The Day When All Tech Went Boom

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of tech.  Though I’m more of a fan when tech works the way it’s supposed to, and isn’t plagued by glitches, or just plain meanness when it comes to working properly.  But today sort of took the cake when it came to tech and me.  And of course, it started early.

When I got to work, there’s a small terminal that I use to bring up reports and print them from the prior day’s information that needs to be catalogued.  I got to work at 7:30a and the last time the terminal had seemingly done anything was an hour prior.  As I went to type in my username and password, I got nothing.  Bupkus.  Nothing was being printed on the screen from the keyboard.  Now with the terminal, it’s basic 1970’s technology in a room of computers that are most definitely from the 21st century.  Yes, it’s a dinosaur held over from a bygone era.  But it’s necessary, as I’m not permitted access to the more reliable (and newer) computers.

Unlike most computers, where there’s a reset button, or the ubiquitous Ctrl+Alt+Del combination would bring solace, this terminal has only an On/Off switch that can be used.  Turn it off, wait a minute and turn it back on.  Usually one gets back to the beginning but today was going to be different.  Three times I tried, and nothing happened.  Sure, there was a green backgrounded ‘CRT’ legend in the middle of the monochromatic screen, but no soap.  I informed the proper person that there was an issue, expected to come back later to find it was fixed, and went on my merry way.

By lunchtime, I had a message from my wife telling me that the automated litter box wasn’t working correctly.  The power light was blinking red, and it wasn’t running or cleaning the box.  I have a security camera set up in the basement to be able to see it at any given time, and checking my phone determined that the rake was stuck in the ‘up’ position near the waste container and wasn’t moving.  Texting back to my wife, I asked her if the box was on or off, since I couldn’t see the light from that angle.  She said she turned it off, as it didn’t seem to be working, so it was better to not have power running to it.  I told her I’d fix it when I got home, rather than having to describe how to fix it herself.  She was grateful and on went my day.

By afternoon, it was getting closer to quitting time.  I happened to see my old bakery manager at the store, and she motioned me over.  Apparently she’d been having issues with her router, and needed technical assistance.  Over the years I’ve fixed her computers, and I even recall setting up this particular router when she got a new one and seemed unable to get it going on her own.  She wasn’t distraught, but she was insistent that she needed assistance sometime today,  I told her I was getting off work soon and I’d see what I could do to help.

Finishing work I headed home and had the litter box fixed in about five minutes.  As I suspected, the rake was stuck because it was trying to lift too much weight.  With each new model that the company puts out, it seems to be using less and less power in their motors.  When it can’t lift the weight anymore it reverses and leaves the pile near the waste box, and continues to pile things up until it gets stuck.  Then the little red light comes on and one hopes that the human will find it before there’s a huge mess.  Depending on where the box is, that’s not always the case.  But I got it fixed and on to the next issue.

My wife informed me as I came upstairs that the Amazon Shows that are upstairs (she has a ‘5’ and I have an ‘8’ on our respective nightstands) were not communicating and when she attempted to have them play music, they responded with something that she couldn’t hear.  Or understand.  So I traipsed upstairs, got them both working and came back down.  At that point I asked if she was interested in taking a little trip with me to see what I could do about the router issue.  My wife hadn’t seen my bakery manager in many years and didn’t mind tagging along.  Too, she had some wine coolers that she decided to bring with her and share while I worked.

The issue with the router wasn’t really all that difficult.  The biggest hurdle for me turned out to be that the router wasn’t hard wired to a computer.  Apparently she was using the router wirelessly to her iPad, her phone and her Kindle, and just needed someone to ‘talk’ to the router to get it reset and protected.  I ginned up a couple of secure passwords, logged into the router’s onboard menu and within about 20 minutes had everything secured.

Upon coming home, it was time to relax.  I wasn’t expecting anything else technical to break and I was blissfully rewarded when nothing did.  June is over, Thursday is over.  On to July.  We’ll see what that month brings.

Change of the Guard

It was time.  Say adios to Odin & Loki and say hello to Calvin & Hobbes.

Ok, I realize that doesn’t make much sense when put like that, but here’s what it means.

Typically (almost) every year I change the passwords and SSIDs to my wireless router access.  On the current router there are two options; 2.4 GHz and 5.0 GHz.  For the past two years, we’ve had Odin & Loki.  (I was going through my Marvel phase).  Before that was Amadeus & Poughkeepsie [2018], then Hephaestus & Ares [2015], and finally my Harry Potter phase of Dumbledore & Severus_Snape [2013].  Prior to that I had a different router, and I don’t remember what the SSIDs were.  This year I was looking for a duo that was whimsical, and I didn’t want to get bogged down in minutae so I went with the venerable Calvin & Hobbes. [I could have gone with Opus & Binkley, but Wattersons’s duo came to mind first.  Maybe in 2021.]

Of course, when I change the SSIDs, since so many of the tech we have are dependent on the info being correct, I had to go through the house and change everything that connected to the router manually in order for it all to continue to work as it should.  For example; as soon as I changed things, the cameras on the outside of the house went offline, the lamp upstairs as well as the lights in the living and dining room stayed on, and didn’t turn off when they were programmed to.  Tablets, phones, my tv in the den and both Roku boxes went offline and needed to be updated to the new SSIDs.

When updating things of this nature, I tend to ‘beef up’ the security on them as well.  When I first started password protecting myself online, passwords were pretty simple.  Nowadays one has to be aware of dictionary based attacks, and keeping track of 500+ passwords is impossible.  Especially when you have to try to remember nonsensical strings of letters, numbers and special characters.  tabby#0645 is a lot easier to remember than something like JsWnY=4m&hz}Lv}.  Sure the second one is way more secure, but there’s nothing to link it to in your brain to remember what the heck it is.  Consequently, for the last 12 years, I’ve been using Password Depot, it has saved my bacon more than a few times, and now it’s available as an app for my phone, which allows me to access my passwords wherever I am.  Truly a game changer.

So, Calvin and Hobbes are residing in the house for the next year.  Things are locked down (in more ways than one) and we’re secure for whatever comes in the months ahead.

Oops, almost forgot.  The guest SSIDs are ‘GuestOfUs’ and ‘StrangeWomenLyingInPonds’.  If you happen to visit, ask for the passwords.

Learning from exile

I’ve been back on Facebook for a little more than a day (spent a week in FB Jail for a faux pas) and I have to say I haven’t missed it a lot.  Sure, I missed the ease of messaging someone using the Messenger app, but it wasn’t a complete disaster.   There are other ways to keep in contact with the people who are important to you, FB isn’t the end all or be all of communicating, it’s been made easy over the years, and many people use it as the ‘go-to’ platform, because most of their friends use it.  But before there was a Facebook, there were other forms, and avenues, and without it, there’s not necessarily a dearth of communication.

Once back, I ended up getting into a heated debate with a woman who I went to primary and high school with.  About politics of all things.  And yes, Donald Trump.  It reminded me just how far removed I am with all those people who I grew up with.  I honestly haven’t seen many of them for going on 36 years, so are they really my friends anymore? I’m not really certain what the expiration date is on a friendship.  Certainly there are people I went to college with that I haven’t seen for 32-33 years now, we’ve moved in our separate directions, and I don’t keep up with their day-to-day goings on, (nor they, mine) as a matter of fact I haven’t seen more than one or two of them since I left Poughkeepsie in 1987.

Maybe I’m over the aura of Facebook.  This forced exile seems to have opened my eyes a bit, and I’m not enamored with the platform like I used to be.  I understand that my opinions have to be for the most part cached and edited before I express them there, as the algorithm they use for purposes of censorship have been violated (their word, not mine) three times by me in the course of several months.  I honestly don’t believe anything I’ve either said or posted has been that viral or bad.  But my opinion as they’ve made quite clear, doesn’t enter into their deliberations.  And that’s a sad commentary in and of itself.  In a country where we enjoy the freedom of speech, of expression and so on, where we can’t express ourselves in places like a social media platform is a bit jarring.

Although with the social media wars still going on, the behemoths are gobbling up the little ‘also-rans’ like Instagram, Telegram, WhatsApp, Tumblr, StumbleUpon and so on, so it’s not as if there’s a lot of places you can go that are considered ‘independent’ anymore. Social media programs come and go, and one has to be aware of who owns what, and how you might be running afoul of another conglomerate when you’re attempting to get your work or communication done.  Wordpress thankfully isn’t owned by a big media company, and I own my own domain and host it overseas, so I don’t have to be beholden to any large media company and spend time kowtowing to their rules and regulations for the most part. I don’t get censored here.  Too, I don’t yell ‘Fire!’ in a crowded place either, but I could if I wanted to.  Here.  Not anywhere else.

I think I’m still able to learn a few things from my experiences.  Whether or not they’ll stay sunk in, is anyone’s guess.  Let’s hope so.