Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Chronicles of a Baby Boomer - Computers



I'm tired of this. For the past year I've been futzing around with my local computer network. I had it working well. I did most of my work on my Lenovo laptop. I balanced my checkbook. Monitored my budget. Wrote essays. Sent emails. And surfed the web. It did what I needed it to do. Like a good machine!

Each night, at 1:00 O'clock AM, my laptop would run a job that connected to my old tower computer in my office and back up all of my 'My Documents' files. I also have a two terabyte external drive that I periodically use to image copy my laptop. Standard IT procedure. I don't have an offsite backup strategy but, hey, if my house burns down my last years tax returns will be the last of my worries.

Last year I upgraded my tower to Satan-I mean, Windows 10. Things worked OK, so I did the same with my laptop. I didn't like it. I don't use my tower regularly, so I didn't really get a feel for the demon. My laptop, though. I use that all the time and want it to be clear, consistent, and reliable. Not a toy. To me a computer is an appliance. I don't want my toaster getting cutesy with me. And I don't need Windows' human interface, Satana, talking to me all the time, thank you.

I rolled back the laptop to Windows 7.

Since then I've had nothing but trouble with my network connections. I used to take for granted that my laptop could copy files over the network. I have an android tablet that could connect to my tower so I could look at documents from it. It was convenient. It worked fine. It did what I wanted it to do. Leave it at that, please.

Now, I get a new error every day! The laptop reports that the network drive is unavailable. Or not connected. Or already connected so it can't connect again and it won't let me use it, so there! Sometimes I will just go into my office, hit enter on the tower, and then rerun the nightly backup job. It then works. So the wakeup packet doesn't work. Except when it does. Because sometimes the nightly backup works fine. Hunkey dory! And now if I try to connect from my tablet I can hear the tower wind up in the next room. So the wakeup function is working! Then I keep getting logon screens that reject my logon credentials. I used to connect as an anonymous guest on a dedicated network. Are you getting suspicious in your old age, Turing?

So I Googled. And kevetched. And tried different things. And downloaded 'shareware' products guaranteed to fix the problem. And despaired.

Every time I got the issue resolved (kinda) a few days later it blew up again. Now, I can see the server on my laptop and open files just fine. But if I try to map it to a drive letter so I can copy files to it through a batch file running on a schedule, it screams bloody hell. I just can't win.

I was an IT professional back in the old days of mainframe computing. I won't pretend that they were halcyon days. We had our issues. But we had integrity. And standards. When an IBM mainframe had a brain fart, they wanted a dump of the system. They wanted to know what went wrong and how they could fix it. Our director was on the phone with IBM demanding to know what they were going to do about it. And they resolved issues. And waited for the next one.

When we converted to Unix I felt that the barbarians were at the gates. I took some classes in Unix, to learn about the new technology. We all sat at our workstations as the teacher told us of the wonders of Unix. I was told, The network is the computer. Ha, OK. Funny. No, really. Where is the computer? The network is the computer. Honestly. You mean to say that my workstation, computer, whatever, networked with all of these other devices is doing important work? Exactly. The work is spread out over the network. If your computer is busy, some of your work can be shunted off to another computer at another person's desk. The network is the computer.

How incredibly stupid is that!

The whole thrust of my latter career was to make our Unix servers behave like the reliable mainframe systems they were junking. Things I took for granted; error checking, logging, security; were absent or quite frankly a joke. And don't get me started on databases. I spent more time implementing data processing 101 shit than working on our customers' needs. I can say with satisfaction that toward the end of my seriously disgruntled career they were 'inventing' new large scale Unix and Windows servers. Metaframes, they called them. Or blade servers. Nobody has ever thought of this before. Behold Colossus! The mind of silicon! And weap at your inadequacy!

Not mainframes. No. Of course not. Never!

The only way I can keep any vestiges of sanity is to consider modern computers as toys. Not even appliances. I don't expect my toaster to start suddenly polishing my shoes. Or setting them on fire. But that's what I can expect from the silicon revolution. Upload my consciousness to the Singularity? Are you kidding? Just shoot me now. And use a real gun with a real lead bullet. I'm not taking any chances with virtual reality.

But at least I can be assured that todays computers are never going to take over the world. Not that they don't have a stupidly to match our own...

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