city strangeness

I went to lunch with an old friend of mine, Artie Hasegawa.  We went to this really cool ramen shop at 56th and 6th Ave.  Delicious, inexpensive.  But, that’s not what this post is about.

On my way to the restaurant, an old woman standing on her front stoop called to me for help.  She was dressed in her nightie and seemed troubled.  It was really cold, too, so it seemed she was in trouble.  She explained that her lights went out, and would I help her get them going.  I really hesitated as my spidey-senses went to tingling.  However, for whatever reason, I was compelled to help her.

I entered the small apartment.  Catholic iconery was strewn everywhere.  She explained that she was trying to plug in her space heater when the lights went out.  She couldn’t reach the circuit breaker box, and therefore couldn’t reset the circuits.  She gave me a flashlight and pointed me to the circuit breaker box.  I flipped all the circuits back and forth, since none of them had tripped.  No dice.

I informed her that something else was wrong and she should call someone for help (trying to exit as soon as possible).  However, I noticed that she had only a cordless phone and wouldn’t be able to make a call.  I offered to let her use my cell phone and explained why she’d need to.  Instead, she asked if I would go to the restaurant next door and apprise them of her situation.  “Let them know Mrs. King needs some help”.  I quickly availed myself of the opportunity to leave the apartment and informed the bartender at said establishment of Mrs. King’s predicament.  He phoned the maintenance man.

I felt I should let her know that someone was on the way, and so I knocked on her door, poked my head in and told her.  She replied that she had found “another button” and would I try the switches one more time.  I hesitatingly agreed, and voila!  The lights came back on.  She thanked me and blessed me.  I told her to go ahead and talk with the maintenance person to see why the power went out in the first place.  As quickly as I could, I left to eat some hot ramen.

So weird.

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apple, schmapple…

Well, I’ve been working in an all-Apple shop for 5 months now. Overall, things are great. The problems that arise are either really simple, or involve replacing hardware. Haven’t hit too many mysteries yet.

I’d have to say that my main source of frustration is “the Apple Way®”. For instance: We received a new Macbook 2 days ago. As part of our standard operating procedure, we netinstalled an image containing all the most common apps that we use with the latest (or so we thought) version of MacOS X (10.4.8). After a quick install, we were ready to set up the new user on the machine. For some reason, the Airport card wasn’t functioning properly. Odd. A call to AppleCare, and they recommended taking the machine to a service location. In our case, the 5th Ave. Apple Store 🙂

So, later that afternoon, I trot down to the Apple Store. Wow. At 3pm, it was crowded. Anyway, after a 30 minute wait at the “Genius Bar”, I get my turn. I tell the genius that the machine isn’t recognizing the Airport card and about our imaging procedure. He says it’s probably our image. “But I just imaged 3 other Macbooks with it and it was fine.”

“Well,” he says, “You really can only install these things from the discs that came with them.”

What?! Sure enough, when he booted the machine from his clean 10.4.8 installed on a Firewire drive, the Airport card worked like a charm.

This may sound all well and good. I mean, the genius solved the problem, right? No. This sucks. What this implies is that every time there’s even a slight change in the OS, every update, every driver, etc. , we’ll need to create a new install image. Ugh. The whole point of the install images was that we’d save a lot of time when there are weird things going on with a machine, and we just want to get it back to a sane state. We’ve just lost that ability. Thanks, Apple! We really appreciate your looking out for the admins out there.

This is merely the latest in a trend of design decisions seemingly targeted at making an admin’s life a living heck. For starters, the server admin tools are a hodge-podge of GUI and non-GUI activities. While I don’t mind this so much, most Mac admins these days aren’t UNIX folk.

It’s official. As of yesterday, I have begun the disenchantment phase of my relationship with the Mac. Or, maybe the infamous “Reality Distortion Field” is just wearing off. At any rate, my feelings boil down to this: Macs are great at home. In a networked environment, they’re not so hot.

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