"The issue is," I say, "your software is precariously balanced between the three points of: (1) it costs nothing; (2) it requires no intervention on my part; and (3) it's used by an idiot.
A harsh way to label someone...
BOFH logo telephone with devil's horns So I'm trying to deal with one of our software vendors about a trivial customization issue and instead of passing me to the person who could sort this out I've been palmed off onto a pre-sales idiot who's trying to sell me a product upgrade to allow me to make alterations myself. The …
You forgot the 'Help' option which links to the FAQ page containing half a dozen simple questions where they have already got an answer. Those answers will include the 'This is solved in the next release, please contact your Sales representative to ensure you are signed up to our automated update program'.
My favorite is the "Help" link that eventually takes you to the "community" where the same problem has been posted, numerous "me, too!" posts follow, and no solution ever provided, with several months or years between the posts.
Apparently people just like to complain about long-standing crippling features.
My favorite is the "Help" link that eventually takes you to the "community" where the same problem has been posted, numerous "me, too!" posts follow, and no solution ever provided, with several months or years between the posts."
Thats not the worst.. the worst are those forum that have the EXACT same issue you are having, with the exact same software/hardware/whatever... 2 pages of comments, and the last post from the OP is "solved it now" with no bloody indication of how they resolved it!!!
People like that need their feet nailing to the floor.
the last post from the OP is "solved it now" with no bloody indication of how they resolved it!!!
I was thinking of exactly that when I posted. Yeah, those are beyond enraging. Sometimes I pretend to have hope that maybe one of us mere mortals can figure it out like the OP and the dozens of following posts asking, "Dude, how'd you do it?! Please help us!" All written in such a way you can fell the agony and despair.
"Thats not the worst.. the worst are those forum that have the EXACT same issue you are having..."
That's still not the worst. The worst is when you have your situation and you notice that the asshat who solved the problem has the same username as you do, and you suddenly realize why all of this seemed so familiar.
I actually have some sympathy for “solved it now guy”.
Nobody wants to go on a technical forum and admit that they made totally unrelated changes to address an unrelated problem on a system which didn’t interface with the problematical one in any obvious way, and which wasn’t even in the same time zone, the original problem went away, and that they’ve now change freezed their entire corporate infrastructure across four continents in the forlorn hope that it doesn’t recur…
Quite likely they don't quite know how they solved it. They applied various fixes recommended in the forum and may have clicked on something in the UI without noticing and the problem just quietly went away.
If I had a nickle for every time I just carpet-bomb a problem because fixing it is critical, leaving me with no clue which bomb actually solved it but, screw it, it works.
the "community" where the same problem has been posted, numerous "me, too!" posts follow, and no solution ever provided
Such as asking what PlusNet plan to do on PSTN closure. Unanswered questions on the "community" pages are the only suggestion on the site that it's a thing.
The only reply I got on the phone was that they didn't want to mention it in case it confuses people (see icon), a hand wavy "they'll do something" and a determined effort to upsell me to a more expensive package.
LOL - but haven't you heard even chat options are largely no longer available, because ironically they are less productive and take more effort than just shuffling you off to their email support queue where their SLA requires your urgent ticket to be "responded to" in 30 minutes - and is fulfilled when their automated ticket system faithfully replies back stating your case has been assigned.Of course we all know response time is not the same as resolution time, so then it takes another 3 days before you hear back from an actual human, who then jerks you around *another* 3 days (minimum) asking you to collect information they often already have (because you included it in the initial case notes) before finally grudgingly scheduling a callback at least *another* 3 days away, but only after you further escalate the case priority to cataclysmic and insist on involving their supervisor because your case is not being handled in a "timely manner".
We got hit by that one some years back. One of our kids needed to submit a form to get a Universal Student Identifier, required for educational purposes. The way to do this was to submit an online form with a bunch of ID document details, however when we tried to do this it failed because the document details could not be verified automatically.
After much trying over a period of days we eventually figured out that the automated document verification service appeared to only be available during Canberra office hours (which, because of timezones, were over by the time we had been trying to submit the form). Of course this was never mentioned anywhere and the error message on the failed attempts contained no useful information.
I wish you were joking. Had exactly this with a software vendor about a critical production issue. It took them ten (10) days to solve the problem; afterwards, I found the solution in their knowledge base. (No, it was not added afterwards, yes, I had searched their knowledgebase, no, I had not found this, yes, I had described the problem in great detail, it should have been easy for them to connect the dots ...)
Problem is, people with know-how cost a lot of money and thus cut into profit.
What I like are the ones where they link resolving a consumer (who has one computer) network access problem to a web page, which I would not need if the computer could access the internet. And since the network is not working, directing you to a web site to run a network troubleshooter kinda doesn't work.
We had an idiot in the company I worked at back in the late 1970s. He always had to have the "latest thing" which he would then either get bored with or break in some fashion. He bought radio controlled plane and crashed it quite quickly - this was then sold to another staff member for peanuts. When he bought a Commodore Pet in 1979 I said, in quiet tones to others, "That's mine." About two months later he sold it to me for about 2/3 the original cost after he decided that he was going to buy an Apple ][ instead.
Especially if said idiot is a relative of a board member and that's how s/he got the job in the first place and why they are still there. Possibly printing off those 10 labels once per month is their only actual responsibility because anything more would be too complicated for them.
I suspect new levels of hell are going to open up once ML - the likes of ChatGPT - is grafted on to voice recognition chat systems. Frankenstein's monster pales by comparision.
"Oh the pain" - that was the byline of Dr Zachary Smith in the original "Lost in Space" TV series I recall correctly; along with "bubble headed booby."
Lucky! When I had to phone up HMRC recently to update my address (had to have it backdated as my employer failed to notify them when I updated it) I got asked all the questions to get through to the income tax department before being told after a minute of silence that "Your privacy is important to us... find out more at [some link]. Thank you and have a nice day!" *hangs up*. Worked out it was their way of saying that they were too busy but I found it especially stupid that I had to enter all my details (NI Number, Birthday, Current Postcode) before they would hang up on me, but I suppose I shouldn't have expected better from the government.
A robotic voice with a faintly Scottish accent reciting from the works of McGonnagall, pausing occasionally to tell you that your call is still important to the company and to tell you that you are X in the queue (where X is the actual position +- rand(7)) and continuing reciting the poem from more or less where it left off (skipping or repeating lines at random); now that would be suitable for a BOFH helpline.
What's really bad is when that misic is the same instrument-only refrain repeated 3 times during that 15 seconds. It becomes mind numbing after 10-15 minutes, although after 30 years I've built up an immunity.
The best hold music ever - there's one company that plays entire songs, 1950s to 1990s, rotating the decades through one at a time, and it's not the same 5 songs over and over. I could stay on hold with THAT company my entire shift.
The telephone company in Aus -- Telstra -- offered and supplied a small-business exchange with "music on hold", playing the "Telstra Chimes" -- a machine implementation of some 3/4 music played in 4/4 time. Described as such, that probably doesn't mean anything to you, but...
I had a friend call me and ask if I could help because they were loosing customers from 'hold', and thought they had a technical problem. I got to explain to him that no, it wasn't a technical problem, it was a well-known feature: people hung up when put on 'hold' with the 'Telstra Chimes".
I remember those! What really annoyed me is that the first chapter is usually "How to Install this software".
But you can only read it after you installed the software. Chicken and egg situation.... A company I used to work for was good at that - to be fair, it was written by the marketing director...... He didn't seem to think that was a problem. Also pointed out to him that his tutorial chapter, while quite detailed, changed terminology halfway through....
As far as I know, it's never been updated
You mean the things that used to be sometimes useful, before they all got converted into buttons that take you to the help portal on the company's website (or worse, the URL that used to be the help portal years ago), but don't do anything to guide you to a relevant help article, even assuming that one exists?
This is actually the norm. There will be a "Help" page which won't offer help, but will have some meaningless drivel and a button labelled "Get Help" or "Contact us" .
Which opens a page on "FAQs" none of which are either helpful or frequently asked, since they're almost all blindingly obvious. But no contact details or anything like that. At the bottom there will be a "Need more help" button. Which, yes you've got it. Takes you back to the Help page.
Each stage is crafted to sound like the next one will give you access to support. None of them do.
These are deliberate "dark patterns" designed to get rid of annoying customers with their annoying questions about their rubbish product.
FAQs.. most of which are never "Frequently Asked" because everyone knows how to access (for example) the MyPortal webpage; how to access the My Time Off webpage, or how to use the Chat button
Oh no, questions like "how do I remove this stale objective date 2019 in My Career" goes unanswered... and when you use the Chat function the response is "we are not contracted to deal with application problems"
How about Quest Spotlight software for SQL. Needed the port requirements for client/server connections, pre-purchase, for our firewall team, to complete the order process. One web search later, it leads to their support page. However, upon accessing said support page, you get this message: 'You need to be signed in and under a current maintenance contract to view premium knowledge articles.' How is that 'premium knowledge'????
Had similar with Quest many years ago.
Had MessageStats for Exchange at a previous employer and wanted to show it to current one so they would quit bugging me about reports and be able to do it themselves.
Obviously have to call Quest to get a trial time limited download.
Quest - It's very nice that you want to look at our product, do you have a firm order for it or a PO raised?
Me - No of course not, I'm wanting to do a demo to management within our environment to see if they like the idea and then we'd go from there, obviously I'm investing some time with it to spin up VM's databases etc. but nothing firm.
Quest - Oh, don't think we can really help you then I'm afraid. Bye.
I had something like that a number of years ago. We were evaluating database replication products, and management asked if there were any alternatives to Oracle Goldengate. So the Dell salesman called me and asked if I wanted to evaluate their Shareplex product. I said: "Sure. Just send me a link to download it, and I will install it on some test machines. If it works well, I will recommend it to management."
《just what the actual fuck is 'premium knowledge'?》
Basically recycle (free) help/answers from the "community" to paid subscribers.
Perhaps with a small amount of input or filtering from company employees.
Typical "nickel & dime" tactics from US corporates and foreign emulators.
A few years ago, I got an email supposedly from my credit union, urging me to login soon as I hadn't logged in in awhile and my online access might be disabled if I didn't occasionally login. I called the credit union and they didn't know of any such emails, but weren't sure.
I looked at the links and every one of them went to some janky NCR.COM subdomain with the credit unions URL as a parameter. So I fired up a Kali VM and opened the link. All it apparently did was redirect to my credit unions website. So I tried it with a different URL and sure enough, it redirected to that.
A a trivial open redirect vulnerability - on a major banking corporations domain. Makes it past all spam and phishing filters because NCR.COM. Spammers and phishers could abuse the hell of out of NCR's domain with it. You would think NCR would like to know about something like that. But when I clicked on the "contact us" link, you of course needed an account with them to even talk with anyone.
No way to contact them
Or your the user asking the same question 100 times thinking the IT guy will slip up and say yes.
And if he does, forcing him to call the vendor so they don’t have to spend the whole day on the phone.
I don’t want to know anything about the stupid program we told you not to buy and that we do not support so feel free to become the expert in this matter. I have even sent them a link that opens google, types the question in and looks it up on google.
"And if that's not bad enough, how about websites with 'help' options - none of which remotely deal with the problem in hand."
Or worse I my view, the error that pops up, and when you check the forum, you notice that the same error has reappeared and been repaired over the last 15 years. The developer seems incapable of not reiterating the past.
Iron Maiden is also still going - 40+ years and 13 studio albums. The lead singer, Bruce "Air Raid" Dickerson is type qualified in the 747 and other commercial jets. He has survived cancer, but they are still making albums and touring. The single from their latest album has over 30 million views on YouTube.
Iron Maiden is still playing the same kind of music. The problem the BCR's had was that they got sick of doing choir music ("Bye Bye Baby is a choir number), but didn't want to split up. So they've tried to do Blues, and Soul, and Rock -- as performed by a choir. They could've maybe been the Corrs, or Celtic Thunder, or a grown up version of The Choir Boys. But they wanted to be James Brown or Ray Vaughn, and that didn't really work as a choir group.
I'm currently trying to "streamline" some of our internal processes, a number of which include using pieces of software that were last updated, and licensed, in the 1990s, and don't necessarily play nicely on anything more recent than NT (think applications that crash when you switch to another window, that sort of thing), are no longer supported, and can't be automated (so we can't just replace the whole process with a job run on a DevOps deployment agent), but are still in use, because we have that "perpetual license".
Never mind that in each case, there is either a well-supported, open source, free alternative, or the same functionality is built into Visual Studio...
Add to this that there are some people around, who, if the checklist had a step of "turn around three times and punch yourself in the face," would resist any change to get it removed, whilst bleeding from their noses.
If there's a FOSS alternative why not open up the source, graft in the splash screen/title or whatever of the original and pass it off as the latest version of old-faithful?
They'll have to get used to the new screen layout etc. but if they've followed MS's revisions of UIs they'll accept that as normal.
Yep. Because these are people who are doing their jobs, have not the slightest interest in the tech or probably even the process, and from their point of view all you are doing is making their lives more difficult for no good reason. Its especially an issue with staff in people facing jobs, because what they care about is the people and the interactions, not the software and the administration overheads. It is immensely frustrating, especially when you go around asking what you can do to make their IT more efficient and more helpful, and they don't give a damn about any of that, and have no interest at all in spending time thinking about whether there might be better ways of doing things.
You were doing so well until the last sentence. What you're missing is that they're _right_. It's IT's job to make life easier for people, not harder for them so it's easier for IT.
"from their point of view all you are doing is making their lives more difficult for no good reason"
They're the ones doing the things that actually earn the money that pays for IT to support them to do the things that earn the money to...
Do what they say is easier for them, not what makes _your_ life easier. Within reason, of course.
You were doing so well until the last sentence "Within reason, of course."
Who defines what is a 'reasonable' amount of disruption to your hypothetical line employee? Some companies are security first, some are employees first, some are production/uptime first, some are customers first, and some are make the VC folks money first.
All five of those organizations will take the same set of circumstances and challenges, and come up with a different version of what is 'reasonable.'
Sounds like you might be more in the 'employees first' or 'customers first' camp, but just pointing out that you're essentially fighting a war over which factor is most important, and every company has a different mix of answers.
It fits what you wrote pretty well. When is it reasonable to make someone adopt new software, with the added burden of figuring out the new process? This depends on the primary focus of the company. If they're focusing on short-term productivity, that likely means that they don't want to stop using the old tools unless they absolutely have to. If they're focusing on long-term productivity, they may be happier to replace something that's not completely broken yet. If they're focusing on employees' wishes, the decision might come down to the specific employee's willingness for change and displeasure with the options rather than the productivity difference. If they're focused on other things as listed by the post that replied to you, they may make the decision based on whether either option has more security, whether one is cheaper, whether one improves efficiency, etc.
Every company has a different approach to how they'll handle situations like this. It often comes down to personal decisions combined with the primary goals of the directors.
Well of course they're right. But knowing that doesn't help.
In order to improve things I need to know what are the many crap things about their IT working environment, and then work out which are low hanging fruit that we can readily improve at a cost management will pay for. OK, maybe in an ideal world I would sit in the same office as these folks for a fortnight, do their IT training, do the same work as them, and inform myself of what improvements can be made. In practice though I don't have the training or ability to do their job, and there may be security/confidentiality issues that mean its undesirable for an IT geek to be parachuted in for a fortnight. So I'm dependant on the users to tell me what's wrong and to do so in a manner I can understand. And if they just wish the f*****g computers would go away and let them get on with sorting out people's lives then they're probably not going to be able to tell me what I need to know. All too often, even if you do get something its either bleedin' obvious but difficult ('I'd like the computers to log in twice as fast in the morning" "So would I, and believe me we've worked at it") or pointless ("If only we had Office 2021 instead of Office 2019 I'd be able to do, well, exactly the same stuff pretty much exactly the same way").
Let me tell you what I, as a user of IT setvices, want from IT.
I want my computer to log me into the system every time.
I want my applications to spin up and work, every time.
When you make changes to how I do my job, I want that change to make my job easier, not harder.
I do NOT want to have to log into a VPN, to access a VPN, to access a VPN, to access a VPN, to reach an application. Yes, I actually have to do this sometimes, because IT doesn't want to built a shortcut to let me reach the last VPN on the first go around. I don't mind that I have to log into a VPN at the start of my shift, but once in I should be able to hit every application by logging into it.
Speaking of VPNs, I do not want them to time out after 5 minutes of inactivity. Sometimes it takes time for a field tech to do his bit, and I should not have to spend 20 minutes logging back in to check. I may not be actively working in that VPN because sometimes I have other issues to work on while waiting on the field tech. All in all, I spend a good 30 percent of my shift logging and relogging into stuff and that means I'm not fixing as many circuits as I should be doing.
I am also sick of the constant password requirement updates. Yes, I get security, but I have to maintain access to 50-60 different systems, all with differing password requirements and all with more and more complicated password requirements. What makes it worse, the requirements for a valid password are never listed so making a change takes forever. And worse than that? Reducing the time between changes. All that, and you guys leave admin access to the network set to username admin password nimda, for your own convenience? Yeah, I know your dirty little secrets!
All in all, I want to do my job quickly and effectively. I do not even want to know IT exists. If I am constantly having to open tickets with you because something broke, as far as I'm concerned the IT are useless numpties who are out of their depth. On the other hand, if I never have to think about IT because I never interact with them, give that department a raise, they're obviously highly competent experts in their field.
While most of those are reasonable, they're generic and may easily fall into the categories of request that aren't feasible.
For example: "I want my applications to spin up and work, every time." Great. Everybody wants that. Let's assume we have the people who wrote those applications and those who administrate them all here trying to improve things. There's still no information about what happens when they don't work correctly, which means it's much harder to fix the problem. Sometimes, the errors people report are things that can easily be fixed by patching the code. Sometimes, they can easily be fixed by changing the configuration. Sometimes, they're the user failing to process something and either invoking the software in an incorrect way or not dealing with a message the software generated. We can't know which of those categories applies without specifics, and if it's the latter, it is likely either impossible to fix or is more efficient to train the user on correct operation than introduce more code. This is a question the IT department has to work with the users to answer, and it has to be a polite problem-finding attempt from both sides. I've been part of this as a programmer, and I've found plenty of cases where the code is at fault and many others where the user is. This is, of course, if you have the programmers available. If they work for another company, you may not be able to make them change the code, and if they have a lot of users, you may not be able to get them to change the code for a use case that's specific to you. The IT department may not be able to handle each request.
Here's one that tends to work out worse: "When you make changes to how I do my job, I want that change to make my job easier, not harder." I'm sure you have had some changes which made your work much harder and weren't necessary. The problem is that a lot of users use a request like that which, in their mind, means "I'd like there to be no changes at all". That includes things that introduce needed security, such as the change from every resource being open to the internet with simple authentication to having a VPN. In the four-level example you provided, I can see why that would become a usability issue (though I doubt you have that many levels), but some users will complain with the introduction of a single one. At some point, the user's aversion to change has to be balanced with the benefits created by the change. Some changes will introduce more steps to the user and are still necessary. If we could eliminate everything that annoys people, we'd have lots of money from users who never had to deal with annoying systems again. If I were one of those people, I'd use that money to build great hiding places for when that all collapsed, because the systems can't be infinitely easy without compromising on other important aspects.
I think real issues occur when IT are working to a brief that doesn't reflect users' reality.
e.g. the brief, from management, says that the users work independently and have no need to collaborate on shared documents or save them centrally with backups. Based on a formal job description that describes what they do, but not what else they do or they do to do what they do - i.e. yes they each have their own set of short term clients, and work independently with these,. But in real life, they actually have to use a common set of documents which they design collaboratively and store in a common folder, and so not reinvent the wheel to do it. That they all need to keep records centrally and make these available to various inspecting authorities. And also if someone switches clients they retain continuity and so forth. . Result, users sit down in front of their shiny new system and discover they no longer have a way to access the shared document templates that they need ahead of a client meeting and can't save their reports centrally, or rely on them being backed up..
Or that management fondly believe that staff don't need access to a networked shared printer/copier, because they only ever produce short two or three page documents on a local inkjet. In reality staff are also regularly creating and distributing assessment and record keeping documents, training materials, printed legally binding standard agreements and other stuff that needs to be printed in larger runs
(Yes I've been through the pain of both of these, recounted in stories past).
Or that they don't have licenses and designs to use some software, because the Powers-That-Be think only certain types of work require, say, a database system, but haven't understood that the team are required/need to store a lot of information about their work, the clients etc.
OK. fine. In order to do that we're going to need 2/3 of your departments' salary budget transferred to our department. If you have to use more than two passwords, its because one of YOUR middle managers wanted an application deployed faster than it would have taken to test and validate the company standard SSO into the application. Speak to her about it.
For your information, I regularly get complaints from other system administrators about my 64 character admin passwords, so you can fuck right off.
('I'd like the computers to log in twice as fast in the morning" "So would I, and believe me we've worked at it")
I remember doing a roll-out of WinTerm thin clients for a customer some years ago. Everything went great at the small test site satellite office, no issues at all. We did the rest of the small satellite offices, still no problems, all smooth running. Then we did head office. Over 500 WinTerms installed over the weekend. Come 9am Monday morning, 500 people all trying to log in at more or less the same time and the entire system ground to a halt for about 15 minutes and the support desk phones rining because the remote offices can't connect at all! They'd specced more than enough server capacity for estimated peak loads, but no one had considered the amount of data flow when 500 WinTerms all need to connect at about the same time.
Now, I'm no expert on WinTerms or how they work. I'd assume they have the bare bones of Windows in firmware and connect to an RDS session of some sort so there's likely some (significant?) data transfer to the WinTerm at login as well as the servers having to spin up RDS sessions.
"have not the slightest interest in the tech or probably even the process, and from their point of view all you are doing is making their lives more difficult"
Right up to the point where something breaks down and it's still IT's fault even if they'd blocked any attempts at update.
if the checklist had a step of "turn around three times and punch yourself in the face," would resist any change to get it removed
This is exactly it, I had flashbacks the moment you mentioned streamlining.
My pet hate , in these situations, is when the process contains printing something out in order that you can scan it in again - and the complete wall of stubborn disbelief and refusal to change when you patiently explain that this is the most moronic way possible of achieving the end result
"You could miss out steps 4 to 7 entirely and it would not make a difference"
The reply to all these things is always
"But we've always done it this way"
They seem to have no idea what they are actually doing - they are like trained chimps just pushing buttons in a sequence for a banana!
Hmm. Maybe. Or maybe other things. Like job protection. Someone (maybe distributed among the office staff) is getting paid to print stuff from one place and copy/scan it to another. Or familiarity. It's been a well known, simple process for staff who really "don't want to start doing new stuff at my time of life".
Or familiarity. It's been a well known, simple process for staff who really "don't want to start doing new stuff at my time of life".
That can be one of the toughest "sells" simply because *any* change makes life more difficult initially due to the learning curve of the new method or process, no matter if training has been provided in advance or not. For many users, "muscle memory" is a vital part of the job and that takes a time to change. Most people can't see past that initial "problem" of the change actually happening. Although if you wait a few weeks or months and tell them you''re reverting back to the old system, they'll probably scream in panic all over again because now they're used to the new system :-)
chimps just pushing buttons in a sequence for a banana
It's difficult for anyone with any amount of 'computer proficiency' to understand the thought processes of those who don't have (and don't want) a clue. During a year-long battle to replace our aged ERP system with something from the 21st century, endless people used to complain that it was 'different' and they couldn't possibly change. The solution? To completely re-write all those "Works Instructions" that literally told the users which buttons to press, and in what order.
I would recommend anybody responsible for writing software to go into a manufacturing department and see what the users really do when faced with their latest and greatest.
Bear in mind that most manufacturing people have amazing production skills, so don't assume that they're stupid at all. They just speak a different language to us boffins.
Bloke was helping me by going in to one of our larger meeting rooms to switch on the amplifier, because the person running the weekly meeting in that room never remembers to turn on the amplifier, despite being told and shown which button to press (the very bottom of the rack, turns orange when it's on) several times.
In the last few weeks I have installed a second - identical-looking - amplifier which runs a different set of loudspeakers for use when the room is in a different configuration. Asking for trouble, I know.
So said helpful bloke is told "99% likely user hasn't turned the amplifier on. Go to the bottom of the rack. Find the two identical amplifiers, turn the bottom one on, and only the bottom, because if you turn the other one on, they'll complain the sound is coming from a different part of the room and if you turn both on, it will sound very odd.
Radio call five minutes later "yup, the amplifiers were off, so I turned them both on."
"No, just the bottom one, as you are still there, please turn the top one off."
"I think I'll leave them both on, just to be sure."
My solution to that "we have always done it that way" is to simply change it without asking for permission. I just tell them: "I made a change that I think you will like: You no longer have to do steps 4 through 7. Everything else is the same. Just skip steps 4-7. Please try it and let me know if you like it."
I have never been asked to roll back one of these changes. But I have gotten free beer after a few. It is amazing how well people respond when you actually make their jobs easier.
Some spreadsheet a bean counter has cobbled together with a lookup table of data that no one knows anything about that produces the right numbers every month so they're never touched
and then locked it up with a password and left the company, so you have to emulate ancient server names and acc name/pwds to keep it happy.
This hapoened at a state agency where I worked. What the person had done was illegal in the first place (they are statutorally required to use a state accounting system.) They set up a couple of spreadsheets to produce the numbers, then produced reports from those spreadsheets. At some point, maybe at the beginning or when they caught word of their looming termination, a password was set which encrypted the spreadsheet and data files. Not sure what happened afterward, but I heard through the grapevine they were invited by the state police to have a sit down with a couple of attorneys about some felony charges ready to be filed.
the way Simon plays the sympathy card, let's the poor guy blab, and then sticks the knife in and gives it a good twist.
And when he gets the new version, without license requirements, I wonder if Simon will get a regular invoice sent to the beancounters (for annual license upgrades) payable to the BOFH Beer Fund (through a Cayman Island bank account)?
The hands of a master.
I envy his stepwise construction of what on the face of it is an implausible story.
A label printing program that is used once a month, necessarily by an idiot, to produce no more than a dozen labels to send paper documents to the board members. Jingle bells...
By repeatedly pivoting around the existence and necessity of his "idiot" finally trips the support/sales droid to expose the "idiot" in his reporting chain (pretty certain bet in most organizations.)
By getting the new license and software (which he probably won't ever use) he will always have the support guy over a barrel. Eventually the tapes will be overwritten.
Invoicing his company for the renewals would be the cherry... although I suspect the account specified in the invoices would be belong to someone else in the company from whom he is already extracting contributions in specie.
This is almost as annoying when a certain ISP tries to keep selling you an upgrade for the old office (that they wouldn't let you out of early) even though it's a been vacated, demolished, become a hole in the ground and is in the process of being made into new offices.
Every time being told I'll make a note of that.
Sorry but the hole in the ground that used to be my office does not need an internet connection thank you
...that produces the right numbers every month...
In my experience, given a spreadsheet built by Noah that nobody touches, that's more usually numbers that everyone's happy with every month. Usually wrong, but since everyone's happy with the answer, nobody questions them. Sometimes this is because they're pretty sure that the figures are wrong, but they're terrified of what the real figures might be.
the pain the pain..
I wrote some software once
And sold a couple of copies
Somehow this means that I HAVE to support these 2 rather sad looking applications for ever and ever and ever (I also suspect the companies concerned wil invest in a ouji board after I finally snuff it)
And its not the calls describing the interface as 'designed for a complete and utter moron' that bother me (mainly because the interface WAS designed for complete and utter morons), but the call that goes :
Them: Hello... we're having trouble with [software]
Me: oh right , how can I help?
Them : well the interface is different and the buttons dont match upto what we're used to
Me : strange... someone changed the settings?
Them : how do you do that?
Me: Toolbar.... settings... click on the 'system settings' on the drop down menu, and enter the password.
Them : Theres no drop down menu, or tool bar... theres an about tab
Me<thinking someones been really f'ing with this> : Click on the about tab and tell me what version it is
Them : [rival software product] version 7, 2018
Me<be polite be polite be polite> : I'm afraid thats not my product.
Them : Yes we've been having trouble using it... can you talk us through setting it up?
Me<aww for fuck's sake>: aww for fuck's sake..
Then: I take it thats a no then?
Me<what god did I offend so badly to be punished like this eternally?> no, you'll have to call [rival software supplier]
Them: but they went out of business 3 years ago.
Me<starts headbutting keyboard and crying no no make it stop>
PFY : I'm afraid Boris has some urgent matters to attend to.. please call back tommorrow, thank you
Just tell them that is out of scope and they need to raise a purchase order for $nnn and they need to fax a copy to you before you can help them. There's a good chance they won't have a fax, or if under 35 not know what a fax is, and anyway, YOU don't have a fax either, job done and you get to mess with their head :-)
For a truly insanity-inducing experience, try registering to report Capital Gains in the UK without a passport or driving license (they claim to accept other forms of proof of identity, but don't seem to have anywhere that they ask for them or that you can supply them...).
After wandering round the Gov website in an infinite loop for a couple of days, I finally tried a websearch which pointed me at a user forum (on the Gov website) where countless other people were complaining about the same thing and some kind soul finally posted a Gov.uk address where you could download and print the forms.
Worked for a large company we’re we need box labels EAN-128 on specially designed labels one for the front one for the side.
I found a “dongle” for a DOS based product this was back in 2000’s the “dongle” was for an early 90’s bit of printing software.
Took about 2 days to size and have the labels printing 52 sheets a minute.
Still makes me smile after all these years.
A true idiot is a gift that keeps on giving.
Boss man “my idiot” decides after we have been running for over a year that company x should not be using an old peice of software using a “dongle”.
He proceeded to order new printers to do the printing one for each end of the packing chutes.
One evening working late I over heard him complaining that after 3 months on his new printing regime he had used the entire print budget for the year.
"One evening working late I over heard him complaining that after 3 months on his new printing regime he had used the entire print budget for the year."
Did some smarmy salesperson convince him to lease the printers instead of buying them and he severely underestimated the pages per month count?
One reason why I buy stuff online rather than F2F from box stores is that I don't have to run the gauntlet of updates, service contracts and what-have-you. Its not the fault of the people working at the store, they don't like pushing the stuff as much as I don't like having the stuff pushed at me. They're stuck with targets and failure to meet those targets means they get heavied, even fired. So the persistent customer service fellow was probably just trying to meet a quota -- as if his life depended on it.
The good news is that there are signs that younger workers are pushing back against oppressive employment. Whether they'll get away with or not -- starvation is a powerful motivator -- remains to be seen.
Alternatively, the file is obfuscated and possibly encrypted, the provider is contractually obliged to make the file, and the contract may even have a clause that says that the customer must not alter files that the provider is responsible for. Can someone break the format and change things? Probably, with some effort, because it's relatively unlikely that the provider has encrypted it asymmetrically. It's still probably more complicated than opening an XML file with clear names and changing a value. While this is a fictional scenario, the possibilities I mention aren't outlandish. People have tried to lock clients in by making a weird file format and providing the only access methods since selling software to others became a thing.
I've experienced this firsthand. I have used a few different programs which were intended to write music data and lock data into their own proprietary formats. Some of these pieces of software could export to some kinds of data (one could give you an audio file, one could export a limited subset as MIDI, and both could produce printed scores), but neither made it possible to export all the data you had entered in a standard format that could be used in another piece of software. The one that agreed to export MIDI would give you notes, but dropped several important types of data which would take about as long to recreate as manually rewriting the whole thing would take. I don't think either format was locked down too much, but manually reverse-engineering the formats would take a lot of time and testing.
Am I the only WinXP user here? (rhetorical question)
And they've used various tricks to try to coerce us into "upgrading" the license by issuing quick-fire version releases then limiting the supported versions and removing online license validation for older versions – you know, the usual.
At the end of the phone call, Simon surely requested an e-mail quote for the upgraded version, so that he could wave it in front of the boss's nose, then say "But you know, I think I may know someone who could fix it up for us for, say, 500 quid?"
Bosses love paying contractors to make their problems go away. A hex edit later, and it's pub o'clock!