Sunday, December 29, 2019

Razer Blade Pro 2017

One of the laptops in my house is a Razer Blade Pro. While some may find it a good laptop, I have found it a complete headache. Here's a few of the problems we have had with it.

The first thing to go on the laptop was the batter. It swelled up and bent the case out of shape. After getting that replaced, the next thing to go on the laptop... was the  battery. Yes, it crapped out twice. The second time it was out of warranty, so instead we bought a third party replacement. It never worked quite right as it never fully charges even after calibrating it. After looking around online, this appears to be a common problem. Most people attribute it to the heat.

The laptop itself had been quite buggy, often having issues if you try to take advantage of the 4k screen. Most games had to be ran in HD because 4k would either cause things to crash or just never run. Windows 10 also never really seems to be happy, but that may just be the Windows default nowadays.

Recently the laptop was randomly cutting power. After lots of software tweaking, we noticed that the GPU temperature would shoot up almost instantly the second you launched a game. While I expect an increase in heat, the speed it would ramp up had me worried. So being an IT person, I say take it apart and maybe we will find something with the cooling loose. Right now the laptop is still apart because the design of this thing is terrible.

So first we open it up and everything looks fine, but we can't see much. So I say let's take the motherboard out and flip it over so we can see the heatsink better. Almost done and a piece of plastic comes out. It is the locking piece for a flexible connector. Figure whatever, I'll try to fix that later. Now this thing actually had a lot of these cables and they were small with no tabs to hold to manipulate them. After we get it apart, I realized just how bad it was.

Identifying what was what was a bit difficult, but from what I can tell, the heatsink is limited to the CPU and GPU, however it does not appear to extend to any of the chips. I do not know if there is a distinct north bridge on it, but a large cluster of chips in a position that would make sense for a north bridge are right on a spot where the case would get extremely hot. There was nothing there, not even a passive cooling heatsink. I also found a spot on the copper that had a crimp in it and what looks like a weld. I cannot tell if that is supposed to be there, but it is messy. Furthermore, the copper was rather strange looking, like there was some chemical spilled on it causing distorted colors and a couple of pits. I honestly have no guess as to what they did to it, but it looks damaged.

So after all that frustration, I decide to try putting it back together, but take the thermal pad thing on the one PCIE NVME drives and put it on that cluster of chips that seem to be getting really hot. So there I am putting it back together when I realize the button for the track pad is screwed to the motherboard. I have no idea why, but I need to take it off so I can lift up the motherboard to get one of the numerous tiny flex cables connected. I get the cable in, push the plastic lock down... and it came off. So now there are two broken. One for the power button and one for the track pad to click.

I also would like to mention that the RAM is soldered on, not a design feature I like or support.

This laptop has a crappy battery, a very minimal cooling system, soldered on non-upgradable RAM, a lot of crappy tiny flex cables, and it seems to just eat itself up.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

My First WoW Addon

Recently I have been playing a lot of World of Warcraft Classic. Something about the game design back then just felt a lot better. I originally started playing during the Burning Crusades expansion, so this is my first time playing something closer to the original design. Despite this, some modern conveniences were put in there for a reason and I got used to some of them. As a result, I turned to the wild world of Add-Ons. I had a lot for what I needed, however there was one thing that was really getting annoying. Whenever I tried to do something as my Shaman in Ghost Wold form, I got told I cannot do it while shapeshifted. All the Add-Ons I found revolved around being mounted or taxied. So I figured I should make my own.

Rather than start from scratch, I decided to check out how a couple other similar ones were made. The first thing I noticed was it was actually fairly small. In fact, checking out a few others showed me just how extensive the interface for Add-Ons was when most things were fairly trivial.

Before pushing everything in to full swing, I decided to look for a good development environment. I had not done much with Lua and tend to not work on too many files at once, usually it is just a single file in Vim with tmux going and so I have a window to run it on. My search led me to WowAddonStudio. I had to download the old 2015 version of Visual Studio, but that was not that big of a deal. Since it was me just starting out, I wanted to see how it would build an Add-On and compare it to how others had built theirs.

After starting up a blank Add-On, I then compared between two others that did something similar. As per my usual, the style and methodology of each made them a little annoying to deal with. Programming in Haskell has led me to see some things as quite ugly, and programming in Python has led me to dislike code that seems unnecessarily obfuscated. So taking a little from each, comparing, and mashing them together, I made my first Add-On for WoW that probably needs some more stuff added. Granted I tried it with my Shaman but did not have a Druid to compare and see if it interfered or interacted with that at all, and I assume it will.


I still have a lot of reading to find out just exactly what all the numbers mean and all that and just made a little dummy Add-On for myself to modify for the sake of dumping data on events. It's not much, but I think it's a start to get back into programming and maybe even take some things a little more seriously.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Techs from the Crypt: Job Interview Gone Wrong

I was debating for a short while whether to write this or not as it was fairly recent. Obviously my decision is to write it. Now usually I get on with people just fine and working retail I tend to stay in a neutral position and let others steer the conversation. I know there are some personality types I just don't get along with and admit it is a problem with myself to a degree. Unfortunately it seems to be fairly common among the tech savvy areas of things. I go along the philosophy of if it works for what I need, I go with it unless there is a reason not to. So most of the tech in my house ends up with some odd hack or it is just sort of there without much fine tuning because I have no reason to. Quite a lot of tech people I seem to run into are the kinds who... their way is the right way and if there's a problem they see, even if it's not a problem, you should just do what they say because they know best. What does this have to do with a job interview? Well, I recently had a job interview where I almost hung up on the person because they were everything I dislike about certain IT people.

So on LinkedIn I get a message about a position. It looked automated with some grammatical errors, but I've learned to take chances and just go for anything because you never know what door could open for you. I say that I'm interested and get a request for a number and a good time to chat about the position. I give my cell and say afternoon. Perhaps that was an error on my part, but by afternoon I mean 12pm to 1pm because that's what I always heard it for growing up in upstate NY. Generally up there we considered after 3 to enter into the evening, so I expected at the latest sometime before 3 I would get the call.

The time came and past (me on lunch), so I forgot about it and was driving home from work. Around 3.40pm and I get the call. I don't have Bluetooth or anything for my car because I keep things relatively downgraded miss it. When I get home, it's a message from the guy asking to either talk or schedule a time to talk. I thought we did schedule it, but like I said afternoon but some people that means something different.

I call him back and we start to talk. I explain a bit about what I do and why I may be looking for a better opportunity which usually gets a good response, but it fell flat. I may have misread because I just took some extra strength Dayquil to keep a head cold at bay. I chalk it up to that in my head and move on. A few oddities stuck out to me in the conversation.

The first was related to hard drives. He asked about regular and solid state so I gave the spiel about the differences and using SSD to boot with HDD for storage for speed and savings on storage capacity. He then asked about M.2, which I'm bad with names of stuff. Tell him I can't remember and when he mentioned what it is the alphabet soup of PCIE NVME came to mind and I remembered because I just bought my first laptop with that kind of storage. So I chime in and mention that yes I actually have a couple of laptops at home with those kinds of storage and it's my first time using them. He asked about what they use at the school system I work at and I tell him mostly HDD because it's relatively cheap storage and there are a few SSD to boot from on some machines. I get told by him that no new servers have regular HDD because the speed is too slow and at the very least they get SSD for cost effectiveness. He then asks why we have HDD and I explain we are a public school system, we don't have the money to be cutting edge. In the back of my mind I'm wondering where he's been because HDD are still in wide use, still manufactured, and very common. Last I knew a lot of places aim for large storage with redundancy for the best value possible. I shake that off and just assume maybe he's more of the high-end side of things.

The next thing to stand out was when we started talking about Internet speeds and stuff. I know enough networking to get me by in most situations, but I don't do it on a daily basis so I can take a moment to remember things. He asked about my plan and all that and I tell him right now I have a 30 up 10 down. We go for a while and then he goes "Megabytes or Megabits?" I say "Megabits, that's how you measure network speeds." So then he asks me my throughput in megabytes. I tell him I'm not sure off the top of my head, just divide it by 8. He says "yeah, that's right so it's like 2 or something... 2.75." No, it's not but whatever you say. Just for those that don't know, you can estimate with the two closest whole numbers, in which 3*8 is 24 and 4*8 is 32, so it's between 3 and 4. As I said, I was on Dayquil and I also try to be nice and neutral because I worked retail long enough to know how to avoid most arguments.

We continue on, I am starting to get annoyed because the guy keeps either trying to correct me or tell me what the answer is to things I can't remember all the specifics on. Part of my problem is my job is so generalized I can't always shift gears and I'm sure a lot of techs out there know what I'm talking about when the shifts and alphabet soups get confusing after a while.

The questions started getting rather personal and weirded me out a bit, I was wondering if the guy was even being serious at this point. Questions like do I have a lab at my house, what do I do in my free time, what my WAN IP is. I tell him what I'm comfortable with telling him and tell him I do not know my WAN IP.

"Well, are you at your computer?"
No, and it's off right now.
"Well, if you logged into your router, what would it say?"
Well, I have little bit of a weird setup with two routers, the business class Comcast one and my own personal one, so one would be a 10 dot something and the other would be an actual WAN.
"Oh, I see. It's not weird, it's wrong."

At this point, I'm thinking who the hell is this guy? I didn't call him for tech support.

No, it's just a network in a network.
"Yes, it's called a double NAT and that's wrong."
Well, it works for what I need it to and I don't have any problems with it.
"Well, it's wrong. You should put your Comcast router in bridge mode and then it will work right."
I don't have any problems with it and I just go with what works.
"You should listen to me and spend the 20 minutes to put it in bridge mode. I know what I'm talking about, I do this all the time. It would get rid of any weird issues you have with connectivity or VPN."
I haven't had any problems with vpn or connectivity. I'll fix a problem when it becomes a problem.

At this point I honestly wanted to shout a few expletives, tell him to hire an HR or PR guy to talk to people, and hang up on him. I get I do things in ways they might not be done. At work I get keyboards for different chromebooks to connect to other models with some pliers and modify them, doing things not by the books to get the results I want when I want is what I do. I also didn't ask for help with my setup, my setup works for me.

I really did consider just hanging up on him before considering telling him to get some help from an HR or a PR guy to get help talking to people. I opted to finish the call as calmly as I could. After I finished and had some time to think it over, I sent a response on LinkedIn. For your reading pleasure, here's what I said:

I appreciate you taking the time for that interview, but after reflecting upon the conversation, I no longer have interest in a position for your company. The main reason is because your way of talking struck me as a type of person I could not work with or for. I wish you luck with your search.

That was about the best I could think to say because I really wanted to be rude. I'm sure someone may think I am over-reacting or even in the wrong. Maybe I should listen to the high and mighty people who know of problems I don't even know I have. As far as a job interview going wrong, this was a first that went in this sideways direction. I've interviewed with people who have tried to cheat me like a car salesman, people who have no interest, people who think I am clueless, people who right out of the gate feel I have no business getting to that stage of the interview process, but never someone who wants to give me tech support I never asked for.

In reflection as a whole, I am truly growing tired with the stereotypical "IT pros."  My best advice to any IT people would be learn to laugh, shrug things off, and let things go. If you can't, shout them randomly on the Internet, then move on.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Job Hunting: Interviews Questions of Non-Technical Nature

Recently I went through a job interview process that I was doing great with. The first part I managed to nail it right on the head and move to the second interview phase. The reason I did well on the first interview phase is because it was technical questions and I'm a technical minded person. The second interview I absolutely bombed out because these were the non-technical questions and I am not so good with those. The good news is, I realize my mistakes there and now I'm going to put down what I learned in hopes to do better and possibly help others.

The first question, and one I generally dislike is the obligatory "tell me about yourself." I'm always a blunt person and the truth is, I'm just looking for the next best opportunity and do what I do or what is asked of me. Plain and simple. The problem is, they want an introduction about who you are and what benefits you could offer the employer. A big mistake you can make is to talk too much about yourself with no explanation of what you are offering or the mistake I made, which was to let the interviewer take lead and give an explanation when asked. The reason the second one screwed me over was simply because when the person interviewing saw my resume, he felt I had no relevant experience for that specific type of job and I had no opportunity to say otherwise without rudely  interrupting him. So let me give an example of how I would answer that without being under pressure and having the ability to edit and refine my response because I can do that with a written variation.

"Well, I do a broad range of IT related stuff both at work and personally. I am constantly learning new things whenever I can so I can quickly and adapt to many different jobs by either learning the skills necessary very quickly or I may possibly have pursued the topic or something similar and have some knowledge of what is needed or how to find out more information. I think my wide variety of knowledge puts me in a good position to benefit on jobs that require teamwork with my versatility and at the same time it makes working by myself easier as there are not many situations I come across I don't already have some familiarity to. I also have a strong drive to advance myself and would love to work for a place that offers the opportunities to do so and provide me with new challenges."

The key points to include are selling yourself, showing work ethic, ability to do teamwork and work individually, and of course the company itself. Continuing on, most jobs now seem to have some desire to be all psycho-analytical to make sure you're an actual decent person. I worked in retail a long time and can easily make people find me to be very likeable when I can revolve a conversation around them. When it's flipped... well, I'm really a jerk in person. I don't think I'm that good of a person. That makes these questions a little difficult for me because I often times feel like I'm stretching things too much. The other problem is I always think I have a perfect example but get caught in these "you had to be there to understand" type of situations. Doing these on the spot makes it very challenging, so I'm going to try to remember the questions I was asked and answer them properly here in hopes of giving myself more direction in future encounters. I highly encourage anyone when preparing for an interview to consider these types of questions and maybe write down some talking points that actually work for the situation. This will keep you from cornering yourself.

So one of the questions was to tell him about a time there was conflict between employees and how I resolved it.

"Luckily I have never come across any major conflicts, but I have seen many small conflicts, and regardless of the size of the conflict they can still cause problems. I think a good example would be one that I was involved in as one of three people. I was working in the morning and had a manager come in and tell me about something that was recently changed for how we set up the displays. I followed the managers instructions and everything was fine until the next person came in. I took a lunch break and when I got back she said I had set up the display wrong and that she had fixed it. I told her what the manager told me and she responded by saying while I was on lunch she was told differently. It was a little strange so after some discussion back and forth, I decided the only way we could figure this out was to go straight to the source. We called the manager back, had a quick discussion and found that what he told me was what he wanted us to do and that it was an accident that he told her otherwise. I think most conflicts arise from communication failures. That is why I think for a lot of conflicts in work, simply advising to ask the necessary people is beneficial to remember."

That was after staring at the screen for 15 minutes going through situation after situation. I also tried to set up the expectations that this won't be ground-breaking but still useful. Another question I was asked about was have I ever had conflict with a stakeholder (or manager, etc.) and how did I resolve it.

"I don't believe I've had any real major conflicts with stakeholders. I will lend them whatever advice I can and advise them to the best of my ability, however since it's their stake, whatever they say goes. Throughout my work experience there have been plenty of times where I have questioned a stakeholder's reasons, but I accept that does not mean I am right. I think the best we can do is advise, perform, or step aside."

I find that question particularly hard because I've always simply let things roll off my shoulders that it's not really something that would likely happen. Granted, I'll make jokes about it later. That's about all the ones I remember from that one specific interview. There are still some other more common questions I have down pretty good, but let's run through some.

What goals do you have or where do you see yourself going or where do you want to be?

"I want opportunities to grow and advance. I feel a need to arise to new challenges whenever possible. If I can, I want to just keep climbing and growing. The best part would be to do that with one place, just continually climb the ladder."

What is your greatest strength? For me, this always goes a bit technical.

"Figuring things out. Be it troubleshooting or learning something new, I can do it well. When a problem occurs, I easily can think outside of the box and put something together."

What is your greatest weakness? The trick here is to pull a reversal without anyone really noticing.

"I can over-problem solve. I often times can get too into fixing something where I end up going well outside of the scope I was originally there for. It's a little bit obsessive of me, but I have a hard time saying a problem is solved if there more I can still potentially do."

There are probably more questions I may add in the future, but these work for now.

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