This day, the first of the month, bring you a new opportunity to have the answers to your questions revealed. All you must do? Pose them. Ask any question from any realm of knowledge and our nerds will answer. From cartography to caligraphy, from theology to philology, our nerds have everything marked, everything ‘membered! You wait, you’ll see.

Post your questions to the comments.

Be a Lion Tamer

Today, July 20, 2011, Apple released a new major revision of Mac OS: 10.7 Lion. If you’ve got even a few drops of Nerd blood in your veins, this is an exciting event. I’m sure you’re eager to buy and install this upgrade, but I urge you to take a deep breath and verify a few things before you take the plunge. Putting your head into an unknown Lion’s mouth isn’t usually a good idea.

Minimum Requirements

First you’ll want to ensure that your computer meets the minimum requirements for Lion:

  • Mac computer with an Intel Core 2 Duo, Core i3, Core i5, Core i7, or Xeon processor
  • 2GB of memory or more
  • OS X v10.6.6 or later (v10.6.8 recommended)
  • 7GB of available space

You can check all of this by first selecting “About this Mac” from the Apple menu, which will tell you your current Operating System version. Clicking the “More Info” button in the same window will launch the System Profiler application, which defaults to a Hardware Overview screen. Processor and RAM are listed in that screen. If your computer is less than three years old, you’re almost certain to meet the minimum requirements.

If your processor isn’t on the list you are probably better off buying a new computer. Fortunately for you, new computers will include the new operating system, so you won’t have to bother with the rest of this guide. If you’re short on RAM, it’s possible to upgrade. Other World Computing is our favorite source for Mac RAM upgrades. If you’re running os 10.6, but not 10.6.8, you can run “Software Update” from the Apple menu and apply the queued updates. If you’re on 10.5.x or lower, you must first upgrade to Snow Leopard before upgrading to Lion. It’s available from the source itself.

If you’re light on disk space, you should think about upgrading your hard drive or getting a new computer. Trying to install with only the minimum required space available will put you into an extremely low disk space situation, a recipe for a crash.


Once you’ve qualified your hardware and operating system for the upgrade, it’s time to tackle your software. Start by listing all of the software you use. For me, that list would include Microsoft Office, 1Password, Firefox, MarsEdit, VPN Tracker, and others. Make an actual list, because you’re going to need to check items off.

Armed with your list, open each piece of software, and use the “About” item from the application menu to find your version number. Do this for each item on your software list.

For each item on your list, visit the software developer’s website to check for Lion compatibility. They may require a free update, or you may have to pay for an upgrade, or you may find in the worst case that your software is no longer supported and you have to choose between continuing to use that software under 10.6 or switching to a new software and upgrading to 10.7. Notable software packages that will NOT run under 10.7 are Now Up-To-Date, Quicken, and old versions of EP and Movie Magic Budgeting.

You may have trouble locating Lion compatibility info on your software vendor’s website. Fortunately the internet is full of altruistic nerds. A few Aussie nerds banded together to create a database of Lion compatibility experiences, available for free to the world: http://roaringapps.com

If you’re using any kind of special hardware - RAID cards, video controllers or processors, PCI expansion bays - you should know better than to attempt an upgrade right away. Your computer is a workhorse, not a toy. Leave it in its current stable state for at least a few months longer.


Now that your hardware and software are in order, it’s NEARLY time to upgrade. First, double-check your backup. If you’re running time machine, verify that your backup has run recently. If you have a spare drive around, use Carbon Copy Cloner or SuperDuper! to make a bootable clone of your hard drive. Operating system upgrades are major software operations. Things can go wrong. We want to be sure that your data is safe and that you can get back up and running quickly in the event of an error, bug, or crash.


The install process itself is painless. Launch the App Store from the dock, click on the giant Lion, then click the “buy” button. Once the download finishes, you can run the “Install Mac OS X” application in your applications folder. The install will take about 45 minutes, so enjoy a coffee or an icy beverage.

Shameless Plug

If this process exceeds your capabilities, your interest, or your desire, we are here to help. We can handle the entire process for you, or help you through the sticky parts. Call (+1-310-984-6946), write, or send a pigeon.

Ask a Nerd In July

Today is the first of the month. To me that day has an odor. It’s a distinctive odor, the odor of answers. Questions and answers. Come one, come all, ask your questions and they shall be answered. No realm of knowledge is off limits. Efficacy, intelligibility, and even grammaticalness itself are not guaranteed, but answers are.

I don’t mean to reiterate the double redundancy of repeating the same thing over again more than once, but you can ask literally any question you like and your question will be answered. Put on your asking caps and get asking. Post questions to comments, answers will follow.

An Ounce of Prevention

If you’re a friend, colleague, or client of mine, you probably run some kind of antivirus software. It’s a Good Idea™ in Mac OS and an Absolute Necessity™ if you’re running Windows. I don’t want to diminish the importance of antivirus software. Install it, run it, and keep it updated. Unfortunately, malicious software can still sometimes get through the cracks. So what are the cracks and how do we fill them?

First the cracks. Software. All of the software on your computer is imperfect. Most of the imperfections are benign. Some of the imperfections may allow unauthorized parties to make your computer behave unexpectedly. These imperfections are called, “Vulnerabilities.” The worst vulnerabilities can be exploited to allow unauthorized people to run software on your computer without your permission. Such exploits and vulnerabilities are discovered all of the time. Take a look at a single week’s worth.

Now, the glue. Software vendors work diligently to fix these bugs as they are discovered. It’s your job to install their patches. In decreasing order of importance, you should keep the following things up-to-date on your computer:


  1. Your operating system. Both Mac OS and Windows provide mechanisms for automatically updating themselves. Check and apply those updates regularly.
  2. Your web browser. Firefox, Safari, Internet Explorer, Chrome, or whatever web browser you use, it’s the first part of your computer to come into contact with the internet. All of those browsers have had high-severity exploits discovered, and all are regularly updated and patched by their authors. Check and apply those updates regularly too.
  3. Your web browser plug-ins. Flash is great, it lets web sites present full-featured applications with beautiful interfaces without leaving your browser. Unfortunately, it has also allowed malicious parties to install malware and viruses on unsuspecting computer users like you. Keep Flash and your other web plug-ins updated.
  4. The rest of your software. Microsoft Office, Acrobat, Photoshop and others have all been exploited. Check with those vendors too.


That’s a lot to check. Fortunately there are nerds out there who care about you and have developed free tools to help you keep yourself safe.

On the Mac, after enabling automatic updates from Apple, I use AppFresh by Metaquark to scan my computer for out-of-date software. It’s free and it’s easy to use.

On Windows, after enabling automatic updates from Microsoft, I use the Personal Software Inspector (PSI) by Secunia to keep my software healthy. Secunia PSI can run almost entirely automatically. It’s a breeze to run and it does a great job.

If you need help with any of these ideas or processes, please don’t hesitate to contact your friendly neighborhood Feedwire nerd. Happy updating!

Ask a Nerd Day

Welcome to the FIRST monthly Feedwire “Ask a Nerd Day.” You have from midnight to midnight to pose any question to us. Our knowledge is vast, our wits sharp, and our tongues loose. Be careful what you ask, because we WILL answer.

Post your questions to comments. We will respond in kind. To celebrate this kickoff, the author of our favorite question (a totally subjective title) wins a free hour of IT support.

Ask away, but ask fast. You don’t want to know what happens if you ask a nerd after midnight. You also don’t want to get us wet, but that’s an entirely separate issue.

The Cost of Free

First, the story:

A producer, essentially a 3rd-party contractor working for one of Feedwire’s clients, has elected to use a free gmail account for the bulk of her business and personal email. We’ll call her Sophie to protect the innocent. She’s currently on a business trip in Africa. Email communication is essential to her work and to her life.

Two days ago, her account stopped receiving messages. We’ve reviewed the settings, tested and re-tested the account. Her account is not full, her emails are not being forwarded, her messages are not being downloaded to some device or computer. Messages addressed to her are not being delivered to her mailbox. They’re just now starting to soft-bounce. Senders are receiving notices that delivery of their message has been delayed, and attempts will be made for a few more days to deliver the message before giving up.

We have concluded that there is something wrong with her mailbox. This isn’t an unexpected occurrence. There are millions, possibly billions of mailboxes out there in the world and every once in a while one of them has a glitch or a hiccup. Unfortunately for her, gmail’s free email service does not include phone support. There is a web-based support form, and the problem will probably eventually be resolved, but eventually doesn’t help her immediate and severe need to access her incoming mail.

Now, the solution:

Pay for it.

If you need a service, if you depend on it for business or for life, pay for it. You don’t have to pay much, but you do have to be someone’s customer before you can get any kind of customer service. Reliability has become free. Gmail is an extremely reliable service, among the best, but even the best fail. Failure is the expensive part. You get to decide whether you will pay a little in advance, or a lot on the back end. It’s your call.

What’s it cost to have a paid-for email? We can set you up for $22 / year. Three times that, and we can include a permanent secondary archive of your messages. $50 / year for an extremely reliable mailbox on your own personal domain with accessible customer service and support. I’m sure Sophie would have gladly paid $50 to avoid the predicament she’s in now. Probably even ten times that.

Everything breaks. The consequences of failure can be shaped. You have the power to prevent failure from becoming disaster. We’d love to help you with that process. Get in touch with us.



Two facts, seemingly intractable, but not for long:


  1. Your thoughts are important to us.
  2. We are not telepaths.


Fortunately, we are technologists. We’ve deployed a new technology (called Nicereply) which will give you unlimited opportunities to share your thoughts with us.

If you work with us, you’re familiar with our ticketing system. This helps us track work done and ensure that issues don’t fall through the cracks. We’ve added a new line to every ticket response and closure notification.

When you receive a ticket response email, click on the nicereply link and you’ll have an opportunity to rate our work and to give us feedback. This will help us help you. We’ll get to share in your important thoughts without having to resort to telepathy. Win, win, win.

A thousand words would have been overkill, so here’s a screenshot taken from a ticket response email to show you the new link:

More than Skin Deep

You may have noticed that the Feedwire website has a new look and feel. In addition to this facelift, we’ve received a bonelift. We switched from using Wordpress as a content management system and publishing platform, hosted by Media Temple, to an all-Squarespace site. Speed Boost While driven fundamentally by the desire to think less, we also got a nice speed boost on the new platform. If you will permit a bit of nerdery, our average homepage load time went from 0.842 seconds to 0.252 seconds. The attached graph shows how dramatic a change that is. How does this let us think less? We have fewer choices, we aren’t responsible for software upgrades, the platform is fully supported, monitored, and managed, and we have only one vendor with which to deal. So far, we are happy with the change.

In defense of Wordpress, we probably could have eked better performance out of it by either tuning our hosting environment or migrating to wordpress.com hosting, but Squarespace is more fun.

We’ve also started using Formstack to build new tools, both internally and for our clients. If you’re looking for a job and you think Feedwire might be a fit, or if you’re just curious to find out what a Feedwire-designed test is like, you can check out our online job application. If you’re pushing a lot of data around and need to estimate file transfer times, our file transfer speed calculator is free to the world. And if you need help, we’re ready to believe you.

If you think that your website might be a candidate for Squarespace or Wordpress.com hosting, or if you have some processes in your business that could benefit from Formstack forms, quit waiting and get in touch with us.

The Rockstars of Computer Consulting

Michael Devin, Rocking Out Michael Devin, Bassologist.

It should go without saying that we at Feedwire are the rockstars of computer consulting. Unfortunately sometimes it doesn't, so we're emailing to mention that yes, we at Feedwire are the rockstars of computer consulting.

If an employee were to seek employment elsewhere, it would have to be for nothing less than a gig as an actual rock star. There would have to be thousands of screaming fans, roadies, tour buses, groupies, and national attention. Anything less would be a step down.

Sure, it isn't likely, but it could happen, and in fact has happened, so we're in the market for a new employee. One of our team, Michael Devin, is taking a sabbatical to go on a national tour playing bass for Slash and Lynch Mob. Seriously.

We're looking for someone smart, motivated, nerdy, handsome, and an all around good fit for our team.  Musical skills are not required, but a plus.  If you know someone who fits the bill, let us know.

And in the meantime, please join us in congratulating Michael on his tour. We expect his time providing top-notch IT support services with Feedwire has prepared him for celebrity.

Feedwire at the Oscars

This is Feedwire's seventh year providing IT support to the Academy Awards. We can't say enough nice things about this show, our colleagues, and the other companies and vendors we get to work with. On the eve of Hollywood's biggest night, we'd like to send a special "Break a Leg!" out to Seligman Entertainment, Sequoia Productions, DuTEL, Joe Lewis Company, The Rockwell Group, Seat Advisor, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and all of the people who make this production possible and such a joy to support. Let's knock 'em dead.

No Acronym Thursday Today

This is a followup to No Acronym Thursday.

Today, struggling through my first Thursday sans acronyms, I've been thinking about communication. What does communication even mean? For our purposes, we'll call communication a means of transmitting an idea from one party to another via a message.

  1. Alice has an idea

  2. Alice encodes her idea into a message. Spoken words, email, handwritten notes, skywriting, songs, shrugs, poems, and tweets are examples of forms that messages can take.

  3. Alice transmits her message to Bob.

  4. Bob receives Alice's message.

  5. Bob decodes Alice's message.

  6. Bob now shares Alice's idea.

At their best, acronyms increase the efficiency of communication. They play a role in steps 2 and 5, encoding and decoding. Acronyms can help shorten messages so they may be transmitted more efficiently. Unfortunately they only work if Alice and Bob have sufficient common background and context.

If you truly believe that improved communication is an important ingredient in promoting harmony, understanding, peace, education, intelligence and love, which I do, give No-Acronym Thursday a try. It will make you more aware of what you're saying and of what others around you are trying to say. Join me in this exercise in semiotics. Together we might make the world slightly better, and we'll get to have fun trying.

Spread the word about spreading out words. #NoAcronymThursday

No Acronym Thursday

This idea is inspired by brother, Mikey. He's a military man. Communication in his industry is replete with jargon and acronyms. Observe the acronym decompression sequence for the PAC-3 missile:

PATRIOT Advanced Capability 3
(Phased Array Tracking RADAR Intercept on Target) Advanced Capability 3
(Phased Array Tracking (RAdio Detection And Ranging) Intercept on Target) Advanced Capability 3

Sure, it's easier to say PAC-3, but if both parties engaged in communication don't know the full expansion of the acronym, meaning is lost. Antonym homonyms are another potential source for miscommunication. Does "IRA" mean Irish Republican Army, or Individual Retirement Account? Contextual cues are usually enough, but not always. ATM Machine? PIN Number? People wouldn't be so sloppy and redundant if they thought about what those acronyms really mean.

What can we do about this potential for confusion and lost meaning? How can we safeguard true understanding and prevent incomplete transfer of information? No-Acronym Thursday.

One day per week, let's abolish the use of acronyms. IMAP becomes Internet Message Access Protocol, NAT becomes Network Address Translation, LASER becomes Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. If we care enough about these ideas to canonize them into our language, let's give them one day per week when they can be expressed in their full glory. One day per week, let's allow these memes to spread their wings.

No Acronym Thursday is now company policy at Feedwire. We welcome participants in this movement at other Information Technology firms and in other industries. Healthcare, finance, sports, education, you're all just as guilty as we are.

No Acronym Thursday Rules

  1. For the entire day of Thursday, every week, every participant in your organization will eliminate acronyms from human-to-human communication, regardless of medium or mode of communication. This applies to both spoken and written communication.

  2. Every infraction requires a $0.25 donation to your organization's No-Acronym Thursday pool. This can be used to finance any group activity - a bar tab, cupcakes, bowling, etc.

  3. If you're up for it, try to record infractions per participant per Thursday and generate a graph over time. Post the graph in a public space. This isn't required, but will be fun.

  4. Exceptions are allowed when a machine is the final recipient of the message, i.e. typing "http://..." into a browser, or saying "H-T-T-P colon slash slash" over the phone to someone typing into a browser.

  5. Exceptions are allowed in life-or-death cases. Hospitals, airports, police, military, etc. have established communication protocols that include the use of acronyms. We don't want to disrupt communication when lives are at stake.

Spread the word about spreading out words. #NoAcronymThursday

Feedwire's First Hat Trick

At this very moment Feedwire is, for the first time ever, servicing three cities simultaneously. Zach is in Miami, building the data network for the Superbowl XLIV Halftime Show. Chris is in San Francisco, helping Moderati migrate email from in-house Exchange to hosted Exchange. I'm here in LA, handling the rest of our customers while Zach and Chris are away.

This never could have happened without the help and support of our customers, staff, and friends. Your loyalty and appreciation has been amazing over the years. You continue to hire us, you recommend us to your friends, and you invite us into your businesses, homes, and lives. Thank you so much.


Blackberry Desktop for Mac: A Word of Warning

Blackberry Desktop for Mac has been available for about a month now. RIM has already released their first patch and the product seems to be stable. It provides a much better syncing experience than previous Blackberry software for Mac. Unfortunately, its default initial sync settings put your data at risk.

During your first sync, you will see the following dialog box:

BB Sync Dialog

Chances are, you do not want to make the default choice, "Replace device data." This choice will erase your Blackberry's contacts and calendars and replace it with the contacts and calendars stored on your computer. Most of us add phone numbers to our phones constantly, and many of us use the phone's calendar. Watch out for this potentially harmful default choice.

"Merge Data" is the choice most should make. This will combine the contacts, calendars, and tasks on your handheld and your computer.

Before you embark on a new syncing configuration, be sure to back up your handheld's databases and your computer's contacts, calendars, and tasks. If you need help doing this, feel free to reach out to us at Feedwire. In addition to wired sync, we can introduce you to wireless sync via Google or Blackberry Enterprise Server.

It Took Them Long Enough

Are you a Mac user? Are you a Blackberry user? RIM has just decided that they don't hate you anymore. They've announced BlackBerry Desktop for Mac, scheduled for release in September (hopefully they mean 2009.)

Third party syncing solutions have existed for quite some time for the mac, notably Pocket Mac (purchased by RIM) and The Missing Sync. Unfortunately they've behaved more like workarounds and hacks than solutions, causing almost as many problems as they solved. Here's RIM's official feature list:

  • Sync your iTunes® playlists, calendars, contacts, notes and tasks

  • Add/Remove applications

  • Update your device when new software becomes available

  • Backup and restore your device data with such features like automatically scheduled backups and optional encryption (security is #1 as always…)

  • Manage multiple devices

I'm most looking forward to backing up and upgrading BlackBerry software without having to resort to using a PC. This software, if RIM delivers what they've promised will make our customers' lives easier and enable us to work more quickly and efficiently for them. Combined with Apple's Mac OS 10.6 native exchange support, life is about to get much easier for our Blackberry Enterprise customers too. Here's to progress!

Ready to be an insider?

Click here to register yourself in our Friends of Feedwire customer appreciation program. It's totally free, from us to you.

Want to know more?

Next month, we are launching Friends of Feedwire and you are invited to join. What will follow? Good stuff. Free stuff. Invitations, coupons, discounts, advice, updates, photos, lessons. You have to enroll if you want the goodies, so click the link above, sign up, sit back, and wait for the fun to start.

Wondering who we are?

Damien, Zach, Chris, Michael and our little dog Destro. Best computer nerds for hire this side of the Mississippi. Photo linked here to jog your memory.

10 Reasons it Kicks Ass to Be the Computer Guy

I've noticed a growing sentiment among many IT professionals that their job is a thankless and stressful never-ending stream of problems.  I beg to differ...

01. I Get Paid to Be a Nerd

What beats being paid to do what you love?

02. Being a Hero

I used to dream of being a wizard/firefighter/superhero, but I’ve come to accept my own limitations.  Sometimes, just as I sit down, like magic, the problem disappears – I’m just that good.

03. The Babes

Every hot girl owns a computer.  Guess who gets to fix them?

04.  New & Exciting

The learning curve in the IT industry never plateaus.  Because the technology changes I have to learn each and everyday.  I read books, get new certifications, and keep up with tech blogs.

05. Business is Dependent on Technology

Computers are an integral part of virtually every business.  It satisfying to know that I'm repairing the world one computer at a time.

06. Being a Teacher

While not everyone wants to learn about computers, Feedwire has made it a priority to work transparently.  It's important for me to know that a client has a basic understanding of the work that I've done.  The teacher learns through teaching, the student through listening, and both are more knowledgeable when it's over.

07. The Clients

Not many people make it a habit of going to offices all over Los Angeles, but I'm one of the lucky ones.  Photographers, producers, directors, PAs, agents, set designers, writers, secretaries, executives, accountants, marketers, and the list goes on and on.  I meet new and incredible people wherever I work.  I care about the people I work for and I care about their businesses.  Each day I try to make their networks run a little smoother, and hopefully make their lives a little easier.

08. Problem Solving Satisfaction

The reason I love fixing computers is the same reason I love math.  After learning some basic tools, I'm presented with a complex problem and given a short time period to find a solution.  I enjoy it every step of the way: The learning, the work, and drinking beer to celebrate my success.

09. One hand washes the other

Cooperation benefits us all.  I've watched a few Italian mafia movies and while I don't want my life to be a crime ridden murdering chaos, I do like the idea of asking one another for favors.  I come from a very close knit group of family and friends and it's important to me to help the people that raised me and made the me person  I am today.

10. Free Food

Need I say more?

Billable Time

We bill by the hour. Sometimes we do not bill for all or part of our time spent working on a project or task. How do we decide? Mom.

If I would be embarrassed to explain a bill to my mom, I will not send it to my customer.

The Best Email Just Got Cheaper

Mailtrust Email Hosting. We have raved about Mailtrust before and host all of our personal and business domains on their servers. We love Mailtrust so much that we resell their service to our customers and even own stock in the company (RAX). Mailtrust slashed its retail prices this month to $1 / 10 GB Mailbox / Month. For our customers, that's $0.70 / Month. Why is it cheaper for our customers? Because we do not mark-up.

It is common practice for service providers and consultants to become resellers of other services or products. These services and products are marked-up to their clients and the consultants pocket the difference. We could do that, we'd make some money at it, but we choose not to. In fact, we believe this behavior borders on the unethical. We are paid for our time, expertise, and advice. If our advice includes recommending the purchase of a service or product from which we will gain financially, it is difficult for us to be unbiased. So we do not mark-up.

Why become a reseller if we do not make a profit at it? That is simple. We like to make our clients happy. We have noticed that paying less money for the same service or product tends to make our clients happy. This policy extends to all of our reseller and partner agreements, and even to the simple act of purchasing retail equipment for reimbursement. We do not mark-up. So smile, because Mailtrust email just got cheaper for everyone, and even cheaper for you if you're a Feedwire client.

Recycle your Computers and Electronics

You've probably got unused electronics in your life. You've probably also got too much stuff in your life. Chances are that the trouble of selling your old electronics outweigh the possible profits, or you're not sure about letting that hard drive out into the wild with your information still on it, or you've heard about heavy metals in electronics and you don't want to release them into the environment. Enter California Recycles.

"California Recycles was formed to assist people, non-profits, corporations and municipalities recycle their electronics with ease. They provide convenient, affordable and simple solutions that make it easy to recycle all electronics; de-clutter your environment and prevent the harmful elements contained in electronic waste from contaminating our environment." Bravo, California Recycles. They make it easier for business and individuals to recover wasted office space and improve our relationship with the environment at the same time.

If you've got electronic equipment that you'd like out of your life, Feedwire is happy to help you sort and identify which equipment is recycle-ready, and to verify that none of your business or company information will get into the wrong hands. We can even transport small equipment to the recycling center for you.

California Recycles is having a free equipment collecting event this week on Wednesday April 15 at Whole Foods Santa Monica from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM. They have several collection events like this every month at different locations throughout Los Angeles, so check their website for the schedule.

Thanks to Ona for inviting us to this event.