Who was it who said, back at the dawn of computer time, that optimising for performance de-optimises for almost everything else? Up to a point, Lord Copper. I suspect whoever it was hadn't tried to pacify six PC users who are forced to access all their apps on terminal server over a 128K Kilostream circuit. Sadly, my attempts at soothing them with the promise of a better tomorrow are starting to wear thin even to my ears. Maybe I should go into politics...
Hey-ho, the Exchange Server POP3 connector has broken again. According to the log, it's been down since yesterday afternoon when the last external emails were safely gathered in. This has been a regular occurrence since the new anti-virus went in but nobody seems able to figure out why. Our supplier's support people, the vendor's support people, the technical gurus we keep locked in a darkened basement they're all baffled. Happily, none of this matters very much because our recruitment consultants, most of whom rely totally on email to conduct their day-to-day business, don't notice when they're not getting any new messages from the outside world. That is of course, unless one of them is expecting an amusing MPEG from a friend at another agency.
For the most part, sales is an honourable profession. No really . I positively welcome contact from good salespeople. They frequently serve a highly useful function, shedding light on new or enhanced solutions that would otherwise simply slip by me totally unnoticed in the great amorphous galumph of product news that makes up the detritus of everyday life. Nor do I mind the long-standing IT business convention that salespeople somehow gain credibility from the ornamentation of their job titles with comforting euphemisms such as "engineer" or "technical".
These days, though, it's not uncommon for the "sales" part to be dropped altogether in favour of "technical consultant" or, worse still, "senior technical consultant". We had a visitation from one of the latter this afternoon. This individual was here to deliver his wisdom on whether a mirrored server architecture would enable us to dump the leased lines connecting some of the branch offices in favour of a cheap and cheerful VPN.
Our mentor began by demonstrating his attention to detail, asking lots of questions about our current setup. Maybe he should have read the RFI we completed for one of his lesser colleagues a fortnight before. He then presented the results of his research to date. This essentially comprised a mix of the contents of our own requirements specification and some product background we Googled up for his aforementioned colleague all served up in regurgitated form in Powerpoint. The show climaxed with a promise to get back to us within a week with a "firm proposal". Then he was gone. Next time, I'm going to insist our supplier sends someone with a good, honest "sales" in his job title .
The finance director insists he needs XP Professional on the new accounts PCs to enable the new iteration of his payroll package to function properly. My first inclination is to point out that we can pick up Windows 2000 licences more cheaply, that it's been around longer, is more stable and less prone to compatibility issues. Then it occurs to me that there's an alarming possibility he has a point. Maybe we should be buying Microsoft's new stuff now. Its new direction, evinced by the likes of Server 2003 and XP Service Pack 2, actually looks pretty promising to me.
Let's put to one side the ludicrous size of the SP2 download and the fact that the company has taken some fifteen years to realise the blindingly obvious that it's better to supply an OS with everything switched off by default than to compromise customer security by leaving everything switched on. The good news is that Microsoft is finally loosening the stranglehold of the backwards compatibility fetishists. I don't imagine for a moment that this means the continuous stream of OS updates will abate for a while yet, but at least the first step on that journey of a thousand miles has been taken.
In at five in the morning to apply yet more Windows patches, an activity that always carries with it the risk of breaking a working system. I suppose, if I had time to do the job properly, I'd fully test these updates before installation. But I have to get it done before everyone else's working day begins and, strangely enough, I have other things to do this year. There's the latest iteration of the CRM to install; the long overdue test restores on a few samples of the backups to do; our support firm to shout at; an endless loop of Mendelssohn's Italian Symphony courtesy of the ISP's support line to listen to; and, maybe, just maybe, a life outside this place to get.
So there will be no testing of the new patches. As with countless previous occasions, I'll just keep my fingers crossed that the sky doesn't fall in when I reboot.