CanDo Technologies Blog

My Business Trip to North Dakota, a Tale of Contrasts

Over a workweek, I was on a business trip to the Great State of North Dakota.

I arrived at the Denver shuttle parking lot and parked my car. The driver promptly arrived and handed a slip of paper with the incorrect parking space number. I couldn’t blame him for that too much. The number for my parking space was faded and unreadable. The number he gave me was pretty close but I noted the correct number on the slip. We shouldn’t have problems when we get back.

The driver whisked us off. The other parkers and I arrived at the circus-tent terminal within a few minutes. If you’ve seen or been to DIA, you’d know what I mean.

Getting through security was no more of an ordeal than usual. The pre-check line was almost as long as the regular line. The pompous TSA agents instructed us what to do. I wouldn’t classify their pomposity as a character flaw. They have hundreds and hundreds of people in the security line and have to keep the lines moving. I drew some attention from the agents when I forgot to remove my watch, but the matter was quickly resolved and I was on my way.

I boarded the airport train to Terminal B, rode the up escalator then stepped on people movers and walked to the faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaar end of the airport. Then I stepped on the down escalator. Down because my plane is too short to reach the jetway for the adult planes. Then I walked and walked until I finally reached gate 95 at the very far end of the concourse. It took almost an hour from the time I arrived at the airport until the time I arrived at the gate.

The gate personnel informed us the plane was too small for carry-ons. We would need to check our bags. No charge. The plane departed on time and reached Fargo, ND a few minutes early. When we arrived, the terminal was deserted except for an agent who informed us we can collect our bags at baggage claim.

I only waited a few minutes before my bag was spat out onto the baggage carousel. Right next to the baggage carousel was car rental. No need to hop on a shuttle and ride several miles to pick up my car. When I reported to pick up my car at National Car Rental, the agent handed my keys and paperwork and instructed me to pick up my car in the Enterprise Car Rental parking area at slot #13. No shuttle. Just a short walk through the bitter North Dakota cold.

My company reserved a room for me at the Grand Forks La Quinta Inn. The 75-mile trip was uneventful. My work assignment the next day went smoothly and was also uneventful.

The next day, I would drive to Bismark, more than four hours away. The directions on Google Maps seemed complicated. I was worried I might get lost so I decided to spend a few extra minutes and stay on the Interstate highways. Google maps on my phone instructed me to get off the highway before the exit I planned but I thought it was taking me over a shortcut. Then Google tried to send me in the opposite direction from where I needed to go. I got back on the highway and took the exit I had originally planned on. I reprogrammed my phone and arrived at my destination on-time because I allowed extra time to get there. Due to system problems which were not my fault, my endeavor in Bismark was unsuccessful.

At the end of the day, I drove all the way back to Grand Forks. The drive was uneventful, and unlike my morning trip, my drive home was during the day. I listened to reports on the radio covering soybean and wheat futures. That was about all I could get. On my way back where I could actually see, I learned there is no scenery in North Dakota.

My next trip was to Minot, more than three hours away. My morning drive would be mostly in the dark. Google on my phone got me going in the right direction. After I turned left on US 2, it told me to keep going another 202 miles. After a few miles, it told me to take the exit to the Air Force base. That can’t be right. I kept going then it told me to turn right at the next intersection, and every intersection after that. I was worried. I THINK I’m going in the right direction. I re-entered my destination into the phone and it started to send me where I thought I should go. But I was worried. I was halfway to Minot before I saw a sign telling me Minot was 100 miles ahead. I arrived in Minot before my appointed time. Minot is a small city with big city traffic.

The activity at Minot was unsuccessful. I headed back to Grand Forks, listening to the soybean and wheat future reports. There is no scenery between Minot and Grand Forks.

North Dakota does not have scenery, but it does have nice rest stops. there were several between Grand Forks and Bismark. The road between Grand Forks and Minot is not an Interstate but the highway has two rest stops. The rest stops are even clean. Colorado has rest stops, but many of them have been closed.

My last workday was in Fargo. I drove the 75 miles from Grand Forks and successfully completed the assignment. Then back to the airport. The rental car return was easy. Park in any open spot in the rental car lot, grab the miles and bring back the keys. I arrived at the wrong counter and handed over the keys. They asked me how everything was and I told time everything was terrific. Then I realized I was at the wrong counter. No problem they said, all the car rentals were run by the …

DataCenter 0

Cloud Computing, a Really Old Idea

I’ve been an IT geek for many years. One of the things I noticed is computers get faster, memory increases and disks get bigger. New technology and ideas don ‘t come along very often. New ideas are often regurgitated old ideas.

Take for example, “The Cloud”. When I took training classes on Microsoft Azure, my first thought was “this reminds me of “timesharing”. In the olden days of computers, when computers were really expensive, few businesses, let alone people could afford them. Instead, businesses and schools would buy time. They would “share” computers with others, and only pay for the cycles (“time”) they used. No need to buy a new computer, pay only for what you use. Sound familiar?

Computers are now relatively inexpensive, so why is the cloud so popular? The advantage of the “cloud” is there is no need to get capital approval to buy the computer. There is no need to wait for the computer to ship. No need to install the OS. Need a new computer, go to the cloud and poof! you can have a fully functional computer in minutes. I remember going to a storeroom so see if I can find a decommissioned computer to meet my needs, Then I would search through the racks looking for rack space then lug the computer into the data center. I would need to find a power outlet, a port on the switch, then run a cable from the computer to the switch.

The cloud makes things so easy. No big capital outlays. And THAT can be a problem. Maybe the cloud makes things too easy. Setting up services in the cloud is so easy, if your company does not have a strong approval process, costs can easily get out of control.

Don’t get me wrong. The cloud has many advantages. The cloud is ideal for temporary projects, testing and proof of concepts. The cloud may be ideal for smaller companies that do not have the funds for capital outlays or to build out a data center. The cloud can save money for short term projects, but keep in mind that over time, costs of the cloud can add up. Short term savings can end up being a financial drain in the long term.​…

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Exchange 2019 in a Home Lab with a Dynamic IP and Blocked Port 25

A recruiter recently submitted me for a Microsoft Exchange project even though I knew almost nothing about Exchange. Well, I thought, it wouldn’t hurt to learn. The learning process was quite an ordeal, mostly because Exchange in a home lab is quite different from Exchange in a commercial environment. First of all it can be a challenge when you run Microsoft Exchange in a home lab with a dynamic IP and your ISP blocks port 25. This article is all about how to get around those hurdles. I ran into another hurdle when I discovered a trial download of Exchange is generally unavailable, at least not one I could find. If you want to download Exchange, you need to be on a Volume License Agreement or buy a copy. The retail version of Exchange can be very expensive for home users, but if you shop around, you should be able to find a copy for a reasonable price (Google is your friend). I was going to suggest download Exchange from Technet, but I just discovered Microsoft doesn’t offer Technet subscriptions anymore.

I wanted to run my home lab cheaply as possible. I did not want to pay the relatively high cost to lease a static IP address. There are ways to get around that but there are other problems associated with having a dynamic IP address. I will describe how I got around the problems associated with not having a static IP. I will describe here what I did to get my home lab up and running. It took many Google searches to find what I need to make Exchange work in my home lab. And it wasn’t all in one place. I would run into a problem, search for an answer, then run into a new problem and the new answer was in an entirely different place. The answers weren’t always clear or complete. My goal here is to compile what I found and put it in a single place. Hopefully Google will find my site so your Google searches will point here and help you to make your home lab work. The goal of this posting is to help you set up your home lab. I’m going to cover the basics about installing Exchange, but I do not plan on going into great detail. There are a bunch of articles and YouTube videos about how to install Exchange. I help you get Exchange installed but the goal here is to help you configure Exchange to run in your home lab – after Exchange is installed. Specifically how to get Exchange running without a static IP address and what to do when your ISP blocks port 25. The cost is about $30.97 per year, plus the cost of Exchange. Please allow me to give a standard disclaimer. The solutions presented here worked for me. I’m providing these solutions in the hope you will find them useful. As always, you will need to determine if the solutions outlined here are appropriate for you. Every environment is different. These worked for me, don’t sue me if they don’t work for you or if you follow my cookbook and your stove catches on fire.

Before getting started, you will need to determine how your ISP connects you to the Internet.
This article assumes your ISP connects you directly to the Internet. In my environment, all the devices in my home use non-routable IP addresses. This means my computers could see servers on the Internet but Internet could not see my computers. You will need the Internet to be able to see your Exchange Edge server. No problem. This article explains how to configure your home-router to attach devices in your home to the Internet. Here’s the caution. This article assumes the IP address on the Internet side of your router is routable. In other words a real IP address. In the past, I used an ISP where the IP address of the Internet facing side of my router was also non-routable. My router was not directly connected to the Internet. The Internet would not be able to see my Edge server. If this applies to you, you are out of luck. You will need to lease a static-IP.

The next thing to know is Exchange 2019 is only supported on Windows Server 2019, and you need a 64 bit computer. Since Exchange typically has a mailbox server and an Edge server (more on that later), you will need two servers. At least the servers can be virtual and Windows Server 2019 is available for evaluation download. I do have a rather extensive home lab, so I had the iron to run Windows 2019 and Exchange 2019. Windows Server with Exchange will run on a desktop class machine, and you can buy them rather inexpensively on Ebay, sometimes for less than $100. My 8 GB desktop machine will run Windows and Exchange 2019 but I could not install an additional virtualized Windows 2019 on the same machine – not enough memory. I didn’t find that out until after I installed Exchange. Fortunately, I do have an extra Windows Server 2016 in my lab with 16 GB. I was able to install a virtualized Windows 2019 server running the Edge server under Hyper-V on Windows 2016. I probably could have installed two virtualized 2019 servers with Exchange and Exchange Edge on my 16 GB Windows 2016 machine but didn’t think to do that until it was too late.
If you are curious, this is what I have in my lab:
HP Compaq Pro 6300 SFF
Intel Pentium CPU G870 3.1 GHZ
8192 KB

HP Compaq Pro 6300 SFF
Intel Core CPU I5-3470 CPU 3.2 GHZ
16384 GB

If you have two computers with adequate memory, you won’t need Hyper-V. If you only have one computer, you will need Hyper-V or other virtualization software. It’s important to know what kind of processor you need if you want to run Hyper-V. Windows Server is …

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Toastmasters, a Wonderful Self-Improvement Program; Writing a Compelling Blog

This is the ninth article in my series for Toastmasters Leadership Development, Level 4, Write a Compelling Blog.

I recently applied for a job on-line. Shortly after I applied, I received a response asking me to undergo an automated on-line job interview. The automated interview questions were the typical questions – Why do you want to work for us, why are you a good fit, etc. The last question was a little different and interesting. They asked, what have you done lately to improve yourself?

I instantly had an answer. I told them I was a member of Toastmasters, “an international organization for communication and leadership development”. I told them Toastmasters has helped me to become a better communicator and better leader.

I only had 1 minute to record my answer so I couldn’t go into much detail. If you are in Toastmasters, you know the benefits. If you aren’t I can go on and on describing what Toastmasters has done for me.

Toastmasters is an almost all-volunteer organization. Toastmasters has a small paid staff, but the volunteers are what make Toastmasters go. And it’s the volunteers that get the biggest benefit out of Toastmasters. In a previous role, I managed a substantial budget, implemented marketing and training programs. I built a team of almost 50 volunteers and met all the administrative goals established by the Toastmasters International organization.

I met my Chinese counterpart. He told me a fasinating fact about Toastmasters in China. Our conversation helped me to realize how lucky I am to be an American. Toastmasters has taken me to places I would have never otherwise been to. Most of all, Toastmasters has given me confidence. I think that’s one of the biggest benefits of being a Member. Members grow in confidence. Members become better speakers. Active members become leaders.

Toastmasters are in the organization to improve themselves. Part of that involves helping others improve themselves. Toastmasters is an organization of people helping people get better.
I like to tell people I’m a much better communicator and leader than when I joined Toastmasters. And since I intend to stay in the organization indefinitely, I’m not as good now as I’m going to be in the future!
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How to Expand Windows Disks on Oracle Virtual Box. The Complete Guide with the Missing Steps

What to do when Windows Disk Management Doesn’t Show Additional Stogage After Expanding VirtualBox Disk Size

A while ago, the disk drive on my Windows machines running under Oracle Virtual Box was starting to run out of space. Simple – I’ll ask my best friend Google for help. Google pointed me to how-to-geek (Click here)

I followed the instructions to expand the disk but discovered just expanding the virtual disk is not enough. The Internet told me to CD to the Virtualbox software diretory: “C:\Program Files\Oracle\VirtualBox”

Then

Then issue one of the following commands:

VBoxManage modifyhd “[full path and file name to virtual disk]” –resize [size in MB]

or if you’re on V6:
Manage modifymedium disk “[full path and file name to virtual disk]” –resize [size in MB]

Example: VBoxManage modifyhd “C:\Users\username\VirtualBox VMs\Windows 7\Windows 7.vdi” –resize 81920

I shut down the virtual machine and followed the instructions to expand the disk. I then restarted the virtual machine. Virtualbox showed the increased disk size, but Windows Disk Management did not. When I went to Computer Management/Disk Management the disk did not show any aditional space. I researched on Google but couldn’t find an answer. I did see lots of other people were having the same problem.

After more searching, I finally found the answer on youtube: The answer starts about 1:10 into the video. (click here)

The secret is to shutdown the machine, detach the disk, run the above command to expand the disk size, reattach the disk, THEN restart the machine.

To remove the disk, go to Virtualbox, click on the machine, then settings, then storage, right click on the disk you plan to expand, then “Remove Attachment” (remember the location of the disk for when you’re ready to add it back

After you have expanded the disk, add it back and restart the virtual machine. You will then see the increased disk size under Computer Management/Disk Management. At this point, Windows will let you expand the size of the disk.

Job Search Recordkeeping

(Click above for full article with screenshots)

It’s a good idea to keep a thorough record of all jobs you apply for. If you are on unemployment, your state unemployment division will likely require you to keep a record of your job contacts. Even if you aren’t collecting unemployment, it’s still a good idea to keep a detailed record of your applications.

For example, Colorado Unemployment requires you to keep a record of:

• What action you took
• How you applied for the position
• The type of work you were looking for
• The person you contacted, a telephone number,
email address or other reliable contact information
• The outcome of the contact

I keep the information in an Excel spread sheet. Excel is very useful for keeping a list of all my applications. Its search feature makes it especially useful. Years ago, I kept a paper list. I discovered paper lists aren’t handy if I want to search through the companies and jobs I applied to in the past.

Click here for sample spreadsheet

I also added the date, the employer, the website, and a few other fields. If I have an email or phone number, I will specify under employer. If the employer is a recruiting firm, I also include the name of the company they are submitting me to. That way I have a record of the actual company I applied to. That will come in handy if I need to search for companies I applied to. Also, some employers will not accept resumes from recruiting firms if you already applied with them.

Most of the jobs I apply to are on-line. The jobs are listed on job boards or employer websites. Often the job board will contain a job desription with a link to apply for the job. Sometimes the link is to an employer’s website, sometimes the job board will send your resume and cover letter to directly to the employer. I keep a copy of the link under the column “Job Website”.

“How contacted” will contain information such as if I applied via a job board, via a company website, or via email etc. I also specify if I submitted a Resume or both a Resume and Cover letter.

Most jobs will display a message and/or email you that you successfully applied. I keep a copy of the message under the “Confirmation” column.

Some employers will ask where you saw the job posting, so I put that information that under the “Job Board” column.
Most company career sites will ask you to set up an account. I keep the account information under the column “Logon to Employer Site”. I don’t put the actual password I used, instead I put hints to help me remember the login and password.

Job Board Hints

I review the job boards and keep a record of every job I apply for
Here are some of the job boards I visit:
indeed.com
linkedin.com (jobs)
dice.com
monster.com
careerbuilder.com
glassdoor.com (jobs)
ziprecruiter.com

Be aware that some job postings will not direct you to an application page. Some of the links will ask you to provide an email before you can apply. Sometimes, that’s OK. Other times the posting will scrape job listings from other sites and ask you to provide email and other information before directing you to the application page. If you can skip the inquiry, I recommemd you do. Unfortunately it’s not always easy to tell if the link is legitimate or if it’s gathering email so they can send you spam. When in doubt, go directly to the company website and apply through their careers page.

The job boards enable you to limit the number of days back to search. This is useful if you search the boards every day. They’re all a little different, but generally you can limit your search to 1 day back, sometimes 3 days, most will allow you to limit your search to a week back. Look for links such as “advanced search”, “date posted”, “filter”, or similar. I do not see a similar feature on Dice, but Dice does have a “sort by relevance/date” link so you can put the newest postings at the top.

Other Record Keeping and Job Application Hints.

I use an email address dedicated for my job search. This helps me keep my job search emails separate from my regular emails. This makes it less likely I will miss an important job notification. Since I use Microsoft Outlook, I have my Outlook configured to flag incoming job search emails with a special color and musical tone.

In addition to my log, I keep a “Jobs” folder with several subfolders.

It should be fairly intuitive what most of the folders are used for.
Resumes go in the “001-Resume” folder. I have several different versions of my resume, depending on what I’m applying for.
Cover Letters go in the “002-Cover Letters” folder. Again, I have several different versions of my cover letter, depending on what I’m applying for.
I keep PDF copies reference letters and reference contact information in my “004-References” folder.
My “003-Applications” folders may not be as intuitive at first glance, but it’s a very important folder.
Under “003-Applications, I create an employer sub-folder when I apply for a job. If I apply more than once with an employer, I add the new job info to the folder. Sometimes I may need to create sub-sub folders.
I copy a resume from my 001-Resume folder and I copy a cover letter from my “002-Cover Letter” folder into the employer folder.
I then customize my resume and cover letter to match the job. I may change the order of the items in my resume or cover letter. I may add skills not listed in my original resume to match the job description, and I may change the words and terms in my resume and cover to match the job description. This can be useful for a technical role when …

Hiking in Jefferson County, Colorado

Jefferson County, Colorado is a suburban county in the Denver Colorado metropolitan area. The county extends from the Denver suburbs into the mountains. (Locals call mountains outside of Denver the “foothills”). Jefferson County has a wonderful open space park system. Since the parks are all close to Denver, the parks are ideal for city-dwellers wanting to go on day-hikes. There are many, many, trails that can easily be hiked in a half-day or less. A few are all-day hikes. Overnight camping is allowed in some parks with a reservation. Otherwise, the parks are open an hour before sunrise until an hour after sunset. Plan your hikes. I was on a hike once and barely completed my hike before closing time. Jefferson county parks are paid for exclusively with tax dollars, and unlike the state parks, there is no fee to visit the Jefferson County parks

According to their website, “The Jeffco Open Space system includes 56,000 acres of preserved land, 28 parks, and 244 miles of trail.” A few of the parks are in the city, but most are in the foothills. All of the parks are within an hour’s or so drive or less from the city. Most of the parks have multiple trails varying in length and difficulty. Some of the trails are relatively flat, others trails are steep and rocky. Depending upon the park and trail, the trails are suitable for hikers, bikers, and equesterians. Check the website before you go. Some trails are hiker only. At least one trail alternates on a weekly basis between hiker only and biker only.

Most trail heads have out-house style restrooms, some have running-water. There are also information boards with a park map, park literature, and maps park guests can take with them. The park maps are always well-stocked. I go to the parks weekly and have never seen the trailhead to be out of maps. You can also print maps from their website. It’s a good idea to check the maps before you go so you can plan your hike:
Jefferson County Open Space web site

Preparing for your Hike

The first thing and most important is to always, always, always, tell someone where you are going and when you expect to be back. Jefferson County parks have many visitors, and you will almost never be completely alone, but it’s still an important safety precaution to let someone know where you will be going. The next most important thing is to bring sufficient water. It’s important to stay hydrated. It’s not a bad idea to bring a snack. Depending on the length of the hike, a granola bar or trail-mix should be sufficient. If you plan to be on a longer hike, bring more food with you. Dress appropriately. Weather can change, so be prepared for changes, especially rain. Wear appropriate shoes. I recommend hiking or work boots. I see many people on the trails with sneakers. Most of the time sneakers will be OK, but I still recommend heavy-duty footwear. Don’t wear sandals or flip-flops. Most trails you will regret it if you wear flimsy shoes. Wear a hat. If you wear shorts or tee-shirts, be sure to put on a quality sun-screen. I bring a hiking pole with me when I go hiking. I find the pole helps me keep my balance, especially when I’m headed down a steep trail.

Hiking with your Dog

Most of the trails in Jefferson County are suitable for dogs. Your dog will enjoy the hike as much as you do. Please, keep your dog on a leash. Park regulations require dogs be leashed. I’ve seen park rangers admonish people who don’t leash their dogs. The irresponsible dog owners tell the rangers their dogs don’t need to be on a leash. Just about every time I encountered a park ranger with my dog, the ranger thanks me for having my dog on a leash. Leashing dogs is an important safety precaution, and a common courtesy.

Be sure to bring enough water for your dog. The trails can be hot and strenuous, especially for dogs. I have a big dog and my dog needs more water than I do. Bring a bowl to put the dog water in. I bring dog treats. For day-hikes treats are not always a necessity, but your dog will appreciate it. Finally, bring a small a garden shovel and plastic bag to clean up after your dog. My dog rarely goes while we’re on the trail but he does go occasionaly. Also, I bring some towelettes to clean my hands after I scoop dog poop.

Recommendations

Different people have different fitness levels and different levels of hiking ability. It would be difficult for me recommend a hike for you, but I can tell you about some of the hikes I like to go on. When I’m in the mood for a short hike with a bit of an uphill climb, I go Pine Valley park. The hike only takes me a couple of hours. South Valley park is next to the Lockheed-Martin facility on the outskirts of town. The trail is about two miles in length, is relatively flat though there are slight inclines and declines. South Valley has some handsome sandstone rock outcroppings though rock climbing is prohibited. If you want to do some rock climbing, go to North Table Mountain park. Flying-J Park is outside of Conifer. It is longer than South Valey, nicely forrested, but relatively flat with slight inclines and declines. For most people, Flying-J less than a half-day hike. If you want to try something more challenging, try Elk Meadows, in Evergreen. The trail is fairly long with a significant elevation gain. Others may be able to hike it faster, but for me, it’s an all day hike. My favorite park is Reynolds Park. The hike is a little less than a half-day, parts of the trail are steep and rocky. The when I get to the ridge line at the top …

Wyze Cam Security Cam

I recently decided I wanted an outdoor security camera but I didn’t want to spend much money.  After a bit of research I found a bargain camera that includes a bunch of features. The Wyze Cam can be purchased for $19.95 plus $5.99 shipping. The camera has two way audio and includes 14 days of cloud storage.  The camera will upload 10-15 second video clips every time it detects motion.  If you want to store continuous motion or more than a 15 second clip, you will need a micro SD card.  The camera supports up to 32 GB. The camera out-of-the-box  is not suitable for outdoor use. You will need an enclosure.  I bought one on Amazon for $16.99.  The camera is powered by a micro USB/USB cable plugged into a power adapter. If you want to use the camera outside, you will probably need a longer cable than what’s included.

The camera is a bargain does just what I want it to.  It sends me an alert to my android phone every time it detects motion in my driveway. I can view the clip from the phone. The camera also supports iPhones. Next, I plan to set up another cam at my front door.  When someone comes to the door, I can see who’s there and even ask what they want without needing to come to the door.

See my Youtube video for the details: Video

 

 

 

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My New Baha – Bone Attached Hearing Aid

I am nearly deaf in my right ear, and since my ear canal is clogged, a traditional hearing aid won’t help. If it wasn’t for my clogged hearing canal, I would have nearly normal hearing in my right ear. In 2017, I had surgery to drill in a metal abutment into my skull near my right ear.  Three months after my surgery, I received a Bone Attached Hearing Aid (Baha) that snaps into the abutment.With the device, I am now able to hear normally through my skull. The hearing aid comes with accessories that work over Bluetooth.  They enable me to use my hearing aid with a mobile phone, hear streaming audio over Bluetooth, and hear sounds via a remote microphone.  See my YouTube video describing my experience.…

RCA RPJ116 Multimedia Projector for PowerPoint Review

I saw this projector in Walmart for $89. I’ve been wanting a projector for PowerPoint presentations but didn’t want to invest several hundred dollars for something I wouldn’t use very often. I wasn’t sure if this projector would do the job but I knew I could take it back if it didn’t work out. I discovered the output is a little dim but would do a half way decent job in a dimmed room.  The projector is OK for me, but I wouldn’t recommend it for someone who gives frequent presentations.  See the YouTube video for details.…