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Confessions of a SysAdmin

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the type-with-your-fists dept.

IT 385

Mr.Fork writes "Scott Merrill from CrunchGear has a confession. He really, really hates computers. He writes: 'No, really, I hate them. I love the communications they facilitate, I love the conveniences they provide to my life, and I love the escapism they sometimes afford; but I actually hate the computers themselves. Computers are fragile, unintuitive things — a hodge-podge of brittle hardware and opaque, restrictive software.' Does his editorial speak to all of us in similar IT-related fields? Do we all silently hate the complexities and idiosyncrasies computers have, like error messages and UI designs that make no sense to the common user, which make our tech professions miserable?"

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385 comments

Yes. (-1, Offtopic)

sirsky (53613) | more than 3 years ago | (#31961076)

I do concur.

Re:Yes. (5, Funny)

jornak (1377831) | more than 3 years ago | (#31961086)

You and every other person who has to deal with problems with computers feel exactly the same way. It's like... a wife that nags too much. You love her at first... but she keeps nagging... and nagging... and nagging. Eventually you cut the bitch and bury her in the backyard.

Re:Yes. (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31961248)

Whoever modded this flamebait is an idiot. It's an analogy involving wife abuse, a rather funny topic. Mod parent funny or die.

Re:Yes. (4, Insightful)

peragrin (659227) | more than 3 years ago | (#31961594)

Why do you think I buried windows and got a mac? if I am going to have a nagging wife she had at least better look sexy even if she isn't any more functional.

Re:Yes. (5, Insightful)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 3 years ago | (#31961644)

No, I do not "feel exactly the same way" any more than I hate my piano because it's hard to play and took me twenty years to play well.

Do we all silently hate the complexities and idiosyncrasies computers have

Absolutely not. If I wanted something I could just turn on and have work, I'd still own a television. I bought a Commodore 64 and an Apple II and Macintosh and then a string of PCs of various brands and flavors because of their "complexities and idiosyncrasies" not despite them. And yes, I worked for several years while going through grad school, fixing computers and supporting end users. It might have altered my view of the intelligence of the average person, but it didn't change my delight with complex, idiosyncratic computers that I could install the software I want and configure it the way I want and use it for the purposes I want. Which, by the way, is the main reason I've lost a great deal of respect for Apple (and Sony).

The beauty of the personal computer was that I could wipe the hard drive and put it together the way I wanted. I could put a different operating system on it, or a newer (or older) version of my current operating system. I could open the box and mess with the noodles. I could download sketchy warez and pay the price if I wanted. I could learn about busses and mac addresses and baud rates and overclocking. I could haunt the back aisles of computer shops buying parts and I could make it MINE in a way that is only seen in ham radio, amateur electronics and certain segments of the automotive culture. Personal computers represented everything that homogenized consumer culture was not.

And, of course, that attitude, that ethic, that weltanschauung is why I started coming to Slashdot. That, and the opportunity to occasionally be shocked with a photo of a man wrenching open his poop-chute. But mainly the first stuff.

"Hate computers"? Not a chance. But I find it sad that the sysadmin in TFA has found himself in a life he hates. I hope he figures out that time is short, and it's best to do stuff you love.

No. (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 3 years ago | (#31961318)

I don't.

None of the computers I deal with cause problems for me.

The Contractor who decides to reboot a server without informing us does. The user who deletes a file they needed. The Field tech who dropped his laptop in the mud. When the marketting team needs to send out 500 emails at once and the firewall stops it. Or when the seasonal temp sets up bitTorrent to download movies.

99% of the issues I've had to solve in the last year have not been because of computers themselves, but some of the ridiculous things people think they can just get away with. Albeit, it's not all their fault, (like marketting or the field tech), but that doesn't make it the computer's either.

Re:No. (1)

BobMcD (601576) | more than 3 years ago | (#31961476)

99% of the issues I've had to solve in the last year have not been because of computers themselves, but some of the ridiculous things people think they can just get away with. Albeit, it's not all their fault, (like marketting or the field tech), but that doesn't make it the computer's either.

Well, in the fullest view, the computer didn't build itself, didn't install its own software, etc. Humans were involved in that stuff as well. So I guess by your estimation, 100% of the problems are not the computer's 'fault'.

Re:No. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31961738)

Well, in the fullest view, the computer didn't build itself, didn't install its own software, etc. Humans were involved in that stuff as well. So I guess by your estimation, 100% of the problems are not the computer's 'fault'.

You guys obviously do not work in the computer industry, because if you did, you'd realize 100% of all problems ARE NOT the user's fault.

The sooner you realize it was your fault for not properly educating your users that downloading viruses is bad, and the sooner you realize that letting your Boss' children play on your server is OK, and the sooner you realize your users know more about computers than you do, the sooner you will get it.

After all, the only reason you got the job was because the users are far too busy or important to do it themselves.

So shut up, and go fix your Boss' home computer after hours tonight, for no pay!

Which make our tech professions miserable? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31961078)

Which make our tech professions possible.

Re:Which make our tech professions miserable? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31961304)

"Scott Merrill from CrunchGear has a confession. He really, really hates money. He writes: 'No, really, I hate it. I love the stuff it lets me buy, I love the experiences that it lets me have,I love the conveniences it provides to my life, and I love the escapism it sometimes affords; but I actually hate money itself. Money is fragile, dirty, flimsy. Money is a hodge-podge of either cotton and paper or plastic and magnets."

It's called the means to an end. I think it's kind of pedantic, though.

Re:Which make our tech professions miserable? (2, Insightful)

blackraven14250 (902843) | more than 3 years ago | (#31961440)

Rephrased: If there weren't problems to fix, there would be no jobs in fields to fix these things. If every user had an intuitive knowledge of everything the system does, there would be no jobs fixing them.

Re:Which make our tech professions miserable? (2, Interesting)

Captain Splendid (673276) | more than 3 years ago | (#31961632)

Which make our tech professions possible.

Which still has no bearing on whether I like it. I'm with Mr Merrill on this one. Playing with computers sure was fun in the beginning. It's 2010 now, and I'm still dealing with retarded ideas or retarded implementations of otherwise good ideas. I'm not suggesting the computer should ever stop evolving, but as I look around, I see a lot of stuff that should just simply be "good enough", not in beta, not difficult to integrate, not a placeholder until the next revision.

Re:Which make our tech professions miserable? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31961744)

Hey, asshole makes shitting possible, but you would be miserable too when another person shoves his o-ring right onto your face.

Macs? (2, Funny)

melikamp (631205) | more than 3 years ago | (#31961080)

a hodge-podge of brittle hardware and opaque, restrictive software

Sounds like Steve Jobs can claim another victim.

Re:Macs? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31961232)

Sounds like Steve Jobs can claim another victim.

The real shame is that the poster will probably never experience the computing environment that is provided by the Macintosh. Wincrap spoils a lot of people's attitudes concerning computers and they don't try anything else.

Re:Macs? (1, Troll)

Prikolist (1260608) | more than 3 years ago | (#31961342)

I tried Mac. I tried Linux. Hated them as much as Windows. I'm a sysadmin too. And the software is just as counter-intuitive, buggy, opaque etc. regardless of the system.
And I'm sorry, but installing stuff on Linux is not the cute story in the blog but an archaic pain of entering lines upon lines of commands into a terminal. Neither is uninstalling - I tried removing Firefox and had to click through more things that cleaning registry and folders on Windows would have. Oh, and it took down the UI with it.

Re:Macs? (2, Informative)

yotto (590067) | more than 3 years ago | (#31961514)

Well on the Linux I use (Debian) I type a single command to install most any software package. Sometimes I have to type a couple commands to uninstall, but I generally don't uninstall programs.

I remember the days when installing something on Linux was hard. Those days are gone unless you're holding onto the wrong distro.

Re:Macs? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31961548)

Well on the Linux I use (Debian) I type a single command to install most any software package.

I type a single command to install

I type commands

Isolated the problem for you. No need to thank me.

Re:Macs? (2, Interesting)

peragrin (659227) | more than 3 years ago | (#31961636)

and where do you find which command? how do you know the package name? where is that information. how do you know what's in each package? what happens when your distro doesn't have the package you want?

The linux command line is only useful if you happen to have memorized the hundreds of commands and their modifiers. If you don't know what you need to get started with however it is very very difficult to learn.

Re:Macs? (0, Redundant)

justinb26 (1783508) | more than 3 years ago | (#31961244)

He pretty much describes my frame of mind right before buying my first Mac. I've never regretted it.

FWIW, I'm a .NET developer, hobbyist hardware and software hacker. I got tired of having to also be a computer mechanic.

Oh really? (3, Interesting)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 3 years ago | (#31961264)

Computers are fragile, unintuitive things...a hodge-podge of brittle hardware
Sounds like Steve Jobs can claim another victim.

Sounds more to me like he's about to get another customer [youtube.com].

Re:Oh really? (5, Insightful)

Mr. Flibble (12943) | more than 3 years ago | (#31961650)

Computers are fragile, unintuitive things...a hodge-podge of brittle hardware
Sounds like Steve Jobs can claim another victim.

Sounds more to me like he's about to get another customer [youtube.com].

And that (the video you linked to) is why the iPad is doing better than us Techno-geeks expected. Indeed, it is why the iPhone and the iMac are doing well.

Computers are mostly brittle - I had my main PC crash last night because of something to do with the graphics card - I still don't know what.

But this little old lady in that video with the iPad? Brilliant. She can get to use it right away - she does not need to understand drivers, or compatibility or any of the other crap that we deal with on a regular basis. As long as it does email, web, IM and facebook, that is all most people would ever want.

It is when we go beyond those basics that computers start to suck. Like my dealing with a pissy PBX, or a switch that I can't log into from some subnets...

The ipad gets rid of most of those problems (to a very large degree). I remember an old man coming up to me years ago when I worked at Staples selling computers (that was an awful job, but it was a start). He grabbed the mouse, and immediately picked it up in the air, and began waving it about to try to get the cursor to move on the screen. We don't think of it like this, but just using the mouse is a different skill. Using the ipad generally involves using skills that we already have gained outside computing - as can be demonstrated by this lady's use of the ipad.

Hopefully, computers begin to suck less - like the ipad. (Just without the DRM BS behind the scenes).

Re:Macs? (3, Insightful)

mikael_j (106439) | more than 3 years ago | (#31961298)

I know you were aiming for a "funny" mod but in my experience macs tend to be some of the most stable consumer computers (short of custom-built machines where the person who built it spent a lot of time researching the parts and then testing that everything worked satisfactory before beginning to actually use the machine). Compared to the average whitebox OEM Wintel machine (or even Dell, HP and similar desktops) I've had much less trouble with macs, sure there are still problems but when we bought 40+ Dell and Fujitsu-Siemens machines (various models) at work our helpdesk guys ended up having to return almost half of the machines in the first couple of months due to overheating issues, glitchy NICs and other stuff that should "just work". That's what you get when you consistently go with the cheapest possible parts (sometimes a few cents difference on a chip that costs ~$1 can make a big difference) and you're always hopping between different models and manufacturers to always get the lowest possible hardware cost.

I don't hate computers (5, Insightful)

eln (21727) | more than 3 years ago | (#31961084)

I love computers. I wouldn't have gotten into the field if I didn't love them. The ones I hate are the developers who write the shitty bug-ridden code that gets loaded onto computers that I have to support.

Re:I don't hate computers (0, Flamebait)

rajafarian (49150) | more than 3 years ago | (#31961210)

The ones I hate are the developers who write the shitty bug-ridden code that gets loaded onto computers that I have to support.

You mean Microsoft?

Re:I don't hate computers (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31961380)

Obvious troll is obvious. Go shit a brick.

Re:I don't hate computers (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31961640)

He did and you came out

Ditto! (2, Insightful)

khasim (1285) | more than 3 years ago | (#31961212)

From TFA

I often wonder if plumbers reach a point in their career, after cleaning clogged drain after clogged drain, that they begin to hate plumbing. They hate pipes. They hate plumber's putty. They hate all the tricks they've learned over the years, and they hate the need to have to learn tricks. It's plumbing, for goodness sake: pipes fitting together and substances flowing through them. How complicated can it be?

Well for one, copper pipe v3.5 is still backward compatible with copper pipe v2.1 and will be forward compatible with copper pipe v5.0 and beyond.

You know how it will fail and how it will age up to the point that it fails.

With computers, you simply do not know. Systems could fail tonight because of some date/time error. Patches next month can break your test machines. But if you don't install the patches, drive by banner ads infections will go up as crackers exploit the buffer overrun. And a million other possibilities.

Re:Ditto! (1)

Volante3192 (953645) | more than 3 years ago | (#31961414)

Plumbers probably get sick of having to pull Ken's head out of the toilet for the 900th time though. Sure, you get paid for it, but sometimes you wish you'd rather never have to pull a plastic doll's body part out of a drain ever again and to spluh with the financial loss.

Re:Ditto! (1)

BobMcD (601576) | more than 3 years ago | (#31961528)

Plumbers probably get sick of having to pull Ken's head out of the toilet for the 900th time though. Sure, you get paid for it, but sometimes you wish you'd rather never have to pull a plastic doll's body part out of a drain ever again and to spluh with the financial loss.

True, but the end users are likely to understand why they are paying the plumber's bill.

Not so much on the computer side of the house. "Yeah, I deleted that, but I had NO IDEA it would BREAK anything. Computers are CRAZY things..."

you've clearly never bought an older house (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31961556)

You know how it will fail and how it will age up to the point that it fails.

From personal experience, while this sounds correct from a theoretical perspective, in practice it's a vicious lie.

Re:I don't hate computers (5, Insightful)

SplashMyBandit (1543257) | more than 3 years ago | (#31961252)

Yeah. The computer hardware is mostly fine. Mostly it's the software that sucks - and I say this speaking as a software developer. Some software sucks less than others though (we're sick of O/S and tools flamewars so please don't start). Some software still has crappy short-sighted design after twenty years, while in some is improving to the point its a joy to use and you don't have to think about it as much as you used to - mostly you get on with doing what you need to do instead of wrestling with drivers and patches etc. Which is the point of the exercise after all.

Sounds like he doesn't hate computers nearly as much as the bad design of the software that runs on them.

Re:I don't hate computers (1)

abigor (540274) | more than 3 years ago | (#31961256)

That's your fault for being on the shit-receiving end. You should have gotten your comp sci degree and become a (proper, non-Web) developer. That way, you could have been on the shit-dispensing end, a much better place to be, trust me.

Re:I don't hate computers (1)

eln (21727) | more than 3 years ago | (#31961374)

Probably, but I already spent a considerable amount of time doing (non-web) development earlier in my career. Didn't care for it. These days I do system architecture more than day to day operations, which isn't quite as aggravating.

Re:I don't hate computers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31961266)

Some of my best friends are computers. But I wouldn't marry one.

Re:I don't hate computers (2, Interesting)

DaMattster (977781) | more than 3 years ago | (#31961358)

Let's tack on to this: the closed source, crappy programs that we must put up with or be unemployed.

Re:I don't hate computers (4, Informative)

VGR (467274) | more than 3 years ago | (#31961728)

I am in hearty agreement. It's the software that's just awful awful awful. Notice every complaint in the article is actually a software complaint.

And most disheartening of all is that we can't write better software, outside of the FOSS world. Just try to write good software. And I mean really good, intuitive software, with useful errors and help messages that actually tell a user what he can do about the problem. Software that behaves well and doesn't act like it owns the computer and doesn't step on all the other software. I've been trying to do it for twenty years, and it's clear no company is interested in paying for that kind of development. Welcome to the world of low-quality everything.

No. (1)

Jorl17 (1716772) | more than 3 years ago | (#31961090)

No, it doesn't relate to all of us. Not many of us, I'm sure, though I can't speak for everyone. Those are the complaints of someone who is mad -- and is in his right to be. We may not like pathetic GUI designs and restrictive software but, in the end, the computer still is that magical logical machine. That's my view -- is it yours?

Yup (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31961096)

Hate these f'ing things.
Hate people too.

Yeah, me too (1)

honestmonkey (819408) | more than 3 years ago | (#31961098)

I've been a programmer/software engineer for mumbly-mumbly years now, and I hate computers too. Preaching to the choir.

Re:Yeah, me too (1)

ChefInnocent (667809) | more than 3 years ago | (#31961306)

I've been a programmer/software engineer for mumbly-mumbly years myself. I don't really hate computers at all. I still enjoy going home and plopping down in front of one; sometimes to play games, and other times to write out a fun project. However, I sometimes get tired of the same ole stuff at work, and I really hate when a family member wants me to fix their virus problem, but those aren't the fault of the computer. I imagine I'd be just as tired of any other profession after mumbly-mumbly years of doing the same thing, but it isn't the fault of the tool.

Re:Yeah, me too (1)

AnonymousClown (1788472) | more than 3 years ago | (#31961330)

That's interesting that you feel that way.

I got into computers because that was the only job I could get at the time. I learned to program for the financial modeling I was doing - computer arbitrage what we called "computer trading" back then. Now it's just standard business practice. I couldn't get a job in the finance field other than salesman - selling shit mutual funds to my family and being paid 100% commission. First Investors was the firm's name. I'm a shitty salesman at that.

I hated it when folks said, "Well, you must love it because you're good at it." Nope. Solving problems on occasion can be interesting and even fun, but loving it? No way. And considering that most software development seems like the same old shit day in and day out - arrrggg.

Learn a new language? Yep. Learned several. It comes down to the same old shit - hours upon hours in front of a computer.

Even went to a couple of career councilors. Gave me some tests, said I was an INTP. Checked my interests and said "My you have a lot of interests!" Yep. But NONE of them are something I want to do day in and day out, 50+ hours a week. Then they said, how about going into computers? D'Oh!

Then I learned a new term: polymath. Well, well, well. That fits me. Now how to make a living as a polymath without having to get a once in a century TV show on Discovery Channel (Adam Savage on Mythbusters is a polymath).

Enough of my rant.

Re:Yeah, me too (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 3 years ago | (#31961646)

Make your own Mythbusters style show, put it on a video sharing site that gives you some of the ad profit, and go that way. You can do it part-time at first.

It is called "a love/hate relationship" (2, Interesting)

Openstandards.net (614258) | more than 3 years ago | (#31961106)

To be honest, they are "things", not people. Should we really consider loving "things"?

Re:It is called "a love/hate relationship" (1, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#31961184)

You're nothing but a thing that can think of themselves.

Re:It is called "a love/hate relationship" (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31961430)

Bullshit.
You are writing to a human with a soul.

Confessional time: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31961112)

I for one welcome our new robot overlords.

Get a Mac (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31961126)

Seriously. I don't think I've loved any computer as much as my Mac Pro, even though I built most of the others. It's an incredibly well built computer and makes you realize even more how much others are lacking.

You must not be familar with fufme (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31961136)

I LOVE my computer

No. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31961140)

"Does his editorial speak to all of us in similar IT-related fields? Do we all silently hate the complexities and idiosyncrasies computers have, like error messages and UI designs that make no sense to the common user, which make our tech professions miserable?"

No. In fact, some of those things that he 'silently hates' are some of the main motivations I use to drive the software I develop. If I didn't genuinely love this stuff, I would NOT be in IT.

Burnt Out (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31961158)

I don't so much hate them as I am burnt out on them. Only so many times can I reinstall, only so many times can I set something up, only so many times I can trash it all because it doesn't meet the needs. It's boring and mundane as shit, and that combined with the fact that I'm little more than a glorified janitor makes me keen to new careers.

I think I'll go be a fisherman.

(I would have said "Astronaut" but, well.... Thanks Osama!)

I just dont trust them. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31961168)

I just dont trust them.

Well... (4, Interesting)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 3 years ago | (#31961170)

I hate a lot of modern software (open source, closed source, whatever) because of the enormous, and often pointless complexities. I miss the joys of being a kid in front of my first 16k home computer, it was an adventure. I miss my first few years with *nix, when the operating system was populated with fine-tuned tools focused on accomplishing a single job and doing it well.

It's true that software and hardware often seems more like a balancing act. You try to find an equilibrium where you don't need cron jobs to stop the daemon that spontaneously combusts, or where the Windows roaming profile will properly synchronize with the server copy and not barf in a dozen different ways, and hope beyond hope that the patches you're getting won't cause more problems than they solve.

I think the reason, at least for me, is that there's little sense that I have control over how the systems work. Anything non-trivial involves so many separate processes, functions, modules and reliance on everything tying together that sometimes when I get something working, I'm more amazed than pleased.

But that's the job. You control what you can and try to mitigate what you can't.

Re:Well... (2, Insightful)

justinb26 (1783508) | more than 3 years ago | (#31961518)

I agree with you on some points, but disagree on others.

I agree that most of the problem is crappy software. It does, however, make me appreciate the truly good software even more.

I agree that there is something to be said for understanding how everything works to a fine degree. However, I think that ability to mentally "chunk" systems you don't care about, and just think of them on a high level, is absolutely crucial to progress. I also think that kids today will find the same kind of joys writing XNA games, or iPhone apps, or fooling around and making "cool stuff" in just about any language.

I also think that it's possible to constuct a useful conceptual framework of the underlying layers without needing to know what's going on down the nth degree. Depending on how you look at it, that 16k program that you think you grok completely, depends on the interplay of concepts all the way down to the subatomic level. With respect to understanding how your program works, do you really need to know the specifics?

Likewise, if I'm programming in a language, interpreted by a VM, memory managed, providing frameworks to do things like render graphics, play sound, interpret input, etc, do I really need to understand how an ALU works to fully understand my program? I don't think so.

(Playing devil's advocate a bit, as I'm quite obsessive about understanding things from the bottom up. But I understand that this is a personal quirk, and that it's not necessary, given reliable substrates and effective models)

when it's a hobby first (5, Insightful)

BitwiseX (300405) | more than 3 years ago | (#31961202)

I wish I had never turned a hobby into a profession. For the most part I enjoy what I do as a Sys Admin, but I used to come home from work and hop onto a mini programming project, or maybe i'll try some new software out.. switch from sendmail to postfix, just for the halibut.. stuff like that.

Now I come home and I don't want to look at a computer or I just play some games. Kinda sad :(

Re:when it's a hobby first (2, Insightful)

DaMattster (977781) | more than 3 years ago | (#31961328)

I wish I could mod this guy up. I did the same thing. I turned what was essentially a hobby into a profession. But, I always enjoyed working with open source more and finding creative, alternative solutions to proprietary and closed ones.

It's not the computer's fault (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31961204)

If the UI is bad or the hardware is brittle, there's a person who made it that way. You can only improve computers by keeping people from making bad computers.

It's users I hate (5, Funny)

buback (144189) | more than 3 years ago | (#31961208)

Everything would work perfectly fine if we just got rid of all the damn users.

Re:It's users I hate (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31961316)

This, repeated forever. Computers are cold and logical, humans are not.

No. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31961238)

I do not hate computers. I sometimes hate the developers who created the buggy code, or the company that couldn't be bothered to pay someone to create decent documentation, or the engineer who was pressured into signing off on "almost to spec" hardware, but computers overall? No.

I love tech. The computer is an awesome confluence of interesting tech bits. That's why I manage systems for a living.

Toasters (2, Insightful)

VoxMagis (1036530) | more than 3 years ago | (#31961242)

Computers are the Toasters of the '00s'. Our users expect them to toast. If they don't toast, they call us.

I spend my day doing many many different computer tasks. I help users, I do some light coding, I work on web pages, email servers, file servers, domain servers, track minor issues with printer drivers or email clients, and whatever else. I can really relate to the article.

The issue is that a computer as an appliance isn't a reality in the everyday world, except to users. They want them to do exactly what they expect them to do, every time, without having a 'burnt part and an uncooked part'. For those of us that spend all day dealing with computers, we come to know that it doesn't work that way. Our problem is that we live in two different realities, and they are not yet compatible.

Of course, once they really do work like a refrigerator or a toaster or a coffee maker, I'll be out of a job. Most days I'm not sure that's a bad thing.

Re:Toasters (1)

T Murphy (1054674) | more than 3 years ago | (#31961366)

Okay, now I want to take a PC and add a toaster so that it looks like a CD drive. If I get any burns in the process I'll send you the bill.

Re:Toasters (1)

RJFerret (1279530) | more than 3 years ago | (#31961678)

Ironically, before your '00s, back in the 80s, computers WERE appliances that did exactly what was expected of them. You turned them on, performed your task and got predictable results 100% of the time. In fact, they replaced typewriters as they were more efficient. Some of the systems in the '90s as well, but sadly other computer systems displaced those.

It's amazed me, that a system based on a completely digital structure, has evolved into such a mess. We used to have an expression represented by the "GIGO" acronym: "Garbage In, Garbage Out". But nowadays, you can get garbage out just by turning the damn thing on, without inputting a thing!

(Yes, before everyone replies and reminds me that's not literally the case, as other things are putting garbage in on the user's behalf--but the end result is the same.)

If a toaster starts to burn my toast, I can adjust it's setting. If a computer were a toaster, you'd go to it one morning and it wouldn't heat, you'd have to update it and then resolve something, relying on obscure resources, taking until lunchtime--THEN it would burn your bread and produce less satisfactory results than before the update.

For more irony, if one needs to prepare printed documents now, it would probably be more efficient and cost effective to use a typewriter. (Thinking of how much I've spent on printers, cables, ink, and time wasted with issues over the years--and I don't print much! Just a few times a month...)

PS: You wouldn't be out of a job, there used to be typewriter repair places.

Anonymous Coward (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31961274)

I am a software engineer and I like what I do. Unfortunately I do not like computers. It is the "thing" that "other" people use because it facilitates their life, but in reality, they do not give a damn about who or how someone put that box to work. We cannot tell to anyone that we did something amazing in software engineering or that we reduce the complexity of an algorithm without annoying them. In the end, nobody but us (computer scientists/engineers) is impressed by our work.

Wish I was good and enjoy working in another field :(

Ha (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31961276)

Scott Merrill sounds more "fragile and unintuitive" than my computer by far.

I once peed on a motherboard (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31961284)

I wanted that server to DIE. It was a long (17 hour) day. I peed on the motherboard.

I Agree (2, Insightful)

DaMattster (977781) | more than 3 years ago | (#31961296)

By and large I hate computers when I have to work on them for a living. I am stuck having to use M$ software which has all of the joy of scrubbing a toilet. Being responsible for a Microsoft Windows Server can be akin to slashing my wrists. When I am home I love computing because I get to work on my open source operating systems which return the joy of computing back to the user. Instead of being forced to do things Microsoft's way, I am free to use my computer as I see fit with creative tools that let me see what goes on behind the scenes. I am free to do imaginative things with my computer which brings real joy. My intention is not to bash M$ but to show how openness can make something more fun and imaginative to use.

Self-inflictied injury (2, Insightful)

JustNiz (692889) | more than 3 years ago | (#31961326)

It seems this guy's issues are ultimately mostly Windows-specific rather than anything specific to computers in general. He even takes time out to say how good OSX and Linux's package management is compared to Windows, yet he clearly still uses Windows as his primary OS.

Basically this guys problems are mostly self-inflicted, as he clearly knows about the alternatives yet still forces himself to keep going with the crappiest option.

Re:Self-inflictied injury (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31961372)

Basically this guys problems are mostly self-inflicted, as he clearly knows about the alternatives yet still forces himself to keep going with the crappiest option.

I thought you said he wasn't using Linux? You have me confused.

Re:Self-inflictied injury (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31961408)

I'm sorry what OSX package management? Where you drag the app to the trash and have a bunch of preference files left in directories that spotlight doesn't search?

Re:Self-inflictied injury (1)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 3 years ago | (#31961734)

Ok, march into your boss's office right now, demand you change the entire operations OS because you don't like it's package management. threaten to quit if he doesn't. be sure to time how long it takes him to burst into laughter at you.

Careful what you say! (2, Insightful)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 3 years ago | (#31961362)

Computers know just how you feel about them... and they also hate being anthropomorphized!

But seriously, it is scary how often my wife will complain to me "this doesn't work!" as she is clicking away on a web form, but when I go over and calmly click the submit button, it works perfectly. I honestly have no idea what she is doing wrong.

Re:Careful what you say! (2, Funny)

BobMcD (601576) | more than 3 years ago | (#31961688)

I've noticed this, too. I can often just pop in and inquire about a problem and it goes away on its own.

Even more scary, though - computers are getting lazy!

If you're not watching the timer-bar click towards the right, the computer slacks off and doesn't finish. The moment you go back to watching it, it gets back to making progress on it. Triply-true on VMWare boxes.

Switch to *NIX (1)

jsimon12 (207119) | more than 3 years ago | (#31961394)

Can't say I blame him. If I had to deal with Wintel all day I would hate computers too. Switch to *NIX, more control, more sense, more power!

Re:Switch to *NIX (2, Informative)

Merc248 (1026032) | more than 3 years ago | (#31961562)

Bah. I'm a Linux sysadmin, but it still sucks the life out of you to maintain them. Someone can still royally fuck up the infrastructure and make maintenance a living hell. But it is more of a joy to work with *nix systems than Windows systems, I'll give you that.

crap computers (1)

astar (203020) | more than 3 years ago | (#31961402)

I seem to recall that way back when, the multics was designed to never be shut down. I guess one ran continuously for 14 years. More recently, I recall tandem, but do not know much about them, and i wonder if they are even still around. I have not hard of them this millenium.

We are so proud of our computers, but they have been so shoddy forever. I suppose you could argue it is not a mature industry, but you really really want to use say the auto industry as your shining example for the future of computers?

I think a lot of this stems from crap accounting principles. I think of the difficulty in writing down nominal capital values and the peculiar distinctions between the capital and expense.

Remembeer when computers, (1)

Grand Facade (35180) | more than 3 years ago | (#31961404)

were supposed to make our life easier?
Then they got monitized/corporatized,
and patented,
and copyrighted,
and we now alter our lives so as to work around crap software
and pray for the computer to not crash

Re:Remembeer when computers, (1)

mmcxii (1707574) | more than 3 years ago | (#31961516)

Given that I can write instructions in fairly simple terms that makes that machine that you're cursing go over a couple hundred thousand records and correlate that data with a few other hundred thousand records in a matter of seconds? Yeah, I'll be the first to confirm that computers have made my life easier.

Don't forget that we have enormously complex systems today because they're doing more and more for us. Those that bemoan them and wish back to the days of their Commodore 64 are mostly those who haven't tried to do something productive with their Commodore 64 in the last decade or two.

What we go through today is a small price to pay compared to the alternative.

Illogical (1)

mmcxii (1707574) | more than 3 years ago | (#31961420)

I find that investing a lot of emotions into machines is about as intelligent as kicking yourself in the ass.

As far as things that don't make sense to the average user? Who's the average user? I work with about a thousand end users and I honestly don't think that any one design is going to be suitable for even a simple majority of them. People need to become more dynamic about how they use their tools.

Low prices result in low quality (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31961468)

As long as the material used to make computers is expensive, and as long as people are willing to pay NOTHING for a decent computer, things will always be this way... The companies manufacturing them will cut corners to get a product on the market rather than build it to be durable, long-lasting, intuitive, etc.. This results in my toaster outliving at least 2 or 3 of my computer systems. The demand to get the product out quickly has a lot to do with this as well.

That being said though... People put up with a lot when it comes to computers, whereas if my toaster was giving me error messages, was difficult to use, was breaking down every other week... Well I wouldn't stand for that.

People don't want to pay for high-priced computers, so we have to settle for below-grade products. We want things yesterday, so we again settle for unfinished products. We all seem to have a high tolerance for computer quirks, so we deal with below-standard products.

I swear though, if computers were perfect, well built, creative and easy-to-use machines, I'd be out of a job as an IT professional.... At east the tech support aspect anyway.

To comment on the article above, computers really are junk compared to what they SHOULD be. They should be so much more. They COULD be so much more... if only resources were limitless, copyrights and patent wars didn't exist, and money grew on trees.

No. (1)

PhreakOfTime (588141) | more than 3 years ago | (#31961484)

After reading all the above comments, Im kind of surprised that I am in the minority in that I do admin work, and dont hate computers really in any way.

In my work life, its heavily sysadmin type of stuff. I dont hate any of our servers, or the software that runs on them. This is what happens when you make good choices.

In my personal life, I have a house-wide LAN with a mix of linux and Windows machines, depending on the purpose of them.Some are mostly used for viewing DVD's, some are for work-related priorities, And one is a touchscreen display in the kitchen with a barcode scanner on the fridge. Linux is used in place of windows to perform the task of a domain controller for the other windows machines. Roaming profiles are used on the more interactive devices, with network shares to both public and user-specific data.

Between both of these aspects, the computers themselves work exactly as they should. The software in my house that relates to my specific setup was made, or code level changes to other existing programs, by me.

My windows profiles never have any problems, and my linux server likewise in both its private facing side as well as its public IP range.

In a different time, the common phrase for such behavior was;

  1. A poor carpenter always blames his tools

Re:No. (1)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 3 years ago | (#31961718)

After reading all the above comments, Im kind of surprised that I am in the minority in that I do admin work, and dont hate computers really in any way. In my work life, its heavily sysadmin type of stuff. I dont hate any of our servers, or the software that runs on them. This is what happens when you make good choices.

I usually reserve my hate for the people who make bad choices for me (the sysadmin) against my protests. Of course, this gets expressed as hatred of specific POS machines they mandated because hatred of the people is less socially acceptable. For the most part, I love computers, and my work and free time revolve around them. My work often feels like free time, especially when I'm surfing /.

Don't hate, don't fear, BUT DON'T EVER TRUST (1)

Gim Tom (716904) | more than 3 years ago | (#31961532)

I don't hate computers, I am certainly not afraid of them, but I have been burned too many times to ever trust them completely (are you listing Toyota!).

I started with vacuum tubes and soldering irons and ended my career with routers, firewalls and server farms. I also wrote a lot of code on the way and did my share of Q.A. on others code too.

No, I don't hate them and I still like discovering new things that they will (and sometimes won't) do and new ways to do it

Computers -- even simple ones -- are complex systems, and since my original pedigree was in Systems Engineering the one thing that I learned early on was that whenever you THOUGHT you really understood all there was to know about ANY complex system was when it would take the opportunity to teach you something you never expected.

My opinion (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | more than 3 years ago | (#31961538)

I love computers, but I hate the "opaque, restrictive software" that everyone, except for FOSS projects (for the most part), seems to make.
But when you actually find that perfect software, it is a beautiful thing.

I'm that way with telephones (1)

michael_cain (66650) | more than 3 years ago | (#31961544)

I spent almost 25 years analyzing and designing telephone and data networks and services. And never got comfortable talking on the telephone. Does that count?

I agree (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31961612)

one sys admin VS 8 phone system, 12 servers, 200+ users 24hrs (nursing homes open 24/7/365) a day gets old. Everything dies eventually and its always the admins fault!

Computers are unintuitive... (1)

blahplusplus (757119) | more than 3 years ago | (#31961648)

... So are lots of things like physics, higher level mathematics (and even lower level for much of the population).

I agree much could be done to make computers more intuitive but this means offloading even control to tools that compile and make software that are many years (decades) away from being completed.

There are many research projects that aim to make software more modifiable and easy to use for end users but they are not beyond the research stage.

UI designs that make no sense to the common user (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31961654)

Presumably his company just upgraded to Windows 7 or Office 2007.

"I just want to insert a freakin' table!!! Where the hell is it. Let me switch to my other word window. FFS, do I really have to click twice to switch between instances of Word! The whole task bar is empty so why can't I have two friggin' icons for Word like XP!!! That's it, I'm going to kill myself!"

I've always thought the opposite! (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31961680)

Computers are great, the endless possibilities and beautiful complexity built into a simple box.

At the same time I hate the things we do with them. All the brilliance just created so we can send pointless 140 character messages saying how we enjoyed our
porkchops for dinner (with nice apple sauce too!).

It's the worst of both worlds (1)

fluffernutter (1411889) | more than 3 years ago | (#31961686)

(I'm a sysadmin as well) I think IT sucks as a whole because it is a scientific field that was thrown to the wolves of commercialism. The computer is a petri dish in which great things can happen; but everything must work together in its entirety. Commercial entities refuse to work together, standards are open to interpretation or manipulation and you get an absolute mess. I think Apple is really aiming to achieve this harmony (I will set aside the fact that it is completely self-serving for now) but they have such a small corner of the market that they reduce their machines to a very small subset of what can be done in the name of just getting things to work effortlessly (and yes even OS/X is minimal in capability).

Everyone contributing to a single system must buy in to a common good of making that system work, and they just don't.

I have said this before (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31961698)

Many times in fact. Go do something you enjoy doing. Only valid criterion for picking your career. Anything else will make you miserable. Stop trying to fix what you *think* is broken. It works just fine for me, mk?

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