Leadership optimize

Sometimes it helps to be a little crazy

Einstein was famous for saying that the definition of insanity was doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Einstein never worked in IT of course. And sometimes being a little crazy helps get things done.

Einstein was famous for saying that the definition of insanity was doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Einstein never worked in IT of course. And sometimes being a little crazy helps get things done.

-----------------------------------------------------------

One of Albert Einstein's more famous quotes, especially around election time when candidates are talking change, is his definition of insanity. He said insanity was doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Although he was a great physicist, Einstein never had the chance to work in IT. Even though users are enough to drive you crazy somedays, computers themselves can display an annoying propensity to give differing outcomes when doing the same thing.

A recent example

I was recently reminded of the fact when TechRepublic's Jason Hiner gave me his old MacBook Pro. He had attempted to reinstall OS X 10.4 on it, but for some reason Disk 2 of the Setup CDs wouldn't work. Having moved on to another computer, he didn't give it much thought and gave me the machine and the disks.

I was initially merely irked when the disk wouldn't work. Twenty years of IT experience kicked in and I wasn't going to let a simple Mac beat me. I noticed some scratches on Disk 2 and tried to fix them, but to no avail. I also tried disks from several other machines, but they were all different versions of the Mac and didn't want to work.

Naturally, CBSi doesn't give original disks out, and their solution was for me to send the system back to San Francisco. That was not only an inconvenient solution, but it also wouldn't work because the Mac is a test machine purchased by TR and not under CBSi support. Foiled again.

Finally, I decided to try the Leopard upgrade DVD we had for the unit. Jason had mentioned we had it, but you had to have a working version of OS X on the system to make it run. Fortunately, this wasn't the case. The Installer would indeed allow a fresh installation.

So, I tried.  The first time it got about one-third of the way through and just hung. No error messages of course. The DVD drive just stopped turning, and the estimated completion time got longer and longer. I got the disk out, cleaned it, and put it back in. Now it wouldn't boot at all. Wonderful.

Having set the machine aside for a few days, I tried again later. This time the install completed about 80% before hanging again. When I restarted the installation, again it wouldn't boot from the drive. A solution was at hand.

The drive itself isn't bad. It installs other software, and Disk 1 of the original software works fine. But I noticed that the machine was getting pretty hot during the install, so I decided there was a heat issue causing the drive to flake out.

Fortunately, today it was a cool 40 degrees here in Louisville. Yup. You guessed it. I worked from home today and took the Mac out on the back porch. The install completed without a single hitch.

Although the drive hadn't failed completely, clearly it was getting flakey. Running in the cold weather kept the drive cool enough to complete the installation. So even though it wasn't a case of doing exactly the same thing over and over again, retrying the same thing eventually worked.

There were probably a bunch of other solutions that weren't quite as crazy. But in this case I was just being single-minded enough that I knew it was going to work eventually.

Other IT insanity

An example of IT insanity that Linux folk would point to is the fact that people keep using Microsoft products and are constantly surprised when things don't work or a new exploit comes out. Microsoft adherents would point out the insanity of constantly having to chase the latest RPM to get things working in the first place.

There are probably lots of examples you could come up with where you've done the same thing with a computer multiple times and gotten different results. Computers are supposed to be logical machines where certain inputs create defined outputs. It doesn't always seem to work that way though.

It's just enough to drive you crazy some days.

42 comments
klaasvanbe
klaasvanbe

Opening e.g. an Excel sheet for read only at the end it asks me if I want to save the changes... How could I've made changes if I'm supposed to just read and nothing else?

gil_gosseyn
gil_gosseyn

I've always told my customers that computers are usually 90% technology and 10% voodoo, but sometimes they're 90% voodoo and 10% technology. Sometimes you fix things with PFM (Pure F%#@ing Magic).

StevieW1964
StevieW1964

I call them proximity fixes. With some customers you just know that by the time you put down the phone, walk across site to their office, 50% of the time the machine has sorted itself!

bfordham
bfordham

A number of times, I will fix a PC when I look at it. The user that had the problem cannot recreate it when I look at the PC or when they call me. Those are the nicest fixes--when I don't have to do anything.

uranthos
uranthos

Sometimes all they need is just a trip in the car

StevieW1964
StevieW1964

It's not just Macs that do it. I had similar issue with Dell D series a little while back when ghosting was quite a common occurance in the office. No end of times I had to restart the image because the machine would hang at random points. Like the article, overheating was noted and after a couple of experiments with a fan at home the resolution was to pop the drive out of the machine and stick it under the aircon in the server room for 15 minutes. Worked every time - insanity busted!

theHankster
theHankster

I have experienced the same situation on two older HP laptops that would crash during a Windows install. Installing first thing in the morning worked on both. Oh, and both computers worked just fine after getting the OS installed!

rdrainer
rdrainer

I was working at a bank in Addison, Texas, where the team lead was the type of megalomaniac who would tell a stale joke, laugh at it himself, and then look around to make sure that everybody was laughing in the right way, and this bit of ancient humor (the definition of insanity) was what he chose to start a regular meeting, as though nobody ever heard it before. My experience and arrogance reared up, however, and I pointed out that, in IT, mindless repetition was known as "volume testing". He took offense at my undeniable truth and my contract was very short-lived after that.

goldenbinary
goldenbinary

Being the only technician working for a computer services business I can tell you, it's either called insanity or just plain thinking outside the box. Technology used to be so much more easier to work on successfully, even down to the MC level. I think that a lot of the problems these days are attributable to poorly written code that we see in op.sys, drivers, patches and the like.

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

Some days the TR artice / page / forum is there, others just a 404 or unavailable. The mind boggles.

.Martin.
.Martin.

abuse, when I can't figure something out, I get abusive (sometimes). most of the time, the computer works fine afterward. also threatening the computer works... since I started threatening my XP, it hasn't died since :)

santeewelding
santeewelding

But I'll pass it along. Master a low, measured, deadly tone of voice. Only, though, when you are itching to follow through to oblivion.

John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro
John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro

Hmmm... I may hafta try that. I find that cursing at the things works sometimes... Users have a tendency to not understand when you're talking to the machines however. You have to be careful what you say when there's a user around.

berryblitz79
berryblitz79

I agree with the installation on cold weather. I got a problem on installing Windows XP in a "Jurassic" laptop. The laptop kept on restarting while in the middle of installation. Solution: I open the air conditioner so the laptop won't get to heated-up. Cheers

BALTHOR
BALTHOR

Why do some nails bend?A STEAM DRIVEN NAIL POUNDER!Sir Winston Churchill's two fingers in the air or victory sign was for his two inventions."The zipper and the lawn mower."

santeewelding
santeewelding

And from where you speak. John, unfortunately, welched on his own premise of insanity.

John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro
John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro

Welched? I dunno about that. I think our friendly neighborhood Balthor quite nicely proves my point!

santeewelding
santeewelding

Like your "t" at the end of "though". That compression was but a slight impediment to your meaning. My algorithm, though, is always in need of work.

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

Just for a second there I though it said something else....

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

'round these parts. I'm happy I'm not one of them.

santeewelding
santeewelding

Pow. BALTHOR may suspend his explorations into what makes us tick and clean your clock. If he doesn't get around to it, I may.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Did you post the original article just to bait him?

Gate keeper
Gate keeper

I remember when i first started out in desktop support .. I loved getting to the bottom of a problem .. fixing the problem was not enough I had to know exactly what caused it and why it was happening. so if i did something over and over again with different results that would drive me mad. last time i was in a desktop support position .. if a software problem took more than 1 hour to diagnose we had to re-image and re-install everything :(

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

then just roll a new image out. Why waste my expensive time with a desktop!

Gate keeper
Gate keeper

but ironically we were supporting the top executives of the company so their time cost a lot more $$$ and that was the driving factor ... i was told it was cheaper to get them a new machine then waste 2 hours tinkering. now .... i can appreciate that IT is a support role and not the bread n butter of most businesses. so sometimes what is technically the best is not the right choice

John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro
John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro

Albert Einstein said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. As anyone who works in IT knows, if a computer is having a problem, sometimes doing the same thing again and again will ultimately make it work. Or at least you'll figure out what the problem is. I outlined a case just recently playing with a Mac that I detailed in Decision Central: http://blogs.techrepublic.com.com/decisioncentral/?p=170 What experiences do you have that are like that? And what drives you crazy about working in IT?

uranthos
uranthos

When a query is run repeatedly.. sometimes it works, sometimes causes a type cast error. Depends on how the ?optimiser? does its magic. ?nuff said :(

TroyW
TroyW

I was crazy once. They put me in a box. The box had Vista in it. I don't like Vista, it makes me go crazy! Crazy? I was crazy once. They put me in a box. The box had Vista in it. I don't like Vista, it makes me go crazy! Crazy? I was crazy once. They put me in a box. The box had Vista in it. I don't like Vista, it makes me go crazy! Crazy? I was crazy once. They put me in a box. The box had Vista in it. I don't like Vista, it makes me go crazy! Crazy? I was crazy once... ;)

Ron Larson
Ron Larson

I found using a air can on the fans and openings helps older laptops release the heat problem. Most laptops get fuzzy bunnys and get plugged after a cleaning 99% work much better

Tig2
Tig2

John- try getting a cooling rack (your wife has one in the kitchen- you cool cookies on them) and putting it under the laptop. They are lightweight and portable and they keep a good airflow around the machine. It's the best $5.00 you can spend toward protecting your laptop investment. And I second Cupcake. Macs are not simple!

John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro
John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro

Hmmm... first time I've ever heard about using a cooling rack to run a laptop on. Interesting solution. Might be a tad uncomfortable! Generally I use one of those wooden lapdesks for reading and writing. Usually does a fairly good job. And I know they're really not simple. They're certainly sold like that though, aren't they? Always fun to tweak Mac users a bit over it though. :) Thanks for the tip!

santeewelding
santeewelding

She's got you cold with the cookies. No sane man would question that rationale. Not if he likes cookies.

Tig2
Tig2

I have a dining room table in my home office. Space is at a premium so my table also serves as a surface I can do scrapbooking, other art, and sewing on. When not being used for other things, I have an old Dell lappie and my Mac on the home network. The cooling racks are underneath each machine. In fact, there is a cooling rack for every laptop in the house. The beauty of this arrangement is that I always have one handy if I want to make cookies. Unlike the Targus Ice Pad, the cooling rack just facilitates what the machine is designed to do anyway. It raises the machine up from the solid surface by about a half inch. That way it never grows too warm- we had a Vaio self destruct due to constant overheating. From you, I'll take the tweak. I know that you aren't an MS purist and so no harm intended.

cupcake
cupcake

Here's the shake of the finger for your comment... "I wasn?t gong to let a simple Mac beat me"... apparently not so simple after all. And yes, I drank the six-colored kool-aid. ;-) [Edited for misspelling]

britt.bergman
britt.bergman

and linux is easy to use.

Tig2
Tig2

Mac owners tend to like the hardware just as much as they like the OS. Although I will admit that I also enjoy opening the Terminal and using the command line. I like LINUX as well and it runs nicely on the Mac.