Creators Worth Watching: This Old Tony

This Old Tony – Metalworking can be Entertaining

Metalworking is fascinating to me. Perhaps it’s because it’s something that I used to know so little about as a youth. Now that I’m older and YouTube is a thing, I find metalworking absolutely fascinating – thanks in part to the videos from This Old Tony. In most of his videos, the faceless Tony explains engineering, math, technique, and builds things. His dry brand of humor – which often includes clever camera and editing tricks to entertain the viewer – makes each video incredibly fun to watch. It’s a bit of a cult that follows Tony made up up of a lot of people who, like me, have no experience with metal working.

What you’ll learn from watch TOT is that you can solve most problems with a Lathe, a Mill, CNC Router, and a TIG welder.

I had no idea what a boring head was, what it was used for, or even why anyone would ever want to build one. But then, after watching this, I learned what a mills and lathe’s can do.

The series on building a Go-Kart takes you through building one from nothing, starting out with the good intention of using a chainsaw motor and quickly discovering the need for something a bit more, ahem, Skookum. (That’s Canadian slang for tough, powerful, built well, etc.)

After 100,000 subscribers, Tony revealed his face to followers for the first time. It’s also fun to note that he regularly includes other Creators in his videos – though it’s not always clear if these creators have endorsed their presence in these videos.

He’s done a number of collaborations as well. My favorite is the Pasta Machine rebuild for Alex French Guy Cooking.

Who knew that Cosine and Cosine error was so interesting? And now I want to make a Sine Bar…

So, being the “How does that work?” nerd that I am, I watched every video that lives on his YouTube channel over this past summer and typically watch whatever new videos he posts within hours (if not minutes) if it being posted.

Fair warning – you might get hooked on Tony’s style. It’s not as bad as it sounds.

Creators Worth Watching: Matthias Wandel

There’s a vast empire of creators and makers today that share what they do via online streaming video. The format of short videos sharing builds, how-to’s, and tool reviews is entertaining while also informative. Over the next few weeks, I’ll share my favorites in hopes that you too can find a few you like.

Matthias Wandel: Engineering made interesting

Watching Matthias develop ideas and execute is entertaining and validating all at the same time. The thought regularly crosses my mind “Yes! I think that way, too!” when Matthias is divulging his process for solving a problem. His channel has over 1.5 million subscribers and continues to grow, despite the bulk of his start happening when YouTube was a new Google acquisition and there was little competition at the time.

Matthias’s approach to solving problems with engineering is both practical and entertaining. You might find him picking hardwoods out of trash corrals at apartment complexes one day and programming a Raspberry Pi the next. My favorite videos are the ones where he builds his own bandsaw and invents a new woodworking tool called a pantorouter. And yes, I have considered purchasing his plans and building one.

What makes Matthias so incredibly interesting is his straight-forward, no-fuss approach to sharing his knowledge. No music, unnecessary CGI, sponsorships (except that one time with Dewalt that didn’t go so well) or gimmicks. You know what you’re in for within the first 10 seconds. Furthermore, Matthias has mastered the art of long form knowledge sharing through serial shorts on a particular subject – many of which develop over months.



The First Experience

Ask any craftsperson how they got into what they do. They’ll likely tell you a story that includes a moment where they spent some time with the craft hands-on and fell in love with some aspect of it.

One of my favorite memories early in my tech career was completing the ‘Hello World’ exercises for scripting languages that were emerging and shaping the tech landscape.

There’s a connection that happens when we have an experience that helps us contextualize something new being a part of our lives. When we execute our first line of code successfully or admire that the stool we just built, it builds confidence in the art form we’ve invested a small amount of our time in. It creates an experience to build on.

Platform Indifference

In 25 years, I’ve used a lot of technology. In fact, more than I can remember without really sitting down to think about it. It’s curious, then, when the rare and obsolete question of “Mac or PC” comes up.

In these many years, I’ve seen a lot of different operating systems for different computer systems. It’s a very myopic focus when one engages in “Mac or PC” debate. After all, these two are only relevant in the consumer sphere.

There are many operating systems out there that control each and every device imaginable. For some time now, most devices that we have in our homes and offices have an underlying operating system of some kind. There are so many now. I won’t even try to catalog the range of what I’ve seen (and suspect without forcing a fatal reveal). You blender, echoDot, Firestick, computer, internet router – just about everything – probably has an underlying OS that runs the device.

In early days, there were few of these OS’s – probably because they required so much hardware and resources to run. Over time, many of these OS’s have been optimized to run on very little hardware (or virtual resources) so that they can run very small workloads with more ubiquity across the broad spectrum of devices.

Desktop computing is in a weird and stagnant place. It’s not growing and it’s not really shrinking. So when someone makes the leap from PC to Mac or vice-versa for their desktop computer, it’s frankly no longer noteworthy. It’s akin to asking if you like vanilla or chocolate now – whereas even 5 years ago, it was a debate that was only won with “I have no choice” and largely was a debate over which form of torture you were able to endure best.

Fewer and fewer technologies are relying solely on desktop technology to be relevant. Sure, it’s early days for this transition, but we know that mobile is making huge inroads – most notably in our personal lives. Any software company worth their salts is taking notice and either developing for mobile or at the very least considering it’s place on their roadmap.

The more interesting and provocative debate today is browser and mobile platforms. These are debates that the average Joe can engage in now more readily. I suspect few are interested, however, as there’s more interesting fodder to debate elsewhere in the consumer distraction dome.

So, the fact that I have switched over to Mac for my personal and work computing is irrelevant to most. Who cares? I could use either platform. I don’t know MacOS as well. Perhaps that’s why I switched – it was time for a new challenge to go along with my new job.

Migrating File Servers to Dropbox, Box, Google Drive or any other Cloud Storage Service

Some of my customers love their Dropbox/Box/Sharefile/Sharepoint/OneDrive as a file server replacement.

Others, not so much and have gone back to their trusty file servers after a failed leap.

Many would like to have it, if it weren’t for the other issues that it introduces in more complex environments.

It’s easy to believe the hype that offices with less than 10 employees can be moved to cloud storage easily. Sadly, I’ve got multiple offices of 3 users that can’t use cloud storage due to their applications and workflows.

So, before you head to the cloud, consider the following points carefully:

  • Make sure your apps are supported with your specific cloud storage app. Many applications cannot work reliably with how Dropbox, OneDrive and Box Sync interact with the local file system. SketchUp, Photoshop, Indesign and countless others can barf everywhere (i.e. conficted copies, failure to save, corrupted files, etc.) when trying to save to Cloud Storage.
  • Bandwidth will get gobbled up. Make sure you have a lot of it if you have lots of people in an office that are using the file sync. An office of 50 creative workers we support has 300MB/300MB fiber and users still complain about file open/save times.
  • Get used to delays between when users save and when other users can see the changes. It will never be instant like it is with an On-Premises file server.
  • Security granularity is greatly reduced. Need to allow certain users the ability to Add to a folder, but not delete or modify? Most don’t support this ‘edge case’ and countless others.
  • File Locking is rarely a feature. Last-to-save-wins. Even with good version control, this WILL cause your users problems if they are used to File Servers.
  • For “sync” style solutions, you must have local storage available on the local workstation to sync all the files they will access via the local sync (the quickest and most comfortable way for users to access files). If you have large libraries of files that users “must have access to at all times”, prepare to add storage to workstations and laptops to hold it.
  • Some solutions are starting to offer “streaming” solutions where files are streamed to your computer from the cloud on demand rather than keeping a local copy. Still in their infancy, some of these are really good (Box.com) and others are still buggy (Google Drive). Large files remain their Achilles heel if you have limited bandwidth.
  • If you’re using any server-side solution to index, scan or otherwise interact with your file server on the backend – these will not likely work with cloud storage applications.
  • Service levels vary incredibly. We have at least one customer who lost untold amounts of data as a result of the provider releasing defective code into production. Their response to the customer was to suggest they ‘keep an eye out for corrupted files and restore them from backup manually as they are found’.
  • You need DR. Never depend on your data to be fully protected by a single cloud vendor. The bigger they are, the less they care if you have an issue. They are on the hook for the amount of money equal to or less than what you spend on their service in a given period of time. The 3-2-1 rule is as relevant as ever – perhaps more so.