Tunnel Rat posted on December 28, 2006 18:21

Back to TCTSRN...

As the S.A.D. (Supervisor, Applications Development), I felt it was my responsibility to get my team the tools that needed to be productive. The right software and hardware can make a ton of difference for productivity and morale.

For example, The TAC and Burning Man did a lot of work with massive text files, and this type of task cannot be done with a basic editor like Notepad. I checked online and found the program they were asking for online selling for $39.

Charlie had also been whining about wanting a dual-monitor system. As much as I hated the feral creep, getting him some new gear would go along way in shutting him up and reducing his compulsive tendencies to sabotage me. I had been using dual LCDs for the last two years and it was a huge difference over a single monitor.

Considering TCTSRN had some decent desks, current generation computers, ergonomic chairs, and 17” LCD’s, I thought I could get Mr. Whiteboard to spring for some upgrades.

So I thought.

There is a breed of manager, supervisor, or director in I.T. that can only be described as the CHEAP I.T. BASTARD (CITB). They lurk in the middle tier of companies, and they have the power to make a developer’s life miserable, merely because they hold the purse strings for hardware and software. Mr. Whiteboard was such a creature.

Toiling away for years in vi or Query Analyzer, or Notepad, or worse, a command prompt, they cannot imagine there is a world with programmable mouse buttons, slick IDEs, text editors that show you byte counts, or things called “XML Editors.” The CITB is a bottom-dwelling scavenger, one who takes pride in doing things in the most Spartan manner. And they’ll be damned if they are going to blow a few bucks of their budget to get a developer some widget or, god-forbid, a pair of LCD monitors.

I found this out at my next meeting with Mr. Whiteboard.

“Some of the guys said they need a real text-editor. I found it online for $39,” I told him.

He looked at me, blank-faced. Man, I was getting sick of his vacant stares. Our relationship had declined steadily with the Charlie fiasco.

“What for?” he asked.

“Well, they have to scan a lot of big text files while they work on the extract programs. Notepad doesn’t cut it. Oh, and I think we should get set up with dual-monitors.”

“Dual-monitors? Why?”

“If you take a look at their desktops, they usually have ten or twelve windows open.”

“Mmmm.” It was obvious that he couldn’t image why anyone would need more than a couple of apps open. But then again, he had never been a developer, just a data-diddler, hacking out SQL in Query Analyzer. Sophisticated application development requires numerous windows open, one or two for Visual Studio, several SQL-Server consoles, editors, file managers, and browsers, not to mention iTunes or Pandora.

This was going to get nowhere. The TAC had told me that he had been asking for that cheap text editor for three years. Mr. Whiteboard wasn’t going to spring for it. I thought I could eventually wear him down, but the CITB was a tough creature. Sometimes the only way to get through to them was to bring your own gear in or shame them into laying out some dough. I started to fantasize about showing up at our next meeting with a $39 check made out to TCTSRN.

He changed the subject. “So how are things going with Charlie?”

“It’s a challenge. I’m trying to keep him busy on other things besides the Online Query app. I did talk to HR and did some checking on the procedures and steps that we would need to ---.”

“You talked to HR?”

“Yeah, just to do some checking on the --.“

“I thought we were going to work this out together?” He was pissed.

“I, uh, I just wanted to get some background on the, um, uh, process.”

He glared at me. What an asshole, I thought. I had taken positive steps to remedy this severe personnel problem, and I was getting reamed for not keeping things between him and me.

“Let me know the next time you feel the urge to talk to HR.” It was a threat.

“Sure, no problem.” The meeting was over.

I went back to my desk and inventoried the situation:

  • I took a big pay cut to get supervisory experience.
  • I got conned into running a pathetic team of surly hackers.
  • My boss was a Cheap IT Bastard.
  • I couldn’t fire anyone or hold them accountable.
  • I was not to talk to anyone in HR.
  • I was responsible for getting a shitload of work done by the end of the year.

Barely a month into this gig, things were looking grim. I was going to have to take matters into my own hands.

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Tunnel Rat posted on December 27, 2006 18:31

I have to take a break while I get some things in my life in order. I am buying a new house and recently got back into the contract programming arena.

To give you an update, I landed a nice gig at an established dot-com survivor that went public in 1999, so it has a mature software shop that values specs, design, documentation, and QA. This is more than I can say for the Web 2.0 space, which is full of flipmeat and the code-and-load culture of open-source, anything-but-Microsoft, make-it-up-as-you-go MySpace wannabees.

Seriously, does anyone actually believe sites based on Ruby, running on a tag-based scripting language like PHP, and hitting a MySQL database can scale and be maintained and enhanced for years? Currently, I am working on some code that is on average five years old. But if it is encapsulated, documented, and done by someone other than a former Starbucks barista or Everquest junkie who downloaded ROR and reinvented himself as a web-developer, I can maintain it. Try that with the vaporware getting VC funding now.

When I look at these job postings for programming gigs at start-ups using PHP (which I used to think stood for Programmers Hacking Porn, because every adult site is written in PHP), Ajax, Ruby, MySQL, yada-yada-yada, I think of one thing: Hacker Sweatshop.

The minute I would try to create a class diagram, or properly model a database, or write a functional spec before banging out some code (all of which are SOP at mature Microsoft shops), I'd be called into an IKEA-decorated office of the so-called CIO. Now, this CIO would probably be nothing more than a twenty-something, Blackberry banging, iPod wearing, excessively-pierced dork who is working for promised stock options. He probably has a case of chronic ADD, mixed in with OCD, so he can never, ever, decide what to obsess over. In addition, he has a perpetually twitchy thumb from years of game-console operation that has progressed to PDA obsession. And most-likely, he has a Bluetooth earpiece that allows him to carry on conversations with his MySpace pals while he holds staff meetings.

And once he discovers that I haven't coded his MySpace/YouTube/Flikr rip-off in the 7 days he thought it would take, he would fire me and say some crap like "we need some heavy-hitters in here" or "we are a results based company" or "we don't have time for all this design stuff, you get paid to code, not design" or "we expect you to work more than 12-hours a day, because we need to launch the site to get mezzanine funding."

So that said, I've been too busy to devote adequate attention to this blog. I find that it takes me an hour or so to properly formulate a post, edit it, and update the blog. I don't feel comfortable posting a few random sentences with links to other sites, so when I do post, I want it to be worthwhile reading for my readers.

So stay tuned, I have a lot of topics to cover in the near future, such as:

  • Cheap I.T. Bastards
  • Why None Of Your Medical Data Is Confidential
  • Dumb Bitches Of The Computer Business
  • Most FTE Programmers Suck
  • Curry-Eating Wage Pirates
  • LAMP, Ruby, and the Code-and-Load Culture
  • Taking Things Up With HR

... And More!

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- Vineet Nayar, CEO, HCL Technologies

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