Greg Johnson – Monthly Update 201801

Personal Update 201801 | 30 January 2018 | Tuesday

Greetings,

I hope you’re doing well. Thanks for taking a moment to read my latest update.

Wellness

This month I lifted about 209,000 pounds at the gym. I’ve done very little bike riding due to the extremely cold weather. I’d planned to ride through the winter, but with ice on the streets and trails, I want to avoid having any accidents.

Career

I mentioned in my December 2017 update that I would be “bringing in the fishing nets” and assessing the various projects I’m working with. For the month of January, I’ve focused on my technology services work. In addition to actual time with customers, I’ve been developing some business management tools for office workflow of invoicing and work notes. This has helped improve my ability to document and bill for my time, even shorter support calls. It’s a scaleable system that can take very little time for some billing or longer if needed for more complex billing.

Social Media

For the month of January, I’ve mostly stayed off social media — checking in briefly on Facebook only a few times per week. This has helped me dedicate more time to my wellness goals and career.

Last month I mentioned I was developing an alternative to Facebook. In January, I worked on creating a system using WordPress.com hosting that would allow individuals to have their own Page (free website) where they could post whatever news and announcements they’d like to share. WordPress members can ‘subscribe’ to any WordPress blog (the equivalent to following on Facebook). Groups of people wanting to create a shared discussion forum experience could post on a shared WordPress website. Anyone subscribing to that site would get an aggregate of all the stories that the authors posted. Such a system needs no further development and can be implemented immediately.

This system can foster more articulate communications and put people into democratic control of the platform. This post you are reading is an example. If you subscribe to this website, as many have already done, you’ll be automatically notified of updates and can select how often you get those notifications.

Here’s an example of what a group of bloggers could do with a multi-authored and collaboratively managed site: Famplace.wordpress.com.

Weekly No-Tech Day

We’ve become so dependent upon technology, that when it isn’t working right, it can be very stressful and disruptive. We typically don’t have alternative systems in place to continue functioning. During the transition from paper to digital sales in retail stores, there was a period of time when stores would train their employees how to conduct sales without any computers. Businesses would have paper-based forms and log books to keep running when computers were down, and then manually enter the data later when systems were working again. Today, we have no such redundancy.

Once a week, typically on the weekend, I try to have a no-tech day. I’m not strict about it. If an important email or phone call comes in, I’ll take care of it, but in general I try to take time away from electronics and work with notebooks and paper based systems on that day. It’s reassuring to have a working model in place for when systems fail.

This month the Netflix website was down for over 5 hours and the company was apparently unable to repair the problem quickly. It’s unknown whether the problem was the result of human error, system failure, natural disaster, or an intentional malicious attack. Regardless, the outcome is the same, and that’s just one example of many where massive systems are becoming unreliable.

Thanks!

Many thanks to all of you who keep in touch and provide support for the work I do.

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Want More News? For additional news and updates you can subscribe to the Resources For Life Newsletter by sending an email to resourcesforlifenews-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

Origins. For those of you who are new to these monthly personal updates, they began about 17 years ago out of a desire to share from my personal life about topics of lifeways (faith), health, career, finances, relationships, effective living, and activism. This is based on the life map presented on the Resources For Life website.

Greg Johnson – Monthly Update 201712

Personal Update 201712 | 28 December 2017 | Thursday

Greetings,

I hope you’re doing well. Thanks for taking a moment to read my latest update. There’s a lot from this past year to be grateful for. I’m appreciative for the family and friends who inspire, guide, and empower me. This month I’m going to recap 2017, and share some thoughts about 2018.

Wellness

This past year, I’ve lifted over 3 million pounds at the gym and ridden more than 1,367 miles on my bicycle. Yet, the biggest breakthrough came in the past four months with the development of a eating program I’ve created that has allowed me to improve numerous clinical and lab wellness metrics — effectively reversing aging by 7 years in 4 months. In other words, I’m getting outcomes and results that I’ve not seen in 7 years. I’ll elaborate more on this in the months to come.

Career

In my consulting work, my ‘customers’ become like friends, and I greatly appreciate their support. Some have been calling on me for technical services for 20+ years. Others I’ve been working with more recently. I’m still refining my business model to serve others better, and for greater efficiency of my time, energy, and resources. One of the challenges in 2017 has been cutting back on my billable time so I can spend time on my wellness goals — and just to be living amore balanced life.

Because I’m the bookkeeper, receptionist, head of marketing, and CEO, there’s a lot that needs to get done to operate a business. On a typical day, it may take several hours to take care of the administrative overhead and basic communications of the day.  So, my actual billable time on a given day could be just a few hours. With the Bike Work Life initiative, I’m able to spend several active hours a day while catching up on emails and phone calls — but that’s typically not billable time. So, I’m looking for ways to reduce my operational costs since I’m no longer working 60+ hours a week.

Bringing in the Fishing Nets

I’ve had a lot of business initiatives and public interest outreach efforts over the years. Like a farmer planting his fields with different seeds to see which variation produces the greatest yield, I’ve tried expanding the billable and volunteer work I do, examining the fruitfulness and impact of my efforts.

In 2018, I plan to begin ‘brining in the fish nets’ and shutting down some projects where interest has dwindled. Some of the websites I’ve launched over the years will, over time, be shut down and the content or purpose brought back under the Resources For Life umbrella.

In the year ahead I’ll be focusing my efforts on those areas of greatest fruitfulness in areas of public interest and in producing the personal income I need to pay the bills and have an impact.

Tech support continues to be a focus of mine. That’s what I’ve done my entire life, and will continue to work with. Other areas I’ll probably be cutting back on. This little bit of downsizing will have minimal impact since my work in those other areas was so broad.

This is part of an overall effort to downsize and reduce the ‘stuff’ I need to do my daily work.

Knowledge Sharing

In 2018, I plan to offer some public courses on various topics that people have requested including web design, marketing, effective activism, photography, video production, using mobile devices, purchasing technology devices, how to run a successful small business, and best practices for computer use — as well as other topics.

Up until this point, I’ve been mentoring and supporting individuals who are just getting started with their own business. With these public courses, I hope to offer knowledge sharing to a broader audience. I’ve done some of this in the past, and want to return to it in the year ahead.

These courses will be a way to offer all my paid services for free to the public. Those wanting one-on-one personalized services, on-site support, and services on-demand will still pay, but those unable to pay will be able to get free help with these public courses.

Reducing Social Media

Over the past two months I’ve been significantly reducing my time spent on social media. In the past I would checking throughout the day to post updates and keep up with news of others. Lately I’ve been checking in once or twice a week, with infrequent posts and updates. Moving forward, I’m planning to communicate more through email and my website. I’m also working on an alternative to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram that I’ll announce soon. The alternative will be free of ads, trolls, fake news, and hackers — while at the same time offering ease of use and privacy.

High-Tech, Low-Tech, No-Tech

Over the years I’ve had an interest in maintaining involvement in various ‘platforms’ or brands of devices. For example, I regularly work with Apple, Linux, and Windows computers. I also try to maintain fluency in various technology ecosystems such as Apple, Microsoft, and Google cloud services. I use a fancy iPhone, but also maintain an inexpensive Android phone that I work with daily. It’s regularly updated and fully operational. I like to be familiar with scalable technology solutions so I can advise and support those on a limited budget, as well as those on an unlimited budget.

In the low-tech department, I’m working on creating simple computers for people that will have a very low cost of ownership — perhaps $50 per year or less. These would be $150 computers that people could use for 3 to 5 years or longer before upgrading.

In addition to high-tech and low-tech solutions, starting this month, I’m going to begin regularly working with ‘no-tech’ solutions. These are organizational and operational systems I developed decades ago that are based on the use of pen and paper. It’s become popular lately for people to go ‘off the grid’ (or at least off the social media grid) for a week or a month. I plan to spend one day a week focused on using and refining ‘no-tech’ solutions for my daily needs. My calendar, notes, to do list, reference items, and other things I normally would use the computer for, I’ll instead use a notebook and pen to do.

My most effective present day organizational and operational systems are digital forms of practices that began on paper many years ago. I want to revive that. This effort encompasses goals of minimalism, cost savings, reducing my carbon footprint, simplicity, and having off the grid practical systems in place for when the resources we normally rely on aren’t there.

For myself and others, I see increased stress and frustration when computers fail or the Internet isn’t working, or there are power outages. Everything grinds to a halt. Last month, some parts I needed for a project were sold-out nationally. An online system I rely on was out for two weeks after a cyber attack resulted in over $50 million being stolen. Last month a Yahoo service I rely on was down for a week, impacting millions of people. No explanation was given. If I had to guess, I’d say it was probably a cyber attack. We’ll probably never know the actual cause. Numerous companies are being impacted by cyber attacks or internal negligence, and then a lack of transparency makes things worse. The Equifax breach is an example of this. This is all very disruptive, and when specific systems aren’t working, getting solutions from customer service can take days or weeks.

Working in technology support, I see daily reminders of the increasingly fragile nature of the systems we rely on. There’s a reassurance in having paper-based systems in place for basic day-to-day operations.

This month, I created a spreadsheet to evaluate the ongoing cost of fully embracing all the products that Apple would like us to use: the Apple Watch, iPad, iPhone, MacBook laptop computer, and iMac desktop computer, along with the cloud services. For someone buying moderate performance equipment and replacing items every 2-5 years as needed, the cost is about $1,500 per year. For a little bump in performance and features, it’s $3,000 per year. If you’re buying their high-end equipment, even if you’re waiting 5 years between upgrades for some of the equipment, the annual cost could be over $5,500 per year, for life. None of this takes into account the cellular phone bills and internet services that can easily cost hundreds of dollars.

In other words, the devices we buy are never a one-time purchase. They might as well be on a subscription or rental plan. Indeed, this is what Apple and other companies offer. You pay, let’s say, $50 a month for life, and you’ll always have the latest iPhone. Well, that’s just the phone. All the devices we use, and replace when broken or slow, that all can cost hundreds of dollars even when someone is frugal and stretches out the replacement cycle. I’m regularly helping people who have computers, smart phones, and tablets that are excruciatingly slow, or that grind to a halt because of limited space or slow processors. People either pay with money to stay current, or pay with their time. The market forces people to upgrade on a regular basis, or suffer the consequences.

So, for all the above reasons, I want to diversify my portfolio of resources that I depend on for my daily operations in case there are unexpected disruptions and outages. I’ll share more about this in the months ahead.

Thanks!

Many thanks to all of you who keep in touch and provide support for the work I do.

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Want More News? For additional news and updates you can subscribe to the Resources For Life Newsletter by sending an email to resourcesforlifenews-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

Origins. For those of you who are new to these monthly personal updates, they began about 17 years ago out of a desire to share from my personal life about topics of lifeways (faith), health, career, finances, relationships, effective living, and activism. This is based on the life map presented on the Resources For Life website.

Greg Johnson – Monthly Update 201711

Personal Update 201711 | 30 November 2017 | Thursday

Greetings,

I hope you’re doing well. Thanks for taking a moment to read my latest update.

Health & Wellness

 

This past month I lifted over 241,000 pounds and was on my bike for 13.4 hours riding about 95 miles. I’ve been eating mostly salads for each meal with lime juice in sparkling water as a beverage. For protein I have been eating veggie patties. The food is very satisfying and the absence of carbs and sugar reduces cravings throughout the day. In addition to this food program, I’m doing intermittent fasting (periodically skipping a meal) to help keep the body in a state of ketosis. I’m also trying to maintain a 1,500 calorie diet. The results have been great!

Heat Your Home for Free

Each month I try to do a ‘deep dive’ into a certain topic or skill. Learning enough to create long-term beneficial habits and establish skills I can use. This past month, I developed a heating system that costs nothing to operate. Here’s a video explaining the system. Even if you think you may not be interested in the topic, believe me, I think you’ll like what I have to share in this video. It gets better toward the end.

Thanks!

Many thanks to all of you who keep in touch and provide support for the work I do.

~ Greg

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Want More News? For additional news and updates you can subscribe to the Resources For Life Newsletter by sending an email to resourcesforlifenews-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

Origins. For those of you who are new to these monthly personal updates, they began about 17 years ago out of a desire to share from my personal life about topics of lifeways (faith), health, career, finances, relationships, effective living, and activism. This is based on the life map presented on the Resources For Life website.

Heat Your Home for Free (DIY Video)

In this video, I talk about a smart high efficiency DIY home heating solution that can help reduce or eliminate your heating bill. This heater is Internet connected, remotely accessible, and uses very little power – resulting in reduced heating expenses.

High Quality Business Cards from MOO

Use this link to order business cards from MOO and you’ll get a $15 discount.

https://refer.moo.com/s/ij6dk

I’ve been admiring cards from MOO for a long time whenever I saw them. They are very thick and have a smooth soft velvety texture. There’s an option to have rounded corners, and unusual size cards. So today I finally placed my first order and got a referral link to share with others.

To place my order, I used a $15 discount referral code that I got from a friend so the order was about $25 for 50 cards which included the standard shipping. They should arrive in a couple of weeks.

They have an expedited ordering service that costs about $50 extra and several options in between depending on how soon someone wants their cards.

One thing I like about their online card design options is that you can have 50 different designs or photos on the back of your cards for a single order. So that’s great for designers, photographers, creativists, and entrepreneurs who may have several businesses or services available.

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Interview with Fox News Affiliate – Email Security and Encryption

“On Monday, 25 July 2016, I was interviewed by our local Fox News affiliate on the topic of email security. The report is archived below, the original is online.” ~ Greg Johnson

Video

Full Report

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (CBS2/FOX28) — Hackers have already disrupted the Democratic Party after releasing many damaging emails from the Democratic National Committee. They were embarrassing for party leaders and will likely result in at least the party chair stepping down this week.

But IT security for political groups and organizations at many different levels often balances on human error.

Running a campaign is a lot like a small business. There’s plenty of things to spend money on. With so much technology all around us, it’s often not an area where campaigns spend a lot of extra resources.

Physical protection is generally something we think politicians and their Secret Service Agents get right, especially at the highest levels.

Online, IowaCityTechnologyServices.com Director Greg Johnson says even they fall short.

“There are just so many points of failure,” said Johnson.

CBS2/FOX28 spoke to local campaigns and elected officials from both major political parties about their IT security. They say, generally, campaign staff email is handled through services like Google’s Gmail and some additional security options within those programs. Rarely will even the most Congressional races have a dedicated IT team to keep it safe.

“Just using Google, or some similar service, steps it up a bit, but it’s not entirely secure,” said Johnson.

Once a candidate is elected to Congress, their staff is brought on to Federal Government systems. That’s usually a step above most security, but Greg says it still doesn’t solve human carelessness.

“All it takes is for one person to lose their computer or have one person get their password and suddenly, that person has access to all those emails that somebody was copied on, or anything they’ve ever sent or received,” said Johnson. “It would be a huge collection of emails just from one account getting breached.”

Greg says there is encryption software that would make sure emails and information is locked and can only be accessed by someone with the right password. He says that can be free, or be as expensive at $175.

Great News: Business is Expanding

In December 2015, I received an unexpected offer to work for a business I really admire. The new job would allow me to return to doing more consulting and public interest work. It seemed like an appealing option. I decided to take the offer, and make a change.

I wasn’t sure how long it would take to build-up the consulting business. Surprisingly, in less than 24 hours, I was busy with all the work I could handle, and it’s been busy ever since. Many thanks to everyone who has been calling and requesting services.

Recently my wife Makur, also a technology support person at the University of Iowa, decided that she also would like to do more consulting work, so she decided to leave her job at the University and in March will join me in providing technology support through Iowa City Technology Services.

Makur has a broad range of experience in expertise in small business and enterprise-class computing, as well as an array of other skills. So, we’ve launched MJIowa.com as a website for her to bring in additional business. Over the years she has developed a following of people who specifically ask for her, so the new site is a great way to connect with those clients.

I look forward to the coming months, and appreciate everyone’s support.

Thanks!

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Reflections on a Year Using Gmail

As an Apple computer enthusiast, I’ve been using the Apple Mail client for years. About a year ago, I decided to switch over to using Gmail exclusively as an online email client. For my primary email accounts (included with my website hosting package), I set them to forward all emails to Gmail. I have a personal account and also a collection of other email addresses that I forwarded to a secondary Gmail address.

Here are the reasons I switched:

  1. Over time, the Apple Mail client became slower, and it caused my entire computer to slow down whenever it was running. I assumed this was due to the indexing of so many individual emails. I stopped seeking a solution when I learned that many people were having similar problems. Gmail was much faster than using the Apple Mail client.
  2. At the same time the slowness became an issue, about two years ago, there were known issues with Gmail compatibility and the Apple Mail client. Flagged and read emails weren’t synchronizing properly. For many months, people complained on the Apple discussion forums, but no solution was provided.
  3. In addition to these issues, I began hearing from people trying to reach me by email who were getting returned emails with an undeliverable message notification.
  4. I also heard from people that my emails were ending up in their spam/junk folder.
  5. At the time, my email inbox was limited to 1GB and constantly filling up, but Gmail offered virtually limitless email storage.
  6. Junk email wasn’t being identified accurately so I was having to manually sort them out.
  7. The Apple Mail client in iOS lacked mail rules and the intelligent Junk Mail filtering found in the native OS X desktop Mail client version. So, unless I had a desktop computer on all the time, with the Mail client running, those rules wouldn’t get applied.
  8. Gmail was identifying the Apple Mail client and others as non-secure email clients. So, using them required a special exception setting in my Gmail account.

So, for all these reasons, I decided to switch to Gmail.

As of January 2016, here’s why I’m switching back to using the Apple Mail client and the email accounts included with my hosting package.

  1. The Gmail conversation threads were problematic, and the nested messages made it sometimes hard to find where the conversation left off, especially if multiple replies were in a a thread. Messages people would send using feedback forms with the same subject line would be grouped as a conversation. Turning conversations off was an option, but not desirable either.
  2. Gmail would repeatedly put important emails into the Junk folder even for senders who were in my address book and even after repeatedly marking them as not junk.
  3. Gmail would automatically file emails into the Social, Promotions, Updates, and Forums categories, which was very helpful some of the time, but much of the time it caused important emails to be misfiled.
  4. Gmail lacks the ability to sort on sender, subject, date, and other aspects of messages.
  5. Once I setup my computer with 16GB of RAM and a solid state hard drive (SSD), the slowness issue went away. This may have also had something to do with upgrading to the latest edition of OS X (El Capitan).
  6. The Google Gmail client for iOS made it possible to send messages as another email. However, the Apple Mail client for iOS would not permit this with Gmail accounts. This was very frustrating. So, it was necessary to continually used the Gmail client for iOS if replying to a message and desiring the recipient to see the correct sending address.
  7. Clicking on an email address typically brings up the default email client on a computer. This doesn’t work with the Gmail web based system unless you’re using Google Chrome.
  8. The Gmail ecosystem doesn’t have the same instantaneous push feature that Apple offers with their other iCloud services.

During the transition back to my original email addresses, I’ve set an autoresponder letting people know my best contact methods — in case anyone had inadvertently received an email from those Gmail accounts.

I still maintain email accounts in Gmail, Hotmail, Outlook, Yahoo, and other services in the event there are communications issues with people using any of those third-party services. It’s sometimes more reliable to communicate with someone on the same system they are using, and other features exist that make it helpful to have an account on various services.

Please visit my contact page for further details about how to best reach me.

Thanks!