Them Internet Browsers

Dear Techxan:
What do you think of Chrome and Safari, which are both based on Webkit (the iPhone/iPad platform)?

Dear Reader:
Sorry to tell all you Microsoft haters out there, but MS Internet Explorer won the browser war. That’s not to say that they can’t be dethroned, but for right now; they’re the industry standard. When companies test their internt apps, they use the last few version of IE and maybe, just maybe FireFox.

At my business (where I am the IT Manager) we use a lot of applicaions over the internet. So we’re running .net, java, and other types of apps all the time. My support guy gets calls when one of these apps doesn’t work. So what’s the number one reason they don’t work? A: The user has decided to use a browser other than IE. So what’s the number two reason they don’t work? A: The user has decided to use the latest bleeding edge version of IE. I’ve found it a good practice to stay one version back and you’ll generally be just fine.

FireFox
That said, as a rule we load a second browser as part of our base load of new PCs. We like to have an alternative to test if we are having problems with IE. That browser of choise is Firefox. It’s faster than IE, and has been around long enough to handle some of the apps that companies produce.

Chrome
Chrome is the newcomer, and has to prove itself. Sure Google will push it and every time you use a Google app it’ll tell you that you really should be using Chrome. But other than that…

Safari
Safari is a nice standard little browser for the iPad, but it’s not going to do any heavy lifting when it comes to navigating the internet. I have an iPad and use Safari on it and have to admit… I can’t figure the dam thing our. How do I set up a few bookmark/favorites. I don’t and won’t be using my iPad to surf the net unless I’m really desperate. The screen is just too small.

That said, Safari has probably made Apple a lot of money… as the gateway by which people purchase Angry Birds.

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Filed under Information Technology, Internet Browser, Software

Freeware & Where to Get It

OK, every now and then I’ll probably post an entry concerning a really neat application, product, or service. Something I think will help people out.

So let’s start with Freeware and where to get it.

Freeware I Use

Here is a list of freeware I use and a few notes on each app.

Firefox: I actually usually use MS Internet Explorer; but every now and then when I have a problem with IE I like to browse a page with something different. And of all the other browsers, I like Firefox the best.

Thunderbird: I don’t like Microsoft’s Outlook Express app. I think it had something to do with years ago MS not letting me save bulk emails as text. That was Microsoft’s way of trying to force me/you to use their product by not giving you any way to convert your legacy emails into something searchable. Fascist crap like that is the quickest way to lose me as a customer. Anyway… Thunderbird is pretty well the best 3rd party email app out there.

iTunes: OK, I have an iPod (and now an iPad). You just about have to have this to manage either. I don’t use it as my default player. I just use it to load my stuff.

K-Lite Codecs: Codecs are files that allow you apps to play various formats of audio and video. This collection goes a long way in letting you play various formats.

QuickTime: Only because it’s Apple’s format and I run across a video in this format every now and then.

Adobe Flash: Obviously you need this to access various content on the web.

Java: Again, you need this to access various content on the web.

.NET Framework: Currently on version 3 as I write this. Another package needed to access certain web content and well as run certain apps.

Paint .NET: This is a nice little image editor, that’s better than the Paint program that comes with Windows. It doesn’t have everything I want, but it’s good in a pinch. I actually use Paint Shop Pro as my main image editor. But boy do they annoy the %$*& out of you with their start-up pages. Paint .NET has 90% of the basic functionality found in Paint Shop Pro.

FastStone: This is an image viewer kind of like ACDSee. It’s good for viewing and moving image files around.

Adobe Reader: Need to read them PDFs. I’ve actually purchased a copy of Adobe Standard since I do a bit of work on PDFs. But this reader works fine and there are plenty of free PDF creators available.
Cute PDF: See, I told you there are plenty of free PDF creators available; and this is one of them. It acts like a printer on your PC. Print to it and it will ask you where to save the printout as a PDF file.

AVG Anti-Virus: One of the best antivirus programs out there. And their free one is all most private personal accounts should need. Now if you’re frequenting the back alleys of the internet… and you know who you are… all bets are off.

Malewarebytes: One of the best virus removal programs out there. I use it almost exclusively when I want to remove a virus or other malware.

Google Earth: This thing is just too neat.

Everything: I like this tool for searching for files. I’ve had a bit of trouble on my 64 bit machine, but it could just be me.

ImgBurn: A nice little CD/DVD program that will burn images of disks onto CD/DVDs

CDBurnerXP: Same as ImgBurn, this is a nice little program for burning CD/DVDs

DVD Shrink: A great program for copying DVDs. Your own… not the commercial ones of course.

TeraCopy: This utility takes control the process of copying or moving files on your PC. It’s much faster and robust for these types of tasks.

CCleaner: I’ll probably do a separate blog in this little app. You know all those advertisements for services that will “speed up your PC”; well all they are doing is cleaning up your registry and hopefully deactivating some of the crap that load automatically when you boot up. This free app, whose name is short for “Crap Cleaner” does that for you.

Defraggler: Made by the same guys as CCleaner, this is a nice utility to defrag your computer. Defrag is just moving your data around so files are accessed easier and quicker.

Speecy: Another program made by the same guys as CCleaner, this utility goes through your system and documents all your hardware.

7-Zip: Have an archive like ZIP and ARC. This utility will create, read, or extract it.

FileZilla: The best FTP utility out there. FTP is file transfer protocol and a way to move and share files. If you still don’t know what it is… then you don’t need it.

Where To Get It

Man is that a list of freeware. Just imagine the headache of installing and keeping track of all those titles. Well now we come to the main point of my post. There exists a service/site that will load and later update almost every title I listed.

That site/service is called Ninite.com and is free (for non-commercial users).

    To use their service:

  1. Go to their website at http://www.ninite.com
  2. A list of all the applications they support comes up with check boxes. Now this list has a lot more titles than I mentioned above because I don’t use everything here.
  3. Check the applications you want to install. Don’t get greedy… just check the ones you know you need and will use.
  4. At the bottom of the web page, click on the “Get Installer” button.
  5. Ninite will do its thing for a while and then download a small executable.
  6. Save this executable (and remember where you save it).
  7. Then run this executable.
  8. This program will download each app you selected one at a time and install it. The installer will say “NO” to all the toolbars and “extras” these apps sometimes push. The installer will always grab the latest versions of these apps. The installer looks at your PC and installs the correct version (32 or 64 bit).
  9. When it’s done… you apps are installed.
  10. NOW… If once a month you would like to have ALL these apps checked to see if there are any new versions out there. Just keep that installer somewhere and run it again. It’ll check and update those apps that need updating.

Now that I’ve extoled the virtues of this great service; let me remind you that it does not support all the apps I mentioned that I use. There are two or three missing. Those I get at one other location; and that is www.filehippo.com.

Like Ninite, Filehippo keeps the latest versions of the apps for download. But at Filehippo, you’ll have to download them one at a time and install them separately. BUT… it’s a good place to find these programs.

“Free Download” Warning

One Warning… sure look at Filehippo advertisements, but be careful not to install the apps. Right now I’m looking at Filehippo and I’m seeing a PDF Creator ad with a “Free Download”. Anytime you hear or see the words “Free Download”… run.

“Free Download” means just that. We won’t charge you to “download” this application. But once you try to use it or soon after, you’ll discover that only the download was free… now it’s time to pay. It’s a very dishonest form of marketing and you should avoid any company that uses it.

Conclusion

So now you have a list of all the freeware I use and where to get it. I hope you find this post useful. I know there are thousands of cool tools out there that I’ve missed. Feel free to share any you think are must-haves.

1 Comment

Filed under Anti-Virus, Email, Freeware, Information Technology, Internet Service, PC Support, Thunderbird

Virus Removal – How to Step by Step

Computer Virus Removal

Introduction

OK, I mentioned some time back that I was going to post an entry on how to remove a virus from your PC. Well that time is at hand. I’m not going to remove a specific virus. I’m going to give a general procedure that will remove a vast majority of viruses.

So let’s get started…

The Right Tools

Like any job, you want to start with the right tools. In this case your tools are a couple of programs. If you want to be really prepared, you might download these tools and keep them on a CD or thumb drive for when you need them. They are both FREE.

Those tools are:
1. RKill (Download Here)
2. Malewarebytes (Download Here)

RKill Description

This little program removes the malicious software memory. This is necessary for Malwarebytes (or whatever removal program you use) to be able to find and delete the infected file. That’s because many viruses are designed to protect themselves from removal; and as long as they are running in memory… they’ve got a leg up in protecting themselves.

Malwarebytes Description:

Malwarebytes is an Anti-Malware program; which means its developers keep track of the bad stuff out there and program Malwarebytes to remove it. I have removed many, many viruses over the years and found them to be reliable in 99+% of the cases. These guys provide this program for you to try. If it is within your means and especially if you are using their product within a business environment; I would encourage you to buy it.

Steps to Remove the Virus

1. Run Rkill (like they vote in Chicago… early and often)
Once the PC has booted up, you got to run RKill in hopes of removing the bad stuff from memory. So use a flash drive or the CD/DVD… whatever it takes to run that little program.

Do:! Now. Run RKill two or tree times. It doesn’t hurt anything and it helps to be double sure you got those little suckers.

Don’t: Do not reboot your PC after running RKill. This would allow the virus/malware to reload into memory. If you do reboot, start over and run RKill again.

Don’t Worry: Sometimes the virus will warn you that RKill is bad or infected or some such. That’s the virus talkin’. Leave the message up and run RKill a few more times.

2. Run Malwarebytes (only once should do)
Hopefully at this point RKill has done its job and removed the malware from memory.
We’ll soon find out.

Install Malwarebytes: if you have to from Flash Drive or CD.

Run Malwarebytes: There shouldn’t be any messages from the virus that Malwarebytes is infected or mean or anything like that. If there is… see (Really Bad Virus Below)

Update Malwarebytes: To get the best results, it is advisable that you have the latest copy of their virus database. The software can check and download this for you. There should be an Update tab and a button there to perform that task. This is optional, so If you have trouble doing this for some reason, just go ahead and run the scan. You may be OK; especially if you downloaded it recently.

Run a Scan: From the Scanner tab there are various options. If you need to do something real quick to get things up and running you can check the “Perform quick scan” option. BUT in the long run, you really need to use the “Perform full scan” option.

Once your option is chosen, click the scan button. Now this can take a while… a long while… usually within an hour but it can be longer. I recommend you do it overnight or off to the side while you work on other things on other PCs.

Results: Malwarebytes should start scrolling through directories being scanned and counting objects being scanned and hopefully give you a little red message stating how many Objects Infected it has found.

When it is done scanning MB should pop up a message asking you to review the malware found and give you the option to remove them from you PC. OK… big decision time… Do you really want the identified viruses removed or do you want to go back to the Hell they imposed on your life. … … … OK, this is not a trick question. Of course you want them removed. Do That!

Don’t Worry: Some removals may require your PC to reboot. If that happens, don’t worry.

3. Trust But Verify
You should be done. But try and make the virus show itself again. Go to where ever the virus made itself apparent, be that internet explorer or whatever. You may just have to leave your PC up for a period of time and see if it reappears.

Really Bad Virus:

OK, I have removed many viruses over the years AND this process has worked for me EVERY TIME. Now sometimes I’ve had to try more than once, but it has worked.

That doesn’t mean it is foolproof. I guarantee there are viruses out there that will laugh at this futile attempt to destroy it. When this happens you have a few options.
1. Research the virus. Jot down ANY messages (verbatim) and search the internet for them. You can often find specific information on the virus and how to remove it.
2. Take it to a professional. Sometimes you just got to break down and pay “the man”. Hey the man’s got to eat and feed his children too. Shoot when I think about it, I’m “the man” in this story and here I am giving away one of my trade secrets…

The ULTIMATE Protection

Finally, let me offer the ultimate protection against deadly computer viruses. This has also saved thousands of people from system failures, hard drive crashes, even computers spontaneously combusting.

BACKUP YOU DATA!

All those tax returns, half-finished novels, digital family pictures, etc… that you can’t recreate. Back them up; and back them up off-site (not in the same building or general area as your computer).

There are many options available here.
1. Online backup service. For $5-10 a month (with internet service) an online service will look at your files on a regular basis and upload them to their backup servers in another city/state. If you lose a file you log on to your account and get it back. Mozy and Carbonite are two that come to mind.

2. DVDs. If you don’t have that much data to backup (10-30 GB) copy all those important files to DVDs and give them to a buddy. Remember that a standard DVD will hold about 4 GB; so you can calculate how many you need and the effort involved. Give you’re buddy the DVDs with instructions to store them for you; offer to do the same for his data.

3. External Hard Drive. Man, these things are cheap and only getting cheaper. You can buy over a Terabyte, (that’s 1000 GB) for under a $100. You can probably to several backups on one drive. Create yourself a directory, naming it the date of your backup (2011-01-01). Then copy you data into that directory and store off-site. Every month or so, repeat the process. When you get close to filling that sucker up… delete the oldest directory and keep going.

Well, I hope this is helpful. In a pinch you should be able to remove a virus yourself. And if all else fails, you should at least have a backup of your data.

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Filed under Anti-Virus, Information Technology, PC Support

Manually Move Thunderbird Email/Profile from PC to PC

Thunderbird LogoI recently upgraded another one of my PCs from Windows XP to Windows 7,  It was the PC I check my email on and needed to move the email account from one PC to the other.  In this case, I needed to move my Thunderbird account/emails from an XP machine to a Windows 7 machine.  So those wondering if this can be done… it can.

Starting Point:

1. Removed the old XP (x86 32 bit) hard drive.

2. Installed a new hard drive and loaded Windows 7 (x86). (PC could only handle 32 bit version)

Note: This is a great way to upgrade.  If you make a mistake just reinstall the onld hard drive and your back to where you started.  Plus you have a temporary backup of all your old files.

3. I was using the latest version of Thunderbird on both PCs.  If you are running an older version on the old/source PC, you may want to upgrade before moving your email. 

Other Options:

There are programs (mostly shareware) that can do this for you… but I didn’t think they should be necessary.  I was willing to try the manual process first and save the $20.

Step by Step Instructions:

1. Old/Source System: Clean up you email by deleting items in your trash and junk folders.  This is optional, but will save a little space.  Close the program when you’re done.

2. Old/Source System: Find your Thunderbird profile folder.  Where is it, you ask:

On an XP machine it’s here: C:\Documents and Settings\[User Name]\Application Data\Thunderbird\Profiles\??????.default

The [User Name] is you; how you have logged in or used the machine.  The question marks are 6 random characters generated by Thunderbird; don’t let them freak you out.

Possible Roadblock: Lynn!  There’s no such directory you say… Yes there is, Microsoft has just hidden it from you.  Who do you think you are; wanting to access your files!?  You are the owner of said machine and data… Go to Explorer –> Select the directory C:\Documents and Settings\[User Name] –> Menu (Tools) –> Folder Options –> Tab (View)

Under Hide files and folders, click the Show hidden files and folders option.  Now the directory will appear for you.

On a Vista or W7 machine it’s here: C:\users\[User Name]\AppData\Roaming\Thunderbird\Profiles\??????.default

The [User Name] is you; how you have logged in or used the machine.  The question marks are 6 random characters generated by Thunderbird; don’t let them freak you out.

Possible Roadblock: Lynn!  There’s no such directory you say… Yes there is, Microsoft has just hidden it from you.  Who do you think you are; wanting to access your files!  You are the owner of said machine and data… Go to Explorer –> Select the directory C:\users\[User Name] –> Menu (Organize) –> Folder & Search Options –> Tab (View)

Under Hide files and folders, click the Show hidden files and folders option.  Now the directory will appear for you.

3. Old/Source System: Copy the FILES and folders from the ??????.default to somewhere portable (a thumb drive, a cd, etc…)

4. New/Destination System: Run Thunderbird one time.  It may try to do setup and so forth… just cancel out of it.  Once Thunderbird comes up; CLOSE IT.

What did we do here.  He made Thunderbird create a new, fresh ??????.default directory.

5. New/Destination System: Find you new Thunderbird profile folder.  Where is it you ask… see step 2.

6. New/Destination System: Delete all the contents from the ??????.default directory on the destination machine.

Possible User Error: The PC complains that it can’t delete the file/folder because it is in use… Solution: CLOSE Thunderbird… CLOSE IT… and try the delete again.

7. New/Destination System: Copy all the FILES and folders from the portable devise into your empty Destination ??????.default directory.

Possible User Error: Don’t copy the actual ??????.default directory into the new ??????.default directory; copy the files/folders contained in the original source ??????.default directory.

8. New/Destination System: Run Thunderbird.  The emails, calendar, settings, etc… should be there.  You’re done.

Conclusion:

I hope this helps a few people move their Thunderbird email successfully.  I try to provide instruction with the right amount of detail, a little insight into possible problems, and a little geeky humor.  Please feel free to post feedback on if this worked for you.  Also please post comments of any problems you had with this process; I’ll answer if I can, and it may help the next guy trying to do this.

3 Comments

Filed under Email, Operating System, PC Support, Thunderbird, Windows 7, Windows XP

Anti-Virus Software 101

Computer viruses!  Everybody has to deal with them (except malcontent Mac users); but that’s another story.

I’m going to do a series on viruses and this is the first one.  So we’ll start with antivirus software.

Do you need it?

Probably, if you surf the internet and/or share files with friends, family, or peers; you need it.  If you’re PC is stand-alone and has little or no contact with the outside world; you’re probably OK.  You have to make that judgment call.

So… 99.999% of us need PC virus protection.  So what software do you use?  I hate posts that talk and talk and talk; and when you’re finished you still don’t have a straight answer because the author is too timid to commit.  Well, I’m going to give the straight answer and then talk and talk and talk about the other considerations.

Straight Answer – Home

Straight answer!  For HOME I use AVG, and I actually use their standard “AVG Internet Security 9.0”.  But don’t pay the retail price for AVG ($50).  Watch for specials in web sites like frys.com, buy.com, tigerdirect.com, or newegg.com, etc…  The most you should ever pay for a yearly anti-virus subscription is $20 and I would prefer closer to $15.  If you’re organized, when you know your anti-virus subscription is about to end, start watching for specials.  If you don’t find one by the time it ends, use the out of date one or AVG free until you do.

Straight Answer – Business

Straight answer! For BUSINESS use, don’t use the free version of any of anti-virus software.  You are more vulnerable.  The most cost effective way to deal with your virus needs is to get a bulk license for the number of PCs you have in your office.  When you do this add a few extra licenses for growth and maintenance.  You will need them.  Going the bulk route also allows you to better manage your PCs anti-virus.  They all expire at the same time; so you can deal with this stuff all at once and be done with it.  Some packages allow you to manage the anti-virus from your 2003 server.  And there’s the cost issue.  Again, don’t pay retail; you should be able to support your organization for about $20-$25 dollars per PC per year.

I have a preference for AVG and have negotiated good multi-year deals for clients.  And, I do like their server interface.  One more thing, I prefer to go through Walling data, which provides excellent support above and beyond AVG.  Now AVG recently bought Walling data which worries me a bit.  We’ll see.

OK, so there are the two straight answers.  These are solutions I have used in the past.  Now, here is a bit more rambling information that may or may not be helpful.

Poor and Starving

Lynn (that’s me), you say.  I am a poor starving individual with a very limited income.  It’s either food or anti-virus; what do I do?  Eat my friend, and go the freeware route.  Research the freeware antivirus out there and use one of them.  I’ve mentioned AVG.  If you’re lazy, go for their free version.  If you’re a researcher, also consider Essentials (from Microsoft), and Avast.  Yes, they aren’t as thorough as the paid versions; but they do provide protection and are FREE.  Also consider Ad-Aware, Spybot, and Super for spyware protection.  These are also FREE.

Instead of me linking to each one, let me say that you can download any of these at one of two locations; Ninite.com (http://ninite.com/) or File Hippo (http://www.filehippo.com/).

Price

I have just said that I’ve had good luck with AVG.  Now I have used other products and to be honest, they have all done a pretty good job at protecting my PC.  And to be honest with you, for home use, it really comes down to price.  The anti-virus companies produce a service and deserve compensation for that service; but like most companies they are more than willing to fleece chumps that stumble their way.  (If you are one of these said chumps, don’t take this post personally.  Just correct the situation the next time around.   If I had a dollar every time I was the chump… I’d have a very small portion of my money back.)

Never pay more than $20 per year for this service.  Deals are available weekly at various electronics stores.  And deals are available daily at web sites like frys.com, buy.com, tigerdirect.com, or newegg.com.

A note on price, beware packages that are bundled together to “save you money”.  Make sure you are going to use all/most of the products bundled together.  If you don’t know what that particular functionality does, you probably don’t need it.  Also, these things are notorious for slowing your PC down.

Seen & Heard

I’ve said that as far as I know, most anti-virus packages do a decent job of protecting your PC.  But there does seem to be some level of competition between these companies in the department of bugging the crap out of you.

Antivirus software should be like well behaved children.  Unseen, unheard, and doing their chores.  If your software isn’t meeting this requirement, then I recommend looking elsewhere.

There are two areas in which antivirus software becomes like unruly children. 

First, there is seen anti-virus software.  It is like a child clinging to your leg as you try to move from place to place.  This software becomes a drag when it (the program itself) loads so much crap on your PC that it slows your PC down as much as any virus would.  It’s as if they think the only reason you bought your PC was to run their software; with everything else secondary.  Symantec/Norton was really good at this a few years ago; especially their bundled packages.  Whether or not they have improved lately?  I can’t say.

Second, there is heard anti-virus software.  It is like a child that will not shut up.  Asking you to buy this candy bar or that toy, and did you know this inane piece of information.  This software constantly bugs you, (especially at boot up) to upgrade to this, did you know that.  MacAfee has been really guilty of this.

Now, I know that other anti-virus packages are no saints in these regards; my advice is if you get one that annoys you, mark it down on your list and avoid it in the future.  Maybe you could write a response to a blog entry on the subject concerning

Wrap-Up

Ok, those are my thoughts on anti-virus software.  I hope this was helpful.  If you have special insights on this subject I would love to hear from you, or if you see that I’ve gotten something completely wrong please feel free to set me straight.

My next post on viruses will be what to do when you get one.

The Techxan disclaimer applies to this and all posts on this site.  Use information and take action at your own risk.

5 Comments

Filed under Anti-Virus, Information Technology, Software

Searching for Drivers, Sanity, or Honesty… Good Luck

Searching for Drivers - Beware

Is it me or is Google getting more and more worthless; when it comes to a search engine? Maybe it’s just me; but lately Google results drive me crazy.

As an example, one of the things I have to do all the time is search for the latest drivers for various hardware. From printers to network cards, to Windows 7 versions; this is a Herculean and very frustrating task to begin with.

It’s frustrating because manufactures would rather you throw the old one away and buy a new one (whatever it is). There is no incentive (other than customer support… yeah right) for them to develop those drivers or make drivers readily available.

Google could simply say no links found; but they don’t. An industry of shysters has grown up around the fact that it’s hard to find drivers; and they often pay Google to put them at the top of the list in the search for said drivers. Google has made the conscience decision to go from not being able to help you (which is a valid answer to a search); to being an accomplice to fraud. This is nothing less than Google selling out its customers for a buck; and if they do it enough; it will eventually come back to bite them.

Back to the shysters; when searching for a driver these guys promise you that they’ll scan your PC and determine ALL the drivers you need, download and install them. All you have to do is install their add-on… At worst these guys will download viruses and spyware to your PC. At best; they will surprise you with; “Oh you have to purchase this software/service”, and once they have your money you discover they can’t help you either.

A little advise on searching for drivers. If they ask you to pay… it’s a scam. If they ask for your email address… it’s a scam. If they ask you to download their software… it’s a scam.

Unlike Google, I’ll tell you that I probably can’t help you. It’s just the nature of the environment. But here is your best bet in finding drivers. Go directly to the web site of the manufacturer of the devise and try to find the driver there. (I know… they don’t make it easy.) If you don’t find it there, know that the manufacturer has decided they would rather force you to buy another product than support their existing products. You might want to take that into consideration when selecting who to buy it from next time.

If you go to a search engine (Google, Yahoo, Bing); understand that the links you get back often are going to be a waste of your time, or worse. Remember the rules above and you may get lucky and find what you need. Good luck.

If anyone has had any good experiences with manufacturers supporting their products with updated/upgraded drivers, I would love to hear about your experiences and give the good-guys a plug.

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Filed under Conduct, Corporation, Internet Service, Search Engine

The Techxan’s 12 Rules of Information Technology

A Dozen Bits of Wisdom

This is the first posting on my technical blog; and to be honest with you, the first subject was fairly easy.  The advice in this posting goes directly to IT (Information Technology) professionals; especially the young ones just getting into the business.  This advice is over 20 years in the making and is intended to help you be a better and more successful IT professional.

 If there is one thing that has helped me more than anything else in my IT career; it is a non-IT skill.  It isn’t a rare skill, but it’s not a common one either (especially among geeks).  That is communications.  Learn to talk to people.  And when I say people, I mean business people, which include peers, customers, co-workers, management.  Learn to speak to them professionally, and learn to convey the information they need in words and concepts they can understand.

With that one piece of advice out of the way; I also present to you Lynn’s 12 Rules of Information Technology.  These are the rules I have discovered make for a good and successful IT professional. 

  1. Trust But Verify (This is an old Russian proverb “doveryai, no proveryai”.  The user will never mislead you… on purpose.  Before you run off on a wild goose-chase, verify the facts as they have been presented to you.  Also… this is not a gotcha thing, it’s a professional service.)
  2. It’s Easier to Get Forgiveness than Permission (Applied when dealing with bureaucracy and/or inept management.  Rules are there for a reason; when the reason escapes you, then the reason is probably “to be broken”.  Admittedly, this one is from my younger days; but it served me well.)
  3. To Get to Where You Want to Be; First Know Where You Are (The first step in solving a problem is to know what the problem is.  Apply the scientific principle of forming a hypothesis, testing your hypothesis; and concluding from your hypothesis.)
  4.  Study, Study, Study, Keep Your Skills Current (This is a hard one to do, but is good, especially for the long term.)
  5. Primum non nocere (First Do No Harm) (Don’t be careless or stupid.  This includes situations when your customer decides to shoot himself in the foot.  Don’t just aim the gun.  Explain why a hole in the foot is bad and some of the better alternatives.  This is one where those communications skills come in handy.)
  6. Always have a plan and the means to get back to where you started (Backup, Backup, Backup & Listen, Inquire, Understand, Act)
  7. Beware of Secondary Consequences (Over ½ the IT problems are caused by the solution for a previous IT problem.  Think your solutions through and Test, Test, Test, Test, Test.)
  8. Be Bilingual, They Don’t Speak Geek  (They don’t need to know that the B38 Interplanetary Space Modulator is miss-aligned causing a fluctuation in the Space-Time continuum thus email is down.  Instead try “Email’s down.  I’m on it.  Should be back up within the hour.  I’ll let you know if that changes.”  Then follow through.)
  9. Learn as much of the Business you are Servicing as you can. (Man is a little business knowledge useful.  No, you don’t have to know as much as your customer; but being able to hold an intelligent conversation is worth something.  On the same note, NEVER assume you know more than the guy doing that job!)
  10. Yes, you manage it!  Yes, you are responsible for it!  NO! YOU DON’T OWN IT! It’s not “your” network, “your” database, or “your” anything!  (IT guys who decide their domain is their little fiefdom drive me crazy.  It makes me wonder what kind of control issues they have outside of work?
  11. Control of IT resources is like being entrusted with talents (as in the ancient money) by your boss.  Don’t let them sit idle. (see The Parable of the Talents)
  12. You Are in the Service Business, Act Like It (Be Professional, Attentive, and Courteous at all times to everyone!  Yes, you have a skill and knowledge that they lack… That goes both ways.)

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