I Live in the Techie Meadows

I have heard some talk around town toying with the idea of being something like the next Silicone Valley. I forget where I read it, but I agree with someone who wrote that would be a bad idea because Silicone Valley ain’t that great. Sure they are the crucible of tech, but they gotta lotta problemas too. We don’t want to be the next anything or even the next thing. We just want to be our own thing.

Reno is a not so well kept secret. It has often been the punchline of bad jokes, but it is also the topic of many inside jokes. With the downfall of gambling in the Biggest Little City, Reno’s small town culture has had an opportunity to grow and blossom into a vibrant scene of art, outdoors, food, drink, events, entertainment, and technology.

Reno has never been a small player in the tech game. IGT and computerized slot machines kept Nevada near the top of the tech industry for over a generation, and the University of Nevada has been pumping out highly educated engineers and scientists for decades. Microsoft Licensing has also been a strong part of the local tech community along with many others. The IBM Smarter Cities team coming to Reno was a hugely significant boost. Apple is on its way. Google would be wise to get here while the gettin’s good! Google Fiber, heya?

The Reno Collective is a modern co-working space that creates a center for tech culture in Reno. The Generator is a great Maker Space in Sparks, there is the C4UBE incubator, and we have a 1 Million Cups in Reno. Paul Kline recently wrote a great article about being a Community of Hackers. We are on the right side of the hill. Hacker Hill is it?

With a recent economic shift and a highly favorable environment for start-ups, Reno is now in a very strong position to become a top spot for tech. Access to open inexpensive land, being in a freeport state with its position on the I-80 corridor, and the recent addition of I-580 gives Reno a unique edge in attracting a new tech generation. A lot of new tech talent would rather avoid Cupertino and Mountain View. San Francisco is way too overcrowded. Portland and Seattle are just too far away from everything, while Denver and Austin are much more expensive than Reno.

I really like the grassroots, organic effort of Startup Row, which is happening downtown on 1st Street. Renovation is a cool term that I’ve heard tossed around, but that is what they called the World Science Fiction Convention that was held here in 2011.

I want another moniker for Reno that can include the entire metro area. Techie Meadows really describes what the Truckee Meadows are on track to become and what many people would like to see happen. I’m inspired by all that’s happening in Reno to create an economy 2.o in Northern Nevada, and I’m working to become a part of it. Techie Meadows is my (our) campaign to create ‘Tech Awareness’ in the Truckee Meadows and reach out as far as the Amazon in Fernley.

Techie Meadows is something that everyone can use, something that can describe the new crowd of people here, and it is something that we can present to the rest of the world. Call it a community tech coalition, a badge for new ideas, or a simple play on words. When I write about Reno, I am going to call it Techie Meadows.

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How Tech Fails Impact Health

Happy Freelance Friday folks! Today, I have been thinking about how an office technology failure has impacted my health this week. Since my office is also my home, some other freelance tech workers might be able to relate.

My home office setup is pretty good. I have two separate workstations. In my bedroom, there is a desktop using the Standing Desk I built. I use this computer primarily for writing and gaming. Sometimes for reading when I feel like standing. I feel more creative on my feet, and I can dance while I work.

In my front room, I have a 32-inch screen on a stand with a sitting desk in front where I put my laptop. In this setup I use dual screens–TV above the laptop. I use this workstation for control panel management, reading news and blogs, doing research, website maintenance, social media, Web 2.0 platforms etc. I have to sit while multi-tasking.

This is how I work to stay healthy. I usually spend 30-40% of my time at my standing desk and log about a half mile a day walking back-and-fourth between my workstations. Sometimes I setup obstacles in my apartment so I have to step-over or duck-under things. I also have a 6ft piece of bamboo that I use to stretch with throughout the day.

Last week, the computer at my standing desk had a mechanical failure. The timing of the fail was a double bummer because I had just purchased a Humble Bundle of games for Steam. Most people, especially techies, know the stress & anxiety of technology failure. The adverse health impacts of stress are well documented and so are detrimental health problems associated with sitting in front of a computer all day and not really exercising.

Because the computer at my standing desk was down, I had to sit all week. I was hardly getting-up and moving around going between workstations, I did not make any obstacle courses, and I only stretched with my bamboo about twice a day. Not being able to game this weekend is also going to bum me out, but at least I’ll have time to get my desktop PC working again.

I made a makeshift raiser stand for my wireless keyboard so I can write this article  on my TV whilst standing–my laptop below. Being eye-level with the TV isn’t bad, but having to stand on the cold, hard tile is brutal and my laptop screen is now useless. I hope this is the last article I have to write with my keyboard on top of an old printer box.

Freelance Friday

I wanted to use this Friday to give a shout-out to all the freelancers out there. I know it’s tough and dirty sometimes. Freedom is worth it! Freedom to chose the gigs you sign up for. Freedom to chose the projects you want to work on. Freedom to learn and grow towards what you think is interesting in this  incredible industry of the Internet.

I have been doing freelance tech work exclusively for the past three years. I have been doing it on the side for the past ten, and did it exclusively for a year at the end of high school into college.

Being a Freelance Tech Consultant is not so glamorous as some people may think. Doing the dirt work is exactly that–dirty! After a few years experience, some people find the more desirable jobs like c-panel management, content curation and distribution, web development, consulting, etc. The good tech work is out there, but most freelancers spend a few years at the bottom and know what I’m talking about.

Here is a List of My 8 Favorite Things about being a Freelance Tech Guy

    1. Crawling under dirty desks and through the dirty cable nests behind PC towers.
    2. Smokey, dingy home offices filled with pet hair, dust, ancient technology, and stacks of useless papers.
    3. Working in the dirty basements, attics, and crawlspaces where the network cabling is.
    4. The endless, mindless clicking and captchas of Amazon Mechanical Turk to make rent.
    5. Virtual Windows XP environments that run legacy software managing ancient databases.
    6. Graveyard and swing shift to bring down systems and servers after hours.
    7. Opening and sorting hundreds of computer boxes before running initial setup and software configuration.
    8. Running initial setup and software configuration on hundreds of computers. (One or two or more always fail right near the end so you have to restart the process and wait after everything else is already finished!)

There are also platforms like www.elance.com and www.fiverr.com to add extra revenue sources, but I don’t have any experience with those sites yet.

Happy Friday! Keep up the good work and remember–It’s all about the user!