Monday, January 9, 2012

Wrong tools for the job

Hey, it’s the first Monday of the New Year! At least, it is if you don’t count the 2nd, when New Year’s Day was observed, but it should be fairly self-evident that this her blog is not going to count a day like that. We all know I tend to blog almost exclusively during downtime at work, and not so much when I don’t go in to the office, and Mondays are supposed to be the days when I blog about work, to boot. So a federal holiday on a Monday is, for all intents and purposes, a Monday that never happened.

So what is there to say about work at this point? Not much, really. There was a bit of holiday hangover last week, but it’s all but dissipated now (the too-tall-for-our-office-drop-ceiling Christmas tree notwithstanding, as it’s still watching over the elevator lobby with no signs of going anywhere anytime soon). The standard grind has reasserted itself. But if I may, I’d like to say a word or two about that standard grind, which is at least tangentially topical. To wit:


As a courtesy to the latecomers, I’ll explain that GFE is contractor-ese for “government furnished equipment” and almost exclusively refers to the desktop computer in one’s cubicle on which one is expected to work. And my work computer is old and slow, much like the government itself (hiyo!). I actually prefer multi-tasking throughout the day, but trying to keep multiple programs running simultaneously on this box taxes its physical memory a great deal. Having the entire system freeze up is a distressingly regular occurrence.

And in addition to its physical limitations of memory and processing power, my GFE is running Windows Vista and my web browser (the only one I am allowed, by administrator proxy settings, to have installed) is Internet Explorer 7. Lots of sites do not render correctly in IE7, as the world has moved on several iterations past that and most sites take full advantage of the more robust features of latter-day browsers. Of course the web applications for which I am nominally responsible were coded and deployed almost a decade ago, and they still look just fine in IE7, so I am referring to websites which I would visit at work for personal reasons, and I am well aware of how this undermines my case for complaint. Still, there is a wide range of personal internet use which people engage in at work (especially if we consider the broader work world, well beyond the heavily-guarded walls of government contracting) and I would consider personal webmail and MSM news websites to be on the really-not-that-terrible end of the continuum, as opposed to the Flash games and gossip sites and true timewasters at the arguably-terrible opposite end. And all I really want to do is check my Gmail and skim through USA Today, but unfortunately those are some of the most unforgiving sites in terms of backwards compatibility with yesteryear’s IE.

The face of the cyber-enemy
The government is almost always averse to change and a very late adopter of technological innovation. The general regard of the government for the internet, I’ve observed, tends to be totally Wild West, an attitude that cyberspace is some lawless and untamed frontier, and only by firewalling the bejeezus out of the government servers and networks can national security and stability be guaranteed. Nothing will ever be adopted or allowed when it is in beta testing, or even immediately after launch; only programs which have been around so long that all bugs and vulnerabilities have been fixed, accounted for, or rendered extinct can be utilized. I will pause for a moment to allow the fact that the DoD essentially pioneered what would one day become the backbone of the world wide web, and now is utter crap at taking full advantage of what they unleashed, sink in.

So (here’s that timely tangent) if I had the ability to make my employer make and stick to one New Year’s Resolution for 2012, I would without question insist on new computers for one and all, with something like Firefox 9 installed on every last one of them. Though to be honest if I simply found out I was getting an upgrade to IE 8 on my current machine, I’d probably whoop with joy. And then feel very sad and ashamed for a long, long time.

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