Thursday, May 23, 2013

You Don't Like the Password Policy, Eh?

I was taking a CPR refresher course at work this evening and the instructor started going over using an AED. He had grabbed the one that we have in our building to show us the different parts. As he pulled out the actual defibrillator and explained how to turn it on one of our employees quipped:

"So we don't need to put in a password? Great, because if we did we'd never get in!"

This was met with quite a lot of agreement around the room.

"Passwords, yeah!"
"Can't stand having to change them all the time!"

Yup. Guess I'll move that project a few notches up the priority list.

Beside the auditors, who likes passwords? No one, that's who! I'd rather you didn't have one because then you won't call me asking me to reset it for you after you forgot it.

It's important to always be working to find ways to listen to your co-workers. There's many issues simmering below the surface and unless you build rapport between departments and people you'll never hear about them. Not all the issues are technical either! I've found that people generally put up with things unless it so adversely affects them they can't perform their job.

All these things that you don't hear about have a negative effect and impact the way IT is perceived in the organization. It's public relations!

If we want to aspire to the Information part of IT as much as the Technology part we need to pay attention to what our co-workers in other departments are saying.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Proxima DP6850 Projector Lamp Replacement

I searched high and low for instructions on how to replace the lamp on a Proxima DP6850+ projector. Couldn't find any anywhere and I didn't want to take ours down from the ceiling if I didn't need to. With no instructions available I decided the only way was to take it down. Here's the replacement procedure.

The lamp door on this model is on the bottom (the top of it's ceiling mounted with the controls facing the floor). So I would have needed to take it down one way or another.

There's a single door and a single screw holding the door. Go ahead and loosen the screw and tilt the door back to reveal the lamp inside.

You will find two screws at the front of the lamp holding it in place. Loosen these two screws. There's a handle on the top of the lamp. Use a fingernail or screwdriver to gently pop the handle up and pull the lamp straight up.

Before you place the new lamp in, inspect the face of the lamp to make sure there's no packing material or contamination on it. Use a clean, lint free cloth to remove any particles. 

Take the new lamp and slide it straight down into the housing. Make sure you seat it fully. There are two plastic tabs next to the screws at the front of the lamp. Verify that they are in place and that you have pushed the lamp down far enough. Similarly, made sure the back left of the lamp is pushed down far enough to seat the power connector. Tighten the screws at the front of the lamp.

Put the door back in place and tighten its screw.

Now that you have the projector down it's a good idea to make sure the filter is clean. This is located at the front of the projector and is held in by a plastic tab.

There are three parts to the filter assembly: the frame, a filter, and a square fitting to hold the filter in place.

Gently snap the square fitting out to remove the filter. I prefer to wash the filters myself. Shake or blow out the majority of the dust out with compressed air then run it under running water from back to front to clean it. Make sure it is completely dry before reassembly. I usually roll the filter in a towel and squeeze it dry.

Reassemble the filter aligning the shape of the filter with the shape of the outer frame. Gently snap the square fitting under the tabs of the frame. If the fitting's edges are bowed in you probably don't have it seated far enough.

When you're done, make sure you reset the hour timer for the lamp. Turn on the projector and make sure there's an active video source or you won't be able to access the on-screen menu.

Press and hold the reset button on the projector's keypad for 3 seconds. You'll see the lamp hours at the bottom of the screen. Use the arrow buttons to select "0" then press the reset button again for 3 seconds. This should set the timer back to 0.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Satisfaction In A Job Well Done

I ran across a tweet from one of the local newspapers:

Clicked and and saw that they're still using the SSRS report I made a while back to export the data to a nice format and email out in an automated fashion. There's also some other reports out there that they use for similar reports and at least one other agency using the same records software uses the same reports I created.

It was a simple job for the most part (once I taught myself the schema to a completely undocumented set of databases, no primary keys, and a spaghetti mess of relationships) but I tried to make it as nice as possible and easy to reuse. I'm sure a real developer could've done a better job but I doubt anyone would've been willing to pay the money.

There's a lot of satisfaction in a job well done. Especially because, since it was work in public sector, it benefits a lot of people and helps improve transparency.

Remember kids: If you're looking for a job straight out of college and are looking to maximize your impact, seriously consider a job in local government. You won't make a lot of money, but if you work hard you can make a big impact in a positive way.

Friday, May 10, 2013


Why is it when you lose someone suddenly there's reminders of them everywhere?

I lost my Dad on April 27th. After his service a week later and another full week after that of the "New Normal™" I've never wanted to give him a call more that I do right now. It's been a strange few weeks of well intentioned people asking enough questions that I'm finally forced to explain that Dad lost his battle with mental illness. In a way it's good they press on so much; It's important to talk about mental illness. Too often it's swept under the rug. Discussing how we lost Dad isn't cathartic to me any more. Now I just miss him terribly.

We were planning to go to a Twins game with Dad and some other family members this weekend. My kids were really looking forward to it. We're still going but one of the big reasons I was excited to go isn't there any more. An emptiness has taken the place of someone I love.

The other day I imagined myself in the place of Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride, lost in his alcoholic haze while off trying to find the 6-fingered man to avenge his father's death. That's a little how I feel, wishing I could find the 6-fingered disease that killed my father to avenge him. Even if I could I'd be just like Inigo in the end, growling, "I want my father back you son of a bitch."

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

No Phone - You're So Lucky!

I was eating lunch at home today when my phone gave me an email alert. I was reading a newspaper (GASP! I know! They still exist and I subscribe.) so I was ignoring the alert. My three-year-old son immediately informed me, "Dad, your phone just made a noise!". "Yup I know," I replied, "It was telling me I have an email. What is your phone telling you?"
"Dad, I don't have a phone!"
"Lucky you!"

Mister 'I'm-going-to-be-four-and-all-grown-up-soon' smiled at me with an understanding look well beyond his years and proceeded to tell me all about the quesadilla he was eating.

Now, I love my smartphone. My Galaxy S3 has been a wonderful digital appendage that has nearly replaced my laptop. I use it. Lots. So why did I tell my son he was so lucky? Is that really how I feel about these amazing devices?

I don't feel trapped or tied to the electronics around me. They are my arms, my legs, the tools I use to do the work I love. Using them is as natural to me as breathing and they are extensions of me. I may not be a true digital native but I'm pretty darn close.

I guess I feel that the absence of the omni-present smartphone represents an innocence to me. He's not exposed to the broader world that I see through the portal that is my smartphone; The special tool that reveals the entire world to the beholder. A digital palantir to those who are powerful enough.

One thing I hope to give my kids is innocence. I'm not protecting them from the world; It will come up and beat them over the head eventually no matter what I do. What I can give them are beautiful, wonder-filled childhood days where anything is possible, imagination is the only limitation, and weapons wielded by good-guys turn bad-guys into good-guys. We lose that all too soon. They'll soon have their Galaxy S IX or whatever.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Evaluating Software Suitability

The method I've always used for determining how well a software tool fits as a solution essentially boils down to this:

  1. Document process
  2. Build Use Cases
  3. Evaluate software fit with use cases. Double check fit using process documentation.
  4. Evaluate software's fringe benefits (nice features that don't solve primary use cases/problems)
  5. Evaluate cost, ROI, vendor viability, etc
  6. Consider how software will impact future systems and designs.
I know there is probably better terminology for these steps. This is basically my home-brewed method and it's based on the purchasing processes used in the various organizations I've worked in over time. 

I'm sure there's a framework out there for this sort of thing but I haven't really been looking for one. I just want a good, simple process.

How do you evaluate how a software tool will fit your organization? See any flaws in my method (I'm sure there are some)?