Exciting News!

I get to help a diverse set of clients on a full time basis starting early March 2020! If you are wondering why I have not written an article recently, I had this big decision going on and was focusing on that.

I recently made the decision to enter into the consulting world again. I will be transitioning into this over the next month. Over 3 years ago, after recovering from a failed business, I was blessed to be an independent consultant with Pegasus for the greater part of a year. The opportunity came at an excellent time to help get me back on my feet. They then offered me employment when I needed more stability with flexibility and it was a mutual arrangement. A work home was made at Pegasus for the next two and a half years and it was great. I could not have planned this better even if I tried so it had to be His plan!

Most recently a few previous clients needing assistance drove me to adjust my current employment terms. Pegasus was flexible enough to allow me to make this transition and still take care of them.

With all of that said, I am always looking to acquire new clients to share my extensive knowledge base.  Most of you know but I have been doing IT consulting for over 20 years, extremely detailed oriented and thought provoking in all aspects to a fault. Please keep me in mind should you have some IT needs or considerations, now or future. If you’d like to check out my resume, skills list or blog site – https://www.woohoosvcs.com

The Importance of Sharpening Your Knives

Dull Knives

This Thanksgiving was much like many of the past Thanksgivings. We smoke a turkey and have some family over. Not much deviated except for the fact that when it came time to carve the turkey I had some difficulties. My carving skills and understanding of turkey anatomy are fairly basic so I figured I just chose the wrong knife.

I chose another one, same thing. I repeated a few times and eventually cut it up with a pair of heavy duty kitchen scissors. A bit brute force but it worked!

How Did I Get Here?

My knives over the years had dulled. They actually had never been sharpened. My wife graciously gifted a knife sharpener for Christmas and it was night and day. I couldn’t believe I had let the knives get so bad. They were all practically glorified butter knives until sharpening them. They were not always this way but now they all cut everything like hot butter.

Why are you reading a blog about sharpening your kitchen knives?

While sharpening the knives, I drew the correlation to personal growth, career growth and overall being. So many things in our life take a toll. These are not necessarily bad things but they do cause some normal wear and tear on our personal wellbeing. We give without replenishing ourselves and resharpening our knives(skills). They can become dull over time too.

What Does This Mean For Me, The Reader?

Remember, all things in life take maintenance. Friendships become stale over time when one party is constantly trying to connect but the other does not reciprocate. The vast knowledge you acquired decades earlier can seem like it was another lifetime ago. Many time we are all too busy to even notice this happening. We have a funny way of getting wrapped up in life and following it without much intention. We have kids and they become our life and all we have time for, especially during the younger and more difficult years. It can be easy to just take a back seat to life for a while and let it go where it will.

What Can I do?

Set aside some time. For some people that may be 20 mins a week. Others may need some PTO to reflect or a nice vacation. Be intentional with this but do not let it consume you. Determine how much time you are going to spend on “sharpening your knives” and stick to it. Don’t over or under do it.

For each person, “sharpening your knives” may be a something different. It may be reconnecting with a family member and building that relationship. For others it may be refreshing on technical skills for your career.

This may even involve doing a self inventory of things that are taking away from your goals and having some hard conversations with people or bosses. Many times some personal baggage needs to be let go so that you can grow. Dealing with that could be an article in and of itself.

Final Words

I hope this has helped. This time of year many of us get some downtime and it is good to reflect and set the course for the new year. Let this be a conversation starter with your friends/significant others/coworkers or even drop me a line in a comment!

Remote Workers – Does It Really Work?

Summary

I have been a remote worker for the past few years. It is not my first time but certainly the longest stint I have done. I wanted to share a few success tips as well as provide some insights for those thinking about doing it.

If you are on site full time or 100% work remote/work from home, the grass may always seem greener. With everything, sometimes it is but it isn’t always!

Remote Work Benefits

Some of the benefits of working remotely can be easily apparent for anyone that is wishing to do this. The biggest one is lack of commute which decreases wear and tear on your vehicle. It also decreases wear and tear on your body due to lack of stress from driving in traffic.

It is almost like getting a small pay raise without actually getting one.

Another benefit is potentially less distractions. Can’t get any work done because people keep coming up to your desk or cube? You’ll immediately lose that foot traffic working remote.

You can take useful breaks. Need to step away for a few minutes and do something else for a bit. If you’re working from home you can start a load of laundry or do some dishes. You’re getting the downtime from what you were working on and being productive for the home as well. It just requires strong boundaries set to avoid getting distracted by all the things going on at home.

At the end of the day when you are done with work, there is no 30-60 minute commute to finish out the day. If you work from home you are already there. If you co-work, hopefully it is near your home and its a light commute.

Remote Work Downsides

For some it can be difficult adjusting to less social interactions. Water cooler talk or impromptu meetings that randomly happen out in the hall can be missed. You can find that you are the last to know random information because of this. Sometimes out of sight, out of mind.

Without a need to go into the office, personal grooming and schedules can become a blur. Asking yourself questions like “Do I really need to shower today?”.

People can get distracted by many things at home. From door to door sales people to never ending laundry, there is a plethora of things to distract you from your work tasks.

Its a rare edge case but I actually started having issues with my transmission in my truck because of the extremely low mileage on it. It is an adaptive transmission and it was not being driven enough under enough conditions to learn properly. – Link as evidence for those non believers. – https://static.nhtsa.gov/odi/tsbs/2016/SB-10081880-5448.pdf.

Another downside I found is that sometimes my commute is too short. I didn’t have the proper time to decompress between home life to work life and then back to home life. For example if I stop at 5:30PM and the wife and kids come home a few minutes later I find that I’m frantic and still trying to unwind from a busy day. The same is true if its a hectic morning getting the kids off to school and I walk into the co-work space with emails lined up that need responding.

Surviving Remote Work

I personally go to a co-working space. This can help mitigate some of the downsides. The space I go to is fairly economical and many places have plans that start at $99/month depending on your area and needs. It is about 5 miles from my house so the commute isn’t terrible by any means.

In some of the more active ones you can find people in similar industries and chat, network and meet like minded individuals.

It gives you a reason to get up on a schedule, shower, groom and be out and about. I also use my lunch break to use the gym a couple of times a week. I find running errands or actually going out to lunch helps to increase social interactions. Even for those that are anti-social or introverts, daily social interaction is important to help keep the mind sharp! Scientists have actually linked loneliness and Alzheimers – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5764000/

Excelling At Remote Work

If you are working remotely you do not just want to survive but you want to make the best of it. Many times when it comes to coworkers that are not remote workers, you can be up against a perception issue. They imagine you are sitting around, doing laundry and watching TV. Particularly if they try to reach you and you are unavailable. One of the best ways to mitigate this can be to be overly responsive via various mediums your organization communicates. Communicate when you’re in for the day, when you take breaks and lunches and when you’re leaving for the day.

Prioritize the mediums they communicate with with. If its phone or IM/slack, make sure to respond immediately if possible even if its to say you’re busy and you’ll respond in a bit. Lean on the over-communication unless asked to dial it back.

Final Words

Working remotely can be a blessing or a curse. It is not always for everyone but hopefully I have shared a few tips to help you survive and excel at it if you find yourself pushed into it or wanting a remote work job.

Unboxing My Keychron K1 v3

Summary

As I was discussing in my Why I Use Keychron For My Mac article, I had ordered a v3. Over time the v1 has not quite held up but I still love the keyboard.

One major annoyance in the v1 was the sleep timeout. Whether it was plugged in or not, it would go to sleep after 10 minutes of idle. There was no way to disable this. Now in the v3 I can. This was important because the bluetooth reconnect sometimes takes a rather long time.

The other issue I was seeing was phantom keys getting pressed or pressing keys and them not producing any results. It was believed this was a problem with the blue mechanical switches. The v3 switched to yellow switches. Only time will tell.

Unboxing Pictures

First – Here is a picture of the K1v3!

K1 v3 - First View
K1 v3 – First View

A common compliant of the shipping process is that the boxes get fairly damaged. While the keyboards themselves do not usually get damaged, sometimes they do. My box had minimal exterior damage but the keyboard was just fine.

Minimal Box Damage
Minimal Box Damage
Slight Box Corner Damage
Slight Box Corner Damage

The box was a little difficult to open due to the way the tape was applied and my lack of knowledge at how the flap was setup. I worked my way through it. I could have just cut right through it but wanted to maintain the integrity of the box.

Difficult Box Tape and Flap
Difficult Box Tape and Flap
Another Angle of Difficult Box Tape and Flap
Another Angle of Difficult Box Tape and Flap

What Is In The Box?

The box defaults with Mac key caps on the keyboard but comes with Windows caps and a cap puller tool. A USB-C to USB-A cable which is most likely the most popular requirement for this. Some people are griping its not a USB-C to USB-C but there are many legacy machines out not on USB-C yet. People with USB-C only machines should be stocking up on USB-C cables. A printed user guide is also included but you can always download that online.

Contents of the box.  Key puller, manual, USB-A to C cable, key caps and a keyboard layout diagram.
Contents of the box. Key puller, manual, USB-A to C cable, key caps and a keyboard layout diagram.

Side By Side

Here are some side by side shots.

Brand new v3 on top and worn v1 on the bottom
Profiles are similar but color is slightly different.  If you pay close attention you may be able to pick up the blue switches versus yellow.
Profiles are similar but color is slightly different. If you pay close attention you may be able to pick up the blue switches versus yellow.

Look and Feel

Overall, the look is pretty similar. One issue of the v1 was the placement of the “light” button to control the backlight. It has been relocated and it out of the way of accidental touch which was a problem.

The switches do feel slightly different but they are reactive and responsive. I still get the “joy” out of typing on them that I did with the v1 and like out of a mechanical keyboard.

Final Words

The keyboard seems great so far. I’m happy to support Keychron with my purchases. It will be interesting to see what they come up with next as they are starting to branch out to other accessories as well.

Why I Use Keychron For My Mac

Preface

I was not paid by Keychron or anyone else to write this. This is purely my experience of this keyboard. I would not even call this a technical review. I really like the product and wanted to share.

Summary

A while back, my trusty Apple Bluetooth keyboard failed. Ok, not failed. I poured something on it accidentally. It was quickly replaced with a new Apple keyboard. Unfortunately it used the new butterfly keyboard and felt like typing on chalk. A kickstarter for a mechanical keyboard that had Mac layout support came across one of my social feeds. The options were fairly limited for something with Mac compatible layout. This happened circa November 2018.

It was founded by some keyboard enthusiasts with industry knowledge that decided to start their own company. That is definitely something I can buy into and help support. At the time, it was called Keytron. I believe due to some naming issues they then rebranded as Keychron.

What is a Mechanical Keyboard?

A mechanical keyboard uses mechanical switches. Most of the early keyboards were mechanical. We are talking 1980’s timeframe for those under 25. In the early 1990’s, rubber dome keyboards were fairly common. Very likely due to how cheaply they could be manufactured. If you have ever had to open up a keyboard that does not provide some “clickity clackity”, you would find a rubber mat under the keys.

Here is a good article I came across with images – https://mechanicalkeyboards.com/define_mechanical_keyboard.php

Tom’s hardware also has a great article on optical switches which some of these keyboards are or give you the option of. Optical switches can and do have mechanical parts to them.

Noise

Wouldn’t mechanical keyboards be noisy? Yes they can be depending on the type of mechanical switch. For many people that is part of the nostalgia of it. I learned to type on an Apple IIe and electric typewriter. I was very familiar with mechanical keys and knew what I was in for. It is a common complaint though of someone that has not used one before. If you use it at work, your coworkers are likely to complain too.

The K1

The initial keyboard they offered (model K1) had a few features. Some of those features were 87 key versus 104 key and white backlight versus RGB. I opted for the 87 key RGB. Since it was a kickstarter project, I did not have high expectations of ordering and it showing up next week. I would check up on it every few weeks. It finally shipped early January.

K1 87 Key RGB
Taken from https://www.keychron.com/products/keychron-mechanical-keyboard

My K1

Here are some pictures of how my K1 has faired over the past year. As pictured, it is a bit worn and some of the paint is chipping away but I cannot complain. This was the first iteration of the first keyboard they shipped. Since then, this has been dubbed v1. They are now on K1 v3 which I am happily awaiting shipment of.

It is bluetooth capable and has an internal battery, despite the wire depicted below,. I use the USB-C purely for power to my USB power source.

Keychron K1 v1 above view
Above view of my K1 v1
Side view of K1 v1 Keychron
Side view of K1 v1

Other Models

The K1 was a fairly successful release. With that success, Keychron then released the K2 with quite a few mechanical switch options. I do not claim to know all of the various switches and their strengths and weaknesses. The K2 was designed to be a higher profile option. The low profile switches of the K1 were in high demand and difficult to come by.

K2

The K2 is the current production keyboard actively produced on a regular basis. Due to this, the K1 gets manufactured in batches at this point at various times.

With the K1, it only offered one switch. For the K1 v1 it was the blue switch. For the K2 they decided to give options in addition to the blue switches. I imagine this was in part due to the noise with blue.

It is an 84 key only keyboard.

K4

The K4 is a compact keyboard with many of the same switch options as the K2. It is a compact 104 key keyboard.

Community Grumblings

It wouldn’t be fair to completely ignore this. With it being a new startup there have been some frustrated customers. Particularly around communication and shipping. Sometimes it takes weeks to get updates on the status of orders. In some countries there are unexpected customs taxes that can be rather high.

Not to discount those concerns, I completely understand them. Having started a few businesses, I also understand being a startup and the craziness that goes along with that. In today’s world we are so used to buying off Amazon, having it show up fairly immediately with tracking all along the way.

With all of that said, I do see huge improvements in that area. I recently purchased my K1 v3 online. A mere 4 days later, it shipped and I should have it in a few more days.

UPDATE: It has shown up, check it out here – Unboxing My Keychron K1 v3