Archive for May, 2009

You need to know stuff…

May 28, 2009

(Decided to expand upon this posting http://www.jadedtech.com/2009/04/16/it-running-out-of-ideasfollowup/ )

I am seriously questioning some business recruiting practices.  I seriously wonder about these big companies that seemed to be afflicted with a ‘dumbed down’ HR staff. It’s like the IQ level of HR has dropped in direct proportion to the economy. Some examples:

At one interview for a basic tech support position, not a single word was offered about the position itself. You’d think that I wouldn’t have to ask about ‘what will I be doing’ because we all know the postings rarely accurately describe the job. They tend to be overly general and ‘duties as assigned’ so that they can nail you with any old thing they think of on the fly. So in past times, every interview I went to, I was told about the position except this last interview. How annoying.

Example #2. Same interview, they mentioned a second interview.  That’s fine and normal when you are interviewing quite a few candidates. They also hinted at a 3rd interview?! Ok, you know this is just a tech support position. Not some CEO or Department Manager level. See, these guys posted anonymously on Craigslist (not really out of the ordinary) but then emailed out of the blue asking me to fill out their questionnaire. I could only have assumed it was the same company as they never mentioned the CL add. Fine, filled out the questionnaire(this is considered the 1st level of screening). Then they call me for an interview (as described above, 2nd level of screening). Then they want a 2nd/3rd interview(3rd and 4th level of screening). Geeze. To top that all off, all the questions I was asked were “tell me about a time when…”. It’s like they have no idea how to interview people or assess someone’s skills.

Example #3. Admin Assistants love to state the obvious. I’ve seen this one posting show up on this recruiting site 3 times now. (I applied to it twice already). So I call them up to find out what they are really looking for (their so-called ‘requirements’ list is ungodly huge, more below). First, navigating through their phone system wasted 5 mins of time, I ended up in the company directory and could not get out. I call back, and get an admin assistant. So I tell her that I’d like to talk to someone about a posting I saw. I give her the job number and she proceeds to tell me how to apply! Not only is this condescending, it completely ignores my request. WTF!? I then tell her I’ve applied to it twice already and want to know more about what the company is really looking for. “Oh I can’t tell you anything about that, I’m an administrative assistant.” DUH! That is why I said at the beginning that “I’d like to talk to someone about this position.”! She then transfers me to one of the Recruiters voice mail (of course they aren’t in at the moment…) and I leave a message.  Dumb, dumb, dumb. While this may be stereotypical, I bet she’s blonde too.

Example #4. Job postings that don’t say anything. Seriously, how can someone apply when the job posting doesn’t say much more than “You need to know stuff.” Here’s a direct example:

Qualifications:
1. University degree and/or 3 years related industry experience
2. Excellent facilitation skills to both internal and external stakeholders
3. Knowledge of organizational systems as they impact other studies and projects
4. Demonstrated ability to work in a collaborative practice model with an interdisciplinary team
5. Relevant industry experience in order to provide leadership to project teams in provision of voice & data telecommunication processes
6. Current knowledge and experience with quality improvement processes

So, seeing this is a “Computer Technician – Telecommunications” position, from a large and supposedly respectable, corporation, what are they looking for?? Does anyone even vaguely see any sort of ‘technical requirement’ in that list? “Facilitation skills”, “collaborative practice”, ‘relevant industry experience”(Umm, if you told me what KIND of experience, maybe I could tell you…), ‘Quality Improvement process” (Is that KAIZAN? ISO?? What???).

Example #5. Don’t ask for the world of skills! Really! Learn to create a brief and to-the-point job posting. I really do seriously question companies to list everythign under the sun for requirements.

“Windows, Linux, Unix, OS/2, JavaOS, Hardware, Networking software, Networking hardware, Networking security , Intranet, Internet, Servers, Applications – desktop, Security software, Word processing software, Presentation software, Mail server software, HTML editing software, Data analysis , Database software”

I think they didn’t leave out a single Operating System except VMS.  If they had, I wold have immediately broken out my VT100 Terminal and showed up ready for work! Some may look at the list and say “That ain’t so bad…”, allow me to post up their ‘specific skills list’:

“Maintain, troubleshoot and administer the use of local area networks (LANs), wide area networks (WANs), mainframe networks and computer workstations and peripheral equipment, Evaluate and install computer hardware, networking software and operating system software, Operate master consoles to monitor the performance of computer systems and networks and to co-ordinate access and use of computer networks, Load computer tapes and disks and install software and printer paper and forms, Provide problem-solving services to network users, Implement data, software and hardware security procedures, Perform routine network start up and close down and maintain control records, Perform data backups and disaster recovery operations, Install, maintain, troubleshoot and upgrade web-server hardware and software, Set up local area networks and connections to the internet, Implement network traffic and security monitoring software, and optimize server performance, Modify web pages, applets and scripts, Research and apply meta-data to web sites and register web sites with search engines, Respond to requests for help and information from web site visitors and web site designers, Perform web-server backup and recovery operations”

Seriously people….about the only thing I think missing is SASI certification. (Goolge that one you geeks…)

For those of you who read this and are in a position to hire people, learn how to post a job posting. It serves no one, least of the companies, to post up requirements that only God him/herself has, nor does it help anyone to say ‘you need to know stuff’ with zero details and nothing but generalities.

Here’s my resume for the ‘need to know stuff’:

Skills:
– Knows stuff

After the recent futility of applying to jobs, this radical departure from “diagnosed connectivity issues with various network tools” to “can fix stuff” can only help because so far, nothing else has help on my resume recently. Ugh.

Blue Tooth and Motorola

May 22, 2009

In February my cell phone contract was up with Rogers. I had been with Rogers since I got my first cell back in 99. They had treated me pretty well, although their billing system sucks and God forbid you make a change half-way through a billing period! A lot has changed in 10 year and this time I decided to check out the competition.

Fido seemed to be my best option, especially with no ‘system access fee’, whatever the hell that is. I thought I _was_ paying to use their system and yet here stands some sort of other fee that seemed to imply that if I didn’t pay it, I would have ‘access’. At $7 per month, that adds up over a year. So Fido has no such fee (nor a 911 ‘access fee’ either). During such times as these, it is wise to be price conscious so I chose to go with Fido for my next contract.  Oddly enough, Fido is owned by Rogers. They are what you would call ‘niche marketing’ line. They cater to a slightly different crowd but do overlap with their big brother company. I figured I saved at least $100 over a year going with them and that’s better in my pocket than theirs.

My old phone had a wired headset. While it served it’s purpose, it was rather cumbersome and got awkward at times while driving. So with the new phone, I decided I would get a Bluetooth headset. Besides being a way cool geek  accessory, it is also extremely convenient and has some neat features (such as allowing me to dial by number with
only the touch of one button on it). The headset is extremely lightweight, to the point that you don’t even notice it on your ear.  This H690 is a great headset if you are looking into one.

There is also a comfortable rubber piece that goes around the speaker part where it sits in your ear. This helps seal out exterior sound and provides stability to the headset so that it just doesn’t flop around on your ear. The downside is that the little rubber piece easily comes off. I’ve put it in my pocket and pulled out the headset without the rubber piece many times. The problem is that the last time I took it off, the rubber piece went missing. The speaker part is very harsh on my ear as it has some sharp edges and without the rubber piece, it flops around. I’ve managed to get around that by putting the clip part of it over my glasses arm so it at least is stable but pushing the button hurts like hell. So I go back to the store I bought it from because I can’t find the package that came with the ‘spare’ one. Guess what….they don’t sell it! What?! These stupid little things can get lost easily and they don’t sell them??  The rep said to try Motorola’s site. Ugh, that means using a credit card and all that crap. Not keep on that but after trying 4 other
stores in the mall, the website is my only choice.

So, off to http://www.motorola.com and see about getting this stupid little rubber piece. Oh look…an error message “This Content Component encountered an error”. Great, now what? By law I have to have a hands-free device and without the rubber part, my ear is getting sore.

I am extremely disappointed with Motorola and ANY cell phone retail store for not carrying these items. I mean, they can’t cost much and certainly don’t take up any significant room. Heck, the one rep said “We get asked for them all the time…” Umm, Hello!!! Business opportunity knocking! Well, I am certainly going to let Motorola know about this.  $70 for a piece of equipment that now causes me pain when I use it is not exactly ‘good customer relations’, not to mention a broken website. I will also point out this posting too and let them know that a LOT of people read my blog.

My message to Motorola:

I am writing today to make a complain about necessary accessories for the H690 Bluetooth headset. A couple of days ago I lost the little rubber piece that fits over the speaker. I also could not find the spare. I went back to the store where I bought it and they don’t sell it, neither does any of the other 4 stores in the mall. The rep told me “I get asked for those all the time.”. How is it that an item in demand, albeit it small in cost, can’t be found. Especially something so small and easily popped off when placing the headset in a pocket for storage! I am severely disappointed because that $70 sitting on my ear is causing me pain because of sharp edges yet I am required by Ontario Law to have one while driving. How can I get the necessary piece so that I am not forced to return the product and try someone else’s headset (which means I’ll return my RAZR as well…).

BTW, I’ve written this into my blog, you can read all about it here: http://www.jadedtech.com/2009/05/22/blue-tooth-and-motorola/”

Floppy Disks? In 2009???

May 16, 2009

Ok, so why can’t manufacturers get their act together? What is it that make them believe that Floppy Drives are still a viable tool in the midst of USB ubiquity. USB became popular starting around Windows 98 (it was available for Win95 even!) so the demise of the floppy drive was inevitable. For all intents and purposes 9with the exception of installing Windows XP in a RAID format) floppies are dead to the average consumer.

Why is it that you still cannot install a pair of HDs in a RAID format without a Floppy drive today? I got this system here that I had to replace the motherboard with native RAID support build in. There is still a floppy controller built on to it. I mean seriously, what is with ASUS (or any other mobo manufactuer)? There is zero need for them in the mass-consumer market and even worse that you are forced to make a ‘RAID boot disk’ in order to install an OS!

And a shot across the Microsoft bow….why did you build your install with only Floppy drive for ‘RAID/SCSI driver’ install option??? What is wrong with CD-ROM’s and an option? Hell, Compact Disk Read Only Memory drives have been around since the early 90s (I recall the first commercially available one priced at $1000!).

Well, since I have pretty much concluded that my tech support days will end with XP being the highlight of it and trying to touch Vista (let alone Windows 7 , why are the guys in this video such idiots? Does watching those script-reading-morons really make you want to love Windows 7? It’s no wonder MAC ads are better! ) as little as possible, I hope that future installs go a lot easier for future techs. As a side note, Vista got such a bad rap that M$ has gone away from using names to numbers. Maybe it’ll fool people into thinking that windows 8 will obviously be a better version if Windows
7 crashes in the marketplace.

For me, I’ve pretty much jumped the fence and hit the *nix(Linux, Unix…) group of Operating systems. While I still have one working PC left (A dell 1100 system, my wife’s Compaq Laptop just died 2 weeks ago), I’m looking and possibly install Unbuntu  and saying ‘good riddance’ to Windows all together. With my move to Google  I’m freed from the needless Windows eventual slowing down to run bloated office programs taking up precious CPU time.

In case most of you aren’t paying attention, this is the way things are going. The circle is closing. The Client/Server model will prevail and your ‘computer’ will look amazingly like a Terminal once again. Oddly enough, I wrote a sci-fi story some years ago showing this exact thing. How prescient of me.

Let me explain in simple terms. Wayyyyy back when computers took up rooms the size of small bungalows, the only way to access them was through a screen/keyboard ‘terminal’ was was essentially just a screen and keyboard with a loooooong cord running back to the big ‘computer’.  You were directly plugged into the ‘mainframe’ and did your requests for programs to be run though just a keyboard and a screen. That which you typed on did zero computing. It simply was in input/output device for you to tell the mainframe what to do and it would tell you want the results were.

Fastfoward to Aug 2005 and Google Docs appears. Here you simply go to a website, log in with an account, and click on an option to create a document. Other than your screen, absolutely nothing is done on your computer. Gee, mainframe/terminal -> client/server anyone?

Google is THE company to watch for. They have been sooo smart in their product releases and marketing that noone will expect the surprises that are in store. See, everyone is concentrating on the Microsoft/Apple conflict that’s going around and with fairly good reason. Apple is the only commercial company that challenges Microsoft on a daily basis. This is why I currently own 4 MACs and 2 PCs(one working). Now, if you have been paying attention, Google has
created an operating system for a cell phone called Android. With the popularity of cell phones/smartphones, this is a natural place for a company to be in order to grown and keep being profitable. Now, in case you missed reading between the lines….allow me to emphasize with a quote from Android’s description “Android is a software stack for mobile devices that includes an operating system, middleware and key applications…”. Did you catch that? Operating System and ‘key applications’. I give it no more than 3 years before you see a “Google Computer” that is nothing more than a ‘netbook’ with a network plug and zero storage on it. See, Google is poised to be the 3rd major competitor in this game of ‘who so controls the Internet will control the world’. Keep an eye on Google Labs for future developments.

In the mean time…..anyone got a spare Floppy drive that I can borrow? Ugh.

How to get my blog!

May 14, 2009

With the ever-growing ways of reaching web surfers, us bloggers have to be in touch with growing trends and emerging markets for such trends. So, for those who would like a quick list/recap of where to find my blog, here it is:

Web site – http://www.jadedtech.com
Webfeed(RSS) http://www.jadedtech.com/feed

Twitter – @jadedtech

For you Kindle Users, it will be there as well!

http://kindle.jadedtech.com (just set up, may be 24-48 hrs before it’s fully live)

More to come as the tech become available 🙂

What the hell is wrong with Dell/Microsoft/McAffee?

May 9, 2009

I get a call from my aunt today. She is pretty distressed over her machine.

The story goes: She bought a Dell system and it’s still under warranty. She was using Windows Messenger and decided to click on the ‘learn more'(Mistake #1 “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”). Well, it all went downhill from there. Next thing she’s into setting up Windows Live, have to install more programs get a new password and then after all that, it doesn’t work. So, she did what any other sane person would do….she went to uninstall it. Well, wouldn’t you know it….it won’t uninstall.

Again, being the sane person that she is, she calls Dell for help (mistake #2 “Dell tech support doesn’t hire technicians”). They try everything it it seems that this ‘tech’ (and I use that term is the LEAST possible sense but still feel offended in using it to describe them) can’t get it to uninstall. He tells my aunt to back up her data and arranged to call her back when she has done so. (Oh, you now where this is going…). My aunt goes out to buy a USB key, plugs it
in and the Dell doesn’t recognize it. She can’t back up to USB. So, the ever-so-bright ‘Dell rep on the other end of the phone'(that’s it, I can’t use the term tech for them any more!) says they’ll just ‘restore the system to an earlier time’. (Mistake #3, listening to a Dell person…)

This is a handy feature in Windows because when something breaks, and a _real_ technician can’t fix it, System Restore is an option. This should not be used regularly because this means that anything between the last ‘system restore point(date)’ and now will be undone.  Programs removed, settings undone, updates uninstalled. Can be a real
pain but on occasion it has to be done. The problem here is that if the solution isn’t obvious, Dell reps will recklessly use it.

So my aunt, being the ever attentive person, follows the instructions…but wait, now McAffee won’t let system restore turn back the settings to last month!

So, to make sure we’ll all keeping track of what is wrong so far, my aunt can’t:

– remove Windows Live
– backup to her USB drive
– restore Windows XP to an earlier time

The Dell technician tells her to call McAfee (Mistake #4, using McAfee). Again, being the attentive, if somewhat stressed out, person that she is, she calls McAfee. They tell her that she only had 5 days of warranty. Well, there goes $90 down the drain and zero help from McAfee.

My aunt speak with Dell again and what do they get her to do? Well, let’s restore the system back to factory defaults! My aunt follows direction, being the ever respectful lady that she is, and voila! The system is like new! Yup, just like she pulled it out of the box.   That’s right folks, none of her documents, pictures, movies or programs are on the drive any more!

Well, chalk another one up for a ‘properly supported client’ from Dell!

You know, it breaks my heart when I hear such things. I know for a fact that I could have backup her files, and most likely could have fixed everything but it is too late. While RCMP and FBI agencies have tools for recovering ‘erased data’ from formatted drives, such tools are not publically available. The ones that are are in the $1000s and very few people would pay that kind of money. (I did have one client that cost them$1500 to recover their drive but that was 3 years of financial data that would have been lost. Backup, Backup, Backup!)

Moral of the story, call a local technician, get references from businesses/other people. Do NOT use your neighbours kid who ‘knows about computers’. Playing XBox does not make him an expert!

Neither does putting a guy in front of a script make him telephone tech support!

"Are you kidding me?"

May 6, 2009

To quote my favourite Sensei :

Someone please tell me how:

– a laptop has a loose screw (never opened in 5 years of ownership) inside of it

– same laptop drops the video just as it’s about to boot into windows (i.e. the XP loading shows then blank…even in safe mode!)

– my printer suddenly doesn’t want to print anything

– it takes two hours to copy data from one HD to another internally (SATA is faster ….my ass!)

– my I’ve applied to 25 jobs in the last month and only ONE interview (where they didn’t even tell me about the job, just asked me a bunch of stupid ‘tell me about a time when..’ questions)

…all happens at once??!!

Thanks to Microsoft for ruining a nice day outside!

May 3, 2009

So it’s May the 3rd, and it’s 18deg C outside.  My wife actually likes to mow the lawn so asks me for some help starting the mower.  It doesn’t want to start.  It’s got gas (just filled it up) and check the spark plug wire….nothing.  Great, some sort of magneto issue.  On top of this, my lawn (and freaking ONLY my lawn) is seriously infected with Dandelions.  Well, I can’t help her now because I have two Windows Systems with major issues sitting in my office that have to be done today.  While I am not one for completely enjoying working on my lawn, there is some significant satisfaction for caring for my house and it’s look, not to mention a little bit of exercise is always good.

I absolutely know how to get rid of the Dandelions.  I built a nice tool to dig down and tear up the freaking monstrous roots those little bastards have (if you’ve never seen one, then you are lucky, but they roots are at least 5 times bigger than the plant!).  I could have gone to a local Canadian Tire and bought their fancy $60 ‘weed removal’ tool, but screw that.  I remember a great little tool my grandmother had when I was young and not surprising, the rip-off retailers don’t make it any more.  Guess there’s not enough money in such things any more.

This one system I got is a serious pain.  Oddly enough, the spyware on it has very selective effects.  The system runs quickly and smoothly, which is rare for being infected, but I can’t run some tools.  I mean, they installed fine but they simply won’t launch.  More specifically, they ‘launch’ and sit in the list of programs running in the Task Manager but do nothing else.  Talk about frustrating as hell.  Getting frustrated was becoming a way of life with this machine.  So since the ‘regular’ approaches aren’t working, time to get a little fancy.  Yeah, looks like I’ll be trying the ‘$60 approach’.

Well, didn’t the “$60-dollar’ approach end up being worse that the regular approach.  Nothing was working the way it should have.  There is this great little tool called BackTrack.  It’s a LiveCD that runs Windows and a whole wack of rescue/recover/hack tools on it.  Simply download, burn and boot from it.  Simple enough.  The login to it has a default of username – root and password – toor.  Ok, type that in and I get ‘incorrect login or bad password’.  What??  The welcome page tells me what the username/password is!  It’s the freaking default!  (Oh, I forgot to mention that I was having a hard time making a bootable CD for this….ugh…bad start to a morning…).  Did some checking online, specifically the forums for said tool and got nothing.

I’m about to cry because it’s now 1:30pm and a perfectly good day is being wasted because of a freaking damn insecure operating system!  I’m going to the store and buying a Coke.  I need some sugar-consoling right now.

Ok, back to my search on getting this fixed.

I run across a suggestion that I had completely forgotten about.  Simply rename the file you are trying to run!  DOH!  Did that….heyyyy…lookee there.  It’s running and found some damn spyware!  Well got rid of 6 pieces of crap floating through the system with one tool.  Reboot and it has a hard time recognizing the mouse.  Can’t click on the username.  Forced reboot and it works fine now.  Pfft.  Let’s try the regular tool for spyware scanning again.   Nope, same issue.  Sigh.  Run my original software removal tool and ‘perform a full scan’.  Well, found another piece of crap….still has a lot to scan still.  Although I’m fairly confident it’s finally on a good way to recovery.

It’s now 2:10pm and I still have to dig into that other system.  If the first system didn’t have to be back today, I’d have let it go.  At least it’ll be done….the second one….that’s a whole other story.  Let’s just say “3 hard drives, some crashed, some broken(windows) and not enough room to back up everything”.  Yeah, that’s another fun one.

So thanks Microsoft for ruining a perfectly nice day for getting REAL things done around my house.