Archive for August, 2009


August 4, 2009

As someone who works in the IT field, I spend a lot of my time looking at documentation.  By documentation I mean a wide range of products: user manuals, online KB (knowledge base), FAQ’s, and forums.

At work we use a product called Symantec Ghost.  What this does is (more or less) take a picture of a computer, and then copy that picture onto another computer.  It’s a way to backup EVERYTHING on a computer so that if it crashes it can be restored quickly.  When making the image (what the picture is called) I have the option to compress it (to save space).  While usually I don’t (it slows down the process) I started doing it recently (to save space).  Well, today I went to push the image onto a machine and received a scary looking error.  After doing some research I landed on a symantec documentation page.   While I’ll put a link at the end, here is what it said, in short:

“If you are using compression to make your images, don’t.”

What?  How did anyone at Symantec think that was OK?  That isn’t a solution.  It’s as if you discovered one day that you couldn’t change the volume on your TV, and when you looked in the manual it said “If you’re trying to change the volume, stop.”

Symantec are bad people

Later that week, I was installing something in XP and received an error message that read, and I couldn’t even make this up:

“A system call, that should never fail, has failed.”

Who writes this poop?

Homelessness, School Testing, and the ‘what’ of the matter

August 4, 2009

I can’t help but feeling that sometimes people read or hear something, grasp that there is some sort of problem, and immediately enact a solution that in some sense addresses the issue but yet misses the “what” of the matter, the important part.

I’ll start with an old example, and move to a more recent one (prompted by an article I red in the New York Times).

We start with the problem of homelessness in our cities.

PROBLEM: Some politician (whose name I cannot remember and cannot find) noted that to see homelessness around our nations capital buildings was a sad commentary on the ability of the most powerful nation on earth to care for its people.  Similar statements were made by others about most every city in the country.

SOLUTION?: The seemingly universal response of the DC metro police and the police of other cities has been to arrest homeless people, and move them to other, less tourist visited parts of the city.

Now we don’t “see homeless people near the steps of our nations capital.”  Yes, I suppose in some strict sense we have addressed the issue but I can not help but feel that the “what” of the matter has been missed.

School testing:

PROBLEM:  Students in many parts of America are testing very poorly in reading, writing, and math.

SOLUTION?: Mayor Bloomberg recently announced that 66% of the cities students are effective readers, and that  82% are proficient in math (up from 29% in 2002).  It turns out, however, that Albany (and most states) have been lowering their standards for proficiency, and making the tests much easier.  A national test given to the same students showed 25% proficiency at writing.

Again, yes, I suppose that New York has fixed the problem of low test scores.  However, I would again suggest that they have missed the “what” of the matter.  It’s kind of like letting some of the mercury out of your thermometer instead of getting an AC unit.