Archives 2022

What is a technical marketing manager?

From creating technical labs, blogs, and videos to pairing customers’ problems with product features, technical marketers never see a dull moment.

Slide-deck builder, swag folks, booth dwellers, buzzword people… technical marketing gets a bad rap sometimes. Today, I want to set the record straight. Marketing can be a chaotic, challenging, yet rewarding space to work in… and there’s also some swag involved.

I’ve held several different roles before finding my home as a technical marketing manager (TMM), including support engineer, systems administrator, and solutions architect (technical sales), to name a few. None of those roles quite brought me the thrill and fulfillment that my current position does. What does a TMM do day-to-day? What skills and tools do you use? What traits do you need to succeed?

Want to catch the rest of this article? Head on over to the Enable Sysadmin blog!

Beginner’s Guide: How To Get Started With Element & Matrix

These days it can be overwhelming to select the best software to use because now more than ever, choices are abundant when it comes to software. Messaging and Communications apps are a great example of that because there are so many options out there. What if you’re looking for a messaging app that is scaleable and privacy-focused? It can be even harder.

Thanks to the Element team, I’ve got a great option to show you. Element, previously known as Riot.im, is a cross-platform client that works on the Matrix protocol. What does that mean? Is Neo the One? Well, let’s talk about the protocol and why you should consider using this great messaging platform.

What Is Matrix?

The Matrix team describes it as an “open standard for secure, de-centralized, real-time communication”. First, it’s open-source, more eyes equals better code. We all know how much I love open source…but for the uninitiated, that means more people can read and study the code, security vulnerabilities can be found and fixed faster, and other projects and contributors can build effective integrations into the source project.

Second, it’s decentralized. This is a little more complicated, but think of it this way, when you stand up an instance of a decentralized application, that is your space. This could be for a family, a meetup, or a company. Everything would be self-contained until you make your instance discoverable. At that point, you@yourhomeserver.com can reach out into the world and find say friend@anotherserver.com.

Thirdly, Matrix supports real-time communications. This includes collaboration, messaging, voice, and even video! Matrix provides a series of encryption algorithms and bridges to facilitate end-user applications to communicate with one another. You may use Etherpad for real-time collaborative document editing, Jitsi for video conferencing, and in today’s blog post, Element for messaging.

Some of the most popular bridges for Matrix are IRC and Gitter. The Open Source Community jumps in with some of their own too, including Telegram and Google Hangouts.

Matrix enables the communications between these platforms within an instance or throughout the interconnected network of Matrix instances across the Internet.

What is Element?

If Matrix is the network, then the Element client is the vehicle that allows you to traverse that network; Element is the interface for text, voice, and video conversations. Just like the Matrix protocol, the Element client is completely open-source!

With the ability to bridge between different apps like Slack right into the Element interface, you no longer need to install and maintain a dozen different apps just to keep in touch with friends, family, work, your volunteer group, your work’s other chat client…you get the idea.

Create an account, activate the needed integrations, and chat with anyone, anywhere on any number of different platforms. Enjoy a 1:1 conversation or hundreds of participants in public rooms.

Bonus: One of my favorite features? Notifications management. I can have every notification from every room, set it to only being notified if I am tagged, or never get any notifications…ever. But Element didn’t stop there, nope, they have one of my favorite notification settings I have ever seen: keyword notifications.

Let’s say I want to know any time someone is talking about dogs. I can add keywords to my configuration and get notified anytime someone says dog, dogs, cats drool, you get the idea!

Element has the option to join the central server at Matrix.org, host your own instance on your own server, or pay a monthly fee for a secure, hosted option. In fact, from their website, you can get up to 5 active users a month for as little as $2/month (USD).

Creating Your Account

It’s now time for you to enter the Matrix and get into your Element. See what I did there? Alright, to get started you will need to create an account. One of the best things about Element is that you can use it on all sorts of devices like your laptop, tablet, phone, or whatever.

For this guide, I’m going to show you how to do it on the Web client in your browser. So open up your favorite browser, such as Mozilla Firefox, and navigate to https://app.element.io.

Your browser will likely ask you to allow access to persistent storage. Accept it that way Element can store your keys, messages, etc. Next, we are going to create an account.

We could create our account on Matrix.Org, but here is a little pro tip: The central server in a federation usually is over-taxed and prone to lag. So, if you know of another public-facing instance, that would be a good bet.

Lucky for us, the community has some awesome members that manage LinuxDelta.com, a community-driven hub for information on Linux distributions, tutorials, and a Matrix server! Instead of using the Matrix.Org option, we are going to go to Advanced/Other:

In the ‘Homeserver URL’ field, type in: https://matrix.linuxdelta.com and click on the green next button. Next, it’s time to create a username. The username will be your display name as well so keep this in mind as you decide. This is what people will see you responding as and how they can tag or search for you! Then create a password, make sure it’s complex. No sense in skimping on security especially if you are utilizing a password manager, like Bitwarden for instance.

Me personally, I am a content creator and a community advocate. I want to be found in the open-source community, so, I would add an email so people can look me up via email. If you do, you’ll of course be sent the customary email confirmation link. For now, though, let’s go ahead and sign in.

Once you have filled in your username, password, and email go ahead and click the green Register button!

This next step is tricky but stay with me. One of the advantages of Element we discussed was end-to-end encryption. We need to generate a Security Key (that is different from our password!). I typically recommend using a system-generated key. Then you can use a secure note somewhere to store the key.

Disclaimer – I changed the security key after writing this blog post, so, don’t think you can get into my account that easily. 😀

Once you’ve saved your key somewhere safe, go ahead and enable notifications and read through some of Element’s recent announcements.

Getting Connected

You are sitting with a brand new, secured account. Now what? Well, Element is a communication platform, let’s find some people to communicate with!

In the middle of the window, there is the option to “Explore Public Rooms”. Let’s click there. Element will default to your home instance, in this case, LinuxDelta.com.

Get connected to The Geek Lab, for instance, by clicking join. That will put you in touch with hundreds of other technology enthusiasts like yourself who hang out, chat, and help each other fix technical problems.

Want to get connected to the broader world? Go back to the Explore button, next to the search bar. In the window we saw before, we have the option to create a new room or select a different server. Let’s hop over to Matrix.org.

There are literally thousands of public rooms covering a crazy number of different topics. Many open-source projects have communities on Matrix. There are HAM radio enthusiasts, D&D (Dungeon and Dragon) hangouts, and even region-focused rooms.

The join process is exactly the same though for a different server, just find a room you want, click join, and start chatting.

There is plenty more to do and discover. From 1 on 1 conversation, adding bridges, and initiating video calls. However, for now, that is all the deeper we will go!

Closing Thoughts

You may be surprised to hear that this is not paid content. I wrote this because I believe in Element. I believe that Matrix is going to have a HUGE part to play in the years to come. There are SO many (read too many) apps to keep track of. Many of them have ads or tracking built-in, or are limited to voice or text. Element, powered by Matrix, has it all. The integrations keep getting better. More and more bridges keep getting built (no pun intended, okay, maybe a little pun).

Open Source is the key. E2E (End to End Encryption) will ensure that your private conversations stay private… You know, I haven’t even mentioned the beautiful interface or that the Element Team releases new features on a frequent basis.

So go sign up and give Element & the Matrix protocol a try! When you get your account registered, be sure to look me up: itguyeric@one.ems.host

(This article was originally posted here and is used and updated with permission.)

The Origin of Eric the IT Guy

I was recently asked, “Why call yourself the IT Guy? Why not just use your name?” Great question! In the professional world, we are encouraged to “build a professional brand,” I just took it to an entirely different level.

There were a few minor reasons. One of which is privacy. I initially didn’t want my full name publicized all over the Internet. However, I eventually realized that anyone that wanted to figure out who I was badly enough could follow the breadcrumbs to LinkedIn. 

Logo - Linux Unplugged
Linux Unplugged

Another more humorous reason was that I used to hang out regularly on Linux Unplugged, a live podcast that features a Mumble room for guests to jump on and be a part of the hosts’ discussion. When I first joined, I was “erich1527”. Little did I know that there was an Erich who worked with an open-source project and frequently came to hang out on the show as well. Having two Eric’s made it confusing for the host!

When the IT Guy was born, I worked full-time as a Systems Administrator and part-time trying to start my own IT Consulting company in the Kansas City area. Granted, the consulting business withered away as life changed, kids came into the picture, and priorities shifted. However, it gave me the branding I wanted to create!

I had a client at the time who had me handling an office move. When I walked in the day of the move, the lady behind the front desk leaned into the main conference room and, to her boss, said, “Hey the IT Guy is here.” I was hooked!

I loved how simple the name was: “Eric the IT Guy”. It was generic but appropriate. The IT Guy could be any of us who deal a lot with technology and trying to get it to work. (Obviously, some of you might have to be the IT Gal…but I digress.)

I had colleagues in the technology space who helped me find a voice. I borrowed equipment from them, recorded sample episodes, started appearing on podcasts as The IT Guy. It stuck. It felt right!

When I realized that the brand was working, I was at a DevOps conference here in Kansas City. I introduced myself as Eric, sporting my GitLab work t-shirt at the time. The dude I was chatting with said, “Wait. Eric…Eric…The IT Guy?” My response was a huge smile and “The one and only!”

Previous Recording Space

Some of you may laugh at the name Eric the IT Guy, but hey, it works. As the IT Guy, I try to help educate my fellow technologists. I try to bring exciting technologies to the forefront. I try to teach methodologies and techniques that can save you time and trouble that I dealt with as a Systems Administrator.

Do you need to give yourself some cool nickname or create a personal logo? Probably not. Do you need to network, build connections, and share your knowledge? Most definitely!

If you aren’t sure how to grow your network, you can start by adding me! I am just about everywhere as @itguyeric. Find me, let’s chat; that’s all it takes to get started! One person, one conversation.

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