Re: Ah yes indeed.
Oh dear. If posession/ownership of a briefcase wasn't enough, you only carried it to transport your lunch? No wonder us IT folk get called geeks! :-(
Welcome again to On-Call, The Register's Friday foray into a mailbag stuffed full of readers' recollections of being asked to fix things that should never have broken. This week, meet “Bill” who can't forget the time, about a decade ago, when someone from the marketing department “couldn't figure out how to eject a floppy disk …
"You should have better designed mice! These are clearly not fit for purpose! Why is IT so crap?!"
Sadly I once worked for a company where I had overall responsibility for an enterprise software product. A client installation was to be carried out at a rather pleasant exotic location so the CEO decided that he would do the install "to impress the client". Unfortunately his knowledge of the product was about as good as that of, I imagine, most CEOs. He had also not troubled to understand a few things about localisation.
The result was that after several days he came back and ranted at me that the product was "not fit for purpose," and proceeded to undermine me. So I did the only thing possible, which was to become a contractor, wait until there was an all hands to the pump crisis coinciding with the end of a contract period, and not renew my contract. It took a year, but revenge is a dish best served cold.
Conversely, I work for a gov agency and our IT department is truly hopeless. The length of time for requests to get attended to can be measured in weeks and not a single computer in our organisation (and there are at least 400 of them) is configured correctly. The worst was out graphic designer's machine. They were supposed to upgrade Windows to 64-bit version so the whole 8 gigs of RAM could be used and 64-bit Photoshop could be installed. Requested, begged, demanded but nothing. The machine, a quad core i7 should have run well but it was a performance dog because of misconfigurations. If something in my dept needs IT attention I do it myself because its faster and I know it will be done right.
Not disparaging those IT folk who go above and beyond. I have utmost respect for them. Just saying that my particular one is as useful as the mammaries on a bull.
The NHS have standardised pay throughout. That means that you can't pay good IT staff extra to make them stay, so they keep getting lured away by the bright lights. I assum gov agencies are the same...
Lured away by the bright lights, or driven away by the poor stress:payrate ratio?
I've worked in some truly shitty jobs* but with great people, so the mess and what you were dealing with didn't really get to you, even when payrates weren't great. And I've worked short-term in a couple of jobs where the office politics were not ever going to be worth the money. I've seen places with quite decent paypackets, but the business quickly fails because of high staff-turnover.
*One of my first jobs was helping out on a local farm after school. Some of it truly was disgusting and quite shitty in a very literal sense, but the other staff were great and some real bonuses as well - truly fresh milk that was in the cow only seconds ago (though I preferred it from the vat after it'd been chilled, especially on a summer's day) and meat so fresh that it'd been running around the paddock that day. Probably why I can't stand the floor sweepings that is "premium" supermarket meat.
Icon - something like that might've been useful when cleaning out the pig pens.. Now that is a shitty job!
"You should have better designed mice! These are clearly not fit for purpose! Why is IT so crap?!"
How about a mouse with a self-righting mechanism based on Robot Wars?
If it also includes a miniature circular saw and randomly removes ministers' fingers, so much the better.
and I saw I marketing department try to get away with much the same thing I a firm I worked for where a great deal of "foreign matter" was found inside a PC.
Saved by an IT director that was equally robust with the description of the matter, and how IT did not have the budget to possess it...
"Not a use they promote in the Lurpak or Anchor adverts."
A Clover butter family TV advert from 1989 used the "Roll Me Over In The Clover" song - only slightly modified.
IIRC We used to sing that at the Boy Scout campfires back in the 1950/60s.
Here are the words for anyone who doesn't know them. This version is close to the one I learned - there have been many variations from subtle to explicit.
I can understand that one can use Excel for marketing glossies. For organizing text into columns and keeping it aligned with a graph or two, it works much better than doing the same with MS Word. However, using Mac Numbers is much better. Using Mac Pages for this is hopeless, since graphics keep jumping around no matter how hard you try to lock them in place.
Ooh. Can I have?
Since Excel stopped including a data-to maps tool, I craved a map consisting of a thousand Excel cells linked to the geographically correct data, and colour coded according to cell value - that's fairly versatile, so e.g. you could represent Glasgow with a Glasgow-shaped area of cells that would all be coloured magenta by setting an appropriate input number (it's a while since I programmed my Spectrum but I think magenta may have been 3). But I didn't actually make it, because that seemed quite tedious.
I was wondering if someone else would comment..
Found UF a couple of weeks back, don't recall seeing it before..Think it was in relation to an El Reg comment though might've been when I was looking for something in relation to something I was posting. Much thanks to whoever inspired me to find it.
(PS is the author on El Reg? Couple of posters make me wonder, and that at least one UF cartoon refers to El Reg...)
Some years back, my mother worked at a major manufacturer of electronic calculators, when such things were a new 'thing'. OK this is secondhand, but the gist: A customer apparently had a tom cat piss all over his 'Caculator', and he couldn't get the smell out. So he basically dumped a bottle of 'Acahol' all over it. Apparently this caused it to malfunction, so he took it apart and tried to dry it off [possibly with a hair dryer]. He wrote a letter to the company asking advice for getting his 'Caculator' to work again. I guess that's understandable, since they were as expensive as smart phones back then.
The letter was subsequently copied and circulated. Interoffice humor. Who knew?
[And in this day and age, it might inspire another youtube video by Craig Turner]
. . .I had the misfortune of working at the Pentagon's Helldesk for the Air Force.
And I actually got a "cupholder" call: a 3-star (fighter pilot, of course) had called in to report that his "cupholder" had cracked.
Yep. He was using the CD-ROM tray for his coffee cup.
I get there, diagnose the problem ("What, you can't glue it back together ?? How about replacing the tray ?"), call it in to order a new CD drive. Mind you, at the time, a CD Drive was a several hundred dollar piece of gear. And I mark it down as Customer Misuse of Equipment, which meant he PERSONALLY got the bill for parts and labor, about 400 bucks.
General blows a gasket, demands I retract the report. General ALSO had signed a waiver for training on the box, accepting, under his signature, personal liability to all damage to the computer beyond normal wear and tear. Never got to the end of the matter, as I left for a better job shortly thereafter. . .
The "cupholder" issue is one of the very few where I have sympathy for the end user. It really is quite difficult for normal people - i.e. those outside the industry - to know what a computer should or should not be able to do. It's like the stories of people using the insulating pads over the fluorinert tanks on early Crays as seats, because they look like cushions.
iPhones are famously designed to be usable by the nontechnical, and don't have removable storage. I liked Sony phones but I can see that fiddling with the SIM tray and ensuring that the cap seals are properly engaged after replacing the micro-SD card is not something that the general public will want to engage with. This is why one of my relatives, who works in IT, buys Galaxy Notes (but not the catching fire one) but supplies their other half, a lawyer, with an iPhone.
In this case, I would want to to bill the misused CD to the training department, for failure to teach the general what the bits of a computer did. The same with the example in TFA. No issue of new equipment without training on features should be a rule.
And an Air Force should know this, after all they don't normally hand a pilot a new aircraft and say "there you are, apparently it's all intuitive."
Does it not have the standard "Compact Disc" logo on it?
Yes, it does, but, to save money, they stopped doing it in ink, and now, it's just raised plastic, same color as the body of the tray. So when working on a strange machine, you need to shine a light on the drive, at just the right angle, to see if it's a CD, CDRW, DVD, DVD+/-/R or Bluray...and it's almost never the kind you need.
Does it not have the standard "Compact Disc" logo on it? Back in the 90s, that was everywhere.
Something from Douglas Adams springs to mind. Black writing on black background and so on...
(IOW, many CD/DVD trays have the logos just molded into the plastic rather than painted/silkscreened on)
"In this case, I would want to to bill the misused CD to the training department, for failure to teach the general what the bits of a computer did."
On the whole I agree with you but maybe you missed the fact that the general had signed a waiver.
It's difficult if not impossible to deal with idiocy that's risen to the higher levels of an organisation. After all these are the people who should be exercising wisdom and laying down rules for the rest of the organisation. The first step of this should be understanding why those rules are needed and why they apply to themselves* as much as everyone else.
*It's doubly important that they follow their own rules. They need to set an example.
"The first step of this should be understanding why those rules are needed and why they apply to themselves* as much as everyone else."
I agree with your post - fair comment on mine - except for one thing. It is the job of people at the top of the organisation to know when to break the rules, or to introduce new ones. That's what they are paid for. As a one time technical director, it was part of my job to assess the risk of doing something outside the system and decide whether or not to go ahead. Otherwise, what do you need senior management for?
But that assumes you are equipped to know what the rules are and why they exist. Under what circumstances would you enter a clean room (or tell someone else to) without full kit? Would you go ahead with a potentially very profitable contract which involves untried new technology? Would you buy a new machine from untried vendor A who can deliver in 3 months or vendor B who is fully certified but will take a year? Will you break the pay scale to retain a scientist who may be on the verge of a breakthrough but may not?
"It's difficult if not impossible to deal with idiocy that's risen to the higher levels of an organisation."
The Peter Principle. "People rise to their level of incompetence".
Then sometimes they get promoted further to get them out of the way. At a certain magic level they merely enter the pool that circulates round businesses. In each case they leave with a golden handshake - only to be immediately snapped up by another company where they introduce their pet business fad that has failed so many times before.
It's like the stories of people using the insulating pads over the fluorinert tanks on early Crays as seats, because they look like cushions.
I was in high school when Crays were a thing, and never seen one personally, but yes, I always assumed that was seating.
I never could figure out why though you'd want people to sit on your multimillion dollar supercomputer.
If the user doesn't know that it's for CDs or CD-ROMs then he probably doesn't need it to work as a disc player. So you could just tape the thing back together, add in a drip catching mat. Upgrade the device to a working CD drive if it's actually needed. And don't let the guy use anyone else's computer.
Or: call it a "music player", which it is. Then leave the unlucky user to face the music.
And why do they have a CD player or cup holder in a fighter plane anyway? Well - I suppose you really don't want your drink to spill in there. A sippy cup may be best.
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