Email is key

To kick off my musings on Home IT I wanted to discuss email.

I know that “social media” is the “in” thing now, but even so, your email account should be the first thing you deal with. Nearly any social media site requires an email account to register. Even sites that accept a different site’s login will trace back to an email address at the original site.

And when your password gets messed up, your browser gets reloaded and you loose your saved logons, or you just go blank one day, how do you reset that account? You go to their handy little “I forgot my password” page and enter what? That’s right, your email address. And they send a reset link or whatever to your email address. If you don’t still have access to that account, you’re out of luck.

Your online banking, paying your utility bills, your various web accounts, whatever… so many of them rely on an email address.

All of this leaves aside so many of your friends and acquaintances that may have it on file. Again, social media comes and goes, but so far email lasts. Can you believe email has existed for over 50 years? Would you look forward to changing your phone number? Number portability was a “must have” for many people. Like your phone number or address, when it changes, its a royal pain.

The nice thing about email is that IT NEED NEVER CHANGE! You can have the same email address for the rest of your life (or until email fades away, whichever comes first :-)).

How?

Own your own domain. Don’t just use the email address that your internet provider gives you. You may use their mail servers behind the scenes, but please don’t use that address.

Yes, it will cost you a few bucks a year. But it’s worth it… as soon as you decide to move from DSL to Cable to Satellite to Mesh Networks (or whatever comes next), you’ll appreciate the fact that your email address is still the same.

How many people are still paying AOL just to keep their email address? Millions more use their free service to keep accounts active to keep their AOL e-mail addresses.

I mean CIA Director John Brennan was recently exposed as still using AOL for email. Regretfully the exposure was due to his account being hacked, but…

Wouldn’t you rather have an email address that is “you” and not AOL (leaving aside the humor value of having an AOL account).

My next posting will outline some thoughts on purchasing and maintaining a domain. Then we can see about how to have your email address always follow you around.

Home IT

I’ll admit it… I “do” IT for a living. Have for a long time. I started in the day before the WWW (remember Usenet anybody?) and for many years home internet was a dialup modem. How far we’ve come.

After work, I come home and often “play” with my computer here. Yes, I enjoy it, still.

I’m also the family IT guy. Most families have one. I’m the guy my mother-in-law calls when she opens a new tab in her email program and can’t find her way back to her inbox. I’m the guy that gets the “This coffee program wants to upgrade, what do I do?” (Java) phone call. You know the routine. If you’re reading this, you are quite possibly that guy or gal in your family.

I wonder what people do that don’t have a family IT guy… I guess they are the folks that use Geek Squad or something.

Over and above supporting the extended family, I have my own IT setup. It’s well above what most people have at home, and probably more than we need in the house (how many machines do three people need, anyhow?). This setup, although it has continued to morph over the years as my interests, abilities and resources have changed, has served us very well. I honestly don’t think my family realizes the things that go on behind the scenes to keep them happily computing.

Anyhow, I want to make a series of posts outlining some thoughts and ideas for the “family IT” guy to consider. If you build your own servers, load Linux blindfolded, know the difference between RAID1 from RAID5 (software and hardware based), etc., then this may be a little simplistic (although I hope you might get a few ideas that you might not have considered). If you normally call your son-in-law to help with your email program, maybe not for you either, although you might point him this direction. But if you like to dabble, value having a system that works well and is solid and secure, check the series out.

… but you are a Person

The other day I made a post concerning your reputation and your “brand”.

I wanted to make sure that you think about the flip side of this… you are a brand, but you are more importantly a person. People don’t want to be accosted by a “brand”, they want to know more about a person.

Chris Robley had a tongue-in-cheek take on this point, among others in the Bookbaby Blog

Carry a flashlight

I know this doesn’t really apply to much of anything, but I’m going to post my opinion.

Carry a flashlight.

Always.

In your pocket, on your belt (my choice), in your purse, whatever.

In this day and age of unexpected emergencies, it can literally be lifesaving. Don’t be fumbling in the dark for your doorlock.

More commonly (especially as you age), you will find things you just can’t see. Maybe you can’t make out that instruction card with the small print. Maybe you can’t find the screw you just dropped.

Having that light close at hand can make the issue just "go away".

Many people will bring an umbrella with them if there is a 25% chance of rain. Most nights come with a 100% chance of dark. Where’s your flashlight? – Foursevens

There are many, many flashlights available. You can go to the local Walmart or whatever and get something that probably is decent. If you are really going to carry all the time, I would recommend something better, though.

I feel that many people don’t see the use, because "it’s always dead when I reach for it". I believe that’s mostly because you aren’t buying a decent light. Get a good, LED based light (practically never burn out, and dropping them won’t blow the bulb). Buy batteries for it and keep them changed.

There are lots of lights and sellers of "tactical" lights. If you are really interested, check out Candle Power Forums. There are more discussions and experts than you would believe.

For myself, I recommend the Sunwayman V11R very highly. Many of the tactical lights have multiple modes and features. That’s all fine, but I find the only thing I care about is light, and how much of it. The Sunwayman has an easy to adjust, twisting ring that just dims the light as required.

I’ll probably write more about flashlights and other EDC (Every Day Carry) gear I think everybody should have at hand, but for now… find a light and carry it.

Don’t give up control of your brand

You have a brand

Even if you don’t think you do, you have a brand. In earlier days it was known as your reputation. Didn’t your Dad always say that your ‘name’ or your ‘reputation’ was important?

Your online life…

Your reputation online (and often in the ‘real world now’) can be drastically influenced by what you put online. Author’s are always in pursuit of more readers, photographers are looking for clients and people who enjoy their work, musicians want that illusive listener. We all value having somebody look at our ‘work’ and oftentimes we hope they will like it enough to remunerate us for that work.

With this in mind, we pour time and effort into writing blog posts, making web pages, posting to Twitter or Facebook, all those things. Things that take time and mental energy that could actually be used to produce what our adoring fans really want – more pictures, music, books, whatever we hope to be known for.

So, given our limited time here on this planet, where should we be spending our time?

A question we’ve probably all asked ourselves at some point. Guess what, right now I’m not going to tell you an answer. Instead, I want to make another point that I hold near and dear to my heart in this online world.

Mike Damphousse had a good article speaking to some of these ideas: "Fathers’ Day and Your Brand"

Don’t give up control of your brand

As much as you may like (or dislike) Facebook, Twitter, MySpace (remember them?) or whoever is the current trendsetter, remember – they are somebody else’s brand. Unless your name is Zuckerberg (Facebook cofounder), then the employees and management of Facebook have little or no interest in your success.

Why then would you hand out a card saying "check me out on http://facebook.com/brucedillahunty"? Bruce Dillahunty is my brand. It’s my reputation. I care about that reputation and the people that come here. Nobody else can place that importance on my site. My brand is BruceDillahunty.xyz – not somebody’s else’s site.

I may (or may not) use the social media site which is all the rage this week, but I’m going to use it to drive people to my site. Then when Facebook shuts down in a few years (and I’m betting it will happen), or they put such onerous restrictions or pricing around their use that I don’t wish to use them, my users will still be looking at my site.

So…

Get out there, but your own domain, get some decent hosting, and turn up a web site. Its not rocket science any more, and if you aren’t comfortable with it, pay a local student $100 and you’ll be online in no time.

To get you started, click here (use BCD50 for the referral code if it asks for one). This will give you $50 off Dreamhost hosting, which I’ve used for nearly 10 years, and as a bonus you’ll get a free domain registration.