Category Archives: Business

for matters relating to business

Kids (and Many Others) Can’t Use Computers

I recently came across Kids can’t use computers… and this is why it should worry you. It is a blog posting by Marc Scott about difficulties he has encountered with people who supposedly can use computers. Many of us who do computer support can tell similar stories.

The trouble is that many people can not use computers as well as, say, cars. You know that you have to go to a gas station from time to time to refuel a car, but somehow, when it comes to computers, many people do not have the corresponding knowledge.

What is worse is that many people are proud of their ignorance. Try to tell them how to avoid a repetition of the problem you just dealt with, and they do not want to hear it. (It really is a relief when someone does listen.)

It is also thought that kids are digital natives and so they know all this stuff. That is not true either. By using a computer, you do not learn the technical side of computers any more than by driving, you learn auto mechanics.

This makes it difficult for those of us in computer support. Dealing with the same problem over and over because someone can not be bothered to learn is somewhat demoralising.

Please do not act as if computers are something you can not learn about. You can learn.

Really.

And it will make it easier for the both of us.

A Dose of Simplicity

Gochapon are vending machines that dispense items in capsules. They are used heavily in Japan, and there are stores with banks of these machines.

In Father and son dissect a gachapon capsule toy machine to show us its magical insides【Video】/, a father and his son go to a gachapon store and see how they work.

They take one apart, and show that the mechanism is very simple. With a simple slider, one can set the price on the machine to 100, 200, 300, 400, or 500 yen.

In our computerised world, it is good to have reminders that not everything has to be computerised to be flexible.

Not the Big Time

No, I have not made the big time yet.

I recently received one of those calls. After the initial hellos, it went about like this:
Caller: “I’m calling you from Windows technical department.” (That wording and in an Indian accent.)
Me: “Wow! I’ve finally received one of these scam calls. Bye bye.”
and I hung up.

Microsoft does not make calls like this. It is a scam to get you to put malware on your computer. Can you hang up as quickly as I did? You should.

Cheap Can Lose It All

Not too long ago, I got a new wristwatch. While it looked good, it had a nasty flaw. It had very little protection against water. A quick rinse to get rid of accumulated sweat would end up with water under the plastic. After a few of these, some of the water got into the electronics and some of the LED segments quit working.

Had I known that this watch was so vulnerable, I never would have bought it since I regularly rinse my watch.

The trouble with cheap designs is that the corners cut are often not mentioned. You proceed with normal use and break it. Consider spending a bit more, you cheapskate. (Who? Me?) I just did for another not-quite-so-cheap watch that is marked “Water Resistant”. Here is hoping.

The Problem of Documentation for Beginners

Who likes writing documentation? Very few.

But, in many fields, it can be difficult to get started because of information that is left out of documentation. When one does not know much in an area, it is very easy for a missing piece of information to make it difficult or even impossible to proceed. I had this problem recently yet again with a software package. The package has a lot of features, but we are having trouble getting them in use.

Even something is written down, it can be difficult to find when one does not know much yet in the area.

What often is missing is documentation for the documentation. This would be what one needs to know get started and where one should go from there.

I am quite prepared to put in my time studying, but all too often, I have no idea where to profitably begin. Even if I get a result, I, all too often, find that there were some key pieces of information that would have made it much easier to get results.

Throwing the manual at me is often of little good. If I do not know an area, then one of the things that I do not know is how to evaluate the important of data in the area. One manual page is much like any other. Knowing which are the most important for getting started is quite valuable information for a newbie.

If you are ever documenting something for a beginner to use, please put together something that a beginner can work with and have confidence that it will work. Examples really help a lot. Remember, too, that someone may be an expert in an area but still not be able to use what you are documenting.

An accountant will not automatically know how to use an accounting package. Even if that accountant can figure out some of it, the other part may be quite unclear. Ever wonder why some software features rarely get used? Who can figure out how they work?

So, when documenting, please write to your audience’s knowledge level, put in everything needed (including examples) to get things started, and point out where to go from there.

Then, maybe, you can document the advanced features.

The Worldwide Web and the Baling Wire Model

When something is jerry-rigged (or jury-rigged or — I may have an Odd Language item here!) or held together with baling wire (or chewing gum), it means that it works, sort of, somewhat. This should not be confused with solid engineering.

An awful lot of the Web (A lot of the awful Web …?) works this way. For something that is so widely used by so many, it is still somewhat amazing to me how much digital baling wire and chewing gum there is.

“If builders built buildings the way programmers wrote programs, then the first woodpecker that came along would destroy civilization.” — Gerald Weinberg

There are too many cases of sites just not working for me or ones that are subverted to serve up malware.

What are you doing to make reliable things in your area of expertise?

Odd Language #143: What Exhibition?

From an alt.folklore.computers post on work dress code: “Next, in software development, dress was anything that covers up the naughty bits, except when customers came in for meetings or we were at exhibitions.”

The issue: What kind of exhibition? Dress is not specified for meetings or exhibitions so it appears that dress then is not “anything that covers up the naughty bits”. It could be corrected with, say, “… except for suit and tie or similar for when customers …”.

Disorder That Another Does Not See

Last week, I wrote Order that One Does Not See. Now, for another side.

If you work in a technical area, it can be very difficult explaining why things are taking as long as they do. It can be apparently obvious that all you have to do is [Insert trivial thing here.], so why are you taking so long?

I found that with some recent programming work. I was having to unravel some somewhat messy programming that someone else had written that was not documented very well and that was in an area I do not know very well yet. Not surprisingly, it was slow slogging. Fortunately, I was given something else as a priority where I was able to get some results fast. I did not have to worry much about the other parts, so it was much easier.

But try explaining why something is taking so long. After all, your explanation is about what someone trying to pull a fast one would use, and how is the non-technical person to tell whether you are the good guy or the bad guy?

Non-technical folk, a technical area might not be nearly as simple as it appears. Please cut us some slack.