The HP Way

Just in case you were wondering, RAM is not hot swappable.

I found this out a few years back when I killed a color LaserJet network printer at work. I had pulled out the old RAM and was attempting to insert the new. Before the card had even been seated in, I heard a *click* and the printer turned off - a minor detail I had overlooked prior to starting.

I had fried what HP calls the 'master logic board', which has the RAM slots. It only costs $609.  The printer itself cost $800.  This printer was special - the sum of the parts was vastly greater than the whole.

I don't know whether I was more embarrassed by the fact I was an idiot or that the technician HP sent out (I assume she was Bill Hewlett's grandmother) was about 65 years old, 4 feet tall and called me 'honey' - as in "Oh, no, honey, you should never try to change the RAM when the power is on. Hehehe!"

Sheesh. At least she didn't pat me on the head, but that was probably just because she couldn't reach.

Then, to add insult to insult, I called HP for some covered warranty work on a desktop motherboard a few years later.

I answered the knock on the office door, and - you guessed it - there stood Bill Hewlett's grandma.

"Hello, I'm Mildred from HP, and I'm here to...Oh!  I remember you!  You're the cutey who hot-swapped the printer RAM!  Hehehe!"


Things You Could Use My Left Arm For

Last week I made a list of a few things I'd give my left arm for.  There were no takers on my offer, so I thought I've add some incentive by listing a few things you could use my left arm for:

Writing guest posts for your blog*

A gift for the next busy person who tells you, "I've only got two hands!"

A doorstop

A 'conversation starter' for your coffee table

Spanking device for your unruly children ('don't make me get THE HAAAAND!')

Magic tricks

Employee motivation ('Good job! Give yourselves a pat on the back. Okay, now pass it around the table.')

Measuring cubits

*Batteries not included

If you're not going to take me up on the offer, the least you could do is come up with a few other creative uses for my left arm in case someone else wants it.

Have at it!


Guest Post for Sharideth Smith

I was going to take the day off, but Sharideth Smith, the slave driving blogger over at A Woman's Guide to Women, wouldn't let me. She chained me to my desk and made me write a guest post for her.

Before you hop over to that black hole, there's a few things you should know:

  • My post is a response to one of her posts. Here's her original piece on the worst date she, or anyone, ever had. If you don't read her version of the story, mine will make no sense. Just know that my version is the truth, and hers is filled with lies.
  • Sharideth pretends to be nice. She'll post things on Twitter like, "Let's all play Words With Friends together! It'll be a great big ball of fun." Then she'll decimate you and leave you crying in front of your coworkers and/or spouse. I swear I can hear her giggling through my iPod. And trust me, the only time Sharideth giggles is when you're in pain.
  • Even though Sharideth's blog has a lot of womanizing in the title, it's actually a guide for men. If you don't understand something about your woman, ask Sharideth. It won't be pretty, and you'll likely get humiliated, but she'll give you the truth with blinding clarity.

Bring a helmet, you'll need it.

"Oh my gosh..."

Today's tasty entree is a guest post from Isaiah Henni. I love his blog, not only because it's nicer, but because he's writing a series on his studies of Nehemiah, or as I call them, Ricky's Devotion Time Since He Didn't Get Up Early Enough. Oh, and I wrote a post for him a while back, but forgot to link to it from here since I was out of town and/or lazy. Go read it and pretend it's new. Also, pretend you enjoy it.
One of my friends who used to be in Tech Support related this story to me. I was grateful I didn't get this call, and you'll see why in just a second.

Me: “Tech Support, how may I help you?”

Caller: “My internet isn’t working. I can't open up Internet Explorer.”
Me: “Ok. What happens when you try to open it?”
Caller: “Nothing.”
Me: “Ok... when you click on it, nothing happens?”
Caller: "Yes."
Me: "Hmm. Now which icon are you clicking on?"
Caller: "I'm not sure what you mean."
Me: "No problem, do you know what version of windows you have?"
Caller: "Um, haha, sorry, no idea."
Me: "Ok, go ahead and click on the start button in the bottom left-hand corner."
Caller: "Ok."
Me: "Do you see the Internet Explorer icon?"
Caller: "No."
Me: "Ok, hmm. What do you see?"
Caller: "Nothing."
Me: "You don't see anything?"
Caller: "No."
Me: "Is your monitor on?"
Caller: "What?"
Me: "Is your computer on?"
Caller: "Well, I'm sure it is."
Me: "Is it making noise?"
Caller: "Well, no."
Me: "Ok, let's push the power button."
Caller: "Ok. [silence] Nothing happened."
Me: "No fan noise or anything?"
Caller: "Nope, no lights either."
Me: [skeptical] "... and you're sure you pushed the button?"
Caller: "YES!"
Me: "Wait, so it wasn't on before?"
Caller: "No."
Me: "Well, why were you saying you were clicking on things?"
Caller: "... I don't know. Are you going to help me or not?"
Me: [thinking] "Is the computer even plugged in?"
Caller: [long pause] "Oh my gosh..." [long pause] "Oh my gosh..."
Me: "Its not plugged in, is ..."
Caller: [interrupting] "Oh my gosh... just, forget I called. It is working fine... Oh my gosh, I can't believe I did that... Oh my gosh."
Me: "Thank you for calling Tech Support."
Caller: "You can't tell anyone this, just forget I called... bye!" [hangs up]
Me: [turns to co-worker] "You're not going to believe this."

True story. The person was saying they were clicking on things on the screen, when their computer wasn't even on. Then he finds out the computer has been unplugged the whole time.
This is why the good men and women of Tech Support will ask you every time, "Have you tried turning it off and on again?" and "Are you sure it's plugged in?"


Open Letters, Part 4

Dear Mr. Christian,

What are you forgetting?

I'll give you some hints.

You didn't misplace your keys.

You didn't leave the stove on.

You didn't skip the mortgage payment.

Relax, you didn't do any of these things.


What about Christ?  Are you forgetting Him?

He died for you.  He loves you so much He'd rather die than go to heaven without you.  Have you forgotten this?

Christ is who you get your namesake from.  He is who you're supposedly modeling your life after.  He told you to do some things that you haven't remembered.

Do you?

How can you expect those who do not claim to have Christ to live according to the principles of those who do?  They can't understand why Christ's way is better.  They have to be shown.

You know what He said to do.  And yet you run around causing fights and resentment.  You spread lies without a second thought of the truth.

Maybe you should do what you're told.


Things I'd Give My Left Arm For

Guest posts - you know how I say the Network Administrator Diaries posts write themselves?  Well...guest posts actually do!

To have written one of the books on your bookshelf - Then when you have me over for dinner one evening, I could casually saunter over to your bookshelf, 'peruse' it for a bit, nonchalantly select my book, and say, "Oh, this old thing?  Have you read it?  Not some of my best earlier work; doesn't really deserve to be next to the Tolkien.  Would you care for an autograph?"

Hitting the winning grand slam in the World Series - I played Little League for 16 seasons, and never once hit a home run.  I think this would make up for that.

Being in a movie, no matter how small the part - I'm fascinated by the film making process.  I make Jana sit through innumerable behind the scenes special features.  I usually enjoy them more than the movie itself.  I'm pretty sure she's going to kill me in my sleep if I make her sit through another one.

The ability to ride a unicycle - Come on, you know you want to, too!

To be half the man my father is - In a fatherless generation, I have been blessed beyond measure.

To test out some sort of cybernetics - Preferably something with lasers.  Doors open at my thought.  Vending machines dispense goodness with a point of my finger.  My tiny lawn mows itself while I watch baseball.  Mmmm, cybernetics...

What would you give your left arm for?



What are you most afraid of?

For me, it's failure.

I don't like doing something simply for the sake of being busy.  If I'm actually going to begin something, my intentions are to finish it and have a feeling of accomplishment and pride when I'm through.

However, I know that I make mistakes.  I know that I'm not the smartest or most talented guy around.  I know things don't always work out.  I know life sometimes gets in the way.  These thoughts lurk at the back of my mind like old cobwebs.

So I find myself all too frequently not starting what I know I should.  I don't lead where I'm called to because I'm afraid I won't be an adequate leader.  I don't innovate and show initiative as much as I should because I'm afraid I'll fall flat on my face while doing so.

I like being comfortable.  I am good at finding niches and squirming my way firmly into them, sometimes for good.  I don't want the empowerment and attention that come with success because I fear the shame and embarrassment that come with failure.

We always hear the story of the servant with five talents.  He made five more and was rewarded by his master.  But was the reward given in response to the success or the willingness to step outside the servant's comfort zone?  If he had invested the five talents and lost everything, would the master have rewarded him still?


Out to Lunch

Sometimes avoiding the obstacles to your goal is the best way of dealing with them.

Let's say your goal is to get to lunch on time to meet a friend.  You've finished upgrading the RAID array in the server room, and it's time to head out.

A new Network Administrator would simply open the server room door and head across the office to the parking garage.  However, new Network Administrators also do not eat lunch.  This is when the pack of Special Needs Users descends on him.  He will never see the light of day again.

Experienced Network Administrators, however, have prepared for this occasion.

When an experienced admin heads to lunch, he plans accordingly.  

He's built a secret passageway from the server room to the back wall of the kitchen. He swings open the secret back door of the fridge and snags his lunch.  Then he continues down the secret passageway to the trap door that leads to the parking garage.  Freedom!

The users could be chasing him of course, but he's not worried.  He's in no hurry because he left booby traps.

When a user pounds on the server room door, a bucket of keyboards and mice comes crashing down.

Any users stalking the Admin at his desk will be delayed until they figure out the guy in the chair is ignoring them not only because his headphones are in, but also because he is in fact a crash test dummy with a wig and a pocket protector.

If the users are dumb enough to pursue, the line of laptops leading to the parking garage will slow them down.  They're open, rigged like bear traps.

And while the users are licking their wounds, the Experienced Network Administrator is enjoying lunch, far away from the office.  There's food, there's quiet, there's no users...

...until his mobile rings.


Pet Peeves: Computer Edition

Today's guest post is from Tyler Stanton. He's hilarious, and he writes about dentists a bit too frequently.

After looking around Ricky’s blog for a bit, I knew this was the perfect opportunity to air some of my computer-related grievances. Here are a few things that drive me insane:
Double-clicking links
If I see you double-click a link, I already know everything there is to know about you. You have an email address. You shut down your computer after every use. Your internet start page is You have four different free-trial anti-virus programs running simultaneously on your computer. Oh, and your t-shirt is currently tucked into your beltless jeans.
Typing in the "http://" or “www.”
This is my fingernails-on-a-chalkboard. In the time it’s taking you to find those unnecessary backslashes, I could have visited the site, restarted my computer, made a sandwich, eaten the sandwich, and upgraded my computer’s firmware.*  
Acting overly ignorant
So you’re not a user. That’s fine. But when one out of every five people in the world with computer access is a member, a movie about it’s origin is nominated for the best film of the year, and it’s founder has just been named Time Magazine’s Person of the Year, there is absolutely no excuse for you to still call it “FaceSpace”.  
Not Googling something first
Google knows every answer to every question ever conceived. Google is never busy. And Google is never going to judge you for asking a stupid question. Search first, ask last.
Touching my screen
I’ve written about this guy before. You know, the guy who really wants to show you something on the computer. Instead of simply pointing to the link he wants you to click, he stabs your screen with his index finger with a force that could pierce elephant skin. It’s not really the smudges that get me – it’s the permanent rainbow-colored bruise on the center of my screen that will last until the end of time.
I’m sure you have a bunch of your own. What would you add to the list?
*This is the geekiest sentence I’ve ever written.
Tyler Stanton is part of a movement of people who don’t take themselves too seriously. His blog,, helps tens of people in their own journey every single day. His glorified pamphlet, Everyday Absurdities: Insights from the World’s Most Trivial Man, is on track to become required reading in all nationally accredited universities by 2026. If all goes according to plan, he will never own a dog.


My Many Valentines

How did he do it?  Why did he do it?  What was it like?

I'm pondering, of course, on the love life of the wisest man in the history of the world.  You may have heard of him; his name was Solomon.  He had 700 wives and 300 concubines.

My first thought is to dismiss him as a nutcase.  However, the Bible says he was the wisest man of all time.  Let's see what the wisest man in history can teach us about marriage.

Let's start with the early years.  At this point, Solomon probably only had a couple dozen wives.  He knew all their names, got along with their families, and bought them anniversary and birthday presents on time.  All was well, if not busy.

Fast forward a decade or so.  The kingdom is expanding, and so is the Solomon household.  There are now so many wives and concubines that they have to eat dinner in shifts.

Here's a typical conversation:

Woman:  How did my lord like his dinner?
Solomon:  Fine, baby, fine.  How's my little darlin' tonight?
Woman:  A thousand pardons, Sire.  I am but your humble cook.
Solomon:  Wanna get hitched?
Woman:  But my liege, I have no royal blood.
Solomon:  Have you tried my concubine program?
Woman:  I'll look into it straight away, Sire.
Solomon:  Tell your friends!
*Solomon glances around the dinner table, noticing the hostile glares of his wives.*
Solomon:  Oh, relax.  You know there's only you...and you...and you...

Another decade passes, and the hostile glares have turned into obstinate arguments.  Solomon is miserable, but he still loves the ladies.  After prolonged soul searching, he decides to implement a brilliant idea - the Bride Recycling Program ("When Your One and Only Gets Old and Ornery").  He retires the older models to one of the country estates, and marries a newer, younger model.

This sounds harsh, but Solomon is the king.  It also helps that the recycled wives can still participate in growing the family.  There's still the Wife Referral Program ("Send-A-Spouse").  For every new wife they send Solomon's way, they receive a larger stipend, keeping everybody happy and working together, as a family should.

It's fifteen years later, and Solomon is getting old himself.  His life is in shambles.  Most of the kingdom has been taken from him for his disobedience.  His wives won't speak to him, and he's lonely.

You would think he'd be depressed, but never fear - the Concubine Courier Service ("We Bring the Action to You") is here!  Meaningful companionship is but a carrier pigeon away!  One request, and Solomon can spend as much time with a lady of negotiable affections as he wants.

If you think love is complicated, be thankful you're not Solomon.

Happy Valentine's Day!


The Trojan Virus

Sometimes it's best not to explain.

Let me explain.

I got a call one time from a frantic PUD.  She was very upset about the virus Symantec had just quarantined on her system.

I informed her that if Symantec had successfully quarantined the virus, she was safe for the time being and I would clean and fully scan her system when I had a chance.

This was not good enough for Ms. PUD.

"What if it phishes me before you can take a look", she asked fretfully.

"Don't worry about it.  Just go about your normal day and don't go to any new or strange sites.  You'll be fine for a bit."

"But what about identify theft and phishers?"

"I'll take a look in a bit.  You're fine."

"I think I heard about this virus on the news!  It's going to take down the Internet!"


"Okay, what's the name of the virus?"

"It's a bad one!"

"What's it called?"

"The Trojan Virus!"


"That's a type of virus.  I'll take a look this afternoon.  Just stay off the Internet for a bit.  Cute puppies and Facebook will still be there when you get back."

"That's what it's called!  It says right here on the Symantec scan results screen.  It's called the Trojan Virus!"


"Oh, right.  I think I've heard of that one, too.  You'll be fine.  I know how to fix that one.  Just click OK and then close your laptop until I get there."

"Will the Trojan Virus go phishing until then?"

"No, it can't phish with the laptop shut.  It doesn't have enough space to cast a line."


The Customer Is Always Right

We were in a client meeting with a high-level executive, mapping out business processes and examining risk points and factors.

The executive raised the issue of ensuring data integrity and security for sensitive information that had to pass between departments in her organization.

Since the organization dealt with extremely sensitive information, none of their computers were connected to any outside networks.  Therefore, using a shared network file store or even simply sending an encrypted email between departments was not an option.

It was decided the information would be exchanged in person on encrypted CDs or DVDs.

The executive then started worrying about viruses.  "What if the department encrypting the disk has a virus on their system and passes it to the other department", she asked.

So we added a step to the process where the receiving department would decrypt the disk on a standalone workstation and then perform a full virus scan on the disk before copying the data onto their internal network.

We thought we had finally finished mapping out the process when she threw in another monkey wrench.

"What about the cell phone virus?"

"What cell phone virus?"

"I heard you can get a virus on your cell phone!"

"I suppose it's possible, especially if you have a smart phone that runs an entire OS, like Windows Mobile, but what are you getting at?"

"What if the person transferring the information gets a virus on their phone and it infects the disk they're carrying in their pocket?"

*Suppressed snickers of disbelief*

"It can't pass from the phone to the disk.  The disk is already burned, there's nothing connecting the two, the disk is encrypted, and it wouldn't be in the same format anyway."

"Of course it can spread!  That's what viruses do!"

After further discussion, it was decided we would err on the side of calm, well-reasoned logic:  We added a step to the process wherein the individual transporting the disk would carry his or her phone in a separate pocket.

The customer may not always be logical, but the customer IS always right!

As long as the checks clear.


Computer Death Certificate

I frequently work on others' personal computers.  This means I am also frequently the bearer of bad news.  This never goes over well, and those I'm helping never have backups, either.  So, in an effort to soften the blow, here is what I sent a friend regarding the latest fatality.

Computer Death Certificate

:  John's IBM ThinkCentre

Date of Death:  1/28/2011

Cause of Death:  Unknown hard drive issues

Attempts Taken To Revive:  Hardware diagnostic tools, boot disks, Windows repair install, rain dance

Attending Doctor:  Dr. Pepper

Administrative Items for Surviving Family Members:  Would you like to claim the body already?  He's starting to smell!


Eulogy:  Alas, poor ThinkCentre!  He served us well.


Obituary:  John's IBM ThinkCentre was a hard-working Pentium 4.  He was loved by all, even the young and small.  While he will be missed, those in mourning should be reminded he was old and sick anyway.  In lieu of flowers, those wishing to pay their last respects may donate to the family's charity of choice, the Dude, We're Getting a Dell fund.


How To Be a Better IT Guy

We often become frustrated with our users.  We argue with them.  We make fun of them.

But let's be honest - that's only one side of the story.

We can be just as bone-headed as any user.  I've had second helpings of humble pie while restoring a database some idiot, named me, deleted.

We can be less than helpful.  My mom's IT guy made her use an odd-ball workaround for years simply because he was too lazy to walk over to her printer and check it out himself.

We can suggest mindlessly stupid fixes for simple issues.  One of my users explained to our corporate helpdesk that clients had informed her she was not receiving their emails.  The suggested fix?  "If you are missing emails, have the client resend them."

We can be cranky.  The IT lady I replaced was scary.  She stomped out on me during my interview.  She would yell at superiors and peers alike.  She wouldn't come help you unless you promised something in return, like Starbucks...and she wasn't kidding.

We can be quirky.  IT folks aren't known for their people skills.  If you're reading this from your IT Commando Operations Headquarters, strategically located in your department's leaky basement, then you need to come up for air a bit more frequently.  Your users are nice and don't bite much, but you wouldn't really know, would you?  You should also go to the office Christmas party.  You may have been here for ten years, but to most folks you're still new since they've never met you.

What other things have you noticed IT folks failing at?

What will you do to be a better IT guy?


Open Letters, Part 3

Dear Mr. Atheist,

Why do you care?

If you've got it all figured out, good for you.  If you've spent your life searching for truth, and the truth you've found is nothing, then why are you still searching?

Why are you upset at God if He doesn't exist?  Why are you incensed when someone else admits their own weakness and accepts the eternal help of someone greater than themselves?

Why do you need to convince everyone else you're right?  Do you enjoy the tiny infusion of smugness you feel in your small, calloused heart when you use science and logic you yourself do not completely understand to 'win' a debate with someone less 'enlightened' than yourself?

Why don't you just call it a day and hit the golf course?

I think you can't let it go because you're a liar.  You're lying to yourself when you proudly proclaim, "I've got it all figured out!"

I'm not suggesting you blindly accept the next brand of religion that's sold at your front door next Saturday.  I'm simply suggesting if the best your equation can come up with is null, than you should probably reevaluate the variables and assumptions you're working with.

At least agnostics are honest.


Office Pranks

I like to educate my users.

One way I educate them is in the area of security.

For instance, everyone in my office now knows never to leave their computer unlocked.

While the computers may lock themselves after 15 minutes, my users have found that to be plenty of time for me to 'reconfigure' their workstation.

There's a fresh batch of newbies around now.  We love newbies.  They're so excited and naive.

They really aren't fair game, though.  They haven't learned yet.

The best ones to get are the old-timers.  Every now and then, you have to run get a print job or some other quick errand.  You'll only be gone a second.

I have a protege at work.  He helps with the computer duties when I'm out.  He's smart and a quick learner.

But some days he's not as quick as others.

I was working on the computer in the cube next to him the other day, and saw him get up and head for the door.  He tossed me a snarky one-liner, laughed, and continued out the door.

After 'reconfiguring' his workstation, I left him a note on his screen:

"You knew better."

I'm watching my back carefully.

I'd better print this out and proofread it before posting.


I'll only be gone a second...


Never Hurt a Vendor

Never, never, never.

I feel sorry for vendors.  They're so easy to take advantage of.  Let's take a look at a perfect example - my CDW rep.

He provides products, services and one-on-one attention.  He helps me do my job by getting me what I need when I need it.  He's nice, prompt, funny and occasionally answers the phone.  He's a pretty normal guy - a loving father of three who works from home on Fridays so he can see the kids he's trying to feed.

Why would you want to hurt this hard-working family man?

Because it's fun, that's why!

It starts off small, like asking for a price break or free shipping on larger orders.  If this works, then you know you have a patsy.  Patsies are the pushovers you need as part of your ordering process.

Patsies make talking on the phone worth the time and effort:

Me:  I'd like to order 10 laptops, please.

Vendor:  Sure thing, Mr. Anderson!  Anything else I can fall over myself to get for you?

Me:  Well, since I'm ordering in bulk, can you knock $50 off each one?

Vendor:  Ouch!  Sure thing!

Me:  *Confidence growing*  Oh, and would you throw in 6 flash drives and a couple dozen optical mice?

  You drive a hard bargain!  Will that be all?

Me:  *Confidence enlargement complete*  Sure thing, Pat.  Do you have any swag?  I could do with a CDW hat and maybe a couple shirts.


Me:  I'll take the large - thanks!

Vendors are people, too.  Don't take advantage of them.  Be nice.

Remember, it shouldn't hurt to be a vendor.


Open Letters, Part 2

Dear Mr. Liberal,

Why do you have to be so difficult?

Why do you need to argue with every point of contention made from those on the 'other side of the fence'?  Have you ever stopped to wonder if they might be right this time?

Why do you mindlessly swallow every point of contention made from those already on your own side?  Have you ever stopped to wonder if they might be wrong this time?

Have you stopped to ponder what it is you're swallowing and in turn force-feeding to others?

For instance, if you're so liberal, why are you for abortion?  You can call it freedom of choice, but that's a lie.  The choice is not free if it's only made by one of the parties involved.

As a liberal, you're a champion of human rights.  Where there is injustice, your heart bleeds.  And yet, in what could not possibly be a greater injustice, you stand on the side of the oppressor.

Why can't you just be, well, liberal - and therefore work to protect the rights of the unborn?  Seriously, you defend the lives of animals all the time.  Why not humans?

Imagine what would happen in our country if we actually listened to each other.  You don't trust conservatives because they're against everything you want, and vice versa.  What if you backed down and handed the next conservative you debate with, your fellow citizen, an olive branch?

Would that help you get one in return?

And if it did, would we be as divided as we are now?

Whatever happened to the United States of America?