Thursday, November 30, 2006

Kindergarten: Day 4

I still remember some of my year in Kindergarten. My teacher was Miss Rath. My girlfriend was Audrey Keys. I sucked at colouring (and still do) despite a box of 64 Crayolas (with the built-in sharpener) but kicked ass in finger-painting. Our first day was spent meeting each other since half the kids hadn't been in pre-kindergarten the year before. We coloured and sang some songs. I didn't sleep at naptime and to this day I don't sleep much.

On the playground during the second day is where my then best friend Kenny E. and I came up with our alter-egos "Kunky" and "Roggy", a skunk and a frog with speech impediments: Kunky couldn't say his esses and Roggy (me) couldn't say his effs. It was to be another two years before I learned how to say, "Uck you" at summer camp. These speech impediments were pretend and the "loser" was whoever said the letter he shouldn't be able to say.

On day three we met Señora Maldonado (de Argentina), our Spanish teacher, and Miss Fry, the music teacher. I loved singing time. I injured myself on the playground and not 72 hours after starting the school year I was back in the nurse's office being tended to by Mrs. Hadley. Unlike my mother, Mrs. Hadley never put mercurochrome on wounds. That shit stung.

On day four we had our first fire drill.

The fire drill was pretty cool, actually. We got stop all the hard work (colouring... fire engines, coincidentally) and walk out to the playground. I quickly came to love the fire drill as it got me out of horrible classes taught by increasingly more horrible teachers all the way through high school, where the Gang of Three would pull the alarm at least once a week. Everyone -- even I -- knew who they were but they managed never to get caught.

The routine was the same from grammar through secondary school: safety patrols would strap on their day-glo orange belts, go to their stations and act like junior fire marshals. It was usually the nerds, and those who were nerdier than I if such a thing was possible.

The fire alarm went off a couple days ago here in the Panopticon. I saw no smoke from the adjacent buildings nor in the reflections of ours. I smelled no smoke. I was in the midst of dealing with a Prio-1 problem for a very large customer. Most people started shuffling out. I stayed, as did Steve. Fuck it, I'm close enough to an exit if there's really a fire.

Along came a pretend fire marshal. Nerd. Dressed up with his little day-glo orange vest and a walkie-talkie he was actually strutting.

Nerd: You must leave ze building.
REC: I'm busy.
Nerd: Do you not hear ze alarm?
REC: Of course I hear it. Do you not see I'm on the phone with an important customer problem?
Nerd: But you HEFF to leave ze building.
REC: As soon as it gets dangerous.
Nerd: It is alvays dangerous. Hyuu must leave before ze exits is blocked.
REC: We're one storey up and I'm right next to a huge window. The exit ain't blocked
Nerd: But zat could injure you.
REC: Dude, it's not three meters. I've fallen farther accidentally and been fine.
Nerd: But you HEFF to leave!
REC: Why? There's no fire, this is a drill, and a 10,000-user center is down. I'm not in grade school anymore.
Nerd: But I am ze Fire Custodian Marshal end you heff to listen to me.

And it was then that my manager walked by and I was informed in no uncertain terms that I had to play, too -- tough shit for the customer. The twat in orange beamed a triumphant grin and waited for me, pointing the way I had to leave.

REC: I'm sorry but I'm going to have to call you back.
Cust.: What?
REC: I'm sorry. There's a fire drill.
Cust.: A fire?
REC: No, just a fire drill. A pretend fire.
Cust.: You're joking!
REC: I wish I was.
Cust.: How long will this take?
REC: I don't know. Ten minutes? Half an hour?

Manager: Move it, REC!

Cust.: We can't wait for games!
REC: I feel the same way. My manager's standing here yelling at me to leave.
Cust.: I'm going to complain!
REC: Please, for the love of all that does not suck, complain. Complain to management and escalate it! Complain as much as you possibly can!
Cust.: You call back immediately when the game is over?
REC: Promise.

And out I went. Into the cold. At least it wasn't raining like the day before. But being outside wasn't enough. Nosiree, we had allotted positions to take, ostensibly "in order to make sure everyone is out". And how the fuck do we do that? We don't punch a clock or log in or sign an attendance sheet. How the fuck would anyone know that someone's missing? I wasn't the only one asking this, but it was clear that the $MegaCorp employees grumbled less than we acquired $BigCorpers. They're used to it.

Fifteen minutes later we were allowed back in. The safety patrols at the doors weren't informed of this decision and tried to block the masses from returning while chattering away on their walkie-talkies. Since each mook at each entrance was trying to talk at the same time, all the radio messages were stomping on each other and no one understood a thing.

We finally got in and I called the customer back. We found the source of his problem and had a resolution in six minutes. More than 56 man-hours of call-center time were wasted so some nerdy Krauts could dress up and play fire marshal. Figure a calculated loss of at least €45,000 for this company alone.

I'm an adult. I make my own decisions. I am ultimately responsible for my decisions, including those affecting my safety. I will determine whether a 3-meter drop is excessive. I lost time, my colleagues lost time, our customers lost time and money, all so that some twats you want to punch in the face before they even open their mouths could play dress-up and feel superior.

Fuckwits!

x-posted to da brog, with a poll

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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

But It's Wrong!

A few weeks ago they sent some bint calling herself an "Ergonomic specialist" or some such nonsense to each cubedesk. This was, no doubt, at the insistence of the Works Council.

The "Ergonomic specialist" comes over to your desk, looks around, makes a few notes, shuffles through some papers on her clipboard, and then starts telling you how everything that you've set up for your comfort is, in fact, not only terribly uncomfortable but also bad for you.

I like my chair high enough that my feet can rest on the legs but don't touch the floor, allowing me to swing them on occasion. She went on and on about how bad that is, pulling out a chart showing "correct posture" which is much better for my back: standard 90° bends at the ass and knees with the feet flat on the floor.

ErgoBint: But that's very bad for you! The way you sit causes back pain.
REC: I sit this way to relieve my back pain.
EB: But it's the wrong position.
REC: Are you a doctor? Didn't think so. Let me tell you about back pain. I've had it for some 22 years ever since a 40-ton 18-wheeler slammed into the rear end of my 1974 Toyota Corolla.
EB: But it's the wrong position!

Wrong again. Oops.

Spinal disk movement occurs when weight-bearing strain is placed on the spine, causing the internal disk material to misalign. Disk movement was most pronounced with a 90-degree upright sitting posture. It was least pronounced with the 135-degree posture, indicating that less strain is placed on the spinal disks and associated muscles and tendons in a more relaxed sitting position.

...Across all measurements, the researchers concluded that the 135-degree position fared the best.

I wish I'd seen that article the day she was annoying me.

She really hated my monitor, and since she has trouble reading it at 1600x1200, I too must have difficulty. It's very bad for my eyes and could cause Acute Retinal Splatitude with Complications or some other made-up ailment.

ErgoBint: That's very bad for your eyes to be looking at such small letters.
REC: How is it bad?
EB: I have to squint to see anything.
REC: Am I squinting?
EB: No, but letters shouldn't be that small on your monitor.
REC: Why?
EB: Because people have to squint!
REC: And that should bother me because...?
EB: Because it's bad for their eyes and they can't see.
REC: Nobody else should be looking at my monitor anyway. This is just an additional security measure.
EB: But it's too small!

I changed the resolution to 2048×1536. Her jaw dropped.

REC: No, this is too small. I can still read it but now I have to strain. I reset the monitor.

She carried on about my keyboard.

ErgoBint: You should use an ergonomic keyboard.
REC: Don't want one. Don't like 'em.
EB: At least you have a wrist rest but you have it positioned wrong.
REC: No I don't. My wrists are on it.
EB: But it's not spaced properly! You could get carpal tunnel syndrome.
REC: Have you ever had carpal tunnel syndrome?
EB: No, because I...

I turned my hands palm up so she could see the scars on both wrists.

REC: I have. I know all about carpal tunnel. Are you going to tell me again that the most comfortable positioning I've chosen is actually very uncomfortable?

EB: But it's wrong...

On to the mouse. I have a Kensington Expert Mouse. It's a trackball, and good to combat CTS. Using a regular mouse even with a gel pad wrist support hurts after about five minutes. She didn't recognise what it was at first, didn't believe it was actually a mouse, and when confronted with the fact that it was indeed a mouse, began to tell me how wrong it was as well.

ErgoBint: You need to be able to move your hand.
REC: The motion with a regular mouse exacerbates the problem. I need this mouse.
EB: But it's wrong for the workplace!
REC: We've established you're not a doctor. I told the guy who cut my wrists open -- who happens to be a surgeon and who practices here in Germany -- about this mouse. He now recommends it to all his CTS patients. Shall I give him a ring so you can tell him how wrong he is?

I had to put up with her shit for about 20 minutes before she finally let go.

ErgoBint: You're not going to change a single thing, are you?
REC: Nope.
EB: You really should.
REC: Nope.
EB: That's not very open-minded.

People who complain about you not being "open-minded" are generally those spouting a load of illogical rubbish that you refuse to accept, like "colour therapy" and reiki. Fuck 'em.

REC: You're one of those people who believe that it's very important that motorcyclists wear that belt to protect their kidneys from the cold, don't you?
EB: Of course! It's VERY important! Do you have a kidney belt?
REC: Nope.1
EB: But what if your kidneys get cold? Or if you hit an uneven piece of road and bounce?!
REC: I got shock absorbers. Show me a picture of a runner or horse rider wearing one and I'll reconsider.

Horrors! Cold kidney disease! Fallen kidney syndrome! I'm sure the cure for those is the same as it is for every other bullshit ailment they talk about in this country: Magnesium, Calcium and/or Zinc tablets. Maybe I can give some of those to Tony to cure his ailments caused by my evil monitor's electrical waves.

The only real surprise is that she didn't offer me advice on aligning my chakras. I'll bet a paycheck that in her off-hours she does crystal healing by appointment.

Fuckwits everywhere.

1 I don't even have a motorcycle anymore but she didn't know that.
x-posted to HuSi

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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Quick Googler Update

Twice in the past two days this blog was found by a search on "منيك", the Arabic word for "bullshit". I'd appreciate someone telling me how to write "fuckwit" in any version of Arabic.

compliant nympho
Which is worse? Someone googling this phrase or finding me as a top result?

load vmware image in a web page
You want to run a VMWare image within a browser? I don't think you can do that without running Citrix' "GoToMyDesktop" and if you read this blog you'll get an idea about what I think about Citrix. What's wrong with rdesktop or radmin? If you want to be able to access your virtual servers from, say, some Net cafe, it's unlikely that the ports you need (902 at least) will be open. You could try accessing via Terminal Services Web Edition but then you'd be going through an additional layer of virtualisation.

"MS-SQL Server 2005" utf-8
Nope. Still no support for UTF-8. Maybe MS-SQL Server 2013 will have it.

difference between citrix ps3 and ps4
To speed performance certain browser methods and commands which were there in PS3 aren't passed anymore in PS4. This can cause Web-based applications using ActiveX background functionality and/or browser pops to misbehave, hang, freeze and/or crash.

usair bereavement fares
Sorry about your loss. If you're outside the US and Canada the only airline I know still offering bereavement fares is USAir. If you find another one please let me know.

Back to work on tomorrow's entry...

Labels: ,

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Thursday, November 23, 2006

Add Eggs and Milk.

More than 20 years ago I worked for an Atari-certified repair shop fixing Atari 400 & 800 computers and peripherals as well as 2600 and 5200 game stations. The owner made it clear to me that under no circumstances would we do any while-you-wait repairs no matter how urgent, no matter how much anyone pleaded. While he explained it, I didn't grok.

I finally understood when I violated this policy. It almost cost me my job. It also turned out to be a very valuable lesson.

The problem was a harried and desperate woman with a broken space bar. Her kid had bought the Defender game cartridge and since the space bar was used for the last-chance smart bomb, it would be hit rather harshly in the heat of battle. This was rather a common problem and we made a metric buttload of money fixing keyboards instead of replacing them, something no one else in the country seemed to be able to do. She needed it back to finish writing some papers that night.

I bought the sob story and she watched as I quickly and easily fixed the machine. She was upset about my apparent "rough treatment" of her $800 computer (about $2,000 in today's cash) and called the owner a few hours later to complain. Shit rolls downhill.

The biggest problem came not from the work done. I fixed that keyboard and had her out the door inside 10 minutes. Rather, the problem came from her perception of service and value.

I've carried this lesson with me since. When I had my own company I charged much more than the going rate, excessive even in light of my simple and absolute guarantee. Customers winced when they first heard what I cost but never, ever complained when the work was done. Instead they'd simply spread the word and send me even more business.

Sometimes you have to fix things immediately. When a blade farm is down and a 20,000-seat call center is sitting around playing Solitaire, things need to move quickly and they do. Resolve it fast and the customers are happy. But for everything else, well...

I realised a couple years ago that customers, despite how often they write WE NEED SOLUTION NOW!!1!11shiftone, are actually dissatisfied when they send in a problem and within two hours receive a complete solution. Maybe they're angry they didn't see it themselves, or maybe they think it's something we should have warned them about.

You know those instant cake and batter mixes which require an egg and milk? Totally unnecessary. Those ingredients could easily be added to the mix so all you'd have to do is add is water. In the beginning companies like Betty Crocker did just that. But they found that sales went up drastically when they required the addition of a fresh egg and/or milk. Market research showed them that by having to add such ingredients, the people using these instant mixes somehow felt like they were actually "cooking". Their customers got a lot more warm fuzzies and feel better having to do more -- and totally unnecessary -- work.

When a ticket comes in with a question that just makes me want to bash my head into my desk again, I often don't send the answer despite knowing it after reading only the first two lines of the complaint. Instead I make them add an egg and some milk. My first response is to make them do some busywork. It's psychological. They feel like the error is more complex than it really is and that they're involved in the process of resolving it.

That doesn't mean every request for additional information is busywork. Sometimes it can narrow down the scope, but my boilerplate includes all possible resolutions. I just delete as necessary.

My charge has already seen this in action. He's learning quickly. $SomeBank insisted on an urgent and speedy answer to a stupid question. $OurOlderBigApp isn't supported on Windows 2003 but that's what they installed it on and were surprised that it didn't work. Paul told 'em so from the start. They're not happy with this answer. Paul now knows to first ask them for logs and maybe wait for a day before sending the exact same response about Win2K3 not being supported along with any old error line from the log that somehow confirms this.

Paul doesn't know our full error code system but he already agrees that we need a Root Cause: 17-Fuckwit.

x-posted to HuSi, sans poll.

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Sunday, November 19, 2006

Quick Googler Updates:

My business trip from hell is almost over. Posting shall resume presently. Meanwhile...

Whoever searched for vpd.properties CRACK, the vpd.properties file is a hash plus directory location and version numbers, nothing more. You can delete lines that are causing problems if you've uninstalled the software but if you need to change it, you're pretty much hosed. InstallShield doesn't give out too much information about the hash function other than to say you need to use the API, but you can try to find more on the InstallShield forums.

To the person who searched Can My employer monitor my home router vpn, possibly, but in general it's more trouble than it's worth. Companies generally just block the ports you need to access your private VPN; $MegaCorp sure as hell does.

Finally, for the guy who wants to know about "Internet Explorer 7" and "silent uninstall", the only method I know is doing it manually through the Add/Remove Programs control panel applet. The problem here is that IE7 is treated as an OS update, not a stand-alone software package. You have to check the "Show Updates" box just to display the package. If I find a method I'll post it but since I expect we'll be supporting this soon, I have little reason to expend the effort on this.

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Thursday, November 09, 2006

Quick Googler Updates:

how can i find my clsid for jre
It's normally stored under HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\CLSID\ as CAFEEFAC----ABCDEFFEDCBA where major, minor and patch versions are all 4-digit hexadecimal numbers.

holy shit! IE7 install sucks
No shit, Sherlock. That one made me chuckle.

citrix shift problem
Be more specific. Post a comment.

919010 patch
You're not going to find a copy on-line. You might want to try E-Mail.

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King of Pain

I was asked to mentor a new hire who's based in the Eastern European country of Bulgrohungria. As if my workload wasn't huge enough already, I gotta make time to hold someone else's hand while leading him down the path of knowledge in $MegaCorp support. Let's call him "Paul".

This mentoring shit's been going on for the past week and a half and today I rejoice. My job is already complete. I can teach him no more:

Paul (09:24:52): I'm starting to get the feeling that some customers are in fact idiots

He's only been with us for eight days and he understands. He groks. I am so fucking good.

We hit it off from the start in IM and he learned there's someone in the company who will not only talk and write like a real person, he's got a great source for improving his English swearing vocabulary. He's young but seems pretty good. He also claims to have a nice FTP site. We shall see.

I've been working the poor bastard, too. He just started and he's already taking at least one ticket a day. He's willing to do the work and making me look good in doing so as well. He's getting sweeties right now but soon, very soon... I'm certain I can cut him loose inside two months rather than the normal six. I still won't get any fucking promotion next year.

But there's always bad news. I have to get up at 0-dark-thirty in the ante and fly halfway across the fucking planet in a week I really need to be home. Ten days on the Left Coast, five of which will be in accelerated workshops, mostly in areas I don't know or ever work in. Because the plane ticket was so expensive coming home over the weekend, I have to stay until the following week.

My manager -- Vera -- actually wants me to check out of the hotel I'm in and go somewhere cheaper after the workshops are all over. The office co-ordinator, however, is telling her to stick it. Maybe they'd pull shit like that at $BigCorp but this is $MegaCorp and since I'm already giving up my weekend to save the company a few thousand, I don't have to waste half a day changing hotels to save the company another hundred bucks.

Once I get back I get to spew these 90-minute workshops back out as full 4-hour presentations to spread the knowledge.

It's all the fault of the DHS. The guy who could've gone didn't, not only because he has a hot wife and a couple kids, but also because his passport's not machine-readable and he doesn't want to go through that fucking dehumanizing hell that is the U.S. Customs and Border Control experience. All of the oppressive shit that they've done, all the time they waste, all the privacy they violate, all the power games they play, all of the destroyed baggage items, all of the harmless items confiscated, and it hasn't made flying one iota safer.

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

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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.