Sunday, February 22, 2015

Being Your Own Boss

One of the great things about being your own boss is you get to mold the work to your preferences. Now you still have to deliver, so unless you are one in a billion or so you likely are going to have to work hard and be smart but you decided exactly how.

Work early, work late, work in your room, work in a co-working space, work on the beach, work with music, work 5 hours 7 days a week, work 12 hours 10 days a month and play the rest... you get to decide.

For your business to work the customers must be happy. So for some businesses, for example, working 10 days a month won't work well but it is all up to you. Which is mainly great, but also can be a bit frustrating.

I find many people end up putting in more hours than they used to complain about their boss making them work. If that is because they love what they do, fine, but often it is just because when many people see how much it costs to take time off they don't want to. I find this funny because they are doing to themselves exactly what they said their former company was doing - prioritizing money over life.

Response to: Not a Morning Person but Need to Run a Business? We Understand

Related: Freelance Lifestyle, Finance and Entreprenuership Blog - Work and Life - Digital nomad and blogging related interviews with John Hunter

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Taking Care with Personal Finance - Avoiding Debt

Not all debt a person takes on is bad. But most personal debt should be avoided or reduced in amount.

Some debt makes a fair amount of sense - borrowing for college, a new house, perhaps a car, perhaps setting up your life after college. But those expenses should be reduced.

College is actually still a good investment according to many studies: The Time to Payback the Investment in a College Education in the USA Today is Nearly as Low as Ever – Surprisingly, Looking at the Value of Different College Degrees, Engineering Graduates Earned a Return on Their Investment In Education of 21%. But that doesn't mean huge debt for college is wise. Being careful to find cost friendly good schools is wise.

The same advice holds for a new car, house, etc. - an evaluation of your situation may show taking on debt is sensible but if so keep the debt level low. Credit card debt should not be taken on. If you want to buy new things, save up the money and pay.

One big problem that gets people in trouble is unexpected expense. That is why an emergency fund to pay those expenses is so important. Instead of going into debt, you just use the money you saved for such a situation. Proper insurance is also important (in the USA health insurance is critical - in most other rich countries health insurance is largely taken care of).

If you get into to much debt and then can't pay off your debts things become dangerous. Companies like Intelligent Banking Solutions provide those holding debt technology based solutions that will allow them to collect the money they are owed. Quickly realizing your situation and contacting those places you owe money to, to work something out may not be easy but it is your wisest course of action.

Most companies owed debt are going to be reasonable and not be obnoxious. But if they are obnoxious (or you just want help) find free debt counseling - this can be tricky and various companies seek to take advantage of people in trouble and setup companies that pretend to help those in debt (even setting them up as non-profits etc.). You have to be careful to find a reputable organization to help with your debt problems but doing so is possible and they will help a great deal.

Once you get your finances cleaned up, which is likely going to be a long process, put your finances in order to make sure you don't get back into the same mess again.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Archiving Digital Data

My comments in response to Maintaining Your Digital Presence Is More Than Updating Your Status

This is an important topic and well suited to the Smithsonian :-) Many people don't realize how ephemeral are digital media is. It is much easier to view photos from the 1970s than images from the 1990s (that are probably locked on some hard drive or floppy disk or zip disk [remember those].

Web sites close down and go out of business. Trusting them with your history is unwise. Sharing it there is fine but you can't rely it will be their for your kids. The internet archive (wayback machine) is pretty awesome and seems likely to survive but...

The issue which most quickly causes problems is changing tech standards. But tech media are also unreliable for long term (hard drives... are not nearly as long lasting as high quality paper). Certain archival DVDs (gold plated) do last a while hopefully but even then paper last longer. It seems rewriting electronic data from one place to another is fairly good, but it is not perfect (basically you keep moving so avoid one drive failing after 10 years).

Dealing with electronic records is obviously going to be a big job for places like the Smithsonian going forward.

Related: Photo Management and Web Gallery Creation Software - Don't Lock Your Content Inside a Proprietary System - Internet Archive of this site from 2006 (sadly the next record they have is 2011 for some reason. To some extent I think they maintain more copies of popular sites, but even so most of my sites have several captures a year) - backups on the wayback machine from 1997 to today

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Travel Blogger Interview - John Hunter

I was interviewed on the Travel Blogger Interview site: Interview With Travel Blogger John Hunter of Curious Cat Travels

John Hunter at Zion National Park, Utah
I mention the first trip I remember was through Europe to East Africa (game safari) then to Nigeria for a year and then Europe on our way back to the USA. Before that, we spend a year and a half in Singapore. While I am too young to remember it, I believe even that influenced me (as did looking at all the photos of travels growing up). My brother has the same bug and has lived in Hong Kong and London and spent a year traveling with his family (South America, Africa, Turkey, India, Indonesia and Australia). We were infected with the travel bug by our parents.

Do you have any advice or tips for aspiring travellers?

Start with short trips that don’t stretch you to far from your comfort zone. Once you have some experience then take longer trips and try things that are a bit tougher. My Dad gave me some good advice – at the beginning of a trip expect to be ripped off in some way for $50, when it happens don’t let that stop you from enjoying your trip. You don’t always get ripped off but I think that is good advice to realize some problems are going to crop up and don’t let that ruin your day.
Read the entire interview.

Related: Interviews with John Hunter related to blogging, digital nomad life - Meet the Bloggers Series: Meet John Hunter of - Travel photos by John Hunter

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Help Evaluating Server Co-Location Sites

Online security does get a fair amount of attention but it is still paid too little attention. Everyone should be using password manager to create long passwords, unique for them (not duplicating across sign ons) for our online accounts. And when possible using two factor authentication.

Part of the reason we need to be extra careful is to make up for less than ideal security practices at companies. I wrote about something that is similar to how Apple Pay works before they announced: a method to secure your credit card even in the event the store fails to protect their computer systems.

Since most businesses outsource hosting their web sites to network operations centers run by others this is another area that must be addressed. Evaluating co-location hosts is a complex task and companies such as Colocation Authority provide expertise in this area.

The factors in choosing a host for your servers are complex. Essentially you want a reliable connection to the servers either to access by your network (almost certainly tunneled over the internet) or to host content available directly via the internet. Physical security is one important factor but there are many others including redundant power supply, redundant connections to the internet, sensible infrastructure within the operations center and often security code at the network operation center level to aid in blocking things like denial of service attacks.

For even fairly large businesses having expertise to evaluate the best co-location options is difficult and would be expensive. Therefore using specialized experts is wise.

Related: Site Owner Impressed with FBIs Response to The Theft of Their Domain - Don't Lock Your Content Inside a Proprietary System

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Appeasing Rude Selfish People Just Makes them Behave Even More Selfishly

My comment on HackerNews, about Why are so many animals now in places where they shouldn't be?

People with genuine impairments who depend on actual service animals are infuriated by the sort of imposture I perpetrated with my phony E.S.A.s. Nancy Lagasse suffers from multiple sclerosis and owns a service dog that can do everything from turning lights on and off to emptying her clothes dryer. “I’m shocked by the number of people who go online and buy their pets vests meant for working dogs,” she told me. “These dogs snarl and go after my dog. They set me up for failure, because people then assume my dog is going to act up.”
It is sad how we allow rude people to get away with selfish behavior and make life for difficult for everyone else. Doing so encourages rude people to be even more selfish and we get the kind of behavior you see discussed in the article.

Addressing the issues directly is often challenging. That is my guess on why we allow degenerate behavior to impose costs on others until it reaches epidemic proportions when we finally attempt to address it.

It also encourages people to isolate themselves in enclaves where people that share certain expectations of behavior can shut out others and deal with those that are at least somewhat considerate of whatever behaviors the group cares about.

Allowing the rudest people to abuse society degrades the public square and tears at the benefits that can strengthen the social contract. Sadly it seems to be a pretty dominate trait in our society these last few decades and it seems likely to just keep getting worse. Hopefully I am wrong.

Related: Acting Considerately - Reasonable Accommodations Becoming Unreasonable - If You Create a System That Includes The Perfect Conditions for Scandals, Expect Scandals to Happen