Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Regarding Greek life on campus

This was a spoofed e-mail/hoax, but it was very funny. I first saw it when it was MASSMAILed to all of the students early this weekend, but later received my own copy when it was MASSMAILed to everyone.

Dear Students,

Many of you may be aware of an event known as Rush. It is my objective to warn you of the potential downsides of Greek organizations. I advise you to not succumb to the aggressive recruitment tactics used by these organizations. It has been my concern over the years, that the Greek culture of alcoholism and lack of respect for the community degrades campus life.
These organizations present themselves as prestigious, yet are discriminatory, serve to perpetuate social inequality, especially with respect to the opposite gender, and promote a lack of diversity. Many students have expressed concerns with regards to safety on campus, particularly due to Greek culture and behavior. It is my hope that a student's experience on campus strengthens one's individuality, but the Greek system emphasizes the group above all, without cause or reason. This is detrimental to the purpose of universities.

I hope that you will consider wisely.

GDI Chancellor Richard Herman

Thursday, August 28, 2008

[Service]: Service unavailable

Post to the CITES Status Page:

[Name of Service] is currently unavailable due to [primary reason].

[Description of impact of outage - how customers are affected or what the
symptoms would be on their end.]

[Specific steps being taken to fix the problem, or "CITES staff are working to
resolve the problem"]. ["We expect the service to be available again by xx:xx
am/pm", or similar time estimate].

Somebody is obviously doing it wrong.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

On avoiding work...

I don't think that I have ever worked with someone that works so hard to avoid work.

Everyone that I know in the technical community knows what a pain in the neck Dubya's grand idea about moving DST has been. Pretty much every piece of software out there that deals with dates (most, some in ways you would never imagine), needs to be updated (usually via some sort of patch) to accommodate the changes in calculation.

Fast forward to Monday morning (yesterday), the day after "spring forward." I come into the office to find a machine that had software that we forgot about.

For grins, here's the error from the software. It's almost a WTF in itself...

Timezone mismatch: The agentTZRegion value (US/Central) does not match the current environment TZ setting(US/Central).
No problem, I'll go locate a patch. This leads me to the first problem. To even get to the document that tells you how to get the patch, you need a login to their support system.

I do not have said login.

I decide to ask my boss if we have a support contract for the software, and he sets up a game of telephone (a rant for another day) with the guy that has access to the support site--filtering information through himself between me and the other guy. After telling the guy, let's call him Steeeeve, that we needed a DST patch for this software, he sends a doc detailing how to make sure the TZ is set properly. The information in this doc was also spit out with the error and had already been tried.

Steve does what any "good" technical guy does when faced with a problem. He opens a support request regarding the issue (even though it is clearly a DST issue based on version and patchlevel of software that we already gave him). Fine, let's shoot it up to the vendor, and ask their opinion (I hope our contract doesn't charge per incident).

The next day (today), the vendor comes back asking for the timezone file, which I gladly provide. At the same time, the tech asks us to go through a troubleshooting procedure to verify that the timezone file needs to be updated. I go through it and come to the same conclusion that I had yesterday. We need a patch, and I don't know which one it is, and I don't have access to the docs that are linked in order to find the patch I need (they are different based on operating system, architecture, and software version). I tell Steeeeve that I don't have access, but give him the techdoc that has information, and ask him to grab the appropriate patch (and remind him of our os, etc. in case he forgot).

His response was priceless:
So I don’t have to read the whole doc can you tell me what patch number you need?
I had to blink a few times. Didn't I just tell him that I couldn't get to the doc. I remind him of such.
Gotcha. I’m attaching a saved copy. Please note this is not the note [the vendor] wants you to look at.

This new doc doesn't have any patch numbers in it, and references other docs that do. I kindly respond as such.
I didn’t read it, just passed it on. I just updated the SR telling them we know we need to patch and could they provide a patch number.

So after 40 minutes of back and forth this morning, our friend Steve punts back to the vendor because he's to (lazy? illiterate?) to read the doc and download the patch. I wonder how long this will go on. I'm guessing that I still will not have the appropriate patch by the end of today. At least I figured out a temporary workaround so that this does not affect anything that I am trying to do today.

Monday, November 12, 2007

This school really needs to learn digital document management skillz

I'm really getting tired of mass mails that include PDF scans of documents that are mostly textual and would translate to just a text mail just fine. Okay, so maybe this copy has some university letterhead, or the signature of some official, but it's not significant to the message. Just sent it text. Try to make information more usable, not less.

And for that matter, why email your 1.1 meg PDF in the first place? We have websites, we have wikis, we have RSS feeds, we have discussion boards, etc. Post it somewhere and send a pointer (or don't send the pointer. Assume anyone who cares is already reading the news source you post it to, and the rest of us never cared in the first place.)

Email is not a direct translation to campus paper mail. You need to use the technology better. This would have been acceptable 10 years ago, but not anymore.

Monday, September 17, 2007

A foot is as long as the King's foot

At the university, the only thing we love more than inane bureaucratic paperwork is making up acronyms for inane bureaucratic paperwork (IBP). While filling out my 2007-2008 Report of Non-University Activities (RNUA) I noticed this question: "Do you or does any member of your family(2) have a managerial role or a significant(3) financial relationship with a company that does business with the University or with a company in a field of your research?"

Footnote (2) just defines family as spouse or children, which doesn't seem complete enough to avoid the nepotism the form is designed to identify.

Footnote (3) says, "Federal research regulations define "significant" as financial interests exceeding $10,000 or representing more than 5% ownership regardless of dollar value. The State Procurement Code prohibits the award of University contracts to companies in which University employees who earn more than 60% of the Governor's salary have either (a) ownership interests in excess of 7.5% or (b) entitlements to annual income in amounts in excess of the salary of the Governor. (The Governor's salary is $171,000 as of July 1, 2007.)

There are two things that make this significant. One, you need to make more than $102,600 for them to care in the first place and then only if you're important enough to own those interests (at least 7.5% which doesn't seem significant to me,) and only if at the end of the year you make more than the Governor, which is the important thing. You can't make more than the Governor (or make it without reporting it.)

These regulations are weird.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Unclear on the concept: Wikis

We're running enterprise wiki software at work, and have converted quite a few public, class, and Intranet sites to the wiki. Confluence lets us give each wiki a 'space' with its own namespace and configs and tools.

The data structure class is using a wiki space. Part of mp1 used some library to make fractal like bitmaps, and they encouraged the class to upload those pictures to the wiki (but not to explain how they made them,) as a way to show off what they did and make pretty artwork.

Right before the assignment was due, people started posting on their newsgroup that they'd overwritten other people's submissions, and could the original poster please re-upload them. I guess a lot of people named them out.bmp

Then they were worried about editing the picture meta-data after the upload changed the timestamp (for grading purposes.)

Sounds like these students don't understand the WikiWikiWay (logging, versioning, collision/revision control.) Chaos is part of the fun. I thought students today were supposed to be web saavy?

From a system side, I guess those bmps were pretty large because the bandwidth usage by the wiki server jumped up quite a bit and users on the newsgroups were complaining that the page that had all the images in it was slow to load (hundreds of >500k graphics.) Apparently the wiki software sends a no-cache instruction to the browser, so each load pulled everything down again.

I just chuckle when they post to the newsgroup that they uploaded over Joe User's graphic and could he please upload it to the wiki again.