1.26.2011

And the whinging begins.

It's been one and a half weeks at Canberra, and I haven't even worked through all of it yet but I'm sitting here with a whopping big headache trying my very hardest to convince myself that I can make it through the rest of the year. I miss hG. I miss home and all things familiar. I think I'm too old to do this whole uproot-your-life-and start-new thing anymore.

The place is great to visit with friends or family - museums galore and the Floriade! It sucks to live in, especially by oneself. Even more so in a dinky apartment infested by bugs. Dinky, I don't mind. No airconditioning in weather that gets up to 37 degrees celcius, I can live with. Bugs, I mind. A lot.  Dodgy neighbors give me the creeps. It sucks when you don't feel safe coming home from work every day. Am always on the lookout as I climb up the 4 flights of steps to my apartment. I don't relax until I twist the deadbolt shut and I hear a resounding thud. This was the best apartment for rent we could find near work. Half thinking of moving out in a few months if a better place comes up.

As for work, this has got to be the most disorganized system I've ever encountered (mind you, I've only encountered about 4 or 5 other ones in my short career but still...)

Who was the smartie that decided it would be a good idea to have five different programs with five different log-ins and passwords to access different aspects of someone's file? We can't even order and view xrays on the same program, and ordering xrays might as well have been asking us to fill in an electronic operation report with all the zillions of fields to complete. Don't get me started on the amount of fuss we had to go through to GET the fricking passwords.. and even then, they didn't work. Oh, and then there's this whole thing about going electronic. We write our notes on paper, they get shuffled to wherever they go to get scanned in and a few days later (actually, I'm not sure of the timeframe), they automagically appear on the computer system that requires yet a different username/password combination to access. Gee. Saving a lot of trees here, aren't we. And then we have the rotating roster that takes me away from the bulk of the action most days of the week Or what about ... ah hell. There's got to be a more efficient way of doing things and there must be a better functioning system out there that we could implement, but for the life of me, I can't come up with one. I don't even know where to begin because it's all so ridiculously convoluted and it's driving me mad. I need a system. I need algorithms. I need some sort of stability, something that grounds me other than coming home from work to check mail, shower and sleep.

It's gonna be a long long year..

1.06.2011

I didn't study IT but still...

In the Life of Amy, there are always WTF moments. Some are blips while others have a lot more impact. The new year didn't waste much time in throwing me one of them.

The phone rings.

*drumroll*

I don't know if you've had bad experiences with phone cards, where one party can't hear a thing and the other party's shouting "hello" until their face turns blue but when I picked up the phone, it was kinda like that. There wasn't a dial tone or static.. just silence. Nobody said hello back. It was kind of annoying after the third time it happened, not to mention a tad creepy at that stage. But then, this voice answers back. A voice with Indian-accented English telling me it belonged to John Smith and he was asking for a Mrs. Lee.

*keep your mind open, keep it open. don't judge too fast, don't jump to any conclusions. be nice to the telemarketer and then hang up soon*

So John Smith tells me he's returning a call for a technical assistance request coming from my computer. I told him I've never lodged such a request before and asked how he got my number. He misunderstood, or misheard me and was incredulous that I had no computer. *shrug* What the heck, why not? I went along with that and said he must have gotten the wrong number because I didn't have a computer, so why would I lodge a technical assistance request?

The scary part was that he was able to read out my phone number, initial and last name, and my street address. Now that got my attention. I had to find out where he got my info. I knew they were shady because a lot of things didn't make sense, telling me to run programs because I had spyware on my computer that couldn't be eradicated via anti-spyware software or deletion of the files - that only specialized people could remove it. Bullshit. Alarm bells were having a field day in my head. The long and short of it was that I had fun driving them insane but I was still a tad freaked after the call. If they were really legit, which I highly doubt, then they really need to work on establishing their credibility quick smart.

So all these things didn't add up. I pushed all their buttons and John eventually got fed up, put me on hold and the next thing I knew, there was another guy with Indian-accented English on the phone with me who introduced himself as the supervisor.

John had wanted me to type in "prefetch spyware" in my Windows start menu run prompt. He treated me like an idiot and spelt it all out - "peter robert echo flow-.." you get the point. I was feeling a tad mean.. and I did tune out halfway through because I got bored. So I got John to repeat it all again halfway through. Googled it at the same time mind you, but I wasn't about to go run some program - legit or not - just because some stranger calls up and tells me to. Who knows if it's gonna trigger some remote-access thing, or if reading whatever pops up on my screen to them will give them further information about my system at the very least.

And I just keep saying yes, I got what he spelt out. He asked what operating system I'm using and I refused to answer that too. Shouldn't he know what OS I'm using if he indeed received an error report from my computer? I asked him that, and he wouldn't answer my question and just kept repeating his question. (Granted, I appreciate that some error messages don't specify OS and other information but I was very loathe to reveal any information to the guy anyway).

Seeing that we were going around in circles, I bluntly told him I refuse to run any program until he tells me what the program is supposed to do, and what I'm supposed to see. The guy kept asking me to read out what was on my screen! This is when he got fed up and the "supervisor" got called in.

The guy was a lot more fun to talk to. So much so, that he got really agitated and tried to intimidate me. Professional.

Supervisor (S): What do you see on your screen?
me: What do you mean?
S: What do you see on your screen?
me: What do you mean? I don't see anything unusual.
S: What do you see on your screen?
me: I'm sorry, I don't understand. Am I supposed to see anything?
S: What do you see on your screen?
me: (grinning by now) I don't see anything! I don't understand. What am I supposed to see? I haven't done anything yet.
S: silence. The previous guy told you to type in prefetch spyware. Did you not do that?
me: No. I told him I wouldn't do it until he told me what I was supposed to see, and what the program is supposed to do.
S: Why didn't you do what he said? Run the program!
me: What am I supposed to see on my screen when I run the program?
S: Type in prefetch spyware and tell me what you see in the window that pops up

I forget how the conversation went exactly but here's the gist of it...At some point in the conversation, we get back to how they ended up with my details again. He revealed that they apparently received these error reports and will randomly chase a customer up sporadically, getting their contact details off the white pages. (As for that, it's utter crap. I went to look myself up on the white pages - they got my address correct, which creeps me out because my details are wrongly listed on the white pages.)

me: So you're telling me I have spyware and you want to get rid of it for me. So what kind of file names am I looking for after I run the prefetch?
S: Any sort of programs. Exe files, PDFs..
me: So if you received a technical error report saying that spyware caused my Windows error, can you tell me what the spyware is so I can deal with it?
S: You need to run the program and then tell me what you see on your screen!
me: So you're telling me that my problem is that I have spyware on my computer and you want to tell me how to fix it.
S: You have spyware on your computer. Now do you think this is a good thing? It may contain all your credit card numbers, passwords and other information about you. Now, you you think it is a good idea to have this on your computer so hackers can extract the information at any time? 
me: So you're telling me that my problem is that I have spyware on my computer and you want to tell me how to fix it, right? Then can you please tell me what spyware I need to look for and I'll deal with it. I have anti-virus protection that is up to date and am very aware of what is on my computer.
S: You think you can just delete it and that's the end of your problem. You think that your antivirus software will find it? (I was thinking to myself - well, Microsoft Security Essentials has deemed my computer safe and if you're calling from any branch of Microsoft, you would think you wouldn't rat out your own anti-virus program...) They can't find these spyware. You think you update the anti-virus program and you'll be fine but you're also downloading new virus files into your computer. 

Mind you, I was getting more and more amused as his voice got louder and higher the more he ranted. So I let him go on for a bit. I stayed firmly obstinate but polite and kept thanking him, and that I'll fix the problem. It irritated him to no end.. to the point where he challenged me, asking if I worked in the IT industry, lol. I denied that, and man, you should've heard him go off! He ranted that if I thought all computer problems could be fixed by the user, then what did I think tech support was for. I reminded him that I didn't solicit this call, but thank you for alerting me to my problem and I will deal with it.

He gave up and hung up.

I must admit, I would have sounded like a horrible little prat but to my defence, I did explain my attitude to the guy. I know I didn't need to but I did. Did they think I would willy-nilly run things on my computer based on what they told me? In all the years (we're talking since Windows 3.1 here) that Windows has failed me with errors and BSODs, not to mention the numerous error reports automatically sent (no, didn't disable it after my most recent reformat and install), why would I suddenly get a phone call from tech support now? Or that their tech support customer database is reliant on http://whitepages.com.au. Now, really. The guy just talked over me when I brought up all these points in my attempt to tell him I don't trust him. Ah well. Live and learn.

My only regret is that I didn't take down their phone number. It's the only thing I always forget to do until hindsight kicks in. Poo.

1.03.2011

the ghost of christmas past came late this year

So I get sidetracked easily, contrary to popular belief although hG would contest that. He's seen the other side of me. The one I keep locked up so the rest of the world can continue to believe that I'm all grown up. Anyway, I came across a facebook update by a classmate of mine from junior high, warning people about this people-searcher called spokeo.

Curiosity got the better of me, and despite freaking out not just five minutes before at the horrible thought of having to know enough anatomy of the abdomen to "tutor" third year medical students for tomorrow, my fingers took me to the spokeo site. It's not like typing your own name into google you know. It's a tad more personal, a tad more nail-bitingish given that you have the option of searching for your online presence by username. So, I did. And a zillion things came up. Thankfully, I have an uber-common name. Yay! And, apparently, my choices of online usernames are a tad humdrum.. or so odd that nobody else in their right mind would be able to look me up. Yay!

And so, I'm sitting there clicking on everyone else's page, curious to see what my dopplegangers-by-name have put on their pages, what they look like and so forth. And then, I click on this one link that took me to my own site - a 2006 version. Was expecting to be pleasantly surprised by one of my dopplegangers-by-name, so imagine my surprise when I realized I was reading my entries of old. An odd feeling, I tell you - half spooky, half familiar. I don't recall creating it and worst of all, I don't recall why I came up with some of the pages I did. My old self in 2006 wasn't very precise either, so I didn't leave myself many clues to piece together my questions although I think I had every plan to continue my cyberspace presence there for a long long while.

How many plots of cyberspace have you claimed? How much information have you let loose for all to grab? Enough for some of 'em deep-crawlers like spokeo, intelius, or pipl to aggregate it all into a tidy little package that someone else could use to create a profile page on your behalf? Just think about it a little, and if you need to, buff up your privacy settings for your various online profiles. (Unless you actually like the prospect of acquiring a potential stalker, or two. Personally, I've been through it and it was scary as hell. I'll pass.)

1.01.2011

merry new year!

so the clock struck twelve
and the fireworks went off
we were already perched
quiet, with nary a cough

through the window
from across the hall
we saw the bridge light up
we saw sparks and all!

the camera snipped
and the camera snapped
we caught some sharp shots
and were duly rapt

so with these snaps
(so amatuer)
we wish you all
a happy new year!!

May twenty eleven be bigger, brighter and all things better than twenty ten!