Tuesday, August 24, 2004

6-figures, here I come, baby

I'm coming to get ya! *bum bum beyowh bum bum beyowh* Foxy Lady!

Jimi Hendrix rocks.

Anyway, I can't wait for my stuff to get here. You see, I've ordered some books, and a laptop. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

A few weeks ago, I overheard Ben talking to Marisa (the assistant Dean) about a new position. It would be for a Mac tech, although preferably the person hired would be proficient with PCs as well. This was my chance.

About a week passed, and the opportunity arose. Ben was telling me about the position. We need a Mac expert (which I'm pretty damn far from, as of this writing), as about 10% of the University uses Macs. The position would be 9 months out of 12 (summers off) and be re-evaluated every year. Ben mentioned that the only reason the Provost was persuaded into providing the money for this position was because we have no one who can support Macs.

At this point, I said something like, "He couldn't be persuaded to pay for another PC person, huh?" To which Ben replied that if that was the case, he would have just hired me. Excellent. I had suspected that, but here was proof.

So anyway, I went on to say that it would be too late for this year, but perhaps I could do my Mac homework, and be able to take on that duty next year. Ben said that was a great idea.

So I bought a book called "Switching to Mac," since it's specifically geared towards PC users who want to learn Macs. I also bought an iBook for which to hone my craft.

But that's not all. I've been talking to Josh about certifications, and we both want to get certified. He holds an A+ (which covers basic hardware and tech support), but I've got enough experience that it would basically be a waste of time and money for me to go for. He suggested I get a Network+ (all about networking), and that we both get our MCSE (Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer) in Windows XP. Starting pay for holders of that particular certification is 40-50k. Experienced MCSEs haul in 6-figures.

Needless to say, I ordered some cram manuals for those exams. I'm gonna study my ass off, because when I get certified, it's on.

EDIT (10/10/2005): Or not. I've since decided that PC/Mac support just isn't for me. It was fun while I was doing it, and I learned a lot I wouldn't have on my own, but I'm an economist, with a degree in economics and a minor in business. I simply don't have the qualifications to do high-level tech support, and don't really want to.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Where's my shotgun?

Because I need to blow some people away. Grab a sandwich, something to drink, and sit down. Here's a little story.

I come into work on Monday morning, and Ben tells me that OIT (the other IT department on campus) is looking for some help with the student check-in this semester. Apparently, they want to make sure that student's computers have virus protection and the latest security updates before they plug them into the network. Makes sense. So I send the coordinator lady an e-mail expressing my interest. She e-mails me back ten minutes later and says I need to come to a training session either Wed or Thurs. I reply, saying I'll come to the Thurs session. All this occured before lunchtime on Monday.

Fast forward to today, 1:55 pm. I show up at OIT, ready for the training that's supposed to take place from 2-4. They're not ready. 10 minutes later, I get called in. I walk into the conference room, and I swear I've stepped into the wrong room. There's no one there (besides me) that doesn't work at OIT. I hesitantly take a seat, and wait for some clarification that this is, in fact, the wrong room. It turns out that I'm in the right place afterall. They hand out a step by step "training manual" and then commence with a 45 minute spiel on how to install and update McAfee VirusScan, go to the Windows Update site and download critical updates, and set up Wireless Networking. All of which I already know how to do.

Here's the sad part: the other folks didn't. A few of them did (those heading the presentation), but the others were completely clueless, based on their questions. Just to clarify, these people work in IT. They use/troubleshoot/support computers every day. It's their fucking job.

Which begs the question: Why are the regular employees wasting their time to do this check-in? If they had put out a listing asking for students, they would have gotten plenty of replies. Hell, students already know how to install programs and run Windows update, they wouldn't have had to waste the time and money to hold not one, but two 2-hour training sessions and print up 2-3 dozen manuals. That's the way OIT does things, though. Extremely inefficiently.

So after that guy gets done blathering, another lady steps up to talk about HEAT. HEAT is a program that OIT has a hard-on for. We use it at COP IT only because OIT does. Basically, it's a program that we can record trouble calls in, mainly so there's a record of the work we've done. Sometimes, when we can't complete a task (such as needing a network port activated) we assign the HEAT ticket to someone who can. It's actually a nice system, to keep track of what's been worked on where, and by whom. Extremely useful in certain situations.

OIT, on the other hand, uses HEAT for everything. Call them on the phone, it goes in HEAT. Send them an e-mail, it goes in HEAT. Ask them a question in person, it goes in HEAT. This bitch has to talk about how they've set up automated HEAT tickets for frequent issues. Including one for if a student asks directions. To a building. That's right, if someone wants to know where the Registrar's office is, they put it in HEAT. She goes on to explain that this is so they can generate reports on what the most prevalent problems are, so they can release training material and help users help themselves. Great idea on paper. OIT must have burned that paper and pissed on the ashes, though, cause it doesn't work that way.

Ben informed me that after OIT had rolled out HEAT, they told him about the reporting capability. He goes, "Great, can you send me a report on this and this and this?" And they go, "Uh, well, we have to send someone for training on that." So they send the guy to get trained, and he comes back and makes the report. Ben gets it, and it looks real nice, but contains no useful information whatsoever. Great job, OIT.

So anyway, I've just spent an hour and a half sitting in a conference room, learning absolutely nothing. "Ok, that's it, we're done." So I go to leave, walking back down the hallway I came from initially. I start to turn into a doorway that I thought was the way to the exit. I quickly realize that it's some guy's empty office, do a 90 degree spin, and continue back down the hallway. A split fucking second after I took my one and only step into the office, I hear a voice from behind me down the hall, "Whoa, not that way."

I ignored the prick, but I was extremely pissed. See, even though OIT does exactly jack and shit, and their employees are just this side of brain-damaged chimps, they got a brand spanking new building last year. Inside and out renovation and expansion. I really wanted to whip around and say, "Well, if you fucks had a building the size of your IQs I wouldn't have gotten lost, now would I?" but I just wanted to get out of there.

So I'm walking over to the COP IT office, fuming, and I flip open the manual to the page that lists the schedule for the check-in weekend. It says who's supposed to be where, and when. There's just one problem: I'm not on it. Remember when I said that I got in touch with the coordinator on Monday? They held a training session on Wednesday. The manuals they handed out then had mistakes, so they reprinted them for today. I was informed today, Thursday, that they still had mistakes, and would have to be reprinted a second time. So, they had 3 days and a reprint in order to put me on the schedule, and they couldn't get it done. At this point, I wasn't surprised.

I had always suspected that this was the way OIT operated. The reason all their employees are always so busy isn't because they're actually solving problems, it's because they're organizing/attending fucking meetings and committees! No one knows what anyone else is doing at any given time, and they don't care. What's worse is that they don't even try and get better. If they run into something they can't handle, they call someone else. There's no communication, so that guy has to try a bunch of shit the other guy already did, and if he does manage to fix it, neither one of them has learned anything. In fact, they actually get dumber, because as they increase their "specialty" knowledge, they forget everything else that actually makes them a useful team member.

You know what I say? I say give us OIT's budget, and their building. We get to choose who gets hired (competent professionals), who gets fired (all the fucking morons that work there now), and what projects to tackle. Then, the faculty and staff fills out a survey six months in. If at least 50% think it's better than before, we get to stay in control. If not, things go back to the way they were like it never happened. Except that as the employees of OIT were fired, they were lined up against and wall and executed, that is.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Possessing a PhD doesn't make you smart

You might know a lot about whatever subject you completed your doctorate in, but just because you have a PhD doesn't mean you're necessarily intelligent.

Case in point. Today, I had no less than four professors come in demanding (well, not really, they asked politely, but they were rather urgent) that I do/fix/install something or other. The semester starts in 2 and a half weeks. I can handle those requests, and get them up and running in no more than 2 days. This is just the tip of the iceberg, however.

In an ideal world, these professors (and the myriad others to come) should have periodically dropped in during the summer to catch up with goings on, and make sure nothing had changed drastically that would shoot their careful planning all to hell. Now, for the profs I helped today, they're fine and dandy. But what about the folks who show up the day before classes start (or even the same day) and realize they need a program installed, their computer needs to be hooked up, their profile needs to be copied over, and/or their OS needs to be updated? Well, they're simply shit out of luck.

You might think I'm being harsh. Surely, I can help these poor, untimely professors. Oh, I can help some of them. But when a dozen professors are requesting all of the services I mentioned and need it done in a day, that's just plain fucking impossible.

The worst part is that they never get it. It can happen to them once and they'll still do the same thing the very next year and every year after that. Hey Pavlov, your dogs are misbehaving. Why do they do this? Is it chronic procrastination, or just plain stupidity? Hell if I know. But I do foresee quite a bit of overtime pay in the next few weeks.

Monday, August 02, 2004

How does an Average Joe cope?

What do they do when something goes wrong with their computer? Do they buy a new one? Or take it in to a store/tech place that overcharges them for a bunch of problems that they didn't have? Or does everyone have a resident computer tech in the family that they call to help out?

The reason I'm wondering about this is that I recently replaced my video card. It's actually a downgrade, but only a slight one (Radeon 9800 Pro to 9700 Pro). The only thing is, once I swapped the card, my computer refused to boot. It would get to the POST screen, and then freeze.

"What the hell?" I was heard to remark. Maybe the CMOS needs to be reset. I've got onboard video and onboard sound on my mother board (and a video card and sound card plugged in), so maybe my computer thought both video cards were present, or something. I flip the jumper to reset the CMOS, and turn my computer on. It goes to the POST screen, and I press Delete to get into the Setup. I arrow down to disable the onboard video, and my computer freezes. In the CMOS Setup. No, I'm not kidding.

"What the fuck?" my remark is now upgraded to. Let's try the other video card, maybe it just doesn't like this new one. I swap it, reset the CMOS, and boot back up. I go into the Setup, same result, frozen computer.

Now I'm getting pissed. I try another, much older video card. Freezes in the Setup. I go back to the 9700. I tear my computer apart, unplugging everything except the processor, and then plugging it back in. Resest the CMOS again, and boot up. I get into the Setup, disable the onboard video and sound, and save. It reboots, and goes into Windows. I dance a jig. I then turn it off.

Later that night, I surf the web, listen to some music. This goes on for about a half hour, and I get a Blue Screen of Death. Some cryptic error message about IRQL NOT LESS OR EQUAL. I've seen this before, and researched it. Basically, it can be caused by a hundred different things. Chances are, though, if you're changed something recently, that's the problem. So my video card is conflicting with something else. I reboot, and download new drivers. Other than making my computer slow as molasses (why the hell can't ATI test their new drivers before releasing them? But that's a whole other rant), I still get a BSOD ten minutes later. It's late, so I power off my computer in anger and decide to work on it the next day.

I power it up first thing the next morning, and it doesn't boot. No beeps, no monitor turn on, it just sat there, whirring its fans. Hit the reset button, no dice. "God fucking dammit." Reset the CMOS, reboot. POST screen, CMOS Setup, freeze. Power off, remove the video card and sound card, reset CMOS, power up. Boots into Windows. I stress test it, works fine. I continue to use it for almost 2 hours, no problems whatsoever. At this point I'm thinking something's screwy with my AGP slot or something, and have resigned to return my case/motherboard for replacement.

Today, I talked to Ben (my boss at COP IT) about the problems I was having. He said I should try flashing the BIOS. Duh, why didn't I think of that. So that's what I did tonight, reset the CMOS, disabled the onboard sound and video, and plugged my cards back in. I've been running for 45 minutes, no problems. I'll have to buy Ben lunch tomorrow.