Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Staff walks out; NLRB does not intervene

My entire staff walked out last Friday. This was mystifying to me, as we had a conflict-free relationship until then. But suddenly I was faced with slowdowns, work stoppages, corruption, vandalized files, theft of services. I could go on, but it’s just too painful.

It is astounding to me, even though I realize I’m in front of my laptop approximately fourteen hours a day, the extent to which my business is dependent on the good graces of the machine I am again typing on. Without it, there is very little I can accomplish in terms of my business. Oh, to be sure, I did finish up some gardening chores. And I walked to the farmers’ market on Sunday and got the first really tasty tomatoes I’ve had in a long time. But work? Not so much. Blogging? Not at all.

After many excruciating hours of telephone calls to Dell, Symantec, and Adobe, plus lengthy and complex correspondence with Microsoft, plus additional long hours of uninstalling software and reinstalling most of it, all my troubles were traced to, of all things, a hardware failure. We see them so rarely these days that the presumption is always user error, and so the troubleshooting guides always start with uninstalling and reinstalling software, putting the burden on us users. In fact, the test to check the hardware could have been done on my first call to Dell, would have taken less than five minutes (as it eventually took), and would have gotten my machine up and running four days earlier and in better condition than it is now. I am not happy about this (can you tell?).

The good news is that I do back up client files. No work was lost. The bad news is that the major corporations we depend on to get through the computing day do not put enough thought into the design of fault trees. The result is untold millions of dollars of cost imposed on their customers—a real drag on the economy—that could be prevented easily enough with a simple change in attitude on the part of customer service managers.

Given the opportunity, technical writers are glad to work with technical support analysts to design fault trees from the user’s point of view. Clearly, though, they are not given the opportunity. Instead, troubleshooting systems always give the highest priority to shortening the phone call, not to solving the customer’s problem.

It’s a shame.

And my laptop? It still has scars and will until I decide to take three days to reformat the hard drive, reinstall all my software, apply a gazillion updates to all that software, and reload all my files from backup. Chances are I’ll procrastinate about that until push comes to shove.


Katharine O'Moore-Klopf said...

I've had my staff walk out, too, Dick, and it ain't pretty. Last month, to prevent what I think is another impending walkout from longtime staff, I hired an entirely new staff, but it has yet to be put to work. I can't get the office manager to get around to doing the appropriate preparation; she claims she's too busy just now. I'd fire her for insubordination, but she's right.

Anonymous said...

I'm an actor who currently works as an IT technician. Fairly high level actually.

I know the pain you're suffering, believe me. As a technician, the first thing that jumped out at me was the name "Symantec". That is synonymous with Trouble. (Notice the capital "T" there). If, when you re-install everything, you cna refrain from installing anything from that particular company, you will be doing yourself a major favour - even if that company wasn't the cause of your walkout this time around. If it means getting another virus checker, well there are several on the net that are free and *very* effective.

Dick Margulis said...


Yes, I know all about Symantec. However, I can't blame them for a DIMM failing. The errors I was seeing with Symantec products were caused by the memory failure. Their uninstall/reinstall was actually the least painful of the lot.

While I'm not fond of Norton Internet Security and Norton Anti-Virus, I have a problem with all the recommendations for other virus checkers: It seems to me that, with the speed at which new microbes are released on the Internet, the companies best able to stay on top of them and issue update patches are the ones that can devote more resources to the task. And that would be the biggest companies (hence Symantec). That strikes me as true even if the software from smaller companies is better written and easier to work with. Normally I don't equate bigness with goodness, but in this case I think it makes some sense.

Are there specific alternatives you'd recommend? My Norton subscription ends next month; so I am in the market. All you have to do is convince me that my logic is flawed.


Anonymous said...

AVG or Avast: both free, both highly regarded.

You are wise to shop carefully and pick a product that will provide the most protection with the most recent AV data catalogues.

I've had reason to do a lot of research recently on various AV softwares, including Norton and McAfee. Some of the horror stories are frightening. In particular, I had to go hunting/shopping for AV software to accommodate the new Microsoft Vista operating system. McAfee had a note on its site, saying that they were committed to providing one for Vista, within a month of the public beta coming out. Was tempted to try it, but first needed to consider dropping a note into as many newsgroups as possible, asking hackers and virus creators to please cease creating new viruses until McAfee could reach their milestone.

Fair enough - they were out (and yes, I was quite willing to purchase protection, price being almost no object at all to worry-free computing). Tried out the Trend-Micro AV software that Microsoft advertised would work with Vista. It installed but refused to do anything else, like download the latest AV updates.

So I started doing some google hunting. Ran across a discussion where one guy provided a comprehensive list of AV software that would or would not work with Vista, along with reasons why. That's where I found references to Avast and AVG. On checking with another techie who is neck-deep into supporting clients everywhere, he also expressed his admiration for Avast, which he has used for two years. That was enough for me: I checked it out and found that it goes hunting for updates twice a day.

Avast can be found here:

Dick Margulis said...


Thanks. I'll definitely check out Avast.


Kristen King, Inkthinker said...

This is my worst fear. I'm terrified of losing files, so I'm a compusiver backer-upper. SO smart. Thanks for reminding me that even if something happens, I can live through it. :]