Tuesday, July 08, 2003

My Mojo Needs a Recharge

I got the pleasure (really, it was) of meeting one of the two new IT directors at work today. I received a call asking if I could come by and set up his Pocket PC(TM) to synchronize with his email. I complied and proceeded to confidently screw up his computer.

You see, I'm the go-to guy for PDA support on campus. It's not that I have any particular skill with the devices, I just drew the short straw. Actually, I was designated because a) I'm the postmaster and b) I kind-of helped spearhead the development of a PDA support policy on campus... As a matter of fact, I wrote the policy because no one else would do it. (I actually had some help and input from my boss, Ron and a co-worker, Jan. Thanks guys!)

Anyway, I get hold of the third-party software needed to sync with our email system and stride over with the utmost of confidence that this will be an easy task. The director has only been on the job for two days so there is not a great deal of data to handle and the PDA is brand spanking new. I proceed.

Installing the ActiveSync(TM) software and hooking up the sync cradle were a snap. Not much to that, really. Just about as hard as connecting a USB printer or scanner. Everything goes fine.

Then, I install the sync software. No issues with the install but, when I try to sync, it all goes to pot. The software scans the handheld, then scans the email database. Calendar: OK, To Do List: OK, Address book: OK, Inbox: Error decoding line 9...


This error appeared on the handheld, so I cleared it... repeatedly... and the sync software "completed successfully." I tried again, same result.

Hmmmm. Maybe the handheld needs a soft reset to get all the electrons flowing in the right direction (the electronic equivalent of holding your tongue just-right). Reset, try again, same result.

I turn to the sync software. It's looking at the copy of the mail file on his computer instead of the one on the server. I quickly and easily change that and the sync goes off without a hitch (or so I thought).

Stick with me... it gets worse.

About an hour after lunch, the director rings me on the phone and tells me that the inbox view on his handheld is empty... completely empty. His calendar, to do list and drafts folder (all part of the same file) are just fine but the inbox is empty. I knew it was too good to be true. Shame on me thinking this was going to be easy.

Did you know that one of Murphy's laws is that the probability of your screwing up the simplest of tasks is directly proportional to the importance of the person for whom you are performing the task? Don't get me wrong, it wasn't that I was nervous and fumbled the ball in front of the boss, I actually caught and ran with the ball but I think the referee tripped me as I passed (hey! watch it, bub!).

Here comes the worse part...

When I get back to his office, I take a look at the handheld then try another sync. Error decoding line 9. LINE 9 OF WHAT, EXACTLY???!!!! Oh, this is frustrating. I examine and tweak the sync software a bit but it doesn't help. Maybe we need to restart the computer? The boss says go ahead so I shut down and restart.

"Can you log in for me?"
"I don't remember the password." (Keep in mind, it's only his second day and, as I found out later, he hasn't rebooted the machine since yesterday morning when he turned it on the first time)
"Was it your default password?"
"Yes, it was."
"I'll go across the hall and look that up for you."

Just then, someone walked in and he went into confidential mode (he shut the door and asked me to give him a few minutes). About 30 minutes later, he emerges and instructs me to have at it while he heads off presumably to confer with someone in another office. No problem: I have his password.

I bring up the login screen, type in the password and Windows proceeds to ask me what the workstation password is. This is not a good sign. I retype the password I have written down - no luck. Our help desk has gotten into the habit of doing some initial configuration on new computers (they're not touching my next new computer. I'm perfectly capable of setting it up myself, thankyouverymuch. I do have an A+ certification) so I go ask them for their default workstation password. It doesn't work either. I try a couple of other things when suddenly I see "Your windows account has been locked. Please see your system administrator."

This is, of course, about the time the boss comes back. *GRRRRR* He's not upset, though. It's nearing the end of the day and others that have followed him back to his office assure him that we can fix it. In short order, someone calls one of the domain administrators who rushes up to confirm that, yes, the Windows account is locked. This same person also explains to me that the default password listed in the Identity Information System was not up to our new password security standards so the initial letter was changed to a capital. Great. Information I could have used YESTERDAY!!!! At least, earlier that same day.

The admin rushes back downstairs to the basement where system administrators dwell and releases the account. It is only when he returns that he remembers that it will take thirty minutes for the account to release. This entire event has occurred in accordance with University electronic security policies. Shit.

By this time, it's 4:30 and I excuse myself saying that I promise to come back first thing in the morning. We'll see how that goes.

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