Have you ever screwed up?
I do all the time. Luckily, the vast majority of my screw ups are small and don't affect anyone else.
When you make a mistake as an architect, the ramifications can get alarming very quickly.
Flying is a terrible experience.
TSA makes it even worse.
I can't wait for the "intermodal transport capsule" to be developed where I can travel by boarding a capsule in my driveway that delivers me to any point on the planet by planes, trains, and automobiles. Like 'Uber'esque shipping containers.
In the meantime, instead of spending $7 billion a year on the TSA why not spend $1 billion for rudimentary airport security and put the other $6 billion a year into a trust fund to pay reparations to any US citizens killed by terrorists. This would make it counterproductive for terrorists to kill Americans because all that happens is that those Americans' families become rich through the trust fund. A capitalistic counterpoint to the jihadist's martyrdom.
Let's say the terrorists find a way to kill 1,000 people per year. Using an annuity scheme for the payments, that would allow a reparation to the victims' families of $12+ million per death.
This would cover all terrorist activities not just airlines. Maybe the NSA could contribute some of their budget!
It's inevitable that TSA is going to miss a major terrorist initiative. Wouldn't the families of victims be better off with this modest proposal?
I have to credit The Economist for getting me thinking about this. They published an article this week titled, "No More Of The Same, Please". The issue is even bigger now since the attacks in Paris. It is depressing to see what $7 billion per year is buying.
Do you have a good password solution? Sometimes I think I do. Sometimes I work on improving my passwords. Mostly I wish I had a magic wand. With about 150 login credentials and passwords, it is a major task. But I've taken the first step. Yesterday I bought the password app, 1Password. In a few days (months?) I should have everything in the $18 app that works on iPhone and iPad, synchs with iCloud; and will work with my Mac, too, once I buy the MacApp for $70.
I know. Almost a hundred bucks to solve a problem I may never have. How does that make sense?
Well, I am convinced that it is just a matter of time until we all get hacked. Current wisdom is that you need individual passwords for each use, and those passwords need to be letters, numbers and symbols that don't appear anywhere. Otherwise the hacker can turn his computer on the problem and it will discover the match within minutes or hours.
I began doing this. The problem, of course, is that you have no chance of remembering 10 of these passwords, much less 150. So you need a place to store them on your phone so you always have them with you. I can't find a method that can't be hacked. 1Password provides that storage place behind a password and encryption, but so do others. The features that make it my choice are:
So here's the plan.
If I do 2.5 passwords a day on average, in a mere two months I'm done!
Hmmmm, I guess I need to do 10 per day...
1Password is available for Android and Windows, too, so everyone can jump on board.
BTW I first heard of 1Password when I noticed it was on the the home screens of quite a few folks at 37signals. I'm a real fan-boy of 37signals, so I looked it up.
There's an update to be found here...
Original post date 2/27/14
Updated Mar 28th.
I have probably ranted about BIM enough, so rather than start up again, I'll just give you this handy table of contents - five articles expressing my views.
The problem with BIM is ... well, I'm starting up again. Just read on.
The BIM Revolution
BIM Is Sick
BIM Webinar Thoughts
Are You Ready For BIM?
How Long Till BIM Heaven
Over the past 18 months I have published a number of articles on software tools that a designer might find useful. Most are tangential to actual design. Some are focused on the software, others on the procedures or the concepts.
Collected below are links to six of those articles, which give a sampling of the past software-related articles.
Unique Feature Of Gmail TASKS
Gmail TASKS has one feature no one else has.
Useful Mobile Apps
I find these groups of apps very handy. There are over 40 in 11 categories.
A Field Measuring App
I find this app helps me do a better and more effective job of my time spent measuring-up.
This app for Google Chrome can do bubble diagrams among other tasks you see from time to time.
Accounting Software Criteria
What to look for when considering a new accounting package.
Accounting Software Comparison
A comparison of 14 accounting apps.
Phase 1 is complete!
If you don't know what I am talking about, here is where it all started.
There are 91 items in my 1Password app now. I expected more. The process wrapped up faster than I expected because as you dig deeper and deeper into your password 'archive' you find more and more websites that you have no intention of ever using again or that you don't even recognize.
So Phase 1 was putting everything into 1Password, and Phase 2 will be cleaning up the duplicates and the weak passwords; and then continue on with replacing the remaining items with strong, unique passwords.
With Phase 1 complete I can begin using 1Password for every login and forget about my old system.
Evernote played a large part in my old system. I tagged entries so I could search for them. This was important because I got the idea that the passwords were safer if they were not text. So I was storing marked up screenshots and pictures of handwritten login credentials. Often I referred myself to a third 'key' for the actual password.
If 1Password is a '9' on a scale of 1-10, my system was a '4.5'. But as I've said, the real problem was the time it would take to find the password when I was using a different computer or device than usual or even a different browser.
So I'm basking in the warm glow of having made the switchover to 1Password. Ahead is a few weeks of updating some old passwords every day until everything is up to speed. All in all this changeover hasn't been all that painful.
While I am on my password kick, it's hard to get off the topic. Hopefully I will get back to Architekwiki soon. In the meantime... While I have been going through my cache of passwords, I came across an article from late 2011 that I had saved. I had been aspiring to follow the advice that James Fallows outlines in his Atlantic blog. That advice differs from the path I am on now, but I can see that it is pretty well-thought-out. So I am going to paraphrase it here for you.
The challenge with passwords is to over come the Catch 22: “Passwords that are easy to remember can be easy to hack, and passwords that are hard to hack can be impossible to remember.”
One technique that you can use to solve the Catch 22 is phrases. Basically you use a string of words. An example would be: Cold weather isn't tropical! This 28 character long password would be nearly impossible to hack/guess. And you could change the “o”s to “0” and the “a”s to “#”s for good measure. Something like this example beats the Catch 22, but it breaks down when you have 100 of them. You can't remember 100 phrases (I can't anyway), and you can't remember which one is used where.
One solution to this impasse is to duplicate some passwords based on the value of what you are protecting. This is “going against the rules”, but if the risks are minimal...? For example, let's say you list and rank the sites you use like this:
There are other worthwhile ideas in the article I referenced above, and you might find they give you the amount of security you want. My desire is to have the security without the “remembering”. In other words I would rather learn a system that does the managing and remembering for me.
The Final Update can be found here.
Well, it's been a few days now since I undertook the password project and there have been a few surprises. In case you need to catch up, here’s the first post. So what are the surprises?
First, 1Password for the Mac is $50 rather than $70 so I am under budget!
Second, 1Password for the Mac really makes getting your passwords into 1Password very easy. If you have 1Password running, then whenever you go to a website with a login, you are prompted to add it to 1Password. In light of this, and another tool I'll describe in a minute, I have changed my workflow a bit. Now it is:
1Password keeps a history of your passwords as you update them. That's comforting, but I'm not sure how useful it is. What is useful is being able to store a file with the password information. This is really useful if you have documented some security questions/answers by screenshot.
One thing I am surprised by is that app passwords aren't addressed. I am treating those as logins, too, even though it is clear that logins are intended for websites. I suppose there isn't much sensitive information in an app and/or it's stored on the device and inaccessible. Hmmm.
Anyways, I've stored 55 items already. I should be able to get the switchover to 1Password accomplished in a couple more days. My hurry is driven by the fact that for these next few days I will have to check two places to find the password that I have forgotten. This happens nearly once or twice a day - right when you don't want it to happen. So things will get (a little) worse before they get lots better.
You can follow the saga at this update.
I get a surprising amount of work done in this chair with just five tools.
orig post date 6/9/2013
I thought I would update this post with what really happened before I placed the order. "Best laid plans" and all that...
I'm going to order an iPad Air this week. That is a surprise because I had my mind made up to replace my iPhone 4S with the new 5S. It's been two years and; while the 4S works just fine, the 16GB of memory requires attention every month as I shift around the 320+ apps that I own. The apps I use at least once a week number about 40, but it is never the same 40 month to month. So the 16GB needs to be increased. LTE would be a big improvement over the 3G I have now, too.
But since the iPad Air was introduced on October 22nd, the equation has changed because my iPad2 is much more valuable to me than the iPhone simply because it can do everything the iPhone can do except make phone calls. Actually it can do that too, but it isn't very satisfying. My iPad has replaced my laptop about 90-95%, and nearly every month some app is upgraded that makes the iPad more useful and and the laptop just that much more last century.
So I plan to get the iPad Air with 128GB of memory and cellular enabled. Say $1,000 with tax. Why?
Well, right now, as I write this, I am at my favorite coffee house typing on my wireless keyboard, whose case forms a stand for the iPad. I just took a picture of the setup, see above, with my phone which will let me open and edit the pic on the iPad if I need to. So mobility and super-portability are one reason the iPad Air is pushing a new phone to the side.
I don't have a Retina display and I'm not sure that I will really make use of it. But the LTE and 8 times the current memory will save time and increase mobility even more.
9 hours of battery life will be nice, but I rarely have an issue with the battery in the iPad2, although it is often at 10% when I put it to bed at night.
Honestly, once you get used to using a tablet, a laptop seems very limiting except for that 5% or so that a tablet just can't do. A tablet can't do CAD; it can't edit our website; it can't give you a flawless Word doc or Excel editing job. I encounter one of these needs about twice a week.
So it boils down to a decision to upgrade the most valuable (to me) part of my tech world. The real decision now is what to do with the iPad2 since at 2-1/2 years old it has plenty of life left.
...and then my son called. The power button on his phone stopped working. He researched the fix and decided it was too risky to do on his own and too much to invest in his iPhone 4. It turns out that besides using the power button to completely power down occasionally, he needed to turn off the phone to prevent "butt dials" and other battery-draining, inadvertent activities.
Since I was planning to update my phone also at some point in the coming months, I changed priorities. My son found a software work-around in the accessibility features, but it meant having a floating button on the screen all the time. So I set about selecting a color and amount of memory (Space Gray and 32GB) and bought the phone first.
Once the iPhone 5S was settled in, I ordered the iPad Air - but...with just 32 GB of memory. I admit that saving $200 was part of the decision, but what made the decision palatable was that memory management with iOS 7 and the A7 chip takes up less memory!!!
I am very happy with both purchases. The only thing that doesn't work as well on each device is the one or two second pause when re-opening an app. With iOS 6 multi-tasking was nearly instantaneous. iOS 7 has a slight delay that is the trade-off for better memory and battery management. This is really minor, and an even faster processor will decrease the pause to 'imperceptible'.
So there you have the real story. Next time I won't write about intentions as though they have already happened.
Dear Department of Transportation:
Do you have winter where you are? Do you have potholes and ’D-cracking’*? I want to share a powerful secret with you. This secret will magically expand your maintenance budget. It will make your road projects endure much longer. Your stakeholders will love you. Your neighboring DOTs will be jealous of you. The secret is shockingly simple; and simple to implement. The secret is just one word: TAR.
TAR is not an acronym. Tar is a black sticky stuff. Tar is pretty cheap. Here’s how to use tar.
When you have a joint in concrete paving, tar it.
When you have a crack in concrete paving, tar it.
When you fill a pothole in concrete paving, tar its perimeter.
The beauty of tar is that just about anyone can do it. You just pour it into or onto the joint. You might have to do it every year, but it costs a fraction of re-doing the repair or replacing the concrete.
I hope you are as excited to learn this secret as I am to share it with you.
Your humble servant,
Rick Wolnitzek, Architekwiki
* D-cracking is the phenomenon where the bottom of a concrete slab deteriorates from freezing and thawing of water entering through a joint or crack. The deteriorated area resembles a ’D’ as it works its way toward the surface of the slab.
Most people recognize a hashtag for what it is and read it, or ignore it and move on. But there are some people who have a visceral reaction to hashtags, especially when they come across them outside the twitterverse.
"Hashtags have two uses", I tried to explain to Kevin, my barber - I mean hair stylist.
"One use is a category tag that allows you to search for other Tweets on the same topic. The second use is a way of setting context or commenting, often humorously."
Kevin asks, "How the *%?$ does it make sense to use hashtags on Facebook?"
"Well, Kevin, I think it is safe to say those folks intend the second use."
"That is so f!"@#€~ stupid! That annoys the crap out of me!"
"It's just a hashtag. Don't look at it. Ignore it."
"I can't. It's too f!"@#€~ stupid!"
This conversation has to be the most fun I've had since 2008.
...and it just keeps paying dividends!
orig post date APR 2013
Architekwiki NEWSletter No. 3 will arrive in mailboxes tomorrow, the 3rd. Sign Up so you won't miss it. (Even if you do, you will get a link to the archives in your 'Welcome' email.)
This issue focuses on architectural fees and especially my system for calculating them. You won't want to miss the chance to get your own copy of my Excel workbook before it goes on sale in the Store in January.
The workbook takes your data, calculates the fee, and creates a design budget. The customizable fee table is nice to have even if you don't use the workbook.
Sign Up now so you don't miss out!
Over the years we have developed a lot of ways to improve management of the firm. We listed several articles recently that describe some of our efforts. Here are several more.
Our System For Checking-Off Management Boxes
This article describes our method of check-box management where we take care of all the behind the scenes stuff.
Paperless Submittals - The How
We encourage digital submittals; and this is the process we use.
How To Evaluate A Potential Project
Most of the time you feel like any job is a good job, but this is how we find out if the job really is ’good’.
How To Use A Master Deliverables Checklist
If you turn your list of deliverables into a master list, there are several benefits.
Paperless Filing: How The Backend Works
Filing digitally has a lot of benefits. Here’s how we take advantage.
Paperless Filing: How The Backend Works - Part 2
Part 2 of how we take advantage.
Over the past year we have published a number of articles on management of a design firm. Some focused on using tools, others on procedures, and still others that focused on concepts.
Collected below are links to six of those articles, which give a sampling of the past management-related articles.
Documenting your unique methods is the first step in improving and sharing your way of doing things - anything.
Math and Architects
What are the math problems and what are the tools? Do architects need to know a lot of math?
Fee As A Percentage
A brief history of percentage fees and an example of one in use today.
Examples of agreements created to be easy to implement in minutes rather than hours.
The Kolbe System
An overview of the Kolbe System and how it can help you understand yourself and those you work with.
The Six Thinking Hats
A quick book review of Edward Debono's brief, classic book on thinking. Everybody can learn something here.
If you are interested in more articles like these, this link will take you to many more.
Our Business Development Articles
Architekwiki has over 20 articles on Business Development / Marketing for your use. This Business Development link will take you to the most recent 10 or so. Click "<<previous" when you reach the bottom to get to the next batch.
The articles you will find at that link:
Now that I am pretty committed to publishing the drawings of all of our past projects that anyone could learn from, I thought: "Specs!?"
We have produced specifications by Masterspec using Framework III and, later, Word; then by SpecLink and SpecLink+. But most of the digital files that were produced are gone. But we do have hard copy, paper Project Manuals. A lot of them.
So how can I get these paper specs scanned and ready to publish? A Google search turned up several companies that do this paper to PDF conversion. One of the companies was "docufree".
So I filled out an online form like this: "I have approximately 100 specifications (Project Manuals) that contain about 200 pages each. They are GBC punched and bound. I would like them converted to PDFs."
The next morning I received an email with a link to a very complete proposal, including a step-by-step description of what I would need to do and what they would do. My job would be to put the specs in the boxes they send me. They do everything else, starting with picking up the boxes; and ending with sending me a DVD and shredding the originals.
A day later I had an enjoyable (no joking) low-key conversation about the process with Mike Matton at "docufree", followed two days later with a memorable reminder by mail! [The ballpoint pen is for scale.] I guess the miniature foam rubber box is a conversation starter (seems to be working).
The experience reminded me of how powerful having a niche can be. They are clearly experts at docufree, and they have taken the trouble to explain the process in a memorable and engaging way.
I could give the job to Kinko's but they charge by the scan, plus hourly for them to scan, I have to drop off and pick up, I have to organize the work for them (remove bindings, add file name, place in separate folders that I will have to buy), and hope that they don't get confused sometime during the 20,000 page process.
I don't know if I will get the specs scanned, but I do know who will do the scanning. Mike Matton at docufree, 877-362-3569 x 1143
What's Up With Routers?
What is it about DSL and Cable routers that cause them to stop working until you reboot them?
We have an 18 month old firewall device at the office that has been acting the same way for the past ... 18 months.
I've discovered a solution - well, actually a work-around. Turning the router off/on once a day seems to solve the problem.
Here is what you do to automate the process:
1] Go to IKEA or Walmart and buy a $2.50 lamp timer.
2] Set it to be on except for a period of time when you never use the internet, say 3:00 to 3:30 AM.
3] Plug it in.
4] Plug your router into the timer.
The 'revised plan' of the NTL* House is fairly similar to the previous version. The main differences are size, placement of the stair and location of second floor bedrooms. The previous version was seriously over sized and therefore over budget. The First Floor is now roughly 2,124 SF; the Second Floor is 648 SF; and the garage is 780 SF.
At this early stage, I am using $100/SF for a house construction cost and $50/SF for the garage. These are lower than I would normally use only because I plan to build the house myself.
The next two tasks are to scout building sites and to develop a much more detailed cost estimate. As it is, I am $41,200 over budget now. At an early stage like this, it is easy to control costs. Reducing area will lower costs, but not dramatically beyond this point. Detailing and choices of systems will have a direct impact, however. Once the size is fixed, the cost of materials and systems continues to raise or lower the cost per square foot.
Just about everything got smaller in the revised plan. Relationships, however, remained pretty constant. The stair to the second floor will be straight rather than 'U'-shaped as before. At some point in its rise it will have enough headroom to access the kitchen below it so that the access from kitchen to pantry and laundry is maintained.
The location of the second floor bedrooms changed dramatically. They also became much smaller, which suits their use as guest rooms. Being located over the Living Space meant the ceiling height would be constant. Moving to above the master bedroom area eliminates that issue. The right bedroom may have an issue with window placement where the sill can be low enough for emergency escape requirements. That could be solved by moving the bedrooms down to the outside wall of the MBR closet area.
The roof plan doesn't indicate any problems that need to be resolved. The roof over the bedrooms has a two story eave. Everything else starts off with a one-story eave. The roof over the Living Space could be a continuation of that rising one-story roof line or it could be offset upwards for more height below and the possibility of clerestory windows. The alternate hip roof over the Office and the far end of the Living Space creates some extra flashing and exterior wall. It is probably better to keep it simple and change the ceiling heights with interior construction.
This may be the last post on the NTL House for a while. I want to search for a site next. The actual site could have a major impact of the layout of the house because of solar orientation, views, topography and shape of the lot
* NTL = Next-To-Last
This first floor plan of the NTL* house is more about getting the relationships right than anything else. Lots of "bang to fit" going on. Scale is off a lot in places.
I changed color to red to show / see how the two bedrooms upstairs might work out. The concept for those bedrooms is basically for guests or grandchildren. I don't follow residential design closely enough to know whether it is 'de rigueur' that every bed room has its own bath, but that is where I am heading. Costs could get in the way, but it seems like a good starting point.
If the Garage were completely shown, the socket for the entrance to the house might seem too much. On the right lot and neighborhood the garage doors could end up facing any one of three directions.
The MBR is way off in scale. I would like for it to extend past the kitchen so that it might share a patio that I envision being on that side. I have done decks; I have one now. I've never had a patio, but it is hard to imagine that it wouldn't beat a deck all to hell.
The most problematic thing I can see is that the kitchen/pantry/laundry, while having the relationship I want, are going to make access to the MBR finicky. Hopefully the next iteration will scare up some options to explore.
I like the Office location. Access to both the main living space and the foyer is ideal. Maybe the fireplace can be shared. This space wouldn't be a real office. Picture an executive's office - that's not it. By the time this gets built, I won't be using anything that needs a fixed location, like a desktop computer. Maybe there would be a printer/scanner somewhere, but that would be the only giveaway that it is an office rather than a reading room.
So next I will try to get this plan more realistic.
* NTL = Next-To-Last
My next step is looking at the three main components of the NTL* house. I want to know what I want these elements to be like before I get tied down to an idea that is at odds with how I want things to turn out. Sometimes the plan becomes a simple joining-together. Other times, changes are needed to reach overall goals. And occasionally you see something during the process that gives you an even better idea.
Just days before I started to explore the NTL house, I read about Morpholio's Trace app for the iPad. The app is free, although I have already bought grids to help me be reasonably accurate with sizes, and it does a very good job of mimicking the use of yellow tracing paper, including the ability to add transparent layers over one another. Maybe getting the Trace app led me to start this project now, could be.
The Great Room (I hate the term, but everyone knows it) came together very easily. I showed a fireplace, but it is no longer the must-have that I once considered it. This side of the house 'wants' views. A couple of dimensions document what I'm thinking about size.
The Master Bedroom also fell together easily. Enter from one end, view at the other. Perhaps one big closet/dressing area. Separating the shower/toilet from the sink area is not a big deal. At the next stage I'll see how that works out. No idea why I ended up with a green drawing - pilot error for sure.
The Garage isn't as important as the other two areas, but its size makes me feel like it needs to be considered early. Besides size the relationship to the rest of the house will be critical - near the kitchen for groceries, for instance. We will enter the house through the garage almost 100% of the time, so the entry point will matter and will get some attention in the way of closet, counter, finishes. Mud Room? The Shop isn't going to be much, just a handy place to put tools and household storage. The Yard Equipment alcove doesn't need to be too large - wheel barrow, lawnmower, tools hanging on the walls.
I plan to see what the first floor plan sketch looks like next.
* NTL = Next-To-Last
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