Category Archives: Commentary

Do you really need to text that much?

We got our first email address at our company around 1987.  This was back when you were the “Tech” guy if you knew how to type and put a disk in a drive.    After we had it all set up, the General Manager came into his admin assistant office and said “It’s all set up?  Good!  Now, make sure to check it at 10, 2, and 4 – Dr. Pepper“.   So at various times during the day – about every two hours, she would click on “Get Mail” and whatever package at the time would dial up the modem, log in to some email system and download – nothing.  Lots of nothing back then.  Once in a while, you’d get a memo or something from the corporate office, but that was about it.

Now I average about 300+ emails per day, mostly ads and system status reports.  I’m not even counting SPAM in that figure.  I’ve had to devise rules to handle it all so that I don’t have to see it – it just gets filtered into various folders for reference later.

People receive so much email, in fact, that they’ve moved on to other platforms like text messaging.  And the medium doesn’t require “checking for messages” anymore, it’s just a noise and then you have to check your phone to see what’s going on.   There’s nothing wrong with that – I like being in touch and being able to keep up with friends/family, but I’ve seen some teenagers and they always have their phone in their hand and they text every few minutes (sometimes less than a few minutes).  When did this become necessary?  I had friends in school and we’d call each other up occasionally, or hang out – but I never had a need to be in touch with them in an umbilical cord fashion 24 hours a day.

I wonder what the future holds?  Is there room for formulating thoughts anymore, or will all that be lost in the din of never-ending conversation?

What do you think?


A router fails and then life changed… forever.

If you go to Google news today and type in the word “router” – you will see approximately 2,150 news articles and just about all of them have to do with the Federal Aviation Administration and the huge flight debacle that occurred yesterday.  It’s unlikely that you would not know about it by now, even if you are like me and rarely ever fly anywhere.   The story was on most network news programs and people all over are talking about it.

What hits home for me, however is that there is some guy in charge of that router.  His or her day probably started like any other day – coffee, breakfast whatever.  I guess in reality, it was probably a team of people – but still.  Just another day when people are thinking about weekend plans and the latest movie openings and suddenly all heck breaks loose.

If you think everything will go back to normal, it won’t.  It will never be “normal” again or should I say, the normal these people knew is now gone forever.  The long-term problem with any kind of failure like this is that once enough managers, and in this case probably politicians, get involved the day to day routines of anyone in that department will be scrutinized time and time again.   It’s not just a router – it’s ALL of the routers, all circuit boards, all computer systems.  Everyone has something to say about it from flight attendants to college professors.

Here is just one quote from an AP article printed in the Star Tribune:

“A good communications system should have enough redundancy that a failure shouldn’t hurt it that badly,” said Michael Ball, a University of Maryland professor who specializes in aviation operations research.

I’m not disagreeing with him or any other critic, I am only stating that whatever life the people in charge of that router had – is gone now.  Every day will be filled with questions, interrogations and requests to put together and follow all kinds of new checklists so that hopefully it won’t happen again.

Won’t happen again is a phrase people love to say in these situations.  “Let’s see that that doesn’t happen again” or “Let’s take steps to make sure this never gets to this point again”.  “Let’s” – that means “you”,  Mr. System administrator.

Has this ever happened to you?  Maybe you are a system administrator who oversees a small or medium-sized network for your organization.  You get paged because something has failed and even though you are able to turn the issue around quite quick and restore everything to working order – you still get called into someones office or boardroom and you have to:

(1) Explain the issue
(2) Explain how you fixed the issue
(3) Explain why the issue occurred
(4) Describe how you will never let this happen again
(5) (and this is the best) Defend every other machine, device, and program you or your department has ever touched, looked at, reviewed, purchased, or installed – because maybe, just MAYBE they are all ready to break as well.

And you get to do that every single day for the rest of your time there.