Category: technology

And So It Begins: Ceding the Tech Support Crown to the Next Generation

For as long as I can remember, whenever there was a tech problem in a household I was a part of, I was the go to person to solve it. I’ve always enjoyed rooting around in the innards of wires, and I’ve taught myself all sorts of things, from how to build my own computer (I’ve built two now) to how to design web pages to how to set up a home theater system. It just went without saying that when the time came that something electric broke down, it would be up to me to get it back working again.

I’m still able to do that, but the last bit, I’ve found myself taking a back seat more and more to Tomas. Why? A few reasons.

First, troubleshooting electronics can be a really long, arduous process. You know what you want the things to do, but you can’t for the life of you figure out why they aren’t doing that thing. To tinkerers like myself, that means you end up delving into online forums and guides to try and make yourself as expert in the area as you can, hoping in the process that you’ll come across the appropriate solution. That takes a lot of time and patience, and I don’t often have time (or patience) for some of these issues. If there weren’t another person in the house who enjoyed this sort of thing, that would be one thing, but . . .

The second reason is Tomas really excels at the same sort of process it takes to troubleshoot. He’s good at searching online for answers and putting the results of those searches into practice. Better yet, it’s something he enjoys doing. All those years of tinkering around with technology ended up indirectly getting me the job I have today. Why? Because in addition to having a library science degree, I had tech experience, and the first job I took at UMF was for the position of IT Librarian. Having a tech support background (and being able to prove it during the interview process) gave me a real leg up. So I think it’s definitely worth it to help foster the same attitude in my kids if possible.

Of course, this isn’t without concerns. I do wonder if I won’t find myself technologically frustrated in a few years when Tomas is no longer in the house and I’m back to doing these things on my lonesome. Is this how it begins? Ten years from now, am I going to be staring at my computer in horror when it starts displaying everything in Swahili, not knowing what keystroke I made to turn it to Swahili mode, let alone how to turn it off?

Probably not. Because if there’s one thing I’ll remain good at, it’s the ability to find information online. That’s comfortably in the “Librarian” wheelhouse, and so that’s an area I’ll still be working on keeping up to strength. The biggest part of successfully handing technology issues (I’ve found) is a willingness to troubleshoot, and the ability to get over the fear that you might break something. I remember the first time I installed RAM in a computer. I was convinced I was going to crush the motherboard, and I was really surprised just how hard I had to end up pushing to get it to seat finally. (Of course, the other trick is knowing when to wave the flag and take it to an expert. Because I definitely have broken things over the years . . .)

But for now, I’m enjoying being able to outsource tech problems as they arise, shifting into a consulting role instead. Suggesting ways to fix something, or providing insight into new approaches.

After all, who else is going to tell me how to use my super-duper genius phone when I’m eighty?

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Simple iPhone Hack: Scanning with Notes

A busy day today (and yesterday’s post on racism was so weighty), so I don’t have time for much of a post. However, in this time of pandemic, I’ve found myself in the need of a scanner multiple times. (Go figure.) Getting signed contracts back and forth is difficult, especially when you’re away from your fully equipped office. So it’s been very useful to me to have an easy, free way to scan documents with my iPhone. I hadn’t been aware of it until a few months ago, and it occurred to me today while I was using it that some of you might not know about it either.

Allow me to correct that.

If you open up the “Notes” app on your iPhone (it’s preinstalled on all iPhones. Part of the iOS platform), all you need to do is create a new note by pressing the small paper and pencil icon in the lower right corner of the screen. This will bring up a blank document, along with the keyboard. Above the keyboard are several icons. Press the one that looks like a camera, and then select “Scan Documents.” At that point, it brings up the back camera. You put a piece of paper on a table, center it in the screen, and it will automagically scan it. You can then switch to a new sheet of paper to scan and continue doing that until all the pages you need are scanned. Hit “save” and then you can email it wherever your little heart desires.

I hope that helps some of you. But remember: with great power comes great responsibility.

Have a nice Wednesday!

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

The Wonders of an Automatic Email Signature

I send a fair number of emails each day. (Ugh.) I use two main accounts (one for work and one for home), which is better than when I had to worry about a third one for MLA as well. But from my home email, I often send two types of emails. One is from me personally, and the other is from me as the Stake Executive Secretary. I have my signature automatically added to all emails. The standard one gives links to my blog and my books for sale, because marketing. (Not effective marketing, but still. It’s the thought that counts, right? Sure.)

The thing is, I’m not comfortable with that signature going out with my church emails. I’m not trying to shill books on unsuspecting church members, after all, and up until a bit ago, I always had to delete that email and put in something generic instead. Then, Gmail added the option to store multiple signatures.

Friends, this was a real game changer for yours truly. These days, I’m often sending out 10-15 emails to various church members at a time. Deleting that signature and retyping it time after time after time was a real first world problem, but it was a problem nonetheless. Now, I just saved two different signatures. When I need to switch between them, I can do that with two mouse clicks.

It probably cuts down on email times by a good 5-10 minutes, which might not seem like a lot, but when it’s 5-10 minutes of time that you feel like you’re just wasting time, it’s wonderful. I’m a firm believer that if you can save time here and there throughout the week, it pays dividends in the long run. If you can do something more efficiently, wonderful!

So if this is something that sounds like it could help you, allow me to direct you to these instructions.

Enjoy, and have a lovely weekend!

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Upgrading Wifi Again (Differently)

I posted back at the beginning of social distancing about how I had made the switch to faster internet. In the subsequent five and a half weeks, I’ve continued to be happy with the decision. We consistently get faster speeds that what I’m paying for, and life has been pretty good on the internet front.

Except . . .

As is often the case with a bottleneck, when you clear it up, you discover there are other bottlenecks further down the line that are also problematic. And sometimes there are other technological issues that come up because of the fix you made in the first place.

In my case, both of these things happened. First, with the new internet came a new wifi network. This one has two flavors (5Ghz and 2.4Ghz). The 5Ghz wifi gave fantastic speeds (145mbps), but the 2.4Ghz one was more consistent further away. To make matters more complicated, the way I was delivering wifi to my movie room (on the other side of the house) was through powerline adapters. In theory, these work great. You plug in one side of it next to your modem and hook it up to that via ethernet. Then you plug in the matching pair to that adapter anywhere else in your house. It then gives out a wifi signal, using the copper wiring in your house to transmit the signal.

In practice, this has never been wonderful for my house. The electrical wiring in chez Bryce is old. (It comes with the territory of being an 1841 farm house, though (naturally) the wiring is newer than that . . .) The most I could get pre-network upgrade was around 2mbps up there. Post-network upgrade, I was topping off at 9mbps, and that’s if I was lucky. For some reason, the network switch had made it so the internet speeds in the addition were sometimes as low as .25mbps, and every now and then the wifi up there would just give up.

I could have worked on the problem. Done some troubleshooting to see what could be done about it. But since it had never been great to begin with, I wasn’t sure I wanted to devote a whole lot of time to the project. Plus, with two wifi signals now coming from downstairs (from the new modem) and another coming from the addition (from the powerline adapter), all my devices were getting thoroughly confused. They would bounce back and forth from signal to signal, and it was just a huge mess.

Something had to be done.

I’ll spare you the huge research path I went down, though it was fairly lengthy. I checked a slew of blogs and reviews and called a couple of techie friends as well, trying to determine what the best option for my house would be. I discovered some of my problem could be traced to these old, sturdy, 1841 farmhouse walls. Lath, plaster, and horsehair apparently do a number on wifi signals. The answer? A wifi mesh network.

In a nutshell, a mesh network sets up a blanket of wifi over an area. It has separate components that act to boost the wifi between them, bolstering signals and keeping them consistent. You just have one network you log on to, and then the mesh takes care of the rest, switching you from router to router, depending on signal strength. There are a number of different flavors out there (Google Nest, Amazon’s Eero, and then some from Linksys and Orbi and other models), but in the end I went with Eero.

It arrived yesterday. There are three basic models of Eeros: Eero Pro, Eero, and Eero Beacon. I got a Pro for my base station (as it enables Dynamic Frequency Shifting, which basically makes it so that the system shifts devices around on the network on the fly to ensure they all have the best speed possible, more or less), then three Eeros for my satellite stations. (They’re equipped with ethernet ports, so if I’d ever like to hardwire the stations together, or hook in something directly to a station and skip the wifi, I can.) Officially, my house should have just needed one or two satellites, but I got three because of plaster. The signals were weak, and I was worried two wouldn’t be enough to get it all the way to the addition.

Turns out I was right.

It took me about a half hour to set the whole thing up. Eero uses an app to do all of that, and I have to say it was remarkably pain free. Compared to some networking projects I’ve done before, this was bliss. And the end result has been fantastic. One network for all the devices. Speeds up in the addition are clocking in at over 125mbps, which is what I’m paying for. The signal is strong everywhere. I can check the status through the app at any time, and I can even tell who’s connected and how much bandwidth they’re using. I’m a very happy camper so far.

It did come with a price tag, of course. I paid $370 for the whole thing, which is less than I was worried I’d have to pay. I bought the Eero Pro refurbished, and then the three Eeros as part of a set. That brought the price down some, especially since the set was on sale for $180. (For a Nest with just two satellites, it would have been $350.)

Anyway. If any of you are in the same situation I was, maybe some of this will help you. Bottom line: I learned these days it’s not just the internet speeds you pay for that come into your house. A lot can be done with the networking you’ve got kicking around the walls of your home as well.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Advanced Zoom-Fu: iPad Screen Sharing

The more I use Zoom, the more little bells and whistles I find out about how to get the most out of it. Sure, I’ve done the fun Zoom backgrounds (my favorite is the one from The Office, but I’ve also got The Matrix, The Shining, The Simpsons. Star Trek, Harry Potter, and more . . .), and I’ve been in two Zoom meetings at the same time. But I’m also getting experience using Zoom to teach, since Denisa has been working with it for teaching both seminary and her college classes. She’s turned to some awesome people at the university for help, but when it comes time to actually implementing the plans, I’m often the go-to tech support person for my house.

So we’ve recorded Zoom meetings now and seen the wonders of automatic transcription via Kaltura. We’ve figured out using waiting rooms and passwords to keep meetings safe. And for our next trick, Denisa needed to somehow use a whiteboard on Zoom to illustrate linguistic examples as she lectured.

Zoom has a whiteboard, but it’s a whiteboard controlled by a mouse. It’s not the worst thing in the world, but it’s also not the most user-friendly approach. I kept insisting it would do the trick with some practice, but Denisa pushed for something easier to use.

Enter my iPad and Apple Pencil.

If you click the “Share Screen” button at the bottom of a Zoom meeting, it gives you the option to share your screen, share a whiteboard, OR share an iPhone or iPad screen. If you select the iPad option, then it asks you to download a plugin. Once you’ve got that plugin installed on your computer, you just need to make sure you’re on the same Wi-Fi network as the device you’re using to Zoom. Once that’s taken care of, you can screen mirror to your Zoom session.

If you’ve got an Apple Pencil and a drawing app (I use GoodNotes), then you can have everyone in the meeting see exactly what you’re drawing on your iPad. It’s really slick, with no other apps needed to install. Of course, this assumes you have a higher end iPad with an Apple Pencil to go with it (though I imagine any stylus could work, and in a pinch you could use your finger . . . ) but if you have those things already lying around, then this is a great way to have the whiteboard functionality and have it feel like an actual whiteboard, as opposed to drawing-with-a-mouse.

Necessity is the mother of invention . . .

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

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