Tag Archives: I Should Have Been a Firefighter

True Horror Stories

There’s a trending topic on Twitter right now, #FiveWordTechHorrors, which even I, a lowly PHP developer, find mighty funny. I contributed a few Tweets to the trend myself, each one based on something that really happened to me.

For example:

This happened to me in my early days at my current job. I was originally hired as a temporary employee to take over for someone who was out on extended leave. While I was being shown around the facilities by one of the two IT guys, I was shown our two in-house web servers which were, at the time, running Solaris something-or-other. I asked, “So who’s the Unix guy who keeps these servers up and running?” The IT guy replied, “You are.” This frightened me at the time because my experience of Unix was running a desktop installation of Red Hat, back when Red Hat was free for non-commercial users (now people use Fedora, I think), which was very different from Solaris. Over the years I’ve gotten quite comfortable running a Unix server, but back then the notion that I, a new employee whose experience with servers was pretty much nil, was now in charge of two of them was somewhat horrifying.

Also:

My first (and only) private-sector web development job was for a tiny company called [REDACTED] (this company no longer exists). It was a risk, taking up the employment offer, but I figured what the heck. We started out pretty strong, but as the months wore on, things got a little tight. Then the layoffs began. The first department to get laid off was the Business Development department, which baffled me personally; I mean, if your problem is that you’re not getting a lot of new business, why lay off the department which is responsible for getting that new business? But whatever.

The true death knell, though, was when the entire QA department was laid off. Not outsourced. The duties were not reassigned to the development team. No, QA was just dissolved as a practice. This, again, baffled me. But, whatever. At that point, I figured it was just a matter of time until I was laid off myself and the company went away entirely.

Cute story: I was at one point in my employment for [REDACTED] responsible for installing a product called Phorum, a web-based forum tool built in PHP. Because of database issues, every single SQL call in the product had to be rewritten. Shortly before I was laid off, the tech lead ended up reassigning the task to our local Perl developer, saying, “We need you to fix the mess that Richard made.”

Hah. I guess I showed him.

Another one:

I actually don’t really have anything against Microsoft. I haven’t used Windows in years (aside from running it in a virtual machine on my desktop once every three months or so). I find the Windows operating system inflexible, buggy, and insecure, not to mention expensive, but this is not a moral judgment. I use Linux now, and have never looked back; and while Linux as a desktop OS certainly has its share of issues, it’s still free and I still find it much more flexible than Windows.

At one point in my current job, I decided I was going to lobby for a Linx-based desktop computer. It made sense to me, because I was responsible for maintaining the Unix servers we had (see above), and I knew, because I had a Linux desktop at home, that it was much easier to maintain a Unix server from another Unix computer. It had gotten to the point where I was bringing in my own Linux-based laptop to the office to do my work on. While I was working with IT to get a Linux desktop, I was told, “We are a Microsoft shop”, which, to me, usually indicates that the entire computing infrastructure, from desktops to servers, were Windows computers. This was, of course, not the case in this job. My boss was behind me on this issue, but IT certainly was not.

I did finally get my Linux desktop, though.

I’ve contributed a couple of other tweets to this topic, but I told myself I was going to limit myself to three in this blog entry, and so I have.

‘Tis the season for (horrifying!) Holidailies.

Quick Note

On the whole, MoodleMoot 2008 was pretty good and I’m glad I went. There were good panels, many of which, like any self respecting panel in any event where you have a bunch of nerds gathered, went over their time limit.

I focused on the panels that seemed most appropriate to my situation. There were a couple of panels on Moodle customization and on Moodle as a social networking tool, and those seemed most important to me. I also picked up some good strategies for completing our own upgrade.

Of course there were also panels I didn’t expect to see at a large conference devoted to educational technology. "Distance Learning for the Metabolically Challenged?" "ZombieFriends.com as a Model for Post Mortem Social Networking — What Can Moodle Learn?" They seemed like interesting panels but I assume they were just jokes and I didn’t bother attending. I would have if I’d had the time.

I did find myself at the same lunch table with a few of the lead developers of Moodle, including Mr. Moodle himself, Martin Dougiamas. Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to ask them about any of my particular issues, which is a shame because I’ve been stuck on an upgrade issue for nearly a year now. Of course, it did feel good that every person I talked to about my own situation had pretty much the same reaction: a quick, sharp intake of breath followed by, "Oooh, ouch."

So I think I have some good ideas for when I start tackling that project again.