The foremost hardware expert...
week, Stephen Ibaraki, I.S.P., has an exclusive interview with Scott
Mueller, considered the most authoritative and trusted hardware
voice with a highly respected international reputation. As president
of Mueller Technical Research, he spends upwards of 25-weeks on the
road each year, as a noted training expert in PC hardware, operating
systems, and data-recovery techniques.
is a world renowned author, teacher and speaker. His book
Upgrading and Repairing PCs is an international best seller with
more than 2.3 million copies sold—a figure rare in the computing
publishing field, making his book the highest selling essential
guide in the history of hardware publishing. His latest edition is
now available. Scott’s other recent works include: Upgrading and
Repairing Laptops, Repairing PCs Video Training Course,
and Upgrading and Repairing Servers.
has taught hardware repair in the US, Canada, Australia and Europe
for Fortune 500 corporations, agencies, governments,
entrepreneurs, PC repair professionals, and major hardware/software
corporations. His numerous articles have appeared in many publications
including Forbes, Investors Business Daily. Together with TechTV, he
is frequently called upon by the national media as an industry
Scott, with your incredible schedule and many demands on your
unique expertise, we are most fortunate to have you taking time out
to do this interview.
Thanks for asking, I am honored by the request!
Q: On a
lighter note, how are your ‘fun’ projects coming along: Harley
upgrade and Grand Cherokee?
got one more round of modifications to the Grand Cherokee, I will be
installing a new Mopar Performance (Chrysler engineered performance
parts) single plane high-flow intake manifold, a set of 1.7 ratio
roller rockers, and upgraded valve springs with lightweight titanium
retainers. I'm hoping for another 20 to 30 HP with these
modifications. It runs 14.9 @ 90mph in the quarter mile (in full
street trim and in 4-wheel drive!) now, and these modifications
should drop my ET by a few more tenths and add a few more mph as
bike is still a work-in-progress, and progress is stalled until
later this winter, when hopefully we'll have moved into a new house
with a very nice garage. For the future I have my eyes on a 2005
Mustang Cobra, as well as possibly "restifying" a '69 Camaro RS/SS,
or building a Shelby Cobra type kit car.
you talk about your personal history and what led you to get into
computing; the various chapters in your life and the life
experiences you found valuable?
got involved in computer training back in 1982, first teaching
VisiCalc (the first spreadsheet program, you can see it at <http://www.bricklin.com>)
on the Apple ][+. VisiCalc was the first "killer app" I saw that
moved personal computers into the business world. At the time I was
also installing, supporting, and training on Z-80 processor based
hardware running CP/M and applications such as dBASE II as well. I
switched to The IBM PC platform after Lotus 123 was introduced in
1983, which was the killer app that replaced VisiCalc. At the time I
also started teaching hardware courses, which led to the development
of my own PC hardware course books. After working with Que
publishing as a technical editor on "The PS/2 Handbook" in 1987, I
was able to persuade Que to publish my own PC hardware book as the
first edition of "Upgrading and Repairing PCs" in 1988. Since then
I've re-written that book virtually every year, with the 15th
anniversary edition coming out just a few weeks ago (August of 2003)
do you do what you do? What was the attraction to writing, how did
you get into writing? Do you have any tips to pass onto aspiring
reason I started writing initially was to develop manuals for the
seminars I was teaching. This led to not only my "Upgrading and
Repairing PCs" series, but also a book on Data Recovery and several
other titles. I've always been insanely curious, and love to
research technical topics. Now I write because I simply love to do
it, and it gives me a reason to justify all of the research and
study I perform.
tip for authors is to take an idea, develop an outline, and write
the material, before contacting a publisher. The more work you have
done in advance, the more likely you will be published. Ideas are
easy, finished books are hard!
you elaborate on new editions and books forthcoming for the future?
Please share some important lessons, tips, “best practices,” and
release a new version of my main book "Upgrading and Repairing PCs"
every year. This is because the technology changes so fast and I
want the book to remain accurate and up to date. The 15th edition
was released just recently, along with the 4th edition of
"Upgrading and Repairing Networks" as well.
next new book will be "Upgrading and Repairing Laptops", which will
be out by the end of this year. The timing for a book like this is
perfect, since laptop/notebook computers now represent the largest
growing class of computers, and they are not as easy to upgrade or
repair as desktops. Also coming next spring is "Upgrading and
Repairing Servers", which will be ideal for companies or individuals
who either build or maintain their own servers. Finally I have a
video package available that is called the "Upgrading and Repairing
PCs Video Training Course". The video training course is a 6-hour
seminar with very in-depth and intensive presentations for those who
can't afford my 4-day long live seminars.
There are no other authors as successful as you with your hardware
series. What’s behind the magic that makes you stand out and
dominate the industry?
have to give two main reasons for the success of my books: One is
that I was the first on the market with a comprehensive PC hardware
book, especially one that covered upgrading and repairing, as well
as all of the underlying technology. There have been many imitators
since, but I had a head start and because of my annual releases, so
far nobody else has been able to catch up. The second is that my
books have benefited from years and years of being derived from and
used as seminar training materials, and they are based on not only
my experiences with hardware, but with explaining the technology to
diverse groups of people over the years. Because of that, they are
written in a manner that almost everybody can understand. Years and
years of teaching experience gives me the ability to explain complex
topics in easy-to-understand ways, yet without leaving out the
technical details and accuracy, as is the case with many others. I'm
very detail oriented, and like to study a subject totally, before
figuring out a good way to explain it. I always feel you can explain
a highly technical subject without having to over-simplify it to the
point of inaccuracy. I pride myself on completeness as well as
technical accuracy, as well as being able to appeal to both
beginning and advanced users with information that is as broad as it
is deep, written in a manner that is easy to comprehend.
Would you do anything differently if you had the chance?
have invested more money in the companies I've been following for so
many years, and try harder to meet my deadlines.
Please share stories from your many training sessions—also a
humorous experience? What lessons did you learn and what challenges
did you face? What skills were the most valuable to you?
effort I put into my classroom setups as well as simply being setup
and ready on-time has become legendary for some of the companies I
taught for. In one instance during the setup for my class I remember
a particular hotel that was unwilling to turn off the lights in a
ballroom ceiling, which were directly above my projection screens.
After all efforts at reason failed, a few accurately thrown quarters
(and a call to the maintenance department to clean up the glass)
quickly solved the problem. In another seminar, a mistake in
booking travel landed me over 200 miles from my destination, at
midnight on a Sunday evening, with no rental cars available, and a
class starting at 8am Monday morning. It took me an hour to find a
cab driver willing to drive the distance. After stopping for gas
(and to air up his severely under-inflated tires), I decided to try
and get some sleep, only to awake after a short time by the sounds
and feeling of the car spinning off the road, apparently on black
ice. We ended up in the median unharmed and unhurt, but needless to
say I could not manage any sleep for the rest of the ride. After
finally arriving at my destination at just before 6am (the cab fare
was over $220!), I quickly changed into my suit and setup all the
equipment for the class, and was ready to go exactly on time. The
stories I have from traveling and teaching are endless!
Where do you see yourself in two, five, and ten years?
Successively doing more writing and less teaching. I really love to
teach, but the travel is difficult, and writing can be done from any
an elite authority in hardware, operating systems, and
data-recovery, what specific advice would you provide to businesses
and IT professionals regarding future choices, and longer term
trends? What should we be watching for? What should we avoid?
like to watch trends and stick with hardware and software that is
based on industry standards, is the most popular, and which has the
best support (popularity and support often go hand in hand). I try
to avoid technology that might be good, but which isn't or won't be
widely supported, backwards and forwards compatible, and cost
effective. I am a big believer in industry standardization, since
standard hardware is always more upgradeable and repairable (and
therefore much more cost effective), than proprietary hardware.
do you feel are the major challenges in hardware repair and
Keeping up with the additional complexity in modern hardware and
software. There are more interfaces to choose from now than ever,
and more choices in operating systems, file systems, utilities, and
applications. For me, keeping up with all the changes is a full-time
you provide additional predictions about the future of the various
technologies you have worked on and about others where you have a
deep interest? Who will be the winners and losers?
don't like to get out my crystal ball, but I can see that mobile
computing is reaching new levels of performance and usability, with
large high-resolution screens, built-in wireless networking, much
longer battery life (Pentium M aka Centrino), high capacity hard
drives, recordable CD and DVD drives, and integrated USB 2.0 and
FireWire interfaces. I am especially impressed with Intel's Pentium
M mobile technology. Also I can see 802.11a/b/g wireless and
possibly Bluetooth becoming essential for all mobile devices, while
desktop systems will have much less of an emphasis on such
technologies. The mobile sector is growing, and as one who has used
portable computers as my main systems for practically my whole
computing career, it is exciting to see others finally realizing the
benefits of portability.
you were new to computing and contemplating a career in the field,
what would you study to ensure employability in the future? What
reasons would you give?
focus on networking, security, data recovery, or some other specific
sector or niche in the industry. While I recommend specialization, I
would also recommend attaining as much overall knowledge as possible
so that if your particular niche were overcrowded you would be able
to move into other areas.
do you see as the next “killer app” in hardware and operating
Wireless connectivity, including 802.11 local area and 802.16
metropolitan area networks.
Q: What do you feel
are the top five hottest topics of interest to both businesses and
IT professionals today?
A: Security, Wireless
Networking, Laptops/Notebooks, Remote Manageability, and
Self-Service and Repair.
Q: If you were doing this
questions would you ask of someone in your position and
what would be your answers?
A: The same ones you are asking.
Scott, thank you for sharing your considerable knowledge and
experiences with our audience.
Thanks for the opportunity!