August 24, 2005

What's Lamer? Tech Edition

I’ve been heavy into work lately, although Maggie and I took a break last night to see 40 Year-Old Virgin last night with Steve Carrel and a number of other talented comic actors. The verdict on that is that it is 2 hours of rude, silly fun. Very inappropriate humor, and surprisingly even better than Wedding Crashers in my book. Ebert was right when he said “the more you think about it, the better The 40-Year-Old Virgin gets.” I have not had time to write a decent review, so I refer you to him.

This post is not exactly about work, but about something I have to put up with in my work environment. Lame situations, to put it mildly. And by “lame” I mean “having an effect on how professional we can present ourselves.” And by “what’s lamer” I mean this as a gripe post, rather than an honest attempt at taking a poll.

Lame situation #1: Our outgoing mail server here appears to be filtering outgoing messages that have “zip archive” attachments. It appears that 2 “zip” attachments automatically causes your message to be routed away from its intended recipient and into some invisible black hole from which no news or notification ever emerges.

This is really a convenient security feature when you’re trying to send code samples and such to industry partners during a meeting and time is of the essence. You are never notified that your message has been hijacked. You’re left to look at your coworkers and shrug as the people on the other end of the phone line wonder why you can’t even get an email sent. Or, you lose a week because a critical email didn’t make it to a recipient and you never got a notification that the message was eaten by the system because it was a suspected terrorist.

Lame Situation #2: A while back, I convinced my boss that it was time for him to move all his files to his new Powerbook and let his old laptop go. And I would help him with the process if he would let me use the old laptop for building the Mac-compatible version of our software. He did, and I suddenly had access to a laptop! Hooray!

Unfortunately, the laptop was buggy from day 1. Not the least of its problems were some really bright lines in the middle of the display which seemed to be caused by flexing of the screen which, through heavy use and traveling, had bent. I decided that the repair folks here at the university ought to take a look at it.

After weeks of having it in the shop, and ignoring the messages I left asking for a callback on the status of the machine. I decided I was going to have to investigat in person. When I got to the repair office, there were no fulltime people there. They’d left a student to deal with me.

He told me that they couldn’t fix the computer. I found it interesting that nobody could tell me that (they have my email address and phone number) so that I could have picked it up a week before.

The kicker, though, was when I got the machine back. It had had the cover on the screen pried back like someone had used a crowbar to get into it. There had been a ham-handed attempt to bend it back into shape, and when they had made an attempt to screw the screen back onto the hinges, they pinched one of the cables.

Good work!

I used some shipping tape to keep the screen from popping apart (it did that a few times after I got it back to the office) and then the computer completely died a few months later.

So, if you’re feeling inadequate, here’s a quick way to feel better: read this post and think “well, I’ve never taken a crowbar to a PowerBook before!”

Posted by James at August 24, 2005 1:26 PM
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I hear similar stories from Melissa all the time. (She works for the state up here.) The root of the problem is that the IT (and repair) department do not view you as their customer and sole reason for existing. If it were a private business and they crapped on customers like that, you'd go someplace else, and eventually (and hopefully) they'd go out of business or change for the better. I don't know why the university/state doesn't hold them to the same level of accountability.

Posted by: Jim at August 25, 2005 9:49 AM

Ever deal with Human Resources? Or a Dean? Or, if you're a Dean, ever try to get to the Chancellor? I've heard of them ignoring trustees, congressmen, professors, and graduate students. I apologize to those who do excel at customer service. Everyone is your customer, deserving respect and honest attention, "skipper or wharf-rat."
For an institution of higher learning, U-Mass has got a lot of learning to do.

Posted by: ThirdMate at August 25, 2005 1:28 PM

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