Carl T. Holscher is a compiler, writer, tinkerer, coder, designer, thinker living in Bethesda, MD.
What frustrates you about working with IT people? What about Help Desks?
Today is a slow day. Most of the people have gone home. The heat is off in our building as repairs are being made.
I work in Information Technology. I am a support technician.
I am that guy who shows up at your desk when you have computer problems to whip your machine back into shape.
It has been a slow day. But that can change at any moment.
At the drop of a hat, my slow day can turn into a flurry of emergencies. The urgency (real or imagined) of a person needing to work from home and encountering an issue before they leave.
Hardware or software failing to work properly late on a Friday afternoon before the long weekend.
The sudden loss of vital data due to a mistaken keystroke or a software glitch.
There is no certainty to anything. There is no planning more than a couple of minutes ahead. There is no way to tell what I will be doing an hour from now. Thirty minutes from now. Five minutes from now.
There is no certainty. There is only uncertainty.
Every. Single. Day.
This is the life I lead. This is the path I’ve chosen.
While you’re off for the year sitting at home. When you go home early to enjoy the holidays.
I am at work. I am in the basement. I am here.
Just. In. Case.
I am insurance. I am protection.
I am as much a therapist and teacher as I am a technician. I rely more on soothing feelings and explaining technology than I do on technical knowledge to repair a problem. I am here to make everything better again to the best of my ability.
It is not always possible. There are things which can’t be undone. Wrongs which can’t be righted. Errors which can’t be repaired. Parts which can’t be fixed.
The human body is composed of thousands of parts working in harmony. A computer is composed of hundreds of parts working in harmony.
When our bodies break down, we get sick or injured. When we break, we need help. When computers break, they too need help.
There is no always a quick fix. There is no always a cheap fix. There is never a fix to meet the cost and time desired.
I’m sitting in the basement. In the cold. In my coat. With icy fingers. Tapping on this keyboard to keep them moving. Earphones as ear muffs.
I’m waiting for the uncertainty. The inevitable need for me to help. To repair. To explain. To add. To remove. To setup. To break down.
To leap into action at a moment’s notice. To assist the best way I know how.
I am here to make your life a little better and a little easier. I am here to help you get back to work. I am here to decrease the friction between you and the technology you use.
I am here. Waiting. In the cold.
Just. In. Case.
I am the insurance.
I am the protection.
I am the teacher. I am the therapist. I am the technician. I am here to help.
Tom, on Computers
This is VERY true!
I bought my first MacBook because I was tired of tinkering. I was tired of fighting malware. I was tired of half-assed software. I was tired of program that never worked quite right. I was tired of using subpar solutions. I was tired of things that never lived up to their promise. I was tired of my computer being something to be worked on. I was tired.
When I bought my first MacBook I used my computer. I abused my computer. I left it running for days. I designed. I wrote.
I had a computer that got out of my way and let me work. I didn’t have to worry about it. I didn’t have to wonder if I’d come home to a blue screen. I didn’t have to wonder if one of my applications had mysteriously stopped working. I didn’t have to wonder if I would have a working computer. I spend my days as a computer technician so fixing computers has never been a problem. However, the last thing I wanted to do when I got home was work on another computer.
It sounds trite, but Apple computers just work.
In thankless jobs like IT Support, it helps my motivation if I have something to strive for. I want a goal to look back on and feel I’ve accomplished something.
The problem with my chosen career is when I do a great job, there is nothing to show for it. When I work hard, solve problems and delight customers, I have nothing to show for it. 1
I have no product at the end of the day I’ve produced with my own hands. I have no sales figure I’ve hit and I’ve not made the company any money. 2
I’ve said for years my ideal day is when I come to work and sit at my desk and do nothing for 8 hours then go home. That means all the systems are working perfectly and all of our customers have completely working computers.
In the seven years I’ve done this, it hasn’t happened yet.
Because of this, it helps to have something to strive towards so I can look back at the end of a long day where I feel I accomplished nothing and say at least I did ____.
In this case, it’s the number of tickets closed.
Each morning every technician in the company receives a report of closed tickets across the company. We receive a daily closed ticket breakdown over the past two weeks. This is interesting and helps me realize why I’m so tired some days 3
But the real genius in the report comes on the following page. This page provides a leaderboard of technicians across the entire company sorted by average tickets closed per day.
This is where I draw my motivation.
Everyday, I strive to stay in the top 10 of the company. I’ve been as high as number 4 with the CSA 4 technicians way ahead of my with double-digit closes per day.
As it stands, I usually come in at between 6 and 7 tickets per day. This is where I draw my motivation from. I want to be at the top of that list every single morning when it comes out. I want to rank higher than every technician in my building. I want to outrank every technician in the field.
I want to be at the top of that list.
This list motivates me to get up and try to complete one more ticket per day. It causes me to work harder when all I want to do is sit at my desk.
The list pushes me forwards and provides some context for my day. This is the most important thing for me, as a technician with no clear measurement of what I spend my days doing.
This list brings meaning and a sense of accomplishment to my 45 hour work week.
In this age of knowledge workers, we no longer make products in a factory, nor do we sell a thousand products. What pushes you to work harder in your job? Have you found your own leader board to keep you working harder?
I’m about to save you $50, the going price for Snag-It. Welcome my friend called Greenshot. With Greenshot, you can capture single windows, selected areas, or the entire screen. It even includes a simple image editor for annotation and minor edits. You can choose whether you want to save, print, or copy your screenshot to the clipboard or a combination of the three. If you need to take screenshots, you need Greenshot.
Now that you’re taking screenshots like a pro, you need something to edit them in. Enter Paint.net. No, this is not the same bitmap-loving Paint program that’s shipped with Windows since the dawn of time. Paint.net is all grown up. It allows for history, layers, a plethora of effects and best of all, has a weightless price tag. Don’t think of it as a more robust Paint but rather a slimmed down Photoshop.
From pixels to prose, if you write anything worth saving, you need simplenote. Now take 2 minutes and read why. Now that I’ve gotten you hooked on simplenote, you need a Windows client. ResophNotes is that client. ResophNotes offers you a simple interface to simplenote. One pane is the list of notes, the other is the note itself. It offers all the same syncing as simplenote and will export Markdown and HTML. You can save your notes in an, optionally encrypted, database or as plain text files. If it’s worth writing, it’s worth writing in ResophNotes.
You’re running Windows. It’s taking forever to startup. But why? Soluto will tell you. Once installed, Soluto will keep a running clock when you boot up and analyze exactly which applications are starting when you login. In addition, it will group the applications by levels of importance and offer suggestions based on what other users have chosen to remove, disable or delay running at login. Never again wonder why things are taking so long. Take control with Soluto.
You’re a nerd. You compute at night. The bright lights of glaring LCDs strain your eyes. You need F.Lux. As the sun goes down, F.Lux will dim your screen and give it a warm glow making it much easier on the eyes. If you need to do image work it has a “Disable for one hour” check box for color-sensitive work. Ever since I started using it, I could not imagine using a computer without it. Give it a try. I know you’ll feel the same way. As my college roommate used to say, “It’s like tasty roast chicken for the eyes.”
Upon reading Andy Ihnatko’s first look at the iPad 2 tonight a single line caught my eye and it’s been bugging me since the announcement this afternoon.
“But you kind of have to hold the iPad 2 to really get the redesign. It’s thinner by a third, plus its edges taper to a thin line of metal.” — iPad 2 is here
I owned a 4th Generation iPod Touch. I bought it to replace my ailing 1st Generation model and it is still one of my favorite pieces of technology ever. The iPod Touch changed the way I thought about media and entertainment on the go.
My biggest gripe in the upgrade to the newest, sleek model was the tapered edged. The iPod Touch is just .28” deep. The iPad 2 is going to be .34” deep. This means a very sharp tapered edge to achieve the incredible thinness.
This also means edges digging into your hands when held at length. Holding the iPod Touch when reading at length or playing Fruit Ninja was fine for short periods. However, when held for 10 or 15 minutes or longer, it would start to become uncomfortable.
The edges would slowly dig into my palm and fingers. There was no comfortable way to hold the device. No matter which way I turned of placed it, those super thin edges would dig into me. The great irony is the beautiful design makes you want to keep your iDevices naked. However, the functionality of the design screams for the use of a case, with soft edges.
When I got an iPhone 4 this past December, I was very pleased at how good those .37” edges felt. Those straight, smooth, non-tapered non-pointy edges were bliss to behold, literally.
Having just received a 32 GB WiFi iPad for Christmas I am not in a hurry to upgrade it. It still feels new and I get excited every time I use it. I watched the announcements today mainly to see if Apple was going to announce a better way to sync the data between my iPad and iPhone, or if there was some amazing deal-breaking feature for the sequel.
Though I didn’t have anything in my head that would make me sell this one and buy the new one. It didn’t mean I wasn’t open to seeing what the Cupertino gang could dream up.
HDMI video out is going to be killer for some people. However, I have to wonder how many people need yet another device to export video to a big screen. We have a PC Laptop, a Macbook, iPad, iPhone 4, Wii, Xbox 360, Power Mac Tower, and an iMac to export video to our 42” TV. Do we really need another device to show video?
Face Time on another device is only exciting if you talk to small children in far away places. My wife uses FaceTime with our little niece out west because she doesn’t sit still long enough to chat on a computer. With FaceTime on the iPhone she can wander around and show us things. I don’t see this being a killer feature in the iPad. What’s the benefit for FaceTime on iPad versus iPhone or the a Mac laptop?
Though again, I am not a big video chatter. Also, Apple hasn’t mentioned the resolution of the cameras in the iPad. Will they be high quality like the iPhone 4 or barely usable like the iPod Touch. It’s these details that will make or break the usefulness of the cameras for most people. How about a better way to move photos from iPhone to iPad instead of syncing through iTunes?
A faster chip is always nice., the A5 being dual-core is a boon to the future of the product. Of course there’s going to be faster chips. Two times the speed and 9x the graphics performance means better games and other applications like iMovie.
Smart Covers. Now there is a brilliant idea and the one killer thin that caused me to stop and reconsider the iPad’s second coming. Then I snapped to my senses. It’s a cover. It’s a glorified microfiber wipe and cover for your iPad. That is not enough to sell me on a new device. It’s a brilliant implementation and if it works half as well as demoed will be awesome.
My biggest excitement comes in the form of the new iOS features.
Rotation Lock is a nice option to have back again for the iPad. Since the Mute switch doesn’t mute every sound coming out of the device, it doesn’t work well as a mute switch. I’d much prefer the rotation lock. I got my iPad after the removal of the rotation lock option so I am excited to have it for the first time.
Personal hotspot for iPhone 4 only. How long will it take for AT&T to implement it? Will it even be worth it with the limited data plans? It could be a great feature, or it could be a total non-starter. It all depends on AT&T and their track record has been abysmal. Will Verizon have put enough pressure on them to force their hand in reacting quicker to Apple’s new features?
iTunes Home Sharing is exciting. I’ve used it to manage and backup libraries between computers at home. I don’t sync any music to the iPad so it would be nice to be able to just pull over the few songs I want.
iMove would excite me if I shot video more than once a year or had a child to show off. I couldn’t care less about Garageband as I’m not musical. Photobooth, just as on the Mac was a lot of fun, for about 15 minutes. Then I forgot it existed.
I am curious the enhancements to AirPlay and (hopefully one day AirPrint) since I am much more curious how Apple is going to connect their walled gardens of iPad and iPhone. It really is obnoxious to have the same app or game on both devices but have no convenient way to share data. If everything had Dropbox syncing, the world would be a better place.
Safari is faster. Faster is always better.
There was nothing in the announcement today to make me seriously consider selling my iPad. It will be cause for those holding out to run to the store in a week and pick one up. The device is an amazing feat of computing and has changed how I read and spend my time in the evenings.
I will still go to an Apple Store after they’re released and pick one up. I’ll hold it. I’ll judge its heft against the original. I’ll see how it feels in my hand. I’ll imagine holding it for an hour, reading a book and see if those .2 pounds makes the pointy edges any better.
My guess is it will look beautiful but still be a pain to hold. I’d love to be proven wrong. However, MG Siegler’s preview in TechCrunch are not encouraging, “iPad 2 feels quite a bit like one of the newer iPod touches, just larger, obviously.”