Friday, March 21, 2014

So many options, lets use 'em all!

My company is working on a push to get various social media type communication tools as well as video conferencing solutions in place.  Now, we are famous within the silicon valley for two things: Using technology for a decade past its prime and using technology so new that its bleeding edge and usually not ready for prime time.  One of the items that has dogged us for years is the ability to have a live video stream of the quarterly company meeting to all of the offices outside of the silicon valley.  Usually this is a failure because they don't want to spend any money while still producing a Hollywood production.  On several occasions I have improvised for a small meeting, usually using WebEx, and someone mentioned this to executives.  So suddenly they are wanting to use the WebEx platform to steam the video of the meeting, not realizing that it has limits to the picture it will show.  The VP wore a brown outfit for the big meeting and really just looked like a brown turd moving back and forth across the video.  The best part was that I recorded the meeting for later playback in the other time zones.  The VP looked at the playback and made that observation of a dancing turd over my shoulder.  I said nothing.

So now I have spent the last two weeks spinning my wheels testing a new video streaming solution for this project.  In order to see if this will work, we are running a test meeting.  So right now I have a speaker standing in front of a camera run by a professional production company.  The camera is running back to to their bank of equipment, which is then feeding a point to point video meeting solution that we have installed as well as a laptop feeding the new video streaming solution.  The audio is going out over the Point to point system and through a conference call bridge.  We are also tying a WebEx into the presentation to make sure that those who just want to see the PowerPoint presentation can follow along with it.  We are also having to make changes to the firewall across the whole infrastructure to allow this solution to work.  Oh, yea, we also had to implement a virtual server, which did not work at all at first.  All in all, I am looking at a production team of 12 in the room, plus at least 6 in outlying offices running the systems in those offices, and this is just for the test.   We will have twice as many production team and twice the equipment for the actual big meeting.  So many points of failure its ridiculous.  After it is complete, we will still have the production company process the recording to put up on our intranet for playback in other time zones.  And somehow, this seems to be the best solution...

Monday, March 17, 2014

I'm just trying to help...

I have recently become more frustrated with my company's helpdesk.  Despite the promise of a new day with them being brought in house and staffed by actual employees, the expected improvement has not been entirely successful.  One of the big frustrations is in their ticket writing skills.  You see, when receiving the trouble tickets from the helpdesk in the past, my group has had to deal with poor spelling, absent punctuation, a poor grasp of the English language and one phrase that popped up repeatedly: "Google did not find the answer."  We also apparently fell down on "doing the needful", tho we're still looking for that in our procedures.

Our new helpdesk promised to erase these issues, and in some cases I see that they have.  However, I can't say that the solution is better.  Now I get tickets with no troubleshooting information at all.  Some have contact info, but that is even a stretch and often incorrect.  What is better is when I reach the end user and find that they were on the phone with the technician for 1 to 2 hours and a variety of changes were made but not documented.  In an effort to improve the situation, I exchanged emails with people above me and above the helpdesk, communicating the issue and requesting a better job in providing the troubleshooting already done.  When asked for an example of a properly documented ticket, I provided one that I created specifically for a user that bypassed the helpdesk and came straight to me.

Number:  42172
Status:  Completed
Entered By:  Irishdoh
Customer:  Tom Smith
Description:  Computer not authenticating to the domain.

Initial Troubleshooting:
The machine has long ago fallen off the domain.  I will endeavor to work feverously through the afternoon to correct this unfortunate mishap.  I will further toil to educate the user on the proper methods and procedures to ensure that this unfortunate situation does not occur upon the morrow or thereafter.

I have found the following issues to be detrimental to the proper operation of this computer:
1.  The computer is not running our image.
2.  The computer does not have our standard Administrator password.
3.  The computer does not have our standard backup IT login.
4.  The computer name is too long and will not properly authenticate to our network.
5.  Lunch is not sitting well with me and this is making me a bit cranky.

I am working to correct these issues.  However, number 5 will likely not fixed until after I go home.

Closing notes:
The following steps have been taken to rectify the unfortunate situation that was created with the improper use of the laptop:
1.  I disabled all forms of communication to the laptop including semaphore and smoke signal.
2.  I logged in using Tom's cached credentials and corrected the administrator password to our company standard.
3. I have added the it login and set the account to use Administrator privileges.
4.  I removed the computer from the "domain" and put in into the "schmuck" work group.
5.  I logged into the computer as the local Administrator and corrected the name to allow proper joining of our impressively secure domain.
6.  I restarted and logged back in as the administrator to enable the Network Interface Card and test the semaphore communication.  Smoke signal is still disabled.
7.  I added the computer to the impressively secure domain.
8.  I restarted yet again, as this is Windows (Land of a Thousand Reboots!), and logged in as Tom.
9.  I checked that everything but smoke signals were working properly and then impressed upon the user the grave and stern language that I would use if he again decided to impair his computer in this way.
10.  Success!  Drinks are on the house!  Huzzah!

I later in the day received a note from my director thanking me for my input and politely requesting that I keep my suggestions to myself in the future.  I recall a hole and my ability to jump into it were mentioned in the conversation.  The next ticket assigned to me had no notes...

Monday, March 3, 2014

You should question those elected...

Most people complain about their elected representatives when they do not act according to what the constituent wanted.  However, they also fail most times to put this complaint in writing and send it to said elected official.  While I have seen elected officials participate in meet and greet events, generally unless you are donating money to a campaign fund you will get lip service at best.  I am sure that there are exceptions to that observation, but I bet it is correct about most elected officials at the state and federal level.  So when you see an elected official actually expending effort to get that feedback from his constituency, it is always interesting to see who complains.

This brings us to the lovely area of Kent in the UK.  A local MP has decided to poll his constituents regarding the oft mentioned "UK in/out EU Referendum" as to their views on the subject.  Using only money donated for this purpose and volunteers to assist, he is asking his constituency (about 450K people) if they would vote yea or nay on staying in the EU.  Simple enough, not legally binding, but would yield data on the subject not currently to be had.  This is not a random poll at a supermarket or train station, this is a question sent to every household in the constituency.

What is amusing is the response by the various politicians.  One party complains about the "publicity stunt" while the other compliments him because they feel that it will only bolster their argument and eventually, their cause.  Either way, they fail to see the point.  The point is that the politician is actually asking the people what they think about a fairly important subject.  It is something that should be done more often, especially in our new digitally connected world.