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That's a long ride

I just saw this on one of my vendor's web sites: 

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13 years is a long ride for an operating system.  XP was introduced in 2001. I've been thinking a lot about the changes in the IT environment recently.  When I saw this it just reinforced for me how much things have changed with Apple delivering on their vision. And with the latest development that includes Apple's giving the OS away as part of the product, it's clear to me Tim Cook et al are incredibly focused.

R.I.P. XP.  We'll still support you in the afterlife, as long as it's in the best interest of the customer we're serving.

More reasons to love Postbox

I'm a few weeks into using Postbox, while many in the blogosphere are still lamenting Apple's Mail 7.0, the issues with it, and why their favorite company and brand could produce anything less than perfection.    

I'm not worried.  Postbox is doing great so far.  I noticed a little slowdown on my MacBook Air once I indexed 43GB of email (not using Spotlight, using Postbox' own indexing capability, which I've found to be much faster).  But the slowdown is still 1/100th the slowdown I felt simply using Mail.app.  On my MacBook Pro, no slowdown whatsoever.  I'm suitably impressed.

I also continue to discover more gems as I go. 

Searching for email

This is a huge win.  The searching in Postbox, while sometimes a bit unintuitive, is powerful.  Instead of relying on a dumbed-down behind-the-scenes algorithm, Postbox allows you to control the parameters of search.  I think this approach is much better for professionals in general.  It doesn't assume the user has no idea how to find what they're looking for, and simply puts more controls in front of you.

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HTML signatures

This is incredible.  Recently for a few business customers I have taken on the challenge of HTML signatures.  Instead of an attachment showing up on every email with a logo in the signature, an HTML signature references a logo on a web server, just like html-based emails reference lots of pictures in a web frame.  The result is that you don't see an attachment that isn't meant to be opened, and you do see a gorgeous signature complete with branding a la your company logo.

Once the HTML code is pasted into the requisite spot, you can make some changes like increasing and decreasing font size without breaking the HTML.  This is also a really cool feature I'm impressed with. 

The bottom line here: I was able to implement an HTML signature using Postbox in under 5 minutes, versus the 45 minute painful process in Mail.app.

What all this means: Your customers and colleagues can see your logo in your email signature, without seeing an attachment on your message and thinking they should be looking for something to open. 

Google Apps for Business (and Gmail) integration

I have one customer to methodically saved specific emails to folders (aka Labels in Google language) as part of his email processing.  He upgraded to Mavericks on October 26, and instantly called me following the upgrade.  Mail.app was configured with some fine-tune settings to make Google operate better. Not saving drafts locally for example, and instead saving them to the server. 

The upgrade to Mavericks manifested an interesting, and unpleasant issue for this customer. He methodically processed his emails daily, saving emails into upwards of 40 folders (Google calls these labels) and deleting the rest.  On October 26, his Mac's mail.app systematically removed all emails from the server (everything) and filed them away in one folder locally on the Mac.  This is as close to email armageddon as one can get. 

Postbox doesn't just not delete your email, it actually plays nice with Google Apps for Business.  Labels are supported, and the speed is great.

Microsoft Exchange support

Microsoft Exchange email boxes can be read by using IMAP.  If your Microsoft Exchange provider or IT guy hasn't set you up for IMAP support, tell them it's time. I tested this for a customer who was paying a small service provider for hosting their Microsoft Exchange server.  Fortunately they had enabled IMAP support.  A few extra steps are required to subscribe to folders in your Exchange mailbox, such as your sent folders and other folder, but these topics are covered beautifully in Postbox's support site here.

 

The solution for Mail on Mac

It sounds strange, but Mail doesn't always work on the Mac.  Yesterday at 3:30PM I watched the notification center tell me about the 20 messages just coming in (at once?) that I didn't see at the top of my mail list when I went to look.  That's because they were supposed to be there between 8:30AM and 10:00AM that morning, which is where they were.

At a one of our TR Care™ customer's business today, similar problems. A executive assistant was perplexed why a message she read at 7:20 that morning wasn't in her inbox on there Mac's Mail app, but was in her inbox on her iPhone. And on her Mac, it was in "All Mail" (they use Google Apps for Business, just like I do).  Quitting and restarting Mail put the message back where it belongs. 

But you shouldn't have to do that.  Mail is just supposed to be.  And I shouldn't get a spinning pinwheel on a top-of-the-line 1.7GHz MacBook Air with 8GB of RAM and 512GB of the fastest flash available.

I've been dealing with bugginess like this for a long time, probably since 10.6, and through the subsequent kitties: Snow Leopard, Lion, Mountain Lion, and even development software I'm not supposed to talk about. Yesterday was the final straw.  I missed a critical, critical email from a customer that I was waiting for. 

I did something pretty extreme: Backed up (three ways), then formatted and restored, to a clean Mac OS X 10.8.5.  Updated.  Launched a new, empty Mail, configured it with my account settings...... Same problem.  This was not good.  And I'm not going to go after Google on this one.  My email works great in the web interface, which I don't like to use.

So this morning I do something I have been avoiding totally and completely: I found a new Mail application: Postbox.  This app rocks.  It adds a lot of features Outlook users miss, like "send later".  But what matters is that it just works.  And it's lighting fast. I've been using it all day, and I had probably about a 5 minute learning curve, which is good because I've been able to get back to work.   My email is flowing smoothly between all my devices, which is even better.

I don't think the problem is with Mail per se.  iCloud email seems to run well enough in Apple's Mail app. I think it's just that thinking about, investigating and building in support for other email servers with unique and powerful services like Google Apps' Gmail and even Exchange just really isn't there yet.  I hope they fix this in the next year or two, but for now I'm ready for Postbox on my Mavericks. The $10 that Postbox cost is the best money I've invested in software since Omnifocus.

Character first

I'm seeking TechRoom's next employee, someone with great character, an irresistible personality, who bleeds professionalism, has a deep knowledge of networking and servers, and who has MacGuyver-esque problem solving skills.

The more I think about my experience recruiting, I tend to believe we're completely out of the economic recession.  I think that the really hard hit to the economy in 2008 just woke people up, got them back to a conservative place where we're more careful about everything- what we buy, how much we spend.  As a result, small business owners (like me), tend to be more thoughtful about who we hire.  That's where things get tricky.

When you think tech, what's the first thing that comes to mind?  Technical skills usually comes to mind. Labels like Apple Genius or Geek tend to come to mind. What I've learned over the years is that the quality of the technical skills are not a predictor of good character, but good character is a very good predictor of great results.  Who would you rather hire, an arrogant and maladjusted technical "wizard" or a deeply conscientious and caring professional who loves technology?   My hiring "hierarchy of needs" looks like the picture on the right.  Character comes first.  If that's missing, nothing else matters.

The next hire I make will be someone I'm going to work closely with in some great businesses, with great customers, together with awesome team mates.  We're going to build and maintain great technology systems and have a lot of fun learning and becoming masters of current and new technologies, and we're going to keep improving the quality of the customer experience so we can do an even better job for our customers.  

Do you know this person? If so, please introduce me to them.  I can't wait to meet them!

The #1 quality of the best technicians

I've been actively recruiting over the past several weeks, which has given me an opportunity to experience first-hand why business owners have such a difficult time with finding the right technical resource, the right consulting service.

I could talk about how many technicians still think their expired technical certifications have some value, when they don't.  Or I could share my experience sifting through the volume of resumés and applications that are riddled with typos and even address the wrong company. Recruiting is a pain. What I have discovered is that above all else there's one trait which is exceptionally rare and lacking in almost every technician who has applied: A big heart and deep desire for customer satisfaction.  Let me explain:

The professional technician with a heart sees their job far differently than other techs who just see devices and tasks.

I started my recruiting by looking for a skilled, competent, passionate and professional field technician. We (my team and I) authored those words in our Mission statement over a decade ago.  Those four words - skill, competence, passion and professionalism - seem to capture it all, right? They don't.  A technician can have all of those, but if the passion is about the technology, and not about the customer, everything falls apart in my business model.  A deep, genuine care for the satisfaction the customer can and will have is what motivates the best technician in the world to hone their skill, competence, passion and professionalism - literally aiming their skills with intensity like the best firefighter would their hose - at a problem that's hurting the customer's life or business.

The good news is that a technician can't fake caring. It shows in everything. If you're looking for it.  I've also realized that the person who does care, notices it in everything I do and have done for them as well: When they see TechRoom's weekday operating schedule, our benefits package, the training and development agenda, our criteria for an ideal focus customer, our focus on people above tools, and our culture of self-guided personal ownership and accountability - they tend to be very vocal about their appreciation. I intend on only putting that kind of person in front of TechRoom's customers.

I'm looking for the right person to join TechRoom. I haven't found her yet, but I'm positive she's out there.  If you think you know this person, would you be so kind to both of us to connect us via email or on LinkedIn?

 

A day in your career @TechRoom

Do you crave more, and need to expand your horizons? If you have what it takes your next move may be right in front of you. We're hiring for four positions, technical and non-technical, all pure professional and customer service.

Do you crave more, and need to expand your horizons? If you have what it takes your next move may be right in front of you. We're hiring for four positions, technical and non-technical, all pure professional and customer service.

I'm hiring right now.  I'm looking for a very special tech. I'm looking for a tech who craves knowledge and skills, gets satisfaction from the expert application of their knowledge and skills, and bleeds professionalism in their manners, their dress, their positive attitude and irresistable personality. I want to give the techs reading this a clear picture of a day in their career at TechRoom.  If you're not a techie, that's OK, I think you'll still like this.

Let me start by confessing: I'm a tech at heart. A big reason I became a tech was hunger: I needed more skills. More than just Mac. More than Windows. I needed to learn everything. How the whole system works.  I needed to understand how networks work, how to do advanced network analysis. I wanted to understand everything there is to know about technology; I wanted to become the expert.

What I didn't realize then that the learning curve is exponential. Two things happened: As I learned more I discovered there was more to learn. Every time I moved a step forward I discovered the path is two times longer than I thought.  I also picked up momentum with practice: I started moving down the path of knowledge faster. It's like going from a bicycle to a 1000cc sport bike... and there's no reverse gear.  I loved it. What's a typical day like for a Customer Solutions Engineer (TechRoom field tech)?

  • Yesterday I started my day with a Logmein Pro screen sharing session with a controller of a medical device company, to set up a VPN connection on a Meraki by Cisco network. I had to apply my learnings about DNS to ensure my customer could access the server, a recently virtualized 2003 Windows server with a domain, now living disembodied on a Mac.
  • After that call, I went on site to an architect's office, an awesome customer who is equally brilliant and impressive and kind and appreciative, a sheer pleasure to work with and for. In a five minute discussion we avoided major, unnecessary work and realized the source of a problem between employee and server via SMB versus AFP. The problem was solved and we focused on a few other key items- upgrading the postscript drivers and reconnecting him to a Toshiba imageRunner color copier. His bookkeeper used to think all prior techs had some secret knowledge if they could get this printer working on a new computer  an hour or two of work.  I kept judgment to myself: There are technicians that are competent and understand networking and the layers. Then there are those who are incompetent and think they can just "wing it" given a problem. Anyone who wings it will eventually get to the answer, maybe in an hour or two.
  • At 11AM I had a remote call with an executive in Florida, one of our TR Care customers who are to receive white-glove service above all else. The call was coordinated by his assistant who texted me the night before. A conference call with their ISP and an hour of troubleshooting revealed a major device failed in the home network. After getting basic functionality in place, I proposed a plan to not just replace, but to seriously improve his home with a new Meraki MX60W, which is being deployed next week and that I'll configure via remote access on a call with him, taking care to capture every detail: The Apple TV, the wireless HP printer, their iPhones, their iPads, their Macs, all passwords, security, MAC address logging and even traffic shaping to improve the performance of the Apple TV (I have a Meraki MX60W at home... NFRs are one of the perks at TechRoom).
  • I stopped in to our Newport Beach TechRoom office and checked in with my colleagues, who showed me how they can help customers with 2009-2012 iMacs, previously not upgradeable because of a proprietary hard drive designed by Apple, can now be upgraded with new 480GB SSD drives that replace the optical drive. Our repair technicians are simply amazing- they're like artists and surgeons and scientists, all at the same time.
  • My favorite call that day was the setup of a MacBook Air and iMac located in San Francisco, for a newly hired executive manager to a company who hired TechRoom as their IT department. The call lasted nearly three hours, during which every aspect of email, calendaring, contact management, sharing and collaboration, harmonious co-existence of iCloud and Google Apps for Business, iPhone and iPad configuration, seamless sync, training on email productivity and even multiple gigabytes of productivity applications were addressed. Even Box.com enterprise with desktop sync was configured.  The executive can hit the ground running.
  • It was a full day.  My documentation was done along the way in our advanced service management system TReX, and I processed emails and tried to coordinate my calendar for next week.  

When I founded TechRoom I decided to indulge myself and my employees. I personally committed to training like no company had or has in the IT industry. In fact, today I still budget an average 4 hours per week for training. That's 200 hours in a typical work year, or five weeks of time learning, growing, developing. To be a technology expert that sets the standard means your skills align to the needs of the customer who is leading the industry.  Think of the focus customer Apple is targeting. Think of the customer Google and Sony and Box.com and Cisco and Meraki are targeting. Think of all the technologies that customer is going to consume.  Now list out the skills, knowledge and certifications you need to be the perfect IT resource for that customer.  That's TechRoom.

I also didn't realize back then that there's something nearly every tech I've met is missing in their training.  It's like a sixth sense, waiting to be manifest. It's the realization that when you're walking around a customer office and you hear people talking, or when you're in conversation with a customer, or even out of the office overhearing someone at a cafe, there are cries for help happening all around you.  People have problems in their lives and businesses that don't just manifest with a clicking drive or a disconnected share. When you learn to see and read between the lines, you realize that your greatest problem solving skill is the one that detects customer problems that can be solved through the purposeful and creative application of technical skills and knowledge.

Do you want to make a great career move?  Do you bring what it takes to begin, and are you ready for the challenge?  Then apply now. I really look forward to meeting you.

Are you TechRoom?

Every year the TechRoom team gets together for a special meeting. The only rule of the meeting is that everyone has to check their assumptions and preconceptions at the door.  We're going into this meeting with a fresh mind and outlook: Anything is possible.  

As a team, we look at our original Vision from over a decade ago and see if it still applies: Setting the standard for service excellence for customers in under-served markets that use and depend on technology.  Then we get busy looking at our opportunities this year: Are we setting the standard?  Where can we be better?  Are our service products meeting the needs of our customers?

Do you have the skills, intention and attitude to push yourself to the next level? Then TechRoom is probably the team and opportunity you've been looking for.

Do you have the skills, intention and attitude to push yourself to the next level? Then TechRoom is probably the team and opportunity you've been looking for.

This year we're taking TechRoom to a new level. We moved to Newport Beach to a significantly better location for our customers. Our technical team is convinced that last year's certification isn't good enough, and only true multi-vendor Mac and PC capable techs can work at TechRoom. And more than anything, we're renewing our same commitment to listening to our customers. Every customer request is a request for help. It's our job to listen, actively listen, and understand where we can improve their life, their home, their business, with solutions that draw on our purposeful and creative application of technical skills and knowledge. It's not about the computer or phone or network or server. Those things are just the catalyst for a conversation to occur, where the magic isn't understanding those things, it's understanding how we can get better results for our customer.

We started out this year by hiring. We have four positions open right now, and we're only looking for perfection for each one. Do you or someone you know have the pure professionalism, total passion, a relentless focus on perfection that is reflected in everything you do?  Do you thrive on challenge, and more important, do you have the ability to envision a better reality and pursue it by applying your creativity, ideas and with an infectious attitude, exciting others around you about what's possible? Are you not content with the status quo where you're at and need to make a difference?

Do you have the right stuff? If you do, or someone you know does, then you're TechRoom, and I want to meet you. Our positions range from non-technical customer service and inbound and outbound sales, to technical service repair and field (onsite) solutions engineers. Check them out and apply here.

This guy doesn't like my plan.

In June I'm planning on shredding a bunch of hard drives.  I'm going to help thousands of people across Orange County get rid of stuff clogging up their garages- old computers that have been sitting way too long.  Most of the time, it's just the concern about what happens to the data on the hard drive inside the computer that keeps the system in the garage.

cylon.jpeg

You can bring that computer to TechRoom right now- and we're happy to remove ALL data containing devices- hard drives, etc., from the computer, at no charge to you.  We're accepting a donation of $25 per data containing device to have the drive SHREDDED by OC Shredding in our parking lot- in front of you- while you enjoy a slice of pizza cooked on Chris Owen's fire truck.  All profits from your hard drive shredding donation will go to help Melanoma (Skin Cancer) patients.  And you'll have more space in your garage.  It's a win-win-win.

Email me for more information.   If you have the usual IT guy that hoards crap, you have lots of stuff to get rid of.  And we can help.  And you'll help someone whose life is in serious jeopardy as well.

The only person pissed off about this is the toaster pictured to the right.

The absolute best email feature, ever.

Ever have an email that won't go away?  I'm not talking about a technical problem.  I'm talking about a sender that is uninvited, unresponsive, and their messages keep showing up in your inbox.  Those messages clutter up your inbox, and just the process of unsubscribing and deleting them takes your attention away from the things you want to do.  10 minutes a day of unwanted, unsolicited email spam is 60 hours per year, or four full waking days of your life, wasted on stuff you don't want.

I have the answer to this problem.  I've largely given up on unsubscribe, which depends on a lot of factors, most of which don't apply when you've been added to a list without your permission.  I use Google Apps for Business filters.   

As a quick intro, I don't use the Gmail interface. I don't care for it, and I prefer using my Mac.  Apple's Mail.app looks like my iPhone and iPad interface, and I'm comfortable with it.  Google Apps is basically my email service, the back end that powers my email.  Apple's Mac and iOS products are basically my interface tools that I use to send and receive email.  I disable Apple's "Junk Mail" filter by default.  It's never been good, and actually creates a ton of false positives, which results in loosing important messages.  I use Google Apps anti-spam, which does a great job catching 99.9% of the junk, like pharmaceutical and adult ads, etc.

Now here's the awesome trick to waking up to an inbox with only mail you care about.  Log in to your Gmail interface, and select an message from a sender you don't want, or that you want to file away and skip your inbox.

Once you select the message, you can pull down the menu and select "Filter Messages Like These".  Then you're presented with the options you see in the picture above.  I typically do one of two things:  1) for messages from senders I never want to see again, I'll pick "skip the inbox" and "delete it", 2) for messages I don't need to see during the work day, but want to go back and reference when I need to, I'll select "skip the inbox", and "apply the label" and select a label (think folder) to have the messages go to.  

This is better than using rules in Mail.app or Outlook in a lot of ways.  First, it's server-side.  It doesn't require your computer be on and processing email to work.  That means my iPhone, iPad and Mac (and anything else I use) all get the benefit of having the email filtered before I check it.   It also allows me to organize proactively the various emails I do want to check on my schedule, but consider lower priority.  For example, all my email from the University of California, Irvine Paul Merage Business school, including Alumni message, LinkedIn emails, etc. go into a folder called "Social Networking Low Priority" where I can go to browse on a Sunday morning over a cup of coffee before everyone at home wakes up.  

When I first discovered filters, I went from an average 100 messages in my inbox at 6:00AM to less than 5.   Just today I filtered a few more, including one person who kept apologizing for not taking me off her list.  

What would you do with 60 hours per year of time back to your life?  I'm planning on spending more time in the backyard with my little boy.

Get old computers and hard drives out of your garage (with zero risk identify theft!) and help stop skin cancer

Do you have an old PC or Mac in your garage?  You've probably been procrastinating on recycling for the #1 reason all people do: You're worried about the contents on the hard drive.  Well, we have the answer to that. Bring your PC or Mac to us, and we'll remove the drive and recycle it- but not just any recycle.  We'll shred it:

Shredded hard drive remains. With the drive shredded, you can be 100% confident your data is gone.

Between now and June 30, we're raising money to help combat the fastest growing cancer on the planet: Skin cancer (Melanoma).  Skin cancer kills children and adults of every race.  There is no warning. According to the American Cancer Society in 2013, while most cancers deaths are decreasing, skin cancer is increasing for both men and women.

So we're going to have a hard drive shredding party.  Get your PCs and Macs out of your garage.  Anything you were worried about before, get it out and bring it to us.   We'll remove the drive.  The PC and Mac will be recycled, and we'll donate the proceeds from EZ PC Recycling in Santa Ana to the Skin Cancer Donation. We'll schedule the destruction of the hard drive for a Saturday in June, and we'll invite you to the party.  We'll have the hard drive shredding truck on-site, so you can watch your hard drive get shredded on closed-caption TV, and enjoy a slice of organic, gluten-free pizza while you're at it.  We plan on inviting our friends from Company77.com to the party to feed the guests.  You'll want to bring your 2-year old (ok, any age will do) to the party, because that means there will be a real fire truck on-premises! Time and date will be announced in May.

I truly hope you can participate.  This is a great opportunity to get rid of the technical/computer crap in your garage that your wife or husband has been nagging you about, risk-free.  And it's an easy way you can help the people today and tomorrow who are being diagnosed with terminal skin cancer.   We'll be accepting donations of $20 per hard drive shredded (there's no fee for PC recycling), and 100% of proceeds will be donated to one or more skin cancer research and prevention foundations