My conversation with TomTom

March 24, 2008 | Filed Under Computers, Random Silliness | No Comments

The bf loves his TomTom. He takes it everywhere.  He lets it guide us everywhere. Even to places we already know how to get to.  Like home.  And he makes sure it talks to us.  He even carries it when he’s walking. You know, just in case he gets lost on the way to the bus stop. (It could happen.  Side note: his coat is so heavy from all the gadgets he carries that I swear it weighs about 30lbs)

This week, TomTom has the voice of Mission Control from NASA.  Last week, it was some supposedly soothing female voice.

Last night, on the way home, I was tired, cranky, and talking back to TomTom. It went something like this:

TomTom: Space Shuttle, this is Mission Control, bypass the international space station, you are clear for joining the motorway.

Me:  It’s called the Queensway.  Idiot.

TomTom:  Go 800 metres and then TURN LEFT.

Me: No, you moron. I won’t.

TomTom: TURN LEFT.

Me: Fuck you.

TomTom: TURN LEFT at the next street, then TURN LEFT.

Me: Bite me.  That’s a stupid route.

TomTom: TURN LEFT

Me:  Ok, I’ll turn left now, but only because I WANT to. Not because you told me to, you self-satisfied, smug piece of silicon.

TomTom: TURN LEFT at the next street.

Me: Pushy and demanding, aren’t we?  I’ll turn left if I damned well want to.

Of course, it IS rather pointless to talk back to it. At least at this stage in its evolution. But it made ME feel better. The bf just rolled his eyes.

Personally, I want a TomTom that’s more snarky when you don’t follow its directions.  You can buy an upgrade with John Cleese’s voice, but it’s pretty vanilla.  I’d pay MONEY to get an upgrade with John Cleese’s voice but one where he berates the driver if you don’t make a suggested turn.  I’d secretly download it onto the bf’s TomTom while he slept….  Can you imagine?

CleeseTomTom: Putter along for 800 metres or so and then TURN Left.

(drive past the place where we were supposed to turn)

CleeseTomTom: You STUUUUPID GIT!  I told you to TURN LEFT back there!  Now you’ve missed the turn and I’m going to have to recalculate everything! Harumph! 

CleeseTomTom: Ok.  Turn left up here at the next street, and this time, get it right will you?

(drive past place where we are to turn)

CleeseTomTom: You bloody MORON. You did it again!  You missed the turn AGAIN!  I don’t know why I bloody bother to try at all with you…

and so on…

A girl can dream, can’t she?

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So you want to get a job in IT?

March 8, 2008 | Filed Under Computers, The Heartless Bitch Way, Work | 7 Comments

Recently, I’ve been interviewing people for an IT administrator position. I’m an exec, but of a small company, so I literally roll up my sleeves when required and manage the servers and network alongside my existing IT admin as and when needed, so I know a fair bit about the actual day-to-day workings of corporate IT infrastructure. I’m also wickedly good at debugging and problem solving.

After going through a round of interviews this week, I’m going to impart some sage advice to those who might be reading and want to have a hope of having a successful career in IT.

To be a *good* IT admin, you have to love to solve problems. I want to see an attitude that says, “No computer is going to get the better of me.” I want to see someone who has taught themselves scripting languages and dabbled in installing wikis, blogs, firewalls, and other software components – just because they want to learn how to use these new technologies. You are in IT administration. If you are making a career of this, you should be constantly looking at what is coming down the pike – what new hardware and software is coming out – what will businesses be looking at implementing in 2 to 5 years? What are the latest virus and security threats? There’s tons to know and I don’t expect someone to know it ALL – I just want to see that you aren’t waiting for someone to tell you what to read or learn.
You have to be on a path to continuous self-improvement and learning. I’ll ask you what tech blogs you read, what podcasts you follow. I want to see someone with INITIATIVE. I’m looking for someone who is so INTERESTED in technology that they keep pace with the latest trends and tools because they want to – not because they HAVE to.

So you haven’t had a chance to use Linux at work. Did you install it on your own network at home? Do you have a network at home? Did you put in VMWare Server (It’s free!) and try installing various VMs on your own? Did you install and play with configuring an Apache Server even if it’s just inside your home network? Did you get a free web account somewhere and experiment with setting up a family website, wiki or place to share personal photos? Did you set up a VPN between your home and your parent’s, ostensibly because you can manage your dad’s computer remotely, but really because you wanted to experiment with the latest open source VPN technology? Show me SOMETHING that tells me you’ve got that spark.

Even if you’ve never configured it, can you tell me what Raid 5 is, when and where you’d use it, and when it’s not recommended? Do you know what a DMZ is? A Packet Filter Rule? A DNAT? Can you explain to me the difference between an SSL VPN and PPTP or L2TP? (other than the protocols they use).

If you are slotted into a position where “other” people take care of network servers, and “other” groups handle security, then what are you doing to make sure you aren’t dead-ended? What are you personally doing to grow your skills if you aren’t getting that kind of opportunity in your current job? And if you are a contractor, well, there’s NO excuse for not taking courses and learning things outside your current scope of responsibility. Your courses are a tax write-off. What are you doing after work? Are you a member of any of the local users groups for Microsoft, Linux, XML, security, etc?  If you have time to follow a regular TV show, or sports team, you have time to take a course and expand your skills – otherwise, you are painting yourself into a very narrow corner, and people like me are going to pass you over for that next really cool job.  And don’t give me the excuse that you don’t have time. I worked full time, raised two kids and still had time to take courses.
Oh, and be prepared, in your interview, to have to demonstrate your problem-solving skills. I might put you in front of a console and tell me how to add a user on the network. I will definitely give you a few hypothetical situations and and ask how you would diagnose the root cause of the problems.

And as a little side-rant, I’m trying to figure out if working in a government job kills initiative, or people who choose to work in the government for long periods of time just lack initiative. (Here come the flames). Why do I ask this? Because consistently, the people I interviewed who were government contractors or employees, did NOTHING to improve their skills outside of the very narrow focus of their current jobs. The people from the private sector (even if they were far more junior) consistently had more broad-ranging knowledge and skills and showed more interest in learning things on their own, than the government employees who had three to 5 more years of direct work experience. Yes, private sector tends to provide more broad-ranging demands in IT, whereas in the government there are very focussed roles and locked-down environments. Never-the-less, that doesn’t stop people from joining a user group, listening to podcasts, reading up on new technologies, or experimenting at home – all of which was demonstrated by the private-sector workers, and not by the government employees.

Perhaps the bf sets a high bar for me in this. He isn’t an IT admin – he’s far, far more senior than that. But he inisists that he has to know about the new technologies and methodologies so that he can understand and make sense of what the IT people are saying doing and proposing. He doesn’t work with Linux at work – in fact he has never had linux at work as far as I know. But he has three different variants of it on our home network – and three wireless LANs, segmented for different traffic (such as guests and visitors). There is always some new piece of hardware or software on one of the several systems on the network. There is a RAID-configured disk array for storing our photos. And all of that is in addition to my 2 desktops, laptop and development server on the network.

He’s also set up a LAMP server, with WordPress for me to start porting HBI to.

He’s continuously improving his knowledge and hands-on skills in the area of his chosen career. When I interview you for an IT administrator position, and you tell me you want to be an IT architect some day, I EXPECT to see that kind of personal involvement in your own skill and knowledge development.

But this transcends IT and really flows into ANY kind of work environment. If you want to be successful, if you want to be promoted (or, get a better job elsewhere because your current job is a dead-end), then for heaven’s sake, DO something on your own about it. Take a course, read a bloody book or two, try some things on your own to extend your skill set. Don’t expect your job, or your boss to hand-hold you through your career growth. You aren’t in school anymore – nobody is handing you the courses and saying this is what you must learn. Anywhere you want to go is a path YOU must set. Sacrifice that TV time, that hockey game, that night out at the bars, and take the time to learn something new. Have kids? Listen to podcasts in the car as you drive to work, or on the bus if you take public transit. Use your lunch period to read something relevant. Book time after the kids go to bed to take an hour for yourself on career improvement. If your spouse takes issue with the time you are spending improving your skills, then you need to get that spouse to read this article.

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Geek Humor that tickled me today

March 7, 2008 | Filed Under Computers, Random Silliness | 1 Comment

“You are a walking null pointer exception.”

“We all lived in a yellow subroutine”

and an oldie but a goodie…. “ARP, ARP, ARP… the mating call of the lonely packet.”

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