Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Fragility of Technology

Ah the delicacy of technology. I had hoped for a highly productive day today, but technology had other plans for me.

7am: I woke up, grabbed my iPhone, and checked my LinkedIn message.

It froze.

Attempts to force a restart were unsuccessful.

I "googled" other possible ways to force a restart, at which point the iPhone gave me a dark screen with a faint cycling "wait" symbol.

I found that I could force a factory reset from either the iPhone, (which option was now closed to me) or from iTunes.

So, a pot of coffee now brewing, I downloaded iTunes to install on my new ThinkPad. I recently returned to WinDoze, after a three or four happy years on a Macbook pro. I had given the beautiful Macbook Pro with Retina, still in pristine condition, to my daughter, to use at college.

iTunes failed to download: Network error. No visibility into what this could be, of course. Email was working on the laptop. Everything else seemed normal.

Repeated attempts to download varied. Some came close to successfully downloading it; others failed immediately. I got as close as 10 seconds away from a successful download.

Then I lost internet connectivity. I knew this because my browser told me so. Attempts to "repair" it through the Windows Networking utility were useless failures. I piggyback my internet off a Cable modem, so I checked the Cable TV transmission, and cable modem lights, but found nothing wrong -- no interruption in the Cable portion of the signal transmission. No light indicating signal failure.

I would have tried plugging my laptop directly into an Ethernet cable, to eliminate the Wifi router as a problem, except the new generation of lightweight laptops are not built with that purpose in mind! They are too thin, and expect only to ever be used with wifi. So you physically cannot plug them into an ethernet cable. At least not the one I have. You would need an adapter. I don't have such an adapter, anyway.

No use wasting more time, right? So, I followed the generally accepted approach to troubleshooting any and everything: I rebooted the modem.

Naturally nothing changed, so I opened a console window and forced an ipconfig /renew and an ipconfig /flushdns. Ping confirmed that I now had restored connectivity. So I tried my iTunes download again. Yet another failure to add to the list.

So, I woke up my daughter and borrowed her Mac, to get access to the iTunes. I had already wiped it clean and done a fresh install for her, but I still had an account on it. It did bother me when the message came up that it was "configuring the laptop for Apple Store," since I didn't want it configured for my account, but I was getting desperate. So without looking into the implications, I went ahead and gave it my password, and got in.

8:30am ... I attached my iPhone to the Macbook, and went into iTunes, per the web pages telling me how to factory reset my phone. A pop-up on the Macbook asked if I wanted to allow this computer to access the information on the iPhone. I did of course, so I clicked "continue" Hmmmm ... is "continue" really the right response to this question? Shouldn't it be "allow," versus "deny." Oh well ... Now I got this exact message:
"to allow access, please respond on your iPhone..."

But I'm not able to respond on my iPhone -- it's hosed. So, I have to stop this or ignore it. If I don't stop it, I can't navigate anywhere else on the window in my Macbook. So, I stop it. Now, finally, I am able to navigate where the "googled" page said I should, to File | Devices, where I should be able to force a factory reset. All sub-menu options are grayed out.

8:57am So, I've now wasted two hours attempting to fix my iPhone. I knew when I started that the chances were slim-to-none, because I'm an "experienced technologist."

I know that you, too, gentle reader, have had similar experiences. You know what I'm talking about

I deliberately documented this misadventure  explicitly, and formally, to show the way in which interlocking inter-dependencies operate to hinder productivity. Technology continues layering on new capabilities, features, and options by orders of magnitude. There never seems to be any stress on making the technology more robust. So the fragility of our technology just continues to rise, even as we come to depend on it more and more. It makes for a high degree of frustration.

I Remain,


Friday, February 3, 2017

A Fiery Death for the Workers Near You!

Fire safety means never caring to save your neighbors!

TheHackerCIO recently took mandatory safety training at a Fortune-500 company. These are on-line presentations, with automatically scored answers. God forbid that you should score less than 80%! The punishment is to repeat the damn course! That's serious punishment.

Books have been written about the evils of multiple-choice testing.

This fire test was a perfect example.

 No explanation is possible on a multiple-choice test. So, when faced with the question, "Which of these choices is correct," and having received a feedback score of "incorrect" for selecting that I should evacuate and that I should get as many coworkers as possible out with me, I could pretty well assume that the "correct"response was to keep my mouth shut and let them burn up.

 If I had been able to add a written response as a "challenge" option, this ridiculous answer would have been corrected by one of the instructional designers. But no, no human interaction is allowed or desired. So the answer remains.

So, if there should be a fire near you be safe.

Let your neighbor die!

Safety first!

I Remain,  Ever the Unsafe,


Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Bargain Basement Rockstar

Reciprocity is mandatory.

Or should be!

TheHackerCIO gets Job Descriptions (JDs) all the time that list a huge laundry list of skills, qualifications, desired experience, and job responsibilities. Many times no one in the world could possibly be a master of all these. Often, it is physically impossible to meet these supposed "requirements," because the technology hasn't been in existence that long. It specially irks me when I see the desire for a "Rockstar," such as you can see here (excerpt following, but the link has the details):
A word about titles: we are calling this job opening "Full-Stack PHP Web Developer", but we welcome applications from those who consider themselves any of the following: software engineer, software architect, web developer, programmer, hacker, coder, computer scientist, devops, "ninja", "rockstar", "wizard"... etc. We had to choose one title.
Here's what TheHackerCIO tells recruiters looking for a "Rockstar."

"So you want a rockstar, it says? Now Rockstars are few in number. They aren't everywhere. And they get paid huge amounts of money for what they alone can do, right? So, what kind of unusual, eye-catching, exceptional compensation is this company offering to acquire such an extraordinary individual?

The pause is real ...

But an answer never comes ...

Usually, they say they are offering a "competitive" salary. But I don't know what that means. How about if I make a resume for you like that? I can say, for instance:

  • has a competitive understanding of a competitive number of technologies. 
  • assumed a competitive level of responsibility and leadership. 
  • competitive communications ability.
  • has a competitive level of interest in "working together as a team player."

That's what someone should expect if they want to offer a "competitive salary."

Then the phone screening can happen, we can imagine it...

Q: On a scale of 1-10, what is your skill with Java?
A: Competitive, like your salary.

Q: How many years of experience do you have with Cassandra?
A:  a competitive number of years, like your salary.

Why do you think you can get a Rockstar at bargain basement prices? I don't think working for your company will be like doing a charity event, will it?!!!

You see, reciprocity is (or should be) mandatory. If companies can't hire people without demanding specific, concrete, numerical measures of experience, why do they think they can evade telling how many dollars they are willing to pay to get this experience?

Shouldn't they clearly offer a range of money? "In order to get the best candidates, and as an indicator of how serious we are about seeing truely Senior, hard-working, high quality applicants, who are in high-demand from other purchasers of their services ... we are offering in the range of $160,000 - $170,000 p.a. plus insurance, 4 weeks of paid vacation, etc."

A little reciprocity please, companies. A little reciprocity, please, recruiters!

I Remain,


Friday, January 27, 2017

Fired and Proud Of It!!!

Only Keep a Job that SHOULD be Kept!!!

At the Tech Job Fair in Los Angeles yesterday, TheHackerCIO ran into several wonderful colleagues. I didn't want a job. I have too much work! But I did want to know more about what new startups were hiring, and where they were located. I managed to  survey almost all the smaller Startups, milling among thousands of people. I was told that over 13,000 people, in total, attended. I can believe it.

One of the best colleagues to run into, a fellow Geeky Book Club member, told me about his "consulting woes." He was concerned that he might have "burned some bridges" in the last few contracts, because his services "were no longer required." In other words, he got the ax. It's pretty easy to step on toes as a consultant. He wanted to do things right. The client wasn't so interested in that. The client didn't keep him around. Now, he feared, he wouldn't be able to go back into that institution.

TheHackerCIO comforted him. You can go back all you want!!! When you do nothing wrong, have no fear about getting the ax! It's a badge of honor! Plus, you're better off without such a client. (Not everyone deserves a good worker!). I told him my own story about a recent client I "lost," which I was proud of. He had two in the last few years. I matched him two for two, also in the last few years.  And I have nothing but pride for these "losses." Interestingly, both of these "losses" came from cowards.

In one case, I actually had an inkling that things were wrong. I got that idea because the client-coward didn't want to deal with me directly. He asked the agent I was working through to tell me, and he let it slip before I was out the door. So, I "accidentally" (heh ... heh) turned on my cell phone recorder, and slipped it into my shirt pocket. Thus fortified with a verbatim recording in-progress, I sought out the coward and discussed the situation with him directly. TheHackerCIO is not a coward. The result was a recorded transcript of the greatest firing ever! At some point I'll transcribe it word for word, but for now I'll mention the best part, emblazoned in my memory.  Mr Coward said, and I quote, "You are a highly productive person, and you are never going to be happy here. This place is a cluster-f**k"

How can you argue with that?

I tried to offer to help un-cluster-f**k the place, but that wasn't of interest. He was one of the cluster-f**kers!

In the other case, I was required to teach junior staff about Cassandra, a NoSql database, which I happen to be pretty knowledgeable about. In session one, I noticed that one "participant," let's call him Moh Foh, for short, was glued to his laptop, and not learning much, if anything. In Session two, I needed to recap what had been covered and see where to go. So I made it a fun exercise. "Lets make this fun, something like a game show," I suggested. I quizzed them round-robin about failure scenarios, seeing if they knew what would happen under various conditions Two of my "players" did fine! If they knew the answer, they got praise. If not, I quickly helped them out with hints or an answer. Then I asked them a follow up. They were enjoying the exercise, and we were all making good progress.

Everyone except Moh Foh, that is. There he was, glued once again to his laptop. He had nothing but a blank look to offer when I asked any question. So I said, gently, " Can you close that laptop?" He didn't, but he postured that he was going to pay attention now. So I described the question for him again, on the white board, and turned back for his answer. Once again, MohFoh was glued to his laptop screen. He couldn't even pull away when he knew I was re-describing the question explicitly and personally for him! The rudeness, disrespect-of-a-colleague, unprofessional-ism, and bovine stolid indifference were almost beyond belief. But I managed to remain good humored, and I said, "Come on now, close that laptop. Close! Close!" and he did. For a third time, I returned to the white board and repeated his scenario/question. When I looked back at him can you guess what he was doing?

You're right! Moh Foh was now glued to his cell phone, and had no idea how to even attempt to answer the question. So I said, "Really?" At that point, he said, "I have to leave," and bailed out. A little bit later the coward-in-charge asked the agency to declare me persona non grata.

Later on, before I was cowardly axed, I attempted to patch things over with Moh Foh. I told him that if he couldn't pay attention, I couldn't teach him. He said that they had to "multitask" around there. I told him that it's been scientifically proven that you *can't* multi-task. All you can do is a crappy job at many things. And in his case, he wasn't even able to pretend to do even a crappy job of learning Cassandra while he monitored whatever he was monitoring. If he actually was, and wasn't Facebooking.

I'm so proud of being axed for this that I'd like to put it on my resume! It's a badge of honor. A possible entry text: "Accomplished teaching basics of Cassandra to staff. Pleasantly, but firmly, refused to accept disrespectful inattention and "I don't care" attitude from students with a junior-high-level mentality." Yeah, I doubt I can work it into my resume, because I hope to never do it again. It's not a target for the future. But I'm plenty proud of it.

Not every job should be kept. A client like this needs to find someone who will pretend to teach those who are completely uninterested or unable to learn.

I Remain,