Friday, May 17, 2013


I think that just about everyone knows I've supported, fixed, developed, deployed, trained and written software for every stripe of computer known and used in either big corporations, small businesses and even, God help me Law Enforcement. I did this all while I was still pursuing an active career as a violist and half-assed violinist and was fortunate enough to be granted leeway to pursue both; I guess I earned the respect from the people I worked with; they didn't give a fig if cartwheels were performed in the muster room of the Gastonia Police Department, or fierce hop scotch matches won and lost in IBM's server rooms at midnight, so long as the work was done. Those were the days, prior to scripts and metrics and stakeholders. Creativity abounded and it was fun.

I worked in an environment like this one at IBM and supported OS/2. As I worked 2nd and 3rd tier, I always got the calls that had cooties.

When I was actually in-house and not tearing up and down the United States, on either a bus tour from Hell, or driving myself with the latest Goombah tour with Al Martino, or channelling Elvis with the remaining Jordannaires, my managers would bring me the latest newfangeled whatsis. The purpose? To see how long it would take me to break it and then concoct a fix and write up a process. A break-fix. We had some doozies. Some of my fixes were rather high-tech, others were what we called “sneakerware.”

It goes like this: Step 1. Blow up, or corrupt some really horribly important file, like one of your *.DLL (dynamic link library) files. The key here is “dynamic link” which means they're used by several applications. Oh goody. Now, half of the shit that worked badly, doesn't work at all, or does stuff like give you blank menu drop downs, or if you click on “Edit” you get the “Tools” menu. Just really horrible stuff. You can forget about trying to figure out which *.DLL file augured in, because there are elevently-billion of the things on your system. So, now for step 2. Rummage around, and find yourself a bunch of disks. Go to your neighbor's desk, who has called in hungover and boot up in safe mode. Copy all of his *.DLL files. Reboot your system into safe mode, copy over all of your *.DLL files. Reboot. Fixed. We are talking early days, when people didn't really get the architecture of PCs, which are really not all that different that mainframes.

When I worked at the Gastonia Police Department, I wrote them up a "maintenance manual" for their Windows system. They had enough to do without trying to figure out Microsoft's gibberish. "Rule 1. Windows Lies." And we went from there.

It got to the point where I would stare at a Thinkpad or a config.sys file and figure out why someone's external hard drive wasn't working, then fix it through the software. Now that I'm ready to go off on another tangent and have pretty much gotten my hardware into place, it's time to learn some more black magic. I find it's kinda like riding a bike and all that arcana is coming back to me. I'm about the worst there is when it comes to hardware. I worked for XBox and I aced the software test. I had to take the hardware test 4 times and the instructor had to help me. THAT's how bad I am with hardware.

I am a lion when it comes to software, writing and I'm fearless, but if you present me with crap like this? I am completely and utterly undone. I would probably put it in the oven, cook it and try to eat it.

So, today, my friend who is a hardware guru, I mean seriously good with it, thoughtfully brought me a hard drive and a bunch of memory sticks, 80 Gig Seagate and 1 Mg of memory, for a favor. Eventually, I'll keep horsetrading and end up with another Quadcore and custom monitor. We do a lot of stuff like this. It's how I ended up with the T-42 ThinkPad. He brings me a bunch of papers he needs translated from English to Spanish. I can do this, so I find the web site and proceed copy the English translation to Spanish in Google and then, cut and paste into a document in I don't use Microsoft Office, although I have it, it's not on my system.

I email it to myself and open it; this is what I see:

This isn't looking like any Spanish I have ever seen. I have forgotten one teensy, weensy little thing about hopping around between applications.

Well, shit. I forgot about that little thing called FORMATTING, even though I saved it as an *.rtf file (yeah, *.rtf does pick up formatting.) My friend thinks this is hysterical and says “I'm going home, you'll work it out.” And he left; he lives across the street.

Then, I remembered. Eureka! I took the English, saved it as a *.txt file, which strips ALL formatting. I ran it through the translator and saved the Spanish version as a *.txt file, sent it to myself to make sure it worked, then emailed it to him. I used to do this all the time, with corrupted Excel files, databases, I can't believe I forgot that! He had that sucker BEFORE he got home! Ha! Still good for now, until my next idiocy, 3 ½ minutes from now! Have a great day!

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