Total Drek

Or, the thoughts of several frustrated intellectuals on Sociology, Gaming, Science, Politics, Science Fiction, Religion, and whatever the hell else strikes their fancy. There is absolutely no reason why you should read this blog. None. Seriously. Go hit your back button. It's up in the upper left-hand corner of your browser... it says "Back." Don't say we didn't warn you.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Just so you know, I hate every last goddamn one of you.

For those who are feeling a little hurt by the title of this post, relax, I'm not referring to you specifically. Oh, don't get me wrong: I almost certainly dislike some of you for one reason or another, and I probably don't like most of you* but I'm unlikely to actually hate any of you. No, the title of this post wasn't meant for any of my usual readers but, rather, is directed at an entirely more sinister group.

My university's Information Technology (IT) department.

Now, I have a long and hallowed history with IT people. In my last job I shared an office with the company IT guy and had a great time. He was, if nothing else, entertaining. And by "entertaining" I mean "Would shove coaxial cable connectors up his nostrils when bored." He also had a habit of accessing my computer via the network and opening up gay porn on my desktop when I was trying to explain what we needed to female temps. That, however, is another story. In any case, I generally had a good experience with IT.

In other regards, my experiences with IT people have been rather poor. I am thinking particularly of a tech support saga I went through on my last laptop. My tech support monkey, after having me try a few basic things to get my built-in wireless to work, suggested that I reformat my harddisk and reinstall everything from scratch. Yeah. Sure. Because the correct response to a stubbed toe is, without a doubt, brain surgery.

Since I came to graduate school I've discovered a whole new breed of incompetence. A staggering level of idiocy that, frankly, even I don't know how to deal with. It isn't so much that they can't keep the systems running- they usually can- or that they don't provide useful tech support- okay, never mind, they actually can't do that. No, the thing that pisses me off is that they're a smidge... over-ambitious. I posted quite a while back on their efforts to upgrade our e-mail client. As that post was titled "Woo-hoo! I can't check my e-mail!" you can guess how it went. This became something of a running joke here as they would make a big deal about an upgrade, do the upgrade, and then we'd lose e-mail within 12-72 hours. Afterwards we were always back on the old client. Sometimes I wondered why they didn't just turn off the servers for a day or three every now and then and save themselves the hassle of working on shitty software. Eventually they did, of course, get the new client running but it has all the functionality of the old one, so I don't see much improvement.**

At the moment this over-ambitiousness is expressing itself in an attempt to close some security holes on campus. We are being forced to dismantle our existing informal infrastructure of routers in the offices and allow all of our computer-to-computer traffic to be mediated by the central servers. This should, in theory, improve security because all computers now have to be validated by MAC address and can't hide behind a router's NAT firewall. I can see the logic in this, although to be frank I think it's overzealous. I am less worried, after all, about being hacked by some unauthorized outsider that I am about those cockbites over in the computer science building who have a little too much time on their hands. My router's NAT was helping me stay hidden from their incessant IP scanning and now my safety lies almost entirely on my software firewall. Goody. I'm sure I could develop a substitute, but I doubt it would be a good idea. All that leaves aside, of course, the relatively absurd levels of security the IT folk are implementing. Without going into detail, let me just say that some levels produce relatively little benefit for the hassle- a little like putting up one of those velvet ropes they use at fancy nightclubs in front of a minefield protecting a concrete bunker. Seriously, folks, the velvet rope is just a pain to legit users and no deterrent whatsoever to anyone else.

In any case none of this is my real beef with the IT folks. No, my problem with this is that they've been forcing us to dismantle the routers which were allowing us to share printers without either (A) explaining to us how to share them via the central servers, (B) explaining how we can do "A" without permitting any random asshole to print to our printer,*** or (C) even confirming that their new system works yet. As it happens, when it comes to "C" the answer is "No, it doesn't work yet." Quite a few offices in my department are not successfully connecting to the network and this is generating quite a bit of consternation. If we follow the directives from IT we can't check e-mail, can't use JStor, and can't print since most of our laptops don't have legacy ports and most of the printers have parallel ports. So, we can't physically connect our computers to the printers and IT won't let us share them via the network. Woo-hoo! I can't do my job!

Is it really this bad? No, not really. We're figuring work-arounds**** that should keep us going until IT get their heads out of their asses***** but it's a huge hassle for everyone. It's especially a hassle for those of us who are known to have some computer knowledge as we're somehow expected to fix these problems ourselves. I know IT is just trying to do its job but, seriously, are they really the only ones who didn't realize that there would be some snags in getting this thing off the ground?

Apparently so.

* There is actually a difference in there that is obscured by the failings of the English language. I may "dislike" some people, meaning that I actively think negatively of them, and I may "not like" some people, meaning that I fail to feel positively about them, without actually feeling negatively. Or, in other words, I may feel neutral. Strictly speaking to say "I don't like Rachael" means that you have neutral feeling but often in regular speech we use this phrase interchangeably with dislike. I just want to be clear.

** Yes, I'm aware that the improvements were probably on the back-end d-base side, and not in the GUI, but that's not the point.

*** The first time some random undergrad prints his band lyrics to my office, I think I might kill someone.

**** For those who are wondering: yes, I'm posting this using a now-illicit "pirate router." Arrgh. Damn the man. Um... hack the planet? Yeah, whatever, I just want to do my f-ing job, okay?

***** Supposedly within a month. Yeah, don't hold your breath.

As a side note: Okay, enough pointless ranting for one day.


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