Author: WKD Webmaster

Work

Office WorkerWe all do it, right? In fact when we are not doing it, we are most likely talking about doing it, more specifically how much more of it we have to do. But what exactly is Work? Is it a simple equation or is it more than that?

Work = Time + Effort

More recently, in our information age obsessed culture, we strive to not just complete work, but to be proficient at it. We as knowledge workers have to be proficient, we have to learn to execute more precisely, to eradicate waste, be energy efficient. This is how we come to think of work, not as something we produce, but as to how we perform it. It is not satisfactory to think of work as something we do, but something we need to excel at, to become better at, to improve. It is vital that as individuals we devote ourselves to thinking about how we do work, and less about how much of it we produce. Productivity should not matter to us personally, because productivity is no longer a goal for the individual worker.

What matters is the How and not the What. This is why we learn different types of business improvement models, like LEAN, Six-Sigma, Continuous Improvement, Efficiency, Quality Improvement, improve upon processes and products. If you are thinking, this does not make sense, because my business cares about productivity, and while this is true for the business, it should not be true for you personally.

For example, I once had a fellow project manager relate to me how they did not like how a particular computer programmer spent their time. The project manager was equating a programmer’s work as the amount of time they spent in front of a keyboard, writing code.

Work = Time

My response to the project manager was that we did not pay that person to write code, we paid them to solve technical problems with our system. I then pointed out that the programmer had years of accumulated knowledge and expertise, and just because they were not sitting in front of a computer, did not mean they were not thinking about how to solve our technical problems. It was more important to me, that the programmer provided their best solutions. If I really wanted a quick solution I knew that they could also provide this, but if schedule was not a problem, I always preferred to defer it until later. My advice to my fellow project manager was to manage the project, and not manage how other people do their work, because no one likes that and it does not produce better results.

In the case of project management, I see work as a series of never ending issues, which I run through my own personal system in order to attain resolution.

Work = [Problem = (Knowledge + Communication + Execution + Monitoring)]

Problem:

Issues come up every day, they arrive through email, in person, by phone, text, via your boss, customer, and sometimes by your own assessment of your project. In projects, everything fits into a Scope, Schedule, Cost category, but issues usually span some combination of the three. The other great truth is that in life all problems are people problems, because a process is just a series of steps. It is people who either do not understand the process or are refusing to execute the process, so in the end you have to deal with the people problems first.

Communicate:

This is the hardest part about life. You have to communicate! Ask questions, if someone comes to you with a problem, what is it that they are trying to solve? We are incredibly bad at figuring out what people want from us, if we do not ask questions. Communicate… define the problem, get agreement on what would satisfy all parties, and agree on how to monitor the outcomes.

Knowledge System:

Run the problem through your own personal knowledge system. Many people start out at a job and rely on the company to provide training and if that company has good documentation and processes, this is the system that people end up using. Long term this is not a substitute for a personal system. What I mean by that is that you should be a life-long learner and build your own system for being organized, focused, and having a proper toolbox of skills. There are tools that can help: task managers, Microsoft OneNote & Outlook, etc… try them out, take an online class, take a seminar, find what works for you. Next learn how to take feedback, get a mentor, someone who can give you honest criticism and who you can ask questions. Self improvement: focus on what areas you need for your work, my suggestions: improve your communication skills, learn how to give great presentations, get to know your customers, understand the entire cycle of your business, volunteer to help your peers. Coming back to my previous computer programmer example: accumulate knowledge and expertise. All of this becomes your personal knowledge system in time.

Execute:

Once you have run through all the possible ways to fix the problem and had the discussions with the necessary peers or teams, go and execute the fix, the changes, the solution.

Monitor and Learn:

Solving for X is not the end. You need to take the extra steps to see what the outcomes and perceptions are. You will find that getting feedback is often difficult, but it is important to learn about your mistakes and your successes. For example, one of my favorite tools is Microsoft Excel and though I depend on it, I have learned the hard way to always keep a backup of my original data, to triple check my final analysis, and if at all possible, to have someone else validate my results. The worse feeling in the world is knowing you made a mistake in Excel, five minutes after you have delivered your file. Always have a backup, always validate, always incorporate lessons learned.

Feedback can be as easy as three questions: How am I doing? What could I do better? What can I do different? If you are trying to improve your team, replace the “I” with “We” and keep asking the same questions after every problem resolution, or on a monthly basis. Most of all do not wait to the end of your project, as most people tend to forget what happened in the past.

Make Everyone Better

A famous basketball player once said that it is not enough to be a great player, you have to improve those around you in order to truly win the game. This applies in the work place more than ever.

Success is a measurement that can be shared.

Filed under: Project Management

Let’s Encrypt and VirtualMin

Let's Encrypt IconSecurity is now a central concern for technical people and I would argue for most consumers. It is now typical for criminals to target banks, hospitals, and other critical institutions. Privacy is also an issue that is central to a free and progressive society. One solution that gets thrown out is SSL encryption for websites and how we all now need to secure our sites with an SSL certificate. Due to the market though, SSL certificates are one of those things that companies have a hard time making money off of. Most people do not buy SSL certificates, so you wind up with a market that sells bare bones SSL certificates that range around $25 and extended validation certificates for large ecommerce websites that cost thousands of dollars. This is where Let’s Encrypt changes things. Their certificates are free and are recognized by the web browser as a valid secure certificate. This makes SSL encryption a zero cost option for millions of individual webmasters who run websites like WebKeyDesign. There is one other difference with Let’s Encrypt certificates: they are limited to 3 month intervals instead of yearly intervals. However what makes Let’s Encrypt more appealing to webmasters is that the software makes renewals automatic and there is now software integration with cPanel and Virtualmin control panels.

My personal project is a virtual machine that I keep for journal purposes. It allows me the ability to write some thoughts and archive information for later viewing. The virtual machine runs CentOS 7 Linux and can be controlled using Virtualmin. The SSL certificate that was originally setup was self-signed and so I would have to manually add the certificate to iOS, MacOS, and make exceptions in browsers in order to use the website.

I followed TechJourney’s excellent guide: How to Use Let’s Encrypt SSL Certificate Automatically in Virtualmin & Webmin. There were a couple of issues I found out along the way.

Webmin Configuration

The tutorial did not specify the path to the client command. For CentOS, I found this to be:

/root/letsencrypt/letsencrypt-auto

Webmin Let's Encrypt command configuration

Let’s Encrypt SSL for Webmin Login

A secondary problem that I ran into had to do with the separate subdomains. The Apache webserver will respond on your typical www.mydomain.net and mydomain.net, however the Webmin control panel is accessible by another prefix to mydomain.net. Under Virtualmin – Server Configuration – Manage SSL Certificate, the default will be Domains associated with this server. This setting will only pull in the domains that Apache is setup for. If you want to use the Let’s Encrypt SSL Certificate for other subdomains, you have to select Domain names listed here and manually type all your subdomains. You can then under the Current Certificate tab use the Copy to options and use the same certificate for Webmin, Usermin, etc.

Virtualmin Let's Encrypt Manage

If you went ahead and hit the Request Certificate button and then try to add domains, the process will error out. There is no way to reset the certificates from the Virtualmin interface. To resolve the problem, use secure shell and remove the letsencryt directory.

rm -rf /etc/letsencrypt

This allowed me to use the Request Certificate option again and have all my subdomains added to the certificate.

Filed under: Apache, Linux, Software, Webmastering

Mushkin Atlas FLUX USB SSD Enclosure

Mushkin Enhanced Atlas FLUX USB 3.0 mSATA III SSD Enclosure Kit (AT-ENCKIT)For this review, I will discuss my experience with a different type of external SSD drive. The Mushkin Enhanced Atlas FLUX USB 3.0 mSATA III SSD Enclosure Kit (AT-ENCKIT) is about the size of Zippo lighter and weighs 2.4 ounces (not including the mSATA drive that you need to purchase separately). Most people would probably prefer a regular USB Flash type drive than this type of solution. The Atlas costs about $20 and then the needed mSATA drive that fits inside can vary from $35 and up. The primary reason I purchased the Atlas, is due to the fact that I had an mSATA drive that I could not utilize for my latest laptop project. The Intel 310 Series 80GB mSATA Solid State Drive SSDMAEMC080G2C1 is an older drive that I purchased on Amazon and which I installed in the Atlas Flux enclosure.

Specifications

Mushkin Enhanced Atlas FLUX USB 3.0 mSATA III SSD Enclosure Kit (AT-ENCKIT)

  • Controller: AS Media 1053E USB 3.0 Controller
  • Attachment: USB Attached SCSI Protocol support
  • Casing: Durable aluminum casing
  • Supported Drives: Supports 50mm and 25mm mSATA drives
  • USB Compatible: USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 Compatible
  • Transfer Speeds: Supports SATA 1.5 Gb/s
  • Plug and Play (PnP) with 3Gb/s and 6Gb/s SSDs
  • Hot-swappable

Intel 310 Series 80GB mSATA Solid State Drive (SSDMAEMC080G2C1)

  • Capacity 80GB
  • Sequential Read – Up to 200 MB/s
  • Sequential Write – Up to 70 MB/s
  • SATA 3.0 3Gb/S
  • Intel Product Page

Installation

The installation is quite simple. Mushkin includes a tiny screwdriver, however I recommend using a higher quality Philips #00 screwdriver. I have big hands and it is easier to use a regular full size screwdriver when removing tiny screws as this. Once you remove the panel, the board inside should slide out, and you should now be able to carefully install your mSATA drive. You slide the mSATA drive at a slight angle and then push it down. A snap on clip then holds the drive in place, similar to memory DIMM slots in a laptop. Finally screw back on the panel and you are done.

On Windows 7

I tested the Atlas Flux with my Dell Latitude e5430 laptop. This laptop has three kinds of ports that this drive can connect to. There is a USB 2 port, a USB 3 port, and an eSATAp port (also referred to as an eSATA/USB combo port). The operating system is Windows 7 64-bit. The main issue I had with the drive is that it is not really hot-swappable. Plugging it in the first time, the drive will appear and you are able to format it. But if you unplug the drive and then plug it back in, it will not appear in Windows again. You can restart Windows and then the drive will appear again. The problem was worse on the eSATAp port. The drive would remount over and over on this port. To fix this issue, with the drive visible in Windows, Go to the Start Menu and type DEVICE MANAGER and click on Device Manager in the results. Under Device Manager, under Disk Drives, find the drive and double-click on it. Now click on Policies and select Better Performance and click OK. The Atlas Flux cannot utilize the Quick Removal feature. This means that you must Eject the drive via the systray USB icon or by right-clicking on it and choosing Eject. The drive will now be stable and you may use it without restarting Windows. Continue reading

Filed under: Out Of The Box, Windows