Wednesday, June 2, 2010

A few bricks short of a load

The past four days have been gobbled up by the technical support service at the University of Vermont, the medium-sized land grant where the USDA program I work for is housed.

The adventure begins in March, when my work desktop, which I didn't use much because I mainly work at home, died after one of those automatic updates corrupted something important. I swiftly decided that even if the six-year-old desktop could be fixed (not a sure thing), this was the right moment to get a dedicated work laptop--I've been struggling because it's very hard to keep my files in sync when I move around from place to place.

I looked through what the campus computer depot had for sale, and went many times around the barn with them about wanting a CD drive. They told me I didn't want one, not really, and I said that I did, really, since I routinely install at lot of graphics and layout software and tend to save out very large files to CDs for transport and output and safekeeping.

"But," I was told, "you can download all the software you need from our archives!" I looked in the archives, which offered all the usual Microsoft stuff, an Adobe Reader, and a web browser with an e-mail utility laid on.

"You're kidding, right?" I said. "Please--I just want a laptop with a CD drive. That's not a strange thing to want."

"But you don't need one!" they said.

I finally persuaded them to order me what I wanted and paid for it. Seven rather long weeks go by.

When the laptop finally arrives, I pick it up and bring it home to load my stuff--my graphics and layout software--only to learn that I don't have the administrative privileges needed to do that. Or anything else for that matter--I couldn't even delete the cutesy beauty shots of campus the computer gods installed and made into a little slide-show-cum-screen-saver. I sent an e-mail asking how to walk around this and was told I could download all the software I would ever need from the archives.

"So," I said, "who is in charge down there? Could you please put that person on the phone?"

"I don't like your tone," she said. "I'm just trying to be helpful."

"It's not good enough to try," I said. "Succeeding is what matters."

After a half a dozen more plaintive calls and e-mails, I was grudgingly told by a person the next rank higher how to walk around this issue by switching users and using the serial number of the machine to act as an administrator--cumbersome but better than nothing. I spent half a day loading my software, getting rid of some of the junk that was pre-loaded, and deleting the silly slide show.

I then brought up Word to work on a document, only to be told, to my amazement, that the pre-installed and pre-configured Microsoft Office that was part of the purchase wasn't activated. It was useless.

Another call: "You need to be logged into the campus network," I was told. "It will authenticate itself as soon as that happens."

"I am," I said. I was.

"Well, it can't be a wireless connection."

"I'm logged in over a DSL line."

"But you're not on campus. You'll have to come to campus and log in from here."

I hadn't quite realized there were magical properties to the campus lines, so off I went to Burlington, 40 miles away. The activation didn't work from my tiny, windowless office, so I took the machine into the computer depot and hitched myself up to one of their magical DSL lines (superficially identical to the DSL line I use at home), and finally got authenticated. But while I was at it, I perversely decided to delete all the university administrator accounts, leaving only myself in charge, and left. I figure if the computer ever needs any intervention from tech support, it will be their turn to call me.

Four solid days.


  1. The only kinds of problems you're allowed to have are the ones the IT folks have solutions for. Same principal a call directors in telephony or intermittent wipers on your new truck never matching the demand of whatever rain is falling.

    I suggest something in writing to the IT director asking for an explanation for how it is OK for them to keep you from fulfilling your employment responsibilities and copy an appropriate administrative VP somewhere. "Thanks for your attention to this matter".

  2. I liked your 'perverse' response, too. They could have authenticated you by proxy without your presence on campus.

  3. "It's not good enough to try," I said. "Succeeding is what matters."

    bahahahaaaa, must remember that ;-]

  4. Of course they could have. The list of things they could have done right but didn't would stretch to the moon and back three times.

  5. "Do or do not…there is no try!". Yoda