Elbee Valeting – keeping your car looking it’s best!

I like Lee, I think we could have almost been two peas in a pod! We have similar views on certain aspects of life despite coming from different backgrounds.

The "before"

The “before”

We met on the Outset Cornwall class of July-October 2014 with both of us being a little bit more advanced than just being interested in starting our own businesses – we’d sort of both already kicked things off.

And to think I was proud of my status as being up and running when Lee was in the same boat.

As I think one of the highlights of the course has been that we get to meet and know others in similar positions so the culture of helping each other fosters. I’m helping Lee improve his web presence (I hope) and general use of IT.

Well today he’s Valeting my car, getting it ready for sale.

I would have previously said “doing” but now I’m a little more educated I feel I can call it what it is.

Lee has this issue, it’s a little like mine in some respects, it’s difficult to get out there, we both feel we offer a premium service to our clients too, attention to detail, caring what clients want, not just wanting to offload.

My problem is trying to convince you that I do know what I’m talking about better than another IT firm, that my solutions are more relevant. Lee’s is to try to convince you that his service is worth it when you can go down the road and get a bucket wash “done” for a few pounds.

Getting personal with my alloy wheels

Getting personal with my alloy wheels

Well today they (Lee brought his assistant “Fergie” with him to help beat the oncoming weather) came to my office – before the time we agreed – plenty of time for a cuppa and a chat. And since then they’ve been out there in the car park – the generator revs up every now and then, I peek out and see discs whirring, and cloths and spray and elbow grease being applied.

The thing is that what he does is treat a car, bring the surfaces back to pristine condition, I don’t know exactly how it works, but a combination of the right kind of product (and you thought that was an expression only applicable to peoples barnets!?) and a process of polishing and using clay (I’ll have to ask him if it’s locally sourced!) and other techniques to put things back the way they should be.

But you know what’s amazing about this? Once done your car should be good for a year! Provided you keep it topped up – as far as the topping up goes it’s just washing it properly. Don’t worry, I have that covered, we’re going to get him to record some tutorial videos and pop those online – to show us all how to get the best out of our cars finish once it’s been valeted by him!

The cost of this?  Well prices do vary but this is an average situation (I assume) as the car wasn’t completely hanging and is a family saloon sized vehicle, anyway, £120 – or put it another way – £10 a month!  (They were there for four an a half hours!) Yes that’s right – if you slice it into monthly amounts it’s barely more than taking it to those awful car washes at supermarkets – and like I said before, a sensible regular monthly (or so) wash with shampoo (PH neutral, thank you Fergie!) coupled with the treatment it’s received should keep it in tip top condition for up to a year or more.

In my case it’s a prep for sale, because I need the funds to move my business forward, but for you it might be important to complete the image, or because you have a classic car, or because it’s a fleet vehicle, whatever the reason the work he does comes at an impressive value provided you’re prepared to keep it topped up yourself.

I intend to be helping Lee as best I can because I think he deserves the support, he’s a decent guy trying to make his new venture work – I think we need a few more like him out there.

As for the car? It looks amazing, I’m going to find it hard to part with it now!

IMG_0136

Check him out, he’s a nice guy and knows his stuff, and boy if you want your car to really gleam he’ll do it!

http://elbeevaleting.co.uk/

Businesses get a grip! (of your IT infrastructure)

So as previously waffed upon, I’m an IT lifer, time served is now in excess of twenty years, and I wrote that in words for a reason! Not to make myself feel old but to emphasise the point of what I’m about to say.

And in thinking back through employment history until the most recent salaried job and on to clients and potential clients it’s my assertion that there is a huge gulf in stewardship of infrastructure. I chose that word carefully as it’s not ownership, nor is it really administration.

Administration is what you pay your techs to do, or pay me! (Hopefully!) This is the bit that often looks like it’s not really of value. If a good sysadmin does their job then they won’t have to do too much, systems work as expected, problems are few and far between – but that brings its own problems – surely that person/team isn’t doing much, right? Well that’s another post for sure!

Ownership is generally, unless your very fortunate, held by individuals that either do not really feel it’s their place to understand IT or simply don’t want to. It’s the “I’m the boss” attitude, IE do it and don’t question why type of mentality – not at all productive.

So administrators usually interact with owners and more often than not there is a gulf (those things again) between the two. Those of us who have worked in technical roles for a long time find it hard to talk to people that don’t, and if we get “I’m the boss”’ed too much?

It’s usually so much better if you have an IT-savvy owner or better yet something called TRUST! Or even just professionalism. Working with owners who have none of those things is one of the reasons I no longer do, and will continue to try not to in future, because clients are owners too after all.

So then, back to the stewardship, here’s a couple of definitions from Oxford.

[A] person whose responsibility it is to take care of something:

Manage or look after [another’s property]

Like it or not the IT infrastructure of ANY business is important. Lifeblood? In some cases yes, but even in cases where it’s not it is important. So much more of the general day to day work of businesses are now revolving around IT, it’s just as much a part of the toolset as paper and pen – this is measurable by how much angst appears if the only printer in the office stops working, or the internet drops, and so on.

So why do people pay it such little attention?

Try this scenario on for size, consider that you yourself are the organisation – how much do YOU know about your IT infrastructure?

How often do you make backups? Where are they?

How does it all hang together? Who holds account details? Router passwords?

If it all fell apart tomorrow what is your route to getting it back up and running again?

To be ignorant of these and other similar facts is simply not an excuse, any more than forgetting to put a parking ticket on your car in a paid car park, only with far greater risk.

It’s amazing as a professional but more importantly a conscientious person how come businesses can just ignore the core of their IT systems. We’ve all heard the old adage about comparing a situation to what would happen if a key person was run over by a bus. But what do you actually know about your IT infrastructure and its administrators, did the people that look after it now set it up initially? Are THEY in possession of all of the information?

What do you mean you don’t know?

Here’s a freebie, a simple starter for ten.

Ask someone technical to sketch out your network, but please engage with them first, don’t just bark an order, that’s basic management skills to be considerate of others and we should all know that! And once you have a basic sketch then ask who knows about that bit there – or that other bit there. Start to build a picture of who knows what.

Moving forward seek to have your diagram accompanied by a list of details for each bit of kit, access details, configuration, colour, waist size, whatever. Remember if they’re good your administrators should have a bit of time to put to this! Once you have that FILE it somewhere safe.

See what you did there? You made a solid start. You created a schematic that might save you a whole heap of trouble not to mention MONEY later on if you have a problem. Then think, what’s important, or ask if you don’t want to/can’t think for yourself.

Build up all of this information and you’ll start noticing certain things, enquire about backups and protection, and what does that bit do, or why are there two of those. And before too long you’ll have an elementary understanding of not only your IT systems, but also perhaps an appreciation for just what is going on behind the scenes.

Considering how adverse many companies are to risk it’s amazing to think that so many of them ignore the basic structure of things like this – like it or not IT is here and it’s probably already in charge in reality! Time to get a grip on it!

Quick update

So then what’s been cooking?

Lots of stuff taking place over the past few weeks but then isn’t that the same for everyone?

The big news is that we finally got fibre optic broadband installed at the house – it’s an 80mb connection – so we only get 35mb meh – that’s some improvement over the previous 2mb ADSL link!

Eldest daughter has now lost her first two teeth, that’s great, just don’t call her gappy!

Hmm, what else?

Oh yeah, finally started up my own IT firm, it only took me twenty years!  More on that later!

The great porn access debate

I get journalism, I do try very hard to, at least I think I do.  I mean sure you know the frequency of face palming during news bulletins and stories seems to be increasing…..but is it?  Or are we simply taking more notice?

As previously noted I am a career geek – I love technology and all that it can do for us – but I do have a problem and it’s with the people who repeatedly don’t get it.

I mean if my car starts to make a strange noise there’s a couple of things I don’t do; I don’t claim to have an innate knowledge of all things internal combustion nor would I presume to tell a mechanic that his opinion of the problem was wrong and that actually I felt it’s a problem with the flow rate of the flux capacitor or some other part.

But I digress, so let’s drag it back to the point and unusually for me to be wading into very much a en vogue issue of the moment, but yeah, what the post title says…..and yes I know I’m drawing conclusions from some recent stories and sighing deeply due to my perception of the comments within them but when will people finally wake up and realise that no sooner can you discover some new horrible problem with the internet than you ought to figure out that it’s been going on for years?

The internet is no longer the domain (pun intended) of a single entity or country, or body, it’s a living breathing organism, made up of billions of nodes and housed in equally as many locations, it’s a global device, there’s just no simple controls any more.  And there’s been nothing like it before either.

And so when something as seemingly straightforward as content access rears its head lets apply the above reasoning. It’s already been happening for years and there are no simple controls.

Let that sink in for a moment and dissect.

Happening for years.

No simple controls.

First off I’ll insult a whole peer group – shame on you parents of the world for letting your kids have access to something that’s simply not censored in any way shape or form, and that has been the case since the beginning – it’s the case here that ignorance is no excuse, a pertinent point when it comes to the hardest job in the world, being a parent.

A very simple test that I’ve employed for as long as I’ve been working with the internet is to use the “girls name” test.  I recall back in the 90s when testing the content management system for a local school – a system that was supplied by a well-known company at a significant cost (I mean local education’s budgets right?) – a top-level system designed to prevent pupils from accessing anything bad.

So open up a browser, find a search engine (the much missed Euroferret if memory serves) and perform a simple search for a girls name.  Go on, purely for research purposes try it.  Works every time. I mean sure, there’s more stuff on the internet now then there used to be, so you have to go through a couple of pages as there’s more Jennys and Catherines and Kates out there but the point is that a search as benign as a name brings up content unbecoming.

That being the case just how easy is it going to be to properly censor the Internet for the good of the kids?

Exactly.

Back to my liberal beating on parents.  In my humble opinion it should be treated in the same way as watching movies.  I can purchase all sorts of gruesome stuff and if I’m not mindful that my kids have found my copy of “Murder Death Kill Gore 7” and popped it into the DVD player they’re going to learn some new playground moves.

So I self-censor in my own situation, it’s really easy for me in any case.  I use a PC to watch TV and movies, so the children (at the moment in any case) don’t know how to; turn on the PC, load a DVD, load the software to play the DVD.  It’s a bit on the lazy side, but I know that right now they simply can’t access anything. It’s the same deal with the internet, no devices in their bedrooms and when they do do stuff online we monitor it.  I know, very dickensian right?  But safe.

Now, back to the matter in hand – how to restrict the content that’s delivered to our precious children?  What’s the simplest way to do this?  Prove your age?  Oh yeah, enter in your credit card details?  How many things are wrong about that idea?  Hand over your credit card details not for purchasing but just proof of age.  Would YOU be happy about doing that?  Any of these so-called experts heard of Data Protection, or PCI Compliance???

Some of these purveyors of questionable material don’t exist as entities, some are just like a travelling circus, content passed along via various servers and across borders, it simply doesn’t work like traditional corporations, the appearance of some huge content providers can be made by an 18-year old sat in their bedroom.

You can’t enforce a set of rules in such an environment any more than you can successfully censor the entirety of the internet, countries (and search providers) have tried and the populous just runs off to proxy services and the like.

Is it really going to be worth conducting an in-depth investigation into this?  How much money and time will be spent coming up with some unworkable solution that will only be partly deployed in the end?  Should we not all be looking at common sense solutions?

All this talk of parents not knowing what their kids get up to in their bedrooms?  It’s kind of right in front of our noses really, common sense it used to be called back in the day, we just need to use those meat sacks we carry around in our skulls and figure a way to sort this out that brings the onus back to the parents.  I’ll throw something together – I’ll just add it to the list!

Next one will be more positive, promise!

What’s so good about Cornwall?

You know I write a lot of stuff in this blog that represents an; occasionally sideways but pretty much always negative view on the IT industry in Cornwall, and I think I’m qualified to write in that way – I have carved out my career thus far in the county and struggled on through lean times and adversity all the while fighting the good fight in the name of what?  Personal fulfilment, some vague hope that I’m, in some way, working for the betterment of all IT in Cornwall, perhaps just because that’s the way I’ve been taught it should be?

It’s tough to not give up entirely and become all bitter and twisted as the good intentions on that score have tried their utmost to erode away……..

Hang on…..delete delete delete!  I rambled on far too long there spouting heroic undertones that all IT Managers have to undertake, but no, this is intended to be a positive post, I promise!  Sure, we all face challenges in our jobs – mine might not be all that different to yours…..

But as a county Cornwall still waits to play catch up.  I was in (or rather out and about) when the big society change hit the first time – the two final remote bastions of the UK IT wasteland; Scotland and Cornwall were struggling to hold out, and then the northmen were defeated, finally modern thinking arrived and with it a deeper understanding of the IT function and its role in the commercial entity.

And so we sat and waited for the £300 a day contracts to roll in to the South, and commercial acceptance, to really move our industry forward, out from under the protective parenting of the Accounting departments and part-time management and muddled thinking that the IT Department was simply a place that ordered the ink cartridges.

Only it didn’t come.

I recall when the shift occurred in Scotland, and honestly it’s really not just a money thing, there were some seriously large innovation projects and progressive forward momentum, investment and perhaps more importantly understanding – the commercial sector started to get IT and get it right.  The remuneration bit was a natural evolution, I suppose initially set to attract in experts from elsewhere but slowly bleeding out to the general workforce.

It was a widely held thought in Cornwall (certainly amongst my peers in any case) that we’d be next but a lot of water has flowed under the bridge since then and the whole landscape remains fractured and collectively little progress seems to have been made.

Why is that?  I mean it’s not like we’re a million miles behind, and looking at some of the stuff going on there are signs, there’s some good noises coming out of parts of the county and some innovative and progressive start-ups plying their trade, but boy are there some stinkers too!  And so we appear to remain to preserve of the garden shed industry – and herein lies, I think, one of the biggest parts of the problem.

The work ethic.

You can almost see the parallels to the old school miners – you know, those old Cornish guys who travelled the world over taking their skill to the mines of the world.  They had grit and determination, and you can still see it now commercially.

The only problem is that lost in the determination is the need to engage in joined up working – the concept that everyone pulling together as one is what’s required, yes, I’m actually suggesting that individual work ethic is part of the problem.

Quantify it?  Sure.  Consider twenty employees all working away in silos (remember them?) – three are stars and the rest, well we don’t work with the rest do we?  So the stars crack on, head down, pushing forward whilst the others lose ground. Now.  Would you rather have all twenty moving forward at a more measured pace, progress individually might be slower but collectively……

And this is what we have here in Cornwall.  We have conscience and we have persistence and we have the desire to do good – but it’s still raw and it needs nurturing and more importantly an investment of attention and time as well as a plan.  It needs organisation it needs investment it needs infrastructure (yes BT, I’m looking at you!)

And this……this is where the managers come in!