A Tragedy of Errors
Just because you run a computer magazine doesn't mean you're immune to network problems and usability issues.
Maybe I'm a glutton for punishment—or maybe it's all Microsoft's fault. At first, I was simply fighting some laptop problems. The old Dell Inspiron was flaking out. Neither the wired nor the wireless connections worked, and after hours of effort both seemed beyond repair.
A new laptop and a complete data transfer later, I was ready to work again (thanks to my IT guys). Now I had to connect the new machine to my home wireless/DSL network. Verizon's setup disk didn't work properly, so the next thing I know I'm going through a manual setup with a tech named Krishna. He did a fine job helping me, but I shouldn't have to call India to connect to a network that has already worked fine for a year.
Then I upgraded to a Linksys wireless router, because the disk to configure my old router was convinced I was configuring a wireless PC card and refused to change its mind. The Linksys disk worked fine, except it flat out refused to configure in mixed B and G mode, even though I had clearly chosen that option and bought a more expensive mixed mode router. This time Dan from India walked me through yet another manual install.
Now it was time to get my LaserJet 1000 going. The drivers I downloaded from the Internet never worked, so I found the install disk beneath a stack of Johnny Cash and Sex Pistols CDs. It only wants to print to a file. Let's try that again.
Everything was great until the next morning when the new Dell suddenly stopped connecting to Verizon. This time, I got an American technician who wanted to lecture me on how a router works. No thanks pal, just troubleshoot the damn thing. After a few C:/ipconfigs and pings, I was back. The last step was to get my daughter Lauren's laptop connected. Apparently, using the same Linksys router and Verizon DSL connection she has at another location isn't enough to be instantly compatible.
I was pretty steamed, and I haven't even started on my XP desktop that won't recognize the Westell DSL modem or an old Dell that won't install anything without an admin password that has disappeared from the face of the earth or the Compaq Armada that runs great, but for which no Windows 95-compatible wireless card seems to exist.
Meanwhile, my brand new XP laptop with Office 2003 has apps and Web sites that still hang for no reason. Task manager claims they're running, but when you try to shut them down it says the applications are no longer responding.
My pal Luanne asked me if it seemed ironic that I run a computer magazine and yet none of my machines work. "Doesn't that make you mad?" I realized that these problems help keep Redmond magazine, Microsoft and all the third-party vendors in business. There's big business trying to maintain machines that break down more than a worn-out Yugo.
We spend countless hours fixing problems that come from poor design, hackers, viruses and spyware. What if we didn't have to? Would we lose our jobs? Perhaps we could take all those man hours and do something positive like building hot new apps that let us do things never before possible. Isn't that why we got into IT in the first place?
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Doug Barney is editor in chief of Redmond magazine and the VP, editorial director of Redmond Media Group.