This is what I do when I’m not at work.

r0c-n0c Rocks!

Posted: May 24th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: computers, review, technospiel | No Comments »

Some customer service experiences go well above the norm. One I’d like to report is with a network products reseller called r0c-n0c. A few years ago, when asking around for a good place to purchase a simple network switch, multiple folks came forward to recommend r0c-n0c. So, I decided to give them a try and ordered a Mikrotik RouterBoard RB260G. The price was affordable, and the delivery was swift. On experience #1, so far, so good.

Recently, I was looking for a larger switch with more ports and the ability to perform multiple spanning ports. I wanted to go back to and see what they had available. This time I had my heart set on the much beefier Mikrotik Cloud Router Switch CRS125-24G-1S-2HnD-IN. This appeared to be exactly what I was looking for, so I ordered it. Along with my order, I put a comment in the note field saying “If this switch cannot do multiple span ports, then please cancel this order.” 

To my amazement, I actually got a follow up phone call and email from Tom at r0c-n0c. He wanted to make sure I knew why my order was declined, and it was for precisely the reason outlined in my note. So, what was so good about this customer service experience? Read on…

First, most companies would have ignored the note and sent the item along, allowing me to discover (after a certain amount of frustration) that the device did not do the function I needed. They would have been interested in shipping another unit and letting the customer figure it out.

Second, Tom took the time to contact me promptly to make sure I understood what was going on.

Third, Tom and I exchanged several emails and phone calls, where he did his best to answer my questions and help me understand why this device didn’t serve my needs.

And fourth, Tom spent a good deal of time contacting the manufacturer and posting to Mikrotik support forums about my query. I wouldn’t even have known where to look for these forums or wanted to wade through the posts and responses. Tom took the time to figure out that the CRS125-24G-1S-2HnD-IN did not do what I needed NOW, but that in a future firmware revision, should likely be able to perform multiple span ports across the same network plane.

I was impressed at one and two. By three and four, I was quite amazed. Tom displayed patience with a confused customer and went beyond that to provide great information. He was not out to sell and ship another unit, but to foster great customer service and maintain a good customer relationship. So, as you can imagine, when I need networking products in the future, I will be returning to the pages of Thanks, Tom!

10 Years, 5 Cell Phones

Posted: March 29th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: computers, technospiel | 1 Comment »

I was the last person I knew to get a cell phone (way back in 2005). In the ten years since, most folks have had a dozen phones or more. I have maintained my phones long-term and been fairly easy on them.

5 cell phones with boxes

As of early 2014, all of them still worked (or at least powered on) and I’m just now getting around to selling them. I am keeping the new Moto X on the right hand side. The Galaxy Nexus and Deft XT phones are gone, but the iPhone 3G and RAZR are still available! LOL

5 cell phones powered on

Below is a simple breakdown of the phones, features, and average service costs per provider. The cost of owning a cell phone has exponentially grown over the past few years, but thanks to Republic Wireless they have now become affordable. Their average plan runs $25 per month and the service has been quite good.

5 cell phones with features and service costs

AT&T cell phone coverage was fantastic, only dropping 2 or 3 phone calls in 6+ years. However, data speeds were mediocre. Once the iPhone 3G got on in years and software upgrades, it definitely got slower and more glitch-ridden, but the data service was still quite slow at the time. AT&T may be better now with 4G and network upgrades. YMMV

Since Galaxy Nexus from Samsung was to be the hot new thing, I resigned to leave AT&T and join up with Verizon Wireless. My negative premonitions all came true, with Verizon touting the worst customer service reps of all time. “Even worse than Time Warner Cable” Their costs were always over $125 per month with added fees; over $200 per month for 2 phones. Data service was great if you were close to an unobscured 4G tower. In the two years I was on Verizon, I’d say that on average their service dropped half (50%) of my phone calls. I brought this up several times with Customer Service and was told “you have trees in your neighborhood.” Yet I was losing calls all over RTP. I cancelled my 2-year plan in December 2013 and Verizon kept auto-billing me full price for two months until I caught it on my credit card statement and complained. Overall, not recommended.

The first Republic Wireless phone (the Motorola Defy XT) was a beta and more of a “Proof of Concept” for the viability of the new WiFi-based mobile service. The phone was tough, compact and was comfortable to hold. The screen was smaller than most smart phones today and thus felt cramped. The camera was not very good, but coverage for the most part was acceptable. Some glitches with some minor issues, such as duplicate SMS.

Eventually they worked it out and got a top-notch phone (the Motorola Moto X). Similarly, there were a few initial issues, such as call loss with auto-transfer between a WiFi network and the cellular network. All these issues seem to be sorted and the phone and service have been great.

Based on current costs and capabilities of the Moto X, I’ll likely keep this combo for quite a while. I’m hoping that they will continue to roll out new Android OS updates to the phone, so its life can be extended. Overall, saving cash and satisfied. Republic Wireless For The Win.

NCSU FOSS Fair 2012

Posted: February 26th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: events, local, photography, social, technospiel | No Comments »

Jack Neely of NCSU OIT group has put on a Free and Open Source Software fair each year for the past four years. This year I was fortunate enough to join them. It was a fun day and I was happy to meet other folks interested in Linux and such things, while catching up with some old TriLUG’gers that I don’t get to see very often. They even let me give a talk! 🙂

Click the image above, or on the Documents link up top, to get to the presentation materials. I also got to take some photos and put them on Flickr. See y’all next year!

Take the new survey titled “Social Networking Privacy and Security Survey 2012”

Posted: February 11th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: interwebby, privacy, scientifics, social networking | No Comments »

If you are a user of any online social networking sites (such as Facebook), please accept this invitation to participate in a survey of your usage and privacy practices. Participation is strictly voluntary, but highly appreciated. The goal is to gauge the perceptions and activity related to user privacy across a wide swath of Internet users.

Take the new survey titled “Social Networking Privacy and Security Survey 2012“.

Please pass this link along! Thanks and I hope you choose to participate.

How to clone your Windows 7 hard drive

Posted: December 26th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: computers, technospiel | 1 Comment »

Recently I got a nice, new Dell Vostro laptop and wanted to upgrade the standard 250GB hard drive to a 500GB one. I wanted to take the disk image as it existed and clone it to the larger hard drive. This simple task was a bit harder to execute than one might think.

I went Googling on this topic and found a few software recommendations. The top hits included Paragon Backup & Recovery Free, Macrium Reflect Free, and EaseUS Todo Backup. Based upon positive reviews, I tried them one-by-one.

At first, I tried Backup & Recovery Free, but it wouldn’t install on Windows 7. Then I tried Macrium Reflect Free and it said the clone completed successfully. When the disks were swapped, Windows 7 would not boot. I used the Windows backup image (made by Dell Backup and Recovery Manager software) to repair that cloned image, but when it finally did boot properly, the fingerprint reader software wasn’t working and the OS gave several errors while running.

Getting desperate, I did another build directly from the Windows 7 backup/restore media. This worked, but again the fingerprint reader software was not present. Annoying!

Choose "Disk clone" from the Home menu

So I downloaded EaseUS Todo Backup 3.5 software and ran a Sector by sector clone with the source disk in the laptop and destination disk in an external bay. This completed successfully, but then the disk wouldn’t boot when it was installed into the laptop. The Sector by sector option also did not allow me to expand to the full usage of the newer, larger disk.

Select source & destination disks, uncheck Sector by sector clone

As an absolute last attempt before going to Linux, I left the 500 GB drive in the laptop, and used the EaseUS Todo Backup software to clone from the smaller hard drive in an external drive cage. This time I did not select Sector by sector clone and it allowed me to grow the final partition on the newer drive to use all the disk space. This clone completed successfully and the system booted. It seems this final approach worked the best.

Verify settings, drag slider to use full disk, and click Proceed

After several days of testing, everything appears to be working fine. No Windows OS errors, system updates have been successful and system restore point snapshotting is working properly. So I’m finally happy with this end result. This process took way too long and involved too many mistakes. Hope this write up helps you!

If you have advice on ways to improve this process, such as newer/better software to use or other tips, then please leave a comment.

The Power of Social Networks

Posted: December 17th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: computers, interwebby, social | 2 Comments »

This is, like, a graph of social networking and stuff.

What a year! 2009 turned out to be the Year of The Social Networks. Your mom joined Facebook. The news media wouldn’t stop talking about Twitter for months. And now everyone is a “Social Media Expert.” Actors and musicians connected with fans, as did sports stars. (I’m sure Tiger enjoyed more than a few ‘random’ TweetUps). People used social media to cover war, the loss of Michael Jackson, and the story of a small Oregon boy risking his life in an airborne balloon craft. The latter turned out to be a hoax, but the impact of these new forces of immediate social communication became very real. You could send out an alert if you were in trouble or you could post up some mind-numbing minutiae if you were feeling bored. You could connect with and ‘follow’ people of interest which you had never had access to before. It was an exciting time and this emerging trend served as a handy distraction from whatever else was going on in the world.

It wasn’t all just welcoming handshakes and joyous LOL’ing, either. A study was released that attempted to show social stratification amongst the social networking set. I believe the conclusion was that lower socioeconomic individuals gravitated towards MySpace, while those slightly up the scale were trending towards Facebook. This led to further musing on the idea of “segregated” online networks and the potential for online inequality. Authors and journalists decried the dissolution of language to a bunch of abbreviations, emoticons, and short burst induced incompleteness. (These same people don’t seem to like text messaging for the same reasons). Computer connected employee productivity has taken a nosedive to such proportions as to almost cause a global financial meltdown. Privacy experts are practically having a conniption over this whole exposing oneself idea. Clearly, all is not rosy in the social networking arena.

So, why then are these newfangled social networks taking root and growing so fast? What is the value add? What do we get out of it? And why are these ephemeral and immediate networks so powerful?

First of all, online social networking is not new. Supernerds have been convening on the Internet since the early 1970’s. There were early bulletin board (BBS) systems, Internet Relay Chat (IRC), and (of course) electronic mail (now commonly and coyly referred to as ’email’). [The first Web-enabled chat I recall was ICQ circa 1998. I found the “group-shout” interaction intriguing, but rather annoying. Clearly, I wasn’t ready for short burst communications just yet. But I digress…]

Anyway, these perfect new online social networks are full of pizazz! Full of allure! And full of potential vectors for malware and privacy invasions. But mostly full of pizazz and allure — The pizazz to show off your own unique self and super-fantabulousness to the universe and the allure that you can connect with ‘anyone at any time’ and likely for any reason. Lots of people use it to follow their preferred news sources or to catalog information regarding their industry or career. Yet the killer feature seems to be localization. You can find people near you who do what you do. Or you can follow your local politicians (check to see if they’re on there). You can ask questions like “Where can I find a great Italian restaurant around here?” or “What bands are playing in Raleigh tonight?” One of my favorite services for this type of localized search is Aardvark. You should go there and sign up. (Or let me know if you still need to have an invite.)

My favorite use of social networking technology is to remake connections with friends from the past. It has been quite interesting to see all my high school friends emerging online almost two decades later. Not only that, but many people I didn’t have the opportunity to know better in the past have connected and enhanced our relationship via online social networking. Beyond that, I have often gone to my vast legions of social network peeps and sought job leads, medical advice, shopping consultancy, and all sorts of things.

There is also the notion of communicating for communicating’s sake. I like to crack jokes and mash-up the day’s events into (quasi-)witty status updates. I rarely tell Twitter “What’s happening?” and instead just throw out “What’s on my mind?” I think there is a lot of value in the new social network scene, despite the non-extraneous time they seem to consume. If you can enjoy your time on these networks and not get carried away, then I guess you’ve won the battle.

What say you? Will the Web 2.0 social networks shepherd about the end of language? Will Twitter be responsible for the decimation of our final strands of time/information management? Will pictures of you holding a beer can in high school ruin your entire life? Why do you do (or don’t do) the online social networking thing? And how the hell did anyone solve any problems or research anything before The Google? Shout it below.

Image above: / CC BY-ND 2.0

The Eyes of March

Posted: March 7th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: interwebby, photography, social | No Comments »

Beck Tench got me involved in her whacky Experimonth concept. The idea is to conduct 30-day mini-experiments for each month of the year. This month has been dubbed “The Eyes of March and the goal is to take and post a photo every day.  There is an awesome Flickr pool and Beck has her own fancy aggregate site going.

hawk on UNC campus

Please take a look and comment and participate to your heart’s delight. We certainly are enjoying it.

Global Colding

Posted: March 2nd, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: grousing, scientifics | 1 Comment »

Global Colding

So I have pretty much decided that the scientists who came up with the whole “Global Warming” scam are actually full of shit.  I mean, all that data they came up with seemed pretty reasonable (automotive emissions, green house gases, ozone holes, etc), but there is one simple question that none of these Poindexters can seem to answer honestly — “Why does it stay colder LONGER each Spring?”

If the globe was actually warming then I would be warmer, right? No, in fact, I am colder. Thus, science is wrong. And this is why each February I want to move to the Equator.


Posted: December 29th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: humor joke, interwebby, random | 1 Comment »



Tell Us Something

Posted: July 22nd, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: generic | 1 Comment »

There has been no progress on this blog since April. Lame. Totally lame. My re-tooling session is taking longer than planned. Some things came up, like moving back across the USA to North Carolina, job hunting, starting a new job and all that. No big whoop.

I am thinking of moving the weblog to, but wonder what this might do to page traffic and search engine ranking. It would probably be disastrous, but I will likely do it anyway. Something’s got to give (according to the Beastie Boys). Let me know what you think about this idea, if you are so inclined.