Sunday, November 28, 2010

Telescopes don't use electricity

Being an IT guy i often get asked for advice with things related to technology. It's not unusual to be invited for dinner somewhere and when you get to your mates house for him to say "after dinner do you reckon you might be able to have a quick look at my computer?" Quick looks don't really exist, normally if its something 'quick' people manage to sort it out on their own, I normally get my own back by enjoying watching them squirm by showing them just how easy it is to locate their hidden porn folder(s). Last time i was asked to have a quick look at someones computer i spent 3 hours after dinner fixing something for them.

At the end of the day you tend not to mind doing this for good friends and family, it generally nets you a case of beer or nice bottle of wine here and there anyway. You also end up with lots of credits in peoples favour banks. My boss once told me he got a fairly large discount off a car he purchased from a dealer cause he fixed a problem he was having with their printer. Surely they could have got someone out to look at it for one tenth of the saving he got.

The thing that i find most amusing is that some people seem to think that seeing as i work in IT that i know everything there is to know about anything that uses electricity. I often get a dinner invite when someone buys a new TV or (and more recently, especially) digital tv recorder. I've had a couple of funny ones, like when someone didn't know how to use their new oven or only last week showing a family member how to use their central heating unit. If it has buttons apparently it's in my realm!

Yesterday was a first though, i was out to lunch with a few people and one of the girls there pulled me aside as soon as she saw me and said "i need to speak to you later" and when seeing the look of 'what about?' on my face she said "its a technical question". I just assumed she (like so many before her) had decided to buy their first apple laptop and after years of only using windows got confused what to do three seconds after turning it on. This wasn't the case here though. Later in the afternoon she took me aside again and told me she wanted to buy a present for her boyfriend but really didn't know all the ins and outs of what to buy. I assumed she was talking about an ipad, a laptop, a printer or perhaps even a tv in a stretch but nope, she wanted to buy him a telescope.

She wasn't exactly sure what all the technical specs meant and before i could get a word in i had already been queried on things like focal length/ratio, dawes limit and aperture. I have no idea and told her as much, said that i really had no experience with telescopes and would assume that the more zoom the better but apart from that i was at a loss. I even explained that the only time i'd ever used one was when i was a kid and we went to my dads mates house down the beach, he had an apartment that overlooked the foreshore (and the people laying on it) ... wow that was a lot of fun. She didn't seemed phased by this though and kept on going with her questions, i suggested if she knew someone that was into photography perhaps they'd be more useful than me. In the end she walked away from the conversation looking defeated, almost like I'd chosen not to give her the info she needed. Ahh well, i guess there is a limit to the ITG's ability after all.

Hope he enjoys his telescope.

Cheers, The ITG.

EDIT: someone has already pointed out to me that some telescopes do use electricity, the fact i didn't know that shows just how little i know about them! also ... shortly after posting this my blog received its 500th page visit :) didn't expect this many people to be reading, thanks heaps!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Friday afternoon funnies

I received two rather frantic sounding IT forms yesterday afternoon within a minute of each other. They both informed me that a whole team of people (about a dozen) were offline in one of our offices. I could see the office was online, i could log into the server, so i knew it wasn't a site issue. As I've said before Friday arvo's are normally fairly easy going and it was already late in the day, the last thing i felt like doing was on Friday afternoon was troubleshooting a major network issue over the phone with someone on the other side of the country! Ahh well, this is what I'm getting paid to do so i picked up the phone.

I called up one of the managers that the request related to and started working through the problem with her. After only a few seconds i realised that there just wasn't the sense of urgency in her voice which i expected with 12 of her workers sitting there twiddling their thumbs.

     "sorry mate, when did all you guys get knocked offline?"

     "oh, no, its not everyone, it's just me"

    "Hmm, the forms said no one in your team was able to get online though"

     "yeah, sorry about that. I was offline so i popped my head out of my office and asked 'is everyone else offline?' and they all responded yes, even though they weren't"

     "do you have any idea why they said that?"

     "no, sorry, i don't"

The thing that i found the most worrying was that she didn't even seem to think this was unusual, or care that they had all confirmed they were unable to work when in fact they could. Top managing there!

For those of you at home keeping score, she had unplugged her network cable for some reason and forgotten to plug it back in. All this happened close enough to beer o'clock for me not to care.

Happy Weekend! The ITG.

Monday, November 22, 2010

this is what mouse movements look like

I found this cool little application called IOGraph, you can get it for free from their website here.

It tracks your mouse movements and graphs it for you.

Here is an image created from me running it for a full day of work:

Click here to see it full size

From what i can tell, a black circle is when your cursor sits idle (the bigger the circle the longer it was idle) and a white circle with a black dot is if it doesn't move for only a short time.

Thought it was kinda cool and wanted to share.

Cheers, The ITG

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Take my wife, please.

Fridays at my work are generally pretty easy going. Friday afternoons even more so. I guess if people come across IT issues on a Friday they tend to think it'd be best to leave them for Monday. Even though this makes Monday mornings crazy (which are already busy because of all the people who have killed just the right amount of brain cells over the weekend to forget their passwords) it means that Friday arvo's are nice and cruisy. This gives me a chance to play catchup or plan for the next week. Last Friday wasn't like this. It was uncharacteristically busy and most of the issues that were coming through were stupid. I don't really mind stupid requests that much, they sometimes make for good stories but generally they are quick fixes. I'll often tell a user when they say "oh sorry, you must think im so blond!", "no stress at all mate, these are my favourite kind of requests".

With Friday arvo being a bit of a chore i was really looking forward to getting home to have a nice relax and not have to deal with any more stupidity, this was not to be the case.

As i was getting ready to leave the office my missus called me and asked what time i was going to be home as her Dad was coming up and she was cooking dinner. This was welcome news as I do most of the cooking in our house and was in a 'I'm going to order take away and have a couple of drinks because i really cant be bothered cooking' kind of a mood.

Once i got home she realised we were out of Parmesan for our pasta so decided to pop up to the shop with her dad to buy some, the bottle of Canadian Club Whisky on the shelf was begging me to drink it but I had nothing to use as a mixer so i asked her to grab me some dry ginger.

Upon arriving home I was handed a small Jar of 'Garlic Steak Seasoning' when she said:

     "they had no dry ginger, will this be ok?"

I was baffled, i must have looked at her for a full 30 seconds before my brain rebooted. OK, I'm pretty sure i said to her i wanted to drink some CC&dry but i completely understand that not everything i say in my head makes it out my mouth. Lets assume i didn't... even if she thought i wanted some Dried Ginger pieces what confuses me the most here is that she had already cooked dinner, it was basically done, firstly what did she think i needed ginger for? Secondly, if the shop didn't have the dried pieces of ginger that she thought i wanted why did she think a mixture of Garlic, salt, pepper and herbs would be a good substitute? The best bit was i already had a jar of this stuff in the cupboard and like 3 full heads of garlic in the fridge.

I asked her all this, she just laughed and said:

     "I don't know"

She's a strange one alright.

Cheers, The ITG

Thursday, November 18, 2010

If your soap pump doesn't kill you, your tap will!

I've been seeing a lot of TV commercials of late advertising a hand soap dispenser with a motion sensor in it. The pitch being that your soap pump has millions of invisible and disgusting germs covering it that you should never touch. With this particular pump all you need to do is wave your hand in front of it and it will spit out a little bit of soap for you. Now i had a look at one of these, they cost considerably more than a standard pump and on top of that they spit out quite a bit more soap that you actually need so you end up buying more soap than you require.

The two area's i think this advertising campaign just decided to gloss over here are:

  1. Even though you might need to touch your death causing germ covered old soap pump to dispense soap, you're about to wash your hands with their fantastic soap that kills 99.9% of all germs. Where is the problem? You don't exactly dispense your soap then put your hands straight into your mouth. If you are doing this, please stop.
  2. What about your tap? you have to turn your tap on with your hand. Surely your tap (like everything else in your house) will kill you if you dare touch it. The most worrying part of all is that once you finish washing your hands with your nice soap that you didn't have to risk your life dispensing, you then have to touch the death tap to turn it off.
I told you i think too much.

Cheers, The ITG.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Just like Denis Leary, I'm an asshole

The other day i got to the office, the first thing i said to one of the users made her cry. I don't normally make people cry during my morning greetings but i really felt like this particular user deserved it.

That morning i was riding my bike to work when i felt my phone vibrating in my pocket, this is not a particularly unusual occurrence, especially seeing as i normally head into the office when most people are already working. Obviously answering a mobile phone whilst riding a motorbike is near impossible so i did what i always do, keep on riding. A minute or so later my phone rings again, once again i ignored it. Then again, and again, and again. The thought crossed my mind that this must be an emergency, i didn't want to get to the office to find out that a family member was in trouble so i pulled over on the side of the freeway and got my phone out. As i took it out of my pocket i had just missed another call. To this stage i had 7 missed calls, all from the same number ... a very annoying user.

Tip to the wise, as a member of the IT department you'll probably be one of the few employee's in an organisation that at some stage or another has contact with nearly everyone in your company, I generally like to know who is calling me before i answer but putting hundreds or thousands of mobile numbers into my phone is out of the question. What i like to do is put a few key people in. CEO, CFO, Managers etc so i don't miss out on an important call, on the flip side i also enter the phone numbers of the most annoying users who i work with. This way i can easily ignore what i know is going to be a call that will lead me to want to stab myself in the face, with a .. um ... lets say... shovel.

The person who was calling me that day was just this kind of user. More annoyingly than the borderline insane repetition of the calls was the fact that on not one of these calls had this user left a message, so i had no idea what kind of issue she was having, if it was something that i could have helped her with over the phone, if it was something i could call another member of my team to help her with etc etc. Also, in our company when someone has an issue they need to lodge a request via an online form. They are all told that if they have no access to their computer, or cannot load the form that they need to ask someone else in their office to lodge on their behalf. The main reason for this is that there are always a few people watching the helpdesk so calling me with "crazy lady" repetition when I'm unable to take the call will generally lead to longer wait times than if they had just lodged a bloody request in the first place.

I decided not to take this call because i most likely would have said some stuff that could have lead to me losing my job. I put the phone back in my pocket, jumped back on the bike and continued my journey towards the office. In the time it took me to ride the rest of the way she called me another 3 times. That's right ladies and gents... 10 in total. If i could also add, depending on congestion and traffic lights it normally takes me somewhere between 15 - 25 minutes to get to work, that day it would have been no more than 20. Meaning that she's called me on average, once every 2 minutes and not once did she leave a message.

As i came around the corner from our reception area into the consultants cubicles (which unfortunately i need to pass to get to my office .. oh how i long for a secret passage) She was standing there in a spot that she knew i had to walk through, phone in here hand. I'm really hoping she heard me say hello to the receptionist and jumped out of her chair, as opposed to spending the whole morning standing in a spot she knew I'd pass. It reminded me of the Lord of the Rings scene with Galdolf and the Balrog "YOU SHALL NOT PASS!"

Now i didn't swear at her, i didn't even raise my voice. This is the lecture that i gave her (pretty close to) word for word:

     "mate, when you call someone, if they don't answer the phone you should leave a message. If it is urgent say in the message that it is urgent. the person will call you back as soon as they can. As you know the best way to obtain IT support is to fill out the online form, and assuming at the moment you don't have access you should have asked someone else to fill it out for you, more than likely one of the other IT people would have taken your job and already fixed your issue"

At this point i could see that her eyes were starting to well over but i hadn't actually gotten to the bit that i really wanted to say and i knew if i went for the knock out blow she was going to lose it but at this point i didn't care. I didn't think her behaviour was normal and i wanted to tell her.

     "I can see you're upset, you're obviously very busy and whatever issue you are having is probably causing you some stress but i find the fact that you kept calling me over and over again quite rude. I pulled over on the side of the freeway to check my phone as i assumed there was some kind of emergency, and you're computer not working is not an emergency. If I didn't take your call there was a reason for it, in this case it was because i was riding a bike. What you did was very poor phone etiquette."

Once i finished my lecture she lost it. She started balling in front of a few people and ran out of the office. I had to go and explain to her manager what had happened and what i said just in case it got back to her that i had upset her staff member. I also gave my boss the run down of the morning's events in case it got back to him. Everyone seemed to agree with me that i was dealing with a crazy person.

Rehashing the mornings events in my head, it's clear to me that she's a crazy lady, but i still made her cry, which made me feel like an asshole.

What would you have done?

Sidenote: check your ITG's phone, see if your number is in there. If it is there are 3 options:
  1. you guys are good mates.
  2. you're a very important person in your company.
  3. you're a pain in the ass.
I guess 4 could be "all of the above"

The ITG.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

ok, now I'm starting to get out of control.

I work in a 12 story building on one of the upper levels, today i got in the lift and pressed my floor, then noticed a man rushing for the lift talking loudly on his phone. Being a decent human being i held my arm in front of the doors to stop them from closing so he could make the lift.

The first thing that annoyed me was that he didn't step completely into the lift, he realised that he would probably lose reception and his call would drop if he let the doors close so he stood in the way of the doors for what felt like 12 minutes, but was probably closer to 20-30 seconds, so he could finish his phone call.

He pressed floor 2, this is another thing that kinda peeved me off, i wouldn't imagine I'd be taking the lift over walking up 1 or 2 flights, but in our building i find I'm often waiting a minute or so with someone for a lift and then they press 1. they could have been up and down twice in that time! Lets not call this strike 2 as some people hate stairs (I've been known to say that i consider typing exercise so we'll let this one slide)

Doors open for floor 2 and he stepped out and then stepped back in and says:

     "oh, this isn't my floor, I'm not sure exactly what floor I'm on"

He then proceeded to press 3, 4 and 5, then he gave me a look like "gee I'm an idiot", i felt that with the look that i already had on my face, if i had of replied with "yes, yes you are an idiot" there probably would have been a scuffle, he wasn't a particularly small man and had one of those looks like he'd been in a fight or two. If this is the kind of regard he shows for other people I'm not surprised.

After the doors opened on floor 3 he looks out and says.

     "Yep, this is it"

He gives me another stupid look and then walks out. No "sorry about that mate", he just walked out. I was then stuck to watch the lift open on 4 and then close, then again on 5. To rub salt into the wound there was a rather attractive young lady that i see from time to time waiting for the lift on level 5. I felt like she was thinking "look at this idiot who doesn't know how to use a lift"

By the time i got up to my level i was fuming, i felt like you could have lit a smoke off my face. I once heard the comedian Dylan Moran say "the rage I'm feeling right now, you could bottle it". This is exactly how i felt... Now i think that most people in my situation would have probably felt a little annoyance at what had just occurred but the problem I'm having is just how angry i was. The reality here is that instead of taking 1 minute to get to my office it took me 2-3, where is the big deal. I cant imagine the ITG of 10 or even 5 years ago getting this angry over something like that. I think we've all had that "why am i so angry" moment when driving a car and someone cuts us off but was i now experiencing "Lift Rage"? I hope not!

I'm going to continue my theme of making personal pledges (started in my Mobile Etiquette post) and promise to chill more. Is being held up a minute or so worth an early grave? The (new) ITG thinks not. Want to join me?

Cheers, The ITG

p.s. I should probably mention that i was holding a freshly toasted 12 inch sub and heading back up to the office to eat lunch. Take note .. a hungry ITG is an angry ITG.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

ok, things are starting to get out of control

I was giving someone instructions today over the phone about how to do something on their computer. When i needed them to right click something to get up the context sensitive menu and click on properties, i asked her to do just that:

"Ok, click on Start, then right click on 'my computer' and choose 'properties'"

to which i received a response that i never in a million years expected...

The user went on a rant about being left handed, and how right click for her is left click. She seemed genuinely offended by my assumption that she used her mouse with her right hand. Is this a joke ?

I've offended someone before for assuming their kid was a boy when it was in fact a girl, I've offended someone before when assuming they were pregnant when in fact they were just a little tubby, I've got someones nose out of joint for assuming that they agreed with my political or religious outlook but this is certainly a first.

Now maybe this particular user was having a bad morning, maybe her boss was hammering her for something else and  my right handed assumption was just one too many straws on her camels back but i think we need to take a good long hard look at ourselves as a society if we're going to start taking offence at someone as menial as this!

ok, that's me for today, just popped in for a quick spiel and to say "harden up" before i go off and offend someone else.

Cheers, The ITG

Friday, November 5, 2010

Does your mobile contract come with manners?

Right now I'm sitting in a hotel room on a weekend away and instead of connecting my laptop up to the hotels wireless network (and paying a few bucks and hour for the privilege) I've tethered my iphone via bluetooth to share it's Internet connection. Now i know this isn't exactly new technology, i remember using windows mobiles Internet sharing quite a few years ago to connect my laptop up to my o2 mobile but this did get me to thinking all the wonderful ways that we can use our phones to stay connected these days... but then i got to thinking how annoying this technology can make people.

The other night i was sitting at a dinner table with 9 other people and at one stage during the evening it occurred to me that 5 of the 10 of us weren't involved in the ancient art of conversation but were on their phones. Two iphone users were playing angry birds and comparing notes on how to get the most stars, another person was proving to a non iphone user how awesome they believed doodle jump to be, a forth was talking on the phone and the 5th was sending an email via his blackberry. I looked around a bit startled and thought to myself that only 7 or 8 years ago (when most people already had phones) this kind of thing would have been considered rude and unacceptable, i could imagine that if i were talking on my phone at dinner with other people someone would have pulled me up on it, let alone how rude it would have been considered if i was sitting there with my gameboy (ok now i feel old) playing supermario world. When exactly did this kind of behaviour become acceptable?

Remember only a few years ago (ok, I'll say a few to make myself not feel so old, it might have been a bit longer than that!) when it was considered perfectly acceptable to smoke a cigarette at a dinner table? I remember being out to dinner when we would wait for people at our table to finish their meal before we'd light up a smoke (completely ignoring people sitting at the next table munching down on their bruscetta ... how rude!) but this kind of table behaviour would be considered epically unacceptable these days, it occurs to me we may have just traded one terrible habit for another (and if you believe what some people have to say about mobile phone useage, the new habit could be as deadly as the first in the long run).

So what is to be done about this, there are countless articles, blog entries and opinions which will tell us that we're addicted to technology. I even heard a news story the other day about a family group who are urging people to have a 24 hour technology blackout, basically targeting young people they believe spend too much time on twitter or facebook. If you've ever ready my blog before you'll know my thoughts on facebook but seriously, i don't think i need to be ranting like this about facebook and i don't think we need groups of people pleading with us to ban them (or even need me to write this mobile based post) if people were sensible about the way they used this stuff. I know I'm as guilty as anyone, i am an IT Guy after all. i have 5 monitors on my desks at work, two mobiles, two desk phones and that doesn't count all the shit i have scattered throughout my house but I'm pledging here that I'm going to make a conscious effort to give people who I'm spending time with all of my (non technology using) attention. I think the more people that did this the better place our communities would be.

We shouldn't need to be told to be sensible, and more importantly we shouldn't need to be told what is sensible and what is not, 5 people sitting around a dinner table using their phones instead of talking to each other isn't sensible and surely I'm not the only one of the 10 of us at dinner that night that thought this, am i?

Cheers, The ITG

p.s. seeing as no one who reads this knows me in real life I'll have to keep myself accountable to my above pledge. I also think i should point out that i realise writing this from a hotel room whilst on a holiday instead of stepping out into the sunshine is just a little bit hypocritical.

/me heads outside to enjoy the sunshine... oh, it burns ... the humanity!!!