Thursday, May 5, 2011

To Cool Or Not Cool...

I don't know about you guys, but I'm super happy that spring has finally arrived. This winter was just cold, snowy and not a lot of fun. Luckily it looks like nothing but sunshine and butterflies from here on out. It'll be time to start busting out the bathing suits before you know it. With the spring comes the rain, it's a necessary evil that brings with it trees and shade which we'll need in the summer. Much to my surprise though, it's been raining indoors. How is that possible, you ask? It's a very easy explanation.

For as long as I can remember, one of the two air conditioning units in my server closet (I can't even call it a datacenter) has been malfunctioning. The room is not very big, but unfortunately the architects didn't take into consideration what was going into the room and didn't plan it out too well. There isn't a lot of space and there are at least a dozen servers and a dozen network switches in there pumping out heat. The AC units we have are barely enough to get by as it is. If one of them goes down, we're in trouble. Since my boss has only been in his new position for a year, he's still in the "SAVE MONEY, LOOK GOOD FOR THE SUITS, KISS AS MUCH ASS AS POSSIBLE" phase of his employment. It's completely understandable. He's thinking about his career and anyone else would do the same thing. The issue I have is where he's trying to save said money.

I have been bringing up the issue of this faulty AC unit almost since the start of my employment. I've worked at companies that had similar AC issues and it never ends well. In fact this particular issue was the reason that I worked 14 straight weekends last summer. Being that I am the only support guy here, 14 straight weekends can really take its toll on you. Both physically and mentally. Especially when it happens during the summer. Instead of being in the car heading to the beach, I'm on a hot subway heading to work.

Fast forward to this week...

The AC has failed for 72 straight days. When I say fail, I mean it starts blowing hot air instead of cold. Or in this case it starts dripping water, which is blown throughout the room. Normally, turning it on and off will resolve the issue. The problem occurs when it happens overnight. The room can get pretty hot. I lost count of how many times I've come in and the server closet has been 90 degrees plus (which is a great operating environment for servers). Now that my new boss is here and he's looking to make an impact I figure he'll want to nip this issue in the bud. <Charlie Murphy voice> Wrong, WRONG! I even went so far as to get a quote from our AC service company on how much it would cost to replace the unit. Their answer, $10k. $10k? That's it? Really? With labor included? WTF?!??! LET'S DO THIS!! Alas, the head honcho said that price is a little too steep. I went on to explain to him that we easily have $750k-1M worth of equipment in that room. Spending $10k to prevent failures is definitely worth it. I also went on to explain that a server outage will cost us money on missed orders, user downtime, etc. Guess what? It all comes down to the money.

So what's your opinion? Do you think it's worth the incurred cost to insure that your network can function properly? I sure as hell do. Unfortunately for me, I'm not the guy who makes the call on this. I'm just the one who has to come in on the weekend to get everything back up and running.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Thanks For Trying

I had to leave the office early the other day. I took off around 2pm. I didn't know it at the time but there was a major issue being addressed. 

I come in the next morning and there is a brand new Windows 7 tablet on my desk. (See THIS POST for the reason we have a Windows tablet in the first place.) There is a note on it from my boss. He needed me to get it connected to the wireless network and that if I have any questions I should call him. My first question would be: How do you still have a job? You can't do this? Really, my girlfriend who is not technical at all could handle this in about 5 minutes, easily. My boss, his rock star comrade and the new desktop guy spent "the whole afternoon" (his words) trying to get it connected to no avail. Wait. What? The three of you spent a whole afternoon on this? Who was curing cancer or searching for intelligent life in the stars then? I wouldn't normally be so surprised but i built a wiki just for things like this that is only available to the people in IT. There is literally a document with step by step instructions on how to connect to our wireless network. Did I mention it has pictures too? Yep, I even took screenshots. 

It's really quite disturbing. The levels of ineptitude that I'm surrounded by is enough to break most people's spirits. I don't know what bothers me more. The fact that they were too dumb to figure it out, the fact that my boss and his comrade each make at least 40k more than me, or the fact that they were all too lazy to spend two minutes reading the instructions. Either way I had to waste a full three minutes of my day fixing this major issue for them. Glad i was there to save the day. It's just too bad there were no 4th graders around to do it instead.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Thanks For Calling

As we all know, the economy is not in good shape right now. There are a lot of people that are out of work. There are a large number of Americans collecting unemployment. The people who have jobs are not doing well either. Many employers are cutting their workforce and asking employees to handle the load of 2 or 3 positions while not getting any extra salary or benefits in return. This is causing a lot of people to look for new jobs. From what I have seen and heard from many of my friends, and colleagues, it's happening all over the IT world.

I've been looking for a job for a few months myself. I actually have a job at the moment but I am severely underpaid (by about 25k) and have a work load that causes most people to stutter and repeat, "You have how many users?". During my job search I have found one undeniable truth. Recruiters suck. It seems they want to call you in for that initial interview since they like to put a face and a personality to a resume. Then like a date gone wrong you never hear from them again. Or in other cases, you hear from them regarding positions they have no business calling you for. I'll give you a couple of examples.

I'm very picky about the position I am looking for. I'm looking for a full time, non-contract, in-house Admin role dealing with Windows networks and VMware. I have a minimum salary that I want to achieve and I want to work in midtown NYC. That's pretty much my requirements.

I don't think that's too complicated. I just don't want to leave my current position and a steady paycheck for something that's not going to make me happy. Luckily I have that luxury unlike most people. Since I've discussed this with every recruiter I've met and put this in detail on every job board, such as Monster, HotJobs, Dice, etc. why is it that recruiters feel the need to send me almost exclusively contract positions? On top of that, it seems most of the positions I get emailed to me are for Linux Support, or Cisco Engineer positions in the middle of New Jersey. Just because I have experience with Cisco or Linux doesn't mean I want to commute 3 hours for a job dealing with it. Do recruiters even read cover letters or resumes in detail anymore? It seems that after the initial call, you're supposed to do all of the leg work. They have hundreds of candidates, how can they be expected to do their job and find the best ones? That's so much work. I had another recruiter contact me yesterday for a "Windows Administrator contract in NYC" position. He didn't give me any details though. I don't want a contract job but I figured I'd get some more detail before I completely disregard the email. I shoot the recruiter an email asking for a description of the job, salary, location, etc. and was floored by his repsonse.

"Unfortunately the company does not have a job description, they just asked us to find some consultants."

Are you kidding me?


Dude, really?

How can you fill a position properly if you don't know what the position is for? I just can't believe the stupidity in some companies. I just don't think it's possible to find the right candidate for a job when you can't figure out what skills the person needs to have. I'm starting to understand why there are so many unemployed folks out there. If these are the people trying to get them hired, we could be in for a rough future. Yet another reason why IT is HELL!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Importance Of IT Certifications

There is a long standing argument in the IT World about the importance of IT certifications. Some people swear by them and won’t hire someone without them. Others think they are great when you run out of toilet paper. I’m one of those people who is in the middle. Personally, I hold a number of certifications, ranging from Microsoft to Cisco to A+ to my newly acquired VMware certification. I think they are important as a learning tool, yet, I do not think they should be required. Nor, do I think that they are an accurate gauge of someone’s technical skills. The clip below highlights my point exactly.

 When I first started in this industry it was the late 90’s when Windows 98 and NT were revolutionizing the way we did things. Plug & Play (or Pray, like I called it) was everywhere. Microsoft was taking over the world. IT certifications were new at this point and not a lot of people had them. That was until Microsoft unveiled their new MCSE certification for Windows NT. Overnight, it seemed like, people were adding initials to their business cards and signatures and walking with a little more pep in their step. They were official, Microsoft said so. Bill Gates personally signed a document that said these people are awesome. The problem was (and still is) that not everyone was.
As I said earlier, I think certs are a good learning tool. I also think that they are somewhat watered down as an achievement. There are many ways to pass a certification exam. A lot of people put in the hard work and build a lab at home or in their office and actually learn the material. That’s the group that I fall into. I always thought that learning about what I was working on was more important that the signed paper from Mr. Gates. Not everyone thinks that way though. A lot of people study what the book says or what questions will be on the test without actually understanding what the book or question is saying. They just know that the answer to Chapter 3 Lesson 2 Question 7 is B. Some people go even further by purchasing brain dumps or “Real Tests” and they just memorize questions and answers. That’s where they go wrong. When the time comes and they are on the job and are faced with setting up a server, they don’t know what to do. They didn’t put the work in, they just passed a test.
I’ll give you a case in point. The guy that was just hired to work with me is in school. He’s taking an MCSE course and looking to get his certification. He already passed his A+ Certification (Kudos to him on that by the way). He’s done with one of his courses and in the middle of test prep for a Microsoft exam on Windows Server 2008 networking. He’ll be dealing DNS, DHCP, Active Directory, etc. I’ve actually been studying for the same test. So every day I throw a few questions at him. Nothing crazy, just questions to keep him on his toes. I asked him the other day, “What is an A record?” He proceeded to try and regurgitate what he remembered from the book. The only issue was, he didn’t understand what he was saying. Nor did he get what an A record actually is. That’s what troubles me. DNS is a requirement for Active Directory which almost all other Microsoft services are built on. If he can’t get that down, how can I expect him to get the more advanced topics? For those of you who don’t know, an A record is a mapping of a domain name to an IP Address. It’s what allows you to type in instead of That’s all I was looking for. The answer is as simple as "it maps a name to an IP".
The scary thing is he’ll be an MCSE before I will. Yet when it comes down to configuring a server network, he’s going to be lost in the sauce. The moral of the story is when you’re evaluating someone’s skills. Don’t just go off what you read on their resume. Make sure that they can back up what they say they know. Give them a quick exam if you have to. The hands-on type, because they probably have your questions memorized.
I still think that IT professionals should try to acquire certifications. Just make sure that you do it for the right reason. Do it to better yourself as a professional instead of just trying to get that "piece of paper". In the end, if you know what you're doing you'll have more paper than before. It'll be the green kind in your wallet.

Monday, March 7, 2011

We've moved!!

After some urging on from some of our followers, we've decided to move to our domain name. Please update your shortcuts and bookmarks. We can now be found at We hope that you make the move with us. Stay tuned for some more posts, coming shortly.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Hot Enough For You?

This is a quick one. I actually had a user complain that her heater wasn't working anymore. She had it on top of her computer. I think her computer was more pissed off than I was. It just couldn't tell me anymore...

I'm going to have to borrow a line from Bill Simmons.

Yep, these are my users. SMH.

Staying Current

As an IT guy, one of the most important skills is the ability to stay current. Technology changes every day. Something that was hot one year could be replaced but something better, cheaper and faster the following year. Sometimes the turnaround is even quicker than that. It's hard to keep up with these swings but if you love gadgets and gizmos as much as I do, it's not THAT hard. I personally am a warranty voider. I like to mess with devices to the point that I can't return them anymore. It's fun for me. Apparently my love for technology isn't shared by everyone.

My boss is currently in the "Make a name for himself" phase of his job. He just took over last year and he's trying to wow the owners into another huge raise. We run a lot of our business on the AS400 platform. It was here before me it'll be here after I'm gone. That's just the way it is. Some of you may be familiar with the AS400 or Series i as they call it now. Some of you may use it and not even know that you do. It's basically a telnet session with a black screen and green and red lettering that runs simple text based apps. These apps are created by my boss and his minions. My former boss came up with the idea for an integrated website that connects to the AS400 to bring up data for salespeople so they can have up to the minute numbers and show buyers our product in real time. This was a great idea in my opinion. It would help increase productivity and help the company make some more money. Hopefully the department would get some good pub and all would be good. Of course, being the efficiency machine that we are here, my boss was let go with no notice given to anyone. Owner called up and said he was asked to leave without a transition period or anything. Smart move. New guy takes over and decides to change everything. Sometimes that's a good thing. Keyword being "Sometimes". My new boss decided to revamp my old boss' web interface project. We had a meeting with one of the owners and he described how he wanted to to make everything accessible from iPads and Tablets and bring us into the future. Sounds good to me. That translates to I get a free iPad to start testing this crap out. Where do I sign? The owner is on board at this point and all seems to be going well. So my boss asks me what I think of the whole project. My only suggestions were to make sure the web interface can be accessed by any browser, such as FireFox, Internet Explorer, Chrome, etc. and to use standard protocols so we wouldn't get locked into one vendor. Simple enough.

So my boss proceeds to spend the next 5-6 months developing said interface. Every once in a while, he'd mention that he was making progress. It was his baby, his project so I let him run with it. I figured he'd show me a beta, I could tear it apart, laugh a little at his expense (he's put me through enough mental torture, I deserve some laughs, don't judge me), and put him back to work. Little did I realize how much I'd be laughing. Apparently this morning, he had a presentation with the big boys in the corner offices and showed them the new interface. From what he told me, they ate it up. Loved it, raved about it, from what he made it out to sound like they stopped short of throwing roses at him and yelling BRAVO! I was intrigued. Could I have been giving this poor guy a bad rap? Maybe I've just been an inconsiderate prick. It's happened before, we're only human. I asked him to show it to me and he happily obliged. The interface was pretty bare bones, plain background, text only, with a couple of thumbnails but it got the job done. I asked him to send me the link so I could mess with it. I recently purchased a tablet myself and figured I could give it a whirl. He sends me the link and I'm immediately prompted to install an ActiveX control. UH OH! Wait, maybe that's for something else.....Nope. So I call him up and try to get some more scoop. It turns out he built the site using some IBM app that came with the AS400. He never actually tested it with any other browsers and didn't know why I was making a fuss. I'm not a web design guru by any means as you can see by my blog. I know enough to be dangerous. That's why I have friends to help me out. There are a few critical things that I do know. One of those things is that ActiveX equals IE Only which equals bad news. We already had a bunch of people with iPads, iPhones and Android devices. This is not good. I had to explain to him the shortcomings of ActiveX and how it doesn't run on Android or Apple devices and how he just wasted 6 months by not listening to my only suggestion. I then asked him why he decided to use that program. I also asked him why he didn't just call IBM or hire a consultant to make it work. He responded with the answer that sums up most of my frustrations. He said, "That's all I know, I don't know any other languages, this is the only one I've ever used.". There it is. He never learned any new tricks because he didn't have to. Now, we either have to redevelop his already unveiled app, or bite the big one for all of the devices and go with the 3rd best tablet solution. As those of you who follow my blog know, there is only one possible route we could take...

He asked me to start researching Windows tablets and phones.

Excuse me a moment while I go bang my head on my desk.

Are you kidding me? That's the best solution you've got? Buy new tablets? Really?

I guess the lesson to be learned here is that when you decide to work on something new to make yourself look like a superstar, make sure your finished product works before you unveil it to the powers that be. If he would have tried to act like a CIO and read an article or two about technology he could have avoided this situation. One of my non-IT friends summed it up perfectly when I told him the story. "Even I know that, and I am a tech idiot.". How did he know? He kept up with the times and bought an iPad. I wish that my head of Information Technology would have done the same.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Help & Support

So there is something on my mind and I was looking to get some input from others in my field. I'm currently working alone in IT. I have 200+ users and 40+ servers to support. Some might say that this is a good thing for job security but it is A LOT to handle. There is so much pressure on you that sometimes the easy tasks become difficult. You have to turn into Ralph Dibny sometimes and stretch yourself thin. I feel like I'm always running around and every time I think I'm making a little headway, I get 10 more requests that need to be done ASAP. You get where I'm going with this. I've had discussions with my boss and his boss (one of the owners of the company) about hiring an additional body. They finally agreed with me that we should get someone else but that is where things get fuzzy.

As I said earlier, they believe we should hire someone as well but they want to go as green as possible. They want to hire someone for 30k or less and have them be my right hand man. I on the other hand feel we should go a little hire up the food chain. I'm not saying that my company should go out and hire another person at my level (although that would be nice), I was thinking more of a Senior Desktop Support/Jr. Admin role. If I had to estimate, I'd say I'd be looking in the 50-65k range. The advantages are certainly warranted in my opinion. You would get someone who can hit the ground running. All they would need to know would be the environment specific data, such as IP Addresses, Hostnames and Passwords (if needed) and they can do their job. You don't get that with a lower level person. In most cases you would have to hold their hands and look over their shoulder. I experienced it at this company where I wasted so much time redoing the work that the desktop guy supposedly took care of that I actually became less productive even with another body. I'm not saying that every entry level person is going to be a liability but the good majority of them will be, at least at first. Here is the other disadvantage of hiring a low level tech. It would take at least 6 months to a year to get them up to speed on the various technologies (assuming they put in the effort to learn them). Now that they have these additional skills, why would they want to stay in a low level position? 99 times out of 100 they would try to leave and probably get an additional 20k just for walking in the door somewhere else. That is, unless the company ponies up the extra cash which is not something they have done in the past here and why we're in the situation of looking for a newbie to begin with. I'm well aware of the fact that even a Jr. Admin level person would probably leave for the same reasons I just listed, it just makes more sense to me to hire someone that could be productive during their time here than to just hire, train and wave goodbye to someone else.

Maybe I'm being selfish in wanting someone who already knows what they're doing but I think that I am also looking out for the company's best interests. This new guy is going to have to step in when I am not around. Do you want to put someone in charge of your multi-million dollar investment in IT who has never worked on half of the technologies? Or do you want someone who has some familiarity with them? What is your take on this? Am I crazy for thinking we should hire someone with a clue? Or am I just being a big ol' Weineken. Please comment below.

Monday, January 24, 2011

School Daze

I know it's been a while since my last post, but I've been really busy studying lately. I recently obtained another certification. I'm officially a VCP (VMware Certified Professional). For those of you in the induustry, I'm sure you know it's kind of a big deal. I worked my butt off for a few months and all of that hard work paid off in another great accolade.

I've been in the field for about 13 years now. I did not finish college. I decided to go the military route instead. I became one of The Few & The Proud. I became a United States Marine. When I was done with my military obligation I transitioned into civilian life very easily. I started off as a network technician. I was doing basic server installs, along with switch and router setups. Nothing too crazy, but I wanted more. I decided to get some certifications so I could move up in the world. Like many IT guys, I started with my A+ Certification. I then moved on to Microsoft, and followed that up with Cisco certifications. I passed at least a dozen tests in a little over a year. For each one, I did some reading. Mostly those 2-3 inch study guides you find it the Computer section at Barnes & Noble. I complimented this with some good old fashioned hands on experience. I wanted to make sure that when I passed a test, I knew my stuff inside and out. I didn't want to just be a paper certified guy.

Fast Forward a few years. I'm still passing certifications because in this field, you need to keep pace and learn new technologies. I feel that studying for each test helps me learn critical technologies as well as have my work validated by some initials after my name and some fancy logos on my resume.

As most of you who follow my blog know, I hate my job. I have very valid reasons for this but rather than bitch about it some more, I'm just trying to move on. I recently was contacted by someone who found my resume online. We talked for a while and found out that we had a lot in common both professionally and personally. We both were in the Marine Corps. In fact we were in the same unit. We also were both IT guys with a few years experience behind us. This fellow Marine was a Systems Admin at a hedge fund. He was looking for another guy to help him out and my resume was the first one that popped up. I aced the phone interview and was invited to come in for a face to face. I aced that one too and was one of the final three candidates for the job. I met with the CFO, COO and Head Software developer. Everything seemed to go well and my fellow Marine was ready to hire one of his own. Then, things changed.

It turns out that this hedge fund requires a college degree for all of it's employees. It one of their main requirements. Unfortunately I was passed over for the position even though in the words of their Systems Admin, "I was the most qualified candidate, hands down.". It really got me thinking, what good would a computer science degree even be at this point? I would have graduated almost 10 years ago. The current technology at the time would have been Windows NT/2000. It's all obsolete now.

My question to you is, what separates someone with a college degree? Does a degree mean you are smarter than I am? It may, but I do not think so. I should not be penalized for knowing what I wanted to do in life very early on. I always knew I wanted to work in IT. Ever since the day I fixed my first Nintendo. I really enjoyed analyzing the problem and coming up with a solution. Since I knew this, I became an IT guy as soon as I could by joining the Marines and I haven't looked back. That doesn't mean I stopped learning. In fact, I would say I've learned more than the average college grad. It's just been much more specific to what I love.To this day, I can honestly say I've learned something new every single week that I have been in the field. I strive to make myself a better Admin/Engineer every day, by trying to learn new technologies. I want to be the best at what I do. For much of my career, I can say that I have been the best and I continue to show why now by learning new things even though it's not a job requirement (Although I think it should be).

In the end, I think I'm more upset that I was the best choice for this position but because of a piece of paper, I was passed over.