Seen and Not Heard

Children should be seen and not heard. Silence is a woman's best garment. Aren't proverbs great? But I'm done with being quiet.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Competent people

Sometimes I wonder if I really am somehow more competent than almost everybody else … I usually conclude I’m just conveniently forgetting my own mistakes or else the specific person I’m comparing myself to really is just less competent than most. Like the other day when I got a call from a co-working explaining he was at a users computer, logged on as them, and getting a message that they did not have permissions to run the program… “Do they have write permissions to the program folder and the registry key?”

“Well… I haven’t checked… I’m logged on as them right now… so I can’t see permissions… do you think I should log on so I can check that?” The ellipsis (…) are to show how slowly the man talks… each ellipsis is a long pause… during which, I’m pulling out my hair, because my phone is ringing, I have phone messages I haven’t had time to check yet, and I have people (plural) waiting in my office to speak with me. Keep in mind, this person makes more money per hour than I do, and after getting a permissions error message from a Windows application, he hasn’t bothered to check or test any Windows permissions.

Even people I do think are usually competent, sometimes I have to start pulling my hair out over… I’ve got a big project right now, but I’ve also got about 10 other pretty big projects that I can’t let slide. So sometimes a group of us are working on the big project and I get called away to work on something else. When I get back, some problem we had been having is suddenly solved. “So, we know what that problem was?” I ask the people present at the solution… “We know how to get around that in the future?” They assure me they have everything under control… until we try to do the same thing again… where I manage to not yell at these people (I thought I was being big, even though I knew I just wanted to bitch out), until I manage to figure out how to make it work (so much for them being responsible for this part). Naturally, after I had my light from the heavens and made the problems disappear, we discovered other problems with someone else’s work. *Still not going to bitch out.*

I know it isn’t actually this bad, but sometimes it really seems like anything I’m trusting other people to do falls apart. When something I am doing falls apart, it’s almost always someone else who specifically did something they should not have. If I screw something up (cause, it’s not like I don’t make mistakes sometimes), I always seem to see them faster (and/or ask for a second opinion faster), than anyone else.

I’d really like to know people who can actually do that they say they can do.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Learning New Stuff

About two years ago I was given the task at work to take files already created by the county, modify them to work with the Sheriff's Department system, and create a map that would display in our system for dispatchers and deputies in the field. This map would display calls as they came in, and show the location of deputies once we got AVL working in the vehicles. Naturally I had to get the AVL working too.

Keep in mind, I knew nothing about any of this stuff before I was tasked with making it work. I've never taken any classes in Geography, and I'd never worked with GPS before. I was told to make it work, so I set out to do so.

As soon as we had a semi working map, and could test with a vehicle, I looked up all the documentation on how to program our GPS devices, the modems in the cars, and found out what protocol was needed, where the packets needed to be sent, everything... except it didn't seem to work.

Finally, the guy working with me from our provider asked me, "Stupid question, but do you have a GPS antenna attached to this modem?"

I paused a moment. "Stupid answer," I told him, "but of course not."

I now tell this story to the people I'm trying to teach how to program these modems. I figure it makes me a little more human when I hand them pages of written instructions, including carefully scripted AT commands that need to be typed in, and I can do it and explain it, and troubleshoot, and deal with and explain any issues that come up, without ever looking at any notes (we're talking a half hour procedure here, assuming all goes well).

This Sunday I'm flying to Houston to take a week long class on HP Blade PC's. I've been working with the blade's since December. We have HP writing a special fix for us. At this point, I'm half expecting to be correcting the instructor... "Sorry, but actually, unless you have the fix, which HP is still working on, that feature doesn't work with XP SP3."

I'm just hoping that by the time I come back I'll at least know enough to not have the "stupid answer."

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Conversation with a Coworker

Me: We really have to teach them to just use telnet.
B: Telnet... it's the technology of the future.
Me: Of the future maybe 20 years ago.

It sucks having to use telnet with special display properties. (B was being sarcastic)

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Skinny People

When I was a college student, I loved Fiona Apple. Since then I've come to realize she had an eating disorder. At the time I loved her, I was just under 20 years old, about 5'11" and weighted about 115lbs (the lightest pictures you will see of me here was at 125-130lbs). Since collage days, I've gained about 30lbs (most people can't tell where it would be except what's affectionally called the JLo ASSet, and that I don't fit into my size 4 jeans anymore... something to do with that ASSet). Now that I'm 145lbs and I look at myself I can see minor things that I could maybe work on (though I don't much mind the ASSet part)... My thighs acually meet now (I'm not happy about that, but I don't think it's somthing unusual for a woman over 30).

I'm curious what women think is actually normal now. I see women on tv now that have ribs showing when they show cleavage. I can breath in and show rib, but I don't think it should be normal to see with a low cut shirt. What's normal weight now for a woman 5'10", 5'11"?

Any feedback?

Friday, December 12, 2008

I Love My Job, But...

I really do enjoy my job very much. I get to do so many very different things. I'm one of two primary people for supporting the modems we have in our 400+ patrol cars (I have a depressing number of AT commands to communicate with these modems totally memorized at this point, and I came up with the current programming). I'm one of a very small team that supports the Mobile Data Computers (MDC's) that use these modems to get criminal history data from our system remotely. I'm one of a slightly larger team that supports our 600+ desktop computers (I really started in the industry being Microsoft Tech Support for Windows XP, I can do basic troubleshooting on Windows issues without conscious thought). I'm part of an even larger group that supports the criminal history database for our department, used by at least 6 other agencies as well as our own. I deal with user issues and server issues on this application. The server that runs this application is Unix, so I've also learned many Unix commands, even a little VI. I am a certified Administrator on this application (there was a test and everything). I am THE person responsible for maintaining a map of the county which is displayed for dispatchers in their communications center, and deputies out in the field. It displays the location of calls that are recorded by 911 call takers and also the location of the cars that have GPS antennas for their modems that we’ve set up to work with our application on the Unix server (all that modem programming and Unix knowledge is for a reason). I've also been handed the role of helping manage Windows servers, Exchange, Active Directory, file shares, and the domain in general. I’m the person to ask Excel questions, even though most questions I get asked are basic formulas or formatting issues. I can make data in Excel sing and dance to any tune you want… just name the tune (macros, advanced formulas, conditional formatting, pivot tables). I even know some basics about networking, though mostly from a home networking perspective. Personally I wouldn't class my networking knowledge above basic desktop support (in this day and age, if your computer is not connected to a network of some kind… you won’t be reading this). If you ask me to configure your firewall, switch or router, I won't know where to start without hitting the web (even then, I'll probably assume you could probably get better advice from someone who actually knows what they're doing). If you ask me to fix your network connection, I will get you connected, or I'll be able to tell you exactly where the connection breaks (so hopefully how to fix it). Which leads into the "but..."

We're working on a huge project right now. We're rolling out 230 HP Blade PC's. I'm working quite closely with the contractors helping us set this up (I’ve left work well after 7 most nights this week, at 9:30 one night... I usually leave at 3:30). When we had the first meetings with these contractors, they were a little confused as to what I was doing there. Other people were being assigned all the primary roles (yet oddly I was doing the most talking from our side). They finally asked what my roll was supposed to be... my boss responded, "Tam's my SWAT Team" (I got a warm fuzzy feeling). So far my SWAT duties (other than learning as much as I can about the whole process, and doing anything else that needs to be done when there's no one else handy to do them), have been pretty much keeping things going when we come up against something we did not foresee. We started off with a networking problem. We were planning on using dynamically assigned DHCP groups for all of our blades. We soon came to realize that because of certain special requirements of our Criminal Database software and security requirements by the state and federal governments that we would have to reserve IP’s based on MAC address in DHCP (I should have forseen this, but our Networking Guy didn't either). We didn’t think of this until after the fact, because our entire network up until now has had statically assigned IP’s. That’s how our Networking Guy set things up. Which leads into the “but…”

I had never personally messed with setting up DHCP before this project began. I knew the very basics of it, because it’s used in home networking all the time, but I knew nothing about setting it up and administrating it. Tuesday evening, after the person who we expected to be in charge of the DHCP had gone home, I was telling the consultant how I’d never done anything as far as setting up DHCP , as he walked me through setting stuff up. Thursday morning I was telling them how I’d already reserved an IP for all the available MAC addresses we had up on the subnet in question, before the meeting, so they’d be ready for whatever we were going to do after. I now appear to be the DHCP person. You’ll notice that DHCP person is somehow not the Network Guy, which leads into the “but…”

Our Networking Guy is a Pro-Unix/Pro-Linx/Anit-Windows Guy. Every single networking problem I go to him with, his first response is, “It must be a Windows problem.” Never mind that I was originally a Windows tech… if it was Windows problem, by the time I call the Network Guy, I think it should be kind of assumed I have done a reasonable job in fixing any kind of Windows problem. When I worked as a front line Windows Tech Support person, there were consultants, the people the front line called for support, who cringed to see my name flash on their phone, because they knew I’d already done everything they could think to tell me. There will be times when I forget something I should have tested, or should have gotten some information I didn’t, but that’s the exception to the rule. I don’t mind too much if you ask me what I’ve checked/done (I would probably even ask people to do it again as a troubleshooter), but I HATE it when, without even asking any real questions, or asking only basic setup information, it’s passed back as a Windows problem (Static IP, Subnet Mask, Default Gateway, DNS is set right, must be a Windows problem). If I call and say your stuff don’t work, there’s a very good chance it doesn’t. Which leads to the “but…”

And here’s the “but…” Today, I explained for the third time to Network Guy, who keeps his DNS server in a VI file on a Unix server (is this really just a shared host file? Or am I missing something), that DHCP meant DYNAMIC IP assigning. He thought it should mean if the IP changed the computer name should too… or how would DNS keep up? I can’t count the number of times he’s said that to me this week and I’ve tried to explain how it actually works, keep in mind, I’m not a networking person. I almost had the person in my unit who’s job it is to train new recruits try teach him what the word DYNAMIC meant ("As in what the first letter stands for in DHCP?"). This is the THIRD time during the main push of this project, which has lasted a week so far, that I’ve explained that Dynamic assignment though DHCP will mean that a computer name might have a different IP the next time it logs on (we already know the important ones to the state, which will be statically assigned though DHCP). If he tries to bring it to my attention again, I think I may snap.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Puppy in I Am Legend

I started Watching I Am Legend a few nights ago. In the movie, Emma Thompson discovers the cure for cancer, which is a mutated measles virus... naturally there are some Very Bad side effects. This isn't a review of the film or anything, I just want to know if I can finish watching it.

There's a wonderful German Shepherd in the movie named Sam... If you haven't seen the movie and want to, you may not want to read... but if you have a soft spot for dogs, you may want to find out if he survives.

Now... I thought I was being very brave... and managed to keep watching the movie through the part where Sam runs into a tunnel (there are bad things in the dark). Sam survives his foray underground, but about three quarters of the way through the movie, infected dogs attack. Sam defends his master, but we've already been told he's susceptible to contact transmission of the virus, so he's probably infected.

My question is... does Sam survive? If not, I'm not going to finish watching the movie. I spent 30 minutes hugging my wonderful puppy, and telling her not to attack zombie dogs as it was. If Sam survives I'm interested in how the movie ends. If Sam doesn't make it... I'm going to make up my own happy ending.

The sad thing is that I don't really care if Will Smith survives. If he dies, if his family died, I don't care. Just tell me the dog makes it though. Then I can watch the end of the movie.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Just Brilliant

When I was a child in Scotland, there was a saying that made things more than just the orinary... Pure Dead Brilliant!