Pinpricks, annoyances, and other slithy toves

As 2011 comes to an end, IT consultant Bob Eisenhardt shares his list of things that make his life difficult.

On a recent trip to Atlanta to visit the grandkids, my wife and I checked into a hotel room, and I knew trouble was ahead the moment I fired up the laptop for their wireless. For starters, any hotel room with a number in excess of X20 has weak Internet. It can be Room 322 or 438 but whatever those numbers are, they are rooms at the end of the hall, and most hotels do not have wireless extenders at the end of the hallway. Signal strength is abysmal, and sometimes I've even gone down to the lobby to work; once I actually got a stronger signal from the hotel next door to the one where I was staying. Also, it seems that hotels with wireless Internet love to deactivate the hard cable RJ45 line that is waiting, enticing, on the desk. Please keep that cable live as a backup connection.

Hotels have one other curse: the game of defeating the business center computer. Some of these computers are locked down very well, but others are wide open. I consider these systems a challenge and have sometimes gotten around them. On my next visit, I will try accessing a locked hard drive through Internet Explorer to see if I can go anywhere. On the other hand, I have seen wide open computers that are so ransacked by kids they are just awful. My main beef is that it took me a while to discover that remote desktop can be run in a public mode ( /public), which deletes my saved settings so that the next user does not see all the good places to go. You can also clean these hits out of the registry too.

More annoyances, musings, and wish list items

  • Why can't USB jacks be reversable? Every time I am working in the back of a computer putting in a cable that I cannot see, invariably the USB one is backwards, and I have to push, prod, and carefully turn around before the thing goes into the jack. It would have been very easy to make the wafer have dual connections on either side, which is true with many cables.
  • Why do RJ45 and monitor cables have to find and seek every possible other cable to catch their clips on? I have wondered if there is intelligent life in these things that make them wander all over the place to find other cables with which to play. Ever try twisting an RJ45 cable in a 180 degree spin to plug it into a jack? Nope, some of them just want to go in this way, thank you.
  • Why do Windows servers spend ages preparing network connections on boot? They should already have those settings taken care of, but servers love to slow down my entire day by spending three or more minutes preparing stuff. Memo to Microsoft: don't put messages saying "preparing" anything on any operating system -- I would feel much better if the message was telling me something other than that. The same goes for "preparing personal settings" and such. Just do it and move on.
  • Why does Microsoft reinvent the wheel (i.e., operating system) every four years? Windows Server 2003 is still solid; Windows Server 2008 is a very good successor; and now we have Windows 2011 Server and Windows 8. It is impossible for consultants to keep pace with these changes and harder for our clients to migrate all of the time.
  • In the past few weeks, I have seen many of my clients ask me why Internet Explorer is suddenly eating up tons of memory. IE ramps up to 99% CPU usage and crashes users' machines (though not my system), and AVG Antivirus is reporting this high utilization rate. Why? Is there a new patch update? It's a little annoyance that Microsoft should have tested before releasing these miniature agents of Hell.
  • A universal curse of our time is purchasing a simple item in a MicroCenter that is encased in one of those impossible to open plastic shells. A USB key is so well protected that even Patton's Third Army could not get into it. I have almost gone to the emergency room trying to shear open one of these miniature Fort Knox(s) with scissors. I sometimes wish for Auric Goldfinger's Laser to slice through these tough barriers to progress.
  • I recently had a problem with a medical application for a good client and spent four hours on remote with a delightful lady in India who solved the problem with grace and good humor. My big mistake was that I trusted her as a designated rep from the software house. In reality, she solved nothing, made it worse, and got the client angry at most everybody. It then took me about 30 minutes to really resolve the problem and keep a happy client. I should be smarter than that. Beware the Jabberwock!

My fellow IT consultants, discuss some of your biggest work-related annoyances of 2011 in the comments section.