOL, etc.
    • How do you create an address book?
    • How do you open attachments?
    • How do you add attachments?
    • How do you create rules to filter incoming messages?
    • How do you black-list SPAMMERS?
    • How do you white-list friends?
    • How do you archive/store messages? Etc.
  • Write emails to people. Reply to messages they send you. Otherwise, they won't know that you are now "getting" email.
  • Ignore messages from anyone you do not know. Anti-virus software is good, but it is not 100% effective.
  • Ignore messages with subject lines that are obscene or offensive. Don't let it get you down.
  • Do not print your emails out. Read them on your computer screen. Think of your messages as living on a computer, not on a piece of paper.
If you or someone you know is frustrated with email, knowledge alone can take you only so far. Without change, your frustrations will continue. The answer is, be flexible and change the way you live and work to get all the benefits of email.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Support your clients remotely

We recently added single-click, remote support to Keystone Computer's services. Now, we are kicking ourselves we did not do it sooner.

Instead of traveling to a customer's premises, we can remote to the customer's machine and troubleshoot and resolve many common problems. It is a great time saver for us and a money saver for our customers.

Key features of the solution we have implemented are:
  • It is idiot-proof.
    • With a "single click" the remote-access-server software is downloaded from our web site to the customer's machine, installed and configured and the session is established with a Keystone tech.
      • No remote-access software needs to be installed on the customer's machine ahead of time.
    • When the session is over, the software is uninstalled, so there are no lingering security concerns for the customer.
  • It is free.

What's the Use Case?

You've got a customer who has a "computer question or problem." The customer has broadband Internet and the customer's computer is running and online. You want a quick and easy way to establish remote access to the client's computer so you can answer the question or resolve the problem.

What is VNC?

In the beginning (circa 1997), there was Virtual Network Computing (VNC). The original VNC source code and many modern derivatives are open source under the GNU General Public License.

VNC systems consist of a client, a server, and a communication protocol.
  • The VNC server is the program on the machine that shares its screen.
  • The VNC viewer (or client) is the program that watches and interacts with the server.
  • The VNC protocol, Remote FrameBuffer (RFB) protocol is very simple, based on graphic data from server to client and event messages from client to server.
Over the last few years, VNC development has forked. The forks now include RealVNC, TightVNC, UltraVNC, ChromiVNC, PalmVNC, et al. Needless to say, this adds a bit of confusion to selecting and implementing a VNC solution.

What is the solution?

Given our use case, we selected UltraVNC with the Single Click add-on -- UVNC SC for short. This is a compact server application (for the customer's machine) that is designed to be downloaded and installed with just a few clicks.

By editing a sample text file and uploading it along with graphics of your choice to the SC Online Creator tool, an UltraVNC SC server file is compiled that is customized for your specifications -- your logo and name and the IP address and port number of your viewer(s). You download the resulting .exe file and put it on your web site where your customers can find it. When they click on it, the file downloads and installs, and the GUI pops up with your logo, name and other info you spec'd. One more click, and the remote session starts (assuming you have a VNC viewer application listening at your end (see below))!

If you are running Windows on your side of the remote session, the viewer application you want is vncviewer.exe. You launch it in listen mode from the command line. Do Start/Run/vncviewer -listen (port #). This will start the VNC viewer in listen mode and put an icon in the system tray.


  • There is a certain amount of trial and error involved in getting to your final UVNC SC.exe file. Documentation for editing the text file is minimal and when the Online Creator didn't like some of the graphics I supplied, it just ignored my graphics in favor of the defaults.
  • The VNC viewer packaged in Linux/Ubuntu does not work with the UVNC SC server. It turns out that the Linux/Ubuntu vcnviewer is built to the latest VNC RFB spec. UVNC SC server is built to an older RFB spec. If you want to use a Linux box as the viewer host, you have to use the vncviewer.exe supplied by UVNC and run it in Wine. Ugh!
  • Don't forget to open your firewall on the ports you will be listening to.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Nobody wants to hire a 40-year-old IT virgin.

When in a job interview, here are a few things you should avoid saying:

  1. I don't know how to type.
  2. Fax machines are amazing.
  3. My VCR has been flashing 12:00 noon for years.
  4. We have dialup at home.

It's a minefield out there! Say the wrong thing, and you can expose yourself, rightly or wrongly as being hopelessly out-of-touch with technology. To wit:

  1. I read in the paper that my TV won't work anymore when the stations go digital.
  2. I print my emails to read them.
  3. I hear most people use the Internet for gambling and looking at porn.
  4. I've got a Walkman, somewhere.

My cell phone – you've got to have a cell phone today – is not an iPhone or a Blackberry. It is a geezer phone. It doesn't have all the latest features like email, a web browser, Bluetooth, an MP-3 player... It has a large, bright screen with a few big buttons. It is easy to use. And it has several features that are really useful for me without a lot of things I'll never use. It interoperates really well with the hearing aids I have. It has a radio that I can listen to as I am walking down the street. And it can make and receive calls over Wifi networks, so I can use it even when I don't have cell-phone coverage – like at the office and at home. So, unlike an iPhone or Blackberry, this phone is well suited to my needs.

I will grant you that my choice of a geezer phone is risky. Geezers are no more employable than IT-virgins. But at least I look like a geezer who gets IT. Hopefully, those two impressions offset each other.

What are the issues with IT that employers are concerned about? They want to know if you have the IT knowledge and skills to be effective and productive in their organization without a lot of training and support. They don't want to have to spend money on you beyond your salary. They don't want to have to change their business processes or their culture to accommodate you.

A slip of the tongue can kill you at any point in the interview process. But, assuming that you can avoid inadvertent slip-ups, at some point in the process with a prospective employer, someone is going to ask you questions in order to gauge your IT knowledge. You may even have to take a skills test!

There are three topics you need to be prepared to speak intelligently about to avoid any notion that you are unqualified IT-wise for a specific job. What you should say will depend to some extent on what the job is, the organization, who you are talking to, and your IT knowledge and skills.

The right answer if you are talking to the CIO will be different from the right answer if you are talking to the CEO. A CEO might be impressed by your Blackberry. A CIO probably won't be impressed.

1.  What hardware are you accustomed to working with?

  • If I was answering this question, I'd say I have worked with all different types of hardware. I believe in using the right tool for the job. If I need to make a PowerPoint presentation somewhere I'll take a laptop and a projector. Or I'll put my presentation on a USB key and use the equipment that is there. I prefer to travel light if I can. I get more work done on airplanes using a pen and paper than I can with a big laptop. I travel coach.
  • I prefer to have a desktop PC for my primary computer. I want a large monitor; two of them if I can so I can have lots of applications open at the same time and be more productive.
    • I've taken a literal approach to this topic. Mac vs. PC is a question of operating systems, meaning software, not hardware. Laptop vs. desktop is a hardware question.

2.  What software packages are you familiar with? What level of expertise do you have with each of these packages?

  • Again, my answer would be that I am expert user of Microsoft Windows XP-Pro. I also know Microsoft local area networking, both peer-to-peer networks called work groups and client-server networks called domains. I know how to customize my desktop, add and remove applications and update and patch programs. I know how to troubleshoot and resolve computer and network problems.
    • That answer addresses the computer and networking infrastructure piece of the software pie.
  • I am an expert user of Microsoft Office 2003. I am talking about Word, Outlook, Excel, PowerPoint and Access. You may or may not need to know about Publisher, Front Page, Visio and other applications that appear in different flavors of Office.
  • I know how to create decision support systems in Excel and Access. I know how to create big documents in Word working collaboratively with a team, using tables, graphs, footnotes, a Table Contents, and consistent styles throughout. Spell-checked too. I know how to make Oscar-winning multimedia PowerPoint presentations.
  • I know how to use several other specialized business applications, too; Photoshop, QuickBooks, Microsoft Project and Visio to name a few.
  • At home, I've got Windows Vista Ultimate and Office 2007. I've gotten pretty far down the learning curve with Vista and Office 2007.
    • At some point, Vista will replace XP. Rapid change is constant in IT. Employers hate to pay for training.

3.  What do you know about the Internet? This is a big question. It is easy to get lost in the weeds. Don’t get bogged down describing the architecture, ownership or governance of the Internet. Don’t wax poetic about the convergence of voice, data and entertainment. There is not enough time for that in an interview. The essence of the issue is what do you know about email and the Web?

  • Email is the original killer application of the Internet. A network of email servers around the world store and forward each email message from the sender to the addressee. Senders and recipients use a software client like Outlook or Outlook Express or a webmail client like Horde, Hotmail or Gmail or an email appliance like Blackberry.
    • Email communication is quick, and it costs virtually nothing.
    • Email is unencrypted and can be/is read at various points on its journey. Do not assume that email communications are private.
    • Email is an essential business tool.
    • But, around 90% of all email is SPAM, which is unwanted, annoying email.
  • The World Wide Web is a network of web servers around the globe that store web pages and responds to requests for web pages from Web browsers.
    • Internet Explorer and Firefox are the two main browsers. I prefer Firefox, because it is more secure and with Ad-Block Plus, I can avoid the distractions and threats associated with online advertising.
    • By virtue of cookies and other technologies, it is possible to know what web sites individuals have visited. It is not safe to assume that one is completely anonymous when online.
  • There is an enormous amount of information on the Web which is freely available, generally speaking. Finding what you want depends on knowing where to look and knowing how to formulate queries.
    • Most Web searches start with Google.
  • The dark side of the Internet is a big problem.
    • SPAM costs businesses billions of dollars in term of expenditures for SPAM filtering software and lost productivity.
    • Malicious software, viruses and hacker attacks also cost businesses dearly in terms of anti-virus software, firewalls, recovery costs (if/when systems are damaged), public relations and lost productivity.
    • Inappropriate use of the Internet by employees can lead to computer crashes, data loss, network failures, the release of confidential information, lawsuits and criminal charges against the employees, the organization and its executives.
  • Most organizations have policies and procedures for employees to follow designed to protect the organization's data and systems from Internet threats.
    • Don't open emails from persons you don't know or which you are not expecting.
    • Don't write anything in an email message you would be uncomfortable seeing published under your byline on the home page of the
    • Do not install applications on your company's computer without the approval of the IT department. No iTunes, no Instant Messenger, no file sharing software...
    • Store documents or files only on the network file server where they can be backed up and searched.
    • Internet usage for personal purposes shall not be abused. No YouTube, no Desperate Housewives, no pornography, no gambling...
    • Laptops and smart phones have another layer of issues which I am not going to go into. Plan to pledge allegiance to each and every one of the IT policies and procedures of a prospective employer.

Okay, let's recap. There are three topics you need to be prepared to speak intelligently about to dispel any notion that you are a 40-year-old IT virgin.

  1. What hardware are you proficient with?
  2. What software packages do you know?
  3. Can you use the Internet?

Your answers to these questions should not be mine. You need to assess the gaps in your knowledge and skills relative to the requirements of the positions you are seeking. Easier said than done. And IT skills and knowledge cannot be acquired over night. So hopefully, there is not a lot of ground you need to make up. If there is, 'making it up' may be the only option for you, and I don't advocate that.

For most of you, everything you want or need to know can be found on the Internet. For example, there are Microsoft Office tutorials to help you with advanced features of Excel or Outlook. Wikipedia has buckets of information about the Internet. The Toastmasters web site can help you locate a club where you can perfect a 5-7 minute spiel on what a geek you are.

Are there any questions?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Seniors Jump

I've created a home page/portal for browsers on community access computers at a DC senior citizen's residential facility. Please let me know what you think. Here are the jumps that I've put on the page (minus the purely local links):
  • News:
    • Google News
    • Washington Post
    • New York Times
    • Cable News Network
  • Financial News/Info:
    • Yahoo! Finance
    • Wall Street Journal
    • AOL Finance
  • Health Info:
    • Google
    • NIH Senior Health
    • Mayo Clinic
    • Web MD
  • Sports, Games & Entertainment:
    • ESPN
    • Yahoo! Games
    • You Tube
    • iTunes
    • Ebay
  • Email/Webmail:
    • Gmail (Google Mail)
    • AOL Mail
    • MSN/Hotmail
    • Earthlink Mail
    • Yahoo! Mail
  • Groceries & Prescriptions:
    • Peapod
    • Safeway
  • Churches
Here's the actual page.

Monday, April 21, 2008

FIOS Actiontec problem solved!

Passive aggression works for me, and my wife's persistence beats Verizon's resistance.

More than a month ago, I wrote, "At this point, I am ready to call Verizon. I'm not looking forward to spending the time with them on the phone to troubleshoot and resolve the problem. Ideally, I'd like them to replace the Actiontec router." Truthfully, however, I was not ready to spend hours on the phone with Verizon.

But, my wife was fed up waiting for me to do it, so she jumped in and called Verizon. They told her that everything was fine, and there was no problem. So she called them every day until they opened a trouble ticket, and she kept calling them after that until they sent a technician out with a new router.

Now everything is fast and easy. XBoX Live, Second Life and on-demand TV are all cruising down the information superhighway into our home. Hopefully, we have won the war and not just the battle. Or, will Verizon have its revenge?!

BTW, the error logs on the router (something about SYN packets) and Verizon's remote tests get a failing grade in terms of diagnosing our problems. I cannot say why our old router worked intermittently and how it was failing. Don't go down that road. Just get Verizon to give you a new router.

See these other posts on this matter:

Sunday, March 30, 2008

FIOS Actiontec MI424WR mystery

The adventures with my FIOS Actiontec MI424-WR continue. A discussion with Verizon tech support ended with them saying they would check the router and get back to me. I haven't heard boo back from them. But for a while, my sense was that my internet access was more reliable. In hindsight, I think it was simply the placebo effect.

This weekend, the problem has been undeniable. On Friday night, the XBox Live! was going strong, and none of the other computers in the house could get to the internet or even ping the router.

I recalled having read about troubles like mine being caused by a small NAT routing table on the MI424WR. "When the NAT table is overflowed, you will get the "No IP for NAT - connections may fail" error logged in your MI424-WR's security log. During this time, you will unable to browse, ping, or connect to anything until you wait about 3 minutes." (

In my case, I am seeing errors in the security log like, "Blocked - NAT out failed. First packet in connection is not a SYN packet: TCP> on br0log." in my MI424-WR's security log. The error happens even if the firewall is set to Minimum. Also, I have port forwarding set up for XBox and Second Life. Most of the Blocked events are associated with the computer running Second Life. Coincidence?

I'll keep you posted as I try to resolve this mystery. See these other posts on this matter:

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Big Apple

All of a sudden, I am actually reading the NY Times every day.

The Governors, the financial crises, the candidate... rotten or not, the Big Apple is back on my radar! So, I'm wondering what is it like inside the barrel? In the old days, people would be throwing themselves out of windows. No reports of that happening. Instead, I guess they go cry on Oprah about how seven-diamond-ladies are not satisfied with $2 stock.

Regarding the financial crisis, Ben Stein's column in the NY Times today is right on the money.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

How often should you blog?

  1. Once is too often for most blogs.
    • If nobody is reading it, is it actually a blog?
    • If you cannot write, that does not mean you cannot blog. However, text messaging would be better suited for your “talents” and might increase your “readership”.
    • You should be "old enough" to blog. Facebook and MySpace are better suited for the young.
  2. Photos and ads are to blogs what live music is to conversation. Titillation and adsense do not make you a philosopher of note.
    • Unless scandal is your stock-in-trade, less is more!
  3. Ask not, "How often should you blog?" Ask, instead:
    • "Do I have anything interesting to say?"
    • "Do I have any expertise in the matter?"
    • "Do I have a talent for writing a blog?"

Saturday, March 15, 2008

On Eliot Spitzer

This was not to say that [Eliot Spitzer] was anything but sincere when he inveighed against [reprobates]. He could not (from his own knowledge, at least) be aware that he was one also, since it is only with the passions of others that we are ever really familiar, and what we come to find out about our own can be no more than what other people have shown us. Upon ourselves they react but indirectly, through our imagination, which substitutes for our actual, primary motives other, secondary motives, less stark and therefore more decent. Never had [Spitzer's wickedness] impelled him to make a habit of visiting a [whore] as such. Instead, it would set his imagination to make that [woman] appear, in [Spitzer]’s eyes, endowed with all the graces. He would be drawn towards the [woman], assuring himself the while that he was yielding to the attractions of her mind, and her other virtues, which the vile race of [degenerates] could never understand. Only his fellow [whore-hounds] knew that he was of their number, for, owing to their inability to appreciate the intervening efforts of his imagination, they saw in close juxtaposition the social activities of [Spitzer] and their primary cause.

Eliot Spitzer as M. Legrandin in Marcel Proust's Swann's Way.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Trouble with FIOS Actiontec router?

In my last posting, I alluded to networking issues I was trying to resolve by using my Linksys WRT54G as a bridge/switch instead of a router. Well the problems persist, so I can eliminate the Linksys device as the cause.

What's happening is that my FIOS Internet speeds at home slow to a crawl or stop completely for one or more users once someone in the house gets on Second Life and/or XBOX-Live. Second Life and/or XBOX-Live will continue to run, but ultimately performance on those applications becomes unacceptable, and we reboot the FIOS router. It's gotten to the point where we are rebooting several times a day.

The FIOS router we have is an Actiontec router with the latest firmware. When I log in and look at the status of the router, I don't see any issues that could be causing the problem. Traffic monitors are well below the bandwidth I am paying for. The error logs are clean.

At this point, I am ready to call Verizon. I'm not looking forward to spending the time with them on the phone to troubleshoot and resolve the problem. Ideally, I'd like them to replace the Actiontec router.

I'll keep you posted as I try to resolve this mystery. See these other posts on this matter:

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

How to set up the WRT54G as a switch/bridge

Lots of people report problems with the router function in the Linksys WRT54G. See here for example.

I have a broadband router upstream of my WRT54G, so I thought that I might be able to avoid the network problems I was having by making my WRT54G work simply as a switch or bridge. This is easily done.

Connect a computer to the WRT54G and use a web browser to log in to it. (Device default IP address Default user name blank and password "admin". ) Change the configuration of the WRT54G as follows:
  1. Under Settings/Basic Settings, turn the DHCP server off. CLICK THE Save Settings BUTTON.
  2. Under Settings/Advanced Routing, change the Operating Mode from Gateway to Router (I know, confusing terms). CLICK THE Save Settings BUTTON.
Plug the ethernet cable from/to the upstream router into one of the numbered jacks, NOT the Internet jack.

That's all there is to it. It works like a charm! Devices connected wired-ly and wirelessly are bridged to the network devices upstream and the Internet beyond.

My device specs: Linksys WRT54G, Firmware 8.00.2

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Windows Problem & Solutions

Here's a comment I posted on Preston Gralla's Blog at COMPUTERWORLD. He wrote, "I've pored through hundreds of emails in the Vista "junk PC" lawsuit, and it still doesn't all add up."

Here are my 2 cents on the matter...

It seems that every MS Windows release has been plagued with problems initially (continually?). As long as MS gets away with this and other atrocities against customers (Office 2007?!) MS will continue to commit them.

The Federal government is probably MS's largest customer, and it should use its buying power (in addition to anti-trust enforcement) to keep MS honest.
  • Publish specs in an RFP that the products/vendors need to meet.
  • Make MS compete against Apple and open-source alternatives to win Federal contracts.
  • Put penalties in the contracts for when products fail to perform as promised.
  • Establish a government contracting preference for open source.

Monday, March 03, 2008

More on Office 2007

A correspondent of mine writes, "As you may have read in his review, Mossberg says:"

    If you'd like to get more out of Office, especially in the area of how your documents look, Office 2007 is a big step forward, and worth the steep learning curve it imposes. If you're happy with Office now, or you mostly create plain documents where formatting and design aren't high priorities, it may not be worth the effort to buy and learn the new version.

Two points that the Mossberg review leaves unsaid are:
  • Over time, everyone in the PC world is going to be forced into Office 2007. You can no longer buy the older versions, and you cannot move your older OEM version of Office to a new machine.
  • Most people are too busy to invest the time needed to learn Office 2007. Most companies are not going to spend the time and money to train people.
So, I still think Office 2007 sucks.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Happy Leap Day!

A Message to Clients

After reviewing the work we have done over the past months, and knowing what we do about your home/office network, your computers and your peripherals, you are in the midst of a period of turn-over and change.
  • Key pieces of your technical infrastructure are old and/or failing and will need to be replaced sooner or later.
  • New communications, entertainment and computer technologies are continuously available. We all have to keep pace or fall behind.
  • Microsoft has rolled out Vista and Office 2007 which (as you may already know) will render your current knowledge of and investment in Windows XP and earlier versions of Office obsolete.
As a result, you will need Keystone more than ever going forward. I want you to feel good about calling Keystone for help, and not like we are torturing you with death by a thousand cuts.

If/when you want to talk about pro active measures designed to keep your IT infrastructure -- computers, network and software -- performing well, please give us a call. By implementing best practices, such as systems planning and routine maintenance, you can avoid problems and feel more in control of the situation.

The State of Tech

Apple stock is trading about where it was the day the iPhone was released in June 2007. Since Christmas '07, Apple stock has lost 40%. Even Steve Jobs has bad days/weeks/months...

Other tech stocks currently in the toilet include, Sprint Nextel (down 20% this week), Google (down 40% since November), Cisco (down 30% since November), and VMWare which is back near it's IPO price, under $60 after having run up to $125.

Just remember, markets will fluctuate.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Top 4 Reasons Office 2007 Sucks

  1. The "Ribbons." This change provides no real benefit for those of us who were competent with prior versions of Office. Microsoft says, "This change greatly improves the user's ability to use and find features in the 2007 Office release." NOT!
  2. No "Classic View." How dare they not give us a way to avoid using the Ribbons?!
  3. "User education is required," Microsoft warns. We get lots of pissed-off calls from users in need of just-in-time help/answers. It's neither fun nor interesting.
  4. Windows Vista + Office 2007 = Death. If you need a new computer, our recommendation is to buy one with Windows XP-Pro, then load your earlier version of Office (2003 Retail version). If you do not have install media for an earlier version of Office, then get yourself a Mac.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Good Song, BAD Software

I encountered Zone Alarm on a client's PC recently. It was not a rewarding experience for me or the client.

I've never been a fan of Zone Alarm's constant, misleading, annoying pop-ups; I've never understood how the product keeps getting positive reviews like this.

So when my client wanted me to uninstall Zone Alarm, I supported the decision and agreed to do it.

When Zone Alarm installs, it provides the user with an Uninstall program. I mistakenly assumed that I could click on the Uninstall application and Zone Alarm would be history. No such luck.

Instead, when I ran Zone Alarm Uninstall, it crashed on my client's machine. I got that Windows pop-up telling me that an error has occurred and asking if I want to send an error report to Microsoft. Do you suppose that Microsoft has people whose job it is to correct such errors or tell you how to avoid them?

I tried to coax the Uninstall application to work a number of different ways, using tricks and suggestions I found on the Internet. No luck.

Then, I installed Zone Alarm version 7 on top of the Zone Alarm version 6.5 I was trying to remove. Based on the messages displayed during the install of version 7.0, the install removed version 6.5 successfully before it installed version 7.0! But, the new(?) Uninstall app would not uninstall version 7.0. It crashed just like before, and I got the same Windows pop-up error message.

Having invested hours of time already and being no closer to a solution, I gave up and reloaded the operating system. This is not a quick, easy and cheap solution, but it is guaranteed to work, and it did.

So now I have another reason to hate Zone Alarm. It's like they sing in the Eagles song, Hotel California. "You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave!" Good song; BAD software.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Sync Me Not

In a prior posting I wrote, "Voice recognition software. This will fundamentally change the way we interact with machines. "Computers" will be embedded in every device so that we can tell them what to do." In that posting, I wrote that current software from Microsoft, IBM, Dragon et al. was not up to the task.

Now, along comes Ford selling cars with Microsoft's "Sync," which claims to be a voice-controlled, on-board music, radio and communications system. What are the chances that this system works as advertised (see

Knowing what I do about the state of the art, I bet a colleague of mine that Sync's voice recognition feature does not work well enough to be useful -- certainly not like it does in one of the ads where a passenger orders up a Michael Bolton song. The implication is that the system hears someone sitting in the passenger seat when the car is moving and understands a voice that it has not been trained to understand. (This is something that I know from experience that high-powered PC cannot do adequately in a quiet office.)

For a preliminary answer, let's consult the Internet... For now, there's not a lot of real information about Sync. Several technology journalists tried Sync when it was unveiled. Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal wrote, "I found the voice-command system surprisingly reliable. In four days of testing, I encountered only a few instances in which my commands were misunderstood." (Source)

One fellow who owns a Ford Explorer with Sync comments, "I only use the SNYC for recharging the iPod and very rarely for voice commanding the iPod. (Not to mention feeling like an idiot yelling at your dashboard to play something and the voice commands giving you idiotic responces) I'll stick to a click or 2 on the iPod menu and leave the voice SYNC for handsfree phone."

In this instance, I am more inclined to believe the Ford Explorer guy (bad grammar, misspellings and all) than Walt Mossberg. Something tells me that Walt's ride was tricked out by Ford & Microsoft in ways that boosted his results/opinions.

I'm still a skeptic.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Oggs of Wisdom

I've been remiss in posting the radio interviews I've done over the last several months on KFNX, news/talk radio in Phoenix, Az. But the advice and opinions expressed therein are nearly timeless, so here they are; fresh as the day they were born.

  1. "Practical Precautions for Protecting Yourself from Identity Theft." Broadcast August 5th, 2007.
  2. "Behavioral Profiling." Broadcast November 25, 2007
  3. "Guess Who's Reading Your Email." Broadcast December 2, 2007.

NOTE: On May 16, 2007, the Free Software Foundation started a campaign to increase the use of Vorbis “as an ethically, legally and technically superior audio alternative to the proprietary MP3 format.” People are also encouraged to support the campaign by adding a web button to their website or blog. For those who don't want to download and use FSF's suggested Ogg player (VLC), the Xiph.Org Foundation has an official codec for QuickTime-based applications in Windows and Mac OS X, such as iTunes players and iMovie applications; and Windows users can install a Windows Media Player Ogg codec. Click here if you need to get set up to play ogg Vorbis media files.

And, lest you missed it, this is a link to the first KFNX interview/ broadcast I did, posted previously.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Web 2.N0

Web 2.0 is a term that dates from 2004. Based on Moore's Law, today we should be talking about Web > 4.0! Anyway, "social networking" is not the new new thing. Now that the money men and women are placing their bets, it will become (has become?) SPAM. Look what happened to email; it is more than 90% SPAM. Look at the blogosphere; its a wasteland.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Y Crimes

As a serious swimmer and frequent visitor to my local YMCA, I have seen all sorts of offenses committed against decency, public health and the Golden Rule. Here are a couple of cases-in-point.

  1. Nowadays, many people are concerned about contracting antibiotic-resistant staph, flesh-eating bacteria, athlete's foot, et al. from sweaty gym clothes, towels and exercise equipment. That's why they are spraying and wiping equipment in the weight room and surfaces in the locker room before and after they use them.

  2. Now, I'm not too squeamish about these things, but I was appalled to see one fellow, dripping with sweat after his workout, strip down and put his sweaty exercise clothes in the swimsuit drying centrifuge! I was coming in from the pool at the time. Needless to say, I did not spin-dry my suit.

  3. The signs on the wall at every public pool I've ever been in say that everyone should shower before swimming and all kids in diapers should wear plastic/ rubber/ waterproof pants when they use the pool. That way we can all pretend that we are not swimming in toilet water.

  4. Unfortunately, even if they have to walk through the showers to get to the pool, many people don't stop to shower before swimming. Even if they do, the shower often amounts to little more than a quick rinse. Few of us actually wash where it counts.

    My confidence in the condition of the water I swim in took another hit recently when I saw an old man in the locker room change out of his unremarkable swimsuit and climb into an adult diaper. My problem with this is not that the man is incontinent; it is that he is not taking precautions against "accidents" in the pool.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Ubuntu Update

A little more than a year ago, I migrated from Windows to Ubuntu. It began as an experiment to see how Ubuntu/Linux compared to Windows, to see if the sacrifices entailed in using Ubuntu were too much for a user like me, and to see how long I could hold out before I went home to Mother Microsoft.

I made the change at home and at work. But I've got access to Windows machines if and when I need one. And since virtually all my family, colleagues and clients use Windows machines, I frequently have my hands on and inside Windows machines.

Yet, when I have a choice; for Internet (email & web), for writing letters and documents, for doing spreadsheets, etc.; after a year, I choose Ubuntu every time.

Now, I don't feel compelled to justify myself or sell you on Ubuntu. Instead, I'll tell you what I don't like about Ubuntu:
  • Open Office is quirky. OO Word Processing fine for a letter, but I wouldn't want to use it to put together a long document with footnotes. I cannot do MS Office macros or VBScripting in Open Office, but I can and am doing text processing in Ubuntu using Perl and regular expressions.
  • There's no tax prep software for Linux/Ubuntu. I don't think the online versions work on Linux/Firefox (they don't say).
Note that these are not Ubunu problems per se; they are holes in the apps available to run on Ubuntu. And these "problems" are pretty minor, especially in light of the many benefits (all free) of using Ubuntu/Linux.