By JULES ALLEN
© St. Petersburg Times, published December 18, 2000
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Front lines of tech support
After reading this, you'll probably never utter the words "let me speak to your supervisor again," at least in the context of computer technical support. Whether it's your sometimes-on broadband connection equipment winking at you like a Christmas tree or your unpolitically correct language around your personal computer making the air blue, yelling at the person on the other end of the line does no good. Personally, being one charming son of a farmer when the mood takes me, I've found that sugar-laced requests to the poor tech on the other end lead to things such as service credits and all manner of freebies winging my way. Read this first-person account of tech support hell and you'll understand.
Here's a wee ethical dilemma for you: Is your wanton waste of your employer's office supplies just as evil as pocketing them and taking them home? My guess is this doesn't exactly keep Mark Sinclair, director, producer and animator of this site, up at night. Here you'll find a great example of how to while away the long post-lunch stretch until a quarter to five when it's safe to slip out the back. Arm yourself with a pen and yellow sticky pad and your desk is your animation studio.
Wired life at the top
One day you're the big, swinging tech on the block and all it takes is a magazine article to change your life. My plethora of Windows PCs, Macs, Unix servers and PDAs don't hold a candle to what the likes of Larry Ellison has in his server room. And that's just his house, not office. She Who Must Be Obeyed suggested I give up the fruitless pursuit of being St. Pete's Techno Stud so she can convert my server room into more closet space. But I'm having none of it. Who dies with the most hardware wins.
Lego knights that say 'Ni!'
If "that rabbit's dynamite!" and "king of the who?" mean absolutely nothing to you, you probably don't write software. For reasons known only to us, we engineering and coding types flock to Monty Python films like cops to doughnut shops. And then we impress each other by reciting complete scenes from these flicks at parties, lunch and anywhere we happen to be. Stereotypes happen for a reason, perhaps. After you're done chuckling at the Lego figures acting out scenes from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, click the index link at the bottom and continue the guffawing with The Matrix and Desperado. My sides hurt.
Newsgroups for the Mac
From time to time, brilliant software catches you off guard, such as this lightweight newsgroup reader for the Mac. It has to be the fastest, most efficient news program on any platform. It's fabulous. Newsgroups, for the uninitiated, are global discussion areas from the dark days of the pre-Web Internet. Ask your Internet service provider if they're available to you if you're not already reading them. My disgust with Outlook Express' bloated news portion finally bubbled over when I lost the threading ability by re-sorting a group by subject. And then MT-Newswatcher came into my life and saved me. Do I hear birds singing?
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