Comment

Guess what!

There’s an awesome new thing out.  It solves problems that existed with the previous version, incorporates aspects previously only offered by competitors in a new-and-improved way, and has taken baby-steps into new frontiers, adding one new elegant feature that will become industry-standard and be adopted by all manufacturers in some form eventually.   It’s an investment, but it really is less expensive than you expect it to be when your system is analyzed by a Qualified Engineer to make sure you make only the necessary purchases.  While you can’t put a price on the decreased stress and increased staff morale, you can most certainly put a price on the streamlined timelines that allow for more work to be accomplished without any of the current efficiency gaps that silently eat your profits.  Talking to someone, just to see if it might apply to you, is free, and it’s a no-brainer.  Do you want to invest 5 minutes to see if your life could be a whole lot easier and your work environment could be more comfortable, and likely more creative as a result? 

The thing is, that very vague statement could be made at any time and be true.  In October alone, we were unable to attend both the industry events in New York and Los Angeles at the same time, and many of our partners don’t wait for events, they send electronic notices of their most recent developments, so it’s constant.  I personally connect through meeting sites so I can have someone who represents the new product walk me through it, one-on-one, whenever possible.  Quite honestly, it’s hard to keep up.  Technology is only as good as it is new when it comes to the hype, so there’s always new.  That doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with the old stuff, either, and not every upgrade is the end-all-be-all.

The ones who actually can keep up with it all are the Engineers.  They can read a brand new spec-sheet and immediately process that it does more of this with less of that.  The new item enters their tech-vocabulary and becomes a tool in their toolbox.  It’s impressive.  It really is its own language, and they speak it fluently.

If you aren’t 100% sure that you know what new things just came out and whether or not that should mean something to you, you should talk to an Engineer.  And just like any other industry, when new stuff comes out, older stuff goes on sale.  If you think you are not a buy-the-brand-new-thing company, then you might be the buy-the-last-new-thing-when-the-next-new-thing-comes-out-and-drops-the-price company.  And you don’t know what’s on sale right now.  But that’s ok.  The Engineers do.

Got 5 minutes?  If not today, soon?  Whenever you reach out, I guarantee you there will be something new to talk about.

Comment

Comment

Fiction Friday: Stress-blocked, Part 1

Jenna hated the blinking cursor.  Whoever thought of that should be shot.  All we need is to see where the cursor is.  It doesn’t have to flash like a strobe light waiting for you to think of something to say.  Some people have seizures, you know—that blinking is annoying at best and life-threatening at worst.  Ok, so maybe not life threatening.  

She sighed and leaned back in her chair, rubbing both eyes like doing so would somehow dislodge the fuzzy cloud hovering over her usually-rapid-fire mind.  All it managed to do was smear her eye makeup.  Luckily, no one was there to see it anyway.

Jenna didn’t procrastinate.  She had been trying to think of how to start since she was assigned the project in the first place.  She didn’t wait until the last minute, she just ran out of minutes and nothing happened.

I’m a fraud, that’s why, she thought.  I’m an imposter, masquerading as a creative professional, just hoping no one notices that I’m out of ideas.  The thought prompted its usual audible groan.    She knew it wasn’t true, but it felt true every other Thursday.  On schedule.  Right before things were due.  She pushed away from the desk.  “I hate deadlines!” Her phone chimed.

Working late?  It was Dave.

She smiled.  That was nice.  He cared.  

Working isn’t working, but I’m here.

She went back to staring at the screen, but was actually just watching the phone for a reply.  At this point she was hungry for the distraction.  He didn’t text back.  Five minutes passed.  When the desk phone rang, Jenna jumped.

“Hey.  I can’t connect.”  It was Dave.

“Hi, you.  I was waiting for you to text back.”

“You said working wasn’t working, so I thought I would pop on and surprise you—see if I can help.  But I’m having trouble signing on.”

“Yeah, about that,” Jenna whined, rolling her eyes.  “Don’t get me started.  There’s something wrong, I don’t know what it is, I don’t understand half of this stuff, and that’s why I’m here right now, because if I could sign on remotely, I would be completely blocked in the comfort of my own home with a glass of wine, thank you very much.”

“Have you called it in?”

“No, but I’m sure someone has.”

“Who?”

“What?”

“Who?  Who called it in?  Or are you just assuming that, and no one is telling anyone because everyone thinks someone else called.”

“Oh.  I don’t know, actually.”

“So are you going to call it in?”

Jenna shook her head without noticing she was doing so.  “I…that’s not really my department.  I wouldn’t know what to say.”

“You say, ‘I can’t log in from home, and I’m not the only person.  I don’t know if anyone else has talked to you, but can you help me log on please?’”

“Dave, stop it.”

“What?”

“Stop being so…logical about it.  It’s not that easy for me, ok?”

“Why?”

“I don’t know.  Because I’m afraid I’ll sound stupid.  Because I know I’m going to have to try to explain what’s going on, and that always leaves me feeling like an idiot, and the poor guy on the phone ends up with a headache trying to figure me out.  That’s why.”

He paused.  “Jenna?”

“Dave, what?”

“Not asking for help because you don’t want to look like you don’t know is the only part of this situation that is actually stupid, ok?  And you’re in great company because I’d bet everyone else said the same thing and that’s why they didn’t call it in either.”

“How do you know no one called it in?”

“Because it’s still not working and Phil isn’t standing next to you right now.”

“Who’s Phil?”

“Phil, my dear, is your best friend right now and you don’t know it yet.  We’re going to conference call.”

“No.  Please, Dave, you do it.  You tell him what’s wrong.  I’ll mess it up.”

“Oh, my God, Jenna, I have never seen you like this—you are a capable woman.  Why on earth are you letting this get to you?”

She sounded so much younger than usual for some reason.  She hated it.  “Technology is scary.  It’s way too easy to mess it up.  I just…I’m not real confident about that stuff.”

Dave took a breath.  “Ok.  I get it.  You’re still talking to Phil.  Right now.”

“No!”

“Sorry, already dialed.”

Comment

Comment

Frankenstein

The Frankenstein Monster was a combination of parts of corpses.  It is Science Fiction because we can’t breathe life into a pile of mismatched things wired together, but it made for a wonderful story.  It’s considered horror, but it never felt that way to me.  The poor monster didn’t ask to be made, he didn’t understand what was going on, and for the most part he wasn’t actively trying to hurt people, he just didn’t know his own strength.  That story was more about being an outsider than it was about digging up dead people.  The underlying message was also a warning not to let our aspirations lead us into places we aught not go, echoing the fear many have of science and what they see as the human race “playing God.”  

There was a time when the microwave oven was going to kill us all with radiation while we cooked a baked potato, but since that turned out to be complete bunk, no one really thinks that anymore, and most homes in America have a microwave.  Today, discussions are beginning about “H+,” the idea of augmenting the human body to either overcome disadvantages or increase abilities.  Some argue that implants to give us super-hearing or digital eyes would make us less human and shouldn’t be allowed.  Others argue that we’re already H+ and have been since the first artificial knee or cochlear implant and we should embrace it.  Supporters include eyeglasses and prosthetic limbs as rudimentary augmentations, and conceptually no different than the more high-tech options available today, saying that those who reject H+ may as well reject antibiotics, too, since that’s not their natural immune system.  Enthusiasts and scientists debate those who are hesitant and try to change minds to explore what’s possible.  Fear over new things is not new.  Someday, H+ augmentations might be as commonplace as the microwave, which was also very controversial for its time.

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” (Arthur Clarke)  People are afraid of magic.  They tend to burn it.  Until they understand it.  Then it’s not magic and then they have to have one in every room.

Are you rocking a Frankenstein Monster at work?  Is your tech-plan cobbled together from other systems that are no longer with us, perhaps acquiring used equipment when someone else was fortunate enough for a real upgrade?  Hey, you work with what you’ve got.  I’m sure if there was a clean, well-stocked body-parts store, the Doctor would have preferred to send Igor with the list rather than watch him lug a shovel.  It probably would have cost an arm and a leg, though.

The point is that the updates you don’t really understand, which is why you are sure you don’t need them, aren’t scary.   Right now, there are things your poor, poor system is doing that drive your entire office to reach for their torches and pitchforks, but it’s not the system’s fault.  It didn’t ask to be made, and it’s essentially a pile of mismatched parts wired together.  Kinda amazed it works at all.

But what is common sense to a SkyTech Engineer looks like magic to the rest of us.  It’s ok.  They got this.   If you just step into that brave new world and let your Engineer help you, your office can have the most up-to-date equipment available to meet your needs, and it will work like magic, because if you have any questions, you can call your system’s Engineer—the person with a name, face and cell phone number who you work with every time you call—and let them deal with it.  

You should take a break.  Maybe go microwave a hot pocket or something.  You have a microwave at work, too, don’t ya?  See?  Not scary.


Comment

Comment

Anyone got a challenge for us?

Tech talks to tech, but only if you do it right.  The easiest way is to stick with one brand.  In my personal home, we use Apple products.  I’m not paid to represent them or anything like that, I just learned along the way that if I wanted my phone to talk to my computer and my tablet and my television, they basically all needed to start with a lowercase letter i.  It was easy to make the leap when we finally embraced it, because we had already purchased the iPhones and iPads, the Apple TV was comparable in price to the other tv-box systems out there, and when it came time to replace the main desktop computer, we realized that was the last hold-out and we took the plunge.  Haven’t regretted it for a moment.

But it’s not necessary to be a Brand Fan to make a system work and most of the time that’s not even an option.  I had to make one new purchase to finish the set, but in an office environment you would have to make a much greater investment.  Even if there was only one missing piece of the puzzle, if it’s a piece that sits on 25 desks, or a piece that has to connect to 25 work-stations, that’s a big piece.  Purchases are often made in stages to allow the expense to work within the quarterly budget, and that means there’s no such thing as a clean-sweep where everything is shiny and new at the same time.  So how does one thing talk to another when they generally come from different planets, tech-wise?  

That’s why there are Engineers.  There is no automatic answer for how to get (blank) to talk to (blank), but there are amazing professionals who actually enjoy the challenge of finding the right converter or configuration that streamlines the process, solves the problems, and includes a plan for the future for the most reasonable expense for the company.  It’s like a game to them.  

The other day, one of our Engineers actually asked me if there were any new challenges for him—if he could please get the next available “impossible" case—that he didn’t mind solving all the same old problems for new people, and he really likes the people, but he’s bored.  No joke, he asked me for harder work.  And I listen to my team.

Anyone got a challenge for us?  


Comment

Comment

Freeform Friday

Freeform Friday

I spin my wheels in colorful circles

and bounce between them

a whirlwind ricochet

of smiles 

and forgotten things 

and I’ll do it next week.

I’m dizzy.

Generously, 

work multiplies and divides,

doubling itself 

as I watch,

bemused and only half paying attention.

Should I be worried?

Because I’m not really taking this in.


Chocolate.  

The answer beckons from another room

And my dollar and I head 

to the bad-idea machine

where pennies slip through my fingers

and fall soundlessly through my skin

to live on my thighs forever.

But I am a kind penny-keeper—

I continue to feed them chocolate.


Wandering back to my desk

the long way

the work is still not my friend.

It looks foreign today

and my eyes graze across it

without actually reading.

I’ll read it over again

and realize two paragraphs in

that I forgot to pay attention

and have to start over.

Again.

Is it lunch time yet.


Freedom Finally

I explode onto my weekend

Desperate to hit Save

To save myself.

But Monday,

I shall crawl in,

tired and rested,

a professional contradiction,

to sit at my station

slowly translating the shapes before me

into words 

and thoughts

and ideas


So many ideas.

Happy Friday. Recharge. You have not yet had your best idea…

Comment

Comment

Screen Time

For most of us, the first eight hours of time spent staring at a screen each day are instantly forgiven because it is our job.  In order to buy food and pay for our house, we have to go to a job, and most of them require a computer these days.  We get in the car, and while we’re not staring at it, there’s a screen in there, too.  I’m not complaining—without that screen I would get lost all the time—but it’s still a screen.  We get home, kick off our shoes, and sit down to relax in front of a television set, or video games, or YouTube, or social media.  Screens.  And in between, there’s this cool game on my phone where you’re trying to match the colored balls in sets of three or more…

There has always been chatter about limiting the screen time our children enjoy each day to encourage the other things they should be doing for their long-term well-being, such as going outside where the Vitamin D lives, engaging in interactive, social play, using their imagination, and maybe drawing, painting or playing with toys.  Children who do nothing but play video games are very skilled at video games and little else, but unless they have some guarantee from a rich uncle that they will be hired as a game tester as soon as they are released from the school they’ve been ignoring, that’s not sustainable.  We know this, we tell them this, they fight with us, we win because we have the right to take their computer away and in the end all is well.  They are healthier and they eventually not only forgive us, they call us the first time they have to take their child’s computer away.  It’s the circle of life.

Who takes ours?  Who steps in and says, “You’ve been staring at a screen for 12 hours straight, and I don’t care that the content has changed, it’s still not good for your eyes, your brain, or really any part of you, so shut it off and go outside.”  I’ve said it, just not to myself.  Anyone else in the same boat?

Perhaps we need to adjust our expectations to accommodate the constant screen requirement of the modern world, but I think it’s far healthier to be your own parent and turn it off when you can.  Even at work—if there’s something you can delegate or a couple of tasks you can trade with a coworker to vary your day, get up and move around.  Say hi to someone you don’t get to talk to often.  Step outside and see what all that trendy Vitamin D is all about.  Take out the trash if you need a reason, but step away from the screen as often as you can.

One way to handle that at work is to clearly define what is and what is not your job, and then don’t do things you don’t have to.  It seems simple, but it’s not, because most of us want to help, and it’s often easier to handle something ourselves than to wait for the cavalry.  Sometimes we make mistakes, and the things that aren’t our job often take us longer than they would take the person who should be doing it, since that’s what they do all the time and they are likely faster at it than we are.  It really does make more sense to not help on some of these things and delegate where we can.

If you are a creative professional managing projects and teams, you don’t need to manage your tech, too.  That’s not your job.  You might make a mistake just because it’s complicated, and while you may not want to call for help, it’s easy and much, much more effective in the long run.  Set up a maintenance contract for your data storage and delegate.  Let someone else worry about the screen that tells your screen what to do.  That’s one less screen for you.


Comment

Comment

The Math Juggle

If your team’s efficiency increased by 25%, what would that mean to you, financially?  We may imagine that 25% greater efficiency would allow 25% more projects to be completed for a total increase in profits of 25%, but it’s often more complicated then that.   There are also factors that are difficult to measure that may impact business, such as improved morale and staff retention, which decreases the costs associated with finding and training new staff, thus increasing overall profit.  The direct increase in profits may be significantly less or more than 25% as a result. 

For example, if there isn’t any more work to do and picking up 25% more clients is unlikely, then the increase in productivity will give you more time and allow you to provide clients with a streamlined project timeline, but it might not drastically impact the bottom line.   The long term results would include happier staff and a more comfortable work environment, which will reflect in the quality of the work.  Clients would be happier as well, and there would be a gradual uptick in business as your reputation grows.   If any contractual work was being done, more could be handled in-house to save the expense.   A small company may not be able to afford a big upgrade to this end, but they would still benefit from the increased productivity, and if some smaller changes can be implemented to accomplish the goal, it would be worth the investment.   For larger companies, the investment is far easier to justify as the smaller differences, such as decreased turnover, add up quickly, even if there is no obvious increase in revenue.

For a company of any size who might be able to increase the number of projects they accomplish in a year with the increased efficiency, it is always worthwhile to make the investment, sooner rather than later.  Even if the expense would require financing, the interest charged would be less than the increase in profits, which begin the moment the upgrade is in place.  The increase in productivity is often greater than the measurable increase in efficiency because the creative flow is not interrupted by errors or unnecessary delays, thus further improving the quality and decreasing the necessary timeline for projects.  If designers have to pause between steps to accommodate slow equipment, they lose more than the actual minutes they spent staring at the progress bar.  Every tool you can give your team allows them to be their best, and as individuals spark off of one another in a team environment, the total is greater than the sum of its parts.  

Comment

Comment

Fiction Friday, Daren Chapter 6

Daren hung up the phone and actually smiled.  When something like this happens, it’s better to be on the boss’s side and in no way affiliated with the cause of the problem.  Better still, he had  been entrusted with the task of calling Phil.  He didn’t even know Phil personally, Briana trusted him enough to call Skytech when she could just as easily asked for the number, if she didn’t have it with her, so she could call.  Daren was really becoming a part of the team.

But he still had to dial the phone.  At this hour.  To deliver bad news.  To someone he doesn’t really know yet.  Not a great way to say hi.  Swallowing and reminding himself of his own admonitions that it really was ok to call, Daren looked up the number in the computer and called.

Phil answered on the third ring.  “Skytech, how can I help you?”  His voice was thick but he was clearly on duty.

“Hi, Phil?  It’s Daren.  Daren at MediaPerfect.  I’m so sorry to bother you.”

“Well, hello, Daren.  Nice to meet you.  Briana and Mike mentioned you joined the team last time I was out but I don’t think we had a chance to speak.”  Phil woke up quick.  “Anyway, it’s no bother.  MediaPerfect has a 24/7 support contract.  It would have gone directly to voicemail and I’d have heard the message in the morning if you didn’t.  And it must be big for you to call—you guys have never done this before.  What’s up?”

Daren let out the breath he hadn’t realized he was holding.  What had he been worried about, exactly?  Phil was clearly not scary.  “It’s the server room.  There’s something wrong with the AC and the building manager can’t get anyone in here until Monday at the earliest.  I know that’s not your problem, but if we don’t do something it will be.  Do you have any suggestions for us?”

“How hot is it in there?”

“I’d be guessing, but over 80, I’d say.”

“Ouch.  Glad you called.  Step one, I don’t care how noisy it is, open the door and get some air in there.  I’ll hold.  While you’re in there, I want you to check and see if there are any red lights, blinking lights, weird noises, or anything that stands out, ok?”

Daren returned quickly.  “Door’s open, everything is humming loudly but just humming, and the lights look like normal.”

“Fan-tastic!  Daren, you caught it in time!  Since the equipment is fine, I’m not coming out right now, but if things go sideways at all please call me as soon as you notice something—we want to catch things early if we can.”

Daren beamed.  “So that’s it?  Open the door?”

“Ideally, no, but we’re working with what we have.  If you can get a box fan—just the type that cools a room will work, and place it so that it sucks the hot air out of the server room and blows it into the hallway, that will help a lot.”

“We had one of those a few minutes ago,” Daren started, but opted not to share the idiotic details.  “It died.”

“Good news is that Walmart is always open.  I’m going to check the system every few hours from here to make sure it’s clocking correctly and nothing looks odd from the software side, you contact me the moment something changes on the hardware, and with any luck we’ll make it to Monday unscathed. I think we’re going to be ok.”

Daren sighed.  “Nice to meet you, Phil.”

Phil laughed.  “Likewise.  I hope to see you at my next quarterly visit.  I hope I don’t see you sooner because that would mean there’s a problem, but if there is one, I’ll see you then.”

“Whenever it is, can I buy you a drink?  We really appreciate you.  I mean, I was starting too panic, and I can’t tell you how much better I feel.”

Phil chuckled.  “I’m glad.  But that’s what I do—you have me so that you don’t have that stress.  Next time, skip the stress part and call first.   I promise I’ll tell you if it’s time to panic.”

“And when is it time to panic?”

“Pretty much never.  Never helps.  So if you’re waiting for me to tell you it’s ok to panic, you are officially cured forever.”  He added, “at least as far as your tech is concerned anyway.  I have nothing to do with the rest of it.  But panic never helps anything, so it’s still good advice.”

“It certainly is.”  Daren smiled.  “So, do I owe you for the additional counseling or is that also included in the contract?”

“Nah.  It’s included in the friendship.  And don’t get me wrong—you can totally buy me a drink, just not because I helped you.  That part’s on the house.”

Daren called Briana and updated her on the status, and she thanked him up one side and down the other for being willing to buy fans in the middle of the night.  Maybe Phil would even tell her that this likely saved the system.  That couldn’t hurt the new guy reputation.  Or the next vacation request.  

“I guess the moral of the story,” Daren thought, “is that there are often hidden benefits to working hard, regardless of the schedule.”  He cringed at how cheesy it sounded, even in his head.  He thought about the brainy attempt to balance the fan when just knowing where to put it would have made all the difference.  “Or that true genius isn’t knowing everything, it’s knowing how to find someone that knows what you need to know, and calling them without doing anything stupid just to avoid having to admit you don’t know.  And keeping the important numbers on speed-dial.”

Comment

Comment

The Value of Loyalty

We’re all challenged every day with choices, and generally we’d like to think we make good ones.  Our decisions are guided by a ton of details and most of them change constantly, from the actual logical facts involved to your mood and what’s on your mind at the moment.  Loyalty is also a factor.

Do you buy the same brands over and over in some things?  Like how one brand of cheese tastes like cheese and another tastes like processed yuck, so you always grab your brand?  That’s loyalty.  You decided to buy them for some reason, and you liked their products, so you just naturally gravitated to their products in future purchases.  You might shop around for a product at some point, but if it came down to it, you’d be willing to pay just a little bit more to purchase from a known and trusted brand rather than take a gamble.  Sure, sometimes that means you miss out on new stuff, but once the hype dies down and you can get a solid review before you decide, you’ll still get everything you want.  The best part is that you avoid getting a bunch of disappointing stuff.  You actually save money in the long run if you aren’t constantly trying to fix the last purchase on which you took a gamble that didn’t pay off just to save a few bucks.  

Here’s the weird thing.  People trust brands more than each other.  I have more faith in a massive, faceless company to do as they said they would than I do in the people I know personally, and I’m not alone in that.  There is no customer service department to fix things when the kids didn’t take out the trash and now the house stinks, not that customer service is a fabulous experience either.  We may or may not have been let down by a company, and if we ever were we would change companies, but we’re let down by people all the time, and it impacts our decisions every day whether we know it or not.

Assuming that others won’t do their job, or at least planning for when others might fail, just in case, isn’t all that healthy for either party, and too many people spend way too much of their lives planning for how they are going to handle it when other people let them down.  You can’t be loyal to people you can’t trust.  Brand loyalty makes it much easier to shop for things.  Imagine how much time you are wasting planning for failures that may not manifest when building trust and establishing loyalty would make everyone so much more comfortable and effective, it’s just scary to let other people in because of the people who have let us down, and thus the cycle continues.

As Value Added Resellers, Skytech sells the same stuff at the same price as just about anyone else, but we come with the package.  If there’s a new thing you might be able to use, we will tell you, so you don’t have to trade away cutting-edge to keep your loyalty intact.  We know what’s wrong with your system and we can fix it, or tell you what you need to replace if it’s truly gone.  Better still, we strive to prevent anything from actually breaking, which is what routine maintenance is all about.  Instead of doing a ton of research and having to guess on expensive, complex equipment, we can tell you what brands to trust, we make sure it can communicate with all the rest of your equipment, and we install it.  You can trust us.

Loyalty is something we prize.  I personally reach out to customers just as friends whenever I can, because we are people first and job titles last.  We want to make sure you know you can trust us, and that you feel comfortable giving us your loyalty.  We are loyal to you—we will never try to sell you something you don’t need or design a system that exceeds what you are looking for, because making a few extra dollars isn’t worth the loss of your loyalty, just as it isn’t worth saving a few bucks to buy discount cheese.  That stuff is mostly oil and water, I’ve tried it, I’ve regretted it, and I buy the real stuff now without wasting a second to decide.  I’m not selling you the discount cheese, either.  Not proverbially for your system nor literally for your sandwich.  You are worth more to us than that.

What is loyalty worth to you?

Comment

Comment

Translating, Tech to Tech

Getting hardware components to talk to each other can be challenging in a world where each manufacturer not only has their own software, it’s written in a language specific to that company, so most other manufacturer’s components would encounter communication errors when wired together.  Engineers need a framework, so the component they are creating is designed to work with it’s partner pieces.  They haven’t tested to see if it will work with other brands and can’t promise anything outside of what they designed, built and tested, which is only their stuff, working with their stuff.  For best results, stick with one brand, so that everything can talk to everything, but that is often challenging to accomplish unless you are starting from scratch. 

What usually happens is that the oldest tech problems get fixed first so that nothing is horrifically out of date but very little is actually new at any given time.  That also means that different budgets and different people making decisions down the line results in various purchases, not all from the same manufacturer.  Even if a strategic plan is in place and all of the purchases are made according to that plan regardless of when the orders are placed, if you ever work with anyone who doesn’t share your building, they might be using something different. 

Basically, unless you are building a system from the ground up all at once and plan to restrict your projects so that no one outside your building sends or receives files, you have to be more flexible then proprietary.  Luckily, there is now a product that bridges the gaps and lets multiple creative software platforms communicate through a central service.  It is scalable, so you can buy what you need now and add later, and it is specifically designed to play well with others, in-house or remotely.  Someone finally did it—SNS.

If you have ever known the pain of trying to get different manufacturer’s products to work together, or if you are considering an upgrade that’s not as expensive as replacing everything at the same time, reach out to us and we’d be happy to have a Skytech Engineer go over your needs and explain how it would work for you.  

Comment

Comment

Fiction Friday, Daren Chapter 5

Welcome to the ongoing saga of whatever story we are telling right now It’s Friday. Let’s do something else for a few minutes…

“Hello,” Briana answered sleepily.

“Hi boss, it’s Daren. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, especially since I have to wake you up to deliver it, but there’s something wrong in the equipment room and I’m afraid it’s too hot for the equipment. I don’t think it can wait until morning, let alone through the weekend and I thought you should know.” Daren swallowed. That went well, actually. Less babbling than he expected. If Daren was his own boss, he wouldn’t be upset at Daren. He might even offer Daren a raise. Probably not, though.

“I was afraid of that,” Briana grumbled. “The fan didn’t help enough, did it?”

Daren was so glad he hadn’t mentioned the fan yet or he might have ended up back-peddling to justify his comments as to the questionable veracity of that plan. “Oh, you set that up? I’m sure it helped some but the boxes collapsed.”

“Ugh. So much for creative thinking on the fly. Too much fly and not enough creative. Or thinking. Was anything damaged?”

“Just the fan. It was noisy, but that’s about it.”

“Serves it right,” Breana scoffed. “Saves me from having to shoot it myself. I can’t believe I thought that might work.”

Daren laughed. “You asked a room-fan to cool the boiler room of a steamship—you know that, right?”

“No, Clyde did, I just took his word for it without engaging my brain because it was one more thing on a Friday afternoon and I didn’t want to deal with it.” Breana cleared her throat. Clyde was the building manager. He was not an Engineer, nor a designer. He wasn’t even really a real estate investor, he was the grown son of a real estate investor who would hopefully be passing the company to his daughter soon. She had to be an improvement, sight-unseen. “I told him something was wrong with the AC or the ducts because the office was fine but the equipment room wasn’t and he said the best he could do was Monday. The fact that I got him to come to the office at all was a miracle, so when he carried in that fan from his truck I rolled my eyes but I let it go.”

“So, now what?” Daren asked. “Calling Clyde will go to voicemail—it always does—so he won’t even hear it until it’s too late. Is there some emergency clause that lets us call someone and take it off of the rent or something?”

“Right. I’ll submit those receipts into the bottomless round bin next to Clyde’s desk. Besides, who do you call for something like this? If there was water on the floor I’d call a plumber, sparks from an outlet is the electrician. The guy I call for the AC is Clyde because it goes through the entire building and not just our office, and the AC is cold, just not in that room.”

“So, who are we going to call?” Daren tried to sound serious, but the joke was obvious.

“Oh, hardy har, Mr. Midnight. Later than. Wait, why are you even there?”

“Working was working, so I kept doing it.”

“Well, your lack of a social life probably saved us, so thank you. Maybe you can take an extra day off next week or something.”

Daren beamed. It wasn’t a raise, but he’d take it. “We have that maintenance contract for the equipment. The problem isn’t the equipment, but I think our Engineer would want to know anyway, and he might have a suggestion.”

“Good call. Can we call now, though?”

“It goes to his cell. He works in tech. These things happen. If he isn’t taking night-calls, I’m sure he diverts the calls after hours. Either he’ll pick up because he’s available or it will go to voicemail because he isn’t, and either way it doesn’t really bother anyone.” Daren didn’t mean to pause for effect, but the pause was effective nonetheless. “I think we have to call now.”

“Fair enough,” Briana said. “But I don’t want to take advantage of Phil. If there’s any after-hours charges or whatever, fine.”

“You know Phil?”

Briana smiled—Daren could hear it through the phone. “Everybody knows Phil. Where have you been?”

Comment

Comment

Romeo and Juliet couldn't text

You had to read Romeo and Juliet in high school, too, right?  Or at least the Cliff Notes or 60s film the night before the test?  You know what always got me?  That the whole plot hinged on someone not getting a message in time.

Just as a recap, since I generally blank out right after the test, too, Romeo and Juliet are from families that hate each other, but they meet and fall in love before they know that.  They get married in secret by a friendly priest who agrees to help hide them.  The priest has a plan to drug Juliet so that it looks like she died, then sneak her out of the mausoleum so she can live happily ever after with Romeo, who is banished and in another city.  So the priest sends the message to Romeo on the slowest donkey ever while Romeo hears the rumor of Juliet’s death and shows up to kill himself on her not-really-dead body, all dramatic teenager style.  Romeo has a horse, naturally, and in the film version you see the horse passing the in-bound donkey just to drive the point home that Romeo wasn’t in on the plan.  Juliet wakes up within a minute of Romeo’s death, having just missed him, so she kills herself and falls on top of his actually-dead body, thus forcing the families to stop the stupid fight, because suicide is apparently a good option in this tale.  

Maybe language arts classes can include a healthy dialog about that rather than just planting that seed and moving on to Hamlet, but that’s another article altogether.  

At this point, no one should be using a donkey for work.  We can do better than that.  Donkeys are for petting zoos.  And trusting a donkey to do the job of a horse results in homework, and high school tests, and long, painful discussions about why they couldn’t just text with people who half-believe they were born with their phone.  Best to avoid the whole thing.

How important is it that your work gets to where it needs to be on time?  If your digital storage is a donkey, it could be the death of a project, proverbially speaking.  You should look in to that.  Here’s the Cliff Notes version: stuff doesn’t last forever, sometimes stuff breaks, technology moves forward, and you will need to upgrade your stuff eventually.  If you don’t have a maintenance contract with a qualified engineer, you’ll find out because it broke, not before.  And that would be a tragedy.  

Comment

Comment

Push-Pull Workflow

Workflow

Do you push-pull?  Do you pull a file off a hard drive, work on it, then push it back where you got it or on to the next step?  How’s that working for you?

If your team is small, like two or three people who are dedicated both to the project and to their team, that can work.  Not everything requires a server room and if you’re making a flier for someone you don’t need a tech crew.  It would have to be a small enough file on a large enough hard drive with a timeline that includes a whole lot of squish room.  It comes with challenges, even for a small team.  

If you are using an actual physical hard drive that you hand off to one another, working remotely becomes more difficult and involves meeting or mailing to transfer between team members before the next step can begin.  What if someone falls behind schedule or gets sick?  If they have the file at the time, it may be a challenge you weren’t planning for.  And what if something happens to that sacred drive?  If someone’s five year old thought it would be a good idea to put it in the microwave, not only does the microwave now need to be replaced, if it didn’t set the entire house on fire, but the files are literally toast.

How do we solve that?  Multiple copies.  I pull it, download it to my work station, fix it, push it, and if all else fails I have the most recent version of the file as a backup, even if it does fill my hard drive and slow down my work.   We roll our eyes, get another physical hard drive, put the backup file on it and get back to where we were, and hopefully we padded the timeline like smart people for eventualities such as these.  Problem solved.

And new problem created.  I thought that was the most recent version. That wasn’t the only file on there—did you back up the smaller side-files, too, like the individual assets, so they’d import correctly and be available for editing?  I used the other version when I made my changes, so there are actually three versions out there now and none of them are inclusive of everyone’s work, so someone will be doing it over, and maybe several someones.   No one pads the timeline that much.

If you are an average-ish person with coworkers who are less superhuman and more regular human, something will go wrong, but hopefully those carefully constructed and pre-set plans for such things will kick in without too much chaos.  People laugh and say that such-and-such was the one thing that went wrong for each project, as though something going wrong is a mandatory part of the process.  In a push-pull environment, they’re right, but no one likes waiting for something to go wrong.  It’s definitely not ideal and in the long run leads to therapy and/or an ulcer.  

When creative people are working together on a project, they need to be able to communicate and collaborate effectively to accomplish the goal.  Luckily, we don’t have to create some mini governmental system with by-laws and workflow maps to accomplish it like they used to when keeping track of a project.  That’s old school. They have stuff for that now.  Which means if you’re still living under the something-must-go-wrong axe, you’re being a little silly.  That’s no longer a thing.  You might also complain that the garters around your socks are pinching.  Equally silly.  Get new socks.  

If you don’t know any other way to do it, that’s ok.  We do.  That’s how this works.  We don’t make movies, for example, but we want other people to make movies that we can enjoy, so we do what we do—design a workflow process that makes sense and maintain the necessary hardware to make it happen, because we’re not filmmakers and you’re not engineers.  This is our part of the creative world we love to live in, even if we can’t be as creative as you, whatever your part may be.  We go to the movies, listen to music, watch sports and buy nice clothes.  We want to help.  Personally, I know I can’t make the things I enjoy.  We’re a part of the team, we’re just back here in the server room so you don’t have to be.

A practical system allows for users to save files centrally, access them from anywhere, and comes with automatic backups and an on-call engineer for questions or issues.  The team works together but isn’t so reliant on nothing going wrong for things to work, so it’s much more efficient and avoids ulcers.  The chances of data loss are slim to none, and if there are some steps that have to be completed before someone else can add their magic, the transfer is as simple as texting to tell them you’re done so they can start their part.  No meeting under a streetlight to hand off a hard drive like spies in an 80s film.  

You could if you wanted to, but it would just be for fun.  You do you. 


Comment

Comment

Fiction Friday: Daren, Chapter 4

Welcome to the ongoing saga of whatever story we are telling right now  It’s Friday.  Let’s do something else for a few minutes…

The fan set up on the ever-so-intelligent stack-o-boxes had careened into the wall when the cardboard submitted it’s final resignation to the job of “shelf” for which it was clearly not qualified.  These things happen on cardboard’s schedule, and cardboard hates 2:00 AM.  To be fair, if Daren had been suddenly required to do a job above his pay-grade for twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, he would have quit on day one, and if for some reason he had been compelled to try, 2:00 AM is exactly when the will is weakest.  To all the boxes struggling to support a family of objects balanced atop them in this humid economy, we salute you.

Humidity.  That made sense.  The room was too hot, someone set up the fan to try to cool it down but was unable to do any more than slow the gradual rise in temperature, and with nowhere to go the unventilated condensation became swamp-air.  Once the temperature and relative humidity penetrated the cardboard’s plies, structural integrity surrendered and the box quit its shelf-job with a bang.  Crash-bang.  Many crash-bangs.

The fan had died a terrible, terrible death, but like Daren always asked of lullabies, what was the baby doing up in the tree in the first place?  Placing the fan atop Mount Box was a hasty decision made by someone who hadn’t thought past, “this will help and we’ll deal with it later.”  It was Friday night, which was why Daren was alone in the office—any other night of the week and someone else might be working late, too, but on Fridays people tended to either have plans or pretend to have plans so they could get out a little early.  That meant no one would be in until Monday morning, and judging by the rise in temperature since he entered the room, math said all living things and electronics in that room would eventually be cooked.  Monday was too late.  

Daren didn’t know much about the system other than the vague notion that the equipment room was the physical location of the hardware that made it possible for him to access his team’s files and his project files from anywhere.  If it died, everything saved on any drive using the same hardware or other hardware in the room would be no more.  Which meant that saving to both the shared drive and his personal file were in the same physical place in the world—right here in the same oven.  Groovy.  Week’s worth of work, just tonight, that was not backed up to the off-site archives, just like everything everyone had worked on since the first of the month.  It was now the 26th.  

Save early, save often, save to a safe place.  Daren didn’t realize that last part was the unsung final line to the motto, but just like only perfect practice makes perfect, it made a difference. If someone kept their money in a shoebox inside a vault, they’re weird, but that’s safe.  Take that same shoebox full of money and hide it under the logs in the fireplace—not safe.  Potentially hilarious to everyone but the shoebox owner, but not safe, and neither the earliness nor the frequency of deposits into the fireplace improves the situation.  Daren’s early and often saved files, saved to two locations in the same proverbial shoebox, were both in the fireplace.

Daren liked to play video games on his time off, because he believed humans as a species had instincts with nowhere to go, and sometimes they just need to kill something.  It’s far better if that something is digital.  His opinion often received less than favorable responses as people insisted that they never had the desire to kill anyone, but those same people shouted obscenities at other drivers on a regular basis—he had seen it first hand in carpools—and Daren just tapped the breaks and rolled his eyes.  Humans are mammals living in a construct that has zero tolerance for a huge part of the survival instinct, and all entertainment is based on satisfying those instincts that aren’t satisfied in life, whether that’s being allowed to laugh at the prat-fall rather than feeling insensitive for choking back a smile when laughter is natural, or sitting on the edge of your seat as an FBI agent of questionable character, cornered and surrounded, to emulate escaping predators.  Romance is most often read by those who are not currently in a satisfying relationship.  Everyone is feeding their inner primate, it’s just those who admit they’re doing so that have a balance diet, so to speak, thus not yelling at other drivers that can’t hear them.

Cleaning his console at home did not make him an Engineer any more than playing Batman made him, well, Batman, but Daren knew this: when the machine gets noisy, it’s the fan working too hard to try to cool the system, which gets hot, because it does.  That part was an element of the mystery inside the shiny housings and he was even less likely to touch that than the buttons, but for some reason electronics get hot inside and that’s why they all come with a fan.  If you don’t clean the vents when the console starts to whine, it overheats and you might be facing BSOD—Blue Screen Of Death—the final death rattle that declares, in techno-babble, that the brains of your console have been fried and are no more, which happens to be blue.  Fini.  Game over, man.  Recycle and repurchase.  

Daren was standing inside a console, of sorts.  All around him were the brains of his company’s operation and all the work everyone had accomplished for the life of the system, and the fan just gave out.  If this was the home console, he’d unplug and let it cool down right now, clean it out tomorrow, and then try to plug it in again.  He wouldn’t just keep playing.  This wasn’t that simple.

Having come full circle, Daren sighed and found Briana in his cell.  This wasn’t an equipment issue—yet—it was a building maintenance issue, and one that couldn’t wait.

Well, at least I have a story to tell and actual information when I call, Daren thought.

Comment

Comment

Simulation Theory

Simulation theory

Have you heard the one where everything in the world is a simulation?  It’s kind of trippy, when you think about it.  Here’s how it breaks down:

GIVEN: There is only one reality.
GIVEN: Humans have created computer simulation programs, such as SIMS games and NASA flight training.
GIVEN: Over time, the simulations humans have created have improved in quality significantly.
POSTULATE: Simulation programs will continue to improve over time as technological advances expand the possibilities. ACCEPTED
POSTULATE: It is possible for simulation technology to advance to such a degree that the simulated individuals created would themselves believe the simulation to be reality.  In fact, this is the foundation of an effective simulation—the components within it behave as though the situation is real, or the simulation ceases to be valid.  ACCEPTED
GIVEN: More than one simulation can be running simultaneously.  There is no limit to the number of simulation programs that can be running at any given moment.

STATEMENT: There is a near infinite probability that this existence that we call reality is, in fact, a simulation.

EXAMPLE: 

If I told you there is one and only one Apollo 42 rocket ship to Mars, and an unknown, near-infinite number of people running simulations of the Apollo 42 rocket ship, all appearing on your screen as users in the same list, and it was your job with one guess to identify if any individual one of them was the real, tangible Apollo 42, odds are worse than winning the lottery that you’d pick the right one.  If you bet any more than bragging rights, you’d want to place your money on simulation, since there’s a far greater chance in the infinite-to-one odds that you’ll end up on the side of infinite.

Let’s assume that if we were a simulation we wouldn’t know it, because participants who know they aren’t real don’t act real and therefore negate the simulation.  We must either be real, or functionally ignorant of our status as Simulants.  Infinite-to-one odds.

There’s a whole theory with photos and expert testimony and everything, so if you want your mind blown further, there’s plenty of ammo to do the job in any web search, but I still have to get up in the morning.  I don’t need my mind more blown, I need to know where to put this in may brain.  How do I make sense of this when I’m sitting in traffic and my brain is running amok for lack of anything better to run it?  What do we do with this?  

Nothing.  If this is simulated reality, it will behave like reality, and in reality if you don’t pay your rent you don’t get to live there anymore.  A simulated job producing simulated rent for a simulated person is all the same to the person if they don’t know it’s a simulation, so drink your coffee and hit the road with a book-on-tape, because traffic is a part of this reality, simulated or not, and you shouldn’t leave your mind unsupervised.  It gets lost.

But there is one take-away…

If this is a simulation, don’t you hope they take good care of their digital storage?  What if the real end of the world is the program glitching back to blinking cursor on the digi-desk of a SIMS game designer who hasn’t kept their equipment room cool enough?

For the sake of all the ones and zeros running around in your digital storage, unaware that they are running inside a computer for you, hire an Engineer and keep a maintenance contract.  

Be a merciful God.

Comment

Comment

Summer is hard on tech

Summer is hard on tech.

Have you ever noticed how hot old tech used to get?  I had a special lap-desk for my lap-top because I couldn’t use it on my lap without burning myself, especially in the summer.  It was more the change in wardrobe than the actual heat of the CPU, I’d imagine, but the ambient temperature couldn’t have been helping any.  I’m glad they figured that out.  Go them.

But not everything electronic has made the leap to the magic that prevents overheating, and some are just out of luck—they require too much power to avoid heating up and no one can fix it, so fans are built in.  That’s what makes old computers noisy before they die—the fan is working too hard to keep up with overheating components due to years of dust build-up in the vents, etc.

If you have an equipment room and it isn’t a comfortable temperature in there year-round, something is wrong.  A well-designed tech-room will have proper ventilation to keep the system cool and dry—the ideal state for all electronics.  We can’t all knock holes in walls to create ventilation where none was originally installed, but there are always options that don’t involved just letting the equipment overheat.

The NAS doesn’t have a summer wardrobe, and if it’s too warm in there, overheated components start to break downCall your Engineer, or set an appointment with SkyTech to have an Engineer come out and assess the situation.  You may be considering a vacation, but your poor equipment fans are working overtime.

Comment

Comment

Fiction Friday: Daren, Chapter 3

Welcome to the ongoing saga of whatever story we are telling right now  It’s Friday.  Let’s do something else for a few minutes…

The noise in the equipment room was really, really loud.  Daren rocked back on his heels for a second before flipping on the light, knowing there was absolutely nothing he would see that could possibly be good news.

The light filled the room in sections as the florescent bulbs came to life one by one.  The room looked the same, not that Daren spent enough time in there to really know what it looked like.  The way the towers were set up, he had to step in and bend to see the back corners of the room, and he leaned as far forward as he could so his feet could remain as close to the exit as possible.  There was absolutely no chance of the server exploding or some such nonsense, but Daren had always been a fan of 1950’s SciFi and he had a healthy respect for mysterious rows of buttons, switches and lights.  

Buttons, switches and lights, Oh, my, Daren thought, completing his own ode OZ, feeling very much out of his element and wishing he had some tech-magical ruby oxfords to click.

Laughing at himself, Daren stood up straight and took a deliberate step towards the noise, which was loud enough to cause involuntary flinching as he approached the back wall.  His eyes scanned all the complex machinery, hoping to see something that was so obvious that even he could fix it, like a cord that came unplugged, or at least something he could identify to the Engineer—which machine, are the lights red or off, that sort of thing.

The machines looked fine.  Nothing was flashing red or smoking, at least, and since those were very bad things that weren’t happening, Daren considered it a win.  Perplexed and slightly braver now that he was all the way in the room and still alive, Daren began to look for a cause.

The equipment room was also home to a handful of items that didn’t have anywhere else to go.  It was a bad habit, but it wasn’t really an issue most of the time, and some of the storage was actually equipment for this room that they picked up recently and wanted to show to Phil during his next quarterly visit, so it wasn’t like they were using it as a catch-all.  In the back corner, two boxes stacked on top of a low cabinet made for a make-shift shelf, and the lid of the top box had caved under the weight, leaving the “shelf’s” contents to fall between the boxes and wall or into the box itself.

Someone had set a large fan on top of the second box, plugged in across the aisle with the power cord stretched as far as it could go.  Definitely not approved by the Fire Marshal.  Obviously the idea was to cool as much of the room as possible, heat rises, so get the fan off the floor and it will do more good.  But not like this, guys.

Luckily the loud noise was a broken fan, still trying to do it’s best to spin and hitting both the box, which sounded like a drum, and the nearby aluminum duct, which made up the majority of the repetitive hollow crash-sound.  All bark and no bite.  Daren was relieved for a million reasons, not the least of which was the fact that he had not called his boss.  Not only was the problem something obvious that Daren could identify, it wasn’t even the equipment.  He unplugged the fan, stopped the scary noise, and possibly even prevented a fire, had that fan-motor and cardboard had a disagreement.  Daren went from terrified in the hallway to heroic in the equipment room.

The silence was welcome, and it left a ringing in his ears.  Daren took a moment to appreciate it, then paused.  Something was wrong.

It was really hot in there.

Comment

Comment

Static Electricity isn't good for electronics

Static electricity is bad for electronics.

When you were a kid, did you ever deliberately drag your feet along the carpet to build up static electricity and then touch a doorknob in the dark to see the little blue spark?  The cool-factor justifies the tiny shock for a good half-dozen light shows before it gets less interesting, and that’s where siblings come in.  You can’t see the spark unless they happen to be in a dark room at the time, but suddenly you’re armed with the magical power to shoot teeny, tiny lightning bolts that zap and leave no trace—no mark, no weapon.  I have no idea what he’s talking about, mom.

If not, you missed out.  Go drag your feet along the carpet for a little bit, like back and forth twice along your hallway if you live in a small place, while wearing socks.  Then, touch something metal in the dark and you’ll feel the little jolt and see a spark.  It only takes a few seconds.  Go head—we’ll wait.

Now that we all have the same point of reference, that little lighting bolt is the transfer of electrons you basically scraped off of yourself while dragging your feet, because the carpet is too bound to its electrons to be a fair sharer in the exchange, leaving you positively charged.  When you touch something metal, which has more of an open-relationship with its electrons, loose negatively-charged electrons leap from the doorknob to your positively-charged finger so that you can be in balance again, and it makes a spark.  Real lightning is the same thing, but between clouds, surrounding air currents and the earth instead of feet, carpet and doorknobs, and it’s much, much bigger.

When you plug a lamp into the wall and turn it on, it lights up the bulb.  That same amount of energy powers your whole computer.  My screen alone is brighter than the lamp next to me so the whole thing is a little magical, if you ask me.  

Each of the tiny components inside electronics need only a fraction of the incoming power to work.  In fact, too much will destroy them, like sending enough power to light the Eiffel Tower through a single bulb.  Record that in slo-mo because the bulb will be a fine powder of glass-dust flying around a dramatic flash of fire before leaving you standing in a dark room with the strong oder of burned filament.  Shrink that down a whole lot and you can see what might happen to a specific component on the Motherboard of a computer designed to run on 1/100 of the power it takes to light a lightbulb.

Because electronics are finicky like that, serge protectors are built in to the power supply of systems to absorb the expected fluctuations in the regular supply, and we have power strips with serge protectors to absorb the unexpected fluctuations.  We try.

If you’ve never seen electronics being built, look it up.  Everyone is dressed like they work in a sterile environment because dust is the enemy and no one can accidentally conduct electricity.  If you have a shock in your socks and you’re on the assembly line, that component is toast.

There’s a magic to technology to those of us who don’t really understand, and to the Engineers among us it is a language, a science, and a lifestyle.  Thank you, Engineers, for keeping my world running.

If you don’t have a maintenance contract with a SkyTech Engineer to keep your system running safely, you might be a stupid spark away from frying something and not know it.  These things are sensitive, and a maintenance contract is more professional than an office-wide no-sock rule.

Comment

Comment

Fiction Friday: Daren, Chapter 2

Welcome to the ongoing saga of whatever story we are telling right now  It’s Friday.  Let’s do something else for a few minutes…

Daren shot back to his desk and made sure all of his changes were saved both on the shared drive and on his local drive—not a great idea, usually, but this might be an emergency, and he could always delete the extra copy later.  Everything closed and as backed-up as he could make them from his meager station, he stepped into the hallway towards the equipment room.  He froze mid-step, half in and half out of his office, suddenly unsure what he planned to do.

The noise was in the equipment room, so he was going to the equipment room to do…what, exactly?  Daren was not an Engineer on his best and most delusional day, and that was ok with him, because if Engineers could design ads then he wouldn’t have the Toyota account.  Call a doctor when you’re sick, drive a car made by someone who makes cars, not ads, and don’t touch the equipment room if you aren’t an Engineer.  Some things are just good rules to live by.

But the noise was bad.  It wasn’t happening, and then it was happening, which means something happened, and that something has to be bad.  Logic.  What do you do when something bad happens at the office?  You call the boss, because that’s why the boss makes more money than you do—to deal with stuff like that.  Plus, any decision made would be the wrong one if it didn’t turn out as hoped and no one called the boss for authorization first.

Daren pivoted back towards the desk to call, then froze again.  What was he going to tell her?  “Hi, boss.  Sorry to bother you at 2:00 AM, but the equipment room is making this knocking sound.  What should I do?”  The scene wasn’t playing out well in his head.

She would ask what it is.  I would tell her I didn’t know.  She would ask who would know.  I would tell her we have a maintenance contract.  She would tell me to call the maintenance contract person and call her back.

Ok, that made sense.  Daren would skip the step where he sounded dumb, call the Engineer, then text Brianna to tell her that he was working late when it happened and he’s already called it in but wanted to give her the heads up.  That was much better.

Daren moved toward the computer to look up the Engineer’s name.  Phil?  But it would be under the company name.  Daren flipped to S in his contacts for SkyTech.

But what was he going to tell Phil?  “Hi.  My name is Darin and I’m new to the team.  I think I saw you when you were here last time but I was in a meeting and you were in the equipment room and talking with Matt and Sharon. I’ve heard a lot of good things about you and we should hang out next time you’re here, but in the meantime, sorry to bother you, the equipment room is making this knocking sound…”

Daren rolled his eyes.  This was ridiculous.  He would touch nothing, but there was no reason he couldn’t open the door, flip on the light, and look around the room.  That way he would at least be able to tell the Engineer something, even if that something is that the room looks the same despite the noise.  He might even be able to pinpoint what machine seemed to be the noisiest, and that might be the sort of information an Engineer might need to solve the problem anyway.

Daren walked to the equipment room with his eyes focused in front of him as though he was afraid to look around.  He paused at the door, took a breath, and slid the tinted glass panel to the left.

Comment

Comment

More than the sum of its parts...

If you repair a sailing vessel, replacing each plank one at a time until the entire ship is made of new wood, is she still the same ship, deserving of the same title as she was christened?  If the discarded planks were then salvaged and built into a new vessel, is the result really a new ship, or does she rightly have a claim to the title she proudly sailed under when her planks were in their previous configuration?  I know the maritime answer because it goes back to someone paying for something to be registered somewhere and that fee must be collected, but the philosophical answer is still worth pondering.

I am a person, so my cells are doing the things that cells do all the time when I’m not paying any attention to them.  They live, replace themselves, and die while fulfilling some purpose involving converting sugar to energy or carrying oxygen through the blood or something like that, and I check Facebook.  They clearly have the more important job.

But there’s this whole list of how long it takes your body to replace all the cells of one type or another and we know how long it will take before our whole body is made up of all new parts even though we still have our same identity and memories.  My birth certificate, registered and paid for, is still mine.  Luckily no one is trying to take my old cells and build a philosophically questionable not-me.  Regardless, it is both weird and neat to know that when I say I’m not the same person I was back then, I mean it on a molecular level, and forgiveness is divine, but I digress…  

You don’t think about your company’s computer system unless that’s your job, but you are very aware when it doesn’t work, because life truly sucks and nothing gets done.  If the computer is going to be a paperweight, why I can just go home and waste time there?  I am not only skilled at doing so, well-practiced and stocked with options, I’m actually quite fond of wasting time at home.  You’ve been there, and you are not alone, because staring at a non-or-nearly-non-functional screen wishing it was the big-screen in your living room is like a Universal Truth.

Sometimes a computer system will die.  Nothing is salvageable, and you get to work to find a blinking cursor that only speaks a language engineers invented.  Luckily, we can replace parts as they need replacing so that never happens.  Is it still the same system if, in the end, it’s made out of all new parts?  Like maritime law and birth certificates, what’s it’s name?  If it’s still called the same thing on your screen, and you can still access it the same way, and your stuff is still there, it’s still the same system.  My creations will outlive me as long as a talented engineer continues to keep the system that stores them alive.  My cells can only divide so much, but technology will always be improving, and that is a form of immortality.  Just like how everything ever posted to the Internet will never really go away.  Ever.  

Plus once you get to that screen with the cursor, if a non-engineer touches it, all bets are off.  Props and respect to those who speak code, with enough humility and self-awareness to know better than to touch it myself.  SkyTech Engineers can sail the seven seas of SAN, replacing parts continuously to make sure you enjoy the smooth sailing your company expects when you turn on the computer in the morning, and I like to let the Engineers do their job.  I can’t do it, I don’t want to do it, and I have other things to do.   You shouldn’t have to think about it.  Like cells.  

Facebook just updated—I should check that.

Comment