IT is not my friend. Or is it?

I’m not talking about my iliotibial (IT) band, nor am I talking about the monster from the Steven King novel1. I’m talking about information technology. Which seems to have had my number recently. I think this whole IT being a problem thing actually started last Thursday, when I ordered a pizza online and when it didn’t arrive after a long, long time, I called the pizza place and apparently their computer had crashed and they hadn’t bothered to reboot it, so my order was there, but they didn’t know it ’til I called and they went “oh, I guess we should reboot our computer”. And I ended up with a later pizza than I wanted, though I did get it for half price!

Crick on a pizza box
While not happy the pizza was late, Crick was satisfied with the pizza box as a new place for sitting.

The next morning I awoke happy that I was able to work from home today, but then discovered that my wifi was not working, though a reboot of the modem fixed that issue. Much more concerning, however, was that my work laptop would not start. The power button light came on, but the screen was just blank. I tried turning it off and turning it on again, the universal fix for computer problems, but that didn’t help.

Props to my friend Steven for finding that clip on YouTube!

The first few times I tried holding the power button to shut it down and then holding the power button to turn it on, I saw a flash of the ThinkPad logo for a fraction of a second, but after a few attempts, I couldn’t even see that.

I tried plugging it into my monitor in my home office, in case it was just the display, but that didn’t work – my monitor just showed me a blue screen. (In fairness, I’ve never plugged my work laptop into my home monitor before so had no idea if it is just that they aren’t compatible with one another2. ).

I was doing this while on a series of conference calls. Thankfully, my home laptop was working so I was able to check my emails and calendar and whatnot with that so that I knew things like what the teleconference number was and getting the emails about why everyone else missed one of the calls and what time we could reschedule the call.

Eventually I decided that doing the same thing over and over again was not getting me different results, so I emailed the IT guy from my office, who suggested that I turn it off and turn it on again3 When I informed him I had tried that, he told me about a reset hole that you stick a paper clip in to do a reset, which I didn’t know my laptop had and though it didn’t work, at least I know about that for future reference.

So he suggested that I bring the computer by the office for him to look at. So much for me getting to work at home! And off I went to my office to drop it off. Our schedules unfortunately did not match up so I couldn’t actually meet up with him – I could be at the office by 1 pm after finishing my conference calls, but would have to leave by 2 pm to get to another appointment, whereas he had another meeting that meant he couldn’t get to my office until 2 pm.

Anyway, I got to the office and decided to try plugging into the dock there and lo and behold the damn thing worked, albeit only showing stuff on the external monitor! So apparently the problem is with the laptop screen not working, rather than the computer as a whole. I still left it there for the IT guy to see if he can figure out what the deal is – he emailed this morning to say that he had to send it in for repairs, so it will be *at least* 10 business days before I get it back. My office was able to provide me a loaner laptop for that time, but now I have none of my bookmarks, my browser add-ons, or my various other settings for stuff I do every day.

The other – minor by comparison – IT annoyance was that I’m not able to use my credit union’s deposit-a-cheque-by-taking-a-photo-of-the-cheque-with-my-smartphone option to deposit royalty cheques from my publisher because it is a US company and you can only do that with Canadian cheques. So today I had to go to an actual credit union branch, like Neanderthals used to.

As I was reflecting on my IT woes, I thought about this bit by Louis CK:

And really, when I think about it, the vast majority of my technology worked flawlessly during this time (and most days). I was able to work from home for most of Friday because my own laptop worked fine (as did the modem after a quick turn-it-off-turn-it-on-again), my smartphone allowed me to keep up with emails while I took the driver-less Skytrain (which I paid for by swiping my Compass card, which automatically reloads itself when my balance dips below a certain amount so that I never run out of transit fare) to my office, which I accessed by swiping my fob, and then I dropped off my laptop, the repairs for which will be taken care of my IT guy, who responded pretty much immediately upon my sending him an email. And now I have a fully functioning loaner laptop for work while my main laptop is being repaired. Most fortunately of all, I had just backed up all my files onto an encrypted thumb drive on Thursday4,5, which I did after a co-worker lost a bunch of files when her laptop died and she’d been saving stuff on her laptop’s drive rather than the network drive. I have an iPhone, an iPad, a laptop, and a television, all of which connect to all of the information ever via The Internets. My car tells me when it’s time for an oil change, my alarm clock updates itself automatically to account for Daylight Saving Time6, and my washing machine can tell how dirty my clothes are. I can email money instantly to family and friends from my phone, I don’t have either a home phone or cable TV because I can get everything I need through the my smartphone and the Internet, and I have a contraption that will feed my kitties at whatever time I set it for so that I can work a 15-hour day without having to come home for cat feeding duties7.

So, yeah, I think maybe I’ll give IT a break here and be thankful for all the modern conveniences I have rather than being upset when one of them doesn’t work perfectly at all times!

  1. Though both of those things would be good guesses for things that might not be my friend. []
  2. Spoiler alert: It was just that they weren’t compatible, for some unknown reason. []
  3. In fairness to him, I’m sure that many people call him without trying that. []
  4. I’m not able to back my files up on a network drive due to a peculiarity of my work situation where I technically work for a research centre, but am mostly at a project office, and my research centre-owned laptop does not play nice with the project office network. []
  5. I also store the most up-to-date copies of my most important files on a SharePoint site that I share with my business analyst. Fortunately, none of the files I have as of yet contain any confidential information, so I’m able to do this. []
  6. Yes, I still use an alarm clock instead of just using the alarm on my iPhone. I’m a Luddite. []
  7. OK, maybe that last one isn’t so great! []

5 Replies to “IT is not my friend. Or is it?”

  1. For (4), they really should be able to fix/address that. I mean, I can see how initially it might have posed a problem but you’ve been working there for over a year now and it’s really in everyone’s best interests for you to have an easy way to cloud-backup your stuff because thumb drives can get lost muy easily.

    For your bookmarks and addons… what browser are you using? Firefox, right? So… can’t you set up Firefox Sync? Or are they forcing you to use IE still? Because both Chrome and Firefox for sure have syncing built-in to the program, so you should be able to get that up and running. And I assume even IE has something like that available. I have two different Gmail accounts I use to sync my personal stuff and my work stuff while keeping them both separate.

    (6): That is shocking. And disturbing. I’m not sure we can continue to be friends anymore. 😛

    Once you have your work laptop working again, you should definitely try hooking it up to your home external monitor(s). It probably didn’t “just work” owing to some driver issue and even though I assume your work laptop is locked down (because heaven forbid we let intelligent people manage their own tech!), you may be able to set it up to work with your home monitors once its actual built-in screen is fixed.

    If it makes you feel any better, when I last ordered a pizza online (Sunday night), one of my two dip choices was wrong (even though I always get exactly the same dips, which is to say two of my favourite, so it’s pretty uncomplicated). The driver offered to come back but I just couldn’t justify putting him through that, especially given it probably wasn’t his fault. *sigh*

  2. @Kalev – Thanks for the reminder about browser synching! I use Chrome, so after reading your comment, I just signed into my Chrome account and all those bookmarks are back! Unfortunately, I have to use IE for accessing the web version of Outlook (as I can only have one of my two work emails through the Outlook program on the computer – the research centre one if I’m on my laptop or the organization’s email if I’m on the loaner laptop). You can open the web version of Outlook in Chrome, but it doesn’t work as well (e.g., you can’t drag-and-drop emails into folders, which I do *a lot*). I also have to use IE to access SharePoint sites – they don’t seem to open in Chrome. And I didn’t set up browser syching for IE on my laptop, so for now I’ve just had to re-bookmark. Thankfully, I only use those few things on IE, so it wasn’t too much.

    For 4, their solution is “we’ll provide you with one of the organization’s laptops”. The problem with that is that those laptops are so locked down that I can download any software on it, so I’d rather use my one from the research centre instead.

    I will try hooking up my laptop to my home monitor once I get the laptop back!

    Also, to make things extra annoying, when I tried to open my files from the thumb drive on the loaner laptop, it wouldn’t let me access the files. Apparently, the loaner laptop is too new and thus won’t work with that thumb drive, so if I want to access those files, I have to borrow and old laptop!

    1. That’s really weird because when I log into OWA (Office Web Access, I think) for UBC, I can drag and drop emails to folders just fine and I’m pretty sure I have access to the “full” web version. We have an option to use the “light” version (it’s a checkbox) but, of course, I always make sure that is off.

      Wait… you seriously have TWO work emails even though you’re really only working on one thing? Can’t you get your least-used one forwarded to your main one? That would be way easier.

      As for SharePoint access, I have no doubt that might not work via anything but IE because Microsoft is freakin’ dumb. Have you tried installing something like IE tab on Chrome? https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/ie-tab/hehijbfgiekmjfkfjpbkbammjbdenadd?hl=en-US

      Basically it uses your computer’s IE engine to render stuff but in a Chrome tab, so that should work for you.

      As for their “solution,” that’s totally unacceptable. They should be able to make their network work with any computer. Again, it is in EVERYONE’S best interests, not just yours, for you to have easy access to easy off-machine backups.

      Regarding the USB drive… uh… I’ve never heard of a USB drive NOT being compatible with a newer machine. Is it more the software used to encrypt it isn’t? Because that sounds really weird. A newer machine might have a USB 3.0 port but those are backwards compatible with all USB 2 drives/keys/sticks/what have you.

      Basically all this means is that I really have to have a look at your stuff next time I’m over.

  3. I can forward one email to the other, but I’ve been told by people who’ve tried it that it’s not very reliable (i.e., sometimes it just doesn’t forward your emails) if you set it up on your own. Apparently I can call Service Desk and have them do it for me and that works better, but I haven’t bothered.

    For some reason, the not using OWA light option doesn’t work in Chrome for our email (whereas it does allow the non-light version in IE). I have not idea why.

    I’m assuming it’s the software to encrypt the data that is not compatible.

    I will try that IE tab for Chrome! I’ve never even heard of that one before. Thanks!

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