Autoblography Part 36: Big Iron

By Shamus Posted Friday Oct 28, 2011

Filed under: Personal 158 comments

One day I visit the college to pick up Heather for a date. She’s in the library, finishing up writing some paper for class. She’s using a program called Netscape to do… something. I’m not sure what this thing is for. I only see a glimpse of it before we leave. I gather that the college has an internet – whatever that is. She describes the paper and her brutal workload at school, but my mind is busy asking what this Netscape thing is and what it’s for.

It’s 1994, and I’ve landed a job at a medium-sized company. They’re willing to hire me, despite my lack of a degree and experience. I begin working nights. I’m charged with running and delivering the nightly reports, and making backups. I spend most of the shift sitting around, waiting for the computer to finish the next thing. With a faster computer, I could do all of my work in about three hours. This is not taxing or cerebral work, but it is solid work experience and a chance to prove myself.

Eventually I move up to working during the day and writing reports myself. These people don’t use RPG, or COBOL, or BASIC. They use some proprietary system. Apparently this is common in the industry. Even with the awkwardness of this programming language, these tasks are not very different from the the trivial practice assignments we were given in school. These things are nothing compared to the complexity of the Tetris clone I wrote a few years earlier, back when I was learning to program in C. In fact, just the code to remove a completed line and drop all of the Tetris bits down a row is many times more complex than any of the work I’m doing here.

This place is pretty close to the “big iron” paradigm from days of yore. There’s one central computer that serves the entire company. There’s our headquarters here in Pennsylvania, our major branch in Chicago, and a few other small locations around the northeast United States. These locations all have dumb terminals that talk to the mainframe, which is a computer is the size of a washer / dryer set. I’m one of the few people who ever get to see the thing up close.

I’m glad to have a proper industry job, although I’m not as invested in this place as I could be. I see it as old, dead-end technology. I laugh at the archaic computer system. (I laugh to myself. I’m no fool.) As time goes on and I learn how the company operates, and I come to understand why companies continue to use these machines when there are faster, cheaper alternatives readily available. The computer doesn’t exist for its own sake. Nor does it exist for the benefit of those of us who work in the IT department. We’re overhead. An unwanted expense. The focus is on the people who make stuff and sell stuff. They are the useful people who bring in money. Anything that doesn’t improve their workflow is useless. We could replace our mainframe and turn the nightly reports into a part-time job, but that wouldn’t help anyone who matters. The transition to a newer computer might frustrate or confuse those people for a time, which would be unacceptable unless it would directly benefit them down the road. Until we reach that point, it’s our job to keep this dusty old machine running flawlessly for as long as possible.

We don’t matter. It’s a humbling lesson, but an important one. The goal is to make money, not have the fastest or sleekest computer. Our job is to make the place work in spite of how much the computer sucks.

I’m used to bringing in minimum wage, and I’m making a lot more than that these days. These IT paychecks come in faster than I can spend them. I move out on my own. I don’t have a lot of needs beyond maintaining my computer and paying the bills, so the cash piles up in the bank. Eventually I buy myself a nice car. It’s a 1990 Cavalier Z24, the last model before they shrank the car and made it look more like an “economy car” and less like a “muscle car wanna-be”. I’ve never been huge on cars, but I really enjoy this one. It’s the newest car I’ve ever driven. Our family tends to stick to the practice of buying cars once they’ve undergone most of their depreciation, but before they become a problem from a maintenance and reliability standpoint. It’s a good policy, although it is really nice to have something newer now that I can afford it.

This one is not mine, but it’s the same model. (Mine was maroon.) I don’t have a single picture of mine, but this is how I remember it.
This one is not mine, but it’s the same model. (Mine was maroon.) I don’t have a single picture of mine, but this is how I remember it.

Unfortunately, I’ve been working fast food for the last three years, and this has imparted some bad habits. I’m used to eight hour shifts of fast-moving activity and manual labor. Now I sit at a desk for eight hours at a stretch. I’ve been skinny all my life, and up until now I’ve lived as if the laws of age, calorie intake, and exercise didn’t apply to me. I don’t change my eating habits when I change jobs, and so I begin stacking on the pounds at an alarming rate. I go from being the skinny guy in any given room to being the fat guy in less than a year.

Top: Me, in Heather’s dorm room. Bottom: Me, in the same location, about a year later.
Top: Me, in Heather’s dorm room. Bottom: Me, in the same location, about a year later.

There are politics going on at this company. Keith is in charge of the computer system, and everyone likes him. Don is his second, and nobody likes him. Keith is friendly, funny, and outgoing. Don is creepy, sketchy, and foul-tempered. I make friends with Kieth and scorn Don. After about nine months, Keith leaves and Don is put in charge of the IT department. I don’t last very long after that. I’m let go almost exactly a year after I began.

It’s a painful lesson, but this was my fault. For the last several months I’ve been coasting. New work came in, and I let other people have it. I maintained a small number of reports and never sought out new responsibilities. Perhaps I was still infected with the school mentality of doing the minimal work needed to “pass”. Don was looking for an excuse to get rid of me, but he never would have been able to do it if I’d been more integral to the operation. I didn’t enjoy the work because it was mostly boring maintenance on old hardware. Nobody ever handed me big problems to solve. But that doesn’t mean there weren’t problems. I could have looked for ways to improve things. There was no rule saying I wasn’t allowed to jump in and make things work better. Wasn’t that what I’d always wanted to do at Taco Bell? How did I allow myself to slip into this rut?

I will not make this mistake again.

 


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158 thoughts on “Autoblography Part 36: Big Iron

  1. Jarenth says:

    “Perhaps I was still infected with the school mentality of doing the minimal work needed to “pass”.”

    This quote hits particularly home for me because that’s more or less what I’ve been doing for the last six months, and to a smaller extent still do. I’m working on changing my habits, but that isn’t happening overnight.

    Oddly, I did always attempt to excel at school. It was university that really instilled in me that excellence hardly matters. Maybe I should try to regain that high-school sense of enjoyment in learning some more.

    1. Hal says:

      Oddly, I think I may have gone the opposite direction. Getting out of school, I constantly found myself looking for more ways to contribute in this, that, or the other. Here’s some interesting papers relevant to our interest, what if we started this project, what if we ran these experiments this more effecient way?

      The problem comes when that sense of enthusiasm wears off. Culture and protocol doesn’t, and can’t (by design), change that fast. Incentive is not tied to productivity or enthusiasm. The minimal amount of work isn’t laziness, it’s a sanity-maintenance mechanism designed to keep you from going crazy watching your efforts get ignored or reduced to irrelevancy.

      (Yeah, I could probably use a better job. Why do you ask?)

      1. psivamp says:

        Ugh. God forbid your superiors actually listen, because then they will expect you to be an endless font of improvements, creative work-arounds and the fixer of all problems grand-fathered down to them by their incompetent predecessors.

        Thankfully, my contract for that job ran out and I no longer shoulder all of this.

      2. Dwip says:

        This describes my current job very very well, yes.

      3. Zeevon says:

        I’m actually posting this under a different name than I usually post here, because this also describes my current job experience (Normal posting name links back to me too well, heh). I started out excited and ready to take on more responsibility, and rapidly went from just assisting with webstore orders, to running the webstore, to doing graphic design of ads, to managing and creating websites.

        Mind you, I have no training or experience, or even the proper tools and programs to do any of this. I’ve learned as I went along and pushed myself. At the same time, I’m also running the counter at the business’s retail location, while doing all my other work. I thought that rewards would come naturally from such effort.

        Instead, I’m still massively behind in pay from when we got hit hard by the recession, and every time we complete a major project with a bunch of overtime, I’m lucky to get my regular paycheck, much less any kind of bonus or extra. It’s gotten to the point that every time I start feeling ambitious, reality hits me and I go back to screwing around, waiting for the next customer to walk in the door.

        Of course, part of that screwing around is now job searching and updating my resume.

      4. Jonathan says:

        Hooray (for me) being in commissioned sales. Pay for performance and I set my own hours.

        1. Kdansky says:

          That system just does not work for a creative job like programming. The more pressure one feels, the less one is able to think outside of the box, and that is the most important thing about programming well, because the “inside the box” part is called “libraries”.

      5. Aelyn says:

        If the minimum wasn’t good enough it wouldn’t be the minimum. – some wise guy

        Not that I hold to this maxim exactly, but I think it nicely encapsulates the discussion.

  2. Dwip says:

    Ah, the 90s. When it was possible to have only a single internet. How we miss you.

    Netscape maybe not so much. Hated that thing, though I can’t remember why now.

    Amusingly enough, I did the opposite of you, given the chance – laughed out loud at the computer system (I hate inefficiency), but was ruthlessly nice to even the people I disliked. Years of listening to my parents rant about office politics taught me that much at least, though the laughing at the computer system thing tends to torpedo that pretty quickly.

    If people would just accept that I’m right about everything, there would be so many fewer of these sorts of problems.

    1. Maldeus says:

      “Amusingly enough, I did the opposite of you, given the chance ““ laughed out loud at the computer system (I hate inefficiency), but was ruthlessly nice to even the people I disliked. ”

      Dwip: Say, Steve, that’s a pretty nice tie.
      Steve: Cut it out, man, I hate you!
      Dwip: You’ve really been losing weight, lately.
      Steve: I hate you and your girlfriend too! She’s ugly! And fat!
      Dwip: Really? I think your girlfriend is rather attractive.
      Rob: Just leave him alone, Dwip!
      Dwip: I don’t see why I should. He’s got a pretty nice shirt, too.
      Steve: Stop it, man! What did I ever do for you?!
      Dwip: Kindness is its own reward.
      Steve: Aaarrrghlbelghrl…*dissolves into pile of toxic goo*

      1. Dwip says:

        Bua. And heh. I love making toxic goo. It’s more fun to load the catapults with when you eventually storm the workplace and take over.

        Actually, though, it turns out that being inoffensive in general works pretty well for me. I’d never have that conversation with Steve, since Steve would never know I thought he was a jackass. What would actually happen is I’d have a conversation with Steve about how Rob was a jackass with me agreeing politely, then later have a conversation with Rob about Steve was a damn slacker and never got his work done, to the same end.

        This is surprisingly easier than you might think. Or maybe it’s just me, I dunno.

        1. Zeevon says:

          I’ve generally learned that if you act like you’re listening to people and acknowledge that you’re hearing what they say, they believe that you’re implicitly agreeing with them. It was the only way I could survive some of the old farmers the business I work for used to attract, who had to let you know about the horrible things (insert random minority group) were doing these days. Couldn’t tell them off because they were important customers (at the time), wouldn’t agree with them for obvious reasons.

          1. Andrew says:

            Walk around with a clipboard full of papers, or a Hand Dolly loaded with Dell boxes – and the world opens doors to you :)

        2. Mari says:

          Be careful of that practice. Speaking from experience, even LISTENING to the gripe-fests and gossip can get you a reputation as a back-stabber and a gossip. It doesn’t matter if you don’t eagerly join in, the fact that you participate passively can be enough ammo for co-workers to start grumbling. Especially when something flares up and Steve and Rob have it out with Steve shouting, “You’re a damn jackass and do blah blah and Dwip agrees!” Rob retorts, “Yeah? Well Dwip thinks you’re a lazy slacker who never does anything!” Guess who the new bad guy in the office is at that point?

          1. Dwip says:

            Truth, though I did leave out the other essential components of “be as non-commital as possible”, “change the subject as fast as humanly possible” and “do your best to have interesting conversations that aren’t gripe-fests.”

            Which hopefully results in everybody liking you and nobody hating you. As I say, it’s generally worked out for me.

            Probably also helps that I’m usually low enough man on the totem pole that I’m not used as ammo, either. As we can see from Shamus’ example, taking sides can get pretty dicey, so I do my best to not.

        3. Deoxy says:

          This is surprisingly easier than you might think.

          Due to have well-known (in our circles) parents, I learned at a very early age to have full-length conversations with people I didn’t know while successfully keeping them from realizing I had no idea who they were. It’s like what you describe, only on crack, steroids, and meth.

          It is indeed “surprisingly easier than you might think”, but it also ingrains horrendous habits that come back to bite you later in life.

          1. PAK says:

            Oh, yes. This. My parents, especially my mother, have had a lot of involvement in local government, as well as various regional committees and things, and I’m an only child, so I also spent a lot of time growing up going to their office parties and such. And we live in a small town. A couple of times a month, I find myself having no idea who somebody is. I used to just fake it, which as you say can be surprisingly easy, though these days I have less energy for it (and less inclination towards dishonesty) and I’ve found that people are also surprisingly forgiving of you if you admit up front, with humility, that you can’t place them.

            1. Yup, do this all the time. Used to lead a women’s study at the mega church we attended ages ago. Also taught and my parents both taught and knew everyone. I usually have no idea who someone is and am just up front that I don’t. Similar thing happens online nowadays and again, being upfront about about not knowing who someone is but willing to talk and get to know them is fine. Have never had someone affronted that I didn’t recognize them or remember their name (or know why I know them) either in person or online.

            2. Dwip says:

              Really wish I had figured that one out a bit earlier than I did. Similar sort of thing – small town, mom was the high school secretary and knew everyone and their brother, dog, cat, goldfish, etc. I was constantly running into people who knew me and I had utterly no idea who they were.

              Being terrible with remembering names so does not help with this.

    2. Soylent Dave says:

      You hated Netscape because it was rubbish and it didn’t work very well, that’s why you hated it.

      I can’t pretend I knew enough about software back when I was using it to investigate why, but I do remember Netscape’s propensity to just decide it didn’t want to open specific webpages, or refresh, or let you stop trying to load a page Netscape didn’t like and go somewhere else.

      I also remember that it wasn’t made by Microsoft so obviously it HAD to be better than IE. Obviously. Looking back, I find it hard to imagine how the IE of the day was any worse.

      1. Dwip says:

        Ah yes. Now I remember the horror quite well, although for some reason I don’t think I made the IE switch until IE 6 or so. Though, in fairness to Netscape:

        – It’s not like any other software of the day was particularly wonderful and emitted rainbows and ponies instead of crashes and angst, and yes Windows 95 I do so totally mean you;

        – There’s not much Netscape was going to do about my particularly horrific internet, which was particularly choppy rural 28.8 dialup in theory, more like half that in practice.

        I’m pretty sure I had a religious experience when I got to college in ’99 and the internet actually worked.

    3. Kayle says:

      Actually, much of the point of Internet Protocol was that before there were lots of networks that didn’t talk to each other, then ad hoc ways were found to create inter-networks but going down that path was clearly a bad idea, so ARPA sponsored industry and academia to come together and create one Internetwork Protocol to convert an O(n^2) problem to an O(n)… but then that IP protocol was good enough to be the local network protocol as well and goodbye a whole bunch of mostly forgotten LAN & WAN protocols…

  3. Destrustor says:

    His name was kieth? I didn’t know that name even existed like that. Looked like a typo of keith, but you can’t typo so much in such short time.
    Then again, it’s probably a made-up name to preserve anonymity so what do I even know. It just feels weird to see keith spelled like that.

    Oh and again, thanks for this great series. It makes me think about my own life, and what I’m doing with it.

    1. Shamus says:

      Anytime e comes before i in a word, you can count on me to type it wrong, every. dang. time.

      “I before E, except after C, or it sounds like an A, or it’s one of the many exceptions to the rule, or it’s a proper name, or…. who are we kidding, this language is a joke and there are no rules.”

      1. psivamp says:

        This is why my cousin took Russian — apparently, the rules in Russian don’t have a plethora of exceptions.

        1. Bubble181 says:

          For an exercise in frustration, you can go learn dutch. Most rules literally have more exceptions than words that follow the rule, and we even have rules to describe how the exceptions might work…Too bad there are, of course, exceptions against that rule as well. Dutch is an annoying language that way.

          1. Garci says:

            Ugh, the same is true about German. I learned it as I lived there (exchange student) and trying to figure out rules my family would always say “the rule works like this, but frankly there are more irregularities than there are regularities”. Specially with verbs in the past tense. Insane language, beautiful though, but insane.

            1. Deoxy says:

              English is the mutant, red-headed step-child of German and French. Every bad thing German or Dutch (which is a close German derivative) have, English has… only with the bonus of having OTHER languages and systems glommed on as well, for even MORE exceptions.

              English is probably the most self-inconsistent language in the history of mankind… but the way it got that way (happily taking whatever bits from every language it came across) also helped it become the international language (well, that, and who was using it).

              1. Tuck says:

                The reason English works so well as an international language is that you can talk and write it badly and people will often still understand you.

                Languages that follow rules more closely don’t have that same level of accessibility — even ones like Esperanto where the rules (and vocabulary) are very simple.

                If English hadn’t had this characteristic it would never have taken over from French (which took over from Latin and Greek) as the international language.

                1. Paul Spooner says:

                  Indeed! In this case robustness and error tolerance are key. Budding programmers take note! It is more important that your creation fail gracefully than that it succeed brilliantly!

              2. Adeon says:

                “The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don’t just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary.”

                1. Cuthalion says:

                  I love this quote. I don’t know if I’ve heard it before now, but I want it to be mine. Tell me who came up with it so I can pursue them into a back alleyway and rifle through their pockets for a new ID card.

        2. 4th Dimension says:

          Maybe for writing, but since it’s an Slavic language (I should know, I speak Serbian), I can bet that the grammar is nowhere as easy as in English.

          1. Kronski says:

            I speak Macedonian, a Slavic language, and while I can’t speak for any of the other ones, I can tell you that the grammar is fantastically internally consistent.

        3. Deadfast says:

          There may not be many exceptions, but as with any Slavic language there is an insanely ridiculous amount of rules.

      2. Xavin says:

        Apparently, because the rule is actually wrong more often than it’s right, current guidelines are that it should no longer taught in UK schools.

        1. swimon says:

          hmm really? I find that quite interesting.

      3. Eddie says:

        As I understand it, schools no longer teach “I before E except after C” because there are more exceptions than there are words that follow the rule; so yeah, it’s partly because English is an insane hodge-podge of bits of other languages that don’t play well together, but it’s also had the problem of people telling lies about how it works.

        1. Deoxy says:

          Actually, it’s that people came along after the fact and tried to cram English into Latin rules (and other rules they made up). English actually follows NO rules at all – it borrows from multiple other languages (starting with a German base), and it evolves in spite of the written rules.

      4. 4th Dimension says:

        Well that’s what you get for writing in a language that didn’t get reformed into a more phonetical one.

      5. burningdragoon says:

        Yeah that I before E rule sure is weird.

        1. Kacky Snorgle says:

          Poster on my high-school English teacher’s wall:

          “I before E except after C: What a weird society!”

          :)

      6. Ruthie says:

        “I before E, except after C, or when sounding like A as in neighbor, or weigh, and on weekends, and holidays and all throughout May, and you’ll always be wrong, no matter what you say.”
        …. I love Brian Regan:)

        1. Paul Spooner says:

          I really love Brian Regan, but I’m glad Shamus made up his own version.
          We once went to a BR live show, and he was super funny and fantastic as usual. During his encore he was taking requests and dropped this line: “You know, I’m not sure why you guys want me to do this. I mean, I’m going to do this joke and you’ll be going ‘Mmhm. Mmhm. Mmhm… Yep, that’s exactly what I had memorized!'”
          Super good at self deprecation and insight into human nature. Kind of like Calvin and Hobbes.

      7. PhotoRob says:

        I am very much delighted that no one has posted this yet:
        http://www.sheldoncomics.com/archive/090201.html

      8. Really, there’s only way to do English spelling well, and even that only works for some people. For some of us, if you read enough it just all soaks in at an instinctive level. But it seems pretty clear you have read enough, and I know other people who have read tons and are erudite as all get out but the spelling thing still didn’t really stick. Dunno why it works for some people and not others.

        I have no idea what any of the rules are for spelling, and my grasp of the rules for grammar is superficial and only learned as an extra. But I will get actual spelling and grammar both right, every time, and be able to tell you in what contexts it’s OK to violate them. Getting it right came from reading it, lots and lots. But learning the rules of grammar is useful for proofreading and such. When I spot something, they let me tell the person something more constructive than “that’s wrong”.

        1. Mari says:

          Actually, I recently read a study about why some people are “natural” spellers and others aren’t despite similar exposure. It concluded that it has a lot to do with VISUAL learning. Apparently most people who are “natural” spellers visualize the word in question, whether on a conscious or unconscious level, while people who have difficulty with spelling are unable to do so. For some who are more adept at other types of learning there are work-arounds that help them develop the ability to visualize the words. It was really interesting stuff.

          1. Very interesting Mari since Shamus is an an audio learner and I am visual. The only way I can remember how something is spelled is to visualize it though my particular flavor of LD tends to be output based meaning that despite “knowing” how something is spelled or what order something should be in grammatically I still output the order wrong.

            1. Shamus says:

              And of course I am (or was) a horrible speller. I get it right on the site because I’ve worked at it for so long and have spellchecker to let me know when I goof. For tough words, I chant the spelling in my head to turn a visual problem into an “audio” one.

              1. Mari says:

                Work-arounds that work! Woohoo!

                I actually kind of envy you being an audio learner. I swear stuff enters my ear through a woodchipper because by the time it reaches my brain it’s indistinguishable from mulch. It drives people around me crazy. The kids will be like, “Mom, what’s 29 times 7 divided by 3?” I hear, “Mom blah blah blah blah (think Charlie Brown’s teachers here)” So I say, “Hang on, let me come see it” and hear a chorus of sighs and tongue clicks. It was the same way in school. Teachers stood up at the front of the class and sounded like demented trombones while writing key words on a black board or overhead projector. I wrote down everything they did then went home and read the text book and tried to make sense of it but it didn’t always make sense.

          2. Patrick the Knuckle-dragging Project manager says:

            I was always an “abusive learner. In that I learned if you abuse people to do your work for you you don’t actually have to learn how to actually do it.

            I keep a small flock of malnourished midgets around to answer any questions I have about math, science or geography or any of that non-sense.

            This is actually true! My name is Ilya and I am a poor dwarf that was kidnapped from my home in Uzbekistan on the promise of a new life! Now I am forced to make silly internet posts for this idiot Patrick who pays me in bread crusts and not punching me! Please help!

        2. Steve says:

          That worked really well for me, until I started playing World of Warcraft.

          Strangely enough, spending thousands of hours (not an exaggeration, I’m afraid) watching spelling and grammar abused in every concievable way will partially overwrite your hard-earned instinctive grasp of a language. :(

          The reason *everyone* get hoard and horde wrong *every single time* is because, well, everyone gets it wrong every single time, and it’s contagious.

      9. Soylent Dave says:

        That’s because it should be “I before E except after C, or before G”.

        I really can’t be the only other person on the planet who has figured that last part out (especially because that would mean my life climaxed when I was 7, which would be really quite depressing)

        There’s still the occasional exception to this, but they’re rare enough to remember separately – and you’re never going to get names to follow any sort of proper syntax, because they come from all over the bloody place (and then parents spell them wrong).

        1. Paul Spooner says:

          But, what about “Keith”?
          “I mean, ‘Oooh, look out for Keith!'”

        2. Xavin says:

          Hmmm… the deities (and other variegated weird beings) abseiling down the wall (while besieged by atheists) must not have heard of that rule…

          1. TSED says:

            Good sir Xavin:

            Nice.

          2. Bubble181 says:

            To be fair, those are mostly pronounced differently. They’re just different syllables you happen to write with the same letters.

      10. If the English language were a face, it’d look like Picasso painted it. Or if you wanna go the ‘Currently Popular on the Internet’ route, it’s this guy:

        http://www.deviantart.com/download/261801289/mlp__discord_by_yark_wark-d4bvb61.png

      11. Falling says:

        And this is why I like Brian Regan (comedian) so much.
        Teacher:
        “What the I before e rule?

        Brian
        “I before e…. always.”

        Teacher
        “No Brian, what are you an idiot? I before e, except after c and when it says ay like neighbour and weigh and on weekends and holidays and all throughout May. And you’ll always be wrong no matter what you say!”

        “That’s a hard rule. That’s a rough rule.”

        Brian Regan, Stupid is School. He’s a funny, funny guy.

        1. William Curtis says:

          And a great family comedian. His Humor is CLEAN.

  4. psivamp says:

    My dad cofounded a software company when I was barely walking and the first experience of the internet that I really remember is looking up cheat codes to Descent 1 and 2 using Netscape at my shrink’s office after a session. Long story short: My step-mother threatened my life when I was young and the solution all around was for the traumatized kid to go to therapy and for the crazy adult to remain a nutjob.

    Then, my dad left the company he cofounded and started another. For the first month, he had dial-up at his office downtown. We downloaded some crappy 3 MB pinball demo and while it downloaded we went to a movie. Then he got a T1 line from the ISP across the hall…

    When I went to university (the first time, 9 years ago), the IT department hadn’t fully caught up to the peer-to-peer boom and even then only filtered access on the dorms. All I had to do to get unfettered access to a share of a dual-OC3 was to unplug a cluster computer and plug in the laptop. Now, that same university has so much filtering and traffic that I can’t stream music from Pandora or watch Spoiler Warning. I can’t watch Spoiler Warning at school, even if I give it an hour and a half…

    1. Gary says:

      That is a disgrace. I work at an IT department at a large University in the midwest. My job is to make sure that all the students have internet while they are in the dorms. For WHATEVER they want.
      Right now, we’re working on a problem that causes lag for people. Oh, and the only time they get lag? When they’re gaming. Seriously, the only time they have trouble is with Team Fortress 2, League of Legends, or CoD:MW2. And we see that as a problem.

      1. Drew says:

        Wow, I wish I had gone to that uni. Mine had unrestricted access until the xbox launched and everyone started playing Halo over the network. Then they cracked down on everything and started hunting down people using P2P applications so they could send threatening messages about how they would co-operate if RIAA ever came to call….

        1. Chuck says:

          Best part of an on-campus apartment- internet that does not use the University’s network system.

          I had a dorm mate complain that my roommates WoW playing slowed the network once. Good times, good times.

      2. swenson says:

        Ours lets people do whatever they want too (although they do require you disable torrenting, because of the amount of strain that puts on the network, and you’re also required to have some form of anti-virus, a reasonable request in my opinion), including gaming, but I’ve heard of many places that don’t allow people to do any gaming. Very unfortunate!

        1. Aldowyn says:

          That. Would. SUCK. And, luckily, there’s no way any (or at least most) of the colleges I’m planning on applying to have THAT crazy rule. Even if I really shouldn’t have time for it.

      3. Blueman says:

        My university has a daily download limit, but it’s really high (like, 7 gigs per day). In addition, transfers between computers on campus are not capped at all, and the students have set up a massive sharing service with great speeds and no restrictions at all.

      4. Aldowyn says:

        Sure it wasn’t more than those 3 games and people just weren’t playing those games more than others, so you heard about those more? :D

  5. houser2112 says:

    I remember how much of a relief it was going from a company with an IT department to an IT company. From second class citizen to first class citizen. Yay!

    1. Deoxy says:

      I made the reverse transaction after almost a decade in the industry.

      Yes, it still hurts.

  6. HeadHunter says:

    You know, the attitude of doing the bare minimum to get by is not always a sign of laziness – in some ways, many companies unknowingly encourage it.

    I worked for an alarm company in L.A. for about a year. I was a dispatcher, but I really wanted to be in Patrol. I figured if I worked hard and did well, they’d allow me to transfer. So I gave it my best – and months later, when I asked my boss for the transfer, he said “I can’t afford to lose you – you’re one of my aces”. In other words, I was too good at my job to be promoted. I wound up leaving soon after.

    I worked in a call center for Microsoft for about 5 years. When I started, I was ambitious and hard-working. Certain higher-ups noticed me and wanted to groom me for a higher position. So I worked even harder. Then, they got promoted and their replacements didn’t like me – saw me as a threat to their own jobs. I began to see the positions above me filled not by hard workers like me, but by ass-kissers and brown-nosers. When I finally gave the appearance of playing the game their way, I was finally offered the promotion I deserved. Once I was in, I was able to openly do things my own way.

    The lessons I took away from both jobs are thus:

    1) If you are too valuable to be replaced, you’re too valuable to be promoted. Instead of finding someone else for your job, they’ll find someone to fill the job you wanted.

    2) When you raise the bar for yourself, you increase others’ expectations of your performance. Your “110 percent” becomes their new standard for you, and when you can’t live up to it, you’re seen as “falling short”. It’s the Peter Principle at work.

    3) The “Big Things” don’t give back. While it’s good to have a work ethic, too many people devote all their time, effort, and attention to their job – and nearly every job “takes” a lot more than it “gives”. While a job (or more accurately, an income) is important, it should be the least important “important thing” in our lives. It’s a means to an end – but too many people see the wrong “end”. Employers know this and use it to make us slaves to our jobs. When we’re treated poorly, when our benefits our diminished as our workload increases, we tell ourselves “I need this job” and let them get away with it.

    Honestly, you probably would have gotten further by kissing up to Don than by working harder. Sure, he may not have been able to replace you – but he could still make every day miserable and increase your workload. I’m not recommending that course of action – I’ve never been the kind to kiss up to anyone, and maybe that’s held me back. But I figure that your dignity is the one thing no one can take from you unless you let them, and mine’s not for sale.

    1. noahpocalypse says:

      But if he had done that, than he wouldn’t have the experience that the next company gives him, and he wouldn’t be able to create Pixel City or Project Hex and Frontier and then we would never get to see the end of Project Frontier!

    2. burningdragoon says:

      Disclaimer: been looking for a new job so the level of fuck* I give has been diminishing quite a bit recently.

      Funny (to me at least) story:
      A month or so ago I was called up by some superiors and asked to stay a little bit late because Responsibility A was waiting on someone else to prepare Item before doing what needs to be done. I naturally asked how late (an extra 15min: no big deal, an extra hour: blurg). Turns out it was only like 10 or so minutes so I said sure. The superior Superior asked “could you remote in?” to which I responded (jokingly but straight-faced) “I could but then I would have to think about work at home.”

      Granted that was much easier to say over the phone and I explained it was just a joke, but it was awesome. Next time he saw he gave a “oh this guy” laugh.

      *is swearing a fox pox here? I dunno.

      1. Jarenth says:

        I believe mild swearing for colourful effect isn’t frowned upon much. And by that I mean I’ve done it myself and I am yet un-banned.

        [annoying] Also, it’s ‘Faux Pas’. [/nobodyasked]

        1. Dwip says:

          You’ve got to admit, though: “fox pox” does sound kind of cool.

          1. Exactly! I mean, sure I know it’s faux pas… kinda. I usually forget of if pas has an x on the end (or an s for that matter). But I get some unusual amusement out of pronouncing silent Xs.

        2. Mari says:

          I’m really glad you added that because I couldn’t figure out what the heck a fox pox is.

          1. Jarenth says:

            I googled it on beforehand, just in case it was amazing new slang, but all I got were Megan Fox fansites.

            1. Aldowyn says:

              fox… POX? I don’t think I want to see those fansites. I’ll have to remember to NOT google that.

              Sadly, that might be difficult. I have a bad tendency of wanting to look at things I know I really don’t want to.

    3. SolkaTruesilver says:

      I have a rather strange policy regarding work. I make it clear to the people around me that I’d rather work smarter than harder. I am terribly lazy, so when I see a process that could be improved instead of just hand-working it, I take time to improve it.

      When work needs to be done, I usually do it pretty well and fast. But when it could be done easier if we spent some time organising things well, you won’t see me actually doing it.

      1. Deoxy says:

        I am terribly lazy, so when I see a process that could be improved instead of just hand-working it, I take time to improve it.

        Computer programmers: the hardest working lazy people in the history of mankind.

        Seriously, I’m so lazy that I’ll spend 2 hours to automate a 2 minutes process. That’ll pay off, really! Heh.

        1. SolkaTruesilver says:

          I work in the financial field, but I am a programmer at heart. I spent 5 hours designing a worksheet so I wouldn’t have to go through the process of filing the same data during 30 minutes every months.

          It’s been 2 years, and I am finally starting to get ahead in time won!

          Problem is, I am getting too efficient at my work because of this, so they try to pile up more stuff. Arrrrggg… :-)

        2. krellen says:

          Necessity is not the mother of invention. Laziness is.

        3. swenson says:

          It’s so true. I got tired of having to go all the way to random.org every time I needed a random number for some reason, so I wrote myself a nice little program to do it for me. Definitely took way longer than going to random.org, but now I don’t have to open up a browser (if I haven’t got a browser window up already, which I’ll admit is a rare occurrence on my machine) and go anywhere, I just go right to the little program on my desktop! And that’s hardly the first time I wrote a program rather than do something by hand.

        4. Rosseloh says:

          Strikes true with me. I’m not a programmer, but I’m trying to get some experience with scripting (perl/bash) and recently spent several hours writing scripts to semi-automate….what would actually be one-line commands. It’s now 4 seconds faster!

          (“sudo smartctl -t short /dev/sd$LETTER” if anyone was interested. For testing hard drives, where “short” can be “short” or “long”. And to be fair, smartctl doesn’t have a progress bar or anything, just a “check back in X minutes”. So the script shows me a timer)

    4. Drew says:

      Companies that won’t promote their valuable employees because they’re “too valuable” won’t have their valuable employees for long. Your story corroborates this. Competent management recognizes that leaving a good employee in a stagnant position only encourages them to leave, and if they’re really valuable, they’ll be more valuable in their new higher position after you promote them than they will be when they walk out the door because they’re frustrated.

      1. BlackBloc says:

        My company has the exact opposite problem. If you’re not getting promoted fast enough, they start putting pressure on you to step it up because they think any non-slacking employee should get promoted within X years. The problem is that the promotion track only leads to management positions. Do you know what I like to do? Coding. Do you know what my manager currently does very little of? Coding. 2 multiple hours meetings a day, but not much coding. Last thing I want is to have to cut coding time (which I like and am good at) to manage other people’s coding (which I hate and suck at).

        1. Aldowyn says:

          I would think promoting someone to a different track would be, well, different. And, oh, I dunno, you might try ASKING if they want to be promoted. But no, you could never do that, hmm?

        2. HeadHunter says:

          The irony is, I faced that problem too, to some extent, in my call center job. Each performance review would state some empty, meaningless thing like “Needs to seek higher levels of responsibility” or whatever buzzwords they use to say: Needs to apply for (and get) promotions.

          After each interview, the one question I would ask is along the lines of: What skills, traits or areas of development do you think are below the standards needed for the position? Each time, they would admit that I possessed the skills, the experience and the aptitude for the jiob… but of course they would never go so far as to say I had been passed over in favor of some suck-up. So I began to note in the comments on my revierws that I had, in fact, sought out and applied for such positions and if they felt that it was necessary for my best performance, it was up to them to accept me for one.

          I hear what BlackBloc is saying, as well. I’ve had jobs I enjoyed where a promotion would mean I no longer got to do the only things I enjoyed about the job. Maybe some career fields are simply structured in such a way as to discourage advancement for many of us.

    5. krellen says:

      For the past three years, I have “Exceeded Expectations” (the second highest-rating, and tradition reserves the highest rating for people that bring in large grants) in nearly every aspect of my job. For the past three years, I have also gone without a raise.

      This past year, I stopped performing so amazingly, and only my former boss’s good favour saved me from an unsatisfactory review. However, this year I will be getting a Christmas bonus. I think this is that very lesson.

    1. Shamus says:

      When I worked there, I remember we had a promotion for the STEAK AND BEAN BURRITO. It was this huge, half-pound monster. The advertising materials showed one end of the burrito open, and strips of “steak meat” sticking out.

      The actual recipe for the thing called for a heaping ice cream scoop worth of bean mush (4oz, I think) and a couple of tiny fragments of meat. (1/4 of an ounce.) Beans accounted for about half of the weight of the thing, and there was sixteen times as much beans as steak in the STEAK (and bean) Burrito. It was amazingly popular for the first few days, but people stopped buying long before the promotion ended. It was basically a fool-me-once gotcha item. It was also the most returned item. I’d get pulled off the line during a rush to deal with a customer, and the guy would show me this big sad blob of beans and inquire as to where the heck his STEAK was.

      I attributed most of the company failings to idiocy or incompetence, but that thing was a pre-meditated ripoff.

      1. Kacky Snorgle says:

        I remember going to a Taco Bell (in Missouri, so nowhere near yours) for the first time in the summer of 1994. I forget the name of the thing I ordered, but it turned out to consist of 49% tortilla, 49% lettuce, and 2% actual contents.

        I concluded that, wow, this place is a rip-off. I didn’t set foot in a Taco Bell again until 2009. (At which time I found it much improved.)

        1. HeadHunter says:

          I stopped in a Taco Bell in Cincinnati in 2001 and asked the kid at the counter:
          “What kind of soda do you have?”

          His response was “Um… small, medium and large.”

          I knew at that point that my meal wasn’t going to be anything remotely close to satisfactory.

  7. MadTinkerer says:

    “I gather that the college has an internet ““ whatever that is.”

    “It's 1994,”

    OH MY GOSH, I was using the Internet before Shamus was! I wasn’t using the World Wide Web much, though. There was literally nothing worthwhile on the Web until about 1997. Which also meant that none of my high school computer classes taught internet-related stuff, so I was Gophering and FTPing and USENETing at home while our teacher was trying to teach us the equivalent of Microsoft Access in class. You know: because teenagers need databases to organize their collections of stuff!

    I literally can’t remember what the actual program was called, but it was basically the Acorn version of MS Access.

    “The goal is to make money, not have the fastest or sleekest computer.”

    In my current job, the machine I use is running on OS/2 Warp. No joke.

    1. Shamus says:

      Heather bought me a modem when I lost this job, and I noodled around on AOL for a while. This place is very rural, so we were slow to get proper internet service. In 1995, I did get a real ISP and made myself a webpage.

      I do remember those strange days of the mid-90’s when Usenet was still useful and not a sea of porn, viruses, and spam. The entire IDEA of Usenet sounds preposterous now. It’s like a giant forum where anyone can post under any name with complete anonymity. Truly, the invention of a different time.

      I didn’t have broadband until 2001, which is the “uphill, in the snow, both ways” story I tell my kids. I WAS USING DIAL-UP IN THE 21st CENTURY! BEHOLD MY SUFFERING!

      1. silver Harloe says:

        My story is one of amazing inability to access the future.

        I started using the internet in ’88 when I went to college as a CS major (at first, I switched to Math later) – we got to use the computer labs with their Sun workstations hooked up to the net. It was awesome. ‘Round about 91 or 92 I’m rather used to ftp, archie, and gopher and my friend tells me about html/browsers. I just kind of stare at him in disbelief and say “but, why? Is using three lean and mean specialized programs so hard that we really need one thing to do all their tasks less well?”

        Apparently, the answer was, “yes.” But I didn’t see it until too late.

        The first “real programming job” I had was making code go that would translate templates to both gopher and web pages. We dropped the gopher support half way through my time there. It was the place where my boss once told me about this stock-ticking screen saver which “uses the internet, but, get this, doesn’t use the web” which had been my whole life up to that point so I groaned at him. It’s only gotten worse/better since – web ate everything I knew except my telnet chat program.

        1. MichaelG says:

          When I first saw Netscape, I thought “This is all text. People don’t read anymore. This will never become mainstream.”

      2. Mari says:

        I can top that. Broadband wasn’t available here until 2004. We still can’t get anything beyond the (s)lowest level of DSL because the phone lines aren’t up to snuff but there’s cable too now.

        And I have fond memories of Usenet. Although mostly pre-1996 I was using a local BBS and Telnetting to other BBSes in other places.

        1. Irridium says:

          I can top even that.

          Broadband STILL isn’t available where I’m at (rural Vermont).

          The fastest I can get here is a 1 megabit connection. Which is about 100 kb/s on good days. On bad days I’m lucky if I even have a connection.

          So I’m stuck, waiting for the local horse to get to my area.

          Better than dial-up though, which I had when I moved here until two years ago. Which is better than what I had at my dad’s for about four months, which is no internet.

          1. Have you considered satellite?

            1. Irridium says:

              Tried it, didn’t work out so well. Had a latency of 1 second, which is great for everything other than playing online, and since playing online is my primary way of staying in touch with friends where I used to live… yeah.

              Plus the connection always cuts out for me. Doesn’t happen much, and only does it for a second or so, but it’s just annoying.

          2. Mari says:

            That 1 Mbps is exactly what we can get here in the way of DSL. It’s billed as “broadband” here and charged accordingly on your account. We were paying $35 a month for a 1Mbps connection which, until the past year, was much less than we would have paid for cable. The cable started at $50 per month because you had to buy a cable TV “package” and then add your internet service on top of that. And those were our two choices until this year when Stelera moved in. None of the big-name providers want to service this area although AT&T will be more than happy to take your money and lock you into a contract before telling you that they don’t service the area. Sometimes I really despise ISPs.

        2. I worked as a nanny for a guy that owned a computer store which at that time meant he sold computers, sold a small shelf of software, did tech support, and ran a BBS. I remember that thing being about the hardest thing to access ever– took multiple attempts to “call in” and half the time it was not available. It was so confusing.

          1. Mari says:

            It depended on the BBS. In college I used them a lot but I lived in an Air Force town and about half the guys serving at the base ran BBSes out of their homes. It was a base that was mostly oriented toward very technical stuff so it tended to have a big geek population (even higher than the general AF population). They were pretty good at setting everything up. Matter of fact, I got so good with Galacticom BBSes that I hacked more than a few that weren’t buttoned down properly. Which, in a roundabout way, is how I met my husband.

      3. DanMan says:

        My family didn’t get high-speed Internet until I went to college in 2005. Ah the days where I would get yelled at if I was using the Internet for school during a time when my parents were expecting a call. Oh, did I mention that my dad was the only one with a cell phone, and that was a work phone? So the only phone line we had was also our Internet line.

        You damn kids! Get off my lawn!

        1. Hal says:

          We had dial-up all through high school (1997-2001), so I learned a great deal about maximizing that particular resource, aside from staying up late so my parents wouldn’t care about the phone line being busy.

          Nothing was really dynamic in those days, so you could load a web page you needed and move on. You needed a resource but someone needed the phone line? Open every page you needed in a different window and then shut down. I truly felt like a genius when I figured this out.

          I also played Solitaire while waiting for pages to load. I think I’m more than done with that game.

        2. Dwip says:

          Forget school. My parents got so tired of yelling at me to stop playing MUDs 24/7 that they eventually sprang for a phone line for me halfway through high school.

          Which meant that dad and I could be on different MUDs at the same time and we could still get calls. It was amazing.

          We got DSL in 2002 or so, but I didn’t have anything I’d call real broadband until 2006 when I moved to Connecticut.

      4. Garci says:

        I didn’t get broadband until 2005, still had to hear those whirrs and beeps well into half of the decade.

      5. Ruthie says:

        We didn’t have proper dial up at the house until 2000, the end of my jr year of highschool. Up until that point, we used an email only service called “JUNO”. I remember Mom being super excited, saying “wow, we have the internet!” I replied “welcome to the 90’s mom”

      6. swenson says:

        I was using dial-up in the 21st century too, unfortunately. Thankfully, when I was in high school (like 2006 or so), my sister and I finally managed to convince my parents to pony up the money to get actual broadband. Actually, not even that–we finally told them that we would pay the entire monthly cost ourselves if they would just PLEASE, for the love of all things sweet and beautiful, call the cable company.

        They did, and the two of us did actually pay for our fast internet for the first couple of years of it, before my mother relented and admitted she didn’t want to go back to dial-up either. Now, aside from myself, she’s the one who uses the internet the most in our house!

      7. tussock says:

        Yeh, still using dialup to read this over, eh. Broadband ends about 50km down the road, and satellite is expensive here (New Zealand, land of the private monopoly phone company). But you know, even those who do have broadband here are still stuck on 10GB capped monthly plans, and I can get that off the ol’ 56k anyway, with some patience. 8]

      8. Philadelphus says:

        Ugh, commenting on a five-year-old post and all that, but I just had say that dial-up was all I had at home growing up in rural California from 2000 until about maybe the end of 2007 (a few hours from Silicon Valley, for extra irony). Then I discovered that, by sitting against the northern-most indoor wall of the house, I could juuust get the neighbor’s slightly faster Wi-Fi signal on my laptop if the weather was good and the stars aligned. (They had line-of-sight to a transmitter that we didn’t or something, I’m hazy on the details, but we couldn’t get the same service, and yes, they knew about it and were cool with it.)

        Then I moved to Hawaii to go to college in 2009, and discovered the joy of a fast, stable, always-on (did I mention fast?) Internet connection, and the world has never been the same since. (Due to the presence of the astronomical observatories on the Big Island, we’ve got actually pretty good Internet service here as a result of the observatories needing lots of data bandwidth and the infrastructure to support it).

        My browsing habits are still indelibly shaped by the experience of using dial-up for so many years; I’m always opening links in an article in background tabs because when it takes a minute to load a page it’s a lot nicer to have it loading in the background in parallel while you continue reading than wait for a bunch of links to load sequentially.

    2. Deoxy says:

      I know Al Gore was lying about inventing the internet* in the early 90s because I was USING it in the late 80s. In middle school. (I was actually using a computer in the library of a local university, but still. MUDs are still fun, even today.)

      *Actual quote, before anybody gets all snippy:

      I took the initiative in creating the Internet.

      “Invent” isn’t QUITE the same as “create”, but the spirit is the same.

      1. krellen says:

        He wasn’t lying. The “Internet” was what ARPAnet morphed into once released to the public, but before Al Gore sponsored the bill in the Senate to fund its expansion, it was a very different beast, largely confined to universities and military bases.

        Al Gore did take the initiative in creating the modern version of the Internet.

        1. Klay F. says:

          Just so we are clear sponsoring a bill helping to create the internet is about as far removed from actually inventing the internet as sponsoring an initiative to go to the moon is from actually going to the moon.

          1. Jarenth says:

            It seems clear from that quote that Al Gore understands this difference too.

  8. Ruthie says:

    Are you going to talk any more about the bat mobile? Does that come later?

      1. X2-Eliah says:

        Don’t tell us you rear-ended Batman o.O

        1. KremlinLaptop says:

          I heard Mumbles writes fanfic about that.

          1. X2-Eliah says:

            Not for 3 more days..

        2. Ruthie says:

          I was 11. No. I did not rear end the batmobile.

      2. Aanok says:

        Aha! So you are a time-travelling superhero in disguise indeed.

        1. SolkaTruesilver says:

          he IS a Time Lord

    1. Hitch says:

      I find it interesting when Shamus’ family comments. “Why didn’t you mention X?” “When are you going to talk about Y?” “You forgot Z.” Shamus’ response is almost always, “I haven’t gotten to that yet.” It’s like he didn’t live his life in the same order as the rest of his family.

      He IS a time traveler!

      Or, that’s just the way memory works. I’m sticking with the time traveler theory.

  9. Irridium says:

    To the town of Agua Fria rode a stranger one fine dayyyyy
    Hardly spoke to folks around him didn’t have too much to saaayyyyy
    No one dared to ask his business no one dared to make a slip
    for the stranger there among them had a big iron on his hip

    Big iron on his hiiiiiiiiiip.

    1. noahpocalypse says:

      I take pride in knowing about that song even before Fallout 3 was released. I have a grandfather who introduced me to his culture. I listened to that song when my age was single-digits on a CD in his car. I wish I could remember the next verse though.

      1. Armagrodden says:

        It was early in the morning when he rode into the town.
        He came riding from the south side, slowly lookin’ all aroooound.
        He’s an outlaw who’s gone runnin’, came the whisper from each lip,
        And he’s here to do some business with the Big Iron on his hip.

        Big Iron on his hiii-iiip.

        (That song was on a country music medley CD that my family listened to every time we took a road trip. I used to have every song on there memorized; I can still remember all but a couple lines of Big Iron.)

      2. Kevin says:

        +1 for the Marty Robbins reference…(it is also the first thing -I- thought of when reading the title)

  10. Captain Kail says:

    Surely I’m not alone in thinking Shamus was a SUPER CUTE nerd, am I?

    1. Shamus says:

      My wife agrees with you, at least.

      1. 100%. I think he is the cutest geek out there. And yes, as a young lady, when everyone else was fantasizing about the rock stars and jocks on tv shows I was the girl rather obsessed with the computer geek in every show I watched, and back in the 80’s every kids show had a computer geek. So I got to marry a super genius who also happened to be an adorable computer geek. Couldn’t be happier.

        1. HeadHunter says:

          Oh, you must have been in Heaven when Whiz Kids was on TV!
          I’ll bet you liked Richie the best.

    2. KremlinLaptop says:

      He was! (He sort of still is, actually!) That picture of him with the floppy disk though? D’aw, I just wanna pinch his dorky cheeks and go, “You’re gonna grow up to be a blogger! You don’t even know what that is yet!”

      I’ll stop now.

    3. Mari says:

      At the risk of publicly humiliating myself I will admit that I think he’s kinda cute, too. Not my type but cute nonetheless :-)

  11. noahpocalypse says:

    Ahaha! I just noticed the square mouse!

    Oh, the good old days… Back when plastic was obviously too expensive for executives to mold into a comfortable curve for something as esoteric and purposeless as a computer.

  12. Meredith says:

    I hate that “if we upgrade, it will confuse people” mentality. By that logic, we should still be using the giant room-sized computers with punchcards. Someone’s always going to cry when something changes and within a week they’ll have completely forgotten it’s even new and everything will be fine.

    1. krellen says:

      I still hate Windows 7, and especially hate Office 2010.

      And new hardware has literally made my job completely impossible to do at times now.

      1. Blake says:

        Why the Win7 hate? Apart from the changes to the start bar (which I’m fine with some times, hate other times) and the accidental shake a window too much and everything disappears thing, I’ve found everything to just behave better than Vista and XP before that.

        Note: I’m not trying to start any “This Vs That” argument, just actually curious which things bother you.

        1. krellen says:

          I can’t find anything. It takes me twice as long to do routine administrative tasks in Windows 7 compared to XP because they decided to change over a decade of menu design for no real reason.

    2. Shamus says:

      It’s not that you should NEVER upgrade, it’s that you should wait until the benefits of the upgrade are real and tangible. Every time you upgrade it’s a disruption, but not every upgrade is an improvement.

      People might even embrace the upgrade if it makes their job easier.

      It’s a bit like moving. If every six months, I got access to a new house that is 5% larger, it would still be a major pain in the ass to box everything up and schlep it to the new address. How often should you move? Depends on how much you need the space and how hard it is to move, but moving every six months is a horrible idea.

      1. MichaelG says:

        Actually, I used to move almost that often. I was job hopping a bit (later, contracting), and I refused to have a long commute. Since one apartment is pretty much like another, and I travel light, I just moved.

        Beats cleaning the place! :-)

        Oh, and it should be “dumb terminals”, not “dummy terminals.” Unless they were fakes to distract management while you did things on a PC.

    3. Blake says:

      In a lot of cases there’s also no way to be sure that all the required software will work 100% with a new OS and hardware.
      Modern pieces of software will likely be fine, but something written for a particular task a decade ago could certainly suffer.

      It’s not a problem we have at my work, probably the oldest piece of software we use is Visual Studio 2008, so we’re all on Windows 7 and are trusted enough to do things like update Firefox whenever a new version comes out.

      One of the good things about modern computers is everything tends to be standardised enough that it just works when you update a piece. It’s a hell of an improvement to what used to be.

  13. krellen says:

    “We don't matter. It's a humbling lesson, but an important one. The goal is to make money, not have the fastest or sleekest computer. Our job is to make the place work in spite of how much the computer sucks.”

    The past year at my work has been me trying to reimpart this lesson on a culture that has now decided anything new is better, whether it actually helps workflow or not.

    1. SolkaTruesilver says:

      Wasn’t there an XKCD comic about this?

      Like, Academic vs. Business?

      1. Paul Spooner says:

        Aah, not quite. That was http://xkcd.com/664/ and it talked about the difference in appreciation of solution elegance between the worlds of academia and business. Essentially, academia generally respects novel elegant solutions, where industry generally respects proven robust solutions. It was also about how academics would love to see all the elegant solutions that work-a-day engineers have come up with. Unfortunately the huge majority of ugly, kludged together, boorish solutions in industry disheartens most of them.
        Similar point though, that the “best” solution is somewhere between the “ideal” solution, and the “current” solution.

  14. Zanfib says:

    You mean this episode is not about you joining the Arizona Rangers?

    I am disappoint.

  15. Elilupe says:

    That picture of you when you were skinny looks weirdly like John Darnielle.

  16. Scerro says:

    I just re-read back through this today, and I realized my first car that I got earlier this year is older than yours here.

  17. Stephanie says:

    Hey, going back to the discussion about spelling earlier in the comments, I have a question for the non-visual learners.

    My sister is tutoring a kid who’s behind in reading/writing. She’s a bright kid, but as far as my sister can tell she’s intensely non-visual. Does anyone have any ideas on what would help her? Or at least some content that would motivate her enough to suck up the boring stuff?

    1. Blake says:

      I’m not certain which way I learn things best, I tend to think of it as learning by playing, like back when I was learning new maths or any time I’m learning a new programming language I’ll start doing a bit of the samples, then go off on a tangent and see what happens when I try different things.

      When I put my brain back into primary school mode I remember learning to read and write phonetically, rather than learning how to spell different words themselves, I was taught to sound out each syllable and write that chunk.

      It’s something obvious to most adults that a word is made up of smaller parts that appear in many words, but to a child they often see each individual word as a single indivisible entity that must be memorised.
      It reminds me of a time when a young kid told me the highest number he could count to was 47 (or some similar number), when I asked him what the next number was he honestly had no idea. He’d learned to count to that number in sequence, but hadn’t yet recognised the patterns.

    2. ZAPHOAD says:

      I learn by doing, so my parents taught me letters and words with playdoh and pudding, things that I could feel. Math was the same – I learned algebra early because we had a laminated picture of a scale and blocks with X on them, but I’m still bad at basic arithmetic. Fractions were hard until I was old enough to cook and use measuring cups. P.S. – l’m typing on my Nintendo 3DS, so I hope this is understandable.

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