Category Archives: Featured

UK.plc on the brink of something wonderful?

Being myself a product of the British Educational System, and having followed a fairly conventional path in to my current career, I have long felt a substantial frustration with the direction of our current higher educational system.

I am of course talking primarily about the prevalence of “Hairdressing”, “Media Studies”, “Photography”, and “Tying your Shoelaces” courses which seem to be so popular with the modern youth.  Coupled with this has been a somewhat backwards attitude towards Computing and IT qualifications, or “ICT”.  Thinking back to when I graduated some 15 plus years ago now, some of the available  courses were somewhat out-of-touch with the marketplace, teaching obsolete programming languages (COBOL) and disciplines such as JSP which the real world had left behind.  For the first two years after graduation, I sept unlearning, or more specifically relearning what I actually needed to have a real career in Computing and IT, but to be fair, despite teaching  obsolete topics, the courses had equipped me with the basic approach and knowledge I needed to apply to any language or discipline that I required.  Indeed it would be foolish to assume that I would be programming in COBOL or PASCAL for the remainder of my programming days, knowing how the market was going to evolve in unknown directions.

The Technology sector is the industry in which I work, so I have a huge vested interest in caring about the direction it takes.  For me it is the future, it is replacing many of the White collar types of work our Parents could or would have done in their lifetimes, and it has the potential to become  the new  wealth creating sector of the economy, since it’s evident we just cannot compete in Manufacturing, and have exhausted most of our Raw Materials already.   In my estimation this makes it so vitally important for our economy, even for those that have no interest in working within that sector.

For me then, the Educational System has let the Technology sector down badly for the last ten years or more.   Many people don’t seem to have much of a clue about the difference between Computing and IT, or “Information Technology” to give it it’s full title.   For me, IT is about using the modern tools available to do a job.  It’s not specifically about that £500 PC or £1000 laptop sitting in front of you, but it’s you being able to use that piece of equipment to help you complete a task of some sort;  in the same way Screwdrivers, Paintbrushes, Spanners, and Shorthand might have been to support other professions.

If we are honest, in recent years this has translated in to needing to be able to use a Mouse and Keyboard, to navigate Windows, MS Office, and yes, even to know how to use popular Office suites such as MS Office, or perhaps using a Tablet or Smartphone.   It is absolutely vital that this particular facet remains current and aligned to market trends.   The downside of this in the last 5 years or so has meant knowing the Microsoft Product suite, Excel, Powerpoint, Access, and Word specifically.   Of course in order to do all of that, you don’t need to understand much about how a computer works, or why it does what it does;  No knowledge is needed of Binary, of Electronics, although a high level knowledge of Computer components would probably be useful.   All of these skills will be handy for just about any student of any discipline these days.  In much the same way as English and Maths are part of a standard curriculum, so I believe Information Technology should also be included as standard, and probably in the first 2-3 years of Secondary Education (I believe they call it Years 7-9 these days!).    I know “Graduates” of a Higher level Computer Programming course that think programming is using Visual Basic for Applications within Access or Excel, when in my estimation this is “just” a tool (and admittedly a fairly sophisticated skill to possess) to do a job which ought to be a product of the Information Techology arena.

Contrast this with a Computing course, or more correctly titled a course in Computer Architecture or Computer Programming, which clearly would require a much lower level of detail around how computers work, and why they do what they do;  Perhaps a missing element in Networking could be folded in to the Architecture section?   In any case, out of this fundamental knowledge of Computer Architecture grows a necessary understanding of Operating System concepts, which in turn grows in to API’s and programming languages that may or may not be platform specific.

I have recruited and interviewed staff several times during my career to date, and each time I’ve found it necessary to explore just what content the Computing courses a candidate has on his CV actually contained, and from that establish whether the basic level of required knowledge is there.  In the Networks space, it’s quite astounding to see how few people in IT actually have a grasp of how the Internet works, and how applications could be exploited over the Network if not written properly.

So, enough moaning, Why are we on the brink of something wonderful?

Two reasons…. Firstly a Slice of Pi.

Raspberry Pi Logo

The Raspberry Pi is a fantastic concept which has been long missing in the marketplace.  It is a simple, and cheap (not just cost effective) solution for providing Computing Power and technology.   It literally costs about $30 to produce, and the Raspberry Pi Foundation does not aim to turn a profit, so this is loosely the price to you as an end user.  In exchange you don’t get a finished product nicely cased with lots of glossy instruction manuals;  Instead you get a completed PCB slightly larger than a credit card, but probably smaller than the smartphone in your pocket, with a Media Card Reader slot, a couple of USB ports and a Network interface, and an HDMI Out so you can plug it in to a modern TV to use, and not much else!    No PSU, no Keyboard/Mouse, and no Operating System is provided;  instead you have to use another PC to write the Open Source OS on to a Media Card, and then plugging a USB keyboard & mouse in and away you go!

Currently most of the available OS’es are Linux based, but I expect this will change over time.  The Pi uses an ARM processor based on a Broadcom System-on-a-Chip, and has a limiting 256Mb of RAM, but again this costs $30  (or ~ £30 for us Brits).

What an amazing Catalyst for learning the Pi could be!  Providing cheap, accessible, programmable computers everywhere!  It’s aimed at the Educational sector, and it fits in so well with my vision of a Computing course it’s astounding.  It could be used to learn Web programming!  Several of the currently available OS distros can support a LAMP (Linux, Apache, Mysql, & PHP) stack, and of course it facilitates a clear understanding of the system architecture and indeed it’s limitations play to this as well, having to write code that performs well and within the capabilities of the Smart Card based Storage and 256Mb of RAM.

Other options are of course there too, with C and Pascal compilers, Basic compilers/interpreters, and so many possibilities it’s incredible.  The Pi doesn’t lack for processing power either, it’s capable of outputting an HD picture to a TV and decoding video at 720P resolution on your HDTV, or even playing Quake.

So, if you are a parent with a curious youngster, I strongly suggest you think about investing in one!  It’s not going to replace your family PC, at least not yet, but what better way for both you and your children to learn together about Computers?  And it doesn’t stop there either;  Schools adopting the Pi in to the curriculum could develop Craft Design Technology (or whatever they call it these days!) sessions around making cases for the Pi, and so much more!

The second reason dovetails neatly in to the Slice of Pi.  If Pi helps shape the Computing aspect of Technology Educational needs, then the Governments’ brave decision to effectively scrap the current ICT curriculum in January this year, and to invite dialogue with the Technology Industry on developing a replacement has kindly facilitated the other missing part of my vision.

The so called “Microsoft GCSE” has the potential to deliver Students with real skills in modern technology solutions out to the workforce in a few years time.  If at 16 or 18 a student had the ability to write applications for a modern Windows PC using Visual Studio, or to interface with and control a SmartPhone, or even produce Apps for that SmartPhone, then the system has done it’s job, and will be producing worthy candidates once more.

I know that other vendor entities including Cisco have been engaged in discussion over the future curriculum too, (see here), perversely the Government has even been criticised for perhaps listening too closely to the vendors, but at the end of the day it’s Vendors like Cisco, Microsoft, and the Raspberry Pi Foundation that are going to be leading the market in all sorts of directions over the next 5-10 years, so why should we not pay close heed to their needs?

If all of this happens as I sincerely hope it will, UK.plc has the potential in years to come to retake the worldwide lead in the Technology market, and to turn out some of the most supremely and more importantly usefully qualified students which will go on to lead our economy who knows where!  This is something which we’ve been fighting to do for years now in the face of strong competition from Asia and the Pacific.

This is all my own opinion and perspective, and of course it’s possible I’ve got it all wrong, and my Vision is naught but ideas in my head.  I sincerely hope not, but all the same it makes me feel like we’re on the brink of a whole new journey now, so let’s make the most of it together, and see where it takes us!

(I am currently in a waiting list to get my own Raspberry Pi).

New Gadget!

Ok, so my old trusty Acer laptop finally gave up the ghost, with some very odd distortion on the screen meaning everything was either psychedelic green or pink!  It’d done me a good turn, and it surprised me when I sat to think about how long I’d had it, and the “designed for Windows XP” sticker proudly on the front really should have given me a slap in the face.   Still, having survived at least one HDD and RAM upgrade, and two OS upgrades, to Vista and then to Win7, it really didn’t owe me anything.

I thought long and hard about what to go for;  Did I want a really powerful desktop replacement style laptop, with a Core i7 and all the whistles and bells, or a fast & light Ultrabook?

In the end I opted for the Asus N55S, which is a really beautiful piece of kit.  I can’t seem to find one that matches my spec exactly on line.

 

Specs are: Intel Core i5 2430M v2.4Ghz CPU, 6Gb RAM, 6x Blu-ray Reader/Writer, 500Gb HDD, Nvidia Geforce 635M GT Graphics with 2Gb dedicated VRAM, USB 3.0 Ports,  & Built in Bang & Olufsen ICEPower Sound System (with separate Subwoofer).

 

Overall this is one very sweet laptop.  It’s powerful enough to act as a desktop replacement for when I’m out and about.  It’s not an ultrabook by any means, being fairly large and weighty, but that doesn’t bother me too much.

Here’s the intro Video so you can see for yourself!

I can thoroughly recommend it!

Egypt 2011

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Egypt 2011, a set on Flickr.

Here’s a selection of the 900 odd Photos I took in Egypt.

Customer Service

I’ve seen examples of both Amazing/Excellent Customer Service, and pretty piss poor couldn’t-care-less Customer Service in the last 24 hours.

My DART Tag

Starting with the negative first, earlier this week I had cause to travel through the Dartford Toll Crossing twice. As a reasonably regular traveler of that route in the past, I long ago invested in a “DART-TAG” to make my life easier, and to save a few pennies.  What SHOULD happen is that as you approach the toll barrier, the equipment there somehow senses the presence of your tag, and so just debits the charge to your account.  In most cases you don’t even have to stop, the barrier is sensitive enough and quick enough for you to just slowly drive on through.  The Tag usually emits a loud “bleep” to indicate it’s been recognised, and you get a nice friendly message saying that the toll had been paid (or your credit was low of course!).  But this time, when I tried it on the way “out” this week, NOTHING HAPPENED.

No Bleep.  No nice friendly message, and most importantly NO ACCESS through the barrier.   And of course the car behind me was right up behind me, meaning I couldn’t reverse to reach the machine’s coin catcher if I wanted to.

I had to go rummaging around in the loose change in my pockets, and rolling about in the car trying to find enough change to pay my toll.  I could see the people in the car behind me getting impatient and exasperated, and then I had to sort of wriggle out of the window and reach over my shoulder and behind me to get the money in the machine.

The return journey was a similar experience, only I was prepared for the eventuality that it might not work and had the cash ready to use.

So as you might expect, I looked at the Tag Website to see what if anything was said about a Tag not responding, and there was nothing.  The “FAQ” seemed quite laughable in actual fact, when you consider the number of tags that must be out there (mine is numbered well in to the hundreds of thousands) it is not outside the realms of possibility that they might just stop working every so often, for whatever reason.   Simply NOT having a “What do I do if my tag doesn’t work” in the FAQ doesn’t really make me think that it’s a wholly reliable solution that never goes wrong, merely that the operators of the service are too short sighted to realise that this is EXACTLY the sort of thing an FAQ might actually be Helpful with.   Instead I resorted to the “for any other enquiries please e-mail xxxxxx” option, seeing as the published telephone numbers all seemingly close at 5.30pm!

Anyway, to my disappointment, it’s been over 24 hours now, and I’ve not so much as had an acknowledgement of my e-mail, let alone an answer to my problem.   If I’d have been traveling through the Crossing again today, it would have cost me £1.50 each way instead of £1 each way with the tag, so I’d have lost more money.  I therefore hold this up as a classic example of (1) how to NOT help your customers via your Service Website, and (2) how to NOT help your customers by responding in a timely manner.  There’s nothing for it but to label this as  BAD CUSTOMER SERVICE.

And then the positive.

I was gutted today to discover when I picked my Kindle up intending to use it, that the screen appears to have broken.

My rather broken Kindle

I can genuinely say that I’ve not dropped it, smacked it, or anything else.  Indeed you can see the plastic surround is pristine and undamaged, as is the surface of the screen itself.   I keep it in a purpose made leather wallet which is also totally undamaged.   When transporting it, I tend to put it in my baggage right next to my iPad which is also absolutely fine, so I have absolutely no idea how this damage occured.

Unfortunately it renders the Kindle quite unusable.  The top/right hand part of the screen stubbornly displays the last “advert” it displayed in Sleep mode before I turned it on, and the bottom/left part of the screen works more or less as normal.

So I called Amazon using the “call me back” facility on the Website.   I bought the Kindle back in March this year, from my local Tesco.  I had Googled “Kindle Repairs” and come up fairly short, so really wanted to ask Amazon if they could offer or recommend a repair service.  However I was astounded by what happened next.

I explained what I’d found, and how I couldn’t explain how the damage had occured, and before I could ask my questions, the operator started asking me a few other things.  When did I purchase the unit?  I wasn’t totally sure, maybe as long as 6 months ago from Tesco, I hadn’t bought it from Amazon.co.uk directly.  No, to the best of my knowledge it hadn’t been dropped, or squashed, or exposed to water.  Yes, I had tried the “cold reset” facility.    Ok then, in that case they’ll dispatch a replacement today on next-day delivery, please send the old one back in the next 30 days.

I was astounded.    Given my honesty and sheer puzzlement over what could have caused the damage, I certainly wasn’t angling for a free replacement.  I was expecting to have to pay for a repair or even replace it at my own expense.   Never did I expect a replacement to be sent out just like that.   No “proof of purchase” required, no quibbles, or messing about.  Just a straight replacement, and I hadn’t even asked!

Of course I wasn’t going to turn it down, so I went from being quite angry and annoyed with the prospect of spending another £150 on a replacement Kindle to elated and overjoyed that I’d be getting a Free Replacement (and a postage-paid label to return my old broken one with!) the very next day.

That in my estimation is going above and beyond the requirements of Acceptable Customer Service in to the realms of the Exceptional.  Well done indeed Amazon.co.uk, you have one very happy customer here!

 

Finally!

After what seems like an eternity, my new car is here!

My Vauxhall Insignia Elite Sports Tourer

It’s rather nice to drive, positively gliding along the Dual Carriageways. I’m glad I went for this rather than the Ford Mondeo Estate. Visibility in this seems far better than in the 5-door hatchback I tested.

We haven’t tried Tinker in the back yet, that’s a job for the weekend and two people, as the Automatic Tailgate might be slightly confusing and unsettling for him for the first few uses.  The Interior looks quite elegant compared to the older cars I’ve driven:

Insignia Interior

Insignia Interior - closeup of Central console

Insignia Interior - Dashboard


I initially had a problem using the USB port with a USB Memory Stick. Aside from the fact that it needs to be a fairly short stick to prevent it being hit by the centre console armrest when it’s folded down, it seemed to insist on playing the files in a strange order. Not a major problem for Music, but something of an inconvenience when listening to an Audiobook! I haven’t yet tried it with my iPhone, so that’s something else to put on the list of things to do!

More photos and feedback to follow in due course!

An Unfulfilled Quest

I wrote a few days ago about my interest in a Fuji Finepix XP30 camera.  I wanted it specifically because of it’s underwater ability, and the dustproof/shockproof characteristics would come in handy for my grand holiday later in the year.

However, I’ve been dissapointed, and in retrospect I’m actually glad.

I went ahead and ordered the Camera from Amazon, together with a “Pro” class 16Gb SDHC card for it.  Unfortunately the day it was due to be delivered I was out of the office at a certain Football Stadium.  When I returned and found no parcel waiting on my desk, I contacted Amazon who confirmed that “Home Delivery Network” had put it through the letterbox at 9.02am, and hadn’t obtained a signature.

The only problem being there IS no letterbox at my work address!   Needless to say I contacted Amazon who went off to investigate.  They later confirmed that something had gone awry with the order, and were good enough to re-order both the camera and the memory card for me at no cost.   But the story doesn’t end there!  Of course the Camera itself is out of stock at Amazon now, and the only options are more expensive.  Amazon will be re-stocking but in 3-4 weeks time.

So I’ve been looking around for alternatives.  And having read through in more detail the reviews for the XP30, both at Amazon and elsewhere, I’ve phoned back and cancelled the Camera, and requested a refund.

There are a few alternatives out there, including the Canon PowerShot D10 (12.1 MP, 3.0x, 2.5″ LCD), or the Pentax Optio WG-1 (14MP, 5 x Wide Angle Zoom, 2.7″ LCD), the Panasonic Lumix FT3 (12.1MP, 4.6x Zoom) or the Olympus TG-310 (14MP, 3.6x Wide Angle Zoom, 2.7″ LCD)

I’m not sure which to look at, the Canon and the Pentax both have much better write-ups, and both come in at about the £220 mark.  While that’s a fair amount more than the Fuji XP30, it’s not unreasonable.  The Pentax appears to have the best specifications of the two.

I don’t expect this to be a fantastic camera, but I do want to be able to take it underwater.  The dustproof & shockproof nature also have some appeal given where I’ll be taking it.

Anyone out there have any experience with cameras like this and able to offer any suggestions?

Vehicular Visions

I’ve been looking thru my old photographs, and have been reminiscing about the cars I’ve had over the years.

Prompted mostly by the news that my New car will be delivered next week, I’ve found some pictures of the recent cars I’ve driven/owned in recent years

My first car was a dented old Black 1984 “B” registration Ford Sierra “Laser”. This was a 1.6 Petrol car, and once I had it running well it performed pretty nicely. I actually sold it for about what I paid from it, having driven it in to the ground while I was learning to drive and it’s rusty bodywork was threatening to let it down at it’s next MOT test.

The replacement was a White 1988 “E” reg Austin Maestro. This one was a 1.3 ltr Petrol and was nothing but trouble after I bought it. It had heating problems, Electrical Problems, Clutch problems, and eventually needed a new engine which cost nearly as much as the car! After about 2 years of driving it I became totally fed up with it being so unreliable so I traded it in against a “nicer” more modern car.

No photos of either of these two, but being the Geek that I am, I have photos of the cars ever since.

Next came the 1995 “M” registration Vauxhall Astra. This was the first car that I chose based on what I would like rather than what I could afford or get my hands on.

I took the photo to help me with selling the car;  Unnecessarily as it turned out.  But then I decided I wanted a photo of the replacement, and it’s sort of become a habit to take a photo of the car!

My 1995 Vauxhall Astra just before sale

I actually kept this car for about 7 years, having paid about £6,500 for it when it only had 6,500 miles or thereabouts on the clock. I loved it’s little 1.4i Hi-Torq engine which could leave a 1.6 ltr ford standing and give a 1.8ltr a damn good run for it’s money. This one suited me because it was 3-door and looked a little sporty even though it wasn’t really. It saw me through one fairly serious prang, and by the time I sold it, it had nearly 90,000 on the clock.

The Astra was eventually replaced by my first Company car; A 2005 “05” registration 130Bhp Vauxhall Vectra 1.9CDTi SXI Diesel.

My First Vauxhall Vectra (2005)

I drove this for the requisite 3 years plus a couple of months before it was replaced by the next Vectra.

My current car is a 2008 “08” registration 1.9CDTi “Design” 150Bhp which had a few more whistles and bells, but the interior felt somewhat more plasticky and not as high standard as the previous Vectra, despite being a better model. This one had partial leather seats, which got really REALLY hot in the sunny weather. It had a squeaky drivers seat that has plagued me from Day One for the last three and a bit years, so in some ways I won’t be sorry to see it go.

It looks rather dirty in this picture, courtesy of some Seagulls, and some hot and dusty days just after downpourings of rain!

My 2008 Vauxhall Vectra "Design"

It performs well, and has great acceleration and handling, but the feel and creaky noises from the plastic fixtures and fittings, not to mention the squeaky chair make me feel the build standards took a nosedive when this one was made.

Here’s hoping the forthcoming new arrival will be significantly better!  Rest assured either way I’ll be mentioning my thoughts here!

Gadget Alert: Fuji Finepix XP30

I first noticed this gadget on the TV. Adverts featuring a Bungee Jumping guy who “catches” a camera in mid air, who then plunges underwater may be an amusing idea for an advert, but if the camera lives up to it’s hype then it has piqued my interest.

Fuji Finepix XP30

I’m off on a “big” holiday to Egypt later on this year, and I’m definitely interested in a pocket-camera that I could take underwater, or not have to worry too much about getting dusty etc. In previous years at Centerparcs we’ve purchased some of those single-use underwater film cameras they sold for splashing about in the pool with, so the idea of a reusable digital camera that works underwater is very interesting indeed.

I’m still undecided if I’m going to take my DSLR and a selection of lenses with me. I want to, and know that if I don’t I’ll most likely regret it forever after, but it’s a lot to carry around and will eat up the baggage allowance quite considerably! But of course that one isn’t a waterproof, dustproof, freeze-proof, drop-proof affair, the XP30 is (or at least so it claims).

Some of the reviews I’ve read of it are quite critical of the picture quality, but I’m not especially concerned about a high quality image from a cheap £115 camera.  It’s available in a number of different tacky colours if you’re interested!

So I’m still pondering whether to make the investment, or if I should leave it until nearer the time before we go.  If you or anyone you know has any experience with this little gadget, please let me have your thoughts!

What’s in my Toolbox?

Prompted by some fellow Networksy types, (Jeff and Jeremy), who’s recent entries on the contents of their toolbags I found extremely interesting;  I thought I’d go through mine as I have a few unusual items!

Starting with the fairly standard stuff:

Wire Strippers

Good old fashioned and simple wire strippers.  These ones have an adjustable lock to stop you stripping too much cable unintentionally.

RJ45 Crimping Tool

Then of course the RJ45 Crimps.  Nothing too fancy, just cheap and practical.  I have never needed to crimp an RJ-11, so all I need are RJ-45 ones.

RJ45-DB9 and RJ45-DB25 Console Cables

A standard set of Cisco Console cables;  I tend to have a couple of brand new ones as well as tried and tested ones in the box, as I often end up leaving them behind attached to “core” devices, so there’s at least one on any site that we touch.

A Krone Tool, or Punchdown Tool

A good old Krone punchdown tool.  My old and trusty one is starting to be a bit tempramental now when it comes to cutting the wires, so I’ve recently added a new one which has yet to be christened.  Fortunately I don’t need these THAT often!

Cage Nut Tools

The quite rare and exceedingly valuable lesser spotted Cage-Nut Tool. I try to keep hold of these as they have a tendancy to vanish from my toolbox when other engineers realise what they are and how useful they can be! Most decent brands of Rack seem to come with one, so I’m not sure quite how they are so rare. Maybe they live under datacentre floors along with the cage nut eating mice?

Cage Nuts and Velcro Ties

Some Cage Nuts/Bolts, and some Velcro ties, have to try and keep things nice and neat now! 🙂

Multi Tool

This one is a relatively new2 addition, a freebie I picked up at Infosec this year, but it replaces a rather worn and similar one.

RJ45/Cat5e Couplers

I usually keep a handful of these Couplers at the ready.  I’ve used them for all sorts of strange purposes over the years.  Everything from extending Cisco Console Cables for those REALLY hard to reach devices, to temporarily connecting cables in lieu of an IP Phone with a built-in Switch.

Anti Static Wrist Strap

I probably don’t need to explain why these are here, but it’s a good “just in case”.

Baby Cat5e Cables

Always a good standby, but I keep some of these 6″ Cat5e cables, they seem to come in handy all over the place!

A collection of Serial Adapters, Converters and Loops

A mixture of Adapters, Gender Benders, Modem Eliminators, RJ45-RS232 adapters, and Loop Tools.

Now on to the slightly more interesting stuff!

Not sure what this is called!

I’m not sure what this is called; I managed to pick this up several years ago when doing a project involving opening and unboxing over 1200 new IP Phones which were boxed in boxes of 4.  The sheer quantity of cardboard and the number of boxes to be opened quickly caused fingers to be cut to shreds and fingernails to be damaged, but this really made life so much easier.

USB Memory Stick

I’m always equipped with a USB Memory Stick, simply because my lanyard with my Swipe Card on it has one built in.  This was a Promotional item from a supplier a couple of years ago, and has 1Gb storage, which is plenty for most things I’m likely to need.

Tone Generator and Probe

This one is so valuable when trying to trace cables and find those frustratingly misnumbered !  I stick with this slightly older model because it has both an RJ45 connection, and a set of Croc-Clips for wiring only checks.

A Butt

Not sure if I’ve spelt that one correctly! 🙂  The Butt is becoming less useful these days in the “modern” world of IP Telephony, but it’s still useful to have for tracing Wires and Analogue lines.

My current Cable Tester

A fairly standard Cat5 cable tester.  I haven’t had cause to use the older BNC style cable tester for some time, but this one is a two-part unit for testing local cables or entire cable runs, and will identify Straight Through or Crossover cables.

Short Wave Radio's

I added these some years ago after myself and a colleague were working in a building, one of us in the Patch Panel / Comms Room, and another person at the other end of a cable run.  I actually have a set of four but keep two in my Toolbox and two at home.

Star Drive

An all-in-one unit for most sizes of star type screw, this one is a really useful one to keep handy.

Digital Multimeter

Again an all-purpose tool which has a multiplicity of uses!  I tend to use the conductivity test and Voltage readings most of the time, but it has saved me from a nasty shock on at least one occasion!

Cable Snake Head

This one is in the spirit of keeping things tidy!  I sometimes have cause to use the plastic surround which wraps a bundle of cables in a protective sheath.  This is the special head which is used to apply the covering.  It opens up and is clipped around the cables to be protected, and the sheath slides over the protruding knob.  You then slide the head along the cable while pushing the protective sheath on to the head and hey presto, the cable is all nice and neat and protected.

MiFi and USB Extension Cable

The MiFi is used to get me Internet connectivity in places where corporate network connections are not available, or too slow.  You never know when you’re going to need to download a different IOS image, and if the Network is broken – well you simply have to have an alternative.  It’s often also faster than Hotel Wifi as I can get up to 8Mb all to myself on this, depending on how good the 3G coverage is at the time.   The USB extension cable is used to get to those really hard to reach USB ports from time to time.

Head Light!

Interestingly I note some of my peers keep a Flashlight in their tools;  this is my equivalent.  With an elasticated head fitting, it can go over my head to give me hands free illumination while working.

Cable Clips

I’m not sure where I picked these up, or what their proper purchase is, but they are ideal for temporarily holding some cables “up” together in the back of a rack somewhere.  The metal clips will hook on to all sorts of things, and the Velcro at the bottom keeps the cables secure.

CompactFlash Adapter

Used for connecting directly to the Laptop and transferring stuff straight to/from a CF card before putting it in a Router or Switch.

Special Tool to Factory Reset a certain type of UTM Appliance

This is a specific tool for a certain brand of UTM appliance.  It’s credit card sized but fairly thick with a push-out USB cable head.  Plugging it in to the USB port on an appliance will cause the appliance to reset to it’s factory default, so the ultimate in password reset tools I guess!

Miscellaneous Widgets

And lastly a collection of Miscellaneous Widgets including some Permanent Marker Pens, a collection of Batteries, a standard USB Memory Stick, a Wireless USB Network Adapter, and a GLC-T GBIC.

That’s all.  I’ve not shown the “boring” screwdrivers, or must have label printer etc which are probably an ever present feature of most Network Guys’ toolkits.  My only problem at the moment is that I don’t have a proper “box” to put all the tools in;  I’d like one similar to this Stanley one, but currently this is all in a plastic crate at work which will slide in to the back of the car nice and easily if needed.

So, what’s in your Toolkit?

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