Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Why I sweat the small things....

While I am not quite a "Monk", I do tend to pay attention closely to the small things; in life, with technology and systems, with operations and logistics.

It's one of the things that makes me very good at my job, and drives Lavie crazy.

While she can remember just about everyone she went to school with since kindergarten, I can remember just about six or seven folks. I'm terrible with names, and not much better with faces. But ask me to recall a registry key setting, or where every Exxon gas station is in town, or where Alvis last tossed a particular belt in the house, and I can probably tell you. It's a blessing and a curse.

At work this pays off well in writing documentation and technical process descriptions. Contingency plan development is another area that I am strong in. Where the Boy Scout motto is "Be Prepared," for some reason my motto seems to be "Be Prepared, with a supportable answer."

Paying attention to the details when working with technology systems and computers is very important. If the integrity of a network or computer has been compromised, the damage to self and others (not to mention the data represented) can carry a terrible cost.

That's one reason why I spend so much time focusing on trying to provide reliable home-user security tips to others. It's not so much that I think I'm some expert or anything, there are others who know tons more that I do regarding network and system security, it's just that for many pc users, it can be very difficult getting good information out of those experts and figuring out how easily apply it to their systems.

Give me a system, and with the tools I use, I can usually tell pretty well if something "malicious" is going on. In many cases I can restore its integrity. Sometimes I cannot and to do so, will recommend (or require) a restoration of the operating system from scratch. That just may be one of those things needed to bring back trust to a system.

In "real-life" this attention to detail can have benefits as well.

Catastrophic Failure Denied...

For instance, over the last four days or so I began to notice a very tiny "shimmy" in my steering. It seemed to get a bit more pronounced over 30mph. But it was only noticeable when I drove with one hand on the steering wheel.

For the first two days I thought that it was just because I had a bit too much air in the tires and I was getting more road-feedback than usual.

On day three I decided I was going crazy and "Monking out" again, it was so slight I was kidding myself.

Yesterday on the way to and from work I decided that the "shimmy" must really be happening and that I likely tossed a wheel balancing weight, causing the slight wobble in the steering.

I checked out the tires and rims and thought I saw where it looked like the adhesive remained from a flat "stick-on" counter-balance weight remained on one of the rims.

So I took it into my tire-shop for a re-spin and balance.

Imagine my surprise when they told me that it wasn't a balance issue at all.

One of my front tires had began to have the outer tread-belt separate from the core; in multiple places! Yowsers!

I asked to take a look and on the inside edge of the affected tire, the failure was quite visible...and frightening. It would have been very hard to spot while the tire was mounted on the axle...obviously I didn't see it earlier. The tire shop manager said it was a defective tire. Sounds good to me based on what I observed.

I shudder to think what the consequences of ignoring that very slight "wobble" might have been while speeding down one of our freeways at 70mph had the tire picked that moment to catastrophically fail.

They other tire had sufficient tread-life on it, but I decided to replace it anyway as well. I got the same brand/model (again). So I now have the two almost-new tires on the rear that I had purchased about 6-months ago, and the two brand-new ones on the front. (Being a detail freak, I hate the thought of having a mismatched set of tires on my car.)

I will be going with a different make/model tire when these four are worn down. I had bought a set of Yokohama's for Lavie's car over a year ago and I positively love them. They feel and handle beautifully...unfortunately when I got hers, they didn't come in a size that would have fit the stock rims on my Saturn and I didn't want to get new rims. Maybe I'll get lucky next time.

So, because I pay close attention to how my car feels, drives, sounds and performs, I was able to pick up a slight "odd" feeling that just seemed out of place. I (eventually) went with my hunch and investigated it further. That probably saved my life and others sharing the road with me.

Taking care of your computer is not much different. If something starts acting funny, sluggish, or just seems off, stop and take a look at what is going on. Run some tests and try to pinpoint the issue. Trust your hunches...no matter how small. If something doesn't look right, don't keep on blindly clicking on!

If you can't figure it out but still have that same feeling, go ask an expert.

Who knows what catastrophe you might avert?

Do me a favor...

And while we're on it, please do me a favor and check all the tires on your vehicles this weekend. Make sure they are inflated properly according to your car owner's manual or the tire inflation sticker on the frame/glovebox/wherever.

Don't be shy, carefully crawl around them and feel the edges, especially the inside and make sure they are wearing evenly and feel normal. Turn the steering wheel all the way to the left and visually inspect the inside edges, then turn it full-stop to the right and check them again. If something looks or feels off, take it in to be looked at. Most tire places will inspect them for free. All tires have wear-bars built into them. If the tread surface has reached the wear-bar, replace them.

A periodic tire inspection shouldn't take more than a few minutes to do, and it just might save our lives.

Thank you kindly.

This public service message reminder has been brought to you by Claus.

1 comment:

David said...

Read this, followed up with a buddy who'd mentioned that his computer was behaving a bit oddly, and avoided a security problem on a "secure" network. Good call on that attention to detail.