Archive for the ‘Tips’ Category

How to be an “Undefinable You” like Keila Banks #undefinableyou

Monday, August 3rd, 2015

Recently my daughter (Keila Banks) did a talk at O’Reilly Media’s OSCON 2015. Hey keynote talk was “Undefinable Me.” In the talk, in short, she talks about how she’s a 13 year old coder and many many other things that make it hard to define her (video here). She ends her talk by saying “Join me in being an undefinable you.” Since then I’ve been flooded with messages, emails, texts and calls about her video asking for help with this concept. I will explain it in detail here.

When my daughter gives talks we brainstorm on an idea and I let her expound on it. She does all her

Me, my dad, Keila, Uncle John and son David.

Me, my dad, Keila, Uncle John and son David.

own writing and video presentation so there’s no speech written. She’s just talking about yourself and who can’t talk about themselves. I presented her with a title idea. To talk about herself. Let me digress for a second to give you a little background.

My dad (Sammie Banks) was an electrical engineer since the 1960’s. My uncle John was a mathematician that worked for the Pentagon back in those decades as well. This was a VERY hard thing in that there were few black people in technology fields. My father aimed us towards whatever we wanted. He’d pay for books if need be but he wouldn’t give out answers he knew to things. If I wanted to know I had to come back with enough information to discuss the question. I wasn’t an exceptional kid at math but I felt computers which had just started to be put in homes to be my new purpose. My dad’s words of advice to us in all things was simple, “In whatever you do you’re going to have to be twice as good as the guy standing right next to you.” Understanding the undertones that the man next to us was probably a white man the message was clear but racism was inexcusable no matter what other people did.

The lessons he gave me were changed a bit by me to come up with idea of perfecting my 3 principles at the core of everything. Mind. Body. Spirit. My children discuss and learn things (Mind), healthy and in good physical condition from exercise (Body) and God fearing and kind (Spirit). My things don’t have to be your things but choose your things. What are your core beliefs? Do they make the world a better place and not just you?

Men of the Banks family

Hunter Banks, David Banks, Sammie Banks, Phillip Banks Jr. and Phillip Banks Sr.

Programming since I was 10 like my sons and daughter I used to find on error message that would always cause you a problem when it hit. “Undefined variable.” This meant somewhere along in your code you were supposed to give something a value but you forgot to. Being undefinable is lacking the ability to be given a simple value. Programmers and geeks might know this as a list or array needed which gives this thing many values. This is the same for you but you’re going to break the program because you want to be undefinable. They’re going to have to come up with a new language for you.

I’m a 6’3″ Christian, black, athletic, geeky, sociable, funny (just roll with on that), inner city Los Angeles native that works on all tech things but mainly free and open source technologies like Linux and Firefox (read into that part a tree hugging/hippie tech geek perception) and always with his kids. I won’t go into the possibly negative connotations associated with who I am that I completely shatter in people’s brains but that’s great. That’s how it starts.

The main focus I wanted her to hit that she hit so well is that she’s not special. Even if you did this we’re smart that only gets you so far. Hard work on yourself is what gets results. So if you’re female change the narrative of what people say about females in tech to one that makes gender sound silly being discussed. If you’re young make the value associated with your age irrelevant. If you’re black, Latin, Asian, etc. defy saying or thinking things like, “I’m this way because I’m [fill in nationality here].” Then and only then are you an undefinable you.

Keila Banks on the Melissa Harris-Perry show on MSNBC

Keila Banks on the Melissa Harris-Perry show on MSNBC

Reference: Keila Banks “Undefinable me” talk at OSCON 2015
Business Inside article: ( )
Banks Family Values (FOSS Force):



Pidgin insecure and my stupidity

Friday, August 28th, 2009

pidgin.jpgFor quite some time now I’ve been having a problem with my internet chat program Pidgin. It would work for a while and then all of a sudden I’d notice that the whole computer would come to a screeching halt. Resource usage would go up to 100% on a Linux machine. Not unbelievable but not very common for me. So, I figured out the problem was my instant messaging software Pidgin. Upon further investigation I found out that it probably was due to the Facebook plugin that I installed that let Pidgin log into my Facebook account and show me all the people available on Facebook chat.

Months went by without spending the time to find a solution for this until today I finally decided to really get into it because I love having my clients accessible to me through instant message rather than phone calls or texting. I had switch to using Kopete for the most part till I got around to fixing it but don’t like anything as much as Pidgin.

I completely uninstalled Pidgin and re-installed it and didn’t like when I saw my accounts log back in. There was obviously some information left on my computer after I uninstalled the program. First, I hate that! If you make a package, clean up all your crap when I uninstall it. Second, I found where it was saving its extra information. The folder “./purple” in my home folder. That’s not the shocking part though. I looked into the adium.pngdirectory and noticed my biggest screw up ever. I saved my passwords! I never do that and always advise people to never save a passwords on a computer.Within a file called “accounts.xml” were all my username and passwords for my different instant messaging accounts in clear text for anyone who sat down at my computer to look for and see. I ddin’t check this on a Windows PC or on a Mac (Adium on the Mac) yet but knowing that I do use it on these other operating systems I will be more aware. I also realized I use Pidgin’s portable version on my USB stick that I keep on my keychain. I don’t save passwords or accounts there because I use it so rarely but what if you did and lost your keys or USB stick. Your information is out there for anyone to see.

If for any reason you’ve saved a password on your computer delete them. Go into all your programs and empty out that information. A little bit of extra time logging in will save you many untold hours of grief. Many people use the same passwords over and over again. An experienced hacker knows to start first with the passwords he knows and just figure out the usernames. Don’t be a victim to this possible openning in your security.

Boot Windows or Linux for a USB thumb drive

Tuesday, April 29th, 2008

This post is going to be kind of quick but I just saw an article that Windows lovers might love. There’s a program called Bart PE that lets you make a bootable Windows CD. The article is at Tech Republic (a great site for tech info and howtos in many different areas).

Just as a disclaimer: I don’t suggest using Windows on a Boot CD or USB thumb drive. I suggest using a good Linux distro like Slax or even an Ubuntu disk. They add more features on a CD or thumb drive and they keep updating them often.

Spice up your job and love it again

Monday, November 26th, 2007

A couple of weeks ago I was watching an American Dad episode and it made me think a little bit about life and how people see it. Sometimes doing what you love can get to be a bit like a boring marriage. I’ve been with my spouse for a very long time so I can tell you from experience. Sometimes you do need to spice it up a bit.

Well, the same happens with your job. In the American Dad episode the father works for the C.I.A. and he starts to find it a little boring. They open the show with him lazily picking up a bodybag out of his trunk with a live hostage. He then opens the bag near the door to an enemy compound, opens the guy’s eyelid so the retinal scanner on the door opens and green berets flood into the compound shooting. Amongst all the excitement he goes back to his car still bored. Later in the show he sees a meter maid passing out tickets and thinks that must be really exciting.

You may find yourself sometimes being this guy. You loved your job when you started. You really wanted to do what you now do for a living but for some reason you’re so bored.

Here’s a couple tips to spice up your job relationship:

1) Make yourself a new project if you aren’t on one. Make it a project that is challenging but it will make you learn a lot in an area you knew nothing about before. Of course you definitely should make it compliment or enhance your current job.

2) Meet some new people in your field. Networking always makes you run into people that do what you do but have something else to add that you find interesting and/or you can add something that they find interesting.

3) Find the routine things that are making your life boring and find ways to automate, reduce their time consumption, or make a personal time challenge out of. Of course your goal, like typing, isn’t to get done first but done with no errors.
4) If your job is full of routine then totally switch up the order. Commonly mixing up your environment and routine keeps those synapses firing all the time to re-acclimate you to your setting

5) GET AWAY FROM YOUR WORK! I can’t stress this one enough. When I worked in an office, getting away from my desk and most times even the building for lunch re-invigorates you. I’m in California so I love to go outside and get some fresh air (yeah, I know it’s mostly smog or forest fires here but you get my drift).

Trying these and a couple others you come up with can help you shape the direction you’re going in and make it new and exciting again. If you have any idea let me know as well. I run a home based business and need to get away sometimes so I’m constantly thinking of things to inspire myself.

If you have any good ideas that you use feel free to let me know.

Do you have your flashcards?

Saturday, November 3rd, 2007

I’ve just got a very quick tip. When learning new programming languages, operating systems, applications, or services go back to an old high school trick. I used flash cards bought at any stationary store or most generic discount stores. For about a dollar or so you can get about 200 flash cards. Use these to write a word or phrase on one side and a definition or an explanation on the other side.

Sit and test yourself to success.

Convenient security

Tuesday, September 11th, 2007

Ok, ok I’ll admit it. I preached the words I didn’t heed. My name is Phillip and I used to be insecure.

These would be the words I’d utter if there was an insecurity annonymous meeting. Without that facility to purge my transgresssions I will say them here. At work and for clients security was job one but at home… I was that guy with all the open routers. I was that guy with easy passwords. I’m not proud of my past I can only move on to help others.

In all seriousness, though, I was like many people. Insecure because we were too lazy to take the extra steps. Security always adds extra things to think about and that’s extra work. There are many good reasons for it though. First, I’ll give you the top 5 reasons people are insecure and then easy steps that remedy these problems.

1) “I don’t have anything anybody really wants.”

Know it or not there is so much information about you that can be known from a simple scan of your computer that can be used to get access to using your identity.

2) “I don’t leave my laptop laying around so anyone can touch it.”

Most security breaches aren’t from the intruder physically touching your machine. It’s from internet access to it. Especially when they know it’s idle.

3) “I use WEP encryption on my wireless. That’s good enough.”


Backup and Encrypt (a follow up)

Thursday, August 30th, 2007

In a previous blog post (Backup and Encrypt) I talked about backing up all of your data and making an encrypted disk to keep a copy of onsite and somewhere else.  Well, your trusty computer guy has been more talk than action.  Computer guys always seem to preach security and backup and think we’re above the rules.  No more, my friend.  I’ve finally scanned in my file cabinet and here’s a couple of pointers.

The things you need to scan most are as follows: Deeds, credit cards (both sides), Driver’s licenses, birth certificates, all insurances, passports, bank info, medical papers, wills, and car pink slips.  Also, for insurance purposes, taking pictures of property and valuable items like paintings, jewelry, computer and tech equipment, and anything else priceless to you would be good.

Don’t just backup your computer.  Backup your life.

Ride this computer till the wheels fall off

Friday, August 17th, 2007

I don’t know what to think of myself. I don’t like pack rats but I must admit to my one weakness. Trying to breath life into old machines. Believe me, I’m good at it. I’m the guy that has all these extra PC’s in my garage that I put together to see what I can do. I have a drawer full of old memory chips and I’m not afraid to use them.

The funny part is when people see my house or office sometimes. I have guests over and they naturally assume that I have spent tens of thousands on all my equipment but I haven’t. I’ve spent a tenth of that cost because most of these are computers that people either didn’t want or companies told me I could take home. Throwing Linux on these machines is like a fresh coat of paint that looks good. Windows and Mac people come and feel right at home based on what screen I give them. Of course I do have some pretty fast machines around too for the database and multimedia stuff but that’s not the norm.

Before you think about throwing out that machine you’re using figure out what you really need a computer for. What you’re running might just need a little cleaning up and it’s as good as new again. Windows and Mac computers just get a little slow because of all the bloated software that is or was installed. Backup all your info and then wipe your drive. Re-installing it with a restore CD you got with the computer and building it back up can most times make you fall in love with it again.

Visionary vs. Reactionary

Saturday, July 28th, 2007

The world is a very predictable place in a lot of ways. I have yet to document my methodology for picking winners but I have to learn to truly take advantage of this ability. As a person who is big on the stock market but only puts money on stock with a widget that I use like a fantasy league (and yes I’m winning a lot with my starting line up) you can tell how much I really jump out on a limb for new ideas in areas outside my expertise.

Thus my commentary today was a throw back to a conversation I had earlier with a friend of mine that I just figured out was a tech guy of the Cisco router persuasion. My cousin in tech enlightened me on the fact that he is big into Voice over IP and it took me back for a second. I knew that would be a big winner. I remember at the time telling a friend of mine that was a telecommunications guy, “I don’t think people are really going to want to pay $50,000 for a phone system just to get 20 phone lines in the near future. You should really get your Cisco or Nortel certifications in this area and stay ahead of the curve.” Of course I laughed talking to my new cousin in tech about where that person is now relating his staunch rebuttal of “This will NEVER dry up” as the calling card of the VHS over DVD guys.


Sonos is slick but VLC is free

Friday, June 29th, 2007

VLC picture

I must say, I do a LOT of web browsing and a decent amount of blog reading and I came across a great idea for my house as it may be for yours as well. The original blog post was on a site call the Infected project (link to article). The article was on an easy way to set up the Video LAN Client (VLC) media player to be controlled remotely by a web interface.

Let’s start by saying, VLC is my media player of choice on every OS. I use it on Windows, Linux, and Mac and I LOVE IT. I turned my kids onto it about two years ago and they stopped using all other MP3 and video programs. It does it all and it’s a great open source program. As fickle as teens are if my oldest son says it even looks better you should believe him.

After I read the blog post I got a million ideas. First, most people have more than one computer in their house. Second, these computers are usually connected to the internet thus they are connected to each other. This made me think of a lot of great ideas for whole house audio. My older boys play music in their room all night. Thing is, when they go to sleep I end up roaming the house at 2 AM turning off their music. Now I don’t have to. I can control their VLC player from my handheld PC in my room. My 5 and 9 year old go to sleep listening to soft music from their computer. Knowing their IP address allows me to turn on/off their music or change it. Even better, I can lower the volume while I’m sitting in my room on my laptop doing some late night surfing. (more…)