Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Making your life easier - software to fix a computer that's not on your network

If you work in any manner of IT, or happen to have been born within the last 20-30 years, chances are your parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, mom's friend that comes over for coffee and criticizes her cleaning and makes you want to set off fireworks in the living room to get her to leave, etc have come to you at some point or another to "fix their computer". Whether the issue be viruses (sooooo many viruses) or the computer's running slow, or someone took the cover off the PC and the cat's been sleeping in the tower, one of the more frustrating tasks can be trying to troubleshoot with them over the phone without seeing what they're seeing and without any clear idea as to what they're talking about.
"Are you in Windows?"
"I'm in the basement."
"What do you see?"
"The couch your aunt gave us and a dog toy."
"No, what do you see on the desktop?"
"Coffee rings and a Readers' Digest from 1987."
One piece of software that has made this so much easier to deal with is CrossLoop. At work, we use Dameware, which has a lot more functionality, but it's not free and not as idiot-proof to install when not on a network. With CrossLoop, I just send the person an email (which, granted, requires they have internet access and know how to use email) with screen-shots of the steps to go through get set up. It's pretty quick, easy, and painless.

One criticism I have is the colour of their "Share" tab. It's grey. So, on a couple of occassions, I've had this conversation:
"Ok, and did you click the 'Share' tab?"
"I can't."
"It's greyed out."
"No, it's just grey. Click on it, please."
But, that's a small price to pay in the quest for easier remote troubleshooting. Anyone know of any other useful software like CrossLoop?


Tuesday, 29 November 2011

All I want for Christmas

Seeing as it's less than a month until the Big HoHo, I have an IT wishlist I'd like to request from non-tech-savvy computer users everywhere. Humour me, please:

1. When I ask you to log off, don't shut down, I mean log off, DON'T SHUT DOWN. Please, for the love of all that is good and holy, LOG OFF! DON'T SHUT DOWN!
"Ok, and now please click the Start button, and select 'log off', don't shut down."
"Did you log off?"
"Oh. No, I just shut down."
2. Don't call me honey or darlin or sweetie or any other pet name. I'm not your girlfriend or your daughter. In fact, I'm not your friend, and your patronizing labels make me want to disable your accounts. I know your passwords, I those I don't know I can reset and then forward all your private emails to your boss.

3. Hair dryer. Electric kettle. An ancient power bar that has a space heater attacked to it. Things that don't belong plugged into the power bar and sitting atop your computer. Please stop doing this. My heart can't take it.

4. This is not your personal computer. It belongs to the company and when you take your laptop home and visit sites our firewall can't protect you from and lose your data because of an infestation of viruses, this isn't IT's fault for not being able to fix it. It's your fault for being a bigger idiot than we can compensate for. Either stop doing that or own it.

5. Yes, I know a lot about computers. No, I don't know how to fix your PlayStation. No, that doesn't make me bad at my job, because my job doesn't require me to fix PlayStations. It makes you an idiot for assuming IT tech=omniscient. Do you ask your dentist to take a look at your eyes? Yes? Gawd, you're an idiot. Please, just stop.

6. You know those fluorescent sticky notes you have plastered all over your monitor with all your user names and passwords written on them? Other people can see them, too. Including the people we don't want to have access to our systems, which is the reason for having passwords in the first place. If you can't remember them and need to write them down, please at least make it a challenge to find.

7. Yes, I'm going to have to poke around in your computer to search for the file you say you lost. No, kidding about child porn isn't funny and doesn't diffuse the tension. It just makes you sound like a ginormous asshole and puts you on my mental watchlist.Congratulations, I now think you're a criminal.

8. Do you work in IT? Have you ever worked in IT? Could you distinguish a floppy drive from a stick of RAM? No? Then stop asking me "am I sure" when I tell you what the problem is. You might have more credibility if you didn't have sticky notes with your passwords all over your computer and if you hadn't just asked me if I could fix your PlayStation. Seriously.

But, when all is said and done, I've got to say that it's not all that bad. If the users had more of an idea of what they were doing, I might not be so gainfully employed. So, rock on with your bad(at computers) selves, and keep calling me every morning to reset your passwords because the maid tossed out your sticky notes. It's ok. I'll pretend it happens to everyone and make sure the door is closed when I snicker about it to my coworkers.


Monday, 28 November 2011

Just because we're on the same side, it doesn't mean we're allies

One of the most disappointing and frustrating things I have come across is when people and organizations who should be allies in a united cause decide that the their-way-or-the-highway tactic is more important than working together. Don't get me wrong - constructive criticism goes a long way towards perfecting the battles against oppression. Sometimes the only way forward is for allies to stop pushing ahead and listen to criticism about how they may be going in the wrong direction or inadvertently harming those they're supposed to be supporting. But to go far beyond that to willfully making an enemy of someone who shares the same end goal really seems counter-intuitive.

This week there's an online protest organized by "End RapeBook", which asks people to either disable their accounts, or not login to FB for a week in order to send a message to FB that it's disinterest in applying their own Terms of Service to pages that mock and advocate sexual violence is not acceptable. From the FB page description:

Too many pages on Facebook advocate, support, trivialise or feed into rape culture. We know that normalising rape and sexual abuse leads to higher and more frequent instances of these crimes. Facebook have defended pages such as "You know shes playing hard to get when your chasing her down an alleyway [sic]", claiming that implied - or even explicitly stated - abuse, violence or rape against women... counts as freedom of speech, rather than hate speech, despite heavy criticism for charities, Facebook users and advertisers.

Facebook's response: "Groups or pages that express an opinion on a state, institution, or set of beliefs - even if that opinion is outrageous or offensive to some - do not by themselves violate our policies."

We want to send a loud and clear message to Facebook that their tolerance of rape/assault will not be ignored.

Facebook's response: "Groups or pages that express an opinion on a state, institution, or set of beliefs - even if that opinion is outrageous or offensive to some - do not by themselves violate our policies."
We want to send a loud and clear message to Facebook that their tolerance of rape/assault will not be ignored.

We ask that you boycott any and all companies and products that are advertised on Facebook until they stop tolerating the promotion of rape and sexual violence. Money talks and, by withdrawing funds, the companies will be putting added pressure on Facebook to stop tolerating the promotion of sexual violence.
Help send a unified message to Facebook that sexual violence is not a state, an institution or a set of beliefs; it is a abhorrent crime that occurs daily to millions of people. Facebook, by defending violent humour, is defending abusers/rapists.

Seems pretty straight-forward and honourable, right? I mean, I'm avoiding logging in to Facebook this week (aside from right now at Second Cup - damn you wifi asking for FB or a credit card!) in a show of solidarity because supporting one more campaign only helps all other campaigns against rape culture, amirite? If only one would be so lucky.

A little over a month ago, at the beginning of the campaign, one of the organizers apparently ran afoul of another group who mistook her for a troll for trying to "trick" people into disabling and cancelling their accounts. She tried extending an olive branch to clear up the misunderstanding, but instead was told off.

Weird, but organizers are human and as such, it was brushed off as one of the hazards of trying to communicate via text.

Then, a couple weeks ago I found myself banned from the FB page for, what I thought, was an innocuous discussion on tactics with the end-goal of combatting rape culture. Odd, I thought. In that particular convo I had been diplomacy incarnate. Oh, well. Best to just leave them to their tactics in the interest of the more important overall goal.

And then this came to my attention:

Why I no longer support the Rape Is No Joke campaign on Facebook

If the content of her complaint isn't strange or distressing enough, the comments by the RINJ organizers take this into Twilight Zone territory (or, perhaps more accurately, teenaged-angsty Twilight territory). The amount of hostility levelled at this blogger is completely out of proportion to her post, but is quite in line with what the End Rapebook organizer experienced.

Now, it may seem  counterintuitive to start a blog by saying "Can't we all just get along?" and then to out someone who's behaving badly. But, I don't see any value in allowing an organization, one gaining in worldwide popularity at that, to bully, intimidate and harass people who really have the same goal in mind. This isn't just an issue of not seeing eye to eye. The organizers seem hell-bent on alienating people and on making enemies in the anti-rape movement. Is this baffling tactic the result of high schoolers (I hear the organizers are young, could be wrong) not understanding the techniques of diplomacy normally employed by anti-rape organizations that have their own PR teams? Is this the technique of people who really want to do good, but whom have not done the hard work to understand the various layers of oppression and how not to contribute to the problem they're seeking to redress? Is this a group of trolls who want to delegitimize earnest anti-rape groups? 

I really have no idea. I wish I did so I'd know how to react other than to share this in frustration. 

Sigh. Funny-faced kitteh.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Shhh. This conversation isn't secure.

No sooner do I write about longing for sick days when I'm sidelined by a cold/flu (still haven't been able to figure out the difference when one smacks me in the white blood cells).

Ginger. Garlic. Lemon. Club Soda. And rest. Not at the same time, though. Gross, you guys.


Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Contract work is the debil

Don't get me wrong. Contract work can be very rewarding, and provide opportunities to work on all sorts of different projects for different companies and explore different skill-sets. If one is entrepreneurial and wants to be their own boss, contract work can provide them that opportunity. If one is just out of school, contract work can provide one with much-needed experience and a way to build contacts in the industry. If one is looking to get hired quickly, contract work often has a quick turn-around time from the job being advertised to knuckling down to work.

For someone who just wants a stable, good-paying job with benefits, contract work sucks. A lot. Like... a lot.

I want to be able to go to the dentist without sacrificing rent. Next time I have the flu, I'd really like to be able to stay home and get better without worrying about which bill I won't be able to pay. I'd love to have my manager call me into his office to talk about a project without my internal voice screaming "holyfuckdon'tfiremeIcandobetter!". I want to decorate my desk. I don't want to have to keep my resume updated just in case. I want to concentrate just on doing this job to the best of my ability, not on whether that last manager's meeting was about me or about cutbacks.

Maybe that's not what the workforce is like anymore. Maybe it won't be again. Maybe that ship has sailed. Golly, I hope that's not the case.

Sigh. Kitties.

Monday, 21 November 2011


Tonight begins a new phase of the Occupy Toronto protest. The city has been given the ok to evict the protesters camped out in St. James Park at midnight.

The world is watching. Twitter is blowing up. My stomach is in knots.

Even despite my support and admiration for them and their politics and their message, I'm not physically there myself. Such is always the conundrum with activism, I think: balancing support and supplies and expenditures of energy with every day life that has to go on regardless. I know that, politically and with regard to activism, I've done a lot more than most. For a few years, my life and work was almost entirely dedicated to it. Some people by comparison never get off the couch, even to vote once every four years.

Still, I'm feeling shame for not doing more. For not having more energy and will power to get everything done AND use my body to show support in the movement. It's important. It's vital that these issues are addressed and something is done about it. Income disparity and the disposal of people in favour of profits is only getting worse and won't change for the better if we're apathetic.

And yet, I've got bills to pay. Animals to feed. A partner and relationship to tend to. I'm running the hamster wheel just like almost every other schmuck who's fallen into these modern trappings, just trying to keep my debt from dragging us under. Trying to pay bills on time, in full, every month. Trying to ensure our animals are fed, clean, and healthy. Some day hopefully I'll have benefits again so my partner and I are lucky enough to take care of our own health at the same time.

And Twitter's still blowing up. Words of support, of caution to those still at the park, and, of course, those who think their energy is best spent insulting a movement that aims to improve their lives as well.

 Torian Brown 

Or friends up north may be in trouble "Official: we are hearing reports of Garbage Trucks and police in RIOT Gear near 

 Sattva Namaste 

 I thought  had 500+ occupiers but now it only has a hundred or so in the park? NO SUPPORT??? ??


Over 1000 strong at St.James Park, ready to defend 

 Sattva Namaste 

 So  are playing drums after 11 o'clock and preventing WORKING ppl from sleeping? Narcissistic group aren't they.


Walking away from the  camp must be the ultimate walk of shame. Hope they feel it % 

We are the 99% and even if they leave the park we are not going away.  


Lots of people standing up for our liberty  
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And, suddenly, kittens!