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Personal Musings

All in a Day's Work

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We are in the midst of a major upgrading of our computer systems at work. (Usually when I start a conversation with this sentence, people invariably ask, "Oh, you're getting the new Vista? How do you like it?" No, we're not getting Vista and I'm in no particular hurry to try it. We are, however, upgrading to encrypted data on all our hard drives. This way, should any computer be stolen or lost, at least we won't be having to warn people that their personal information could be subject to identity theft.

The upgrade does involve the blowing away of the entire hard drive, rebuilding from Windows XP up, because the encryption lies beneath the operating system. The OS doesn't even know its there. The process takes up to six hours per machine and can only be done when connected via wire to our servers. The wireless folks have to bring their laptops in to headquarters for us to perform the upgrade on their machines.

Because the process is so lengthy, we have asked people to ensure that they get their laptops to us by 7:00 AM (even if it means bringing them in the evening before.) We can do about twelve at a time, but lack "spare" AC adapters for that many laptops, so we also ask people to bring their power cords with them. In addition, we use secure identity cards (called CAC cards or smart cards) for user login, so we ask people to bring their ID cards as well.

Our furtherest users have managed to comply. Today, one of our local units called us at 8:00 am saying, "Laptops are on their way. They just left." They arrived at 9:30, without power adapters and two CAC cards. The runner who brought them said, "My wireless card isn't working." We sent him back for the power adapters and CAC cards. After he left, I took a look at his laptop.

His wireless card is one of those PCMCIA types that are completely inside the laptop when inserted. To remove them, one must release, then plunge, a plunger. It is conceivable that if one should become jammed in the laptop that a person might use a needle-nose pliers to pull on it or even try to pry it out with a screwdriver or knife. These methods would not be very kind to the card, but at least they would be understandable actions. The marks on this wireless card were not made by pliers or screwdrivers, however. This card had been beaten with a ball-peen hammer. Yeah, I'd say it wasn't working!

We wrote up a statement of charges against the individual and proceeded to work overtime to get these laptops completed after being delivered to us two and a half hours late! Ah, such are the joys of work.