MonthJune 2013

The Social

The Futility of Comparing Yourself to Other is you’re comparing your reality to an ideal, a fantasy.

Social Media and the endless Sharing Culture built around it puts us in competition with our peers, friends, family and strangers constantly.

I don’t want to compare. I don’t want to share. I don’t want to compete. Social features are turn offs to me. I don’t want to post anything to anywhere. If I want to make a post about it, I will take it upon myself to do that, and perhaps link to a public page or screenshot.

But I don’t want to tell everyone about everything I do all the time.

I use Goodreads not to share what I read but simply to track books. I use the recommendations sometimes but I ignore the rest of the site. I use it mostly from my iPhone and I update my progress through the book(s) I am reading.

I have friends there. But I don’t follow them. I don’t care what they’re reading. That’s not why I use the site. If I could turn off the Social I would.

I love Pinboard. It bills itself Social Bookmarking for Introverts and is true to its word. I can follow other people so I can see their public bookmarks. I don’t. That’s all the Social there is to it.

The best thing about Pinboard is it allows me to send information to it.

  • Articles I’ve saved for later.
  • Favorited posts on Tumblr, Twitter, Google Reader.
  • Anything I’ve forwarded to it from email.

It’s my central repository for all online knowledge. If I’ve come across it, it’s in Pinboard and that’s where I search for it. I don’t share it. I don’t tell everyone about it. I don’t share it with my friends. I keep it for me.

I don’t have a constant need to share. I don’t need to tell my friends what I’m doing at all times of the day and night. More often, the sites I use and communities I spend time in may be tracking data for me and me alone and if others see it, that’s ok too.

I’m not in it for the social. I am in it for the benefit it brings to my life.

Simplify Windows Logons with the Dot Slash trick

One of my biggest annoyances in the move to Windows 7 is the loss of the drop down box for whether to login to a local account or a domain account. When you spend your life as a computer technician and constantly need to get access to local administrator accounts in addition to domain-based accounts, this is very irritating.

For a computer bound to a domain in Windows XP the login box looked like this:

When I need to login as the local computer’s administrator it was as easy as changing the Log on to: box.

Now I can login as a local administrator and complete the work I need to do.

For a computer bound to the domain in Windows 7 you get this:

There is no longer a quick way to login to the local account. Unless you know the computer’s hostname 1 you had to click the “How do I log on to another domain?” link.

Then write down or remember the name.

I have found a faster way. If you type .\ in front of the user name, it will automatically set the Windows 7 computer to login to the local PC.

For example, .\administrator will give you localcomputer\administrator instead of domain\administrator.

Now, instead of having to remember a long, convoluted name, you have this:

This is easier than trying to recall hostnames or making little notes at every computer I access where I need to login locally.


  1. Usually something like the machine’s serial number, user’s last name or some other long, hard to remember set of characters 

Simple Tools

I spend my days repairing computers for the federal government. I support the National Cancer Institute, part of the National Institute of Health. I support Macs, PCs, iPhone, Blackberries, iPads and a host of scientific equipment I don’t pretend to begin to understand their function.

Day in and day out I scratch my head, Google obscure error codes, and reach deeply into my brain for the acquired knowledge I’ve accumulated over the near-decade I’ve been doing this work.

My home is an extension of my geekiness. I have a small armada of computers. Some run all the time performing menial functions. Others are test beds for my random whims. Some are the work horses I turn to day in and day out. And some, I honestly no longer have any real use for and need to sell.

My primary machine was a little white MacBook which served me dutifully for years until a fan replacement gone wrong fried the logic board and the cost to replace it was just too great.

Today, it is a PC laptop that I bought thinking it was what I wanted. These days, I find it looking a little long in the tooth and never quite matching up to the Mac’s speed and stability. ((And I’m not going to get into Windows 8 here…)) More and more, when I get home I reach for the simplest tools in my arsenal.

I have a 1st Generation iPad and a prototype Google CR-48 Chromebook.

When I get home, all I want to do is dive into a book-in-progress. When I get home, I reach for my iPad, open the Kindle app, sync it if I’ve read at all on my iPhone during the day, and pickup my story where I left off. There is something very calming and peaceful about reading. After a long day of diagnosing, repairing and explaining I want to get lost inside a story.

After putting down the book, I’ll dig into my RSS feeds on the iPad, stick my toe into Twitter and then open Instapaper and thumb through the articles waiting for me there. I’ll do some filing since Instapaper is my catch-all for any interesting article or story that catches my attention throughout the day.

Once I’ve moved the items for safe keeping or for reference later, I read what is left. I love reading and I post the things I’ve read and liked to Twitter at @CarlLikes.

After I do my reading I’ll move to the CR-48 for some writing. Sometimes there is an article that has sparked my interest or an idea that’s been bouncing around in my head. Often times I reach for it to evict thoughts from my head into 750 Words where I make an effort to put 750 new words on the page every single day.

The CR-48 is ideal for its light weight and relative slowness so it combats my wish to open countless tabs in Chrome. Where I will usually keep 5 tabs open in Chrome always, I always quit every tab on the CR-48 and start fresh every time I open the lid.

I find starting fresh on the small machine lends itself to not getting sidetracked into a social network or a forgotten story I’d left half-read when I closed the lid. When I sit down to write, I want to sit down and make the clackity noise.

In addition to being small, the laptop runs very cool and has great battery life. As I sit here, I have 46% battery left which afford me nearly 3 hours of time to clack along.

There are so many great apps to put words into and the web apps are not lagging behind in quality.

I am typing this entry into Dillinger. Though more and more I have been writing in Draft which deserves a post of its own. When I’m offline I will open Pillarbox which is free from the Chrome Web Store and a great, simple writing app that will auto-save your work and works even if the Chromebook doesn’t have a network connection.

Support Ops – Tech Support with Carl Holscher

SupportsOps

I’ve been a big fan of Support Ops since it launched. The idea of bringing humanity back into the world of customer support is near and dear to my heart. My writing about it is what caused Chase to email me to be on the show. I’ve got a diverse background that he thought would be interesting to his listeners.

We talked for about a half hour on what it’s like working in IT Support at the Federal Government level. I’ve worked all over the place, always in customer-facing support work where I had the benefit of showing up at my customer’s desks to troubleshoot their problems. There is a world of difference in being able to see the customer and work with them face-to-face instead of over the phone or with remote tools.

I’d be honored if you’d have a listen to Episode #18 – Tech Support With Carl Holscher | Support Ops. It was an absolute blast to record with Chase and share some of my stories from the trenches.

Apps I Love – MacTracker and iFixit

There are two tools I often use when troubleshooting and repairing computers. The first solves a problem of determining exactly what Mac computer you have in front of you. The second is the best resource on the web for repair instructions and parts for Macs, game consoles and other home electronics.

The first is MacTracker. This beautiful application runs on the Mac, or iPad or iPhone. It immediately grants you access to the entire history of Apple devices. Need to know exactly which iMac, Powerbook or iPhone you’re looking at?

Mactracker

Search by year, model, name, anything you like. I’ve been using it this week to search the specific models of G4 Powerbooks I have in the stack in front of me. The reason I need to know exactly which one I have is so I can go into the second thing I’ve been loving.

iFixit is a site that has detailed tear downs on most modern Apple hardware. The walk throughs show exactly how to get into these devices to replace and repair components. They’ve also expanded to gaming consoles, other smart phones and auto parts.

iFixit-One-Color

While some of the work is done by the site’s core staff, the entire site is a wiki-like platform where any person can write their own repair guides and are peer-reviewed first then reviewed by the staff. Because anyone can contribute, refine or correct mistakes or clarify steps the walk throughs are almost always perfectly accurate.

The documentation I’ve used from iFixit is often times better than anything the manufacturer has available, and in Apple’s case, there is nothing so this site is vital to Apple repair work.

While you’re there, grab a copy of the Self-Repair Manifesto.