Sunday, April 29, 2007

Computing Freedom Has Sacrafices

Its no secret I am not a fan of Windows. In fact for going on nearly three years now I have been and will continue using Linux. However, this does not come without some cost to my computing abilities.

The reality is though I can perform any basic to high level function in Linux as I can in Windows there are just some things that Linux does not have access to. Shockwave among those. For those who don't know Shockwave is a Internet API that allows multimedia content, games and other things to be used on a web browser. Shockwave can be used on Internet Explorer, and nearly all Mozilla Gecko compliant browsers, provided you use windows. There are some work arounds such as using WINE for Linux but I don't want to have to load the Windows version of Firefox on my Linux system just for one API plugin.

There is no Shockwave for Linux (at least not yet) nor do I see one being developed by Adobe anytime soon. However, and this is important, if the Linux community would send requests to Adobe for a Linux compatible Shockwave Plugin they may consider making a port of Shockwave to Linux.

Okay so many Linux Veterans see Shockwave as a security risk and could care less if Adobe ever develops one for Linux. But with Vista already looking like it will be pushing up daisies sooner than MS expected many people are wondering if Linux might be a better choice. (Trust me all you people thinking about switching, its well worth the effort to do so.) Then support needs to be considered.

Despite RMS and his overbearing beliefs that all software should be open source, reality is it isn't and probably never will be. IF LINUX IS TO FLOURISH THERE MUST BE COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS. And the applications can be closed source as well. Adobe already has flashplayer available for Linux. The printer and scanner drivers I use for my MFC-210C from Brother are all closed source, and I could care less. They work and I can perform the functions I need to. That's the bottom line. Besides, because Brother went to all that effort in the first place I commend them for it. The reason I bought this particular Brother Printer/Scanner/FAX/Copier in the first place was because I knew that Brother had Linux drivers available for it. Closed source or not, they are there. Though not the easiest thing to get setup in Kubuntu I did so. (With some help from online resources.)

Trust me there are annoying aspects of the Linux community's mentality I dearly wish would disappear. No software should be a political statement. Closed source should be able to get along with open source, but alas, like all things there are extremists all over the place and such will always be a battle. Yet as long as there are enough people who have some legitimate common sense about things then we can keep on doing business in both worlds.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Feisty Fawn

I am not a fan of the Ubuntu/Kubuntu schema. the sudo and other aspects of the distro tend to leave me a bit flat. However it has the best software repository in Linux available, is well supported and it does multimedia very well.

That being said I do use Kubuntu as the issues with PCLOS and Mepis are at this time unresolved and I have business needs that have to be met. Since Kubuntu meets them I use it.

Feisty Fawn (Version 7.04) is the latest Ubuntu/Kubuntu release. The Kubuntu side has made drastic improvements in the user interface and actually stepped back on some things returning access of the root directory to the user in konqueror though if you do the upgrade option you won't see this.

My desktop system was upgraded over the Internet and for the most part it went very smoothly with only a few minor glitches. Nothing even a newbie can't learn to fix.

Still though my laptop came out better when I did a full system reinstall on it using the installation option of the CD.

Some aspects of the security features still prove to be a pain but thanks to the how tos I have been able to get CUPS up and running so now both my LaserJet and Brother MFC-210C can now be used by my Desktop system (local) and Laptop (network). I am still working out the saned setup to get Kubuntu to share the scanner part of the MFC-210C between the two and eventually with a Windows machine as well.

The print to FAX option is still being worked out as well.

Over all I have to rate Feisty Fawn an 8 out of 10. The improvements are well worth looking into.

One final note: Automatix2 is a must use in Kubuntu and there is a version for Feisty Fawn available.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

I Quit my job

At 5:30 AM CDT I awoke and got on my computer to file reports I was behind due to an overloaded work schedule. I have been run ragged and had no time for my son, myself or anything.

Lo and behold there is an email from the office manager stating I would only be getting HALF the pay I have earned because I was (with all good reason) behind on reports again. Meaning a $1500 to $2000 pay check was now $750 to $1000. Here I am over worked and highly stressed out and trying to keep it together to the next paycheck and there it is in my email telling me all that work I did was for nothing.

Here is the response from my boss:

The issue at hand is one of time management and expectations.

You've brought up multiple times you have no time for yourself, your son, or to do the required paperwork for the job...requesting off a day here or there would have resolved that.

I won't change the policy of needing daily invoices / deposits in order to qualify for a bonus. Your statement below indicates that you feel we aren't paying you your full pay, yet it's clearly stated and communicated that you earn 12.50 / hour for the 1st hour and 22.50 for each additional as your full pay. You can qualify for a bonus by following the daily procedures. I'm not making up "let's screw shaun rules" in fact for the last few pay periods I've let you skate by with a mere warning or at most a single call penalized because I knew you were working hard. Perhaps that was my mistake and I should have disqualified your bonus from day 1 of not following the daily close out requirements as laid out in your contract.

I've done multiple favors for you to help you out Shaun, even fronting your money before you've earned it. As I said, my mistake was letting you have so much leeway from the beginning because you came to just expect the bonus as part of your pay, rather than something you earn.

We will take you off the schedule immediately as per your rushed resignation, although even this action will only hurt you. For 1 you won't be making any additional money, and 2 as per your agreement it will further delay your paycheck in total until we receive all Rescuecom supplies back at our office, and have cleared the pay period waiting time to cover any possible warranty's for your work.

I'm truly sorry for it to end this way, I expected far more when I hired you originally.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Feisty Up!

One complaint I had about Kubuntu disabling access to root level directory structure is now fixed. Though if you run the upgrade script you won't notice it. Feisty seems to be returning to the KDE concept a bit more.

I upgraded my desktop to Feisty over the Internet. I did a fresh install on my laptop. The new version of KB3 rocks.

I got a Multi-Function Center at Fry's. Normally I don't go in for all in one wonders but its a Brother and there are two qualities about it I dearly like immediately:

1. Brother has LPR and Cups drivers available for download. This allows the Printer to be used on a Linux system. They also provide drivers for SANE and print to FAX.

2. The Ink Cartridges are refillable.

I have setup the printer, fax (still not fully functional) and scanner locally on my clone desktop. I have the laptop printing to the printer over CUPS. I am working on setting up saned so my laptop, and a Windows system (not my computer) can access the scanner over the network.

I have read several how tos on saned but so far none have been all that helpful. Kubuntu is not particularly friendly about allowing saned to be run and accessible. I will eventually get it going though.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Moral, Ethical and Personal Issues

Well today has taught me something. The company I work for isn't so great. They tried to get me to take a expedited call (a call where I have to be at the customers within an hour) fortunately the call was to far away for me to do that. However, they lied to me and said K asked them to see if I could do so. K however wasn't even working today due to a family emergency.

I have had to rethink my ethical beliefs on many things and I have determined the following:

Customers must give their credit card in advance now. They will be charged for the service call regardless. So even if I can't fix the issue (There is no such thing as 'Fix or Free' under the policies of the company) if I offer any solution, even telling the customer to call someone else, then they will be charged for an hour of service. This is morally wrong. I fixed nothing and the customer should not have to pay.

The company now has its own branded security suite, it will not guarantee any other product or service against viruses, trojans and spyware. This effectively ties my hands when it comes to offering the best solution for the situation. Again this is ethically wrong. Especially since I just checked on the package from the OEM of the software and found its not as well rated as I would like it to be. In other words its not all that good compared to the solutions I prefer.

Finally there is no such thing as a day off as I have learned these last two days. That's a personal issue with me. When I ask for a day off I want it off. I caved in for my first day I was supposed to have off but the second day I did not. Still they tried to assign me a job.

I will have to rethink this job.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Breathing Room

Well I will finally get to sleep in tomorrow. I am taking the day off and getting things caught up. I also have an appointment at the VA at 1 PM so tomorrow is essentially a me day, which I haven't had in a very long time.

I was planning on mowing the lawn in the morning but it rained tonight so that's out. I do have reports and other things to get caught up on though.

I am still working out the issues with Kubuntu. I may not be overly happy with many aspects of it but I am dealing with it and when Feisty goes official I will upgrade to it.

Work is really keeping me busy and I had to work today after all but I have tomorrow off period. That too almost changed but the job cancelled out and since there is no major issues I am getting it off despite the call center giving K hell. She isn't going to unblock me.

Today I got all my laundry done and finally ate a decent meal instead of on the run. Really do feel much better and the hot bath earlier was nice. Nothing like soaking in a tub of hot water, though jacuzzi jets would have been perfection.

I picked up two contracts this last week and neither are small potatoes. AmeriSuites and Piper Precision. Both willing to work with me to get and keep their systems up on the run. Neither want anyone else but me. Kinda nice to be wanted.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

The what, where, when and how of Technicians

When is a tech not a tech? When he has to be a salesman. When is a salesman a tech? Never.

The above two statements are fact. A technician is supposed to fix, repair and otherwise lend assistance. I am a tech not a salesman. I don't want to, nor do I like to, sell anything. Yes I can offer products but only if I feel they are good solid products.

I also do not like to BS people. If I can't fix it I simply can't fix it. It should not be my place to call the cable company, DSL provider or Communications Package provider. And I should not be charging customers for that either. I have personal ethics here. If I actually perform work and get a legitimate solution for the customer then yes I expect to be paid but when I come across AT&T proprietary equipment that is specifically designed to keep outside technicians from working on their system, then I have no choice but to say I cannot fix the issue when it is an AT&T issue.

Also being the only available tech for my company in Houston at the moment means I am busy. Even a couple hours of breathing time means a lot to me. Last week it was off early in the morning, getting home late and barely getting sleep after going through all my email.

So what can I do? For now not much as my job is a required make money where possible position.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Good Ideas and Inspiration

During the conference call I brought up an idea on how to deal with data recovery and backup for customers.

Though the boss was initially not wanting to add yet another checklist for us to use on calls I clarified that this was not a checklist for technicians but rather a checklist for customers to give us a complete report of the following:

Where files are stored, what programs are used for email and finances. This is valuable information that has been some issue because the customer doesn't always tell us everything and well we techs are human and can forget sometimes. Having it in writing in front of us makes a huge difference.

One of the many things I learned while in the military is that memory is more short term than we like to admit so a good checklist filled out with the right information is an invaluable tool to make sure that the job is done right. Some people are blessed with a photographic memory, like my boss. I am not one of those people and truth be told my short term memory is suffering these days. The suggestion stemmed from a frustrating phone call that one of my clients called on saying we forgot to back up her quick books data. Fortunately she isn't upset but had we a checklist at that time it wouldn't have happened.

Now how well did my idea come across? The other techs all agreed with me. Something that we have the customer fill out while we setup for data recovery and/or backup will help. Knowing what we need to put in the backup set saves us a lot of problems later and makes the customer feel better because we show we care by making sure we know what data to save.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Can't break free from Kubuntu

I cannot find a suitable replacement for Kubuntu and the fact of the matter is I have the best system setup with it. However, I still hate the sudo crap.

Okay there are many other things as well but I got CUPS working thanks to this web site.

Kubuntu is not a bad distribution it just drives me insane. I am not a Linux newbie but Kubuntu makes me feel like one. I am so used to flying around my system and putting things where I want that when I deal with Kubuntu and find myself facing a new and unwanted roadblock it just PO's me to no damn end.

Kubuntu has one great and endearing feature on it. For corporate desktops it is the most secure KDE based system out there.

Now to learn how to get Kolab going between my desktop and my laptop :)