Career Opportunities

The High-Tech Career Handbook

A weekly ComputorEdge Column by Douglas E. Welch

Getting By

December 10, 2004

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Have you ever had a day when you didn’t want to get out of bed and face your work? Good. I’m glad it isn’t just me. Jobs and careers can have their ups and downs, but sometimes it can feel like life is ganging up on you. I describe it as having a reverse “Midas touch.” Instead of gold, all I get is mud. Thank goodness, I know these times are transient. Everything is cyclical and even these days will pass. This can be an important mindset to keep. Otherwise, you might ditch your high-tech career for something less stressful, like work as an airline pilot or crash test dummy.

Spyware and virii and crashes, oh my!

I am suffering from the usual technology suspects this week. Just when you think you have everything together on your client’s computer, along comes the spyware to ruin their (and, therefore, your) day. Spyware (malware) has been an issue for the last year or so, but I swear an epidemic is underway. Every computer I touch gets Ad-Aware or Spybot (or both) installed, updated and run. In the past, this has been sufficient to keep the system clean. This week, though, I have faced 3 computers with Spyware that can’t easily be removed. A one hour appointment turns into a 3 hour marathon, with the client hovering over my shoulder like a family member awaiting news on a loved one.

I would much rather be helping a client use their computer for something productive than spending hours cleaning it up. It seems, though, that the “computer janitor” work will not end any time soon. This is frustrating for me and, in the depths of my despair, I wonder what the future of computers will bring. We all worry about Spam killing off email, but I am beginning to wonder if Spyware might be more of a threat. I am not sure how many of my clients are going to continue throwing cash at me to clean up something that shouldn’t be there in the first place.

Caution: Fragile Windows

Another side effect of all this Spyware is the increasingly fragile nature of Microsoft Windows. Sure, Windows 98 was always a bit touchy about installing new software or hardware, but now it has reached a crisis. Nearly every Windows 98 machine I touch ends up collapsing into non-function. Usually the culprit is Spyware. As spyware tries to get its hooks into a machine, it can often fail, leaving damaged or missing files, corrupted directories and damaged registries. Suddenly, a call to install a new piece of software becomes an exercise in resuscitation. Nine times out of ten, I have ended up telling the client that it is time to replace the unit. Otherwise, they are going to spend hundreds of dollars for me to rebuild the system from scratch.

The problems are getting so bad that, in my monthly newsletter for November, I started a campaign to get rid of all the Windows 98 (and, conversely Mac OS 9) computers. I am trying to be proactive and prevent the problems before they occur. I owe it to my clients, and myself, to start moving these old systems out before any more of them succumb to catastrophic failure.

Addressing the most troublesome work issues head-on is one of the best ways to get back on track. I always find that direct action is one of the few things that can help my thinking when I am mired in recurring and un-necessary problems. I will redouble my efforts to keep Spyware off the systems with which I work. I will try to push my clients to upgrade to new systems that are more robust when faced with Spyware and virus attacks. I can’t control the creation and release of new Spyware, but I can do everything possible to reduce its effects on my clients.

If the “usual suspects” are making your work less fulfilling than it might be, you may find a little comfort in the fact that you are not alone. Additionally, working to attack the source of these problems, instead of just dealing with the consequences, is one sure way of getting out of the mud and back on track. Sure, we will all have to face the infected, compromised or crashed computer, but we need to spend some energy on preventing the problems before they have a chance to turn into a nightmare.


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