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.