My Digital Backup Strategy

By Mike Maddaloni on Monday, April 25, 2016 at 06:05 PM with 0 comments

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Do you know where your files are?

You know, all of those bits and bytes that make up video of your baby’s first steps, PDF files of your tax returns, those songs from high school you can’t get out of your head. You know... your life!

As our lives become more and more digital, there is more involved in managing those files – our digital assets – so we know what and where they are, and more importantly they don’t get lost forever. In other words, they need to be backed up.

Been There, Lost That

Over the years I have had my fair share of lost data, files, information – whatever you prefer to call it. From misplacing floppy discs to hard drive crashes to not being able to restore deleted files, there are many things I have lost in part or whole. In some cases there were copies of the files elsewhere, whether on another computer, server or in paper form. And in some cases there were not.

From my own experiences and observing and helping others who have lost data and files over the years, I have evolved my backup strategy. This strategy has also morphed based on my computer usage coupled with advances in technology.

Backups from Micro to Macro

I will now share with you my current backup strategy which I have been using for several years now. I will start with the “micro” or day-to-day elements, traveling to the “macro” or more involved.

Keeper VaultKeeper is a secure app and service I have used on a daily basis for years, yet I am surprised I haven’t written about it before… no time like the present I guess.

Keeper has its roots in secure password management, and that is when I started using it several years ago. Where we don’t often think of logins and passwords as something to backup, try losing some sticky notes or that unprotected spreadsheet of logins and see what happens.

I went with Keeper for 2 reasons. First, only the end user can access their data, not even the Keeper staff. You can read more on the nuts and bolts of how Keeper works here. In short, it’s very secure and I like that. The second reason is I met Keeper’s founder, Darren Guccione, years ago at a tech networking event as he and Keeper are based in Chicago. I met someone passionate about technology, security and consumer usability, and I was sold on his solution to all of them.

Recently Keeper began offering file storage, where you can get space to store files through their digital vault. I began using it but nowhere as I should. I have stored things like a picture of my AAA card, so in case I lose it or am not carrying it on me I can retrieve it on my mobile device, as well as through a Web browser or client program on a PC or Mac – giving me access to these files and information virtually anywhere. You can get a free trial of Keeper or pay US$30 for a year of full features. For me, Keeper is some of the best money I spend on technology.

Mozy Pro Online Backup – I don’t keep a lot of files on my computer, something I’ll get into more later. But I do have some files on it, what I call my “active” files – ones I have recently worked on in some form or another. To ensure these files are always backed up and nothing is lost, I use online backup.

Mozy Pro is an online backup service from data storage giant EMC which I have used for years going back to when I had my own Web consulting business. Mozy has a consumer version called Mozy Home in addition to Pro, but I am only referring to Pro here as that is the only one I am using. I get 20 GB of file backup space for around US$150 per year, and you can pay more or less for more or less space.

With online backup, I can backup files continuously while my Mac (or a PC) is on as a background task. This is convenient as I don’t have to think about it. If I do work on a number of files at once, I can choose to run a manual backup to ensure those files are backed-up and I don’t lose my changes.

Of course the key to any backup is that you can restore a file or files from it. Mozy Pro allows you to do that on an individual or multiple file level. As well, it can give you a bulk Zip file of all files – I know this first hand as once I hosed my new PC’s hard drive when I tried to encrypt it, and had I not done backups before the encryption to Mozy Pro I would have lost all of the files.

Select Files to Protected Portable Drive – I keep a WD Passport hard drive with password –protection on hand to make periodical, manual backups. This drive is small in size but very convenient to work with. The version I have is 500 GB (or half a terabyte) but now you can get them with up to 3 TB (terabytes) for a little over US$100. As convenient as the size is that I can password-protect the drive so any local backups are secured.

Off-Site Networked Drive Backups – Earlier I mentioned I only keep so many files on my computer. This is because I have a NAS, or networked attached storage (NAS), drive at my home. This is my home server, where I store files as well as photos and music and any other file types I have and can access this password-protected drive on my home network. As this is where the majority of my files are, it’s needless to say they need to be backed up.

The backup process for my NAS drive is similar to the previous step, where I back it up to hard drives, but with a few twists. I use a Windows PC to run these backups using a program called Robocopy which comes with Windows. It allows me to make a file-by-file mirror of my NAS drive onto the external portable hard drives I have. Following this mirror backup, these drives are then secured in separate, off-site locations under lock and key and additional security. Where I don’t want to say where exactly they are stored, one location may be a bank safe deposit box. Maybe.

For these backups, I typically do them monthly, or more often if I add more files to the NAS drive, like family photos. I will do one backup at a time, namely so that one of the backup drives is always secured in the event of some form of loss or disaster, such as a roof leak and subsequent home flooding, while in the process of performing a backup. After performing one backup and securing it, I will then strive to do the other one within a week of the first.

Deconstructing Backups

Backups are only as good as they are current or accurate, and that you are able to restore from them. This is why I use a variety of backup methods to minimize and reduce potential errors.

I welcome your thoughts and opinions on my digital backup strategy, how it compares to yours, or if it has inspired you to create a process of your own. Please share this in the comments of this post.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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3 Challenges of In-App Web Browsers

By Mike Maddaloni on Sunday, March 13, 2016 at 03:52 PM with 0 comments

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Quick – how many Web browsers are on your mobile phone?

Now I realize this question may confuse you, but please read on, as I may be talking about something completely new to you or something you know about but didn't realize its full impact and the challenges that come from it.

The Mobile Web Is Still a Thing

With the growth of mobile devices and apps, many predicted the Web would be less relevant. With advances in Web design, namely the concept of responsive Web design, where a Web site will adapt or :respond: to the size of the screen it is presented on, Web sites are still viewed on mobile devices, and this will certainly continue.

To view Web sites on a mobile device, like on a PC or Mac, you use a Web browser. This in itself is an app, and on the iPhone the “native” browser is Safari and on an Android phone, it's Google Chrome. As well, you can install other browsers like Opera or Firefox. Just as on the desktop or laptop computer, some people just use the native browser and others use another. Some use more than one, realizing one may present a Web page differently than another – that difference can be slight, or to the extreme the Web site functionality may not work at all. Unfortunately there is no strict standards that a Web browser must follow to display Web pages, thus the differences.

The More Not The Merrier

As you may guess, the more Web browsers there are, the greater the chance these differences – or errors – may occur. I personally have encountered this many times as a regular Web user, as well as someone who owns and builds Web sites.

To compound the number of apps out there that are Web browsers are apps that serve a unique purpose but also have a Web browser built into it.

Again, my apologies if I have confused you... Web browsers in apps? Which ones? And how many different ones? And why? Where I have some answers to these, I am not a mindreader, though as someone who has designed products as well as software, I will share with you my thoughts as to why, and their impact.

As for the which and how, the image at the top of this post shows 8 apps I currently have installed on my iPhone that have an in-app Web browser. Eight! One is Safari, the iPhone native Web browser, and the other 7 are inside apps. As for the why, this depends on the thought and design of the app owners and developers.

Here's one thought as to why: the chief reason is the user experience – click a Web link in an app and you stay within the app. Granted you can launch a separate Web browser on your mobile device, but the user is then leaving your app, where you want them to stay. Talking with some Web app owners off-the-record, they have also said this, as well as functionality of the app they would like to leverage in the Web browser. So as I said, they have their reasons.

Challenges All Around

After this setup, it may already be obvious as to what the challenges to in-app Web browsers are, and who they impact, including:

Challenges to App Users – Thats you and me folks, the end consumer of these apps and their browsers. There's a real-world example tha

t happened to me that first brought this to my attention.

I went to an eCommerce Web site to make a purchase, one I have been to man times on a mobile device as well as my Mac. However a popup window that normally comes up as the last step of the process to complete the order did not appear. I tried and tried a couple of times and it still did not complete the order. It wasn't until I realized I was in an in-app Web browser and not Safari, which I had used in the past. I then opened Safari on my iPhone, tried the order again and it worked just fine.

Even for someone like myself who considers himself a high-end user, I didn't think twice on what app I was really in, and once I did, it still didn't matter, as I wondered why the Web page didn't work?

Challenges to Web Site Owners and Developers – One of the greatest challenges to those who run and build Web technology is that their Web sites and Web applications work in browsers. This may be even more challenging than the site being of value and compelling to the end user.

Going back over 20 years there have been the need to test and verify Web sites on all PC and Mac Web browsers, as well as on other computer operating systems, which back then you could count on one hand. Add to it mobile devices, tablets, watches and multiple brands of browsers on each, not to mention different versions (not everyone is on the latest version!) it can be overwhelming.

Overwhelming, and expensive. The need for a quality assurance (QA) lab, equipment (basically at least one of each piece of hardware), staff, third-party consultants, services and software... you don't even need to be technical to realize the magnitude of it.

Challenges to App Owners and Developers – If you decide you need/want a Web browser in your app, you are basicaly doubling the functionality to build and support in your app. A Web browser is a beast all into itself – and now you have one. You need to test your browser with the latest Web technologies and standards, consistently. You also need to keep up with the competition – standalone Web browsers – as to their features and how they deliver Web pages. And where you have the staff to develop your app, you will need to expand it for the Web browser functionality as well.

This goes beyond the technology and into your product management and development. Where it may be ideal to have that tightly integrated browser, the overall question must be, at what cost?

Supporting not Scaring

As business needs and technology are always a moving target, it's good to have an idea of what may be in case you ever lose scope or focus on it. I hope after reading this I haven't scared you – saying you have almost a dozen of something when you had no idea can be a bit much.

I welcome your thoughts on multiple Web browsers in the comments of this post. I promise not to scare you anymore now... on this topic anyway!


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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Google Contributor Offers Interesting Approach To Blog Revenue

By Mike Maddaloni on Sunday, February 07, 2016 at 11:46 PM with 0 comments

Would you pay money to read The Hot Iron? And what if by paying you saw less ads on the site?

I know I have asked this question before when I added CentUp to this very blog. Another new revenue model for writers has come about from Google called Contributor. As I have no illusions (delusions?) of grandeur in earning a living from this very site alone in itself, I was more intrigued to try it to how it really works.

How It Works

Google Contributor allows a Web user to contribute money monthly for ads to not be shown on Web sites it visits. The ads specifically are ones from Google’s own ad services, AdSense and DoubleClick. So if a banner ad comes from another source other than Google (and there are many) that ad will still appear. In the place of the ad it may be blank or a thank you message for supporting the particular Web site.

From the Web site owner’s perspective, if they are displaying on their site through Google, rather than getting the money for someone seeing and clicking on an ad, they are getting money from the user’s Contributor account, in a sense offsetting the cost of the ad usually paid by the advertiser.

A few items of note on Contributor. Currently it only works in the US. By someone contributing money, either US$2, US$5 or US$10 a month, they are still going to see ads. As shown in the chart below, by contributing those 3 previously mentioned dollar figures, they will see respectively 5-15%, 15-25% or 25-50% fewer ads. These fewer ads are across all Web sites with Google ads not just one in particular. So if you contribute $10 a month, thinking it will all go to me for reading The Hot Iron, it will not.

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Is It Worth It?

That’s a great question – is it worth it? I honestly don’t know, as I have just set it up on the blog, and I have also signed up as a Contributor at the whopping US$2 a month level.

Here is a screenshot of this blog with an ad appearing at the top:

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Here is a screenshot of this blog without an ad appearing at the top:

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I know – the difference is amazing!

It will be interesting to see how often I notice the ads not there. Last year was the 20th anniversary of the Web banner ad. As I heard somewhere – and I forgot the source – it was marking 20 years of people ignoring banner ads! So even if it technically works, it will be interesting to see if anyone notices.

Are you a Google Contributor? Did I convince you to join, or not join? I welcome your thoughts in the comments of this post.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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Jackery Battery Chargers Big And Small Do The Job

By Mike Maddaloni on Tuesday, November 24, 2015 at 04:32 PM with 0 comments

photo of Jackery Mini and Giant +

Once upon a time you could easily remove the battery from a mobile device. This made it easy to keep a charge as you could simply swap out a dead battery for a fresh one. Of course you would have to charge the removed battery, and you could either charge it in the device or in a special battery charger.

Where the above scenario sounds like ancient history, it was less than a decade ago that you could do this. Today most mobile devices have non-removable batteries. Granted “non-removable” is a relative term as you can remove anything, it’s just that the device isn’t designed for it to be easily removed, and in doing so may void its warranty. As a result, spare batteries have been replaced by external battery chargers, and have spawned a whole new industry, especially as having 1 or 2 seems to never be enough power.

Recently I was offered the chance to evaluate external battery chargers made by Jackery. Where I have seen this brand before, namely on Amazon.com, I had never used one. In this eval I was also offered to choose which battery charger I would like to try. As I couldn’t choose between their largest and smallest models, the Giant + and the Mini, I asked if I could try both, and they said I could.

In my review I didn’t plan out anything specific, as I simply wanted to use them as I would any battery charger. I also had my wife use them as well, not specifically saying why I had them. Also note I am not an electrician, and I can’t speak to power ratings or usage, only from a lay person’s point of view. Judging from most people who read The Hot Iron, I am not disappointing anyone with that last statement.

Giant + – Multiple devices, multiple charges

The Giant + is a battery charger you most likely won’t carry in your pocket, this is unless you’re going to a festival concert, which I did this past fall when I took it to Riot Fest. I also have used it to charge multiple device at home, such as my iPhone and iPad. It was also the power source for my modern-day attempt at a boom-box, charging both my iPhone and a Bluetooth speaker which played at our neighborhood block party.

The main features of the Giant + are that you can charge 2 devices at once, and that you can charge devices multiple times. In my charging, I was far from scientific, but many times I had multiple devices charging to 100% at once. There is a 3-bar light indicator which tells you the battery level, and the accompanying charge cable would replenish the battery pretty quickly – at least overnight, which is what I most often did.

Another feature of the Giant + is an LED flashlight. By pressing a side button twice, the flashlight turns on and off. I’ll admit I didn’t really use this in a real-world situation, as I always had enough light, typically from device screens, to plug in to it. But I did try the light in the dark and it is plenty bright. As it’s not a battery you may typically carry around with you, I am not sure if the light often used, but I would love to hear from someone who has.

Mini – Topping off the fuel tank

As I said before, I have several battery chargers, namely as all of my devices have weak batteries and constantly need recharging. Where I have used the Giant + to bring a device back from the dead, sometimes it’s nice just to top off a charge or have a spare battery just in case. The Jackery Mini came in handy for both situations.

The Mini is just that – small, compact and can easily fit in the same pocket as your device… that is, if your device can fit in your pocket itself, but I digress. This battery is one my wife would take with her to charge her phone. It has a push button where up to 4 LEDs illuminate in extremely bright blue to indicate the strength. I have also kept the Mini in my backpack with a spare charging cable if I ever needed a top-off.

Solid and stylish

Both the Jackery Giant + and Mini are solid. They have an aluminum outer shell with a shine to them – the Giant + I had is bright orange (a color I love!) and the Mini was close to what Apple calls “rose gold” but they call it just gold. I of course have dropped both batteries, and they have held up well, though they mostly just fell off my desk.

As for the price, I have seen a variety of ranges, and as I am posting this close to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, I am sure there will be deals on it. In all cases, the Giant + is more than the Mini.

For portable power, these backup batteries from Jackery performed well for me. They also offer many other styles, as well as cases. And after having them hands-on, I am glad I couldn’t decide which one to review, as they each have their own uses. If you have used Jackery backup batteries before, or have any questions on these, I would like to hear from you in the comments to this post.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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First 2 Steps To Take To Start Blogging

By Mike Maddaloni on Sunday, November 15, 2015 at 09:53 PM with 0 comments

photo of 2 feet

As follow-up to my inquisitive and popular blog post on 2 questions I ask anyone thinking about blogging, namely to those who are still interested in blogging after reading it, I now would like to offer advice on how to get started with your blog.

First, setup a free blog at Wordpress.com

You need a blog in order to blog. A blog is a Web site with a content management system (or CMS) which is software on a Web server that allows you to easily publish what you write.

If you have been to a blog site before, there is a good chance it’s on Wordpress, as it is the most well-known and used blog CMS. Wordpress can be used for entire Web sites as well, and not just blogs, but we won’t get ahead of ourselves too much here. Another reason for using Wordpress.com is in its portability potential. If you build a blog at Wordpress.com and in the future you decide you want to move it to another Web host, you can literally export the site and move it. Note I have oversimplified how I described this process and some technical expertise is involved.

Plus, creating a blog at Wordpress.com is free, so if you start one and realize it’s too much for you, there is no major financial commitment.

Register and set a domain name for your blog

Where I just got done telling you to create a free blog, now I am recommending you spend a little more on a domain name.

By registering a domain name for your blog and tying it to your Wordpress.com blog, you gain in several ways. By default, your blog will be named something like myblogname.wordpress.com, but myblogname.com is a more unique name and easier to remember. Also, if you decide to move your blog in the future, you can keep the same Web address – you will not be able to keep myblogname.wordpress.com as that is not your own domain name, wordpress.com.

A domain name also a unique name to your blog. Where it may be presumptive that your blog will be a runaway smash hit on the Internet. If you have peered around The Hot Iron there are plenty of articles on getting your own domain name and other benefits of doing so. You can register a domain name many places, and I always recommend name.com and note I did not get paid to say that!

Ready to blog in no time

Setting up a blog on Wordpress.com and registering a domain name can all be done in under an hour. Configuring your blog and performing some customizations may take a little longer, and that all depends on how much you want to do, though I wouldn’t focus too much on the look of your blog and rather on its substance – the writing!

I hope this has helped, and please share a comment to this post once you do it and share the link to your new blog for all to see.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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Put Your Smartphone Lock Screen To Work To Save Your Device

By Mike Maddaloni on Thursday, October 22, 2015 at 02:36 PM with 0 comments

photo of iPhone 6 in leaves

Whenever someone gets a new or upgraded mobile device, the first thing they do is customize it. From app icon placement to wallpaper images, they do all that they can to make it suit their needs... or ego, or both.

I’d like to share a mobile customization that you can easily do, and it can help you get your device back in case it is ever lost or stolen – customize the lock (or security) screen with your contact information.

It Works!

This idea is actually nothing new for me, as it dates back before I had an iPhone, and even back before I had a Nokia – going back to almost 6 years when I had a Palm 680 smartphone. In those golden years, the lock screen of the Palm allowed you to customize a text message, of which I did with with my name, phone and email address. All was good until one night when I was running late to do the lights and sounds for a friend’s improv show, and in the process of running from the train to the theater, I dropped my Palm device. This I didn’t realize until right before the show started, as I reached to silence a device that was not there. As I had my contact info right there when the kid who found it turned it on, he was able to email me, and we met the next day to get my phone back. Phew!

Create Your Own Image

With today’s popular phones, you can do this with customizing the background image – or wallpaper – on the phone’s lock screen, as you can see that I did on the above photo of my iPhone. In this case, I used PhotoShop, the graphic design software, to create an image to fit on the lock screen, and added the text I wanted. If you don’t have graphic design software, you can still do this a variety of ways, including these tips for the iPhone, Android or Windows Phone. If this is beyond your tech savviness threshold, you can just print out a piece of paper with your info on it, take a picture of it, and save it as the lock screen wallpaper.

But Wait, What About Find My Phone Apps?

Yes Virginia, there are apps and core functionality of devices that allow you to track your device using GPS. And yes, these apps can work to help you retrieve your device. But if someone finds your phone, and when turning it on sees you name, this can be a deterrent to them to whatever nefarious things they may have considered doing to it. Plus they may even get in touch with you prior to you yourself realizing it is missing or can get to a computer to use that find function.

Will You?

Sometimes the simplest solution is the most effective. Your lock screen doesn’t have to be as simple as mine – it can have style, and your contact information as well. If this has convinced you to create a custom lock screen, please let me know in the comments to this post. As well, if you would never consider doing this, I’d like to know that too.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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If You Love Your Children Get A Domain Name For Their Name

By Mike Maddaloni on Thursday, October 08, 2015 at 08:48 PM with 3 comments

photo of one of my bundle of joys

They are little bundles of joy. They are the future. They will probably decide what nursing home we will go into someday. And the odds are good they could become a household name or brand. If not, who is to say what they will need a couple of decades or less after they are born and (hopefully) on their own?

There are a few investments you can make now when the kids are young that will pay off in the future. One is whole life insurance, another is a college savings fund. And another? Registering a domain name or names for their birth name.

I Did and So Should You

Shortly after each of my wonderful little ones were born, and shortly before I contacted relatives and emailed the world, I registered domain names for their birth names. Right in the delivery room.

The decision to get domain names for your kids is smart. It is a low cost (about US$10/year and up, depending on the domain extension) investment in their future. Plus you will never have regrets down the line as nobody else will be able to register their names in the event they suddenly get famous, or decide to focus on their personal brand. The way things are going these days, that may be sooner than later.

I Can Do It and So Can You

Speaking of domain name extensions (a.k.a. what’s after the dot), I recommend starting with the “big 3” of .com, .net and .org, and in that order. If any of those are not available, you may want to try another extension, such as .uno, .co or another short one. You may want to keep away from ones which may not be relevant to them down the road, such as .marketing.

If you’re looking for a great place to register and hold a domain name, go to name.com. I did not make any money by recommending them, but I have had domain names with them for years, and they are the best in my mind – from support to their easy to use, stylish Web site. Plus they offer two-factor authentication, so your domain names are safe.

Have you registered a domain name for your kid? If so, I’d like to hear from you. Or are you against the idea? I’d like to hear from you especially! Please share your thoughts in the comments to this post.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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Top 7 Must-Have Features In A New Bank Account

By Mike Maddaloni on Wednesday, September 09, 2015 at 04:07 PM with 0 comments

photo of Continental Illinois Bank Building sign in Chicago

I have always had a love/hate relationship with banks. Love too, you say? Yes, as I worked through most of college at banks, doing everything from check processing to mortgage collections, I gained insight and appreciation for how banks operate. Hate, as most people do, for as consumers we feel banks are not on our side and are just trying to slap fees on us and make it hard to access our money, among other choice topics I am sure.

As I have these negative opinions of my current bank, I have often considered leaving them for someone else. But why?

I decided to write down the features of consumer banking I am looking for. Rather than thinking of the type of bank (or credit union) I'd ideally like to move to, I decided to focus initially on my “pain points” - or the things I think about most often when banking.

So whether you are with a bank and looking for a new account, or a student in a new college town and looking for a local bank, here's what I am considering for my must-haves in a new bank.

  • 1. All free – “All” includes checking, savings, ATM usage, foreign ATM usage, online banking, bill pay and cashiers checks, plus no minimum balances. Am I asking for a lot here? No, as bank accounts are the entre into loans with banks, where the real money is made.
  • 2. True overdraft protection – As in a credit line, not to a credit card tied to your account. Granted most banks that have overdraft protection have real credit lines, however my current bank does not.
  • 3. Non-cheesy online banking and bill pay – I always ask to see a demo, as some online banking is cheesy, especially for smaller banks who use third parties, or like my current one who has a “virtual wallet” metaphor that I never use and is just added clicks to getting to my balance. Oh, and I like to see my check images in online banking as well, especially as I always chose the paperless statements option.
  • 4. Bill pay with money coming out of my account right away – This is one of my pet peeves. Where most people like playing the Checkfloat Game, I don't, namely as I lose all the time. If I use bill pay, I want the money out of my account right away.
  • 5. ATM accepts cash and checks for deposit – I am hooked on depositing cash into an ATM, the ATM counting it, and crediting it right away.
  • 6. Mobile banking with check deposit – Having the ability to not go to a bank or ATM to deposit a check is a wonderful thing.
  • 7. Saturday hours – Despite what I said above, there are always the occasions when I need to go to a bank and talk with a human being. As my schedule doesn't always allow me to go during the week, going on a weekend day is a nice feature to have.

When I evaluate a bank, I will simply bring a printout of this blog post with me as my checklist. I would love to have your thoughts as to what features you look for, and feel free to leave them here in the comments to this post. That way they will be on the same printout checklist.

In the meantime, I’ll share this video for the song, “I Hate Banks” by Mojo Nixon and Skid Roper from the 1980’s, which Chicago Cubs fans will especially like. Note it may not be safe to play at work, which of course depends on where you work!


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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Retreat Reflect Return

By Mike Maddaloni on Monday, August 24, 2015 at 08:41 PM with 0 comments

photo of The Freedom Principle mural at Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago

You have certainly heard the expression, “if you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.” Where the idea behind it is that when things are going (or cooking) it can get intense. However I don't think the phrase was to infer you have to spend every waking moment in the thick of it. At least I don't think that.

Early in my career this was something I learned – you need to sometimes get a break from it all – even for a little bit – to be able to keep sharp and focused on the task at hand. Not to forget if you are stuck on something, staring at it all day in itself will not solve it.

Early Lesson Learned

Years ago I was told a story by a manager at the time that really hit home with me, and changed my work habits to include stepping away from it all.

In the story, he was in a distribution center, standing among the racks of palleted merchandise with senior executives of the client. There was a problem and everyone was talking but nobody was really contributing to the situation. In the middle of this, he hopped on a hydraulic scissor lift and went up about 3 levels of the racks. Several minutes later, he lowered the lift and descended, and had the solution to the problem.

Where all of the clients thought he went up on the lift to physically solve the problem, he actually did so to get away! He couldn't think among the bloviating of everybody so he went up the lift, and away from them, to clear his head and logically solve the problem, which he was able to do once free of the clutter. The client was impressed, and in the end had no idea they could have been an impediment to solving the issue at hand.

In short, what he did was retreat, reflect and return.

This is something I have done and continue to do. I touched on this when I wrote how I came up with the name of my Web site assessment checklist. Among some of the ways I have and still do retreat, reflect and return to the workplace include:

  • Penguins – When I worked in downtown Boston I would go to the New England Aquarium and lean over the railing of the penguin pool at the base of the giant tank. I would stand there and watch the penguins for a while. They have such a simple life, and watching their interactions with each other made for a great way to clear my head.
  • Plymouth Rock – When I worked in the town where the Pilgrims from England landed in the New World in 1620, I would occasionally go to a sub shop in the center of Plymouth, Massachusetts, across the street from the infamous rock on which the Pilgrims reportedly were first to step on when descending from their ship. I would take my lunch from said sub shop and eat it while leaning over the railing of the shelter which covers the Rock. Staring at the Rock and Plymouth Bay behind it was a great stress reliever.
  • Modern art – My latest venue is the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, located across the street from my newly-joined workplace. Though said workplace is a great environment to work in and in no way stressful than, say, my last job, it is still nice to recharge my brain a bit on Tuesdays when the museum is free to Illinois residents. I do plan on getting a membership there as I may find the need to think a little differently on another day of the week other than Tuesday.

I am eager to hear if you have any techniques – or destinations – of your own, when you retreat, reflect and return. Please share then in the comments of this post.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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It’s OK To Lie On Web And Mobile Security Questions

By Mike Maddaloni on Tuesday, August 04, 2015 at 12:13 PM with 0 comments

lie!

Your first love. Your first pet. Your first car. And Mom – what was her last name before she got married?

The preceding paragraph was not a trip down memory lane. Rather it is a list of some of the most commonly asked questions on Web sites and mobile apps to verify who you are. Where at one time a simple username and password were enough, now you could be answering one of almost a half-dozen questions and answer pairs to log into an online service. With everyone wanting a higher degree of security, these types of extended login functions are becoming more commonplace.

But I have a secret to share with you. Lie!

When these challenge questions started popping up on online services, I pondered their need, as well as the fact that more personal information about myself would be out there in random databases, and probably not encrypted or secured as well credit card information (or as well as credit card information should be secured!). Though these seem harmless questions, the information can be very personal, yet for some reason we share it.

That’s when I decided to lie – rather than put my Mom’s maiden name on the Web or app form when it is asked, I lied. Instead I put in something different altogether. For ease of remembering, I often use the same answers to similar questions, bit if I am using an online service I may not go back to, I will completely make something up.

The advantage to using a made-up answer to a security challenge question is that should this information get hacked into or otherwise compromised, further personal details of my life are not out there. The disadvantage to this is you will need to remember or log somewhere these questions and answers. Granted there are online secured “wallets” for this type of information, but those too need passwords and perhaps challenge questions and answers too.

Until something better comes along for secured access to online services, username, passwords and challenge question and answer pairs will be prevalent. By using an answer other than the truth, you can feel a little more private. Plus nobody has to know your first pet was a French poodle named Fifi Petunia Marmalade.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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