"No, it's not write 'click', it's right click, like click the button on the right-hand side." John R. realized his mistake as he said it.

"I already am holding the mouse with my right han-"

"I mean the button under your ring finger."

Keep it Together

John wasn't the stereotypical surly Nick Burns-esque support guy, and he didn't think the users were stupid. Certainly, they were a source of frustration, but as he kept reminding himself, just another year and a half and I'll be done with my computer science degree. Keep it together, John.

He'd come to hope that Hexasys wouldn't be representative of his future in the field. Adequate employees, acceptable coffee, reasonable pay, off-white walls decorated with typical abstract art that wasn't too abstract as to inspire creative thinking. Nothing to hate, nothing to love. Just adequate.

One of Hexasys's largest clients was Decabyte, a large company that provided data storage for backups. It was cheaper for them to outsource their support to Hexasys than to bring it in-house, and their need was great enough to require both an on-site team during the day, and on-site 24x7 support at Hexasys HQ. John was at HQ, but he often worked with the on-site team.

Typically, all that was required was answering support calls. Occasionally, John would have to push updates via Microsoft Systems Management Server (Microsoft SMS, not the other kind of SMS), which provided the ability to push patches, remotely control machines, and remotely install software. SMS packages could be deployed to a user, a group, or the entire network, and for better or worse, would run without any interaction from the user.

The packages themselves were distributed from Hexasys to a computer set up by the on-site team. Transmission was done via 56K modem; these were the days when the environment was mixed Windows 95 and NT. The packages could fail if they went to the wrong system, so everyone tried to keep vigilant.

At the end of a shift one day, John received a call asking for a particular SMS package. John noted the user, the operating system, and the package, and started the transmission.

THE SMS Package

The following day, John heard rumblings about "The SMS Package" and fears about Decabyte, and no one would make eye contact with him. He was a ghost in the office that day; no acknowledgment of his presence, yet other people suddenly felt cold when he was near.

Damn, damn, damn, damn! I screwed up big time, he thought. John had been working on some projects and studying for finals that were looming on the horizon, so he must have sent the wrong package. I *did* send the wrong package because I'm a stupid idiot! Unable to silence his thoughts, the realization slipped in that he was a dead man walking. Any minute he'd get the call to clear out his desk and that security would escort him out. His days now numbered, his perspective shifted dramatically. He didn't want the job to be over, he wanted to stay! Suddenly he gained an appreciation for the posters of abstract art in the conference rooms; they were no longer bland and generic, they leapt off the slightly yellowed glossy poster print, oozing with emotion. He became drunk on the intoxicating bouquet of the burnt coffee. His co-workers weren't "adequate," they were shining beacons of knowledge; John, the freaking idiot who'd sent the wrong package didn't deserve the honor of basking in their brilliance. His brain continued its battle against itself. You probably sent the right package to the wrong system, it teased. Or, he thought as he swallowed hard, you distributed the wrong package to the entire network. A wave of panic engulfed him, and his entire body felt hot.

By the time he got to his computer, he was sweating. He checked the remote file list and saw that the package he'd sent the previous day wasn't there. Strange, because the patcher shouldn't delete something after it's done installing...

He went one-by-one, feeling like a ghost as he checked with each technician to see if they'd done any patching; no one knew anything. Meanwhile, the official word came down: "We have a few systems at Decabyte that are on the fritz."

Ah, good, John thought, embarrassed at his previous overreaction. We at least have it contained. He exhaled a deep sigh of relief.

Moments later, his boss poked his head in again. "Scratch that, most of the systems are down."

For the second time, John's skin flushed red and his body felt hot. He longed to be in a dark corner of a conference room, rocking back and forth in fetal position, abstract art poster in view.

Fortunately, John heard that the on-site team had sprang into action. They quickly figured out how to fix the problem and began drafting a formal procedure to fix the other systems. And after several hours, they'd fixed... one system. Meanwhile a dozen more had been added to the heap that had gone inaccessible.

They continued as fast as they could and got better with the speed, but it was too late. Decabyte wanted Hexasys out. That is, once this SMS snafu was resolved. The contract was kept alive for a short while, during which all of the systems were brought back online.

Psychology in Reverse

Reverse psychology is a funny thing. A "do not touch" sign makes exposed high-voltage wiring seem like an adorably cuddly kitten begging to be petted. The allure of defecating in one self's pants is irresistable when the goal is precisely the contrary. And naturally, the next words to come out of a someone's mouth after "don't tase me, bro" are probably going to be "Aaowwwgh!"

The SMS package that the technician had sent out to the entire network not only wasn't for the right operating system; but it wasn't intended to be used ever. Perhaps that's why the package had been named "DO NOT SEND THIS SMS PACKAGE!!" John cannot fathom why someone hadn't deleted that package rather than leaving it there; said technician must have just wanted to tempt fate.