An old insult goes like this: Why aren’t tech support personnel allowed long weekends? It takes too long to retrain them.
Sometimes it feels as if that insult is accurate when applied to the care and feeding of computer systems. The Fourth of July weekend and last weekend are prime examples here. I came back to work on July 5 after a 4-day hiatus and discovered that the newly installed router wasn’t accessible from the internet (if that were the goal, we could simply have disconnected the old one), the primary printer displayed a bright red error LED and wouldn’t print, the phones had a dial tone but wouldn’t make or accept calls, and the backups failed for the first time in several years.
Not being a fast learner, I took another 4-day weekend two weeks later. This time, I returned to find an email from our ISP stating that our configuration was wrong and was a security risk. The primary printer now works but prints our logo in green in the middle of the page. (It’s a monochromatic printer! How did it manage to upgrade itself?) The phones would initiate and receive calls normally, except that every 20 to 30 minutes, they would all lose connection and have to be rebooted. Not to mention that the hot spots we use for access decided they were no longer connected to any account and refused to work.
These kinds of problems seem to be restricted to vacations and long weekends. If I’m in the office Friday and Monday, the system runs beautifully. There has to be a sensor somewhere, possibly a webcam or pressure sensor in my chair, that detects my absence and instructs the system to creatively fail. Maybe it’s a read receipt on the system logs or software to detect my login. In any case, it’s definitely linked to my absence; it doesn’t otherwise matter who is on site, who is logged on, or who is available.
If anybody has a solution that will confuse the computers into believing that they’re being watched, please send it to me! If 4 consecutive days with no contact causes all of these issues, what would a 2-week vacation create? An electronic strike? A group of PCs and network nodes marching on the CEO’s office? A takeover of the grid for the entire city? Who knows?
Don’t anthropomorphize computers—they hate it! —Anonymous
Bob May, Guest Blogger
CTO, Tembua: The Precision Language Solution