Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Part 41: When Windows cripples other people

As I wallow in funemployment (Give me a job!) I sometimes find time to help out other people. For instance, a friend of mine works for a local non-profit. Now, before I go any further, let me take a quick second to rail against non-profit IT people. Non-profit IT people, as far as I can tell, really need to learn something about, uh, information technology. I'm sure that they are nice people, but if you manage an organization with satellite offices, you really should be able to set up a secure wireless router over the phone. It's not hard!

The second thing I am going to get out there before I start my story: buying PCs because they are cheaper is penny-wise and pound-foolish. The Times just wrote about how businesses are turning more to Apple products. The money quote:

Information technology departments, though, may find working with Apple a challenge. Historically among I.T. managers, Apple Macs were largely shunned as too expensive, and the company was viewed as not serious about making the computers blend well in corporate environments.
Basically double that for non-profits. For instance: I have a friend who works with GIS a lot, which pretty much only runs in a Windows environment. He had had enough trouble with PCs, and realized that the best computer was a graphics-laden MacBook Pro, running Boot Camp to run Windows. And he has not regretted it. I'm not sure how he got that through his IT department, but it just plain works.

Now let's get back to my friend. I went by her office to grab lunch, and she was complaining about how stressful it was to have a computer which wouldn't connect to wireless. I started troubleshooting. They'd done the obvious (restarting the router) but it was obviously her computer since it was occurring with multiple wireless networks and no other computers on these networks were compromised. The first thing I asked was for the password for their wireless. "Oh, we don't have one." Now, I doubt that was the reason her DNS lookup and wireless is all screwed up, but she said it was slow from time to time, and I went about logging in.

They'd basically plugged in a Linksys box and logged in, as did, apparently, everyone else in the neighborhood. The hardest part was figuring out which username and password combination to use; once I had I pretty quickly gave their network an appropriate name and WEP encryption (with the office phone number as the password, of course). Next it was time to see if the computer could be fixed. The long and short of it was that I couldn't figure out what was wrong. I didn't bug my dad, but there was obviously something non-trivial wrong with it. The connection would frequently cut out, especially when trying to send data (very weird). Basically, she needs to take the computer (brand new and very much still warranted) and get it fixed or replaced. With Apple, I assume even for enterprise a quick trip to the nearest Apple Store would have them fixing or replacing the machine. With Windows, she had to go through whatever IT distributor her organization uses, entailing a trip elsewhere or a wait for the mail (and I doubt they have overnight turnaround like Apple).

In any case, I asked how much productivity she thinks this cost her. "Oh, about a week." Eight hours a day, for five days? "Yup." I said that since she could still convolutedly send email (by writing it in Word and then doing something) she hadn't lost all productivity and she agreed. I said it was maybe half productivity. 20 hours. At $20 per hour (give or take, not counting the IT department's time on the phone). One random crash and she'd whittled away $400 of time, which could certainly have been used to buy a Mac which would probably be faster and last longer.

The upshot? It will probably be solved bluntly, with a full reinstall of the OS. My friend didn't have the ability to back up her data or the time to reinstall windows (i.e. the whole day). So, for now, she'll beg time off of people with desktops (she's on the road a lot) and lose more productivity with subpar equipment.

So, dear IT departments of the world: just because you don't know how to use a certain product doesn't mean your employees don't, either. Don't just buy the cheapest crap you can get your hands on. Invest in a quality product, and then you're job will be easier. And your employees more productive. And everyone wins.

Oh, and learn how to set up a goddamn wireless router., admin, admin …

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Not using Windows for a while = pure bliss

Pure bliss = $8/hour = a good way to go broke

About a year and a half ago, I quit my job. It wasn't a bad job, but I was ready to not work in an office, not use a computer which was supremely outdated* (yeah, non-profits) and not deal with Windows on a daily basis. I took off to work in the mountains (for the Appalachian Mountain Club) where the use of a computer required putting a laptop on a frame pack, hoping to not break it (best idea: surround it in a down comforter and shove the whole thing in a brew bucket), carry it several miles (say, 4 miles and 3500 feet) uphill and still have very little (if any) internet on the mountaintop. So, not a lot of screen time, and not a lot of fails.

Oh, yeah, and I have a Mac. This summer I treated myself to a new MacBook Air (it's dreamy, and weighs less than 3 pounds) and I even bought a new version of Office—Microsoft's most functional product (it's a low bar). Still, Office '11 works pretty well, is slightly more intuitive than old versions (again, a low bar) and has better cross-compatibility with Windows versions than previous. (Of course, one would think MSFT would be able to actually make them completely compatible. But, no!)

In any case, I'm out of the mountains now and looking for a job. Like, maybe, a "real" job, one where you sit at a desk and use computers. Even computers with Windows. I'm willing to do so, if for no other reason than that I am running out of fodder for this blog. Oh, and a paycheck. Benefits would be nice too. I picked the perfect economy for this, right?

So, you can find my CV on my personal website, check out my other websites (tsastatus.net, birkieguide.com) and if you have any ideas, email me at ari dot ofsevit at gmail.
You can even follow me at twitter.com/ofsevit.

Thanks! I hope I can find some broken Windows crap to blog about soon.

* Apparently, my replacement made it about a week before demanding a new computer—which I was about to do when I quit and figured it wouldn't be worth it to waste my breath. It got to the point of taking minutes to open Word. Of course, it was a 2003 machine in 2010.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Part 40a: when bloggers call me out

I saw that I had twelve followers. Weird. Someone must have mentioned me somewhere. Well, someone did. In this thread, someone calls me out for blaming a hardware problem on Windows. I'm way too lazy to sign up for that message board, but I will explain why this is, actually, a problem aided and abetted by Windows (or, at the very least, Microsoft):

  1. Windows allows shoddy hardware. Say what you want, but the only hardware which runs Mac OS is, drumroll, Apples. They can be made to run Windows, or whatever else, but Apple has a lot of control over which keys are placed where. And, no, there's no single key I have to hit to turn off wireless (actually, I have to use my mouse). So I never inadvertently turn it off.
  2. Windows does not ask me if I am sure I want to turn off wireless. This is a company who will, when you type "June …" ask if you are typing the current date, or when you type a letter will say "it looks like you are trying to …" (okay, lord be praised they killed Clippy, but still) But when a stray keystroke turns off one of the main features of my computer (since, you know, we live in the internet age), crickets.
  3. It's done in the background, or at least in the margins. There's nothing which comes up in the center of the screen and broadcasts what is going on. Hell, when I change the brightness or even the screen backlight brightness in OS X a transparent image pops up in the center of my screen for a second. The backlight keyboard! That didn't happen on this Dell, because it didn't have a backlight keyboard.
  4. The icon for wireless is decidedly tiny. And if it is off, it appears with an even tinier X through it. Perhaps Apple copyrighted their empty pie icon, but, come on, Windows. It looks like it's clip art from 2002, too.
  5. There's no way to disable the key. If there were, I wouldn't be writing this. Maybe I could have just, you know, pried it off the keyboard. "It looks like you are trying to disfigure your keyboard. Can I help?"
Just for fun, here's the unbelievably funny clip about Clippy from Wait Wait, don't tell me.

And, no, Mr. Thepcguy, I'm not a Stupid User.