Pay off investment property

Paying off debt involves some nasty math, and when you go to pay off investment property, it’s no exception. That’s why it’s so controversial. When I was in college, my university used this kind of math to weed students out, so it should come as no surprise that the lending industry booms, and so many hucksters make a fortune hawking questionable ways to get out of debt.

I have a better way, and you won’t pay me anything for the advice. Read on.

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Selling Marx trains

Since my advice on selling other makes of trains was popular, I thought I would give similar advice on selling Marx trains. Marx never got the respect that its competitors got, but its trains have built up a following over the years, and in the last decade as I’ve watched prices on competing trains slide, Marx has held its value.

Don’t expect to get rich selling off your Marx trains, but if you keep your expectations realistic, you’ll find an eager buyer, or ideally, at least two interested buyers so you’ll realize a good price at auction.

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Job hunting on your own vs. using a recruiter

A former coworker contacted me last week. He’d been employed in the same place for the last 16 or 17 years and he couldn’t remember how to look for a job. Who better to ask than a guy who’s changed jobs 9 times in the same timeframe? One obvious question to ask regards job hunting on your own vs. using a recruiter.

In fairness to myself, government contracting causes a lot of job-hopping. And in fairness to him, the game’s changed a lot since the last time he had to play. IT Recruiters existed back then, but back then when you wanted a new job, you found it yourself.

I still use both methods.

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Estimating the value of a Marx train

One of the most frequent questions I see or receive directly about Marx trains is what a Marx train is worth, or the value of a Marx train. Of course without seeing the train, it’s nearly impossible to give a good estimate, but there are some general rules that you can follow, either to protect yourself as a buyer, or to keep your expectations realistic as a seller.

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Spot phishing e-mails with Outlook 2010

I got e-mail the other day from Turbotax saying someone had filed my taxes for me. Obviously a cause for concern, right? Here’s how I determined the message was fake in about three minutes.

Some people will tell you not to even open a message like this, but if you’re a computer professional, at some point someone is going to want you to prove the message was fake. I think this is something every e-mail administrator, desktop support professional, security professional, and frankly, every helpdesk professional ought to be able to do.

So here’s how you can get the proof. And generally speaking, Outlook 2010’s default configuration is paranoid enough that this procedure will be safe to do. If you want an extra layer of protection, make sure you have EMET installed and protecting Outlook.

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The most valuable IT skill you can learn in 2015: Splunk

Whether you want to move to security or just get a lot of job security and raise potential while staying in infrastructure, probably the best thing you can do for your career is to learn Splunk.

What’s Splunk, you ask? Well, my t-shirt says “Weapon of a security warrior,” but it really does a lot more than that.

I think of it as a centralized logging and alerting system, but really, because it can log and alert and draw graphs, it can replace almost any piece of management infrastructure. I asked, only ten-percent joking, why a Splunk shop needs to run anything else to manage itself.

Stand up Splunk, let it collect your logs and your performance data, and when something goes wrong, you have one place to look for the data you need to figure out what happened.

Fortunately, unlike many enterprise tools, you can run Splunk at home for free. Splunk offers a well-written 200-page book for free in all of the common e-book formats that provides a good introduction and a set of data to play with, and you can download the software itself from Splunk’s front page. You can then pull your logs from all of your desktops, and if you run DD-WRT, you can pull those logs as well, then practice learning what you can from that data beyond what’s in the book.

You will undoubtedly find some things when you start poking around, so even if you’re not able to get going with Splunk in your current role, you’ll end up with the war stories you need to get a Splunk-related role for your next job. Even if all you do is catch HD Moore and Robert Graham scanning you, your interviewer will be interested in hearing how you saw it and managed to figure out it was them.

Happy 20th birthday to Windows 95

It was on August 24, 1995 that Windows 95 was released, amidst much anticipation. It was the most widely anticipated Windows release of all time, and the runner up really isn’t close. The idea of people lining up for blocks for a Microsoft product sounds like a bit of a joke today, but in 1995 it happened.

I received a free copy of it because I worked at Best Buy in the summer of 1995 and I aced Microsoft’s test that demonstrated sufficient aptitude to sell it. A few weeks later I landed my first desktop support gig, ending my career in a blue shirt, which means I probably never actually talked anyone into buying a copy of it.

I got plenty of Win95 experience over the next couple of years though.

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The best e-book site I’ve found

The best ebooks site I’ve found, by far, is the archive at the University of Adelaide in Australia. The selection is outstanding, but the presentation is even better.

Steve Thomas, the curator, takes tremendous care to ensure Adelaide’s e-books display their best on any device. Most e-books, even commercial books, pay little to no attention to formatting, and the result all too often is books that are difficult to read.

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Advantages of Windows 10

Now that Windows 10 is out, the questions I see most frequently are why someone should upgrade, or what benefits they get if they upgrade, or if there indeed is such thing as advantages to Windows 10.

While I understand the skepticism, and I think most people probably should wait a few months before upgrading a Windows 7 machine that’s working well, there are a number of compelling things Windows 10 has to offer.

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