Ted’s big speech


Hi. My name is Ted. And I’m your speaker tonight.

I’m the IT guy at my company. I’m here today to tell you what it’s like to work in the High Tech industry.

Scott McAdams couldn’t make it. He’s the guy who was supposed to be here tonight. His computer bit him and he had to get shots. Nice computer!

Scott works for the same company as I do. He’s one of our developers. That means he works with photographs a lot. When I first met him, I asked him “Where’s the darkroom?”

He hesitated for a second, then he said, “No, I’m a software developer.”

So I asked him the obvious question, “So did you expose your software here at work or someplace else?”

When I regained consciousness, I decided that must be one of those taboo questions, like:

  • How old are you?
  • Why do you have parsley in your teeth?
  • Is that your mother?
  • Is that the same clothing-optional photography site you were looking at yesterday?
  • Why is your purse so heavy, sir?

Anyway, Scott gave me a new job title the other day. He called me a “Cow lurker”. That’s how I usually get a new job title. Someone calls me something, and then they put it on my business card. They used to call me a “Decertified Systems”. They tell me I’m unique. The only person to have his MCS taken away by Microsoft. You never heard of an MCS? They used to call it an MCSE, Microsoft Certifiable Systems Engineer, until the Civil Engineers took the ‘E’ away. I thought only Sesame Street could take a letter away.

So now you can call a person a “Microsoft Certifiable Systems”. It sounds a little odd to me. If you are an MCS, you are now plural, and made of silicon, unless you’re a Geranium-based computer in which case you are made of flowers.

So I asked Scott “What’s a Cow lurker”? He told me it’s someone who isn’t a member of DNRC. So I said, the government is a big employer in Ottawa, but not so big that we have to give one special job title to everyone who isn’t part of the Dominion National Research Consultants.

It turns out Scott is the most accident-prone person in our company. You can tell because he is the only person without any Windows on his computer. And he has only one computer, anymore. His other computer went up in smoke. I always said that SPARC computers were a fire hazard.

Except for Scott, all the other people in R&D have at least two computers, except for the two guys who just have a laptop. They’re sort of fly by night R&D guys anyway. That’s because the company can’t afford daytime flights.

Enough about Scott, I’m here to talk about work and computers. I’m the only person in the company who can’t play Solitaire on my own computer. That’s because I only have server computers, and server computers don’t have GAPS: Graphical Access for Playing Solitaire.

Some people call it a Graphical User Interface – a GUI, but GUI makes the computer sound all slimy. And I like computers. I don’t think they’re slimy. That’s probably why they let me play with them all day. Most of the other people in the company get into trouble with their computers. You’d be surprised how many computers won’t let you play with them if you keep calling them GUI.

For example, yesterday, one of the marketing guys asked me for help. He couldn’t log in to his “GUI”. I went to check, and the problem was simple. His computer had turned CAPSLock on, so his password wouldn’t work.

Computers like practical jokes. On laptops, where the numeric keypad is part of the regular keyboard, they sometimes turn on NUMLock, just for a change.

For some reason, they don’t play as many practical jokes on Developers. Maybe they’re afraid of the darkroom! But when they do play jokes on developers, they play rough. A broken hard drive, a sticky key on a keyboard. They usually get a day or two off work at the repair depot.

When you provide computer support, one of the hardest things to deal with is a ticklish computer. You never heard of a ticklish computer? Then you probably never heard of one that was allergic to mouse clicks. In bad cases, the computer goes into anti-philatelic shock. Interpreted literally, using the Hungarian naming convention, that means it doesn’t want you to stamp it.

When you click a mouse once too many times on a computer with mouse click allergy, the GAPS might go into cardiac arrest – either it freezes your program or removes it from the screen, or sometimes, the entire GAPS dies and leaves you with a text screen and a ‘C’ prompt.

When this happens, you must apply electrical shock therapy immediately. Press the reset button!

Now, some computers don’t feel a thing when you press the keys on the keyboard, even if you hit the ‘ANY’ key really hard. But if the computer can’t feel your typing, nothing happens. If this happens to your computer, the first thing to do is:

  • Plug the keyboard back in.
  • Check the power is on to the computer.
  • Wait for the computer to finish rebooting.
  • Make sure your program is running and on top.
  • Get back to the computer with your fresh coffee before the boss finds out your computer isn’t working.

Most computers respond to the typing they feel by translating it into letters and commands. But sometimes a computer is ticklish. You press ‘E’, and Microsoft Explorer pops up. You try to type “ha”, and a window pops up saying “About Windows”. You press ‘C’, and a calculator pops up. You press ‘M’ and all the windows on the screen turn into icons.

So if you were typing “Happy Christmas”, when you get finally get your MS Word window back open, it says”ppy hrist”. There’s nothing you can do about a ticklish computer, except log off and reboot.

If the allergies or tickles come back, sadly, you may have to kill your computer, by reformatting your hard drive. Then put its software back on and hope it’s reborn with a more stable personality.

Working in the High Tech industry can be fun. Just remember:

  • Don’t call your computer a GUI.
  • Watch out for those practical jokes!
  • Beware of ticklish or allergic computers.

And never ask a developer if they have exposed their software!

Take (version) control of your network systems

Do you use a tool to record the current settings of your network devices, and compare them to older states?
Apparently RANCID does this.
My fave IT guy didn’t know about this. I assume there are similar tools that are newer, RANCID has been around for a while.

If not now, when? (Seth)

Seth Godin said “It really is up to us. Which is great, because we’re capable of changing everything if we choose.”

I agree.

Just one thing I want to add.

That is, “choose” :

  1. Pick one now, that you are not already doing.
  2. Do that for a week. You will start to feel better.
  3. Now look at the list again:
    1. Which one makes the most sense for the rest of this year?
    2. Is there a better one for you, for this year, that is not on this list? Or is it already on the list?
    3. Do that one.

It’s when we choose, when we become consistent, when we make a change permanent, that we change ourselves, and we change the world.

6 Tips for Improving Apache Ant

I have worked with Apache Ant for years. I keep running into its limitations, probably because I have never used it to compile Java! On the plus side, it has some of the trappings of a functional language: Continue reading

First steps with Docker and Company

I haven’t played with the whole cloud thing yet.
It’s about time.

I started by downloading a Docker container that contains a system that I also needed to know about. Continue reading

Should your software build role be a separate person?

Are you asking your software developers, or maybe your testing team, to take on the build role as well?

Lots of companies use their software developers to do all the support work for their software team. This approach works for a small team, especially when you are in a pre-release stage for your software. However, as the team gets bigger, you should consider getting a dedicated build person. How big? I think you should start asking questions if you have than more than 5 software developers.

Here are some questions to consider asking: Continue reading

You need to post how many Tweets per day?

For marketing, you may have been told that you have to send out some number of tweets per day.
Why? Continue reading