Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Things you say and do that IT hate

Today the part of "The IT Guy" will be played by "The Angry IT Guy"

Working in the IT industry for the best part of the last 10 years I've encountered some fairly hard to deal with users. I work in a relatively small IT department which has its pro's and con's, the main con being that for someone of my experience i have to do a lot more user support than I'd like to. Over the years I've developed a list of things in my head that users do or say that really drives me mad. It's about time i got some of them down in writing... so here goes.

1. Introductions:
Do not introduce yourself to your IT guy like this:

"Oh, you're the IT guy?? Computers hate me, i really have no idea what I'm doing. I'm going to be speaking with you a lot!!"

We don't think that's funny, we just instantly find you annoying, we've just mentally put you in the "this person is a pain in the arse" database and we will avoid you wherever possible.

2. Obtaining Support
If your particular IT department has a process that you need to follow to obtain support (like filling in an online form, or emailing a particular address) follow it. Don't assume your problems are more important than everyone else's and circumnavigate the rules that everyone else follows. I can speak from experience when I say this kind of behaviour will generally lead to longer wait times for you to receive support.

3. Password Issues
Your IT department should be understanding when you forget your password, with the amount of passwords, pins and codes we need to remember these days it can happen to all of us. If your IT department is doing its job correctly you should also be forced to change your password regularly and it should have some kind of complexity requirements that you need to meet (like having upper case, lower case, Numbers and even symbols). So by all means, forget your password... occasionally.

Don't forget it EVERY BLOODY MONDAY MORNING... what are you doing over the weekend that you lose that many brain cells that your password has to be reset every Monday? Perhaps you should try and set it to something that isn't so hard to remember? I applaud you for setting your password to "G&f%12../DFs212" but what is the use of it if you forget it straight away... no use at all.

Don't write your password down on a post it note and attach it to your screen, if there was a way to stab people in the face remotely, this such situation would be a good time to do so. the IT department does not make you set a password so that anyone who sits down at your desk can log in by just reading it off a post it note.

4. Lying (we generally know when you are)
When someone who is full of shit forgets their password, the first thing they say is:
   "I haven't forgotten my password, i put it in correctly three times, but it still locked me out"
BULLSHIT! is how i would like to reply but i generally say:
   "Ok sure, what is your password"
9/10 it comes back as something that they couldn't possibly have set it to because it doesn't meet our minimum complexity requirements.

Don't tell us that you don't know what happened to a document, it just disappeared on its own. This doesn't happen, It cannot happen. I couldn't count the amount of times that someone has told me that they didn't do anything but a whole folder of documents has been deleted only to find out they moved it into another folder themselves.

When we ask you "have you rebooted" or "have you logged off and back on", don't say yes if you haven't. It still surprises me that people continue to do this, i think its because they don't believe rebooting will actually solve their problem, and to them the basis of that belief means that it actually wont. (as a sidenote... rebooting your PC really will take care of an unbelievable amount of IT issues)

5. Terminology
Do not tell us that your server is down if you cannot access google.
Do not refer to your 'computer' as your 'hard drive'.
Do not refer to your 'monitor' as your 'computer'.

6. Importance
When you tell us how important it is that your issue is fixed straight away, that doesn't help your cause. Some people like explain to their IT support person just how important they are, and point out how devastating it is to the company that they cannot work. Trust me, the IT guys know the pecking order. They know who is a priority and who can wait. You telling them you are important isn't going to speed things up at all.

7. Trust your IT department to do IT stuff
I once worked at a family business and we had the car park outside out building concreted. A man came in and quoted us $300 to paint the lines in the car park. My grandfather thought it best to save the money and paint them himself, he measured how wide a car was and made the lines that far apart. It obviously didn't occur to him that people liked to open their doors once they'd parked. Would have been $300 well spent!

If you take an Idea to your IT team, and they say something like (and let me quote here):
      "I think that is a great idea in theory, and i think it would be fantastic if we could achieve it, however from an IT perspective it is not something that is practical. It will be too expensive and impossible to manage".

This does not mean that the only obstacle standing in between you and your idea being put in to place is the IT team. Do not start scheming to undermine your IT guys and try force them into implementing your idea. You'll just end up painting your lines too close and making a mess!

We know what we're doing, we want to see the company do well, we will act in its best interest.

ok, i might stop there... i think this post is making me sound a little more angry and bitter than i actually am, most of the time i love my job, i do!

Cheers, The (angry) ITG.

p.s. please feel free to leave comments about things that IT do and say that you hate!

Friday, October 8, 2010

blood, sweat and piss

This morning as i walked from the train station to the office i saw a bus driver get out of his vehicle, crouch down next to his bus and pour a bottle of piss into the gutter. My first though was "could that be any more disgusting?" but then i started to think, how often would this guy get an opportunity to leave his station and take a piss? This lead me to consider myself lucky that I've never had a job where not being able to go to the bathroom as often as i needed was an issue (which is brilliant for someone who drinks as much coffee as i do) but there was that one time ... the blood donation up sell... where i nearly pissed myself whilst sitting in a comfortable chair amongst a room full of strangers.

A while back when i was giving blood one of the nurses gave me the big up sell from donating 'whole blood' to donating 'plasma'. Basically when you donate whole blood they suck about a pint of your finest straight out and into a bag, which they are happy for you to part with every three months. When donating plasma they take about 50% more but no red cells, they pump out your blood, it goes through a piece of equipment, called a centrifuge machine, which separates white and red blood cells, then the red goes back in. Depending on your size they can take up to around 3/4 of a litre. The benefit being you can front up again 2 weeks later to do it all again.

More than anything i was interested by the machine and wanted a closer look at it in operation so i decided (even though it meant I'd be at the blood bank for closer to 1.5 hours than the 25 or so minutes I'm normally there) that I'd give it a go. The nurse stressed about how much water I'd need to drink and how it's especially more important for a plasma donation than whole blood.

It was about a month later that i showed up for my appointment and i could hear my stomach swishing from the amount of water i drunk as i walked down. Whilst i waited for the lady to call me into the interview room i had to make to preliminary deposits of liquid in the bathroom! Then on to the interview, once again she stressed about how much water i needed to have drunk so i grabbed another glass on the way out. By the time i sat in the chair and was hooked up to the machine i already needed to go again, but i knew there was no stopping now... how bad could it be? I'm not an old lady, surely i can hold on for an hour.

For the first 10-15 minutes i was mostly preoccupied by the machine, it's really quite amazing watching it suck out your blood, seeing the white cells go into a bag and then the feeling of the cooler than normal blood getting pumped back into your vein. This actually happens in cycles and from memory there were about 5 for me, netting about 150ml of plasma on each run. Half way through the second cycle (and only about 15 minutes into my required 60 or so) ignoring the fact that i needed a bathroom break was becoming increasingly difficult.

Seeing as it was during business hours i thought i would try to take my mind off my pressing issue (pun intended) by doing some work. Since apple added support for VPN connections to their 4.* ios, with the aid of the Jaadu RDP application there isn't really much of my job that i cant do from anywhere with my iphone. So i upped my PPTP tunnel, remoted into the laptop sitting on my office desk and started to take some helpdesk calls. By the time i had connected a printer for someone, and told 2 other users to call me back if a reboot didn't fix their issue (i know its a popular cliche but this seriously fixes nearly 1/2 of the issues that make their way to me) i could no longer concentrate on anything. My legs were starting to shake, i was beginning to sweat and experiencing real pain, something that had never happened to me before from needing to relieve myself.

I called over a rather attractive, young nurse to enquire how long was left, when she said that the plasma was nearly fully collected but I'd then have to sit there for about another 15 minutes while they put 500ml of saline back into me i nearly started crying, more bloody water is the last thing i needed at this point. I explained that i really needed to go to the bathroom but tried not to let on just how bad. She asked me if i could wait. I said yes, even though i was pretty sure i couldn't. If she had been an older unattractive lady i probably would have insisted she take these tubes out of me straight away! I'm pathetic, i know.

The feeling of cold saline going back into your vein is even more strange than the cooler than normal blood, its a difficult thing to explain, and believe it or not it's an experience that i had twice in a month when i ended up in a hospital emergency room with severe dehydration from a very persistent flu... As a side note, if anyone takes a day off from work and comes back the next saying "i was off yesterday with a bit of a flu" I'm going to slap them. This is something I've said in the past, but it was clear to me as i lay in emergency, I'd never previously had the flu, but i digress.

When about 90% of the required saline was pumped back in i was about to lose it, literally. I was certain that i wasn't going to make it and started to contemplate the logistics of going home to get more pants before going back to the office. I completely understand that at this point i should have asked for assistance but i think its a male "I'm not asking anyone for directions, I'm in full control of the situation" thing, even though it was clear to me that i was not! I think at this stage the nurse either saw the look on my face or the beads of sweat gathering on my forehead. Rushing over she said "do you need to stop?", without hesitation i responded "YES", the next few minutes of being unplugged, and this rather large, comfy mechanical chair lowering back into a seated position felt like 18 months, i was nearly there. All i had to do was navigate my way to the bathroom, about 20 meters or so. I recall thinking to myself once i got out of the donation area "you can piss yourself now, at least the pretty nurse won't see you" ... once again, pathetic, i know.

In the end i made it, the sense of relief was like nothing I've ever experienced and i didn't need to go home to get more pants. What a relief! I ended up walking back into the main area to thank the nurse and the conversation went something like this:

"you bloody guys, I've had to cut the program short a few times for people to go to the bathroom and it's nearly always young men"

I tried to defend myself by explaining "last time i was here another lady was banging on about how important it was to drink so much water, and it was even more important with a plasma donation, clearly i overdid it"

She started laughing and said "not really, just a glass or two, with plasma we put 500ml of water back in so its probably less important than with whole blood"

Man i felt like an idiot... On my way out i was keeping an eye out for either the lady from last time or the one from my interview that morning but neither were anywhere to be seen, lucky for all of us i guess, i had embarrassed myself enough for one morning.

Cheers, the ITG.

(I'm going to get preachy in this post script... so if that's not your thing, please feel free not to read on!)

p.s. something that i found quite interesting whilst talking to the nurses at the blood bank was just how dire the situation is for them. The desperate need with which they require blood is almost inconceivable. Plasma is a great way that this need can be addressed as you can essentially make a donation over 20 times a year as opposed to 4 with whole blood. One thing that stuck with me though was when she explained that there are particular products made from plasma that (among other uses) help treat burn victims, people who suffer from various cancers (such as multiple myloma and leukemia) and help with clotting problems patients can have after various organ transplant surgeries. She went on to explain how many millions of dollars our government spends each year importing these treatments (sometimes at many thousands of dollars a pop) because we just don't have enough people donating.

In 2006 a local university study found that only 3% of people regularly donate blood. I would like to stress that i believe if you are eligible to (unlike Jimmy from the UK who probably has mad cow disease ;) you should at least try it. People are dying because of the issue of a shortage of these products. If, like me, you are lucky enough to be in good health i would urge you to consider giving back a little to the community.

 I'd like to think that the government should step up to the plate here as well. I know in other countries people get paid a fee to donate blood but that doesn't happen here at all. I'm not saying I'm in it for some kind of reward, i personally had someone close to me die after a long battle with cancer and during her battle she relied on many treatments that were the result of people donating blood. This was the catalyst for me to return to the blood bank after many years. I will say though, you do get an amazing feeling from knowing that you are helping people which in itself is a reward. I'm not talking about a reward here though, I'm talking about an incentive to get more people through the door.

Surely even from a fiscal point of view ... people not dying is good for the country, and not having to pay many millions of dollars a year to import these treatments from overseas can't hurt either. This subject has come up in conversation a lot recently for me and one thing that I've thought about was how whenever you make a financial donation you get the benefit of a tax deduction. Why cant this be the case here, surely they can put some kind of financial figure on dropping a pint of blood, if people were allowed to claim this on their tax return (even something as little as $30 or so a donation) i think we'd have all the blood we need. What do i know though, I'm just an IT guy!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

can you trust your IT guy (or gal)?

I guess that is a bit of a funny question to be asked by an IT person but i'm not completely sure most users out there have any idea just how easily any, or all, of their information (and the company's info for that matter) is readily available to members of most IT departments. People at the company that i work for occasionally make a joke over lunch about how the ITG can read their emails but i don't think they realise just how often it happens.

Let me clarify here, i don't go reading people's email for no reason but some of the more interesting things i've ever had the pleasure to read were in other people's emails. To explain further, we have a system where by if an email is sent that contains words on a blacklist the email will not be delivered but will get dumped into a quarantine somewhere. Occasionally you get a request from a user asking why their email was quarantined (you could imagine how interesting the conversation is when you have to tell Beth her email was quarantined because she called her husband a fuckface ... it never ceases to amaze me that people don't realise this themselves!). I also sometimes just browse through the quarantine for fun, and there is lots of fun to be had. I often marvel at how many people don't mind pointing out in a company email to a co-worker or friend just how much they hate their job, boss or life in general.

Even though i don't go around reading your emails for shits and giggles trust me when i say that lots of IT people do, i have friends in the industry who love to point out over a beer the funny things that they've turned up. More worryingly is secret company information that can be uncovered, i had an IT worker point out the salaries of most of the managers in his company once. From what i could gather, he had looked it up just because he could.

Your IT guy will generally be able to look up any site you've visited on your work computer (whether you did that in the office or sitting at home using your own network connection), he'll have access to any file on your PC or network drive on your server. He'll have access to all your emails and more often than not your salary info... so i'll ask you again ... can you trust your IT guy?

My tips for you are:
  1. if you have sensitive info that you don't want anyone else to see, don't store it on your work computer. Use your gmail/yahoo/hotmail email address for your personal emails. These days with how long people stay in a job before moving on, why would you want to give out your new email address to everyone? surely your iphone beeps in your pocket every time someone sends an email to anyway? 
  2. Domestic arguments shouldn't take place over email full stop but if you must have a big back and forward "you make me sick, i don't know why i ever married you" over email: see tip 1.
  3. Make friends with the IT guy, he's a good person to  have onside (or i am anyway) they generally have a good idea about what's going on in a company. Information (through legit and non-legit channels) often makes its way to IT first, i know i've had many "off the record" information sharing conversation with my boss. Being friends with someone who has this info at hand can come in quite handy.
  4. It's never a good idea to put it down in writing anywhere how much you hate your boss, with the possible exception of your resignation letter.
  5. Don't piss off your IT guy (i'll be going into more detail about this, and the most common ways people get their IT department offside, in a latter post)
Most importantly i think management need to pay attention to this information when hiring IT staff, pick people that seem to have integrity,  responsibility and experience... not the cheapest joe off the street. Educate yourself on ways to limit IT's "access all areas" pass or in the very least ways you can put in IT checks, it's very possible but most managers just don't know about it. Who is going to tell them? the IT manager? ha, not bloody likely!

After all is said and done though, the answer is 'you can trust me', i promise, take my word for it.

Cheers, ITG