I leave for a trip to Chicago on Friday and am trying to get my sleep schedule ready for that 16-hour driving day and decided to see if a sleep aid could help with a reboot.  The box directions said it’d take about an hour to start working and after about 45 minutes I felt a bit drowsy.  Over the period of the next two hours, I received four phone calls, more than I normally receive in a week, and I only remember the first two.  The last two involved me, apparently, walking someone through tabular integration and troubleshooting why a Team Fortress 2 server wouldn’t properly start.

I woke up a few hours later, neither awake nor sleeply but in a hypnopompic fugue state.  While sleeping pills don’t appear to much help me sleep they do seem to improve my abilities to walk people through tricky problems.

My TF2 team uses a tool called TCAdmin to manage its server installs.  Recently, we’ve had an issue where updates take a very long time to load so I contacted TCAdmin’s technical support.  After a bit of back and forth, their final recommendation was “Try using Opera”.  Really?  This is the best you can come up with?  Tell a vegetarian to try chicken or a Hasidim to try pork to solve indigestion I get but telling a self-respecting Internet Neckbeard to try Opera?  This injustice will receive a blog post, forum post, and a tweet, sir.  Many IRC channels will be hopping mad within the day.

I was asked to deploy a new software patch at work that involves me inserting a thumb drive and running a single large EXE file.  The hard part was arranging time for people to be at their desk and double click on said file.  Normally, I arrange to visit during lunch breaks but the last install I had to do occurred at about 4 PM.

Me: Do you mind if I do a quick update of your CAD stuff?
Coworker: How long will it take?
Me: A minute or two.
Coworker: Sure.  Sit down.

At this point, he literally pulled out a box of cereal from his desk and started eating it while watching me at the computer.

Me: You can go get coffee now or something.  I can do the rest myself.
Coworker: I’d rather watch.
Me: Ok.  *double clicks on file.  Runs update in about 30 seconds*
Coworker: That’s it?
Me: Yeah.
Coworker: Damn. *puts away box of cereal.*

Apparently tech support is a spectator sport.

The plasma television at work arrived quickly.  Amazon made sure of that.  The TV was unboxed quickly.  My area supervisor made sure of that.  The TV was mounted somewhat quickly.  Facilities made sure of that.  The TV was connected through a slow and tedious process that involved me eventually stepping in and saying “you’re busy men, how about I just do this?”  Computer support made sure of that.

Despite my best efforts, I’m still on the short list of those who are contacted when someone has a problem with a technical resource regarding Ockanickon Scout Reservation.  A leader contacted me about having trouble with a form.  Here’s the email back and forth.

Leader:  i’m trying to download the weekly schedul ebut i keep getting a this came from the internet and is currupt error. I could download the daily schedule from home just fine please fix.
Me: I appear to be able to open both just fine.  Can you be more detailed about the error message and whether it’s from Excel or in the web browser?
Leader:  The error comes up when i open it at wokr now the other one does not work either please fix like it was the other one.
Me:  Is the error you’re getting “The file is corrupted and cannot be opened.” ?  If so, I think it may be because of your work’s local policy.
Leader: No the file worked fine at home please fix.
Me: Ok, I’ll email it to you, tell me if it opens.  I’m pretty sure it’s your work computer’s problem.
Leader: Does not open from Outlook at work, will catch up with you tomrrow may see you from home
Me: I’ve modified the file, try opening it now.  *I made no changes*
Leader: File opened fine, thank you for fix!

The reply came from a @verizon.net account rather than his firm’s domain.

I’ve gone through three four client logins at work and today I received a fifth but which didn’t have admin privileges on my local machine.  I called the help desk and had this conversation:

Tech Agent: What do you need admin access for?
Me: So I can control programs that were installed for all users.   I also need to make some registry changes.
Tech Agent: You seem to know what you’re talking about.  There are two ways to do this, first I could walk over and do the install.
Me: Or?
Tech Agent: I could just give you my username and password.  Just don’t tell anyone.
Me: Ok.

I can in no way see how me having a global admin login could be a problem and I consider this karma for getting a new login every darn time I return to work.

I was asked to come up to camp to repair a printer that stopped functioning.  I asked if it was connected to the network.  I was told yes.  It was not.  I’ve done enough posts about outrages over printing and computers so I’ll have one of my periodic compassion-spasms.

Before I left as Assistant Camp Director, Nick Gramiccioni helped me with a project whereby we labeled every damn cable in the camp office.  You know that thing you do when you teach a kid to read and label door “door” or if they’re learning Spanish “fantasma bloqueador”, we did the same thing but with computer cables.  “USB Cable #6” and “To Network Port 4 from Office Manager PC” tabs were everywhere and for a brief shining week, I could say with confidence I knew where every cable went.  The chain of events that lead to breaking a printer spans 2 years and 48 network ports and goes something like:

  1. Cables in perfect harmony with computers.  Druidic ascension reached in terms of network.
  2. Network equipment put on slightly higher shelf, port assignment rearranged to make cables just barely cover distance.
  3. Port blows in building, patching now done through second cable, switch added, no labeling.
  4. Cluster of cables no longer tenable, they form trip traps and garrote wires.  In fit of rage, cables rearranged in daring midnight raid.
  5. Computer removed from network, thoughtful person removes cable marked “2nd Office Computer” is actually printer cable.
  6. Person sees “OKI printer cable” is plugged in but no printing happens.  I get call.
  7. I see that the cable marked “printer” has different ends on each side.
  8. I plug in unplugged cable.
  9. Clouds part
  10. God reveals self

Everytime I return to work after a furlough I receive a new email address.  I’ve had “terry.robinson@firmsname.com”, terry.robinson1@firmsname.com”, terry1.robinson@firmsname.com” and “terence.robinson@firmsname.com”.  This most recent time I resisted this and reclaimed my first email address, a personal victory.  I proudly registered all my accounts under my reclaimed “terry.robinson@firmsname.com”.  I attempted to do a password recovery for an expired support utility with a 3rd party and had no success.  I called:

Tech Agent: Sir, the email’s being sent.
Me: To where?
Tech Agent: terry.robinson1@firmsname.com
Tech Agent: Sir, I’m sorry I don’t understand could you please…
Tech Agent: I can reset the address to another…
Tech Agent: Sir, you appear to be having volume control issues, please tell me the email address to which the messages should be sent.

The ultimate coincidence would be me having yelled “KHAAAAAAN!” and the Indian Tech Agent responding “Yes?”

I have a new rule when it comes to my mother and tech support: she must make a good-faith effort to fix the problem.  She called me with speaker issues and I asked “did you try to fix it?” she replied “yes, I traced all the cables from the speakers and they’re connected”.  I went to her house, looked at the back of the speaker and saw the power cord was unplugged.  I politely informed my mother and she immediately stormed about the house loudly proclaiming her own foolishness.  Most would consider this bad but I saw progress: A few short months ago she wouldn’t have considered a device not having power a reason for it to not operate.

Parents, they grow up so fast.

One of my duties is to patch our servers when we find issues.  It’s not terribly difficult but involves some things people are uncomfortable with like Remote Desktop, Drive Mapping, and the Command Line, so I gladly do it as a two-hour “Get Out of Legitimate Work Free” card.   I wanted to patch one of our systems as a test and requested remote access as the access restrictions had changed and was surprised by the response:

Him: What would you like to do?
Me: Apply a patch to the test machine.
Him: Please provide documentation that the patch will function.
Me: I can’t, that’s why I want to try it on the test machine.
Him: I’m sorry, I cannot allow access without proof of efficacy.  You can try applying the patch locally.
Me: So, you recommend I take the software to which we only have one license, took a specialist 3 weeks to setup, and normally requires 3 PCs in a cluster to run, and run it on my local machine?
Him: *no response*
Me: *hang up*

I’m going to take a stab in the dark and assume this person isn’t familiar with the setup.  Work around: Create a batch file that when run produces a wall of text followed by the line “Patch Applied” and send him a screen shot of that.  If that works, my last few weeks of work just got a lot easier.