Category: Work

Tempin' Ain't Easy

I try not to think about the fact that it's been seven years since I got my CS degree and I haven't put it to use professionally.

I entered the field at the wrong time and in the wrong place. It's rough all over, and the housing bubble hit Arizona disproportionately hard. I've spent the past few years working as a temp and building the odd website on the side.

The first temp gig lasted two years -- ironically, longer than any other job I've had. But I got laid off about a year ago.

There's this kind of paranoia you get. It could happen again any time. And it has absolutely nothing to do with how hard you work or how good a job you do. You could be out on your ass tomorrow, on the whim of some guy you've never met.

I've heard some of the "get a job" rhetoric lately and it's just baffling. A hell of a lot of people would like very much to get a job. I've been either unemployed or underemployed my whole adult life, and that's with a degree that, fifteen years ago, could have gotten me six figures.

Not that I intend this as a pity party. I've got work now, and it pays well enough to live comfortably while still squirreling away enough each week that I'll be okay for a few months if I find myself unemployed again. There are a lot of guys who have it a lot worse than I do.

And if you take anything away from this comedy of errors, let it be that: this is the story of a guy who's doing okay in this economy.

Job 1: Fortune 500 Company, Real Estate Business

Job: Imaging laptops, working in a warehouse, inventory duty
Distance from Home: 3.5 miles
Best Thing: Laid-back atmosphere most of the time
Worst Thing: Lung fungus
Length of Service: 2 years

This wasn't a bad gig, really. Not intellectually challenging, but I worked with some good people, I got some good exercise in, and most times things were pretty laid-back.

But it wasn't worth giving up my health for, and ultimately that's what I did.

I did a lot of work out in a dusty warehouse, and I managed to contract valley fever. For those of you not from around here, valley fever is a lung fungus, and it lives in dust. The Valley and valley fever are like the Internet and Hitler comparisons -- you stay there long enough, it's something you're eventually going to have to deal with.

So I contracted a lung fungus working there, and I've still got asthma. It's manageable now, but I'm not what I was. Before I took that job I was healthy.

The next-worst thing about the job, after the lung fungus, was the meddling from up the chain. People with little-to-no grasp of our actual day-to-day operations had very strong opinions of what those operations should be, and precisely which boxes we should check on which forms each and every single time we did them. Precisely what those opinions were tended to change from week-to-week, producing an ever-changing, increasingly complex system for dealing with very simple tasks.

And as this went on, the environment became less and less laid-back, and more and more stressful.

There was a real disconnect between the building I was in and management out on the west coast. Within my office I was regarded as an essential member of the team, and indeed my bosses not only recognized my value, they realized that I could probably be doing more for the company than just counting how many sticks of RAM were left in inventory, and fought hard to get me not only hired on but promoted.

It's no small comfort to me that every single person who actually worked with me was pulling for me. To the point that when Corporate decreed that all the temps would be let go, my boss's boss's boss got reassigned for telling his boss's boss's boss exactly how he felt about that.

It was nothing personal. And it was nothing to do with my performance. I was just caught up in a bloodbath. I was part of the first wave, but it kept going. Last I heard, they'd laid off another third of my department, every help desk tech in Arizona, nearly everyone in the front office, and most of the people up the chain to VP. And demoted my boss back down to tech.

But before all that, I got a layoff for Christmas. I lost my job two years, to the week, after I'd gotten it.

There's a fatalism that kicks in after awhile. A knowledge that no matter how hard you work and how much you're appreciated, there's some clown in a corner office somewhere who's never met you but has the power to decide whether you're drawing a paycheck next week.

But ultimately there's something liberating about that, too. After awhile you stop trying to impress the clowns in the corner offices who have never met you. You realize the only people worth giving two shits about are the ones you deal with every day -- and that trying to impress them isn't about whether you'll have a job next week, it's about doing a good job for its own sake and for the sake of your team.

Those guys had my back. And that means more to me than a paycheck ever did.

Unemployment

Unemployment sucks. But it could be worse.

It's a pretty damn smooth process in this day and age -- all online, no driving across town and waiting in line. You fill out an online form, they take a week or two to make sure your story checks out, and then they open up a bank account for you, send you a card, and put money in every week.

Once a week you'll have to resubmit your claim. You tell them you're still looking for work (and keep evidence on file in case they ask for it -- I kept rather a long Excel spreadsheet with a list of everybody I'd contacted) and declare any money you've earned.

The whole thing's demoralizing and more than a little Kafkaesque -- Ursula K Le Guin recently described it quite wonderfully in a short story called Ninety-Nine Weeks: A Fairy Tale, and it's barely an exaggeration. That spreadsheet I mentioned where I kept track of all the dozens jobs I applied for? Only one of them ever actually got me an offer, and it was out-of-state -- more on that below. By the time I did finally get work again, it wasn't from the job search, it was from the same temp agency I'd been working for since '08.

Job 2: Local Non-Profit, Medical Industry

Job: Imaging laptops
Distance from Home: 13 miles
Best Thing: A job!
Worst Thing: Poor pay, sporadic availability
Length of Service: 3 months, off and on

This one wasn't too bad either. Neat office, nice people, and a certain degree of autonomy. The cramped little room I worked in got pretty crowded and hot as time went on, and there was a whole lot of downtime as I waited for laptops to finish imaging, but hey, I got time to catch up on my reading.

I also learned some interesting things about security policy. I've never had to lock things down so tightly from the BIOS -- a unique strong boot password on every machine, USB boot disabled, Bluetooth disabled, and on and on.

The toughest thing was that this wasn't a 40-hour-a-week job. It was "We just got these laptops in; image them and when you're done we'll send you home and call you back in when we get more."

And, without getting into the specifics of my pay, here's where that got frustrating: often I didn't make significantly more money than if I'd just stayed at home and collected unemployment.

Unemployment in Arizona works like this: you get a weekly stipend of up to $240. I was eligible for that maximum amount.

Every week, you report how much you've earned. You can earn up to $30 before they start subtracting your earnings from your unemployment check.

So there's this sort of dead zone between $30 and $270 where you are making the same amount of money whether you work or not.

And at this job, I frequently worked a weird part-time schedule and fell into that zone. Once I got past that first $30, I wasn't actually making any money; I was just getting a paycheck from the temp agency instead of the state.

Obviously there are still reasons to work. For its own sake, first of all. And second, to stay eligible for my healthcare, which was set to expire after three months without work. (I got back into the market just in time, but not fast enough to keep someone from fucking up my paperwork and taking me off their books even though I was still paying in every week. I had to call three different departments to get it corrected and my last prescription covered.) But there's still a definite sense of frustration in knowing that you're effectively working for free.

More than one other tech actually told me I should slow down and deliberately take longer to do the work so that I wouldn't get sent home in the middle of the week to await the next shipment. What a position to be in -- effectively being punished for being efficient, and incentivized to slow down and waste time.

This, as you will see, was to become a recurring theme.

Job 3: Company You've Probably Heard Of If You Live in North America, Retail Business

Job: Phone support
Distance from Current Home: 30 miles
Distance from Apartment Where I Lived 4 Years Ago: Directly across the street
Best Thing: Coworkers seem like all right guys
Worst Thing: The single worst job I have ever had. Fuck these people.
Length of Service: About a month

On some level, this fucking fiasco was my own doing.

I'd been poking through listings on some job site or other (probably not CareerBuilder; I quit using it after I discovered it was the thing that kept locking up my browser and hanging my entire system) and I noticed an IT job being offered through my temp agency which my rep hadn't brought to my attention. So I E-Mailed him and asked about it. In hindsight, I should have assumed there was a good reason he hadn't approached me about it.

It was phone support. Not phone support like I'd done before, but in a phone bank -- I had a few feet of shelf that I wouldn't really refer to as a desk, partitioned off from the guys next to me by small dividers that I wouldn't really refer to as a cubicle. Every morning at 6 AM I pulled up whatever broken chair nobody was sitting in, put on a headset if it was still where I'd left it the day before, and started working my way through a list of branches to call to walk their managers through installing new kiosks that didn't work very well in buildings that, half the time, weren't cabled correctly. (Ever walk a retail manager through recabling a patch panel? I've done it six times before breakfast.) It was dimly lit and it was dehumanizing -- I'd compare it to an assembly line, but the assembly lines I've seen are a whole lot livelier and more fun.

(I will grant one thing to the "cog in a corporate machine" setup: this is a company with hundreds of stores, all organized exactly the same. Each store has the same patch panel with the same numbered ports that go to the same rooms and assign IP's based on the same scheme. There was this in-house .NET program we had that would let you plug in a store number, automatically populate the IP address for every port in the place, and give you a one-click ping for each one. That's the advantage of a company that treats its stores as unifom, cookie-cutter widgets. The disadvantage is that it treats people exactly the same way.)

I spent most of each day on hold listening to the same fucking 16 bars of piano music over and over again. Periodically interrupted by a recorded voice telling me I was on hold, of course -- and if I ever meet the son of a bitch who decided to stick voice recordings in the middle of hold music, I am going to gouge his eyes out with my thumbs. I know I'm on hold, asshole; that's why there is music playing. About the only thing that could trick me into thinking that I wasn't on hold would be if the music abruptly stopped and I heard a human voice instead.

There were a couple of guys there who I'd gone to high school with. One of them I recognized but hadn't really known very well; the other used to pick on me but claimed not to remember me (he blamed it on the drugs he'd been doing back then and I am inclined to believe him). Now, remember how earlier I expressed frustration that my career hasn't really gone anywhere? Well, if you want a symbol that will hammer that little insecurity home, suddenly finding yourself sitting next to a couple of guys from high school is a pretty good one. But probably not as good as being directly across the street from the apartment where you lived back when you worked a previous dead-end job. Man, that would have been a sweet commute in 2007!

So no, let's say that this job wasn't the best fit for me. But dammit, I got up every morning at 4:30, put on a smile, went in, did my job and did it well. I blew through every task they gave me and asked for more.

This, as it turned out, was a problem. But nobody ever actually bothered to tell me that.

One morning I walked in and found that my login wasn't working. I asked the guy who'd been training me; he hemmed and hawed and wandered off for awhile, then came back and told me to turn in my badge.

It bears repeating, at this point, that I had just driven 30 miles to show up to work at 6 AM.

My rep told me that they'd called his office the previous evening to tell him to call me and tell me not to come in to work in the morning -- after he'd already gone home for the day.

He added that I'd been sacked because they thought I didn't schmooze enough with the end users over the phone -- something that nobody had ever actually complained to me about. I wasn't rude, or even brusque; I was just, in my rep's words, "too focused on getting the job done". I'm used to support jobs emphasizing getting the task done quickly, because the user doesn't want to be on the phone and wants to get back to what she was doing. But apparently that's not how it worked at this company; they wanted me to slow down and shoot the breeze -- except nobody ever bothered to tell me that. Come on, guys, if you want me to talk about the weather, just say so -- I have quite a lot to say about the weather in Phoenix in June, even when half the state isn't on fire.

Anyhow, it's the only job I've ever been fired from. And nobody even bothered to tell me there was a problem, let alone that I'd been fired.

The guy who walked me to the door was apologetic and told me not to worry about it, that people get fired from that place all the time through no fault of their own; maybe just for looking at somebody the wrong way. And it occurred to me that I'd passed my boss early one morning in the hall and, when she asked how I was doing, cracked a grin and responded "Hanging in there" -- and she apparently took offense that I hadn't said something more enthusiastic.

On the whole, pretty demoralizing and upsetting, and far and away the worst professional experience I have ever had.

Of course, I use the term "professional" in its loosest possible sense.

Job Interviews

Through it all, of course, I was interviewing wherever I could.

There are lots of stories I could tell. The temp agency I spent half an hour trying to find. The interview where I referred to a former coworker as "A temp like me, but kind of a slacker" but the interviewer just caught the "like me, kind of a slacker" part and that pretty well torpedoed me. The interviewer who asked me about a comment I'd posted about Spore's DRM on the FTC website back in '09 and then followed up by asking my opinion about SB1070. But the best story is the hosting company I saw advertised on a billboard.

"Do you know Linux? We're hiring!" said the billboard, with a colorful mascot next to the words. I would see it on the freeway on my way to work. Or maybe it was on my way home from work. Maybe it was both; I think they had more than one billboard.

Well, hell yeah I know Linux. I pulled up the website and submitted a resume. Turned out it was a hosting company -- even better. I spent most of '07 running the backend of a local ISP singlehandedly; I know my way around Apache httpd and MS IIS pretty well.

So they called me back, and the most immediately odd thing was that they told me the job was in Austin. Why would a company in Austin advertise in Phoenix?

Well, of course the answer is that they couldn't find anybody in Austin willing to accept the shitty salary they want to pay for Linux administration, so they're advertising in depressed markets that are full of desperate, unemployed Linux admins. But as you might expect, they didn't come right out and say that.

No, they gave me some talk about how they're expanding into new markets, and how they'd pay for my relocation, and they didn't balk when I gave them a deliberately high figure for my expected salary. They made the whole process seem very exclusive, putting me through three different interviews -- a general one, a second one with a series of technical questions, and a third where they had me SSH into one of their servers and demonstrate that I know my way around bash.

And then they offered me an hourly rate that was maybe fifty cents better than what I was currently getting in the phone bank. And a relocation fee that might have covered a U-Haul rental, deposit, and first month's rent on an apartment.

I hear Austin is a neat place, but no thank you.

It was about this point that I decided to read some employee testimonials on the place, and it sounded suspiciously like the terrible job I was already working at.

The billboards are down now. I wonder if they ever found anybody desperate or gullible enough to take their offer.

Job 4: Contractor for a Contractor for a Contractor, Insurance Industry

Job: Imaging laptops
Distance from Home: 32 miles
Best Thing: Getting work immediately after the previous fiasco; autonomy and people who were happy to see me
Worst Thing: Night crew fired after their first day
Length of Service: 6 weeks

Actually, before this job my rep sprang into action and got me a half-day gig fixing a company's QuickBooks setup, a mere 5 days after the debacle at my previous job. But I'm not counting that as its own section. My rep's cool, though.

Anyhow, shortly after the half-day QB fixer-upper, he found me something else and, at last, I got to be part of a Windows 7 refresh -- the precise thing that my boss, the previous December, had assured me would ensure my job security for another year, the week before announcing that the Windows 7 rollout had been canceled and so had my employment.

Anyhow, this one was interesting. The idea was to provide a minimum of disruption for the employees, while upgrading most of the office to Win7 in a matter of weeks.

So we had a night crew. They came in, ran a script to back up the user's files, either reimaged the user's existing computer or grabbed a new, freshly-imaged one that I'd already put together, restored from backup, and left it to me to walk the user through initial configuration the next morning.

At least, that's how we eventually got it working. The first night, things failed rather spectacularly.

I got in the next morning to find the night crew still there, a small handful of computers actually in working condition, and the rest in various states of completion.

The way I heard the story went something like this: one tech on the crew had asked the guy in charge what the plan was -- how they were going to split up the workload, what the schedule was, etc. He had made some vague "Just get started" noises. She asked him a few more times; he responded similarly. Finally she just went to work; she was responsible for the handful of machines that had actually been finished, while the other techs hadn't really worked out a plan for how to get their work done.

So the company fired everyone else and put her in charge of the new team.

After that it went really smoothly most nights. There were a couple exceptions -- one weekend when the generator had to be turned off for maintenance and so they couldn't come in to get computers ready for Monday, and one night when the AC was out and it was too hot to work. But no more problems from the techs themselves; the second crew did a really great job and made my life much easier.

Job 5: Company You've Probably Heard Of If You Live in the Southwestern US, Real Estate Business

Job: Imaging laptops
Distance from Home: 22.5 miles
Best Thing: Autonomy
Worst Thing: Still a bit of a drive.
Length of Service: 4 months so far, out of a one-year contract.

And from there I moved on to my fifth job of the year, not including freelance Web design or that one-day gig fixing QuickBooks.

This one comes with a one-year contract, so hopefully that'll hold and I'll still be there through next August. But I'm not going to take that for granted; one of the many lessons I learned in the Dank Pit of Phone Support last summer is that a six-month contract can turn into a one-month contract with absolutely no warning. Course, I've been working this one long enough that I am confident in saying that this time I am working for decent human beings, but again, it's not the people I've actually met I'm worried about. And every time I hear the Windows 7 rollout's been delayed, I get a little nervous.


I guess it's worth asking, what motivates me to come to work every day and do a good job? Here's what I can come up with:

  • Need for money
  • Need for health insurance
  • Pride
  • Loyalty to my coworkers

It's instructive to note the things that aren't on the list. "Hope for promotion" and "fear of losing my job" are conspicuously absent -- yes, I do feel both of those things, but as I've mentioned several times, I have absolutely no sense that my employment or advancement is tied to my performance in any way. They're motivating factors just as much as the potential for finding a $100 bill on the ground or tripping and cracking my skull -- they're both things that have some potential for happening, and my job performance has about as much to do with the likelihood of either one.

Also missing: "company loyalty". And unlike those other two things, this isn't something I have in the slightest. I am, as I said, loyal to my coworkers, and I appreciate my rep at the temp agency, but that's not the same thing as being loyal to either the company I'm working for or the company that placed me there. If I get a better offer I'll take it -- and those last two bullet points are the only reasons I'll give two weeks' notice.

On the whole I'm not entirely sure this is a bad thing from my perspective -- hell, the ideal list would probably have two bullet points instead of four. Company loyalty, the stick of firing and the carrot of advancement -- I don't need those things to do a good job. But from the company's perspective, it's probably a bad thing.

And if I may be so bold, I think I'm probably representative of a good solid chunk of my generation. Educated, underemployed, unable to hold down a job for more than two years through no fault of my own -- what happens when that's your workforce? In the coming decades we're going to find out.

Another Love Letter to Microsoft

Here is what I love about Windows 2000's network configuration.

First of all, if you uninstall a network card -- say, for example, because you are having trouble getting it to work, perhaps trouble that suspiciously coincides with the latest round of Microsoft patches --, and then reinstall that card, you will find that your network settings have defaulted back to DHCP instead of static IP.

So you'll have to re-enter your IP.

If the machine you are currently working on happens to be a Web server that uses 250 different IP's, you will have to re-enter your 250 IP's.

But Thad, you say, that is awesome! How could life possibly get any better?

Well, it may seem difficult, but it does get better.

You can only enter one IP at a time.

And you can't copy and paste.

And no matter how many dozen times you enter the netmask 255.255.252.0, it will always default to 255.255.255.0.

And and every single time you tell it to add a new IP, it pops the new IP window up right on top of the list of existing IP's. So that if it is, just for the sake of argument, 11:30 at goddamnfuckinghellshitcock night and you are entering 250 different addresses, you have to scroll a bar and then drag a window to see the last one you entered. In the absurdly unlikely event that you somehow have trouble keeping your place under those conditions.

Awesome enough for you?

Yes, I am sure you are saying. Yes, that is just incredibly, unspeakably awesome. There is no possible greater threshold for awesomeness.

Well shut up, you're wrong.

Let's say you make a mistake. Let's say you somehow enter the same IP address twice. I know, there is absolutely no way of that happening under the circumstances, but bear with me in this thought experiment.

Let's say you enter an IP twice. It doesn't like it when you do that.

But does it tell you when you enter the redundant IP? No, that would make too much sense. Does it just delete the redundant IP itself seeing as the two are identical? Of course not. That would be stupid. That would require someone at Microsoft to write an entire extra line of code.

But Thad, you may say, surely they must at least tell you which IP is redundant?

My friend, where's the fun in that? Why tell you when they can instead just make you strain your eyes staring at every single IP you've entered?

Oh, and also, there's no way of sorting them.

They don't pay me enough for this shit.

Nomenclature

I have come to absolutely loathe it when people refer to the Web as "the Internet" -- as in, "E-Mail's not working, but the Internet is."

This is, of course, like so many problems in the wonderful world of computers, entirely Microsoft's fault.

Seriously. Internet Explorer? What the fuck is that? It's an effing Web browser. I guess I can get "Explorer" as a synonym for "Browser" (remember, these are the same guys who had to change "Trash" to "Recycle Bin" and "Bookmarks" to "Favorites"), but "Web" and "Internet" are not synonymous, and fuck you guys for making everybody think they are.

Do you know how many people don't know what a Web browser is thanks to that nonsense? If I had a nickel for every time I'd told somebody to open her browser and heard "How do I do that? ...Oh, you mean I go to the Internet," I'd probably have enough money to buy Windows Vista Ultimate Limited Numbered Signature Edition (though not nearly enough to buy hardware to run it on).

And guess what? Microsoft is now trying very hard to obfuscate things even further by slapping the word "Windows" in front of everything. So now it's not just Internet Explorer anymore, it's Windows Internet Explorer (ironically, they picked this name right as they decoupled the program from Windows Explorer -- which, oh yeah, they repeatedly claimed was impossible during that whole antitrust suit thing).

I used to work at a university computer store, and not a day went by but somebody came in who didn't know the difference between Windows and Office. And it's shit like this -- like Windows Internet Explorer -- that is directly responsible for people not being able to understand the difference between an operating system and a fucking Office Suite -- or, in this case, an operating system, a Web browser, and the Internet.

At least they're not calling it Windows Office -- yet.

Just Like T's Class

You know, there's just something cathartic about cleaning house -- about going through a few dozen old computers, finding out what works and what doesn't, wiping drives, keeping what may be of use at a later date and donating the rest. Sure it's boring and repetitive, and I inevitably manage to cut myself on something, but it reminds me of high school, and then my first job out of high school, and it's good honest work.

I sure as hell wouldn't want to do it every day, but it's a welcome break from mail server maintenance -- and a whole lot more inline with my salary, too.

dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/hda.


Reading: Neuromancer

Playing: Mega Man ZX

My Day So Far

I drove 45 miles to plug a hub back in and came back to find all our E-Mail accounts completely wiped.

I need a fucking drink.

(Update, 11:40 AM: on reinstall, it looks like they're all back up, thank Baby Jesus. Also, thank Jewish God, Allah, and Tom Cruise with his witchcraft.)

(Update 2, 11:45 AM: somebody sent me an E-Mail page to inform me that the E-Mail server was down. Have you noticed how the vast majority of computer users do not think things through?)

The Right Decision

Had a rough day at work. Now, I'm not a Catholic, and I never made it through The Divine Comedy, so I'm not really sure whether my day at work was Hell or simply Purgatory, but I can eliminate Heaven right off.

And I got to thinking...you know, as soon as I get home, I'm going to the fridge and grabbing a fucking beer.

But then I thought, you know what? No. As soon as I get home, I'm hitting the gym.

And I did, and I feel much better for it.

I think I'll reward myself with a beer.

Keep Hydrated

Yeah, this is going to be one of those where I talk about living in the desert.

There's a lot I love about the desert. Oh, sure, it's a hostile environment, particularly to pigment-challenged individuals of Irish Honky descent such as myself, and sure, those same honkies who have the least resistance to the sun's rays have decided for some reason to fill this region with concrete and asphalt to make it that much more unbearable, but there are still some very pretty things to be seen.

I've spent a few hours over the past couple of weeks handing out flyers for our company. I hate to be one of those guys who waves his degree around, but that's really not what I got it to do. But we need business, and there are a hell of a lot of new businesses opening within a mile radius of here, and the boss thinks I should be the guy who hands flyers out, so that's part of what I've been doing.

The first day, I overdid it: I thought I had sunscreen, but it turned out I didn't. Must not have packed any when I moved in February (which, all things considered, makes sense). So I went out and handed out flyers for three hours and got good and sunburned and chafed. I spent Memorial Day Weekend unable to walk comfortably. I am amused by the mental image of the tableau of a very sunburned guy going up to the counter at Target with sunscreen, aloe gel, and talc in his basket -- no explanation necessary.

Since then, I've limited myself to 90 minutes of flyering a day, and of course it goes without saying that this 90 minutes must be complete before 10 AM because I'm not going out when there's an excessive heat warning in effect. But I haven't been out there the past few days because things have been so busy at the shop. Mixed blessing -- I'd rather not be out there handing out flyers, but at the same time if I don't find time for it soon the boss is going to yell at me again.

I don't like sunscreen. It's greasy, smelly, and invariably gets in your eyes, even if the label proclaims it's non-greasy, unscented, and sweat-proof. But it beats being baked alive.

Dad also leant me a hat which once belonged to a family friend who died of cancer. I think that's pretty cool.

And handing out flyers isn't all bad. I dig the desert landscaping surrounding most of the buildings. Often I will hear a rustling in the bushes and see a large lizard come out.

Meantime, I haven't had much time to relax when I've been home from work -- work on a computer all day, go home and work on a computer. See, my grandma's been rocking Windows 98 for the past 8 years, and since Microsoft has ended support for it, I decided I should probably upgrade her to XP.

Have you caught the mistake in my thinking?

That's right: the word upgrade.

Let me explain something. I have never had a Windows upgrade go well. 95 turned out to be incompatible with my processor, 98 hosed my filesystem (which is why there is no complete extant copy of KateStory IX), and XP hosed my partition table. ME...actually upgraded smoothly and gave me no trouble, but I think the fact that it installed Windows ME on my computer means it still did serious harm to my system.

So I should have known better. I shouldn't even have attempted the upgrade. I should have backed up her files to CD, wiped the drive, and done a clean install.

But I didn't. I attempted an upgrade. Which went fine until the reboot, at which point the installation hung. No error, just a hang at boot time.

So then I made my second mistake: I tried to use Recovery Console.

Specifically, I used fixboot. Which hosed my partition table. I wound up with what looked like a 10MB FAT12 partition with only one file on it. Knoppix showed more files, but they were all gibberish.

Daunted, I retreated to lick my wounds and study the problem before going back the next weekend to attempt a fix. I found a useful MBR tool on UBCD4Win, which got the filesystem looking good enough to run a chkdsk on. After that, the files were visible, but the damn thing still wouldn't boot no matter what I did or how many times I installed an OS on top of it. (And yes, the partition is set bootable.)

It was about this point where I hit the Eject button on the CD-ROM drive and it launched my CD across the room. It bears noting that this is not even a slot-loading drive, it's the kind with a tray. I have never seen anything like it in my entire life.

There comes a point in a project where you know you need to stop for the day. Seeing your Windows XP disc fly across the room is such a point.

So I brought the computer home to work on it here. (Grandma's is thirty miles from here, meaning I logged roughly 120 in my two round-trips this past weekend.) So far I've made little progress -- my flying WinXP disc does not look to be in very good shape; I made a copy of it last night but it took hours to do, so I'm betting there was some serious trouble reading the data on it. Hopefully it somehow made a good copy anyway. I haven't tried it today because I've been busy trying to revdep-rebuild my Gentoo install, because I can't upgrade KDE until I recompile a bunch of programs that used to have ungif support, which is now deprecated because the patent on the GIF algorithm finally expired. (You see what software patents do? Do you see?)

Also I bought Grandma a new CD burner. Now I'm trying to figure out how to get the mail-in rebate on it. It is possible that I did not pick up the appropriate form and will have to go back to Fry's to get it. The fun never ends.

All in all, it's been a stressful month. But on the plus side, I haven't been mugged by a hooker at knife-point, so I guess that means I know at least one guy who's had a worse month than I have. Hey, count your blessings.


Also, I don't intend to make a habit of mixing business with this blog, but I've been working on a website for a local musician named Devon Bridgewater at nuancemusic.org. Nuance Music (AKA Nuance Jazz Trio) is a local jazz group consisting of Devon, Dick Curtis, and Joel DiBartolo, director of jazz studies at my alma mater.

Anyway, I'm just throwing that link out because Devon's looking to drum up some publicity to his site, and unfortunately his Google page rank is pretty low right now, so he needs all the links he can get. So spread the word around, and, most importantly, link to his site. (I might add it to my links page if I ever drum up the courage to dust off the cobwebs and update the damn thing.)

Once again, that page is Nuance Music.

Hell, while I'm at it, Google hasn't even listed any of the other pages on the site, so here are links to them too: gigs, press, jazz, weddings, gallery, corporate clients, festivals, contact, Spanish.


Reading: A Scanner Darkly. Hoping the movie doesn't suck.

Playing: Suikoden 5. Basically at this point the series is openly hostile to newcomers -- this game took 7 hours to get interesting (still better than the 30 hours of 3 and the never of 4), and there's no way anybody would play that far without having a tremendous amount of goodwill left over from the first two games.

Fire and Ice

It's 100 degrees out, but I've just moved into the server room, where it's chilly enough that I'm actually considering going back to hot coffee -- I've been drinking it cold ever since it got up to about 90 degrees out.

Of course, if I'd remembered to bring my towel today, I could probably use it to keep warm. Oh well -- I never could get the hang of Thursdays.

Anyway. Come July I think I'm going to be really happy to be in here. But come next February, I think I'll have to bring a blanket.


Playing: New Super Mario Bros.

Fuck experts-exchange.com

I am so sick of these bastards. Nary a week goes by when I don't stumble across their shit: I have some sort of problem I need to fix, I do a Google search, and wind up clicking on a helpful-looking link -- not looking at the URL it leads to -- only to find these assholes wasting my valuable time again.

Look -- I'm not giving you fuckers money for tech support, especially when there's no guarantee that your answer will have any relevance whatsoever to my issue. All you're doing is wasting my valuable time -- frequently when I'm at work and time, as they say, is money. And how the hell do you manage to get all your crap on the first page of every Google search for every conceivable network troubleshooting problem?

Tags:

OMGWTFBBQ

It's a gorgeous fucking day. The high is 77 and there's a pleasant breeze. And in Phoenix in April, each gorgeous day could be the last one until fall: in a month, it'll be up over 100.

I was very disappointed that I ran late leaving the house this morning and had to drive instead of biking. But on the plus side, we had an employee barbecue at lunch.

Other than that, we're moving servers around. Lot of heavy lifting and interesting maneuvering. In-between that I'm setting up a mailserver.

Life is good.


Reading: Stranger in a Strange Land. Which, other than making me use the word "grok" more often than usual (though I've used it for years anyway), has somewhat lowered my esteem of Speaker for the Dead, which seems to crib all its best ideas from Heinlein. I guess I'm now down to liking only one thing Orson Scott Card's ever written.