Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Serendipity

An eye injury that left me unable to stare at a monitor for more than a few seconds at a time got me a week off work. Paid, thanks to the German health system and laws. And while I couldn't read or play video games, I certainly could do some long-overdue cleaning and organising, starting with the computer room.

Out went some old SuSE 6.2 and 6.3 manuals, the NT4 library (and I'm still crying because I remember how much that cost), various useless and obsolete manuals and even a bit of equipment. A dead P100 and a dead 386 likewise went -- sans hard drives and memory -- into the bin a day before the new German law on "recycling" anything electrical or electronic went into effect. Cabling was to be re-done.

I pulled everything out. Three old machines (486DX2/66, P-166, P2-266) and the girlfriend's current computer which needed a new power supply last month are now on a KVM on one side of the room, with her computer hooked directly to a 17" monitor rather than the shared 15" CRT for the others. I also cleaned up the five primary machines on my side of the room, building a new monitor shelf to replace the crapola thing from Ikea. I now have a second 19" CRT connected that I picked up for €20.

She's directly connected to her lousy Lexmark USB printer. I'd planned to bring her into the network and have her use the shared printer but not everything is set up yet. So I went to have a look.

The printer's plugged in, the cable's dropped down to the computer. "I plugged it in already," she informed me, but the computer wasn't recognising any USB devices. A search for new hardware did nada. Then I pulled her computer back out to check...



Yes, she plugged the USB cable into the COM1 serial port. How she didn't short out the motherboard I'll never know.

No respite, even at home.

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Monday, March 20, 2006

Ah, so it's MY fault you're stupid.

Someone just cost me a few thousand when it comes time for performance reviews and bonus payment because he's a fuckwit.

Why did he do this? Because he didn't like the answer he was given.

I don't live or work in Redmond, nor do I work for a company with offices there. We don't provide different software for use with different databases nor are license keys bound to the DB.
We need the software and corresponding license keys for the MS SQL Server 2005 database.
Well then, shouldn't you be writing to Microsoft?
$BigCorp cannot provide you with products from the Microsoft Corporation. You would need to contact Microsoft for the software and licensing information.

Closed. Root Cause: 17-Fuckwit.

Customers are given the chance to fill out a survey for each ticket which includes such categories as "Knowledgeable", "Curteous" and "Timely" to be rated on a scale of 1-5. There are also automatic high- and low-score notification mails which are sent to any monkey receiving averages above 4.5 and below 2.5, respectively. And to the manager of said monkey. And to that manager's manager. And in the case of a low score, to the next two levels, as well.

I'm notorious for my high score notiofications. They don't even rate a mention anymore. I only ever got one low score and it was because the customer wanted to know if anything really would happen if he gave a low score. Normally they get a call from the manager within 24 hours.

So it came as quite a shock to see a mail with the subject line: Low Score Survey -- Automatic Notification. WTF?!

The bastard gave me 1s across the board. This takes my quarterly average from 4.8 to around 4.2. Unless I get a dozen more customers to fill out the damned surveys (an average of 5% survey returns is "good" here), I'm hosed.

What was I supposed to do? Copy MSDN CDs to the customer's FTP site? Fuckers.

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Friday, March 17, 2006

Explorer? What's that?

On my whiteboard is the following bit of SQL which my colleagues admire greatly:
SELECT * FROM OurBigCompany.EmployeePosition.TAR T1 WHERE T1.clue IS NOT NULL ORDER BY T1.clue DESC;
***0 rows returned.


If your position is Technical Account Representative (TAR) and I reply to your ever-so-urgent ticket about some problem by asking for the size and versions of three Windows 2003 Server DLLs, I do not expect a reply 14 days later asking me how to find this out.

TAR: Help!!! Server no work! I get error #144110! Also, I am Customer TAR. Customer not writing. What wrong?

me:
Ah, errnum 144110, it seems you're with us even in Win2K3.
What's the version and size for each of the following three DLLs?

[two weeks pass]
[ticket
closed for inactivity]
Next day:


TAR:
Don't close! Customer will update today.
TAR: How we find out about this from DLLs?

me:
Stare at screen for ten minutes in silence, utterly dumbfounded. Send copy to manager. Send detailed explanation on using Windows Exploder, navigating to correct directory, and right-clicking on three fucking files.

[three weeks pass]
[ticket
closed for inactivity]
Next day:


TAR:
Here are versions.

me:
I thought so. errnum 144110 plus StupidCryptFramework.DLL version equals simple file corruption. Remedy: uninstall a single corrupted file, it'll be rebuilt automatically on next connection.

OK. Go to the Windows\Downloaded Programs folder, right-click on StupidCryptFramework.DLL and select "REMOVE".
DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES SELECT THE FILE AND DELETE IT!
It's installed and must therefore be removed. If you delete it, much work will be involved in trying to clean up the Registry since this DLL is referenced in so many places and under many different identifiers.
So don't delete it -- UNINSTALL it the way I explained 100 words ago.

[two weeks pass]
[ticket
closed for inactivity]
Next day:

TAR: We delete file like you say. YourBigApp still not work.

me:
You deleted it? By right-clicking and uninstalling it, right?

TAR:
Yes. We open Downloaded Programs folder and delete file. Still not work so we delete from Recycle Bin. Still not work! HELP!

me:
Re-image the machine.

TAR:
Why?!

me:
Because if you can't follow simple instructions on removing a file; there's no way we can work together on registry editing. It will be toast and you'll have to re-image it anyway. This will save us both time.

Ticket closed.
Root cause: Customer.
Reason Code: 4-Error in Execution.

I need my Reason Code 17-Fuckwit.

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Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Windows, AIX, what's the difference?

If you're a highly-paid AIX administrator working in a mixed AIX/Windows world, shouldn't you know some of the basic differences between UNIX and Windows? Fucktard.



cust: Look at YourBigApp! In the overview line it shows lots of boxes. In the old version if we put characters in that it didn't like, it helpfully erased them. Now we have garbage! Here's a screen shot. HEEELLLLPPP!

me: "Helpfully changed the characters." Heh. Ahh... boxes. Another twat tried to convert to Unicode without our help and did it wrong. This'll be easy. "Unsupported. Talk to $$$Custom$$$ $$$Programming$$$ $$$Group$$$. Ticket closed. Root Cause: 17.

Hi. What codepage is your database set to?

UTF-8! SAY IT, BITCH! You! Tea! Eff! Eight!

cust: When we did the install, we had the choice of Unicode or Non-Unicode. We chose Non-Unicode. What's with these damned boxes?

me: It appears to be a conversion problem. Basically, the browser is trying to render improper characters. The boxes signify characters which can't be displayed. What codepage are you set to? Send me an export of that field in CSV and again in a TXT file.

cust: Here are the files. What's wrong?

me: You cut and pasted this into a text file. Windows is very helpful with that and doesn't give me the raw data. Please export those rows. And also, please tell me which codepage you're set to.

cust: [one week later] I already told you we're using code page 1252!!! Here are the files again. Fix this!!!

me: scroll up. No mention of code page. Look at weird display. In the row I see boxes. With a hover pop-up, I see no boxes and line breaks. Hmm... time to fire up the trusty hex editor.

Well, well, well... looky here! Line Feeds without Carriage Returns. My, my, my. They imported the data from DB2 without switching on CR-CR/LF translation. Idiots.

Hi. Your idiot DBA imported your data for use in a Windows application from a UNIX database without setting line feed translation. The reason it looks bad in the regular line is because that's handled by an ActiveX contol. It looks right in the hover because IE is just smart enough to render a line feed as a CR/LF.

You have three choices: 1) live with it; 2) smack your DBA and get him to re-import the data with line feed translation; or 3) copy the data, paste it into MS Word which will automatically convert the LF to CR/LF, re-select it and paste it back into our app.

cust: We can't live with that manual solution! Time is money! Our people can't cut and paste all day!

me: Then re-import or talk to $$$Custom$$$ $$$Programming$$$ $$$Group$$$.

cust: But...

me: Ticket closed. Root Cause: 17 - Customer is a Fucktard.

I will not rest until I get my Root Cause 17 implemented.

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Fr1st ps0t

I miss having my own company. I'd be rich were it not for one bad decision to fold the company , move to Germany and save a marriage that I didn't know was beyond hope. In doing this I'd applied for a job with a large company doing what turned out to be technical support. At least it's third-line and not a call center job.

The wife left, I stayed. Having no money, many contractual obligations including a 5-year apartment lease, and watching the tech bubble collapse in 2001 I was left with few options but to stay on-board at a company that pays rather well.

I figured on three years; it's been five and a half and counting.

How much longer will I stay in this soul-sucking environment? It's hard to say. We're being taken over by an even bigger company and things aren't looking so bad. Although our structure will remain in place for some time, the new company is quite supportive of working from home, and unlike the present company, doesn't go for the wink-wink, nudge-nudge, yes-it's-illegal-in-Germany-but-we-expect-a-good-60-hours-each-week-from-you nonsense.

I know dick about our applications.

I have continually expressed my joy over the shittiness of Windows. If it was a good OS I'd have to get a real job or at least learn our application. Instead I deal with a lot of Windows nuts and bolts as well as third-party applications. Though I can't do a thing with our application itself, I can get it to run (again) on Windows.

I know networking and can sort communications problems (like detecting stupid subnetting mistakes). I'm also the God of Internationalisation (I18N) 'round these here parts. I love Unicode though I hate the mess that people manage to make of their systems when they implement it incorrectly. Best of all, I can handle three times the number of service tickets as my colleagues because of the areas in which I work, and I can do that in half as much time, leaving me much freedom for surfing, writing, playing games, editing photographs, and anything else that strikes my fancy.

I do miss being a BOFH but the chances of moving to that at $BigCorp are slim to none. I will try and get the hell out of being a tech monkey and into $BigCorp's I18N department. It's a lot more interesting field and there are few time limits. Meanwhile, I'll sort customer problems and in doing so, the my-head-shaped dent in front of the keyboard will continue to grow.

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In compliance with $MegaCorp's general policies as well as my desire to
continue living under a roof and not the sky or a bus shelter, I add this:

DISCLAIMER:
The views expressed on this blog are my own and
do not necessarily reflect the views of $MegaCorp, even if every
single one of my cow-orkers who has discovered this blog agrees with me
and would also like to see the implementation of Root Cause: 17-Fuckwit.