A Better Keychain

My first step in a better every day carry was my key chain. Here’s how I applied my two questions to my key chain. My first question is what do I need? The answer seemed pretty obvious. A key chain. I have to carry a key chain because I have several keys I need every day. I began thinking about what I needed, how to solve that need and if anything needed to change to do so.

Because need does not supersede want and they often are the same thing. I decided I wanted a key chain that was much less heavy and bulky in my pocket. Unfortunately huge keychains with lanyards were fashionable where I grew up and a lot of men and women my age still carry them. That was not the case with me, but I still had a lot of unnecessary junk I was carrying around.

I started looking around for ideas.

My dad always had, for as long as I can remember anyway, the best key chain. It has this massive set of key rings with these cool brass quick release things on it that are likely older than me so he could clip on and off the sets of keys he needed for that day. On his work days he might have fifty keys, but on the weekend he just had his house and car keys. Modular components appeal to me. His are the heavy-duty old school version of these:

He gave me one of his when I was a kid but they never really worked for me and I probably lost it a decade or two ago. I always preferred a carabiner so I could also attach a few small tools. I ended up with this one back in 2014 and really loved it, at least for a while.

I figured out the problem with carabiners is, your keys will slip off somehow. Some have a screw cap that goes over the clip that will prevent this, but they end up being bulky. This particular model seems like it might have some of that worked out, however.

I ended up also carrying around a Gerber Dime pocket knife, which is great, on my key chain but it made it unnecessarily heavy. It is great for the most common knife related task I have, opening boxes, but when a corrections officer asked me if I wanted a real knife I decided it was time for a change. That was embarrassing.

The Better Key Chain For Every Day Carry

I ended up looking a those key ‘organizers’ that make your key chain into a device resembling a pocket knife. The KeyDisk is the one I ended up getting.

It runs about $20 and can hold up to ten keys which. It also has a little bottle opener attachment in it that has a loop on it that I attached my car key and remote fob to. After careful consideration I figured out that I really only need three keys for my daily life and other keys can just be on separate rings hanging in my house or office.

The result is I have way less stuff in my pocket now. The design does not make it awkward to use the keys as I suspected. I would not put a car key inside the device because it can stick straight out from the ignition and in some cars, it may even prevent you from putting your keys in the ignition at all. Many new cars don’t really use keys anymore so this really isn’t a problem.

The image above shows the blanks with the teeth of the key facing out. I set mine up like this to start with and it seems like a bad idea. There’s no reason I can see that you can’t have the teeth facing inwards to protect both your keys and the stuff in your pocket.

The great thing is, the company that makes these sells other designs so there’s something for everyone. This is the design I almost got but it would have actually made my key chain more bulky than it was before.

This KeyKlip combines the KeyDisk with a carabiner to get the best of both worlds. I don’t have one of these to talk about. I suspect the carabiner would get stuck on pockets a lot though. It does say you can use it as a bottle opener though, and that notch looks like it might have a few uses as well.

I’ve used the regular KeyDisk for about a month now and I really like it. You can click on any of the images above to check them out in detail.

 

 

 

 

The Two Questions of EDC

Whether you’re out in the dry desert of Arizona or, in many people’s view the similar desolation of downtown New York you can find yourself in a crappy situation. What you have on you right then can sometimes mean the difference between easily getting out of that situation or just managing to make it back home. That’s why every day carry is important.

Over the last year or so I’ve looked over a lot of sites are dedicated to the idea of EDC and taken it from ‘the stuff you carry in your pockets every day’ to something a lot more advanced. Honestly, it’s pretty intimidating looking at what a lot of the guys on these blogs and forums carry around. I’ve seen posts where guys in my field carry, no joke, two handguns, at least three pocket knives, and a slew of other survivalist gear in addition to two laptops, a tablet and their IT toolkit (ITS Tactical has a satirical picture of this on one of their articles. You can tell it’s satirical only because of the hand grenade.).  Other posts have a bit more minimalistic approach, wallet, pocket knife, cell phone, and maybe an iPad mini.

Personally? After a year of looking at all the gadgets and stuff I started asking myself questions about what I was doing and what I wanted. I came up with two questions for everything I carry. Call it my every day carry test.

First question is, in no particular order or importance, “What do I need to carry?”

The second is, “What do I want to carry?”

Need does not trump want, even though it would seem that it does. If you need to carry something every day, there is no way to get around it. You have to carry it by default, so it is there regardless of desire. Depending on what that object is, how you carry it may be entirely up to you. For instance you may need to carry your house keys, but the only reason you carry them on a key ring is because you want to do so.  You may have never thought about other options, but they do exist, you just haven’t ever used them.

I’ve got a few articles in the tube about the stuff I’ve encountered over the last year and what I’ve ended up with. I hope you all like it.

 

AT&T Phone Warranty Process

So my Galaxy S2 bit the dust a few days ago and I went to go get a new phone at the AT&T store as I thought my warranty had expired. The guy at the store was really helpful and looked my account up. Fortunately my warranty hadn’t expired (still had less than a week!) and he thought it was a good chance it was a manufacturer problem and suggested I try that before shelling out $500 for an S3.

I called the AT&T customer service phone number and told them all the troubleshooting steps I’d done. He wanted to make sure the water sensors were white and I had even told him that I’d taken it apart and the internal ones were white too as were the battery sensors. I hadn’t ever dropped it in the water and the most moisture it ever got on it was a few drops of rain and I used some glasses cleaner to clean the screen protector once. I was afraid that taking it apart would void the warranty but there were any seals saying so and he said that was fine.

He transferred me to the warranty department when he determined it was a good candidate for a warranty. The warranty guy went over a few things with me, said it could be the battery but didn’t think so. After about four minutes he had me set up for a replacement. He offered free shipping or two-day shipping which cost $14. I opted for the priority as I needed the phone for work.

The best part? I was on the phone less than 30 minutes total.

Monday morning the new one was on my doorstep and there was a USPS return label and everything so I just have to drop it at the post office instead of a FedEx facility.

All in all this was one of the easiest warranties I’ve done (and I work in IT so I warranty a lot of stuff). I didn’t have to argue or anything to get my phone replaced. The troubleshooting wasn’t retarded and they didn’t even make me buy a new battery to try. I got my phone a few days later and it was not in fact the battery that was the problem.

So if anything this has given me one more reason to keep AT&T as my cellular provider. I didn’t expect anything less. I’ve dealt with them in a professional capacity for over a decade now and have not once been disappointed in their other services or how quickly they were able to resolve any problems.

AT&T Wireless Warranty Process

This is just my notes on the process and a few particulars about your phone’s warranty.

  • First and foremost here’s the contact information for the AT&T Wireless Warranty Department from gethuman.com.  I can confirm this is the number I was given if I got disconnected.
  • They have to confirm your account so the account holder needs to be the one calling if possible. Your account number is typically your phone number. They are able to look your account up by any phone number on the account.
  • AT&T Stores have a one year warranty on every phone they sell it seems. So if it quits working in less than 365 days, you can get a new one.
  • They won’t warranty the phone if it has physical damage, or water damage. The little white dots inside will turn red if any water comes in contact with them. There are a lot of these inside the phone and one on the battery.
  • They want you to send the old one back in 14 days or they’ll charge your account the cost of the new phone. What this tells me is that it might be possible after the phone is out of warranty to buy a stock phone.
  • The phone they send is some sort of stock phone. It doesn’t have a battery, SIM card, or back (the battery cover) so you have to use these parts from the old phone.
  • There is free, cheap and expedited shipping. This goes on your bill. This cost me $15 for the faster delivery since I needed it.
  • There’s a 90 day warranty on the new phones. So when they send you the phone you have a 90 day warranty, or it’s under warranty until the end of your current warranty year. They use whichever is longer. So in my case since it was so close to the warranty year anyway, I got a three-month extension on the warranty. This is great customer service AT&T!

 

The Smart Way To Backup Your Stuff Part 1: Basic Organization

As an IT professional I have this near legal obligation to tell people to back their stuff up. I think the State of Texas actually tried passing a law that said, “Every conversation with a computer nerd shall include the phrase ‘back your stuff up’ and ‘Han shot first’.”

The phrase, “backup your stuff”  really annoys me because it doesn’t say anything. Most of the time people just tell me, “Yeah I should really start doing that”, then they don’t. Likely because they have no clue how to do it, or see the price tag on a lot of backup solutions (I also hate the word solution when applied to a piece of hardware or software, as if either solves anything). Or they don’t have time.

So what I’m going to do with this set of articles is show you how to back your stuff up for very little cost, or possibly free. I like free. Also I’m going to talk about how to change your habits so you don’t have to worry about it as much. You’ll have the side benefit of being able to get to your stuff anywhere.

Figure Out What You Need To Backup

You need to spend about five minutes figure out what you need to make a backup of. Some of these backup programs like Carbonite will kind of figure this out for you but, really you should know what you have, where it is and how to back it up manually. You also need to know why your stuff is important.

So let’s take a look at what you might have. Here’s a short list of stuff.

  • Pictures – Family photos are the first thing people ask me about backing up. Most people don’t even care about anything else. If their computer crashes they always ask me to get these back if I can’t do anything else.
  • Videos – Falls under the same class as above. Plus you might have movies you downloaded you might want backed up, or at least put somewhere else so they don’t take up space on your computer
  • Documents – Most home users don’t have just a ton of documents lying around on their computer. You might have a resume, some stuff you brought home from work, maybe that novel you are writing, and some other stuff. Tax papers and things like that fall into the ‘documents’ category as well.
  • Music – A lot of people are really attached to all the songs they’ve downloaded over the years.
  • Applications – The programs you have on your computer.
  • E-Mail – Self Explanatory
  • Contacts – Your phone contact list.

Change Your File Habits

I know a lot of people who just throw everything on the desktop and try to remember what it all looks like and hope for the best. This is a bad idea. One trick to a good backup system is having your stuff organized in the first place and being consistent. I don’t know how many catastrophes I’ve had to deal with that would have never happened if there was a little more organization and consistency.

First of all, use the Libraries in Windows 7/Vista. They’re awesome. Put your music in your music folder (iTunes does this automatically), videos go in Videos, documents go in Documents, and pictures go in the Pictures library. This will not only make things a lot easier to find, it also simplifies what you have to back up, and if you do decide to just buy a backup program it’ll make it a lot easier to recover your stuff.

So if you know where your stuff is now, and it’s not organized, go ahead and take twenty minutes to dump everything in those folders. Don’t worry about making sub folders if don’t have them already, just move everything into its proper Library. I’ll post some suggestions on how to organize this further, but go ahead and just dump everything into their proper folder right now. It’s amazing how little time this actually takes.

Note: Cut and Paste, or drag and drop everything where it need to go. If you Copy and Paste you’ll end up with duplicates, which will cause you to use twice as much space.

Change Your E-Mail and Contacts Habits

I’m going to show you how to do something practical now to ensure some things will probably never get lost.

This applies to small businesses as well as home users. One thing I’m always asked, especially when a cell phone dies is, “How do I get my contacts back?”. The other is “Will I lose my e-mail?” in the case of dead PC’s. Well, if you are only concerned about this when your phone dies, you’ve already lost the game. Personally I used to use one of the utilities that came with my phone to import/export my contacts list to my computer and link it up with Outlook. I then backed up everything from Outlook using the Export feature and making copies of my PST files.

Guess what? I lost all that stuff years ago due to a combination of faulty hardware, and a bad backup! I had to start over.

But guess what? I haven’t had to make a backup of my contacts or e-mail since 2007 and I have every last one of them. I have lost many computers and phones since then.

Here’s what you need to do.

 

Step 1 – Get a Gmail account now.

Step 2 – Use the tools Gmail has to import your e-mail from whatever other service you use, or from Outlook/Outlook Express.

Step 3 – Import all your contacts into Gmail, or enter them manually.

Step 4 – Sync your smart phone to Gmail, this works on Android, iPhone, and Blackberry. Believe me, I know, I’ve done it for dozens of people.

Step 5 – Always use Gmail to add new contacts. Always. No Exceptions. Cool thing, if you enter a new contact on your phone into the Gmail address book, it will sync automatically to Gmail. If  you enter one in Gmail, it will sync automatically to your phone when you open your contacts list!

 

Now, barring Google going out of business and all their stuff being destroyed, you’ve got a pretty solid guarantee of never losing your e-mail and contacts ever again. Plus, they’ll all be with you wherever you go.

Another side benefit is that if you use Google’s online services it can show you your contacts on its other services.

The biggest most awesome benefit when you get a new phone all you have to do is sync it to the same Google account. Like magic everything is on the new phone in a matter of seconds.

Part two about actually making a backup of your stuff will be posted very soon!

Suddenlink Internet Problems

If you live in the Amarillo Area, or are having a lot of dropped internet problems, here’s some information for you.

You will need to go get a DOCSIS 3.0 compatible cable modem. You can go to this page: http://aaronsarea.com/install-cable-modem/ on how to install it yourself. It’s super easy.

On to my rant about Suddenlink…

I’ve had cable internet with Suddenlink for some time now and I’ve had zero problems with them. The speed has been as promised and I would wholeheartedly recommend them to anyone, at least in my area.

A week or two ago I started getting dropped from the internet a lot. We’re talking several times an hour. My fiancé was getting pissed at me it was so bad. So I finally called tech support and rebooted it and my router a few dozen times with them. They always ask you to do that. I’m an IT guy, it’s the first thing I try, but I understand their reasoning. The girl I talked to said it was probably the modem and that they’d send a tech out since I lease the modem. They also said they’d send him out three days after I called.

I decided that I’d put off buying a modem long enough. If that was all it was, I’d be taking an hour off work for something I can do in twenty minutes. Plus I didn’t want to wait three days for a guy to put in a modem. See, I’ve installed several cable modems before, and know the drill.

So I got the new one, put it in and called them as you are supposed to do. I got the same model that they had installed. I was mentally preparing myself to go take the other one back and save $5 a month. I didn’t cancel my appointment on the advice of the tech support agent. It looked better that evening and I thought that had fixed it so I canceled the appointment that next afternoon.

I still had packet loss and dropping internet the next day.

It was worse in fact.

So I called tech support again and got another appointment for a technician to come out. The guy really knew his stuff, and was able to figure out what the problem was.

The problem was that Suddenlink has upgraded their systems, at least in the Amarillo area and failed to tell people they needed to upgrade their modems! He told me they were putting in upgraded modems on new installations but not for existing customers.

This pissed me off.

I totally understand that if you own your own modem (which you totally should) that they won’t offer to replace it. They should send out a notice in the form of an e-mail or a flyer when they upgrade. They might say it’s expensive but, I get two ads from them a week for services I already have!

They should have at very least informed me of this over the phone when I called.

After installing and getting the second modem provisioned I wasn’t able to connect to the internet at all. I was resolving DNS, but not getting any traffic back. I ran a trace route while I was on the phone with the guy and saw it dropping about five hops past my router. That’s fancy IT guy talk for, “The problem is obviously on the cable company’s end.” The tech support agent offered to send a tech out again, blaming it entirely on me. Then he said they’d charge me $40 since it was ‘obviously my equipment’. I had even hooked my computer up directly. It’s highly unlikely both computer and router were both bad, especially when I had been on the internet with them not eight hours before.

That’s terrible customer service Suddenlink.

His name was Dan. If you get a guy named Dan with Suddenlink tech support, just hang up and call again. Get someone else. There may be multiple guys named Dan, just hang up on all of them. Do not waste your time being polite. He started trying to get me off the phone almost as soon as he got on the phone. Personally I think the issue was because he’d just made a simple mistake. God knows I did that a lot when I worked at an ISP. He just wouldn’t own up to it.

I called bullcrap on all this and called them again the next day. I talked of a girl named Amber. I told her the problem. She had me run through a few things and only asked me to reboot a couple of times. After about twenty minutes on the phone she asked me to try my internet, and it worked! She said that there was an auto-configuration script stuck and she was able to get that resolved on their end. It was on their end, just like I had informed Dan. I suspected a routing issue, but stuck script makes sense too.

She cancelled my appointment and I haven’t had any issue since! Thank you Amber with Suddenlink!

I would have switched to Clear the next day if she hadn’t. Also before you call Clear if you’re interested in their service, shoot me a message on Facebook or leave a comment with your e-mail. I know a great sales guy who really knows his stuff there.

I really hope no one else has to go through this. I work in IT, I’ve been down this road before so I knew when I was being lied to. If I hadn’t been, I could have gotten a bad technician out here and might have paid $40, plus new modem costs and it would have been completely unnecessary to do so. Meaning I could have been ripped off by my ISP all because one of their guys just needed to re-provision my modem.

The sad thing is, I’m sure the higher-ups at Suddenlink wouldn’t have wanted this to happen in the first place.