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Scon is short for Student Consultant. Scons are people hired to help users learn and work with the university’s machinery. A pod is a UNM term for a place where such machinery is made available.

El Explicito “I tried the thing, ya know, and it worked, ya know, but now it doesn’t, ya know?”
Advantages Provides interesting communication challanges.
Disadvantages So do chimps.
Symptoms Complete inability to use proper nouns
Real Case One user walked up to a certain Armenian pod manager and said, “I can’t get what I want!” The pod manager leaned back, put his hands on his belt-buckle, and said, “Well, ma’am, you’ve come to the right place.”

Mad Bomber “Well, I hit ALT-F6, SHIFT-F8, CTRL-F10, F4, and F9, and now it looks all weird.”
Advantages Will try to find own solution to problems.
Disadvantages User might have translated document to Navajo without meaning to.
Symptoms More than six stopped jobs in UNIX, a 2:1 code-to-letter ratio in WordPerfect
Real Case One user came in complaining that his WordPerfect document was underlined. When I used reveal codes on it, I found that he’d set and unset underline more than fifty times in his document.

Frying Pan/Fire Tactician “It didn’t work with the data set we had, so I fed in my aunt’s recipe for key lime pie.”
Advantages Will usually fix error.
Disadvantages “Fix” is defined very loosely here.
Symptoms A tendancy to delete lines that get errors instead of fixing them.
Real Case One user complained that their program executed, but didn’t do anything. The scon looked at it for twenty minutes before realizing that they’d commented out every line. The user said, “Well, that was the only way I could get it to compile.”

Shaman “Last week, when the moon was full, the clouds were thick, and Formahaut was above the horizon, I typed f77, and lo, it did compile.”
Advantages Gives insight into primative mythology.
Disadvantages Few scons are anthropology majors.
Symptoms Frequent questions about irrelavent objects.
Real Case One user complained that all information on one of their disks got erased (as Norton Utilities showed nothing but empty sectors, I suspect nothing had ever been on it). Reasoning that the deleted information went *somewhere*, they wouldn’t shut up until the scon checked four different disks for the missing information.

X-user “Will you look at those…um, that resolution, quite impressive, really.”
Advantages Using the cutting-edge in graphics technology.
Disadvantages Has little or no idea how to use the cutting-edge in graphics technology.
Symptoms Fuzzy hands, blindness
Real Case When I was off duty, two users sat down in front of me at DEC station 5000/200s that systems was reconfiguring. I suppressed my laughter while, for twenty minutes, they sat down and did their best to act like they were doing exectly what they wanted to do, even though they couldn’t log in.

Miracle Worker “But it read a file from it yesterday!”
“Sir, at a guess, this disk has been swallowed and regurgitated.”
“But I did that a month ago, and it read a file from it yesterday!”
Advantages Apparently has remarkable luck when you aren’t around.
Disadvantages People complain when scons actually use the word “horse-puckey.”
Symptoms Loses all ability to do impossible when you’re around. Must be the kryptonite in your pocket.
Real Case At least three users have claimed that they’ve loaded IBM WordPerfect from Macintosh disks.

Taskmaster “Well, this is a file in MacWrite. Do you know how I can upload it to MUSIC, transfer it over to UNIX from there, download it onto an IBM, convert it to WordPerfect, and put it in three-column format?”
Advantages Bold new challanges.
Disadvantages Makes one wish to be a garbage collector.
Symptoms An inability to keep quiet. Strong tendancies to make machines do things they don’t want to do.
Real Case One user tried to get a scon to find out what another person’s E-mail address was even though the user didn’t know his target’s home system, account name, or real name.

Maestro “Well, first I sat down, like this. Then I logged on, like this, and after that, I typed in my password, like this, and after that I edited my file, like this, and after that I went to this line here, like this, and after that I picked my nose, like this. . .”
Advantages Willing to show you exactly what they did to get an error.
Disadvantages For as long as five or six hours.
Symptoms Selective deafness to the phrase, “Right, right, okay, but what was the error?”, and a strong fondness for the phrase, “Well, I’m getting to that.”
Real Case I once had to spend half an hour looking over a user’s shoulder while they continuously retrieved a document into itself and denied that they did it (the user was complaining that their document was 87 copies of the same thing).

(unfair, perhaps, as these tend, overwhelmingly, to be males) “I need a Mac, and someone’s got the one I like reserved, would you please garrote him and put him in the paper recycling bin?”
Advantages Flatters you with their high standards for your service.
Disadvantages Impresses you with their obliviousness to other people on this planet.
Symptoms Inability to communicate except by complaining.
Real Case One asked a scon to remove the message of the day because he (the user) didn’t like it.

I’m currently running the latest version of GirlFriend and I’ve been having some problems lately. I’ve been running the same version of DrinkingBuddies 1.0 forever as my primary application, and all the GirlFriend releases I’ve tried have always conflicted with it.

I hear that DrinkingBuddies won’t crash if GirlFriend is run in background mode and the sound is turned off. But I’m embarrassed to say I can’t find the switch to turn the sound off. I just run them separately, and it works okay. Girlfriend also seems to have a problem co-existing with my Golf program, often trying to abort Golf with some sort of timing incompatibility. I probably should have stayed with GirlFriend 1.0, but I thought I might see better performance from GirlFriend 2.0. After months of conflicts and other problems, I consulted a friend who has had experience with GirlFriend 2.0. He said I probably didn’t have enough cache to run GirlFriend 2.0, and eventually it would require a Token Ring to run properly. He was right – as soon as I purged my cache, it uninstalled itself.

Shortly after that, I installed GirlFriend 3.0 beta. All the bugs were supposed to be gone, but the first time I used it, it gave me a virus anyway. I had to clean out my whole system and shut down for while. I very cautiously upgraded to GirlFriend 4.0. This time I used a SCSI probe first and also installed a virus protection program. It worked okay for a while until I discovered that GirlFriend 1.0 was still in my system. I tried running GirlFriend 1.0 again with GirlFriend 4.0 still installed, but GirlFriend 4.0 has a feature I didn’t know about that automatically senses the presence of any other version of GirlFriend and communicates with it in some way, which results in the immediate removal of both versions.

The version I have now works pretty well, but there are still some problems. Like all versions of GirlFriend, it is written in some obscure language I can’t understand, much less reprogram. Frankly I think there is too much attention paid to the look and feel rather than the desired functionality. Also, to get the best connections with your hardware, you usually have to use gold-plated contacts. And I’ve never liked how GirlFriend is totally “object-oriented.”

A year ago, a friend of mine upgraded his version of GirlFriend to GirlFriendPlus 1.0, which is a Terminate and Stay Resident version of GirlFriend. He discovered that GirlFriendPlus 1.0 expires within a year if you don’t upgrade to Fiancee 1.0. So he did, but soon after that, he had to upgrade to Wife 1.0, which he describes as a huge resource hog. It has taken up all his space, so he can’t load anything else. One of the primary reasons he decided to go with Wife 1.0 was because it came bundled with FreeSexPlus.

Well, it turns out the resource allocation module of Wife 1.0 sometimes prohibits access to FreeSexPlus, particularly the new Plug-Ins he wanted to try. On top of that, Wife 1.0 must be running on a well warmed-up system before he can do anything. Although he did not ask for it, Wife1.0 came with MotherInLaw which has an automatic pop-up feature he can’t turnoff.

I told him to try installing Mistress 1.0, but he said he heard if you try to run it without first uninstalling Wife 1.0, Wife 1.0 will delete MSMoney files before doing the uninstall itself. Then Mistress 1.0 won’t install anyway because of insufficient resources.

A little tension-breaker for the Holiday Season …

Sing to the tune of Winter Wonderland … (try singing this outloud at work).

Another “ping”,
Are you listenin’?
The ‘puter screen,
Is a glistenin’.
With icons so bright,
They light up the night,
Welcome to the e-mail wonderland!

Gone away,
Are the hall talks.
Here to stay,
Is the IN-BOX.
Flagged “urgent, please read!”,
And “answer with speed!”.
Welcome to the e-mail wonderland!

In the morning e-mails start to add up.
No lunch today cause messages abound.
Just click away and hope the server stays up.
You can’t do your job if it goes down.

10 P.M.,
You’re not tired.
The caffeine,
Has got you wired.
The day’s not complete,
Till the last delete,
Welcome to the e-mail wonderland!

In the morning e-mails start to add up,
No lunch today cause messages abound.
Just click away and hope the server stays up.
You can’t do your job if it goes down.

Until you,
Are retired,
The same old grind,
It is required.
You’ll face unafraid,
That message parade.
Welcome to the e-mail wonderland.

The day Microsoft will make something that doesn’t suck is probably the day they’ll start making vacuum cleaners.

Once upon a midnight dreary, fingers cramped and vision bleary,
System manuals piled high and wasted paper on the floor,
Longing for the warmth of bedsheets,
Still I sat there, doing spreadsheets:
Having reached the bottom line,
I took a floppy from the drawer.
Typing with a steady hand,
I then invoked the SAVE command
But got instead a reprimand: it read “Abort, Retry, Ignore”.

Was this some occult illusion?
Some maniacal intrusion?
These were choices Solomon himself had never faced before.
Carefully, I weighed my options.
These three seemed to be the top ones.
Clearly, I must now adopt one -
Choose : “Abort, Retry, Ignore”.

With my fingers pale and trembling,
Slowly toward the keyboard bending,
Longing for a happy ending, hoping all would be restored,
Praying for some guarantee
Finally I pressed a key –
But on the screen what did I see?
Again: “Abort, Retry, Ignore”.

I tried to catch the chips off-guard –
I pressed again, but twice as hard.
Luck was just not in the cards,
I saw what I had seen before.
Now I typed in desperation,
Trying random combinations.
Still there came the incantation -
Choose: “Abort, Retry, Ignore”.

There I sat, distraught, exhausted,
by my own machine accosted;
Getting up, I turned away and paced across the office floor.
And then I saw an awful sight,
A bold and blinding flash of light,
A lightning bolt that cut the night and shook me to my very core.
The PC screen collapsed and died,
“Oh no — my database”, I cried.
I thought I heard a voice reply,
“You’ll see your data — Nevermore!”

To this day I do not know
The place to which lost data goes
Perhaps it goes to Heaven where the angels have it stored.
But as for productivity – well,
I fear that it goes straight to Hell.
And that’s the tale I have to tell -
Your choice: Abort, Retry, Ignore.

© 2015