Categories
Writing and Publishing

Lessons Learned the Hard Way

technology plan

Here are the lessons learned from a computer fiasco I had, years ago:

  • Have a technology plan, but be flexible. [I had a plan but wasn’t flexible with it—until I was forced to. I doggedly stuck to the plan, even when it was inadvisable to do so]
  • Multiple data backups were imperative. I used three methods, and keep several historical versions, spanning six months.
  • Having backup hardware is essential. During this ordeal, I was using both my backup desktop computer and my laptop to handle critical items and not fall too far behind.
  • Having a help desk to call for emergencies is critical.
  • If a computer begins displaying flaky problems, it’s likely telling you something—make sure you are listening.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.

Categories
Miscellaneous

A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste

Years ago, in a June issue of Inc Magazine includes an article, Innovation: The Outer Limits, which captured my attention. It detailed “the hottest, most mind-blowing high-tech products” looming on the horizon. It certainly grabbed my attention, causing me to shudder with glee—really.

First were quantum computers, promising to run circles around the current offerings, reducing hours of calculations to mere seconds. Then there were devices that will detect and respond to brain waves—great for gamers and virtual reality projections. Listed next was manufactured body parts: prostheses, replacement eyes, and synthetic organs. 

Another promising advance lies in the area of nanotechnology with the ability to alter substances at the molecular level and—my personal fav—nanomachines that could be injected into your body to repair, rebuilt, or scour.

Last was the opportunity to chemically enhance the brain, thereby improving memory. This really excited me. Wouldn’t it be great to remember more and quickly recall details? Sign me up! But wait. What about the things you want to forget? That unhappy consideration dimmed my enthusiasm a bit. 

However, what really gave me pause was the recollection of a novel I read in high school (if I can recall something from four decades ago, maybe my memory’s not all that bad after all—but then, why do I sometimes blank on my address?)

The book was Flowers for Algernon (see the Spark Notes to refresh your memory—ironic humor intended). Essentially, it’s about a mentally challenged man who undergoes an experimental process, which catapults him to the genius level. Unfortunately, the mental improvement is short-lived as he soon regresses to his former self, with the implication that he could soon die.

Technology is exhilarating and its implications are exciting, but given the potential downside, perhaps I’m not quite ready to improve my memory after all.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.

Categories
Business Articles

False Alarms and Other Considerations

By Peter Lyle DeHaan , PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

Regardless of where you work, false alarms have likely caused frustration. I remembered this one day as I searched for the source of an electronic alarm, warning me that something was awry in my house. Since the beeping was intermittent, finding the source was comedic.

With each alert I would move in the direction I thought it was originating from, come to a stop, cock my head, and attentively wait, scarcely breathing so that I could take in its next iteration. I darted around the house in a haphazard zigzag pattern, often overshooting my mark. It was as though I was playing the childhood game of “hot or cold” with the electronic gizmo taunting me with “you’re getting colder.”

Eventually, I found the culprit: a carbon monoxide detector. In addition to the beeping, the power light was flashing red – even though the only documented options were solid green and solid amber. Pressing reset didn’t help, so I unplugged it for a few minutes; that always worked in the past. After an hour of futile troubleshooting, I began to consider that maybe it was working correctly and there were actually unsafe carbon monoxide levels in my home.

What a novel thought. I never experienced a smoke, fire, or carbon monoxide alarm that signaled an actual problem. In fact, I was conditioned to assume that any alarm was the result of a malfunction. Smoke detectors were high on that list, with their low battery beeps and false alarms. When I would test them, no one ever left their office to evacuate the building; no one ever asked if there was a fire. The response was always one of irritation: “Make it stop so we can hear our callers.”

Uninterruptible Power Supplies (UPSs) also seemed to do more harm than good. It’s confounding for a malfunctioning UPS to take down servers when perfectly good utility power is available. Yet it happens. For a while I kept track. The UPSs were actually causing more downtime then they prevented. Generators also fit that category. Regardless if there was an automatic transfer switch or a manual bypass – that is, initiated by technology or by people –inevitably something would go wrong. Despite employee training and trial runs, nothing seemed to prepared staff to deal with an actual power outage.

Spare parts and backup Internet connections were another cause for frustration. You have them in case of an emergency, periodically testing them to make sure they are functional. Unfortunately, it seems that efforts to do so invariably result in unexpected side effects and problems, including system crashes.

All these areas give one pause to consider if such efforts actually accomplish a net benefit or do more harm than good. Regardless, it would be irresponsible not to do all that can be done to keep staff safe and systems functioning. The frustrations and false alarms are merely a side effect that one must accept in the process.

As far as my issue at home, I ended up buying a new detector. The replacement unit did not alert; apparently it was a false alarm after all.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher of Article Weekly. In addition to being a publisher and editor, he is an author and blogger with 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for tips and insights.

Categories
Miscellaneous

We Need an App For That: Five Ways Technology Skews My Thinking

Several years ago, a coworker and I would spend hours driving from one office to another. Though he wasn’t a soft-spoken guy, I often strained to hear him as we traveled down the road. This only happened in the car and nowhere else. On many occasions I had this crazy impulse to reach for the stereo to turn up his volume. A couple times, my hand actually moved in that direction. Alas, real life lacks a volume control.

Other times, when listening to people with heavy accents, I sometimes don’t catch all their words. What did he say? It sounded like “transliteration,” but that makes no sense. Maybe he said, “Get on the bus.” That would make sense, but it sure didn’t sound like that. If only I could turn on close captioning then I wouldn’t miss a thing.

At home, my wife and I often “discuss” what we’ve said to each other. I accuse her of not listening, and she claims I miscommunicated. “Let’s go back and play the audio recording,” she says in exasperation. Sometimes I wish we can because I’m sure I’ll be vindicated, and other times I’m glad we can’t because she’s probably right. Someone needs to design an app for that – or maybe not.

It’s not just audio, either. Once, after watching a handful of loose papers – ones once carefully organized – fly about the room in disarray, I longed for an undo button. Although I can hit “control Z” on my computer to correct a few errant keystrokes, there are no do-overs in life. The reality is I should have been more careful and not in such a rush. Thinking before acting is better than wishing for an undo.

Television also affects how I try to interact with reality. Often I see something happen in real life, but not paying attention, I wish to watch it again. I mentally reach for the TV remote to “go back” ten seconds or long for an instant replay to catch every element in slow-motion detail. But no matter how often I wish for this, it never happens.

While I may dream of an app to address these issues, the reality is I don’t need technology to solve my problems. What I need is to focus on life as it unfolds around me, to slow down, and to avoid distraction.

Life is a gift, and I don’t want to miss another moment of it.

Categories
News

Top Posts on From The Musings of Peter DeHaan for 2012

Here are the most popular posts on The Musings of Peter DeHaan for 2012. Some are quite recent while others are still being read now even though they were posted years ago. Thank you for reading my posts:

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