Thursday, July 27, 2006

Upgrades

Last week it was my hope and dream that Air France would upgrade my ticket at the airport, lifting me out of the depths of steerage and placing me in the comfort of business class. I got to the airport early and found out they might indeed need my seat for the early flight.

When they called for boarding a Saudi woman jumped up and cut in front of me, handing the attendant 11 passports for her rather large family and their Philippine slave girl. Additional time was wasted as various family members wandered back and forth between the jetway and waiting area while the kids both played and fought. The staff finally matched tickets and passports to passengers and the rest of the 140 passengers were able to board, starting with me.

As I walked down the jetway the attendant came running, yelling "Mister Canine! Mister Canine!". She grabbed my boarding pass and scribbled a new seat number. "You've been upgraded," she said, beaming.

That'll teach me.

Between Paris and Munich, AF usually fly their old 737s with the 3x3 configuration of you-must-be-under-3'7"-tall-to-fit-comfortably-in-these-seats. It's only a couple hours total; no big deal. I needed to be able to work and had managed to book myself in the front row aisle of cattle class, 7D.

The thing about these 737s is that the business seats are the same as the cattle class. They magic as many business rows as they need with movable partitions although in the first three rows the middle seats can fold down into table-like things for the convenience of the elite who are nevertheless still crammed like sardines just like the peasants a few rows further back.

The only real difference in these planes is that first class get treated better: they get a free drink while the plane waits to push back and taxi to the runway and they get better food.

Air France isn't satisfied having just two classes. Nosiree, they have four: L'Espace Premier which is first class, L'Espace Affaires, or what we all call "business", and then (like BA), two versions of steerage which (unlike BA) are the same damned thing. The only difference is that Tempo Challenge offers some bonus miles and free reservation changes which are rather useless when you're already boarding the plane. The only other difference is that Tempo Challenge is in front of Tempo.

My seat had been changed to 4B. A middle seat. I saw that 7D was occupied by one of the Saudi sprog.

Worse, seats 4A and 4C were already filled with big guys whose shoulders extended into 4B's airspace.

I talked to the steward and explained the problem. I'd have to wait until all the passengers were on board. I sat in 3D ("business") and waited, even refusing the the champagne and orange juice offered to the rest of the "business class" people in an attempt to show that I only wanted the seat, not the amenities. It's the same goddamned seat as the other 800 in the plane: narrow and uncomfortable.

The plane was full, save for 4B and 3D. The steward talked to the purser who scowled and came over to me.

"You cannot sit 'ere. Eet ees beezness class. You must go to your seat zair."
"But I need to work. I didn't ask for an upgrade. I didn't want an "upgrade". It's not an "upgrade" when the seat is worse than the one I paid for."
"But you 'ave an upgrade! You are een Tempo Shall-ange! You should be 'appy!"
"I'm not happy. I need to work. I can't move between those guys. I don't want any special food or drinks. I just want to sit on the aisle so that I can type."
"You cannot do zees! Eet ees a beezness seat!"
"It's the same seat as the others," I continued to plead. "I'm not even getting miles and I don't want extras. All I'm asking is to be able to work."
"You 'ave ze upgrade and you must take your seat or you must leave ze plane."
"But then I'd miss my connection."
"We do not 'ave to continue your journey eef you refuse to seet."

The fucker on the left had his iPod jacked up to 13 and dickless on the right kept drooling in his sleep. I sat there bent 20° at the waist in order to breathe. The "upgrade" food was also fancier, meaning "worse". There was less food than the standard cheese sandwich the peons seated in the un-Challenged "Tempo" were served but it was presented very prettily. I knew I should've had the overpriced Weißwurst Frühstück at the airport.

A day later as I logged into the network, my corporate software was automatically upgraded. My firewall couldn't block it because it was done at the machine's next reboot, overriding the firewall service.

PaintShop Pro was a nice, down-and-dirty graphics program before JASC decided to be PhotoShop Junior. You can't get version 3 anymore. When I want Photoshop, I'll use Adobe's software. I don't want to use Photoshop for a quick little graphic hack, but because of upgrades, you can't get PSP3 anymore.

I can no longer do a lot of internal work the easy way anymore. We now have a "richer" app suite, which means that instead of, say, firing off a quick note with a diagram to someone, I have to connect to a central server, log in with full credentials, jump through half a dozen screens, then recreate the note and whiteboard share so that it can be sent to someone whose address I already know but which I now have to search through screens of departments and positions to get to in order to click on it and then confirm that I want the message sent. And then I get to confirm it again.

The only thing worse than an automatic upgrade is a fuckwit who gives me one without asking first.

x-posted from HuSi where there's a poll.

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Thursday, July 20, 2006

åÐÇ ãäíß

There are worse things than the 17s I deal with on a daily basis. Like Clever admins. Creative admins. Clever and creative admins who, like me, do whatever the hell they have to in order to get a system up and running. Mark from $CompCorp is one such admin; his cleverness resulted in what appeared to be a complete database corruption.

Luckily it was caught in user acceptance testing on a copy of the working database.

$CompCorp were seeing corruptions all over the place. Where Arabic letters should have been were, instead, lots of screwy strings like the title of this entry which meant Unicode was involved. I asked for screenshots, dumps and exports. They'd escalated this internally to their VP before bothering to submit the ticket so that as soon as I took it, Mr VeePee escalated it here with us. Despite sending answers within hours of receiving their updates I still got jumped on by their people and ours insisting I wasn't working fast enough and that my solutions sucked.

I got very lucky with additional info they sent me: the display in $OurBigApp had multiple lines in Arabic and English and only some of these were corrupt. I finally had my good and bad pieces. Better still, I knew the primary keys for these rows. "Please send me the results of "SELECT * PriKey, Desc FROM T1.xyz WHERE PriKey IN ($nn-foo, nn-bar);". It took them a day to get back to me but that didn't stop their managers howling Monday afternoon and screaming for my head.

When the results came back Tuesday I was first confused. Where text appeared corrupt in the application, it looked perfect in the SQL client, but where it was fine in the application, it came out as garbage in the SQL Client The latter is normal since the client isn't Unicode-compliant and sure enough, changing their codepage got the data to display correctly on SQL dumps.

I talked about the problem with the other two guys in I18N who might know but all we could think of was "fonts", though this couldn't be it since I had both good and bad displaying in all circumstances reproducibly. The my-head-shaped dent in my desk grew ever so slightly.

Then it finally clicked. I called and asked if some of the data had been imported. They bitched about how long it was taking before finally saying that much data had been. And no, they hadn't noticed that only imported data appeared corrupt. I got the specs on their database and didn't know whether to laugh or cry.

Their admin had been clever. Very clever. We only supported codepage 1252 or ISO8859P1 but these are only for Western European characters, not Arabic which uses either 1256 or ISO8859P6. Nevertheless the admin managed to get the $CompCorp system running with Arabic text thanks to Windows' "helpfulness". That's fine as long as you're isolated and insulated. Moving to a Unicode database was a good move but broke the insulation.
Hi,

When you typed the letter "thal" (character 0xD0) what was saved was actually an Icelandic "eth" (ð). You then moved this data into a Unicode database. Translation was done during the move from Western European -- not Arabic -- so that the raw data for the word "green" (spelled: seen, beh, zain) was seen by the system as 0xD3, 0xC8, 0xD2. In the 8859P1 code page these three characters are "ÓÂÒ". This is how the corruption took place.

The reason you saw the data "correctly" was that Windows converted the characters to Arabic based on the codepage you were using on the clients, ignoring the database and the indication that these were Western European characters.

I sent a copy of the solution around to our I18N people and responses were along the lines of "Holy shit." That their database isn't completely corrupted due to Windows' internal use of Unicode amazes us all.

Two days later and still no update. No thank-you. No confirmation. Nothing. I expect they'll also slam me on the survey for having taken too long to solve a problem which by their own admission, my cow-orkers never would've seen.

The title of this entry is corrupted just like $CompCorp's data. It should read هذا منيك (Hetha Mnäyik): "This is bullshit!"

x-posted from HuSi, sans poll

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Monday, July 17, 2006

Can't see nuthin'

IBM Model P96 19" monitor which has served me well over the past six years: R.I.P.

IT department who I warned last week and still haven't brought up my replacement from storage: hurry up you fuckers!

People who don't read ticket updates I write and instead keep trying to get me to take their stupid calls: Leave me alone to fix real problems you fuckwits.

##

Satish keeps calling. I answered his stupid questions about Microsoft updates two weeks ago. Yes, you can install the updates, here's what to do to make sure your system works.

"Are you sure they're OK?"
"Yes."
"We're not sure you've confirmed this sufficiently. We plan to install the MS06-013 Cumulative Security Update (a.k.a. 912812) and MS06-021 cumulative security update (916281). Are these completely supported?
"Yes," you thick-as-a-10-storey-high-slab-of-concrete fucking chimpanzee.

Then he called in to "discuss" the answer. I took the call while waiting for an installation in the background and quickly wished I hadn't. Satish speaks excellent English but doesn't understand a fucking word of it.

#########

We interrupt this whinge-fest to bring you the latest update:
A CRT has been delivered. I now have a ViewSonic E95 sitting on the Desk of Hate. It's only 18", can only go as high as 1600x1200 and the screen is noticeably bubble-round in stark contrast to my almost flat IBM monitor. Not only is this much harder to read, it reflects a load of sunlight from the window so that I have to turn it away from me 20° to the right. Bollox!


I've also been told that I may not bring my own monitor to work. Fuckers.

#########

I went over the whole business with the patches and compatibility patches with Satish again. I made him repeat it back to me like a kindergarten-aged child to make sure he understood.

Came a mail Friday, once again asking for confirmation. The fuckwit decided he now needs me to discuss and confirm every single component of each of the roll-ups. MS06-022, MS06-023, MS06-024, MS06-025, and so on. Answered in tabular form.

He's called three times already today wanting to talk to me again. Fuckwit.

Why am I so loathe to talk to him again? Because the last conversation went more or less like this, the italicised side of it having a rather noticeable mid-subcontinental accent:

Fuckwit: OK, so now I would like to be asking you about support for MS MS06-021
REC: It's supported. Period. Full stop.
Fuckwit: OK, you are telling me that it is supported but I have not told you why we are planning to install it.
REC: It doesn't matter why you're installing it. We don't care. It's supported, end of story. There's nothing more to discuss.
Fuckwit: Excuse me please but I need to discuss this. It is a Cumulative Security Update for Internet Explorer and as such appears only to be all versions of Internet Explorer that $YourBigApp runs upon.
REC: It's for all IE and it's supported.
Fuckwit: Are you sure that it is supported in conjunction with working with $YourBigApp when many of the fixes remove remote code execution ability. We are worried that this could prevent the execution of $YourBigApp
REC: Satish, it does not affect the functionality of $OurBigApp.
Fuckwit: And you are sure of this? Is that $MegaCorp's official position?
REC: Yes, and yes.
Fuckwit: Are you certain? If you look in the list you see mshtml.dll and wininet.dll are affected. Are you positive that this will not have an impact on $YourBigApp considering that $YourBigApp is affected by these DLLs which I have found through the use of system tools.

And so on. With his method of questioning I'd expect him to have a German accent just like my cow-orker Berti.

He's been answered. His ticket's been closed. He's a 17 but I can only give him a "6.5: Doesn't understand" and I can't even boldface it.
x-posted to HuSi

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Friday, July 14, 2006

Kindergarten.

Since no current monkey wants to get near Citrix problems and our few Citrix-knowledgeable monkeys have all moved on, if "Citrix" appears in the ticket, "REC" appears in the ownership field. Since most Citrix tickets are related to the massive Citrix problem I sorted in May, I'm getting quite a few sweeties. I know the entire problem inside and out and wrote the resolution, and I have a handy-dandy copy of it in my boilerplate collection to send to those customers who're too lazy or stupid to bother looking at the Knowledge Base.

Then there are the fuckwits.
Hi. Thank you for the informative answer. We're experiencing this problem though and think that maybe it has to do with the operating system since we only have this problem when Citrix is installed on Windows 2003?
The reason it worked on Windows 2000 is that you were using Presentation Server 3, not 4, dumbass.

The mail exchange continued:

Cust.: Do you think this problem would happen on Windows 2000 and Presentation 4

REC: Yes. It will not happen with PS3 on any OS. It will happen with PS4 on every OS. Patch our software to X.4.6c and it won't happen anymore. The patch is simple, takes 20 minutes and has no down-time or database mods.

Cust.: We tried patching but it failed.

REC: Send me the logs.

Logs arrive.

REC: You can't install the patch over Citrix or Terminal Services. Everything has to be local at the server because of how Windows' security -cough- acts.

Cust.: But we can run everything over Citrix.

REC: Apparently not.

Cust.: We've decided we're going to try installing Presentation Server 4 on Windows 2000. That should work. Please close the ticket.

REC: It won't work but I'm happy to close the ticket.

He'll be back next week and I'll be stuck with him again.

I swear it feels like I'm teaching kindergarten:
No Billy, you may not use the Exact-O knife. No, do not touch it. You'll hurt yourself just like last time. Yes, you will. Class, the art knife is only for teachers Billypayattention and no one, this goes for you too, Billy, no one is to touch it. If you take it and hurt yourself you'll bleed just like Billy lookatmewhenI'mtalkingtoyouBilly!. No one is to touch it, not when it's on my desk, not if it's sitting precariously on the shelf of the art closet, and... Billy, are you paying attention?, especially not if a mysterious wind blows the doors of the art closet open and it lands on the floor next to your desk. The Exact-O knife is only for teachers.

OK, now that that's clear, everybody who's allowed to use the Exact-O knife, raise your han--Put Your Hand DOWN NOW, Billy!

It would be a lot cooler if I could watch some of the customers get into rock fights on the playground with each other.

In the smoking room someone had left our copy of the German IT rag Computerwoche open to the story of the week: "Google will be the Internet's cash register/check-out". Duh! I called that two years ago, not that anyone remembers. So I'm going to make another prediction, recorded on HuSi where I can't edit the story once it's been archived. Call me ReallyEvilCringely:

Within the next three years Google will finally present a solution that so many companies have been seeking since 1996: micropayments. First to use them will be newspapers and porn sites, especially the gallery sites which depend on banners which no one clicks and most people block and the occasional click-through registration fees.

This will be bad for finding information on the Intarweb. News content beyond the first three or four lines of copy; papers will charge 5-50 cents to see the rest.

Google will cash in like nobody's business. They have most of the infrastructure already in place: accounts, tracking toolbars, mail and payments. You'll tie your AdSense to your gPayment account (which also ties to your bank account or a deposit sent to Google). And even though they could make bajillions of dollars on a 1/10% fee, they could also get away with 5-20% based on customer size. Nobody else can offer the service. Worried about image, however, they may well settle on a maximum of 5%, not much higher than normal credit card transaction fees.

Elaboration based on a comment from HuSi:

I'd never heard of Denmark's limited Valus system (which is, as I predicted, most popular with news, porn and map sites). I'm referring to world-wide service. I'm referring to integrated-into-your-browser service. Microsoft will try to compete, maybe with an ePay/PayBully partnership for the banking side, but Google has the full infrastructure to do this already (GMail, AdSense, Google Toolbar, Analytics, not to mention their massive server infrastructure) and the ability to continue fast expansion.

I'm also talking about a mass brown-out of information. I can read any story that Jyllands-Posten has up on-line just as I can the Washington Post or New York Times. While I wouldn't mind so much if they switched their archives to micropayments (rather than the large payments or subscriptions required now), I'm expecting them to only show the first paragraph of damned near every article with a clickable micropayment button to continue reading the rest of the story.

Some papers will try pay-for-a-day and charge $1 or maybe their normal street cover price for a full day's access, others will charge X cents per article. Maps will probably have tiered pricing for printing, locking the displayed map into an embedded WMV window so that you can't just hit PrintScreen.

Newspapers have been dreaming of this and I've been dreading it, but it's coming soon. You read it here first.

We just had an urgent escalation come in: Haaaaalp! Stuff's not working and 1400 users can't do anything!

We are having issues in our production environment. We deployed a release 2 weeks ago however since we deployed this release we have been experiencing restarts within $YourBigApp
So you're only just calling us now for a problem that's been there for two weeks? And now it's so totally SuperExtraUrgent?

There's more. You knew there would be.

Because we were behind schedule we didn't have time to test this before rolling out to production. Please tell us what the problem is.
You. Utter. Fuckwit.
SeventeenSeventeenSeventeenSeventeen!!
Give me my seventeen and put down that fucking Exact-O knife RIGHT THIS MINUTE Billy!
x-posted from HuSi.

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Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Paging Doctor Jack

Jack works at $BigTelco. Jack is an administrator, and a rather clever one. No common sense, but his very teutonic pig-headedness accompanied by the tunnel vision of an advanced glaucoma patient has been the source of many woes for his company and ours. Jack is responsibe for tipping the scale in our decision to use vpd.properties for versioning information. He's very creative.

$OurBigApp has lots and lots of directories and in each one we have a text file with the version and patch level information. There are around 400 or so of these scattered throughout the massive directory tree. When trying to force a patch that didn't want to install because of a version number conflict, Jack decided to give our installer what it wanted to see. He wrote a little script to seek out each of these files and modify the version and patch number.

Once that was done he found the registry keys in which we also stored this information and changed them, too. The system was still running fine because the version information itself is immaterial to actually running the system. So Jack applied the patch and the system went very
pancake-shaped. It was on this day that he earned his nickname; Jack is without a doubt the software world's very own Dr. Kevorkian. Not only is he deadly, he doesn't ever learn.

That was then, this is now.

Dr. Kevorkian submitted a new ticket yesterday. It's patch time again:
We cannot install Patch $YourBigApp Configurator 3.6f on an existing 3.6h installation. Please see attached screenshot for the exact error message.

Strange how we don't let you patch a current software version "h" with an earlier, buggier version "f" that also happens to have a different database schema. This is not an attempt to backpatch the system. He only wants to patch out Configurator software.

Kevorkian's not going to like my answer and I shudder to think of his reply when he tells me the reason for trying to "patch" with an earlier version. He'll also have a Good Idea which he'll certainly believe is a Workable Solution and which he will implement despite all the mail I send him not only telling him not to do so but why not to do so. Unlike the situation with Enrique, what Jack wants to do is unsupported so I'm allowed to tell him not to do this.

The vpd.properties file is a lot harder to modify since it contains a hash. I have no doubt in my mind that Jack will work on figuring out how the hash works and modify it so that he can kill again.

Root Cause: 17-Fuckwit.
x-posted from HuSi.

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Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Fade Away and Radiate

Germans have some weird ideas about health and they quickly latch onto the latest scare. They insist that a motorcyclist simply must wear a wide belt around his waist to protect his kidneys from getting cold. Apparently cold kidneys are the cause of myriad Bad Things. They throw their money away on cell phone "emission shields" because, well, everyone knows that the phones use microwaves and you heat things with microwaves and cooking your brain is definitely a Bad Thing.

Tony sits across from me. Three meters across the no-man's land of the intermediate desks which separate our own desktops, and stacked with cables, cords, books, plants and general rubbish. He really wants me to trade in my CRT which can do 1600x1200 for another LCD which can only do 1280x1024. Why?

"Your monitor is making a lot of electrical waves for me and that's very unhealthy."



I haven't been writing for a week because of a lot of other projects I'm involved in. I thought I'd be able to write because as the lead in our Roll-out Preparation Team, I'm supposed to install the new builds of our Next Big Release. This is usually a Good Thing because installing (and not having to take tickets) means lots of free time to play AoE and scribble.

Unfortunately I haven't actually been playing AoE or writing while sitting on my ass waiting for the installer to do its thing because, well, it hasn't been doing its thing unless "Crash and Burn" is, in fact, its thing. I've had to re-install Windows Server 2003, rebuild images in VMWare, and find more space somewhere to give VMWare room on the disk space to let me have another virtual drive. I've taken hundreds of screenshots and directory listings and saved a dozen Registry corruptions to documented each one.

Work's been a whole different kind of miserable, compounded by the fact that the Panopticon was designed to look and function like a greenhouse yet lacks air conditioning. At 30°C my production drops faster than an Italian soccer player and my temper gets shorter than a very, very short thing.

The only comfort I have is a severe reduction in the number of tickets I need to take and a cheap-ass fan which makes far too much noise for its size. And my IBM P96 with its killer screen resolution.

Back to Germans and the whole point of the rant: Krauts telling you to take zinc or magnesium tables to cure everything short of amputation ("You heff acute renal failure? Have you tried taking two magnesium tablets in ze mornings?") is is only one indication. The national skill at make-shit-up-ology is nothing short of wondrous. They "don't get enough oxygen" and must open the windows when it's -26° out. If warm weather quickly arrives they get something called Fön and miss a few days of work. The cure for Fön seems to be enjoying that which made you "ill" and relaxing in the biergarden.

Germans also buy into the idea of Big Bad EMF -- electrical energy is killing me! It affects everyone and everything! You can measure it so it must be true! It causes me headaches and maybe I'll get cancer! Right, Chicken Little.

Tony's a nice enough guy. Why the hell is he bugging me about my monitor when the guy next to him has two CRTs, both of which are closer to him than is mine? He went on about unhealthy electrical fields and I finally got him to stop by showing him that I needed the screen real estate but that as soon as he can convince Procurement to approve of a big-ass 50" NEC PlasmaSync monitor because not even an NEC 20GWX2 has 1600x1200. My six-year-old CRT can get to 2048x1536 but that's a bit hard to read on only 19".

I'm continually amazed that science ever managed a toehold in this country, because it's not just the people who read the tabloids. Educated people believe this crap too, even when it's crap about their own fields of study.

To try and placate Tony I went digging on the Web and found some explanatory stuff about the actual amount of radiation emitted and how the strength falls off as an inverse proportion of the square of the distance from the source. By the time the 100 or so micro-Tesla (µT) reach him more than three meters away, the current density has fallen from around 10 µA/cm2 to less than 1pA/cm2.

"But I'm still getting ze electromagnetic radiation," he complains, but he's stopped mid-whinge by a phone call. It's his cell phone. Tony spent the next 20 minutes yakking away on it.

Siebzehn.
x-posted from HuSi.

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Tuesday, July 04, 2006

FIFA Fo Fuckwits

Germany's playing Italy tonight which means no one will shut the hell up about the game. Most people are dressed in the national colours (and combinations of red, black and gold/yellow really make the haute couture designers cream their jeans). Little work is getting, even less here in the Cube of Hate® due to interruptions and general prattling on from my cow-orkers along with idiocy from IT.

Most of the talk centered around the fact that Torsten Frings is banned from tonight's game for supposedly hitting an Argentine after the match was over. Except every damned photo and video shows him defending himself from a hit by an Argentine player. See for yourself.

Like I care about footie.

The list of bad refereeing and improperly won matches is almost endless: Ghana beating the US because of an alleged foul which every camera showed never took place, Italy beating Australia because of an alleged foul which every camera showed never took place (probably because the ref didn't feel like running around another 30 minutes), a Croatian player getting three yellow cards before finally being sent off, Ronaldo getting his own teammate Rooney sent off, and, of course, Frings getting pulled tonight because he had the audacity to try to prevent himself getting hit in the face.

Then there are things like offsides calls being wrong 25% of the time. Not quite Maradonna's Hand of God, to be sure, but bad refereeing is so endemic that I don't see why people even bother watching this shit. The Italians and Brazilians don't bother playing the game, they just dive and the cameras all see it. But not the refs. FIFA needs to fully revamp their refereeing, add a couple extra assistants on the field and accept the fact that video is with us and proves the veracity (or lack thereof) of whatever happens on the field. Even after a dozen different TV cameras showed Fring blocking a hit and not striking someone himself, he's out tonight.

Meanwhile, I need a big shovel. I'm running the show in our readiness testing and it's up to me to have the new version up and running, along with finding the errors in our documentation on actually getting our software installed and running. Because the server I have VMWare on is Windows 2K3, according company policy it has to have static IP address. I've been waiting a week already one the deadline for my completion is tomorrow. I also can't use our other virtual servers on the IT center racks because for some reason, images aren't being dumped onto the machines. Maybe it has something to do with the fire.

High atop Munich on the first floor of the Panopticon (main door now broken: stairs only) we've already hit 30°C indoors. There's no A/C. It's time to go home, although the trains will already be full of idiots drunk enough to be stupid but not drunk enough to fall over and sleep, all on their way to the Theresienwiese (where Oktoberfest is held) or the Stadium or to every bar and Biergarten in town to watch tonight's spectacle. I'm betting there will be at least three clear Italian dives during the game, as well as the same number of "seriously injured" players rolling around and crying like schoolgirls until some German gets a yellow card, after which each will magically heal and start playing again.

If the refereeing is so bad -- and it is -- stop fucking watching the games. If people would stop watching and stop buying all the swag out of disgust, FIFA would actually react. It's all about the money.

Fuckwits.

x-posted to HuSi with a poll.

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Monday, July 03, 2006

Ring, Ring

Remember the game "Telephone" from school? You'd all line up, the teacher would whisper a sentence into the first kid's ear, he'd turn to the next person and repeat it only once and then that child would do the same for the next kid, and so on and so on all the way down the line. The last kid to receive the message would yell out what rarely had anything to with the original sentence. What started as "Come to school at nine, go back home at three, dinner at six, books 'til eight, at ten you should be asleep" might be transformed into "ReallyEvilCanine eats his boogers in his sleep." That was just an example for illustration; I've gotten over it, stupid Marcy Katrayn and Debbie Wagner.

Telephone is funny when you're a kid (unless Debbie and Marcy were in your class). It sucks in the real world.

I should be happy our customers are all getting it through their heads that the MS 200606 security roll-up (a.k.a. 916281) breaks our app. I should be happy that most of them are reading the Notices and following the directions to get the 919010 compatibility patch. I should be thrilled that there probably won't be another horrid bloodbath when Microsoft's August security patch is rolled out. Some of the people are actually installing our patch so that it won't matter.

Others are handling things a bit differently:
Our support department has tried re-installing IE because of a ticket recommendation due to faulty/corrupt ActiveX components. However, the MS site has automatically downloaded and installed IE7. This is beta 3 version and we can't seem to remove the software.

--Jake
No shit you can't remove it. There are thousands of pages already written by people who made the mistake of installing IE7 onto a machine they actually needed to work on. It doesn't uninstall. It changes too many things and doesn't make correct back-ups.

But they're claiming IE7 was automatically downloaded? It's beta. You have to insist on downloading it from a separate area. It doesn't get bundled in anything, and certainly not in the Windows Update downloads (I just checked again).

I rang Jake on his cell phone.

It seems his company outsourced its internal IT department. These monkeys, having been told there was an ActiveX problem promptly stopped listening. They missed the bit that we have problems with ActiveX only when the 912812 or 200606 patch is applied. They never checked up on compatibility patches.

Because they're outsourced they never had the contact with the software developers who have access to our Knowledge Base. They never bothered asking anyone anything and decided what users needed was an upgrade to IE7 because that should fix everything. Never mind the fact that it's in beta because, as Microsoft is screaming everywhere they can, this is beta three. That must mean it's pretty damned good.

And so the idiots installed IE7 on a lot of machines. When told that they can't do that because it won't work with $OurBigApp, they claimed it was automatically forced on the machines by Microsoft. Maybe they figured they'd get away with that due to the noise about WGA (which anagrams to "Swine! We go in unadvantaged" and "Swine agenda: vow detain gnu").

With my response Jake can now go back and force the idiot outsourcing company to fix the mess. With any luck he'll be able to charge them for downtime. Jake wants IT back locally and if he gets a few more tickets like these there might be a chance. The IE7 stunt cost the company 150 downed workstations, including all administrator and developer machines, each of which will probably have to be re-imaged.

While writing everything up I thought of a method I haven't actually tried yet which *might* be able to restore the machine:

First uninstall IE7 as best as Windows will allow. Then go to Windows XP's System Restore (Accessories> System Tools > System Restore) and select a restore point from a few days before the IE7 installation. Once that finishes and the machine reboots, pop in the XP installation CD and run the repair function. This might restore the necessary IE6 files but I don't have time right now to test it. If you feel like giving it a shot, let me know how it turns out.

Root Cause: 17-Fuckwit. (Not Jake, just the outsourced company and managers who decided to use it.)
x-posted from HuSi.

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