#DevTO – Part 1

I attended the second #DevTO session held at Richmond Day. I read a tweet about it and though it might be a good way to network and meet some new people. I knew some of the people involved more than the event itself, so though I wasn’t sure what to expect, I knew it would be great.

This particular time, I was the only woman out of 6 people; four organizers, one presenter and me. It was marketed not only to developers specifically, but also to anyone who has an interest or deals with developers. I’ve done a bit of coding in my time and work as an IT Generalist, so I deal with developers, designers and more acting as a translator between the technical types and the business types.

An event like this helps me understand what developers face and perhaps help my clients by asking the right questions the first time, hence saving time and becoming more efficient.

At the first one I attended, I had the privilege of hearing Chris Brooker present Epilogger from the developer’s perspective. I’d seen their short presentation at Code Your Art Out a few days earlier, but it only scratched the surface. In this more intimate setting, I had the chance to ask more questions that helped me understand what difficulties they faced, why certain pieces were chosen and why others weren’t as well as what the process behind it was. It was also helpful to Chris to get feedback from users and developers alike, to provide more functionality and get ideas on how to solve some of the problems that they might have encountered so far.

I’d also recently signed up for #LadiesLearningCode (another post coming on that one soon). I went to their brainstorming session later that week and found that many of the women there were in a similar situation to myself. I thought many of them would probably appreciate something like #DevTO, so when I saw the invites come up for the next one, I started “marrying” the two hashtags together. Next thing I know there is a waiting list for the next #DevTO! I’m not sure how many spaces were filled because of my actions, but it came out of nowhere!

I’ll post more on the next #DevTO tomorrow, but in the meantime, Make sure you follow @DevTO_ca for more updates and register for the event here. At last check, they only have 5 spots left. Did I mention that they provide beer and pizza? 😉

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My Favourite Job Interview

I went for my first co-op position at a real estate firm as an IT Support Person. I went into Chris’s office where we talked about my resume, since I had a background in real estate.

To test my IT knowledge he asked a-matter-of-factly: “what does DHCP mean?”

“Dynamic Host Control Protocol” I replied. (and yes, I always got the “c” wrong. It should be “configuration”)

I was trying not to run on as I am prone to do, but he then asked: “And what does it do?”

“It’s what hands out IP addresses on a network from a centralised location.”

“Okay. I think you’re right. I’m a business guy myself, so I’m not sure, but I think you’re right.”

He hired me on the spot and I started that week and was there for a year and a half while in school until I went to Hong Kong on an exchange. Thanks Chris for making it so memorable.

External Hard Drive Problems

So, I’m pretty good at solving most technical difficulties. And, like most I turn to Google and have done a pretty extensive search. However, here are so many forums out there, I don’t know where to post it, so, I’m hoping that I can get some assistance here.

I am running Windows 7. I have an external portable hard drive from Transcend (500 GB). I also have a Western Digital external hard drive (2 TB). I’m quite sure that none of this is hardware related, but could be handled through disk management. I’ve done something to the smaller drive and don’t know how to reverse it. There are no partitions on either drive.

Here’s a screen shot of what I see in Disk Management:

Disk 0 is the drive in question. Disk 1 is the internal and Disk 2 is the working external drive. The problem is that the capacity (not the partition) is stated incorrectly. I honestly don’t remember what I did, but I was essentially trying to start from scratch and format the drive. Some how, it’s stating that the size of the drive is approximately 500 MB not the actual 500 GB.

I’ve tried taking it offline, but that doesn’t do anything. I’ve tried making it a healthy partition, but that won’t work either. Extending only works with partitions upto the maximum capacity. What happens when the capacity is wrong? Would love to hear any suggestions on how I can reset this.

UPDATE: I finally took the drive in to get looked at since I can’t get it to even load. It turns out that something has mechanically gone wrong with it so it is getting replaced for a small fee. Never did figure this one out.

Rogers Cable Volume Too Low

I have one of those really simple digital boxes from Rogers Cable. (Model: Explorer E940). When I play a DVD through my TV, the volume doesn’t need to be much higher than about 14 out of a range of 0-63 (I don’t know either…just go with it). When I watch anything through Rogers, I almost always have to have it up to the max. So, I decided to do what any technically minded person would do…I Googled it.

I should note that I have already programmed my remote to control my TV’s volume control.

I found a great discussion here: http://forums.redflagdeals.com/archive/index.php/t-752470.html One of the first things it suggests is under the Audio Range in Settings, change it to “Narrow”. Turns out, mine is already there. Still not very good. Further down, it talks about Audio Control = “Fixed”. Turns out mine was set to “Variable” and as soon as I changed it, I had to turn down the volume! Not much mind you, but I noticed a difference right away. It’s not as good as when I watch the DVD, it’s still better than having it all the way up and not being able to hear anything.

So even though the post was almost 2 years old, it was still relevant. Thought this might help some of you out there without Netflix. 😉

Changing the Default Folder for saving attachments in Outlook 2010

My father just asked me how to do this and though I don’t typically enjoy or advise making changes to the registry, I thought this was pretty easy.

Upon doing a Google search, I found this article: http://articles.techrepublic.com.com/5100-10878_11-5314762.html. My father is currently using Outlook 2010, so instead of drilling down to 11.o, you must use 14.0. After making the change, we tested out both right-clicking on the attachment as well as “Save As…” from the menu and both were successful. You can probably do this for many more options, but figured it was a good little post. Enjoy!

Introduction to Blackboard (Version 9)

One thing that I found lacking when using Blackboard is the documentation that goes along with it. I learned everything I know about it from the Digital Media Team at my University when I became a Graduate Assistant. There are definitely some glitches with the system, but overall it’s pretty good. I’ll discuss some of the procedures as well as some of the shortcomings that I’ve discovered. So I think I’ll start with that…look out gang, ’cause here comes Blackboard 9!

Ownership

One of the most difficult things I have found in recent years, in the areas of customer service, mainly in the IT industry, is the idea of ownership. Who owns a problem? Who has to take responsibility for a problem?

In a recent case, I had problems with my laptop, and we are supposed to have full-service from the helpdesk for these laptops that were under a mandatory lease. They were Dell laptops, and when the problem could not be handled by our helpdesk, then they had to call upon Dell. The helpdesk was essentially an intermediary, but they were the ones we reported to and Dell could be called upon when the helpdesk was closed. However, the images and the day-to-day operation of those laptops were managed by the helpdesk.

I had difficulty with two of my devices: one of them being my digital recorder, the other being a specialised headset that that was of a high-end quality by Plantronics that was used for dictation, not just for chat and listening to music. It had a very low tolerance for noise interference and would have to do a sound and quality check every time it was plugged in. I found that the quality of dictation was better when I plugged it into the USB adapter, rather than the line in for the microphone and sound. Both would work in the lower of two USB ports, but not in the top one, which meant I had to continually interchange the two devices.

When I brought it into the helpdesk I describe my problem to the technician at the desk, and said that it was very odd that I could only use the headset in one of the USB ports, as well as the digital recorder. The devices would only work in only the bottom port it in neither worked in the top port. With the number of devices that I had been using lately, it had become very inconvenient to keep switching back and forth when I had a port that was available.

Now the actual technical intricacies of this are not as important as much as that when I brought this into the helpdesk and I explained my problem, the technician’s solution was to simply plug the device is in somewhere else or essentially to keep doing what I had been doing and switch the devices as needed. It had nothing to do with the fact the computer may or may not be working the way that it should, or that it may be an indication of a more serious problem. As far as he was concerned, it worked one way and that was okay. What I mean by ownership is that when he couldn’t figure out what the problem was, he just left it, hoping that I would go away. Instead of saying, “This may take some time to look into. Can you leave it with us? Can I open a ticket for you and you will get back to as soon as we can.” They just said: “Well, this is the way it is.” But no, the computer was not working properly and this is not the way that it should be. Ultimately, one of the supervisors was asked to take a look at, and his suggestion was that it might be the BIOS, which in fact it was. In the case of the digital recorder, it was actually the casing of the laptop that limited the connection of the USB device into the port itself. So in this case, it was a physical limitation in the design of the laptop casing. This cannot be changed and I was willing to work with that and understood why it could not work the way it was intended to be used. However in the case of the headset, the USB adapter would fit perfectly into both of the ports, but the device would not work in the top one where the digital recorder could not go, but would work in the bottom one. Every time the device need to be plugged in, and installation would occur with the particular software that I needed for the dictation. Ultimately the problem was fixed, but only after I stood there and insisted that it be fixed and gave the impression that I would not leave until it was fixed.

Having worked at one of my help desk positions, and with my manager, the CIO, I learned that you don’t close that ticket unless that person is satisfied that the problem has been resolved. There were other reasons for closing a ticket, granted, but the idea why is the person would not be left hanging. I have felt this abandonment in numerous cases, for example, by calling Dell myself, where the problem is just left in the hands of the client and no one says, “This is what you need to do,” or “this is who you need to speak to”, and in most cases, it bounces back and forth from one organisation to the other.

In my dealings with Dell, I had to use four hours of my personal time to retrieve an empty box to return a laptop to them for repair. I needed to pick it up at the courier and was not able to retrieve the empty box even though I have provided all the information at the time of placing the original call. They could not even facilitate a simple transaction, like picking up a box from a courier station.

What I am trying to instil is the idea of ownership. Take responsibility and take ownership. If this is what you are being paid to do, then do it. Don’t just say “oh, it’s not my problem.” There are going to be cases where it is certainly does not fall under your purview or job description. This is understandable, and these are not the cases to which I am referring. But if you are working on a helpdesk for a set of clients and this is your primary duty, don’t just say, “Well it works, this one way, so just work with that.” No! At the end of the day, the computer was not working the way it should. So fix it. If you don’t know, ask someone. If it’s going to take some time, take down the person’s information, open a ticket if you have to, and then investigate the problem as much as possible. Because I know that many of the people who were working at this particular helpdesk were not that busy, and they could afford the time to deal with the problem. If you can’t handle this, don’t work on a help desk. Remember, without these clients, internal or external, you wouldn’t have a job.