It was spring (or autumn, if you live south of the equator). A time when everyone's heart is a little bit lighter. When the layers of clothing are worn just a bit looser. When even the infirmed have a spring (or autumn) in their step.

Everyone except for Tim.

To Tim, the double buzz of the busy signal ringing in his ear had the same soothing qualities as the whine of a mosquito about to deliver a package of SARS.

He hung up the phone, picked it up again after two beats and wearily pushed the redial button.

After a few seconds his persistence was rewarded…with another busy signal. Followed almost immediately by the sound of Tim’s head hitting the desk.

It wasn’t that long ago when Tim was normal. Well, less abnormal. Tim was looking for a charting control for the company’s Web-based product. After scouring the Interwebs, he found one that was perfect. It did exactly what was needed, was inexpensive, and had no royalties. That’s the trifecta of third-party software. Tim happily ponied up his credit card info into the company’s online store

However as soon has he clicked on the Confirm button, it seemed that the sound echoed down the connection like a complex idea in the head of an idiot. Tim expected to receive a confirmation email almost immediately.


How about an email with the downloading instructions?


Maybe a plain invoice that looks like it was cribbed from Microsoft Word?


After giving it the requisite 24 hours (because in the world of instant communication and always on-line connectivity, it will occasionally take a full day for an email to arrive at the intended destination…doesn’t it?), Tim was getting a little concerned. He went onto the software company’s forum and signed up. The page claimed that an activation email would be sent. But apparently it was delivered to the same /dev/null as the download instructions.

By this point, Tim was getting concerned. Well, more annoyed. But there was a little tinge of concern in there too.

A quick search on the WHOIS info for the domain turned up a name, address and phone number. It was readily apparent that the software company was a one man shop. A quick trip back to the company’s Web turned up no phone number. So Tim called the WHOIS number. And that brought him to his current state.

"Just one more time", Tim thought.

This time his persistence paid off. Instead of the busy signal, Tim heard the click of a connection. “Hello?” he queried hopefully.

"Thank you for calling. We are currently experiencing a larger than normal call volume", came the sound of the annoyingly pleasant voice. "The expected wait time is….143…minutes".

If Tim wasn’t careful, the constant pounding of his head on the table could result in a concussion.

Looking up wearily, Tim did notice something that hadn’t caught his eye before. A My Downloads link on the site. Tim clicked on the link and got to a page teasingly asking for credentials. Not useful. But the page also had a “Forgot My Username” link. Another click got him to a page asking for a first and last name and an email address. With little expectation of success (if the site can’t email an invoice, how could it email a password?), he provided the requisite details and hit Enter.

After only a moment, the Web site responded. Tim could barely believe his eyes. The site had generously provided his username AND his password. On screen. In plain sight. And not a particularly creative password either. I mean come on people…123456 does not qualify as secure. And first initial/last name is not a great username either. Tim logged in, got his software and lowered his blood pressure by 30 points.

But as he moved back to his life, Tim paused for a moment. A generic default username. A pitiful default password. And he knew the full name of the owner of the site. Surely the owner would have reset his password. Wouldn’t he?

The Forgot My Username link was still there…tempting Tim like a Twinkie tempts a dieter.

Tim filled in the first and last name and the generic email of first initial, last name and the company’s domain. His finger poised over the Enter key. Until a small, electronic voice materialized out of nowhere.

"Your wait time is now…139…minutes"

Yes, the company had caused him a couple of days a grief, Tim thought as he stood his finger down from DEFCON 5, but at least he still had his dignity. He quickly composed an email explaining the issue and sent it to the owner’s email address. A few minutes later, an automated response came back.

This time, Tim managed to avoid enlarging the bruise.

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