Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Who's Ya Daddy?

Customer. Consumer. Colleague. What's the difference?

The Customer is the person or entity paying. They may or may not use the service or product for which they are paying, but the money comes out of their account.

the Consumer is the person or entity using the goods or services. They may not pay.

A Colleague is someone with whom I have a mutual, reciprocal relationship that is ongoing and not (usually) influenced by monetary issues.

You are not a customer of the NFL. You are a consumer. Pepsi, Budweiser and Continental are customers. As such, the NFL is more likely to respond to the wishes of the customers (scheduling game times, selecting blackout markets, etc) than those of the consumers.

Closer to home, the manager who calls and screams at the Helpdesk analyst does so (in part) because they are under the (mistaken) impression that they are customer. The problem is not in their status, nor in our execution of services. It is in the consumer's perception of the relationship.

Do we (or do we want to) communicate this to the end-users?

I have always found "customer" to be an uncomfortable word. It implies a fiscal relationship that isn't there and therefore all exepctations are skewed. As my customer (I mean it), the company I contract at can decide that my services are substandard and therefore go find another vendor. As vendor, I can decide that the company is a problem client and prohibitively price myself so that I have said "no" without saying "no".

No such priviledge exists with the helpdesk. The users cannot choose to call another Helpdesk vendor, nor can the HD staff decide that the folks in one department are more trouble than they are worth.

In this situation, the word colleague, which is more like a marriage than a business partnership, seems to fit. In addition to the absence of choice I mentioned above, colleagues understand that they will have working relationships that last far longer than any specific project or organizational structure. Mary in accounting used to be Mary in the typing pool and before that she was Mary in the mail room and I saw her every day when she dropped off my mail and asked me about my kids. Next month, she'll be Mary the V.P. of Finance.

Just a thought. I'm not sure where to take it or whether it has bearing.

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

Knoppix Saves the Day

I stared at the screen in disbelief. The blue background and white letters told the entire story, even without reading the details. My computer had chosen this moment to puke up it's guts and die on me. In the middle of work for a client, I was left flying blind and without backup. I felt utterly abandoned, and more than a little resentful at the little box. Hadn't I found it, hidden in the most unlikely of places - Aldi's? Hadn't I taken it into my home, an off-brand laptop from some backwater part of Germany, and breathed life into it, filling it with all manner of software - not to mention my precious data? And hadn't I suffered the repeated, loud and colorful sniping from friends and co-workers who relished asking if I found it in between the bartlette pears and and the shitaki mushrooms? After all that, to do this to me! It was almost more than I could handle.

I finished work at the client site and trudged home, morosely trying to figure out what to do next. You have to understand, I'm no lightweight when it comes to PC repair. I have worked in PC for nearly 14 years, working with every flavor of Windows Microsoft has ever put out (yes, I have worked with Windows 386, which came on 5 1/4" floppies bundled free with Aldus PageMaker!). I have an arsenal of tools, utilities, and tricks up my sleeve that would make McGuiver blush with shame.

So I knew that this was a serious case. I had already gone through several reboots, safe mode, repair disks, and the recovery console. That operating system wasn't coming up. What I didn't know was whether my data was still there or not. The computer booted partly before it showed the blue-screen smackdown, so maybe there was hope.

The challange was how to get the machine to show what it had, and then get it off. I was running Windows2000 on an NTFS partition with compressed folders. A DOS boot disk was not going to help here. Then I remembered Knoppix.

I had downloaded it the other day after a review in Lockergnome (listen up folks! If you never sign up for any other newsletter in your life, sign up for Lockergnome - - whether you are a PC novice or an old fart like me, the information you find there will SAVE YOUR LIFE!!).

Knoppix is a version of Linux that runs completely from a CD. You don't have to install anything. Not only that, but it's Linux, which means:
A) it is network friendly.
B) it can read just about any disk format, including NTFS compressed stuff
C) It is hotter than snot.

If this worked, I knew I would have one of those priceless moments when I could non-chalantly say "Oh yeah, I just booted into the latest Debian distribution, fired up the SSH server and FTP'd them from my other system. What's the problem?" Then sit back and watch my other alpha-geek friends trying to look un-impressed through the haze of admiration.

As it turned out, using Knoppix was almost rediculously easy.

The first thing is that Knoppix started up without a hiccough. Now you could argue that Knoppix (distributed by a group in Germany) had a leg up on my German-made Medion laptop, but now I've run that CD on so many systems that it's just not the case. It will run on anything. And it looks slick. Even that silly-pudgy penguin logo that all Linux software uses had a James Bond-like sheen to it. As if to say "Sure, I'm a penguin, but one with a license from the Queen to kill if I have to."

The second thing was that it read my hard drive without a hitch. Whatever problem Windows was having, Linux wasn't impressed nor phased in the least.

And the third thing, truly a reason for celebration, was that this single CD had enough tools to let me turn my laptop into a secure FTP server. After that, I just had to connect from my desktop and pull everything over. If I had wanted to, Knoppix would have let me burn a CD, or put the files on floppies. In all, the entire rescue operation took about 2 hours, and that includes time for the learning curve.

Suck it up and take it, Bill Gates. Let's see your Windows recovery disks do that!
So this is the start of a whole new era. The point of this blog is to post technical snippets I find in various places, random thoughts and musics of a technical nature, and more.