Friday, August 12, 2011

My first job working with Technology.

The other day I was making a coffee in the kitchen at work and listening to the conversation of a few of my colleagues. The discussion jumped from what they had been up to on the weekend, to what their workload was like, to where someone had gone out to dinner the night before and then all of a sudden, almost as if it was a perfectly natural progression, it somehow jumped to what they had all done for their first job. At first I was amused by the way one conversation lead to another but before I knew it I was well and truly involved in the discussion. Someone mentioned that they had a job in a shop cleaning the showroom, someone else said they didn't have a job until they were well into their university degree where they has some weekend work as a babysitter. Another mentioned the obligatory early morning paper round on their BMX. It got me to thinking about my first job and for the first time ever it dawned on me (albeit a little bit of a stretch) that my first job was in IT, I had come full circle!

To be fair, my first paying job where I was registered with the tax office and was properly on the books was when I was 16, working the kitchen in a roast chicken take away food chain. Rewind a couple of years earlier and I had a cash-in-hand (shhh) job working for a local chemist. I worked one hour everyday after school delivering prescriptions with my bike to old people who were either too frail, immobile, or in some cases too lazy, to come into the chemist to collect their medicine. That wasn't the first time I was paid for services rendered though, to discuss my first job we'd need to head back a little further, back to early 1990.

My birthday falls in August, as a 12 year old kid there are few days in the year more exciting than your birthday. I don't recall what I received for my birthday back in '89 but I have no problem remembering the gift I got 5 months later. As a kid one of the things I loved about having my birthday in August was that not long after I got sick of whatever toys I received, festive decorations were already starting to be put up in the shops and I was already carefully drawing up my wishlist for Christmas.

It must have been September/October when my parents asked me if I knew what I wanted and there was no hesitation on my part, the object of my desires was being thrown in my face everwhere I looked, the nintendo gameboy, I just had to have it! At the time I recall that my brother (barely a year older than me) wanted an electronic pocket organiser/calendar and my dad's thoughts on the gameboy are still clear in my mind "why do you want that piece of junk that you'll use for a couple of week and then toss aside? why don't you get something useful like your brother?" The funny thing here is, the gameboy became somewhat of an obessesion for our household in the months following Christmas, by the middle of the following year we no longer had one gameboy, we had three!

The gameboy came packaged with Tetris, the ridiculously addictive puzzle game. It was the extra gift however, 'Super Mario World' that I was most excited about. I already had a long standing and serious relationship with Mario, Mario Bros on the NES had occupied way too many of my "should have been outside kicking a ball" hours growing up and the thought of being able to game without being at home was a lure way too attractive to ignore. Super Mario World for the original gameboy did not disappoint, it flowed well, had the original NES Mario feel and was every bit as enjoyable as I expected it to be, the only problem was it had a start, middle and end. I arrived at the end of this game before New Years rolled around and although I occasionally picked it up after that, it was Tetris that soon occupied nearly every moment of my waking time.

For the uninitiated (and I hope there aren't too many of you) follow this link to play an online version of tetris the exact way it appeared on the original gameboy, even the music is identical. In our house a competition quickly developed between me, and believe it or not, my dad. I don't think he ever looked at my brothers pocket organiser! In the month following New Years he bought another gameboy so he could play tetris without having to wait for me to put it down, a few months later my sister requested a gameboy for her birthday, then we were three.

The basis of the game was to drop the differently shaped blocks into the playing field, the only control you had was to move the block left/right and rotate it. Once you had made a solid line of blocks from the left to the right of the screen, that line would be removed and one would be added to your 'line tally'. You could achieve more points by removing more than one line at a time, 4 being the maximum you could remove at once. With every 10 lines added to your total, the speed at which the blocks dropped increased, hence the more and more difficult the further you went. In our house we weren't interested in points, lines were the basis of our bragging rights. To the best of my memory my highest all time record was 216 lines and my dad's was 213 but to be fair there is a chance those figures were the other way around.

Ok, here's where my "job" came in. One of the biggest pains about this game was the amount of time it took to go through the very easy, and very slow, levels of 1-10 (lines 0-100). I'm sure the catalyst for this was the fact that I had a higher record and my dad couldn't stand it but I guess an adults time is more valuable than that of a child.  He wanted to try and beat me but decided he just couldn't sit there for (what he considered to be) the prohibitive amount of time it took to get to from 0-100 lines. First he wanted a favour, he asked me if I could get it to 100 lines and then hand him the gameboy. For me, this seemed like a terrible agreement, why would I help him beat my record ... I wouldn't of course.

     "what's in it for me?" I asked.
     "I'll give you a dollar every time you get it to 100 lines and let me continue"

It was on! I must have made over $100 by the time Easter rolled around, which funded more games and was also used to buy some of the Easter chocolate off my sister and brother.

So that was my very first paid job, and as long as you're prepared to draw a very long bow then it was my first job in IT.

Feel free to shoot me an email and let me know your line record.

Cheers, The ITG.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Just when I thought they couldn't get any worse

On Tuesday I received a new staff form (managers lodge them via our intranet) for a user interstate. We have a member of the IT team that works two days a week who normally handles new staff and terminations, so I mostly ignore these however the 'start date' on this form caught my eye. It was the 31st of May, it now approaching the end of July I just assumed this was a mistake.

I contacted the manager and this is the conversation that followed:

The ITG [12:23 PM]:
hey mate, on the form it says <users> start date was 31st of May
is that correct ?

Manager [12:24 PM]:
don't you love it when people don’t do their job. (here she was eluding to the fact that someone else should have put in the new staff form already, not sure who though!)

The ITG [12:24 PM]:
you've put TBA for where to set her up, I’m confused. What has she been working off for the last 2 months, and where ?

Manager [12:24 PM]:
poor girl is wondering why she didn't get paid - when i investigate - doesn't exist. She has been working out of <users office> - TBA just meant I needed to find the name of the computer to set her up for her.

The ITG [12:24 PM]:
surely she would have to realise she doesn’t have a computer login, a computer, an email address, a log in to anything
what has she been doing for 2 months ?

Manager [12:25 PM]:
she did training, and then some work only as casual - think was case of organising her to come in to see what we do, and then someone unilaterally booked her in for work - and probably did the backend case management software notes for her
that is my assessment anyway

Come on!!! are they fucking serious? Clearly a manager, either this one or another, has dropped the ball here big time but this user is sitting in an office, for 2 months, with 25+ other people who all have computer logins, they all have email addresses, business cards, mobile phones, their own laptops, case management software logins and access to our intranet. On top of that they are ALL GETTING PAID!!! For me alarm bells are ringing here, not only am I concerned about how this office is being run at a management level, I'm concerned about what kind of staff we're hiring. All I can think about is the episode of Seinfeld where George was working at the rest stop supply firm on the Penske file. He started at a company and didn't actually know he had a job as the manager who he thought hired him was on holidays. He spent weeks doing nothing until it was confirmed he was actually employed. The only difference here is that this user spent 2 months.

Sometimes I'm embarrassed to work where I do.

On the plus side, I received my new ThinkGeek "I'm here because you broke somethings" T-shirt in the mail this week and plan on wearing it to work tomorrow. The worst part for me though is that this shirt rings true, but unfortunately most of the time the thing the users break is my head. Just like this manager.

The key is not to think too much about it, I only wish i was that kind of person.

Lets hope August is better than July.

Cheers, The ITG.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

IT support fail

When I started this blog, in fact back in the very first post, I mentioned that I had moved across from another blog where I was posting amusing and frustrating interactions with users. I had planned to keep that going and run it as well as the spiel but that never happened. I've decided to delete it but there was some funny stuff there and seeing as at the time I didn't have an audience I thought it would be a good idea to post some of it over here for your reading pleasure. For the (I'm pretty sure only) one spiel reader who used to read my old blog... nothing to see here move right along, for everyone else, enjoy!

This first one was transposed from a phone conversation I had that morning:

(user) Hi ITG I have an issue with my computer
(ITG) ok mate, you're going to need to lodge an IT helpdesk and i'll get to it asap
(userGP) I don't think you can help me, that's why i didnt lodge a request, i was just hoping you can give me some advice
(ITG) what seems to be the problem
(user) I have a CD stuck in my CDrom and i cant get it out
(ITG) so the CD tray wont open and close?
(user) well, no... the CD tray is stuck open and the CD is stuck in the drive
(ITG) Umm ... so is it jarred in there? are you able to turn the computer off and then gently pull the CD tray all the way open? that way you can then just take the CD out.
(user) No No, the CD tray is fully open already, the CD is behind that, Inside the Drive, i cannot see the CD but i know its in there and i cant shut the tray because the CD is behind it.
(ITG) are you serious ??? I've never heard of that before. I have no idea how you managed that, i wasn't even sure that was possible
(user) I have magic powers.
(ITG) No, Seriously, How did you manage that?
(user) to be honest i have no idea.

Brand new laptop, remote location, daft user with (magic) powers... how could I not expect this !

This second one took place whilst we were migrating users from Lotus Notes to Microsoft Outlook. A fairly senior manager had been done the night before so I contacted them around lunchtime to ask them how outlook was going:

(ITG) Hi there, just following up.. how's outlook treating you?
(user) Hi ITG no Outlook very disappointed
(ITG) huh? how do you mean?
(user) I could only see Lotus and went to all the programs and no outlook!
(ITG) ok that's just odd..1 sec
(user) Just hank [sic] on, I have found a 2003 Outlook is that right

funny thing is, this conversation took place after the user had been sitting at their PC for a few hours, not receiving emails to Lotus Notes anymore .... quiet morning anyone ?


This last one is one of my favourites, it shows you just how frustrating life can be dealing with someone who doesn't know a computer from a shoe. It was hard for me not to swear here!

(ITG) press the power button
(User) which ones's that
(ITG) the button you use to turn the computer on in the mornings
(User) the bar button?
(ITG) I don't know what a bar button is ?? have you got a desktop or a laptop
(User) desktop
(ITG) ok it will be on the box part of your computer
(User) you mean on the laptop itself
(ITG) laptop? You said you have a desktop
(User) oh yes I have a laptop sorry, it's on my desk though
(ITG) seriously, this isn't something difficult, it's the button you press every day to turn your laptop on
(User) oh, yes, you must hate people like me

yes ... yes we do!

Hope you're all enjoy the Tour de France ... loving it here!

Cheers, The ITG

Sunday, July 17, 2011

bloggers block, Android tabs & sleepless nights

Quite a few people that I know in real life actually read this blog now, well let me clarify that... if I'm talking about people I've actually met I could count them on one hand. To the best of my knowledge, until very recently there was only two. Just this week I believe I've picked up a third. The people I was referring to in my 'quite a few' are online friends, people who I would talk to every week but have never met. Amongst a few others, most of them are friends I made playing an online browser game called travian who congregate in a chatroom on skype and some of the others are people from an IRC channel on efnet called #eztv. (yes I know I'm a geek, but surely given the name of this blog that shouldn't come as a shock to you!)

Recently, readers who I know, from all three area's (real life, IRC, skype) have all been asking me why I haven't been posting, when someone pointed out to me that my last post was early May I thought "surely that isn't right!!" and had to come here to verify. The truth is I've had a bit of bloggers block. I've actually started three separate posts since my lenovo saga, but on re-reading the draft a day or so after writing, none of them have really cut the mustard. I don't see the point of posting just for the sake of putting anything up so these all ended up on the cutting room floor so to speak.

I do realize though that nothing will turn people off a blog quicker than extended periods of time without posts, I don't want this to happen to me. It still comes as a shock to me that I actually have regular readers and when I occasionally log in to check my stats it's always a pleasant surprise to see that not a day goes by without page views coming from all over the world. I don't want to squander that so I promise to make an effort to post more regularly (as long as I have something to say ;)

So, what's been going on in the life of The ITG? A bit has happened in the last month or so and I hope to write some detailed posts at some point about this stuff.

Firstly last week, due to a group of events that surrounded the birth of my second child, I went nearly 60 consecutive hours without sleep... This wasn't the best preparation for months of sleepless newborn baby nights. (you know what sucks more than having a new born baby spoil your night? a jealous 2.5 year old spoiling the day that follows said night!) I guess the important thing to take away from this is that my wife has just given birth to our second child, I'm all about me though.

Work has been a bit meh for me recently. I can't really put my finger on it but I'm really over it of late. Nothing has really changed but I'm hating every day more and more, As of August 23 I will have been there 7 years so perhaps the problem is this itch I've been hearing so much about. I've actually started to wonder if I'm on the right career path altogether. I don't mean to say that I want to get out of IT but just feel like I have more to offer than what I'm able to in my current role. Probably a bit deep for here at the moment, we might revisit this some other time.

On the IT/geek side of things, I went out and got myself a 7" Samsung galaxy tab. It's basically a Samsung Galaxy S (android phone) on steroids. The idea was for me to have a proper evaluation / everyday use test of an android device to help me decide if I could happily make the jump from apple iOS, which is something I've been wanting to do for a while. Android certainly hasn't disappointed me and I feel that some of the added 'out of the box' functionality more than makes up for the fact that it feels a little less polished than iOS. The real revelation for me though has been how much I've been enjoying using a tablet PC. A post I started on this blog a long time ago and never finished was a bit of a "why the hell are tablet PC's so popular, considering their lack of usefulness" This thing has had me eating my words! (if nothing else, I will definitely be doing a post about tablets/android/iOS soon)

Finally, as much as I hate to say it (and I vowed never to be sucked back in) I'm playing travian again. I blame the good doctor for this, she started the account and then hung me out to dry. I'm getting help from chuck though (shout out!) who has been a useful dual. I'm not sure exactly how far I'm going to go with this server (uk4) but at the moment it's occupying most of my ifk (in front of keyboard) time, read: most of my time in general. For those of you (and I'm guessing it's most) who have no idea what I'm talking about, consider yourself bloody lucky. I can't imagine why anyone's life is better with travian than without it!

Everyone caught up? good!

Cheers, The IT Guy

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Lenovo are driving me crazy

I follow @Lenovo on twitter and recently saw this retreat from Lenovo (trying to tell us all about how good they are)

RT @shaddih: Less than 18 hours after my space bar broke, new keyboard received and installed #Lenovo support is awesome.

It got me to thinking that my experience with Lenovo customer support has been anything but awesome over the years. I decided that I was going to write a post explaining just what issues I tend to have with them and tweet a link to Lenovo to see if anyone there cares. Following this (as many post ideas do) it slipped out of my mind and I moved on to something else, probably playing portal2. Over the past couple of weeks something happened to jog my memory, and actually take what I believe to be terrible customer service to new heights.

The company I work for deals mainly with Lenovo for our hardware. We're not a massive company but would have around 500 computers across the country, 350 or so being Lenovo laptops, a majority of these being either the Lenovo thinkpad T400 or T410. Before I go on I want it on the record that I'm not a Lenovo hater, I have been involved in the decisions that lead to us going with thinkpads for our employee's and don't believe there is a better business based laptop available. Over the years I've worked off an R51, T41p, T43, T60, T61, T410 and at the moment I’m lucky enough to be calling the brilliant x201t my work machine (a hybrid laptop/multitouch tablet, if this was a tech review blog I'd write a glowing review!). They have all been great performing machines and I can't see us making a move from Lenovo anytime soon.

Now that I've got that out of the way... It's the T400 in particular that has caused us the most grief, I've yet to experience this issue with the similar bodied T410 (which I'm currently rolling out to replace some old T61's) so I guess they sorted the problem. On the T400's the issue is that the tongue inside the USB ports sometimes comes lose and falls out, either on their own or when users are unplugging a USB device. All the users in our company work off external USB mouse and keyboards (both Lenovo brand) so plugging and unplugging USB devices is something many of them do on a daily basis. Without getting technical, because the issue really isn't, the problem is that when one of these plastic tongue's is missing it leaves the 4 metal pins exposed with no protection. The next time someone tries to plug something in they bend the pins, which fold flat and this shorts the motherboard causing the laptop to not boot. Unfortunately it's not an easy fix as the ports are part of the system board which (on a laptop) basically hosts a majority of the computers equipment. From my experience a system board replacement is the fix.

We recently had another one of our T400's experience this issue. We have a return to depot warranty, meaning that Lenovo will fix it but it has to go back to them. From memory our warranty has a 5 business day turnaround agreement (depending on parts availability) from when Lenovo receive the machine. The below communications followed:

  • Tuesday 26/4: called Lenovo to lodge a job, was given a reference number and told that the courier would be in contact.
  • Thursday 28/4: The courier called and said they would be sending out a box and when I receive it I should call them and they would arrange to come and pick up the laptop. I don't see why this should take 2 days to happen! I explained to the person on the phone that the courier has always come with a box and taken the laptop with them and they told me they aren't doing it that way anymore.
  • Tuesday 3/5: I called Lenovo to say that I had not received the box, they said they would call courier but I should also call them to put pressure on them from two points. I explained to the Lenovo support person that I didn't believe that was my job, I bought the laptop from Lenovo, not the courier. I also questioned why the system had changed from the old system of 'a courier coming out with a box and taking the laptop with them' to the new one of 'sending a box and then me calling the courier once it was ready to be picked up'. It was explained to me that often the courier was going out with the box and the laptop wasn't ready to be collected so they needed to keep coming back, this was costing them too much. I went on to ask how a new system which guaranteed that the courier had to go out twice was going to help that, he didn't have an answer.
  • Wednesday 4/5: still no box arrived, decided to skip Lenovo this time and call the courier. They said that the box was sent on Friday and takes 3 business days, meaning it should arrive sometime that day 4/5. I asked them why if I logged the call with Lenovo on Tuesday the 26th that the box wasn't sent out until Friday the 29th, they didn't have a good reason.
  • Thursday 5/5: by 2pm box still hadn’t arrived, called courier who said they we’re going to pass this on to another team who handles box delivery, said they would express one to me if it didn't turn up soon. I asked why it takes 4 days to deliver the first box if they can express them, they didn't have a response.
  • Thursday 5/5: (4pm) box arrived, I called the courier to let them know the box had arrived (as instructed by the notes inside the box) they told me they would email me paperwork now and collect the box tomorrow.
  • Friday 6/5: Laptop collected to be taken back to Lenovo, 10 days after the call was lodged.

The whole process of getting a Lenovo computer repaired under warranty is exhausting, hopefully some of that comes across in this post. I completely understand that we haven't forked out the big bucks on a warranty where a tech comes out to our site and fixes the machine but I don't think we should have to wait 10 days and make 5 phone calls just to get to a point where a tech sees the machine. I also understand that some of the above issues were caused by the courier but surely Lenovo should dictate some SLA's that are a lot more acceptable than this.

Just to rub salt into my wounds, this morning when I went to turn on my x201t I noticed that the spring loaded clip that locks the screen closed (or down when in tablet mode) was broken, it's a return to base warranty too, so I'm about to go through all this again. :(

I'd love to hear from someone at Lenovo regarding this and how they justify (even if everything goes to plan) a customer having to wait 5 business days with a broken laptop from the time a call is logged till the time a tech gets their hands on it. Ignoring the fact I had to wait 10. Surely this isn't something customers would realize when they read through the "return to depot" warranty.

The (disgruntled) ITG

update: two things to report. 1. I received the T400 back today in working order, good turnaround time from when Lenovo actually managed to get their hands on it. 2. @Lenovo on twitter messaged me to say they are listening and asked me for the job reference number so they could look into it, which i have passed on.

In the next couple of weeks i plan to call them again for the broken clip on my x201t, lets see if things have improved or not!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Virus crazyness ... more stupid users

I work in a very small IT team, which has its pro's and con's. The main pro is that I get to do different things all the time which stops the job from getting too boring. I have mates that work at much bigger companies in very large IT teams, for some of them it can mean more money but there is a downside, not only do they have to clock in/clock out, they also often have someone watching over their shoulders, scrutinizing their work. The biggest complaint I get from them though is that often they are pigeon holed into a role, each person has their place, so they get stuck doing the same kind of thing day in day out.

For me this is not a problem, one day I could be interstate helping relocate an office/setting up a new site, the next day I might be setting up some new domain controllers. I could jump from that to a meeting with Business Managers to see how technology can improve their processes and even deal with our suppliers (hardware, network, communications) to nut out the specifics of new service offerings. Sounds great doesn't it? Well, like I said, pro's and con's... The main (small IT department) con I face is that I unfortunately have to deal with the day to day stuff that at a much bigger company would be considered basic level 1 helpdesk. The kind of stuff that a university graduate, someone holding a diploma in network engineering and a fistful of certificates wouldn't normally be expected to do. Don't get me wrong, it's not just me, my boss is on the front line too, setting up user accounts, installing printers, configuring desktop software, a whole plethora of crap jobs ... including cleaning virus riddled PCs.

Recently we've had to deal with quite a bit of infected PC's and that is the focus of this post. Sometimes I try to get into the head of a user, I wonder (assuming I didn't know a lot about computers) what I would do if I had my virus scan pop up telling me my computer was infected. Would I just hit cancel/ignore and keep working away like it never happened? Or would I let the IT team know about it. I'd like to think the latter. In the last couple of weeks however, a trend has emerged that can be easily summed up by this small interaction i had with a user:

     User01 [12:25 PM]:
Hey ITG, Sorry to bug you, but just wasn't sure what the appropriate thing would be to do at the moment with this query - have a virus scan thing that keeps running on my computer which seems to be freezing things up a bit and every time i try and close it down it keeps popping back up? Wasn't sure if it was best for someone to have a quick look or something?

     The ITG [12:26 PM]:
ill give you one guess at what you should do (probably should have done the first time you saw it too) ;)

     User01 [12:27 PM]:
lol - logging an IT request

     The ITG [12:27 PM]:
how about that
go for it
thanks mate

     User01 [12:27 PM]:
no probs

This user proceeded to pop in an IT helpdesk request which explained that her computer had been telling her that it was infected with a virus for the last week or so. Unfortunately she isn't alone.

Some people also get a bit of an attitude towards IT when they have issues, here is a recent virus request that made me wish I had a device to stab people in the face over the internet:

Request Description: For the past week every time I log into my computer and at random intervals throughout the day I get a popup telling me that my computer has a virus, I click clean but it keeps coming back. Often this causes my computer to crash and i need to restart to get working again. This is very frustrating and not an ideal sitution [sic] at all as it is directly impacting on my work and causing me to fall behind in my billing. I would appreciate it if this could be fixed now!

When I called this user and explained she wouldn't have been having this issue for the past week if she lodged a request as soon as she first saw the popup, as expected she got her back up and started blaming everyone else for her stupidity. I understand a user clicking 'clean' or 'remove threat' and going back to their work but you'd assume (clearly I make assumptions way too often) that as soon as it comes back once, or worst case scenario a couple of times, they would let IT know as opposed to battling through it, sitting there, getting angrier and angrier at the issue for a full week!

I also had one user tell me that they needed a new computer as their old one had a virus that couldn't be cleaned and they were sending it back to me to be replaced. I tried to explain to them that a virus is software, and even if it cannot be cleaned I am able to back up all their data, blast the hard drive and reconfigure for them. She responded:

     No, That isn't the case here, my computer will no longer boot up so I know it has to be replaced.

For the record, I've since received this laptop, backed up the users data, blasted it and its sitting next to me being reconfigured as I type this.

There sure is enough of them working at my company so I hope you guys don't get sick of reading about stupid users, I sure don't get sick of writing about them!

Cheers, The ITG.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Sometimes even big companies get it wrong

One of the first posts I wrote for this blog was "Things you say and do that IT hate". In it I had a little rant about terminology, like referring to your 'computer' as your 'hard drive' or referring to your 'monitor' as your 'computer'. This is not something that is limited to users, I noticed recently whilst watching an episode of Chuck on TV someone was talking about how many 'hard drives' they had to fix, referring to a pile of computers sitting there. (As a side note, I was a little bit surprised about this, I've found that particular show to be pretty careful about their terminology. They've managed for the most part to keep the 'nerd hurds' lingo fairly realistic -  at least in the early episodes)

Another thing that people often confuse is the difference between memory and hard drive space. I think this is more excusable, I don't expect my users to understand the inner workings of their computer and what each component does, especially these days when the lines between memory and hard drive storage is becoming a bit blurry (talking about hard drives with massive cache's or solid state hard drives - which are basically the same technology as silicon based memory)

Like i said, I don't expect my users to know the difference, but should a big company? Maybe. Should a big IT company? Probably. Should a big IT company that sells computers? Definitely!!!

Whilst traveling home from a holiday recently I noticed the below ad in an in-flight magazine:

Now, at a quick glance you might not notice too much wrong with this advertisement (apart from the drastically overpriced laptop) but on closer inspection:

320gb of memory anyone ?? haha, I showed the wife expecting her to laugh and she looked at me like I was speaking German, which is probably how most of you are reading this right now. Seriously though, It would have been funny to order this laptop and then complain when it arrived with a 320gb hard drive and not 320gb of memory ... I wonder how their 'ROCK SOLID' guarantee would stand up to that complaint!

Ok, I completely realise that Lenovo know the difference between RAM and a HDD but still, you think with the money a company like that spends on advertising and marketing that this one shouldn't have slipped through the cracks.

I completely understand most people wont find this as amusing as me but felt like sharing anyway :)

For those of you celebrating it this week, have a great Easter. I hope you're getting a break!

Cheers, The ITG

Friday, April 1, 2011

Friday loop de loop

Today we had a manager contact IT complaining that the phones have gone down at two of his sites. Our investigations (brief, as we don't really handle that system) showed that users at those sites were able to dial out but all incoming calls failed. We gave them an email address where they could get support from the service provider.

Five minutes later they called us to say that it was all sorted but didn't really want to offer up any details of what the problem was, we pressed. Turns out one office had diverted their lines to the other, and that office had theirs diverted back to the first.

Loop of death anyone? nope, just the loop of the idiots... made me giggle though.

Happy weekend! The ITG.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Windows phone 7 - The ITG's take.

So my partner finally decided to ditch the old Nokia phone that had served her well for many years (I personally think she was sick of being the only person at the table with a number pad). Every phone she'd had in recent memory has been a nokia and as far as I can recall, had a symbian based O/S. Being the IT Guy I was naturally the person she came to for advice on what she should get, she had one prerequisite, "I do not want an iphone"

When getting down to it, I understand where this feeling comes from, often hearing apples little masterpiece being referred to as iSheep. When I got my first iphone I was lucky enough to be one of the first people in the country to have one and it was many weeks that passed before I actually saw someone else holding one in their hand. These days it's hard for many minutes to pass from the time you leave your front door till you see someone else playing away on their iphone.

No iphone, Check.

She did go on to say that she's always loved her nokia phones so would prefer one if possible and wanted something with a keypad, I talked her out of both of these things as I didn't see the point of buying her something which appeared archaic by todays standards, early adopter she isn't!

I saw two real choices here, before I got down to handset decisions I had to make the call for Android or Windows Phone 7. I was upfront about this with her but chose the windows phone for a couple of reasons.

     1. Previous to owning iphones I had always had windows mobile phones, they weren't for the masses but as an IT person I always loved having the extra functionality of having (what I considered) a computer in your pocket, so there was a nostalgic element

     2. I love my gadgets and want to play with as many as possible, unfortunately I don't have the resources of David Pouge, Sacha Pallenberg or the increasingly famous Robert Scoble at my disposal so I need to take these opportunities by the scruff. I have a few mates with Android based phones (love the HTC Legend) but I didn't know anyone with a windows 7 phone.

     3. The iSheep factor weighs on me too, I don't love having the same phone as everyone else, and have been looking to make a move from iphones iOS to something else, possibly this year. The news of the recent partnership agreement between Microsoft and Nokia to produce Windows based handsets really got me excited, so I have been looking at a Nokia Windows 7 Phone as a real possibility for my next handset. I needed to make sure that WP7 met my expectations before I could even consider this.

We jumped online to see that my partners cell phone provider supplied one WP7 device, the Samsung Omnia 7, some quick research on GSM arena lead me to believe that this was a quality device that rated well among users, and the requirements that would be put on this phone weren't too crazy so I knew it wouldn't need to be anything too high end.

When we received it, the first thoughts out of the box was that this is a quality handset, solid feeling unit, very stylish casing, nice big 4" screen that, although made the device seem bigger than my iphone (because it is) it didn't have the feeling of "wow, that's too big for a phone" like I feel the HTC Desire (4.3") does.

So down to the OS itself. In a word, WOW. I could not believe how intuitive, responsive and fun it was to play with. Like the first time you had a go on a nintendo Wii, or even the first time you picked up an iphone, I remember a friend telling me his thoughts the first time he played with an iphone, "it's like using a phone from the future" WP7 really has that kind of feel. It got me to thinking about apple's iOS. Although it has a fairly new name, enhancements aside (backgrounder, clipboard, spotlight search, folders) it is starting to get a little long in the tooth. The first iphone was announced back in January of 2007 making iOS itself over 4 years of age, as far as phones go, that is very old!

On the WP7 the setup was enjoyable to roll through, it was easy and the way that it integrates with windows live (and even facebook) to pull all your contacts and info is seamless, its quite a powerful and useful feature. what I probably found the most useful about it was the way you can personalize it to suit you, the live tiles that can be pulled to the front page to make the phone look and function the way that you would like it to is something that the iphone really does not do very well. (and this is right out of the box, not post jailbreaking/hacking).

So you're probably sitting there, reading this and wonder why I haven't run out and got one for myself straight away, with such a glowing review wouldn't I be mad not to? Well, it's like the great man himself, Steve Jobs said during the keynote which launched the Ipad2, it's all about the apps. Apple has done an amazing job at getting a foothold into the app market and I personally believe apps are more important than the mobile phones themselves. Over the years that I have had an iphone i'veiphone / ipad, you can no longer use those apps. This is a fairly big obstacle towards moving away from an iDevice, apple knows this and they love it!

This isn't even taking into account the fact that both the android and (especially) the Microsoft app marketplace is way behind in terms of content. Even if people are in a situation where they are happy to re-spend the money on apps once making a move to a WP7, it's not like they are going to be able to buy all those apps/games again. I made a list of the top 10 apps I use and tried to find something in the Microsoft marketplace that could be a substitute, I was only able to replace one. The most recent numbers I could turn up were that the android marketplace had around 170,000 official apps and the windows phone marketplace under 15,000. In comparison, as of January 2011 the apple app store had over 350,000.

What does this mean for someone wanting to get a new phone? I think the WP7 is a great option for someone about to make the jump into the smartphone market for ths first time. Seriously though, how many of them are left? I guess for someone who doesn't really care a lot about apps and just wnats to make calls, check email and surf the web then it's a great option. Unfortunately, for me (at least for now) this rules out a WP7 handset as a competitor for my money, at least we are seeing a lot of the popular apps/games migrate from the apple store to the android marketplace but for the WP Marketplace this has yet to become a reality. It's a shame really.

I think that Microsoft is finding itself in the exact place apple did back in the 1980's, with a better product but much less of the market share. Like that famous scene towards the end of the 1999 film 'The Pirates of Silicon Valley'* where Steve Jobs looking confused over Microsoft's success said to Bill Gates "We're better than you are, we have better stuff" to Bill Gates' response of "You don't get it Steve, That doesn't matter". All that happened in that scenario was, Microsoft beat Apple to punch, well in this situation it is exactly the other way around. Sure, I believe WP7 can peg its way back slowly over time with what I believe to be a better product but it will be a long road, and they will never have a majority share, just like apple and the Mac.

I know a lot of readers of this blog don't come here for the tech talk so sorry for getting my geek on :)

Cheers, The ITG.

*The Pirates of Silicon Valley was a TV movie that centred around Bill Gates and Steve Jobs (and the birth of both of their companies). It's really a brilliant insight into some of the goings on at the time both Microsoft and Apple were formed, and how they came to be the institutions they are today. I highly recommend you check it out! I believe you can see it all on youtube.

Monday, March 7, 2011

South African techfast

I had originally planned on doing regular blog posts from South Africa but apart from the first few days in Johannesburg and then the odd half hour here or there I've had a bit of a techfast forced on me. Being an IT guy away from the Internet is hard work, my partner has turned to me a few times and said "you're really struggling aren't you" ... I didn't realise it was that obvious!

I am currently staying with one of my partners aunties in Durban and when I came up the stairs last night you could imagine my joy when I saw a wireless router sitting on the table near the phone. I knew I couldn't ask for the wireless key straight away as I had just met the uncle for the first time and hadn't seen the auntie in years so we had to do the pleasantries, we ate, we drank then they explained they'd just yesterday had a death in the family and had to go out for a couple of hours to spend some time with grieving loved ones, most unfortunate indeed but I thought I could try to use this to my advantage!

I asked the uncle for his wireless key, he looked at me like I was speaking Chinese, he said we don't use wireless here (spewbuckets), I asked him if he had a computer I could use, and he explained yes but it isn't working (spewbuckets part two), I asked if I could plug in my laptop to the cord where the computer normally plugged in to, which I was interested to see as it was no where near the router, which they apparently didn't use wireless on. He took me there and it was indeed connected via a wireless network, also the computer appeared to be operating fine. On further questioning he explained to me that I could use the internet ok but his outlook was broken so i wouldn't be able to send any mails ... this guy really had no idea ;)

Not only did I fix his outlook, but used the routers default password to log in and improve his wireless network, at the same time getting the wifi key so I am happily sitting on my bed right now writing this on my laptop (and not a computer downstairs with a keyboard where neither the x or ? keys work, how do people live like this!)

I told him that he would need to buy a new keyboard, as he thought it was the computer that was causing those two key's to not work, and put a shortcut to 'on screen keyboard' on his desktop to tide him over until then.

so, the ITG breaths a sigh of relief ... sweet, albeit slow, interwebs ... how freaking good!

Also, I woke up this morning to see a monkey looking at me through the bedroom window, he had as much of a "what are you doing there" look on his face as I did, this place keeps on surprising me. I wasn't quick enough to get a pic of him but I have since been told that this is common place in Durban so I will attempt to get one over the next couple of days. I do have lots of great pics from the trip and plan to share some with you all when I get a chance to sit down and sift through them at home.

Hope all is well with all my readers and my heart goes out to all those suffering the after affects of the devastating quakes and subsequent tremors in New Zealand, according to my stats page quite a few of my frequent visitors are from there, including the good 'doc' so I hope all is well with you guys, my thoughts have been with you.

Lots more South African stories to follow, back home on the weekend and looking forward to writing some stuff down after reflecting on the trip.

Cheers, The ITG

p.s. just yesterday my blog quietly slipped past 2000 page views, wow .. I didn't expect that to happen in the first couple of years let alone the first 6 months. I've been interested to see the breakdown of stats by country / operating system / browser and plan to put together a post on it some time, hopefully you'll find it as interesting as me :)

UPDATE: my partners tech savy uncle asked us last night if we were on facebook. He explained he had just managed to work out how to set up an account (like he had just scaled Everest.) That right there is the exact reason i'm not! I could see the look on my missus' face when she begrudgingly admitted "yes, yes I am"

Monday, February 28, 2011

south africa

Hi All,

sorry for my lack of communication of late, I'm on the other side of the world holidaying. I've seen lots of interesting stuff and have lots to talk about so will be sure to put together a post or two about this trip when i get back home....

Just wanted to let everyone know I'm still alive!

Cheers, The ITG

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Would you like some privacy with that?

One of the first posts I wrote on this blog was "Can you trust your IT guy (or gal)? " and I guess this is a bit of a follow up / throw back to that.

On our mail server, we have a basic transport rule set up to stop people swearing in emails, it blocks emails that contain certain words, and there are only a few choice words in the list these days. Most regularly it catches an email between mates where someone calls the other one a fuckhead, or something similar, occasionally you get some pearlers in there where a couple are having a domestic over email and it makes for great reading over a lunchtime sub. I do however have the word 'penis' in the list, its a throwback to the days before we had a proper 3rd party spam solution implemented and we used to get thousands of emails a week about penis enlargement. I just never thought to take it out once it stopped catching spam.

Basically, this rule has two functions:

  1. If the email (incoming our outgoing) contains a word in the list, either in the subject or body. It will make a copy of it into a specific email inbox, which is only viewable to the IT team.
  2. It will then send an NDR to the person who sent the email. The intended recipient does not get notified that the email was ever sent. NDR stands for Non-Delivery Report (or Non-Delivery Receipt) ... these are those lovely emails you get occasionally - that users refuse to read properly - telling you that your email hasn't been delivered.
Today I opened the spam inbox as I occasionally do to see an email in there from an online auction site. I instantly assumed this was a spam email but upon closer inspection it appeared I was wrong. Someone who works for us (a manager, relatively high up I might add) had used his work email address as his contact on this site and after making a purchase it emailed him an alert he had won the item.


The beauty of it is, he will never know that the email was caught, he'll just realise that he never got the alerts.

This goes back to my #1 tip from "Can you trust your IT guy (or gal)? " which was:

     "... Use your gmail/yahoo/hotmail email address for your personal emails. ... "

To add to this, it should be noted that #5 was:

     " ... Don't piss off your IT guy ... "

The fact is, this particular person has been a bit of a thorn in the IT departments side, requesting things which aren't viable and after being told 'no' has gone over our heads to kick up a fuss, which has made things very difficult for the team. I had a conversation with him once explaining all the reasons why the thing he was requesting wasn't financially viable, and in the end if we were to implement it, we would just spend a lot of money to implement a process that would not be used. In the end he got his way, wasted our time, and spent quite a bit of money, all on something that has now been shelved ... bell end.

If he hadn't broken rule #5, had he been a top bloke that the team loved, I most probably would have deleted this email the second I saw it, unfortunately for him this wasn't the case. Its still sitting there in the spam inbox, for the other IT guys and girls to see, which I made sure they did.

I know I'm an asshole, we've been over this before, but at least I'm an asshole having fun.

Cheers, The ITG.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Occupied ... for as long as it takes me to finish this post.

I'm going to expose something about the ITG here today, I nearly always use my computer when I'm sitting on the toilet. In fact I'm typing this post right now whilst seated at the throne. In the past I've told people that I was chatting to (when in front of my computer I'm normally involved in any number of IRC/skype/messenger chats) that I was sitting on the toilet and it seems to really freak people out, I just can't see why.

A lot of people like to make use of the time they spend on the toilet, that's why you'll normally see a stack of magazines or a few books sitting next to the bowl, I think I've just taken it one step further and I really don't see the problem with it. I must admit I've been known to take a phone call while doing my business and occasionally been called on it. I completely understand someone not wanting to know what you're doing through way of hearing sound effects but if I'm typing at my desk, or typing on the lounge, or typing on the toilet, as far as the recipient of the message is concerned ... I fail to see the difference.

These days I'm lost if I find myself in the bathroom without at least my phone, to try the latest app, or read up on the most up to date news, or in the very least; read some useless fact someone has tweated about how their pizza is too cold (or too hot, or some other rubbish). I've mentioned in this blog before that I often work from home (I normally take a day a week) and it's not unusual for me to be fixing someone's computer or managing some users permissions whilst in the smallest room in my house.

Having a young family I find that the bathroom happens to be one of the very few places in my house where I can get some peace and quiet, if it wasn't for wireless networking I could probably make do with a hole in the ground like they do in China or India, in and out, don't waste any of my precious time! Fortunately for me that's not the way it is where I live. I like to have a good long sit, a good long think and get some stuff done.

Does anyone else out there agree with me, or am I freaking you all out?

I best get back out there, so much stuff to do. Pity I can't put a toilet in every room in my house!

Cheers, The ITG

Monday, January 17, 2011

Oblivious to the paradox of their uniform individuality

Someone told me that I often come across angry in this blog, I don't really see myself as an angry person but reading back through the posts I see where they are coming from. As to not break tradition I bring you The ITG's cynical thoughts about 'the youth of today' ... enjoy!

This morning I had the unfortunate, and thankfully rare, experience of travelling to work via public transport. At one of the stops a group of young people (I guess there would still be many out there who would look at my as a 'young person' but I certainly don't see myself that way anymore) got on an already overcrowded carriage and started doing what young people do... be annoying.

I couldn't help but notice them, I'm sure that was their intention, but one thing that struck me very quickly was they all looked the same. All the girls were in similar clothes, as were the boys. They had similar haircuts and accessories and sure as hell all had the same phone as they looked down at them constantly. I wondered at one stage if they were messaging each other.

I've been watching the TV show 'Mad Men' of late (which for those of you that don't know is about the people who work in an advertising agency in the 1960's) and I saw an episode the other day when a young person was talking about the sentiments of their generation. He said something along the lines of "we don't want to be told what to do, we want to experience things ourselves". I don't think the group of people I saw this morning could be any further from that sentiment. They had been told what clothes to wear, what shoes to buy, what phone to use and how to cut their hair.. maybe not directly but each bloody one of them was trying to portray how individual they were by looking and acting exactly like the person the person next to them. At first I thought of the film clip for Pink Floyd's 'The Wall' with row after row of faceless identical figures but then my mind wandered to Nathan Barley.

For those of you have haven't seen it, Nathan Barley is a TV show by Chris Morris and Charlie Brooker which originally aired in 2005, I guess if you had to label it somehow you'd have to say it was a sitcom. It's a comedy full of social commentary, I think its hilarious and one of my favourite shows of all time. Nathan Barley stars Julian Barrett (of Mighty Boosh fame). Barrett plays 'Dan Ashcroft' a cynical journalist who at times I can really relate to. In the first episode of Nathan Barley, Ashcroft's article 'the rise of the idiots' is read over the top of images which could have quite easily been replaced with the ones I saw this morning.

     "The idiots are self regarding consumer slaves, oblivious to the paradox of their uniform individuality. They sculpt their hair to casual perfection, they wear their waistbands below their balls. They babble into handheld twit machines about that cool email of  that woman being bombed by a wolf. Their cool friend made it, he's an idiot too. Welcome to the age of stupidity, hail the rise of the idiots"

If I didn't know any better I could have sworn that Morris/Brooker (which ever one of them wrote 'the rise of the idiots') was sitting there with me and had written it about this bunch. 

I guess at this point of the post I feel like I should be offering some advice, or some way of fixing this problem, a solution as seen through the eyes of the ITG, but to be completely honest I think all these people need to do is grow up. Grow up the same way I did, hopefully they can hold off longer than me!!

If anyone out there has a solution or just some thoughts feel free to let me know.

Cheers, The ITG.

p.s. welcome home doc!!!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Welcome 2011! NEWSFLASH:The users are still annoying

Well here we are, ringing in 2011 with a bang. If the Mayans are to be believed this will be the last happy year we all have on earth. Just in case they are correct I'm going to party like its 1999, will you join me?

Having almost completely healed from the fire incident in early December I'd like to start off this year on a positive note... but I wont. If you'll allow me to continue my blogging at the start of 2011 with bitching about the end of 2010 then we can get right in to it!

In between Christmas and New years our offices were opened (in a reduced capacity) for 2 days, Wednesday the 29th and Thursday the 30th but closed weekends and public holidays. I'd say only about 20% of the company was working with many of the smaller sites closed so I wasn't expecting things to be crazy, having said that I was the only IT staff member working for those two days. In that time we received around 25 requests, which is quite a lot comparatively when you consider how many people were working. Of these 2 dozen or so there were 2 standouts, two idiots that I feel I should, nay must, share with you.

Firstly you need to understand how annoyed I was on the morning of Wednesday the 29th. I was on a post Christmas break high and feeling great when I woke up and rode my bike into work, I hardly saw any traffic and, without speeding, it took me 11 minutes from sitting on my bike at home to getting off at my office. I'm pretty sure this is a new record for me (without speeding). I love working this time of year, most people will say "oh that sucks you have to work through Christmas and New Years", my response is normally something along the lines of "well, I have no issues getting to work, no traffic, less people, less work, cruisy days and then I get to take my holidays when everyone else is slaving away in a sucky part of the year." It's brilliant!

Back to the morning of the 29th. I got to the office a touch late, pulled my phone out of my pocket and noticed 6 missed calls, all from different people. All of these people had IT issues, all of these people know the online form process, all of them decided to ignore it. We had gotten off on the wrong foot. Without returning anyones call I sent out an 'ALL STAFF' email explaining that IT support was working as per normal and that if people had issues they needed to lodge an online form. I went on to say (as I normally do) that the only situation in which someone needs to contact IT directly is if no one in the office has access to our intranet.

Not long after that the forms started rolling in, everyone who had called me lodged a form except for one, a member of the finance department.

Idiot number 1:
Immediately after reading my mail she called me again and the conversation went something like this:

     "I just got your email, thank goodness you're there, we've got an issue...."

     "sorry to cut you off, you'll notice in my email that you are required to lodge an IT form for assistance, I'm happy to help you but I'm already in another call, can you please fill out a form and I'll get back to you asap"

     "This is so complicated, I don't even know how we would put it in a form"

     "That's OK, just put down whatever you can and I'll call you if I require any more info, thanks.. bye"

I was annoyed but very polite. Annoyed would describe how I felt before I got the form, raging was how I felt afterwards... below is a direct copy of what was in the form (name removed of course):

"One of the Temps we have in the office cannot log into the network.  She has been using [users] computer and password, and this needs to be re-set on computer [computer name]."

WHAT IS SO FUCKING COMPLICATED ABOUT THAT!?!?! (i use !?!?! for a lack of an Interrobang in this font)

Idiot number 2:
The second idiot shows just how clueless (and apathetic) some people can be. He did the right thing and filled out a form explaining he was moving desks and wanted his phone extension changed from his old to new desk. When I went over there to check what ports they were I noticed a pop up on his screen:

"Your virus definitions are more than 30 days out of date"

We have our computers setup to download virus updates from an internal server automatically, clearly for this PC it had broken. I asked him:

     "How long has this been popping up on your screen"

     "oh, most times I log on for the last few months"

     "Did you not think it was something worth telling IT about?"

     "Nah, all you have to do is click 'OK' and it goes away"

Well played my friend, well played indeed. Then they bitch and moan when their computers are infected with viruses.

I must admit the first week back for 2011 has been nothing but a pleasure, we've had great weather (unlike some other parts of the world) and I've been very productive, crossing most things off my 'to do' list (including my first post for 2011). For those of you that got one I hope you had, or are having, a nice break. Happy New Year!

The ITG.