Category Archives: Computer

DC Roadside Emergency Kit Guide

I drive around a lot and even though DC is small and concentrated as a metropolitan area, my errands and obligations can take me to Maryland or Virginia. We have great expressways and thoroughfares across the city, but anything can happen. I could encounter a roadside emergency late at night when no highway patrol car is in the vicinity. Rather than wait for a kind soul to stop or a repair truck that I call, I can take care of many problems on my own much faster. I have made a point of getting up to date as a motorist on flat tires, an accumulation of ice or a lack of gas. Sure I watch the gauge, but I have a portable can. The trunk of my car is a receptacle for an air compression, an ice scraper, kitty litter (for oil spills or to create traction), and a good patch kit. What more do you need, my friends? Have you ever been in dire straits while on the road and were in need of these supplies? I bet many of you have.

What is handy is that the air compressor works off the car’s 12V outlet. I found it here: https://www.compressorforce.com/the-best-12v-air-compressor-reviews/. You just have to plug it in and start inflating your flat tire. The cord has sufficient reach so that front or back tires are no problem. We have all kinds of weather conditions in DC and my gear takes care of most situations. I try not to go out when the snow is heavy and cumbersome. It isn’t bad if the other cars on the road create visible paths. I also hate sleet and ice. It can be very dangerous and send you into a skid. Remember what to do? You turn your wheels into the skid. You don’t break and cause an accident by sliding into another unsuspecting car. I love when spring and summer come, although we do get our share of rain. Overall it is a temperate climate with a short snow season. When it covers the ground, it is a white paradise. Then I like to walk or take the metro. It is one of the best in the country next to Manhattan.

To end this blog, I direct you to many online websites that will help you select a good roadside emergency kit and learn how to use it. They are not all alike. Some are all season or just for winter. Some are well suited for cars, trucks and motor homes. Read the manual about emergency preparedness. Don’t just buy it and stow it away. You should get flares, batteries, collapsible snow shovel, hand warmers, the ice scraper mentioned, tow rope, jumper cables, dried food and bottles of water. You may find a safety vest, seatbelt cutter, distress sign, first aid kit, hand crank radio and large flashlight. You probably already own a mobile phone charger. The kits I like come in a duffel bag for easy storage and retrieval.

Evolution of Online

evolution-of-online

Do you remember getting those stupid CDs in the mail for internet service providers?You had to put them in your computer’s CD drive (they weren’t even DVD drives back then),then install software that would enable you to attach your phone cord to your computer and go online? And then your modem would make these horrible sounds and nobody could use the phone because you’d be online, probably doing nothing but talking in a chat room asking people for their a/s/l.

Do you remember that, or is that just me?

There was Netscape, Netzero, and America Online. They had that “you’ve got mail” thing you were always so anxious to hear. We had so many of those CDs at my house as a kid that we used them as coasters and Frisbees that we never actually bothered to catch because they hurt the crap out of your hand if you tried. They sure were fun to throw, though. And you’d have three by the end of the week so it wasn’t like it mattered.

As the technology got better and more people wanted to be online,broadband internet became cool. You could actually check your email every once awhile from a network.It wasn’t so slow, but usually, you had to go online either at work or somewhere like the library because nobody had that kind of setup at home. I remember being in college the first year we all got campus email address. The computer lab would be packed full of people who would crash the network. Then the staff would have to put an “internet down” sign on the door and the place would be a ghost town.

Oh my God, this is how old I am: one of my college projects was that I had to create a website on Geocities.Do you have no idea what that is? I bet you don’t.

Then people started being able to go online “wirelessly”, then you could use a cellphone to go online, and at this point it’s built into practically everything. Seriously, you can put your lightbulbs on a network so you can turn it on via your cellphone. Now you can search anything about anyone,find pictures of just about anything, and upload a video of you doing just about anything and people will watch it. You can buy just about anything you can think when you look online. The internet is now this wonderful community of people sharing information while sitting alone and staring at a device.

The fact that these things have changed and evolved just in my lifetime is what really made me interested in computer networking in the first place. I love that this is one of those fields where the technology changes rapidly. People want their internet faster and using smaller devices.They want to do it cheaper, with better reliability, and they want to do it safely and securely. And that’s where I come in.

I’d be the first to say that I am not anywhere close to being on the same level as a first responder, but people totally go crazy when they have no internet. It’s become so ingrained in us that sometimes when Facebook goes down, people call nine-one-one. That’s a blatant misuse of an emergency system, but it just goes to show what people’s priorities are. As a society, we have grown so dependent on being able to share anything with anyone while being available and in step with all our friends& family, and all the events in their lives. It’s how we communicate, how we learn, it’s where we go for information and sometimes for love.

It’s pretty cool to be able to help people out with that.

Why I Love Working in D.C.

One thing that I love about working in D.C. is that it feels like a big deal. If you’ve ever worked in a major city, you probably know what I’m talking about. It doesn’t matter what your job title is, you automatically seem more successful and important, simply based on geography. I’m not sure if there is a word for that. If there is, it’s probably German. They always have the cool expressions, don’t they?

It might be just a respect thing—if I go to a tech convention and people ask which office I’m from, I get a little more respect than the guy next to me whose office is in, say, Joliet. People also typically assume that I work for the government (I can neither confirm or deny that one). My coworkers and I always end up with a few hangers-on when we go to conventions, even if we aren’t hiring or presenting anything. And maybe it’s my ego talking but I think that’s pretty cool. If it gets you to listen to me, or opens up a possible new job opportunity because you think I’m some kind of bigshot, then I’m going to take that and work it to my advantage as best as possible. Seriously, us computer guys are a dime a dozen. Sure there’s less of us who are qualified, but you might not know that I’m good at what I do (I am, by the way. Totally worth every penny of my salary, plus more) right away but good doesn’t matter if it doesn’t get my foot in the door, does it? What I can do only matters once I’m already in the room.

You all probably imagine that I make double or triple what that networking guy in…let’s see… Nampa, Idaho makes.And yes, our job responsibilities next to each other and you’ll get a pretty even match but the salaries are going to be very different. What people probably don’t realize is that once you take thecost of living into consideration, the guy out in Idaho is probably able to put more money in the bank than I am, which actually makes him the smart one. And he probably gets more chicks that way, too. When I told my parents what my starting salary was, they nearly fell over. Then I told them how much I pay a month in rent and they thought I accidentally added a zero. Hilarious if you are anybody but someone living in the D.C. metro area, I guess.

But there are professional sports teams within driving distance, and that’s a big plus for someone like me. There are famous restaurants all over the place if you’re into that stuff. If you’re not into politics, you probably aren’t impressed by the fact that you can run into your congressman on line at the grocery store. I haven’t gotten tired of it yet, though. Maybe when it gets old, it will be time to move.  I like taking time on the weekend to walk around the different monuments and memorials. I like to read the historical plaques and absorb the history of this place. It’s like being inside a government and politics textbook, except you actually get to see and experience everything.

The traffic makes me insane and I’ve already mentioned the cost of living, but I’ve been here two years now and that’s just about everything I can think of to complain about. That’s not so bad, right?

Why I Don’t Like Talking About Work

Ahh, work. That place I spend 10 hours a week commuting to and 40 hours a week sitting around at. The job I trained for 4 years and took on debt to get. I like the company enough, it is a pretty decent place to work. The job isn’t bad either, if a little monotonous. I just hate talking about it. First of all, after being surrounded by computers and annoyed people all day, that’s the last think I want to think about after I walk out the doors to the building. Second, when you tell people you work in networking in D.C., they get confused. I don’t know why the location throws them off. I can’t tell you how many times people think I’m some kind of lobbyist or professional political partygoer or something. I know lobbyists can make a ton of cash but is a political partygoer a lucrative career? Is that even a real thing? I can think of some other professions that sounds suspiciously close to, which makes me wonder– why do people think that’s what I’m talking about, with my ill-fitting jeans and steel-toe boots (because monitors and desktop towers may have gotten lighter but they still hurt when you drop one on your foot)?  I certainly don’t think I look like some sort of…political-savvy paid mingler. Besides, if I meant that, wouldn’t I have said that I was a lobbyist or whatever it is you think I’m doing?

They always seem disappointed when I correct them and tell them that it’s computer networking.

Then the second part that I dread starts. The “Oh, so you’re good with computers? That’s great. Because my computer is…” and then they try to lay out what’s going on with their computer. As if I can diagnose and treat every computer known to man with any problem in existence, all off the top of my head. I imagine that people in the healthcare field and mechanics get this a lot, too. I bet people at parties have no problem making pretend car noises or lifting up their sleeve to show you some gross mole.

This is why I hate meeting new people.

But at the same time, I don’t really want to hang out with my coworkers. Partially because I spend the majority of my day with them but also because then they take it as an opportunity to talk about work. Some computer they had to fix. Some idiot coworker’s mistake. That pretty girl over in accounting and whether I think she’s seeing anybody (she is, and I know this not because I hit on her and got shot down but because I ran into her and her girlfriend in the cafeteria once). I would much rather hang out with the guys I play paintball with, or the fellow gamers I meet online, or any of the friends I’ve had since high school.

Am I the only one who feels this way? Or does everyone else get home from work and just start talking about the place they just left over dinner? It’s just me, isn’t it?

Beltway, I Hate You

I love living in DC. It’s the most powerful city in the country. It’s like New York or L.A., but instead of being filled with annoying hipsters or wanna-be actors, you’ve got agents, spies, and political figures. The Metro, when it’s working, is great for getting around. Granted, it is showing its age and very possibly falling apart around us as we hurtle through its decaying tubes, but at least I don’t have to drive on 495.

Can I tell you how much I hate the DC Beltway?

No, really, can I?

I am an impatient guy by nature, so sitting there in traffic makes me want to get out of my car and run screaming the other way down the highway. People are like, “oh but you get to see that pretty Mormon cathedral and the Washington Monument and…” Yeah. I. Don’t. Care. If I wanted to see those things, I’d go to them. And as cool as the Washington Monument is, it isn’t really much to really look at, is it? It looks like a giant pencil stuck in the ground with two little eyes in the point. It doesn’t do tricks like the Empire State Building, and you don’t wonder how they built it like the St. Louis Arch or anything. It’s just…there. Of all the monuments in D.C., appearance-wise, it’s not that impressive. Sorry, George.

Wikipedia calls the 270/495 merge “highly complex” but we’ll just call it a stupid nightmare. That’s way more accurate. And then there’s the section between Georgia Avenue and Route 355 that has an average of 260 crashes a year. That’s one accident per weekday, give or take. Most places would have done something about that by now, but not us. Oh no. There are a lot of merges in the DC area that are merges of death but that one pretty much takes the cake. If your car dies or gets a flat, you best be getting out and going up past the shoulder and up onto some terrain, because you will get rear ended and possibly die otherwise. And if there’s an accident over there, and you probably will as there is one almost daily, you’re never getting where you need to be.

I tried to date a girl who lived in Maryland once. You want a good laugh, go look on googlemaps at the aerial view of exit 19B on the beltway going toward 50 W. It looks like a little kid drew out the roads with his or her eyes closed. I can’t even explain it. As shallow as this makes me sound, that relationship did not last, because I just couldn’t do the commute. Neither could she, to be honest. It was just…a nightmare.

I like to drive, or at least I did til I moved here. I was used to driving in some traffic, sure, but nothing like this. D.C. traffic is something you really have to see to believe, especially on the beltway. I’d much rather risk a crushing death in a Metro tunnel. The odds are much more in my favor to take the train. It’s just too bad it doesn’t run all the time.

“My Internet’s Not Working”

If I got paid by the complaint and not the hour, I’d be a millionaire. I lost count my first week here with all the “my internet’s not working” calls. I’d say only about 1/3 of them come from actual network outages; mostly because we let everyone know when it happens so they DON’T call us. Because what I want while I’m trying to fix everything is answer a million phone calls from angry people who can’t get into the systems. Most of the time, people take it personally when the internet or intranet is down, and they are not happy. If I’ve got an angry person yelling at me every 5 minutes, I’m clearly not going to have time to get my job done and actually fix the problem…

Most of the time, it’s for something dumb like they accidentally turned off their wireless capabilities (I’m looking at you, telecommuters). You have to tell them where to look for the little network icon and they get all indignant. Then you get them to turn it back on and it miraculously solves the problem. At that point, though, they’re usually so relieved that they haven’t accidentally broken the computer and they now have everything back up that they will either apologize or thank you. I don’t mind those calls because they only take a few minutes to work through.

Then there’s my favorite, the network cable being unplugged. You would think people would check that before they call me but you’d be wrong. Sometimes it isn’t the employee’s fault—they’ve moved desks or something and tech is supposed to reconnect everything and they just…don’t for some reason or other. Maybe the cleaning people accidentally knocked something loose. But a lot of the time people get fidgety and kick it out, drop something and go digging blindly around under their desks, or decide to rearrange their desk and the stupid little plastic thing on their Ethernet cable pops out or breaks off. I’ll usually hold up the cord and say, “See this?” before explaining what it is and why it needs to be attached. I would imagine these people have computers at home so I am not sure how they get anything solved there. Those people usually just mutter an embarrassed apology and I can go back to the tech dungeon where my office is located.

Every once in awhile, we have to shut everything down because people have done something awesome like clicked on a phishing link or something equally as stupid and infect their computer. We have a shutdown procedure while we get the infected computer disconnected and that’s always fun. People call to find out why their internet isn’t working and we’re all, “Yeah, tell your idiot coworker that there’s no Nigerian prince looking for money…” Usually they can’t believe it happened again—we can’t, either—but that’s out of our hands. Then we usually all have a good laugh at their coworker’s expense and get on with our days.

Sometimes, though, we get complaints that the internet is down but it’s really the firewall. “I can’t get online.” Yeah? Try this site. “Oh that works.” OK, so where were you trying to go? “Facebook.” Uh. That’s a violation of employee conduct. “But it’s for work! I network there!” Yeah, I don’t care. No facebook for you! Check it on your phone like a normal person, would you? Oh that’s right—you can’t because we don’t allow cell signals in the building (insert evil villain laugh here). So go outside on your lunchbreak and check it on your phone then! Get some sunshine and leave me alone!

Take me, for example. I’m writing this on my tablet while I eat my lunch out here in the sunshine.