Saturday, September 25, 2010

beep beep beep

I had no idea I hadn't posted anything here since last spring. Guess it's been a busy summer.

Thursday was very quiet, as a majority of my department, many of the leadership of the org, and others, were in "a training" (I detest that phrase, but they love to use it. It makes me think of teaching a ball to catch a dog, a toilet to use a toddler, or some similar exercise.) This left four out of five sites with no IT coverage, so I had to put on my hat and venture forth when the following complaint was logged (not a direct quote, but close):

"My thin client is making a high-pitched beeping noise that is very loud and irritating. It is driving me crazy, and co-workers are complaining."

OK. First of all, this user distinguished herself by calling the offending hardware by its proper name. She said "thin client," rather than "modem," "hard drive," or "CPU," which are among the various things that our users will call thin clients. This is perhaps the reason why I took this complaint seriously. I am searching for such a reason. Maybe I was tired.

So, I packed up my stuff and ventured forth. Arriving at the desk of the frustrated user, I expected to find her inundated with noise, perhaps pulling out her hair, and dodging the furious glares of cubicle-neighbors. But no. Instead I heard absolutely nothing, and had to spend a few seconds waving my hands in her line of sight, since she was wearing earphones and no doubt enraptured by some Philharmonic masterpiece.

She looked at me with surprise. I said "beep, beep?" Now she looked at me with confusion, then thought a moment, and said "Oh! Yes!" She then proceeded to tell me that she was only hearing this beep at certain moments, and only when she accessed a certain arcane piece of software totally unknown to me. I humbly requested a demonstration.

Albeit with some grumbling, the user proceeded to access an outside Citrix server used by an entity with which we do some business. On this server resides a venerable character-based program that it took her a full five minutes to find and log in to. A few minutes later, after entering some commands and fumbling about, she was able to produce a bona-fide "beep!"

Being a seasoned veteran of the telecommunications achievements of the last century I recognized this as what we would have called a "system bell" in 1975. And indeed each time the program executed some portion of whatever it was doing, it made this noise. In a normal day's work, I estimate that this user might have produced .05 such beeps.

Most likely this beep comes from the tiny little speaker glued to the circuit board inside the thin client. Lacking the curiosity to discover this, I offered to replace her device with one that I had (wisely, I thought) brought along. Hers was a brand-new one, of a type we hadn't widely deployed. I was pretty confident that the one in my bag was incapable of making any such noise.

"But, this one is brand new!"

And shiny. OK. I'm no fool. I logged in to the admin account, and disabled all sound devices while the user looked on. While I had little hope that this would affect the "beep," I also knew that (1) the user was impatient to leave for a cigarette break, and (2) by the time the machine "beeped" again it would be a day long in the future, and perhaps the offensive noise would be unheeded due to the emanations of the iPod.

If a thin client's board speaker is activated in the office but everyone is wearing ear-buds, does it make any sound?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Oh, you want my computer password?

"Oh, you want my computer password? It doesn't have one, just hit Ok to install. I decided I didn't like having so many passwords.." 

This on a computer that is supposed to be HIPAA compliant. A laptop. Specifically a MacBook used by a surgeon for scheduling patients, coordinating appointments, and traveling. AND the user turned off FileVault as part of the same no password policy. And people wonder why I have so many bruises on my forehead.