Not the IT Boy Any Longer

clara bow 0619Laugh if you must, but I’m what passes for an “IT” department at work. Not “it,” as in the game of Tag or actress Clara Bow, but I.T. as in Information Technology. And that’s me.

Yes, the person who can’t figure out the most basic features of his cellphone functions as the IT department at Pat’s Screen Printing. I told you you could laugh.

This position falls to me pretty much by default. No one else wants it, or wants to spend the time fussing with things. I seem to be the one willing to read instructions or look up information, so it’s far less about technical prowess than I.G. — Information Gathering.

And, to be perfectly fair, every time we make an upgrade in the art department, that gets turned over completely to Ben, who does seem to know his way around computer set-ups.

But when we buy a phone system, or a computer upgrades and the screen gets all stretched out, or programs like Carbonite or Norton need to be switched to different computers, well, that all defaults to me. And somehow I can generally make it work, although if you asked me five minutes later to show you what I did, I probably couldn’t.

The screen stretching is a good example. Why all these companies feel they can’t leave well enough alone I don’t know, but Windows upgrades all the time, and sometimes the hardware doesn’t keep up. At one point one of our computers couldn’t display anything properly. Since I don’t really know how to do a single technical thing with computers, I turned to what I do know: finding information. And somewhere, deep in the bowels of the internet, I ran across a lot of other people having this same problem, plus one guy who knew how to fix it.

The solution was to go in and tell your computer to ignore the upgrade and use an older version of the screen settings. I followed the kind man’s instructions and “fixed” the computer. And promptly bookmarked that discussion thread, because I needed it several times. I had to use the same technique on this laptop that’s bringing you all my deathless prose, because every upgrade screws with the touchpad. (I love my glowy keyboard, but can’t recommend this touchpad by any measure.)

So now, after touting all my IT (which is really IG) prowess, I have to confess to failure.

Years and years (and years) ago, I made one of my Really Good Decisions and abandoned paper timekeeping in favor of a computer program for all Pat’s employees (management included). I bought a program called Attendance Rx, and it worked really well, with no complaints.

At one point I tried the same company’s upgrade, which was very similar, except for some reason they made their sign-in process twice as onerous. It took too long and was confusing for a couple of employees with developmental disabilities, so I just went back to Attendance Rx.

But a couple of months ago the program took a header from which there appears to be no recovery. I tried all my limited bag of tricks (uninstalling, reinstalling, research), but decided age was a factor I couldn’t fix my way out of. In the interim, I went back to paper (which necessitated putting a digital clock nearby, because it turns out that no one under the age of 35 is much good at reading a wall clock) while I tried to find a replacement program.

There are probably one million time-clock programs out there, most of them offering services I just don’t need, and most of them assuming from the outset that your employees are going to be dishonest. And, like every other software out there, most of them have realized how much more lucrative it is to sell a subscription rather than a disc.

This sounds cheap, right: $5 per employee per month? Plus a nominal “base fee” of $20, per month? So let’s do math. Let’s just say 10 Pat’s employees, so $50, plus the $20, and we’re at $70. Per month. Or $840 annually. Versus the one-time purchase of a Time Q Plus (the upgrade from Attendance Rx) of $106. For that, we will all live with the hassle of the double sign-in.

[Which is aimed at curbing dishonesty, having one employee sign in a pal who isn’t really at work. Why we assume all employees are fine with letting their friends get paid for not working I don’t know, and why we assume that the slacker employee would be willing to share one passcode but not two — none of this makes any sense to me. And in all my years in business, this has never once come up as a problem at Pat’s. Or even at the airport, where I worked for 16 winters with a much larger number of people.]

But Time Q Plus has defeated me completely, and it isn’t even working yet. I went to install it, which means popping in the disc and following the instructions. You don’t even have to be the Pat’s IT/IG department to manage that. Usually.

But then I ran up against SQL. I still don’t know what it is, or means, or does, but I now know I’m opposed to it. Them. Whatever. I’m not a fan.

Wikipedia tells us: “SQL is a domain-specific language used in programming and designed for managing data held in a relational database management system, or for stream processing in a relational data stream management system. It is particularly useful in handling structured data where there are relations between different entities/variables of the data.”

That certainly clears everything up, doesn’t it? All I know is, the program wanted a password, so I gave it one. And then all it would tell me was the password wasn’t working. So I embarked on serious IG, trying three different ways to re-set an SQL password and downloading god knows what onto the computer in an effort to help me re-set this. Nothing worked, which is how I met Sherryl.

To be perfectly honest, we really haven’t “met,” and I don’t appear to have impressed her in the slightest. And I have no idea how she spells her name — this is just how I imagine her. Sherryl.

Time Q Plus comes from North Carolina, and I’m pretty sure Sherryl does too. So when I broke down and called for help, Sherryl was sent to my rescue, but this is where we started (imagine this in a soft Southern drawl): “Why, you don’t have administrative permission to do this. I can’t make any changes. This is a Windows issue.”

From clear across the country she had grabbed hold of my computer and was zipping around it at speeds that made my head spin like the little Windows wheels I grew all too familiar with yesterday. She finally, in spite of me, managed to figure out the situation (apparently it’s bad if the computer name and the user name are the same). She uninstalled something, created a new user with administrative permission, restarted the computer (scarily, she never lost contact) and managed to broach the SQL wall that had stymied me.

All seemed well. Until last evening, when I went to use the new program. I got two employees into the program, when suddenly the server vanished. (Do I sound like I know what I’m talking about?) Nothing I did brought it back.

So this morning I will be giving my new “IT Girl” (in these enlightened times, I’m pretty sure she’s an “IT Woman”) Sherryl another call — the SQL, we might say. Wish me luck.

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