Friday, May 22, 2009

Tech Support

At the prison, we run on computers. Just like almost any other business, we can not even countenance working without them. We have all of our data and information stored on computers and when the system goes down, things get really interesting.

We could run without them and have on several occasions, but it sucks.

There are three different types of computers here. There are "dumb" terminals ( a very apt name) connected to the AS400 system. These are the computers we do most of our work on. AS400 is probably one of the oldest and most difficult to use programs that exists on the planet at this time. It's completely keyboard driven and uses all of the "F" keys to direct the functions. Rumor has it that it was first devised by an inmate who secretly hated corrections officers. I can believe that. Apparently there is no users manual and there are functions that are passed down from employee to employee like folk tales.

I use it like it was a highly radioactive plastic squirtgun full of acid. Only when I have to.

There are pc's that are on a local network and also connect to AS400. They have a mouse and use windows, but not with AS400. It's still keyboard driven no matter what computer it's being used on.

These computers are for the important people. I'm not important enough to have one so I haven't any real opinion of them.

Then there are the stand-alone pc's. Just slow junky little word processor puters that the state bought used somewhere. They are pretty much only good for writing out reports and printing them. When you can get the puter and the printer both to work at the same time, that is. There's a few of these scattered around.

Which brings me to the real subject of this post.

There's a stand-alone pc in the lieutenants office. Whenever there is a use of force or an assault or any kind of thing that you have to type up a lengthy report on, this is the puter to use. I have a folder in the documents file on this puter with my name on it. It has copies of my use of force packets going back almost five years. All I have to do is copy one and change the information and print that sucker out.

Sometimes that works.

The puter is slow and crappy but it works. I think it might be an old 386.

But the keyboard....... that's another story. Half of the letters are worn off the keys so unless you touch type (I don't) you have to guess at which key you are hitting. I'm wrong alot. And of the keys that still have letters, half of those stick. Either up or down, depending on the weather. You can hit a key and find you have put in two lines of "K's" before you can get the key to pop back up. It gets annoying. But it's still the best puter we have to work with.

I have been trying for the last two months to get someone to give us a new keyboard. I've questioned maybe thirty people. They finally pointed me to the guy who is supposedly our IT guy. He's never in his office, so I had to wait until I ran into him in person. I finally cornered him about a week ago. I told him the problem in depth and the conversation went like this:

"OK, which type of computer is it? A dumb terminal or one of the pc's on the network? Because the keyboards are different and non interchangeable."

"It's neither. It's a stand alone pc. All I need is a dang pc keyboard."

"Oh..... well, I don't support those. You need to talk to the business office."

And off he went.

I'd already talked to the business office and they told me he was the guy to go to. I got the run around. Imagine that.

I decided that if I really want a new keyboard, I'm just going to have to buy one myself and bring it in. And of course, if I want to do that, I have to write a memo to the Major asking permission to bring it inside. If I were the IT guy, I could wheel a cart full of them inside and nobody would raise an eyebrow. But since I'm just a lowly CO I'm considered to be too stupid to pound sand and I have to ask permission before I do anything.

That gets old.

So I may just slip into apathy and frugality and deal with the old keyboard. I don't want to spend my own money and I don't want my name going across the Majors desk for any reason at all. He doesn't seem to like me very much.

What the heck. I don't have to do that many reports anyway.

Right now, that is.


  1. Don't know what to tell you about the rubbed off keys, but I used to have a keyboard that stuck due to dirty hands and coffee spills. Easy fix is Q-Tips, cotton balls and rubbing alcohol. A good cleaning should take care of it until you get a new one in another five years or so. :)

  2. Are you alowed to bring liquids in the room with the computer? Hint Hint...

  3. as400 the worst system? Sorry but i have been working with as400's for 20 years and have to tell you that t is one of the best business systems available.

    what you seem to be suffering from is a very poorly designed application that doesnt suit the tasks you use it for....

    The fact that you cant even get a new keyboard means you have other issues to worry about! An IT guy that doesnt support PCs. serious problems, your as400 is the least of them!

  4. Tango- I've tried cleaning it. It helped a little but there's eons of scrudge in there. I'm thinking of just installing a small hammer to batter the keys with at this point.

    Guy- I always suggest pouring coffee in the puter to hopefully speed it up. Nobody ever takes me up on it. And if we actually broke one, it would never be replaced. We'd just be SOL until some decade when the state actually becomes solvent.

    AS400- I'll have to admit that your sign on frightened me. I thought the system was stalking me for talking smack. You are probably right. The system itself isn't bad. We just have a crappy application. And we are given no real training, just given a sign on and limited access and told to get things done. And your level of access depends on how important they think you are. There are people who are fairly new who have more access than I do. A users manual for the app would be nice. But one doesn't exist, apparently. And I do believe that the mainframe hates me personally.