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Supporting Software Is Hard Enough Without This

February 23, 2015

It kind of goes VRRRMMMM, ka-chunk, ka-chunk.

Does it happen when you first start out or when you are going faster?

No, it’s only below 30 MPH.

I’m not a car guy. I try to be, because I discovered it costs about $25 to change your own oil, and about $60 to have JiffyLube do it.

But, what I hate about car repairs is the same thing I hate about software support. You have to guess what’s wrong. Oh, sometimes it’s easy. My neighbor diagnosed bad sparkplugs in about 10 seconds. It took all day to get the plugs out.


But, it’s not always that easy. My van is leaking oil and has been for the past 6 months. Well, it’s not oil, it’s power steering fluid. Unfortunately, I can keep adding fluid and keep dumping kitty litter on the spot on the driveway. But, we’ll figure it out eventually.

And that’s the difference. No one is actively trying to screw up my car. Software on the other hand, has it’s problems and then you find someone who is actively trying to break my systems.

The first virus I ever had to deal with was while I was working as a support engineer at WordPerfect Corp back in 1989. We didn’t have the internet yet, so viruses spread via floppy disks.


That’s what thumb drives used to be called. It held 720K of data. One of my disks wasn’t working right. I tried everything. I just couldn’t get the program on it to behave correctly. Eventually, we suspected that a network had infected many of the disks in Support. We got copies of software called “Anti-virus” and went through and scanned all our disks.

Sure enough, my problem disk was infected. There are several ways of getting rid of virus. The simplest is to simply reformat the disk. You could also wipe the disk with a magnet and then reformat it. Or, you could even simply throw it away.

None of those were satisfying enough. I’d spent weeks struggling with this. I didn’t want to eliminate the virus, I wanted to seriously hurt the virus writer. I wanted to hunt him down and take away his computers.

I settled for the next best thing. I cut the disk in half. And then I cut it into quarters. And then I chopped the disk up into little pieces. . . then I threw it away.

I have to admit, I’ve never understood virus writers. I also don’t understand graffiti taggers or the knockout game. Why would you want to make life hard for people you have never known and may never know?

It was a strange experience for me, knowing that someone on the other side of the world, or possibly just down the street had written a piece of code with no other point than to screw up my life.

Today virus writers and anti-virus companies dance a strange and dangerous dance, as first one and then the other partner leads. Like vaccinating our children, vaccinating our computers is something that is simply understood.

But, the first time it was a bit of shock.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and one grandchild.

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