03 January 2018


When I first started in the Information Technology business, MS-DOS was the standard interface.  Sure the Mac already came out but Microsoft was already the king of the hill and most businesses use DOS-based applications, clunky as they were.  The nice thing with working with MS-DOS was that I was able to walk around with a few floppy disks containing some tools of the trade.  I am sure I still have those disks in the attic somewhere, finding them is another story.  I wish I write this particular post sooner, as now my memory of those tools are vague.  For sure I know there was Norton Utilities.  Recall that this was the DOS era, command line stuff.  You can type some command (NU ?) to launch Norton Utilities with a quasi-graphical interface, kinda like two Windows Explorer window so you can copy things left to right or vice versa, among other things that at the time would take many kludgy commands to execute.  However, you can also type some two-characters commands to do a bunch of other wonderful things.  I think it was TS (text search?) to scan through the entire 20-megabyte hard drive (whoa!) to find a certain series of characters.  Some other commands allow changing the date of a file, something that couldn't be done before!  Outside of the Norton Util bundle I recall two other commands.  BAC from Byte Magazine (or was it PC Magazine?) lets me backup files from the hard drive to multiple floppy disks.  The program would pause to wait for a new, empty floppy disk when one is full.  The other was some kind of print screen command.  Maybe it was one of those Terminate-and-Stay-Resident thingy that lives in RAM and comes to the foreground when you press certain key sequences.  Sheesh, I really forgot much of this stuff, not that they are needed any more, just something from a simpler time.

The toolbox for my current work are mostly hardware.  Sure I have access to some network drives where there are certain scripts or utilities but I think of them separately.  As I go from sites to sites, or projects to projects, to setup new computers, printers, etc I find it very helpful to have the following items handy.

Wireless service is nice but when it comes to imaging of computers via pulling files over the network, a physical Ethernet cable is still needed.  From time to time, I would need to borrow some existing computer's network connection to do my work.  On more than one occasion, it was much easier to disconnect the cable from the lender computer, snap it to a Ethernet coupler, connect the other end of the coupler to the computer I need to build.  The alternative would be try to trace the cable back to some jack that may require moving tons of stuff.  Back when Internet access involved dial-up service over regular phone lines, I used to have a few couplers for telephone cables.  Same idea with Ethernet couplers.  I got mine from Micro Computers in Queens, NY on Kissena Boulevard but they can be bought in most stores catering to technicians, so I would rule out Best Buy and such, unless you go through their web site.

If I have my way, I wouldn't need to drive to my work sites.  All my work sites would be reachable by NYC subway, or maybe even by PATH trains, so I wouldn't have to deal with traffic jam, parking, and other drivers.  But the nice thing with driving is I can keep in the car a bunch of things that I might need for work.  Like network cables, VGA cables, DP-to-VGA adapter, power cables, printer USB cables, etc.  I even have a keyboard with a PS/2 connection.  There was a time when the computer image I used did not have the proper driver loaded and mouse or keyboard connected via USB wouldn't be recognized.  Luckily the computer had a PS/2 connection and I was able to make it work with the PS/2 keyboard I keep in the car.  Sometimes old technology works better than the new ones!

Last but not least, attached to the lanyard that holds my work ID I have a pair of screwdrivers, Philip and slot.  They are useful most of the times, but occasionally I need to use something like the Eclipse Enterprise 20-in-1 Telescoping Magnetic Screwdriver, http://www.microcenter.com/product/206265/20-in-1_Telescoping_Magnetic_Screwdriver .  Call me Inspector Gadget if you wish, but I like to be prepared.  There's only so much MacGyvering one can do, in real life anyway.

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