Guru's World 11/2000: I'm an MCSE... Bow to me! Wed, Nov-01-2000
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Now, I don't want you to get the wrong impression. Certainly, not ALL MCSEs and A+ certified technicians that call me are like this. I hope you gathered that from my using my friends as an example. Unfortunately, I can't use too many of the people I actually talk to on the phone as an example because I don't know who is and is not "certified" because they never really say they are certified unless they are using it as a defense against one of my apparently "stupid" questions.

One example of a certified technician that's perfectly cool with being wrong every once in a while is this gentleman I know that works for an actual manufacturer in the next town over.

His company had bought a bunch of CPUs and fans from my work and he couldn't figure out for the life of him why all of the machines were locking at the same point of an NT install.

Of course, I refused to believe that all of the CPUs were bad, but I also knew that this guy was totally aware of how to install NT. I figured it had to be user error, but something that he had PHYSICALLY did wrong with the hardware.

"You didn't change anything in the BIOS and there's nothing in any of the PCI slots and both the CDROM and hard drive are IDE and not SCSI, right?"

"Yep" he answered, "everything is as normal as normal can be. It just keeps locking up at the same point where it's supposed to tell me that it's detected an LBA drive."

"Pull the fan dude. You left the plastic film on the phase change thermal compound and it's overheating the CPU once the it hits a certain level of overhead."

"No way! Let me check." He pulls the fan of the CPU and sure enough, there's a plastic film on the bottom of the CPU. "Duh! I thought that film WAS the thermal compound!"

We both laughed and I told him that he owes me a beer.

Another example is this one gentleman I just recently met on ICQ.

He lectured A+ certificate recipients and is now a tech himself. He asked me something that I would've considered a simple question. He asked me what the typical bus speed for the PCI slot is. I answered him that it was in fact 33 MHz. I didn't insult him, belittle him or tell him that he should find another profession just because he didn't know what the bus speed of PCI was. He asked me a question and I answered it. That simple. He then told me that he had lectured A+ and we laughed a little because he had read my rants and I had said to him that typically when I talk to someone who has exposed themselves as A+ certified, It'd be some guy that calls and tells me first that he's A+ certified and that the PCI bus is actually the same as the front side bus and nothing I could tell him would prove to him otherwise.

Well? It's true. Sad, but true.

Of course, it's not just the guys that are certified that do this to me.

I'm thirty, and over the phone I think I sound like I'm twenty. So often I get the problem a lot of younger guys get when they are trying to help someone twice their age.

I will get the most hair-brained stories when the person on the other line has an issue with my age. These guys are really my favorites though. It's sort of like when your grandfather tells you that he had to walk uphill, both ways, in the snow to get to school.

"I was doing this in submarines 30 years ago during the war!"

I actually got that line once. I will always remember it as well as my response: "then I take it you've replaced the appropriate vacuum tubes before you called?"

Ok, ok? I'm sure the sub actually used transistor based computers, but still: It's like saying you know everything about the Bosch Motronic fuel injection system just because you overhauled your daddy's Edelbrock when you were young (you do understand the analogy, right?).

A lot of times these guys will try to "test" me by shooting off names of older computers. I usually just play along. It's sort of like a quick game of Trivial Pursuit on company time.

"Remember the Altair?" they ask. "Remember the Scelbi 8H from a year prior?" I'd respond. I often get irate when I see people give the Altair so much credit as the first production PC.

Then I get trumped: "Remember the MCS4?" Hey! No fair! That was never commercially released!

"Remember the Commodore 64?" they ask. "Remember the PET???" I'd respond. My school had PETs. It ticked me off because all of the cool schools had Apple IIs and the kids would play Oregon Trail all day.

"Remember Pong?" they ask. "Remember Computer Space?" I'd respond. When I was a kid, the Arcade at the Westminster Mall in Colorado actually had a working Computer Space console.

"Remember the 2600?" they ask. "Pfft. Remember the Magnavox Odyssey?" I'd respond. The first game console I had was a ColecoVision back in 1983. My girlfriend at the time had a hand me down 1972 Odyssey. She said it sucked and always wanted to play my Coleco. Maybe that's why we broke up. I was intrigued by its charm of the Odyssey with its 40 transistor and 40 diode construction and I thought it was great that this far down the road in its life, she still had the overlays for the TV screen.

By now, I've gained the customer's trust. I don't know if it's a good thing or not. Sometimes these guys call now, just to shoot the crap with me like I'm some old war buddy or something.

"We lived through the computer wars of the mid 80s!"

I wouldn't mind so much if I didn't have 5 other people lined up in the queue. But hey, if they ever wanted to catch me after work at the Bennigan's, I would love to discuss how the Apple IIgs had so much untapped potential. I could tell the wife that I was "with clients".

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