Keeping Up

Being broke and in some ways behind on technical skills go together unhelpfully. Ideally I’d play with the latest stuff, branch out, do a better job of setting up a network and tools at home, and be able to tout what I’d been learning and doing on my own if an interview called for it. I’ve used Linux more than once to recover files from a dying hard drive or for testing, but I have never run a dedicated Linux machine for long, or networked around it, or learned it in depth. Not that this is anything new. Once on a whim I bought a copy of the ill-fated Corel Linux with WordPerfect, but the only machine I felt free to install it on in my old office was a bit too old or unusual for it to support the hardware. Or maybe it was the software package in question. Don’t remember if that was the machine on which I later installed Red Hat. At least Linux distributions are generally free.

Anyway, my primary computer is a single core 3.2 GHz, built just as my economy was crashing as a precursor to the overall economy crashing, out of parts accumulated over the course of more than a year. It has Vista Ultimate. Yeah, I know, though haven’t had much to complain about. My secondary machine was a 1 GHz with Windows 2000. I say “was” because after about ten years I put it aside when the primary hard drive failed. I have not troubleshot it extensively, or tried, for instance, to replace the drive, because that costs money and the rest of the machine is old. I’d still like some of the files off of it, but more than that, I’d like the original drive, as was, with the installed base of software and utilities, as well as documents and data. I was unable to port the several years of e-mail to the Vista machine, and that would have left a gap anyway. For a long time, I continued to use that as my primary, while I surfed the web and played music on the new machine. And used it for backing up data, which helped save me from total loss. I did recently recover a nearly as old machine, a 1.7 GHz with XP Pro and way too little hard drive space, and that is now my secondary. It has some software the newer one lacks. It’s slow and lacks RAM, however, as does my wife’s computer, a 2.4 GHz with XP, which the kids also use. The kids have a P133 with Windows 95, beneficial as it will run the Magic School Bus CDs, but they’ve stopped using it and those, for the most part. There’s too much online. They need something better. She needs better or an upgrade. They both need something they’re not sharing. I need to do more to catch back up with where things are these days, not that it’s changed so much, and to learn new or solidify old things. I also have a room full of junk. Not all junk, but old computer carcasses and parts, mostly too “legacy” to be very useful. Unless you’re talking about DOS games, old software like Magic School Bus, taking someone who lacks my depth back in time to see some of what they missed, or if it ever came down to some computer being better than no computer. Mostly they take up space and present a disposal and “stuff management” problem. Even so, I see one of my items to do in getting back into the tech groove as going through all that. Test the hardware, see what machines work or can be made to work, see what data might need retention, see what might find a home elsewhere, etc.

In the meantime, my brother will be out for one of his twice a year visits, and is bringing me Still More Parts. But not old ones! I should be able to start resolving the computer needs, and again, get back into the groove somewhat. Assuming I ever truly left it. I find I geek out when I am looking at a problem with someone else’s computer, latching on tenaciously and feeling good about myself in a way that slinging package in the wee hours doesn’t quite match.

This post, disjointed though it may be, gets to the heart of the topic of this site. Rebooting myself. Getting skills restored and extended. Figuring out where I am going with that and what else it takes to get there. It’s not necessarily as simple as building and fixing computers, which is generally simple enough. At least for me. It’s picking up the networking skills, some newfangled coding skills, more OS knowledge. If I could go back in time, I might have pursued my fascination with project management avidly enough to have gotten somewhere with it. How do you go from being an unemployed, atrophied geek whose brush with management ended in perceived failure, to getting that kind of position and being a champ at it?

Based on some of my ill-fated interviewing for jobs I didn’t land, the above is a start. Do everything I can to learn and keep up. And if I find it doesn’t interest me so much after all? That might call for a cold reboot. A total reinvention.

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