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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

An interesting link

This is just me posting an interesting link:

It's short, I promise.

Friday, January 21, 2011

An Interesting Comedy of Errors

If one of the days this week had been a movie then the volume of freakish errors might have been funny... to anyone not in IT.

To me, who is not only in IT but also the person whom the errors occurred to, it was the farthest thing from funny.

For the sake of brevity I will minimize everything. I also hope my misfortune of the day in question brings some perspective on other things that may seem bad to both myself and others.
Also - I hope it amuses those who can find humor in it. I'm sure someday I will be able to find amusement in it.

The story begins with the knowledge that there is one, singular individual in my place of employment whom I cannot afford to have anything go wrong with their computer. My first interactions with this individual were hostile (from them) and they firmly believe that we're doing just about everything wrong in the technology department here. They don't do this job, but they think we're doing things wrong anyway.

A day earlier this week this user approached me because something was not working on their computer. As it was the end of the day I told them that I would happily fix the issue first thing in the morning the next time I was in their building.
The day of fixing arrived and I went to collect the computer but the user was in a meeting. I had to choose to interrupt the meeting or try to catch the user when the meeting was over. I chose to wait as it seemed the less potentially dangerous mistake to make.
I caught up with the user shortly after their meeting and collected the computer to work on it in the tech office.
I tried every trick I knew and I was unable to correct the problem at hand. This meant a re-image was necessary.
I backed up the user's data using a THOROUGHLY tested and valid backup procedure. Then, before kicking off the imaging process I tested to make sure that the backup had worked correctly. It had. All the data was there and it was valid.
I kicked off the imaging process. It ran, without incident, through to completion.
It is important to note that I have developed a new little application that makes the automated backup and restore process easier to use. To do so it, basically, adds a GUI layer to execute the known-good scripts. Part of the imaging process places this application on the laptop's admin's desktop. I deliberately chose NOT to use this application as I have not tested it in a production environment and I couldn't afford to have ANYTHING go wrong with this process.

I ran the "tried and true" command line script that works perfectly EVERY TIME. I've run it on my own data. I've run it on MANY other users' data. Once I perfected it and put it into production I have had no errors from the script - only errors when the hard disk (either origin or destination) were failing.

The script started normally. It did the things it normally does. Then, halfway through the process, it errors out and the drive unmounts (not the other two partitions of the physical disk, just the one in question) and re-mounted. It re-mounted EMPTY.

That's right: the data was GONE. Some settings (not enough to be useful) and half a file (wouldn't open in the appropriate file) managed to be restored before it crashed. Nothing useful remained.

So I altered my day to finish setting up the workstation so the user could, at least, work on new stuff and set about the process of data recovery.

The first tool I used scanned for a hair over four hours.

In the midst of the recovery process (post four hour scan, into active analysis of the recovered files) the wireless network of that particular building completely died. Totally and completely died. I was posting a tweet and that process stalled. I was loading the the Google search pane and the Google logo of the day actually halted mid-load because of the network dying. I had to stop what I was doing and determine where the problem was and try to rectify it (I did with a simultaneous reboot of the entire wireless infrastructure).

I was then able to return to the task of file recovery. I recovered some files, but I doubt any were the files the user needed. I went to put them on the USB disk, as I promised the user I would and the USB disk I had handy for this purpose wouldn't mount. It wouldn't respond. It is dead. I ended up emailing the files instead.

The second tool I tried to use failed to work at all.

Today I am running the second tool from a different machine in an attempt to reclaim the lost partition. If I can reclaim the lost partition I can not only recover all (most?) of the files lost but also things like saved bookmarks, etc.

It is running now. It has found multiple old partitions. I will have to guess at which one I need to restore. Hopefully I choose wisely.

RESOLUTION - due to oversight this was added nearly four years later - I was able to restore the data.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


It's good to know you're appreciated.

Today I found out that someone I respect at my job really does appreciate me and respect the level and quantity of work that I do.

While I'm not going to discuss the details at this time I did find it a pleasant change from the normal operating procedure of feeling fairly anonymous at the workplace.

The message to take away from this is to tell people you appreciate them more often. Everyone likes a compliment.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Mental Health

It really is amazing how much stress affects our physical health.

Likewise, it is truly amazing how much better one can feel when looking forward to an event.

This weekend I went to the third annual SnowCon.
SnowCon is a gaming convention in the middle of winter in rural Maine.
It's an opportunity to meet new friends.
It's an opportunity to learn new games.
It's an opportunity to visit with people whom you have a lot in common with.
Most importantly: it's an opportunity to forget about the pressures of work for a weekend. Nothing else needs to be done except have fun and play games.
People attended SnowCon from as far away as the Los Angelos, California area. People attended SnowCon from as near as the nearest apartment dwelling to the con location.

The one thing we all had in common was that we were there to enjoy our weekend and play games with like-minded people.

I need more weekend like this one.

Friday, January 14, 2011

This Will Be A Good Weekend

I am looking forward to my weekend.
It will be filled with people with whom I share many interests.
It will be filled with fun games.
It will be filled with visiting old friends I do not get to see often enough.

Everyone needs a weekend like the one I am expecting once in awhile.

What makes it even better is that Monday is a holiday. That means I get a day to recover from my weekend :-)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Happy Workers are Productive Workers

I find it interesting that there are so many managers / bosses who fail to realize that happy workers are productive workers. If one is happy in their job they do their job. If one is unhappy in their job their mental efforts go elsewhere.

There are LOTS of things that managers / bosses can do to provide low (or no) cost improvements to morale.

One of these things is enabled by the level of technology that we possess today: telecommuting. If you have an employee that works hard and above expectations whose work is not dependent on a physical presence why would you EVER prevent them from telecommuting? If there work is unsatisfactory in quality or timeliness that is one thing, but if their work is always excellent and on time why would you risk making them unhappy? Furthermore, why would you risk their health and safety by preventing them from telecommuting during a terrible storm?

Yes, this is a complaint post but it has a VERY important positive take-away message: treat your employees the way you want your boss to treat you. If you want to be allowed to "just get your work done" then make an environment that allows your employees to "get their work done." If you want an environment that allows you to work from home during terrible weather then let your employees do that. If you want an environment that prioritizes the quality, quantity and timeliness of your work over simply filling your seat for 8 hours a day: make that environment. Your employees will be happier with it and, because they are happier, will be loyal to you. Their loyalty to you will provide far more incentive to work than any other force can (except, perhaps, commission-able sales).

When someone is choosing to NOT risk their life driving in to work in terrible weather because they would rather provide 9.5 - 10 hours of work in their living room - LET THEM. You, as their boss win. You are trading 8 hours of their physical presence for 9.5 - 10 hours of work. Sure, you can't monitor their work and check their attendance, but can you always realistically do that when they are in the office?

Welcome to the 21st Century where physical presence does not equal ability to work.

Anyway, enough of a rant. The positive message of today boils down to the "Golden Rule" - treat others the way you want to be treated. That's how I manage my staff; it's how I want to be managed. Sadly, many managers still fail to see simple things as worthwhile INVESTMENTS in their staff.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Perchance to Dream - fiction

This is a story dealing with the end of the world as heralded by mass-shared dreams.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


I like building.

I like making things that either help people (including me) or that other people enjoy.

Today I made a quick tool that makes the backup / restore / data migration process for the laptops I manage VERY easy.

I had already written the scripts that made the process automated, but now I have made a graphical app that does it for a user.

Before the user needed to know how to execute a command from the command line; now they need only double-click an icon and click a couple of self-descriptive buttons.

The only piece of knowledge they need is how to log in as the admin.

My next project will be trying to figure out how to make this script work when logged in as any user so long as the user knows the admin password.

It's just after 9AM and I have already had a productive day today (even if I accomplish nothing else).

Monday, January 10, 2011

On Bionics

So this post is sparked by negativity but I am am choosing to look at the bright future.

I have some back issues. Today is a day that I am very much well aware of them. I could complain about that but, instead, I'm going to discuss how this might be fixable in the future.

We're on the edge of many revolutionary advances involving biology. I read articles nearly every day where some lab has discovered something new. I believe the rapid change in medical science right now will lead to a fundamental change in the understanding of how we work in the next ten years. The change will be as great to medical science as General Relativity was to physics.

The outcome of this fundamental shift will be applied bionics. People will have robotic enhancements and/or gene grafting and/or cloned replacement parts made from their own tissue. This will allow us to live longer, stronger and healthier lives.

Why do I want this? Because I want a new back that NEVER complains to me for no reason. I want a back that won't complain when I try to shovel appropriate amounts of snow. I want a new back that is better, faster and stronger than the one that I currently have.

That's the benefit of bionic technology: better overall quality of life for longer periods of time.

The downside is Griff Tannen from Back to the Future II: a bionically enhanced bully who is tougher than he should be. The cost of making lives better for everyone is that some of "everyone" will use that ability to make lives worse for people around them. This, of course, is not a new behavior as we have bullies now and that is something we need to keep in mind when my back replacement is ready.

I intend to go to BionicMart, what about you?

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Message - fiction

I woke up this morning with a story in my head. I share it with anyone who wants to read it. It's probably written really poorly.... but it is a first draft of the wording. The concept was fully formed in my head, not the words.

The story originally posted on 1/7/11 at 12:24 Eastern. It was Given a title on 7/14/14 at 16:46 Eastern

I'm a Fixer

I awoke this morning with two things in my head. One is a fiction story that I will post later and the other is the complete realization that I am a fixer.

Every job I've had as part of my career (e.g. on my own) has been a job where I got the job and I had to fix all of the problem left behind.

My first job on my own I accepted and I had to deploy an additional 100 laptops (above what already was out there) and work on fixing all of the bad planning that went along with what was in place and all of the aging (and dying) equipment.

The second job I took dropped me into a situation that was MUCH worse. The replacement support was less, and the general animosity toward the tech support department was high. It was my job to fix the budget, the broken equipment, the lack of planning AND the general perception of the program.

The third job I took was one where I was to fix the lack of growth problem on a product line. Despite all of my efforts I failed in that. But I did fix the dependency on a single line of products to support the company and generated sales on a new product line that more than offset my salary (over a couple years).

The fourth job I took was one where I was specifically brought on to fix projects and move them forward when they stalled.

The fifth career job is the one I am in now. I was hired specifically to roll-out 500-ish student laptops. I was hired to fix the lack of long-range, multi-building planning. I was hired to convert the town's schools from multiple islands of technology usage and planning into a solid and singular technology department.

I am a fixer. People recognize that and they hire me when they have a dire need of technology programs being fixed. I don't get hired when people have a program that is working. I don't get hired in positions where things are running smoothly.

I don't get hired when people need to seamlessly replace someone who did a fantastic job building a fantastic program that is working.

I get hired to fix broken systems.

Now that I know this I need to figure out how to use it to my benefit in the future.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Posting is Hard

When I started this blog my intent was to build a habit of writing.
To write something EVERY (week)day.
To build a habit of writing in the hopes that it would make writing easier and easier over time.

The idea was that the more I wrote the more easily converting my thoughts to writing would be.

I have, however, encountered a problem with this.

The problem is that I found I was writing too much in a negative vein and that developing ideas that were more positive was (and still is) proving VERY difficult.

I am going to try to post more positive posts in the future, starting with this one where I am being optimistic that I will not only post more often, but more positively when I post