Don’t Forget to Have Fun With Your Technology!

I count myself among the lucky folks who absolutely love their day jobs. It helps to have a great chain of command, a solid organizational technology foundation to operate from, and some really great (and intelligent) coworkers. But all of those trappings are just bonuses- the real, deep satisfaction comes from geeking out, designing and building networks, researching and recommending solutions, solving problems, learning something every day, etc.

Being immersed in technology brings fulfillment that you either understand, or you don’t. Most of you reading this likely get it.

But when you’re an addict, you always gotta have more. For me, networking is wonderful business- but I also need to do amateur radio and listen to scanners and strain my ears and receivers to hear far-off, arcane aeronautical beacons (nothing whatsoever to do with iBeacons, though some could argue they have a lot in common to the imaginative mind). I have a need to blog, to talk about the good and bad of technology as I see it with anyone willing to engage. Some of my best fun came when I wrote the bi-weekly hobby radio column for the local paper for around five years. Lately, I’ve added another dimension to my technology mania, and it’s proving to be as enjoyable as I hoped it would be.

I’m doing a technology series for my local community, covering these topics:

  • The dangers of public and unknown Wi-Fi
  • Alternatives to Cable TV
  • How to set up your own home network for optimal performance and security
  • The many things you can do with mobile/portable devices beyond Internet and email

Being a long-time professional instructor, I’m having a great time putting the 2-hour sessions together. I have them chock full of demonstrations, and the conversations and reactions to the topics are wonderful. I’m guessing at least 2 hours goes into prep time for each session, and my wife is giving me “that look” as I scurry around the house with a maniacal grin, popping up different test demos before I call each session “ready”.

Here’s a bit more on each topic, as I’m doing them:

  • Dangers of Public/Unknown Wi-Fi: Talking about Social Wi-Fi, how “Engagement” is a double-edged sword. Using the Pineapple in live disussions to show Karma, Randomroll, and Occupineapple as examples of how easy it is to distort perceptions of reality, then SSL Strip to harvest credentials.
  • Cut the Cord! Showing the finer points of OTA reception, with emphasis on the importance of the antenna- using both a TV and a USB TV-tuner stick with Windows Media Center. Then showing all the stuff you can get over the Internet for free (Crackle, YouTube) and the paid offerings like Netflix/Amazon Prime with Chromecast and Firestick Dongles, in live demonstrations.
  • Setting your network up the right way: Setting up a SOHO router with best practices like changing defaults, disabling unused services, finding the best non-overlapping channel, etc. Talk about router placement, how to overcome weak signals in big houses, etc. Discuss interference sources, and the yin and yang of letting visitors onto your home Wi-Fi.
  • Fun stuff to do with your devices: From scanner apps (both kinds- listening to Emergency Comms and scanning documents to PDF) to Geocaching to tracking aircraft live with a $20 dongle to Internet radio, we cover a lot of ground here. I’ve found that many people simply don’t know how multi-dimensional (both online and offline) their devices can be until someone shows them a taste.

For the folks attending, they get a cheap, interesting night out. I have no doubt they are learning a little something along the way. For me, I get to conceive the “curriculum”, put the demos together, challenge myself under the spotlight of dozens of live demos, and basically lug around a bunch of gadgets to play with and talk with people about.

This was a bit of an experiment when I dreamed it up, and now that I’m into it, I’m glad I took the chance in getting buy-in from the local community council. It’s thoroughly fun, and it’s a different way to enjoy a lot of the technology I’m that enamored with. And… I get to hang out with local residents that are at least curious, if not as into it as I am.

I highly recommend doing something like this at least once- give back a little of what you know, and have fun doing it.

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