Man, am I glad I don't have to act professionally...

  • February 1, 2007

One of the things I do is freelance system administration. 

Okay, for most of the people I work with, I “fix computers and stuff.“ 

I truly enjoy doing it - other than the complete and utter hatred of computers I’ve learned to harbour over the years.  One of my passions is that someone’s computer should work as expected.  Systems shouldn’t be a mysterious pile of non-functional junk, it’s not beyond the realm of expected that they just work. 

Computers are a lot like a car.  They’re complicated critters and a lot can go wrong.  But at the very heart of it, whether you’re driving a three-ton grain truck or that sexy new sports car, you’ve got a wheel and some pedals you need to operate to make it go.  Don’t forget you’re going to be in way over your head if you don’t know what you’re doing and try something stupid.

We have ways of regulating stupidity.  You have to be licenced to drive a car.  You probably can’t haul that fifth wheel trailer with your Z4 Roadster.  (In fact, if you find a way, don’t call me to tell me about it.  You’ll probably want me to make your Commodore 64 stream oggs.)  Programmers try to create rules and designs that make computers easier to use and less prone to errors.  The truth is they have room to improve, but they are genuinely trying to make it better each day.

I lie between the programmer and the user.  I do the setup, I know the configuration, I can tell you what you need to make things go together and work properly.  I make the computer work as it’s intended by the programmer, and teach the user the rules the computer expects be followed.  Most of the time, it truly is a few simple and basic rules that need be followed.

I know I charge far less than I could (or likely should) for my services.  I’m not suffering from an abundant sense of boredom - like most of us, I’m busier than I can imagine.  I mostly appreciate that my clients have a working computer that isn’t spewing spam and viruses into the internet.  I’m using that internet.  We only have so much space in the tubes you know!

So, for reasons I’ll try to avoid explaining, I’m trolling around through computer fix-it type shoppes in town looking for buzzwords that are getting used to explain what they do.

Yes, I set up networking, plus wireless security.  Should I say I set up WPAs (or, if necessary, WEPs) on a WAP?  Would I get shunned socially for that?

I’m baffled at the number of horrible web pages that are up.  Now, I’m not saying I have the primo of web page design here - no, no, no!  What we have here is a very simple Community Server setup with the default appearance and anonymous posting finally turned on.
  But I don’t do web design, I do system administration.  I don’t care about how your webpage looks, I care about making sure the server spewing out your pages remains (mostly) safe.  When you’re advertising you do web page design, you should at least make sure your webpage looks good and stays current.  Unless you happen to be Jakob Nielson.  (In a very real sense, Jakob’s webpage DOES look good - it’s extremely information dense and purposefully designed with a minimalist flair.)

My favourite page of the evening - and I’m intentionally not including the link - “{The business} was formed in 1988 to provide Information Technology Consulting services for Alberta businesses. Now in our fifteenth year, we continue to provide customized Technology solution services to companies across Alberta.“  Wow.  Nice to know you stopped updating your web page four years ago.  I mean, I have my gaps in publishing, but that’s a little ridiculous.

It’s hard to get great service in Calgary right now, and I understand good people are gold.  I wish I could go around the city and fix every spam-laden, trojan-infested, ad-ware ridden system out there for everyone.  I simply can’t.  Instead how about you go check out my software recommendations first and try to do what you can on your own.  If that doesn’t work, give me a shout and I’ll figure out a way to help you out.

Just remember, if I show up at your door dressed like Harpo Marx, I don’t have to be professional.  I’m doing this for my own edification.