Piss-up in a Brewery

Yesterday due to Health & Safety bureaucrats, the Inmates at the Insane Asylum all got a day pass out into the wild. Basically the overhead power cables in the Village where the Asylum is located were two inches lower than the regulations. I believe a circus stilt-walker standing on the back of an elephant could possibly electrocute themselves, so health & safety said the lines needed raising which meant a village wide power outage from 8am till 5pm.

Now the Asylum is an ISP & Telecommunications Provider & etc. So making allowances for the inmates to work from home should be no problem, especially as we had a weeks notice.  The night before the planed outage we redirect our emails to a backup server, and take our phones home to connect to our Virtual PBX (which is a product we sell, so know works). So we should all have been sorted.

The best laid plans of mice and IT professionals

Now the Governor and our Phone Tec both have already got phones set up on the virtual PBX for testing purposes, so it was just the rest of the Inmates who needed to get online with it.  Now Demonpengu tried setting his phone up the afternoon before the outage, and it took several hours to get it to actually connect. The rest of us waited until the day of the outage, where only I got my phone to connect. “Great so far right?

After a hour or so a call locked up my phone, preventing incoming or outgoing calls. When the problem was spotted and fixed we discovered internal calls would result in only one phone being heard the other was just silence. And as for actual call quality, I could not hear the customer over hearing myself saying what I had just said. (And this is a product we sell)

For the last part of the day it was just me manning all the lines & support box, Pure madness & poor planning. I think next time I shall go the way of the others and just pretend my phone would not connect.

Just when I thought they couldn’t possibly be any dumber…

…..they go and do something like this… and totally redeem themselves!!

I am a true believer of the phrase “Customers are Idiots“, but sometimes they seem to go out of their way to prove beyond any shadow of a doubt that this phrase is true.

Recently one of our customers RedBack* ceased trading, and a load of their customers were emailed suggesting they move their hosting & emails over to the Insane Asylum. I was given the pleasure of helping a load across to us. Now some came across with little or no problems, where as others caused a variety of problems. And then there was Zoolander*.

So I copy their website and database from the RedBack server that’s shutting down over to one of ours, I change connection strings and paths accordingly and get it up and running. I recreate email accounts on our system and send them all the details with the instructions to change the nameservers over to ours and they will be up and running.

So a couple of weeks go past and I get a phone call from Zoolander that goes a bit like this.

Z:We’ve changed the nameserver things like you said and now our email has stopped working!

CN:Yes, it will since you moved over to us. you need to use the new email details I previosly sent you.

Z:I don’t understand, its all technically, can’t you just do it for me?

CN: Well you need to change the setting in whatever email client you use on your computers, but if you need our guys can connect to your machine and do it for you.

Z:I dont do email on my computer, just my phone. I just go to the webpage and do mail.

CN: You only use webmail? Then you just need to use the webmail address I sent you and you’ll be fine

Z:what? so my webpages address will change? it wont be on www.zoolander.com* any more?

CN:NO. just the address of the webmail you used has changed.

The following morning I get into the Asylum to find an email from one of the Zoolander’s Directors home gmail account, all urgent and shouty like. I could tell this as it was all written in CAPS! The basic gist of the email was that they had tried logging into the new webmail address i gave them, and their old username/passwords were not working. So I politely resend them the details I sent before the move with the NEW usernames/passwords and point out the NEW system required NEW details.

Two hours later the phone rings. And its Zoolander.

Z:Hello, We’ve tried using the new details, only we can’t work out what goes where, so could ou talk us through it?

CN:no problems, what problem are you having?

Z:Well we need to know what to put in the box that says username, and what goes in the one called password?

CN: What did you have in the email I sent you?

Z: email address followed by my email address, then username followed by a username, then password followed by password. I just don’t know which ones I’m supposed to use.

CN:OK. where it asks for your username, type in your username. and put your password in the one asking for password.”

Z:That seems to have worked. thanks

CN: *Unplugs phone for rest of the day*

I know there is a stereotype belief that people in the fashion modelling industry are not known for playing with a full set of cards. But at least try people…..

* As normal Names changed to protect me from lawsuits… err I mean to protect the innocent.

while (1) $head->brickwall(“BANG”);

This morning was quiet at the Insane Asylum, We were informed that due to work being done on trees growing through power lines, we would loose our power supply for a short while.  To prevent damage to servers/systems/coffee pots we shut down all electrical equipment at 9am (The time we were told the outage was due for).  at approximately 10:45am we were informed the power work had been done, and that we would not be affected after all. So everything was re-powered back up.

When FireFox starts up on my desktop and re-opens the session I had before the shutdown I notice something. A development site I have been working on is now displaying some errors. “ARRRGGGHHH! what did I do? was I in the code when my machine switched off?” So I quickly check the Live site, and that has the same errors on it. “errr OK. we work on the dev site, test any changes and only if they shown to work do they get copied over to the live site

Quick check of the file system shows files in both the live & dev areas with modification dates/times of 9:30 today. So they were played with during the Asylum was off-line, which means only one possible person with access. The freelance Phone developer who for his own protection we shall call PhoneBoy (PB). The following is a breakdown of the IM conversation that then occurred.

CN: “Hi, What you do to the site? Both Live & Dev are showing errors”

PB: “Nothing, not touched it, and not seeing errors here!”

CN: “You sure? try refreshing browser, I’m seeing the errors here on multiple machines”

PB: “No errors, and I checked IE and Firefox”

*Repeat the last few entries continually for about fifteen minutes*

CN: “Seriously every machine here is showing the errors, here look!” *iPhone photo & email*

PB: “No. still cant see any errors and I even checked with Linux. and I did not do anything, all I did was comment out some code to make the pages load faster”

CN: “You commented out code? what code.?”

PB: “See i removed what I did and the page loads slow now”

CN: “Yes but the errors gone. Please leave it alone. I’ll make the page load faster, you leave it be!”

I would not mind so much, only this happened every time he does anything. You have to fight for about half an hour to get him to admit he actually did anything. then another hour to find out exactly what he did, then ten minutes to actually fix the problem.

So as the post title says.

while (1)

$head->brickwall(“BANG”);

When Development Goes MAD

It started off as just another day in the Asylum.

Well not just any old day, but a Friday. The countdown to the weekend had been started. The coffee brewed. and all was well!

Then IT happened.

And not a cool interesting intergalactic space spider who likes to disguise herself as a friendly clown called Pennywise. No not a good IT at all.

He thrusts his fists against the posts and still insists he sees the ghosts.

No this IT was getting called into a phone meeting, something that to date has tended to go the same way every time. I go into the meeting, i sit about for an hour listening to the marketing guys discuss what name to give things, then I have a ten minute contribution about the development, then another hour of pointless marketing drivel. (I think I fell asleep at one point in the last meeting I went to)

This was luckily just a 15 minute quick meeting to discuss what is the next area of development to concentrate on. You see the site in question is getting a major overhaul and is currently in a situation where the development site can be made live. There is just some final testing going on.  This testing will be finished today, so the site will be live by Monday.

Yet in the meeting, the Governor decided that we needed a development site for the development site. So that while the development site is being tested to go live, a development version of the development site can be worked on. Now, should any bugs be found in the development site they would have to be fixed there and the fix duplicated to the development, development site. while new work is done there. We now have three versions of a site, all for the sake of waiting a day.

I don’t know if any of you can see the sense in that, I know I can’t.

Ah well on with the multiple dev site creating.

I Love the smell of Estrogen In the Morning!

WOW.

Its all I can say, WOW.

I am experiencing a mixture of 60% Shock and 40% Anger, With a small sprinkling of Homicidal Tendencies on top.

I’d not seen the Governor all day in the Asylum.  I’d heard slight grumblings coming from down the corridor but that was it.  You see one of the Support Drones has not been doing his job fully, and it had been spotted while he was on holiday for a week.  And everyone else had run around sorting it all out (Without anything really being said to the drone.) Hence Grumblings.

Towards the end of the day, The Governor storms into my Cell screaming “Wheres this website!” “I’ve given you a long rain of time for it, I need it now“. Most people would have opened with a hello, or the question asked in a normal voice, not at full rage decibels.

Now, I’ve not worked on a major web project since I left the Development department three years ago, So I’m rusty. I should also point out that the website needing the overhaul was written by someone learning PHP badly at the time. Each page needs about 25 separate files of code to work, and DIV tags are spread over several files. Its a mess, and the work being done must not change the look and feel of site. Oh, and after the site was finished it had a lot of work done to it by another person with limited PHP knowledge. I digress.

So I’m rusty, it’s not an easy site, still it’s not impossible to do. Apart from the fact that I get disturbed a dozen times a day on average to help the Support Drones with problems with the ISP part of the company, or The Windows server admin wanting help with something, Or the Linux admin is working on something and wants some scripts altering to help him out, or improve something. Or the development department is bust so needs help, Or customers need help, Or the Governor needs stuff looking up or doing.

After each interruption I have lost my place on the project, and cant remember what I was doing, So I have to delete the stuff I was typing and start again. This week for example I managed about four hours of usable work on this Project.

This on top of the slight Depression I feel by not actually having a defined role in the Asylum. The Linux SysAdmin looks after the Linux Servers (Theres a lot of them), ICT Engineer only does ICT work, Developer only does development, Support guys only do support. I do, Support, Development, windows sysadmin, linux sysadmin backup work, internal development, bt development, question answering/help for all other departments, out of hours emergency support when linux sysadmin unreachable, I cover every department when they have staff people on holiday.

And they wonder a web project takes a bit longer to do than a dedicated web developer would take?

I can never finish any project, I start one, get a week working on it if i am very very lucky, then I’m given another project, and another.

I really feel like I will snap at any point. And being screamed at as the opening question of “is the website finished yet” really does not help.

I will admit that after that incident I may have vented slightly. I posted a Tweet on my Private, None Work based, None Linked to Work Twitter account thus :-

Given a web project, constantly pulled off to do other urgent jobs and get screamed at asking why web project not finished.

Only The Governor follows my Twitter account, So I get another ballistic explosion, of how he’s under pressure and how do i think it makes him feel to see a posting like that? err. probably no where near as bad as being the person screamed at for no reason? And I can remove that tweet or get sacked.

So I have decided to separate my personal “Social Networking” with my Current Employment. Since I feel I should be allowed to vent whatever I want on line as long as no names, or company names are mentioned.  It’s a hell of a lot healthier for everyone for anonymous on line venting, than holding the anger in, snapping, and going on a psychopathic killing spree in the office with a philips headed screwdriver.

Managing the Unmanageable: Or Herding Cats

A nervous air of expectancy tinged with an edge of fear hangs over the quiet room, as a group of people sit on old school chairs arranged in a circle.  Slowly one of the group stands up, looking at the faces of those around him, making sure not to make eye contact. He swallows the lump that’s threatening to block his throat and mumbles. “Hi. My name is CodeNinja and I’m Unorganised“.

OK. Maybe Unorganised Anonymous is not as well known a support group as some of the more trendy Anonymous Groups. AA, SA, VA, DA, etc. But God darn it, it affects people just as bad as the others!

For years I have taken on way too many projects and ideas, Never actually finishing any of them because of the sheer work load. That and Each project distracts from the others. In the past I have tried to counter this with ToDo lists. (In fact every one of my machines has dozens of todo text files all over their hard drives). As you can imagine this is not the most efficient form of managing Time/Tasks, and I can admit it does not work.

With the help of my UA sponsors I started to investigate software for keeping “task lists” that would help keep me organised. I even asked for help on Twitter/Facebook with the following comment.

I have been testing different todo lists/project tracking systems

I want a web based one, and would like it to comunicate with an iphone app. but a decent web app would do for starters.”

This got me several suggestions and ideas. Which I started to test and try out. Both iPhone only apps, a simple web app, etc.

At the same time @demonpengu started looking at ways to manage himself & his projects. (He too has a problem, only he has not yet taken the first of the twelve steps and admitted he has a problem and joined UA). This made me look back at a bit of software I had tested years ago called dotproject.

“dotProject is a volunteer supported Project Management application. There is no ‘company’ behind this project, it is managed, maintained, developed and supported by a volunteer group and by the users themselves.”

While discussing dotProject as a possible solution for him, I decided to re-test it myself as well. And have been running it for a month now. I have only got it managing a half dozen projects during this “Testing” phase. I will admit I am not fully using all the features it has, I will start using more and more as I get into the habit of using it. And as the projects grow then more of the extra features will be needed.

In the month I have been testing, I have made a start of several projects and tasks I have been putting off for years, and have finished over a dozen major tasks. I believe this bit of software may just save me, and organise the completion of old old projects. So watch this space for a more Productive CodeNinja.

The Twelve Steps of UA

  1. We admitted we were powerless of Organisation
  2. Came to believe that a Program greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of dotProject
  4. -> 12. All better now.