Tales from the Techless

by Terence

Today, the big tech idiot was none other than myself.

It’s been a VERY LONG day.

Basically I was answering tech support calls for most of the day, and I was totally exhausted by the end of the day. My last call was to a Mac user who needed help upgrading an application that we developed.

Big time Waterloo.

I made a very bad Mac newbie mistake. I forgot that on the Mac, replacing a folder really does replace the folder. For example, if you have one folder called Pictures containing photos A, B and C, and you copy and paste a folder with the exact same name containing photos X, Y and Z. OSX will delete the entire folder containing photos A, B and C, and replace it with the folder named Pictures containing photos X, Y and Z.

In Windows, the behaviour is different. If you were to perform the same operation, the contents of the 2 folders would simply be merged, and you would end up with a folder containing photos A, B, C, X, Y and Z.

So anyway, long story short, I got the client to copy and paste the folder containing the new application into the same folder where the old version was installed. This sent the client’s entire set of data from the previous version of the application into oblivion. Needless to say, the client was not impressed, and was probably suppressing the urge to come over and strangle me in person.

I decided to make amends by re-keying the lost records based on a barely readable faxed hardcopy backup that the client happened to have. So I started work after dinner, but had to wait 10 minutes for my bloody office laptop to boot up, and then have the laptop freeze on me for another 10 minutes. The darn thing only plays well in the office network, and it goes nuts whenever it can’t connect to the office network and will just go into a comatose state until I give up and turn off the wifi on the laptop. Even then, it will still try to connect to the office network and constantly pop-up windows to helpfully inform me that the office network is not available. Sigh. I actually have plans to video the painful boot-up process and submit it to IT as a suggestion for improvement.

So anyway, I gave up on that and logged in using a different user account that I use when I do roadshows or go out on tech support visits. This account disables the annoying checks for the office network and prevents the laptop going into a coma. Once I had finally booted up and logged in, I spent the next 1.5 hours squinting at the hardcopies and transcribing the data back into the application. Finally I was done, and I tried to print a copy of the data for checking. But of course, it had to be the case that I was not allowed to print because admin access was required to connect to printers other than those in my office network.

To get around this, I decided to copy the data to my Mac so that I could print it. It was then that I found that the folder I had saved the data to was empty! WTF??! It turns out that as part of another annoying measure to ensure total Windows security, I only had read access to that particular folder. It was partly my fault. I should have known that logging into the laptop using a different user account might cause this problem. But then again, who would expect that C:\Program Files would have restricted access? User accounts I can understand, but surely not shared folders like this?

Normally, I think Windows would have warned me that it could not write to the folder, but somehow there was no warning message from Windows or the application I was using. In fact, I still got merry little messages from my application telling me that the data had been saved, when in fact it was unable to save anything at all, since I didn’t have write access to the folder.

I decided that I should suppress the urge to hurl my office laptop out of the window and switch to working using my Mac instead. Keying everything the second time round was slightly faster, and not as painful as I expected, but nonetheless still an experience I’d rather not repeat.

The last step after printing and checking the data was to email the files back to the client. For that, I had to log back into my office network, so I tried going back to my office laptop again, and this time I tried logging in with my normal office user account. It has been 30 minutes, and the laptop is still in a comatose state. Luckily I decided to hedge my bets and login remotely using my Mac.

What. A. Day. Sigh.