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SpiceWorld 2018’s Spice Buddies and Cool Vendors (video)

October 17, 2018 Leave a comment

SpiceWorld 2018Hey frugal networkers, I hope you’re having a great October. Yes, it’s been a while since I posted but that hiatus ends today. I went to SpiceWorld 2018 last week and spoke to a lot of cool people, saw Frank Abagnale speak, and met up with the planet’s coolest vendors. SpiceWorld is the annual tech conference hosted by Austin’s own Spiceworks. If you go to one tech conference per year, this needs to be that one. Check out Spiceworks and its array of free software and awesome community.

This year’s cool vendors are:

I hope you’ll check out my cool vendors list and try out their products and services. I selected from the long list of vendors that attended and thought that these had something special to offer. I love startups and this year, Automox, Backblaze, and Infocyte got my attention. Of course, my “Vendor to Watch” is Pulseway. Trusted Tech Team is an MSP that gets a lot of 5-star reviews. Let me know what you think of my selections.

Thanks to the Spiceworks marketing and executive teams for another great SpiceWorld!

*Disclaimer: I didn’t choose who did the spotlight interviews. The vendors self-selected.

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6 Signs That It’s Time to Upgrade Your PC

January 17, 2018 Comments off

Your computer, no matter how powerful it is right now, will eventually succumb to obsolescence. That’s the natural life cycle of electronics, after all. One day, you’ll want to upgrade your rig – whether piecemeal or complete package – when your current one is inadequate for your needs. So, when is the best time to upgrade your computer? Here are some cautionary signs that signal the right time to do so.

  1. It takes forever to boot up.

Something is generally amiss when your PC is slow at startup. Generally, it’s an issue with too many applications being queued to run at the start. Sometimes, it’s a driver or installation thing that goes away after it’s completed. If it’s not an application or driver issue, as you’ll find out after a clean reformat, then it’s your hardware giving way.

  1. It’s generally slow at everything.

Related to #1, it may be time to upgrade your PC when everything you do is seriously sluggish. Opening your office application is slow as molasses? You can’t play Full HD videos and you’re experiencing stuttering during playback? When you launch your favorite game, it stays on the loading screen forever? A clean reformat or some cleaning and driver upgrading might do the trick and fix these problems. However, if they linger afterward, it’s time to upgrade your rig.

  1. Your storage is maxed out.

You can’t download new 1080p videos to your hard drive anymore. You can’t install new applications and games because you lack disk space. It’s high time you get new hardware then. If you’re lucky enough, you can install a new storage drive or two on your PC, if your hardware can still handle it. Another alternative would be to invest in portable hard drives, though, they’re typically more expensive than regular drives.

  1. You can’t play the latest games.

If you can’t play the latest and greatest games at the most minimum recommended specs, you’re badly in need of upgrades. At that point, given how dated your computer is, you’re better off building a new gaming rig. Rather than work with old, dated parts which may or may not be funky after years of wear and tear, it’s best to go all new for maximum compatibility and durability.

  1. You can’t install anything anymore.

It’s bad when you can’t install the latest version of your operating system. Sure, you can still run your rig with older drivers and applications. You can still play certain games with it. However, if you need the most updated software and want to play the newest titles, you’ll want a new computer with the recommended specs.

  1. You spend most of your time fixing it.

Whenever you do video editing, your PC crashes while you’re rendering. A graphically-intensive scene in your favorite game bluescreens your PC and forcibly restarts it. Your rig experiences random reboots for no discernable reason. Despite all your maintenance and spring cleaning, it’s still on the fritz. You’ve spent countless hours testing and gauging your hardware’s reliability, and yet you still haven’t found a solution. It’s time to move on.

18 High-paying Jobs That Allow Work Flexibility

February 8, 2017 Comments off

Engineers Get Fat StacksSpoiler Alert: Earn an Engineering Degree. Yep, that’s right, Engineers always top every list of the highest-paying jobs. A Bachelor’s Degree in most fields won’t put you into the tax bracket that Engineering ones do. A degree in Engineering starts off with a higher salary, grows faster, and has more potential for upward mobility than any other. I’m sorry, but it’s true. I attended Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas and it’s a heavy Engineering school and the prevailing joke, at the time, was, “What do you call an Aggie Engineer five years after graduation?” “Boss.”lexjob’s 18 Highest-Paying Bachelor’s Degrees with Flexible Jobs.

The 18 Highest-Paying Bachelor’s Degrees with Flexible Jobs.

It’s true that Engineers enjoy the fastest career growth curve of any profession. They’re respected in the workforce and they make the big bucks. I’ve personally never seen a poor Engineer or an Engineer that’s unemployed. They always have jobs. They always have good jobs, even in economic downturns. So, take the hint and get that Engineering degree.

A lot of students are afraid of pursuing Engineering degrees because of the math requirements, such as Calculus, Differential Equations, and other advanced math courses. My suggestion is to take some remedial math courses so that you begin to understand the concepts and the possibilities that advanced mathematics holds. I personally loved Calculus but struggled with Algebra, Geometry, and Trigonometry. Calculus is where I should have started. Unfortunately, the school system wasn’t setup for me. By the time I was first exposed to Calculus, I was in college and really scared of the requirement to take a full year of it. I made an ‘A’ in both semesters and then considered a degree in Mathematics. It was the opening of a whole new world to me.

Take a look at the 18 jobs, mostly Engineering gigs, that not only are the highest-paying but also have flexibility.

Why Filmmakers Will Never Adopt the iPhone 7

January 18, 2017 Comments off

iPhone 7By Ken Hess

I’m a filmmaker, writer, iPhoneographer, i-Device videographer, and I won’t transition to the iPhone 7 or any device that doesn’t have an input jack that can be used for microphones. I doubt other such filmmakers will either. We have to have a way to get synchronized sound into the videos that we’re making. Bluetooth speakers are not really all that great and I don’t expect any Bluetooth microphones to be great either. Bluetooth also consumes a lot of power. It just isn’t a workable solution. Apple will likely lose a significant number of customers who make films and podcasts using iPods, iPads, and iPhones. I leave my iPad 4 connected to a tripod and a microphone constantly for quick access to creating video for reviews, news, and interviews. The new iPhones will have no such place in my repertoire.

The decision to remove the 3.5mm input jack is a very poorly conceived idea. I’m not sure that Apple really gained anything by doing so, except perhaps more revenue from their “Airpods.” Airpods are very expensive ($159.00) Bluetooth earbuds that will be easily lost or stolen. Apple does however, still supply a set of earbuds (Lightning connector) at no extra charge (A $30.00 value).

Filmmakers need to be able to connect a microphone and to connect earbuds or headphones to listen to sound. There are, of course, converter cables that one can use to allow 3.5mm access, but I haven’t tried one with an iPhone 7 yet to test how good they are. My daughter has an iPhone 7 and I will make that test soon and post when it’s complete. I have several 3.5mm jack microphones that I can use to test the cable. I purchased this adapter/converter to test, but haven’t had the time yet with her iPhone 7 to try it out.

I hope that some third party, perhaps via Kickstarter or Indiegogo, creates a good solution for iPhone 7s. I see projects like Tangerine not happening on this device and it’s unfortunate because the camera is so nice.

Note to filmmakers: You can still buy iPhone 5 and 6 models at reasonable prices, have great cameras, and have the 3.5mm jack at your disposal.

If I ever upgrade to something newer than my iPhone 5, I’m keeping the 5 for making films exclusively. The iPhone 5 has the right size, the 3.5mm jack, and I’ve invested enough in accessories to make keeping it a good idea. I wish it had more than 16GB of space or was upgradeable. Unfortunately, Apple doesn’t give us the option.

Thanks Apple, for your inflexibility, non-upgradeability, and no 3.5mm jack.

Why Apple needs to unlock the Terrorist’s iPhone and why it won’t

February 26, 2016 Comments off

Apple vs. FBIApple Computer is currently battling a court order to help unlock an iPhone that was used by attackers in the San Bernardino, California Inland Regional Center incident on December 2, 2015,  where 14 people were killed and 22 were seriously injured. Apple’s defense is that by forcing it to create code, it would amount to “compelled speech and viewpoint discrimination,” both of which are violations of the First Amendment right to free speech. “Under well-settled law, computer code is treated as speech within the meaning of the First Amendment,” the company said in its motion.

However, Apple’s lawyers are incorrect in stating that this violates the First Amendment. It does not. The following is the complete text of the First Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The full text of the so-called free speech part of the Constitution is “abridging the freedom of speech”. Now, there are dozens of people on both sides of the law who can debate this topic, but the words themselves are clear. Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech.

Congress isn’t making a law abridging anyone’s freedom of speech, but Congress is instead enacting its power to provide for the common defense and the general welfare of the United States. No one is attempting to prevent free speech.

The issue isn’t about free speech and using it as a defense is a non sequitur.

The protection (common defense and general welfare) of the United States supersedes any personal rights, even those afforded by the first ten amendments to the Constitution. Apple’s argument is ridiculous and holds no water. The fact that Apple is refusing to comply places it in a precarious position with the government because it is impeding Congress’ duty to protect the United States from enemies both foreign and domestic. You have to really stretch the wording of “abridging the freedom of speech” to argue against assisting Congress in protecting the United States and its citizens.

Apple’s CEO Tim Cook asserts that Apple will have to create code for this and to do so is compelled speech. I say, “Tim Cook, you must be high on legally-obtained medical marijuana to say such a silly thing.”

Unfortunately, Apple might not be able to comply with the order, even if it agrees to do so. I personally don’t believe that Apple can do what’s being asked of it, so the best defense is often a good offense. It would be better, in my opinion, to admit that you can’t do it and ask Congress to seek the assistant of someone else who can crack the device.

Effectively, I see this situation as being similar to a guy who builds a bomb, but didn’t build any capability of disarming it. I think Apple built a device that it cannot “disarm.” The First Amendment is just “rabbit chasing” in order to not have to deal with the real issue–that Apple can’t crack its own device. Apple has pulled the pin and can’t put it back in.

I think we should stop the legalese and get down to the business of protecting the people of the United States. Offer a reward to the programmer or hacker who can perform the crack and decryption. And just leave Apple out of the argument.

The end result of this fiasco, should Apple successfully maintain its standoff with the Court is that Apple should be forced to pay heavy fines for its refusal to comply. My opinion is that Tim Cook and Apple are in contempt and should be held as such by refusing to comply. The smarter defense would have been, “We can’t do it because we don’t know how to do it and as far as we know, it cannot be done.”

The FBI and the Court aren’t asking Apple to violate law, because there is probable cause. There are warrants. There is an investigation. There was a deadly attack. There are no Constitutional violations here. Apple is clearly stalling.

There are really three mistakes that have occurred here:

  • Apple built something it can’t crack.
  • Apple is in violation of a Court Order and used a defense that doesn’t make sense.
  • The FBI and the Court should seek help from a competent source.

I’m all for freedoms and I fully embrace the Constitution and all its amendments. And part of that embrace is that every citizen and every company of citizens must comply with the provision of the common defense and the general welfare of the United States. No individual’s rights are more important than everyone’s rights. The one thing we all have to remember is that, my rights begin where yours leave off–meaning that we all have the same rights. We have the right to be protected and we have the right to protect. And I don’t want to live in a country where my rights to be protected aren’t upheld by the Constitution or by the government.

Apple’s act of defiance is selfish and contemptible. If I were a member of a victim’s family, I would sue Apple for its refusal to help. It is wrong for any entity to put itself above the law and above the safety and well-being of others. Whether Apple won’t or can’t comply with the court order is of great consequence to us all. My hope is that someone will step forward and take up the cause of unlocking the phone for the common good, be it Apple or someone else.

Atlantis Computing’s Software Defined Storage, Hyperconverged Infrastructure, and Data Center Design

January 19, 2016 Comments off

Atlantis ComputingAtlantis Computing‘s Hyperscale appliance sports an all-flash array for storage, plus adds compute and virtualization to your remote office/branch office (ROBO) sites without the need for on-site IT staff. Its Hyperscale solutions offer your company:

  • Data reduction
  • I/O acceleration
  • Data management
  • Data mobility
  • Data protection
  • Unified storage

Its “turnkey” appliances offer simplified setup with enterprise-class all-flash storage that anyone in your ROBO can setup in minutes at a lower cost than competitive hyperconverged solutions. Starting with a two-node, 4 TB appliance, your Atlantis Computing-based solution can grow with you. You can read my article on ZDNet about Atlantis Computing’s latest announcements and listen to the podcast.

To find out more about how Atlantis Computing’s Hyperscale solutions can help your business, check out an in-depth article complete with supporting statistics and data: From the Field: Software Defined Storage and Hyperconverged Infrastructure in 2016.

Atlantis Computing is also offering you a free ebook so that you can have a look into the building of a modern data center.

Learn how agile IT principles and emerging data center services, such as software-defined storage and a hyperconverged infrastructure, will play an important role in meeting increasing business demands.

Sign up to reserve your copy.

Other free resources from Atlantis Computing:

DeepStorage Report on Atlantis

Atlantis Computing also helps companies setup and manage virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) implementations. If you want your VDI to work like you’ve dreamed it would without spending your company’s retirement fund to do it, check out Atlantis’ solutions for VDI.

Atlantis Computing

Disclaimer: This is a non-sponsored post.

Sponsorship: If you would like to sponsor a post or have me review a product, contact me via Twitter @kenhess.

 

 

Explore these truly relevant IT industry certifications

January 15, 2016 Comments off

CertifiedIf you’re an IT professional or someone wanting to break into the glamorous world of IT, then you’ve probably considered certification. Perhaps your employer wants you to certify or maybe you think it’s time for a career move and you want to explore IT certifications. It’s confusing because there are so many certifications out there and not all of them are valued by employers or other IT staffers. This guide will help you identify the relevant certifications and why they’re relevant.

Almost every major vendor has some sort of certification plan for its products. I want to caution you against those. If a certification has a vendor label on it, I suggest that you pass it by unless you work with that product exclusively. There are, of course, exceptions. Cisco is one of those exceptions. Cisco certifications, such as the CCNA, CCIE, and CCNP are valuable, valued, and the most sought after in the business. The reason? They’re hard to pass. But that is only one reason. Other reasons include: There are jobs in the network administration field, you have to have significant experience to pass them, the jobs available for individuals who hold those certifications pay well. But exercise a bit of caution here. They’re expensive to take. The training is expensive too. The fail rate is very high, so unless you’re 100 percent dedicated to it, don’t waste your money and your time.

CompTIA certifications are highly valued in the IT business too. After Cisco, these are the ones that everyone wants. The reason? They’re vendor neutral. Certifications such as Security+, Server+, Network+, Linux+, and A+ test your knowledge of the topic while remaining vendor agnostic and that’s only a sampling of CompTIA’s certifications. Training sources are up to you and not required. You can register, pay, and take a CompTIA exam any time you wish. Your life experience can be your training. Other reasons why CompTIA exams are so valuable is that they test every aspect of a topic in considerable depth. If someone has, for example, passed the A+ exam, there’s a body of knowledge you know that individual has at his or her disposal and there’s no question about it.

ITIL Foundations certification is an extremely valuable certification, especially with larger companies, because of policies and regulations centering around change control. ITIL Foundations classes are relatively expensive and the test is rigorous, although many trainers boast a very high pass rate. My suggestion is that you focus during the three-day long class and study until you’re bored for the exam.

Microsoft CertificationsMicrosoft certifications are a whole different animal unto themselves. Some of the certifications are very difficult to pass, while others require no experience and very little study in order to achieve success. During the late 1990s, certain Microsoft certifications were shunned by the IT community because there were so many newbies entering the field who we dubbed, “Paper MCSEs.” It was true. A person with no experience could attend a class and pass the MCSE exam. It was this exam that turned many IT professionals against certification programs and against those who were certified. Microsoft has revamped its certification program considerably since those days and the number of Paper MCSEs has dropped significantly in response to those changes. These days an MCSE is a good place to start, but only if you couple it with another vendor neutral certification or two, such as the CompTIA ones.

The Microsoft Developer certification program is excellent as is its database certification track. If you have aspirations beyond tech support, check those out.

VMware certifications are another exception to the vendor certification smackdown that I gave earlier. VMware certifications for its core products are highly valued. The VCP is an honored and honorable certification. The training is expensive and the test is rigorous. Take the plunge if you have some experience and the training behind you. Couple it with another vendor neutral certification for better value.

Project Management certifications are absolutely essential in gaining any kind of momentum behind your career as a project manager. The PMP is the gold standard in the industry for project management professionals. There are too many related certifications to mention here, but these are widely recognized and considered required for positions in the industry.

Fortunately in some jobs, you can negotiate IT training that leads to certification, plus the testing fee which can be quite high in some cases. Be prepared to sign a contract for payback if you leave the job in less than a year of service after such training.

A word of caution about certification. When you certify on a product, be aware that when the new version of that product hits the market, you’ll have to certify on the new product as well. In some circles, we call this the “certification money racket.” This means that even if you are certified on Product X version 6.0, when Product X version 7.0 is released, you’ll have to take a new class and pay a new testing fee to certify. And most certifications, vendor-oriented or vendor neutral have an expiration date.

Most professionals who I know who are “certification junkies” (The ones who have several certifications behind their names) consider new certifications as continuing education and part of the cost of being an IT professional.

If you’re interested in becoming a certification instructor, the exams are the same, but you’ll have to achieve near perfect scores on the exams to attain instructor status.

No certification is worth the price if you don’t have experience, although many newcomers believe (falsely) that certification without experience helps them break into the business. My best advice is to get some real world experience (at least one year) and couple that with your certifications. If you’re serious about the IT business, especially in large companies, this approach will give you the highest return on your investment. If you can’t acquire an entry level job in which to gain some skills, buy or lease some computer equipment and learn on your own. If you are lucky enough to get an interview, there will be a team of skeptical IT professionals who will test your knowledge and they might not be nice about it, so lose the attitude and show that you know something practical as well as having the certification. Best of luck to you in your pursuits. Feel free to contact me for further information and pointers.

Disclaimer: This was a non-sponsored post.

Sponsorship: If you wish to sponsor a post or to have a product reviewed, contact me.

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