Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Computer Let Me Be! 2

Last July I posted a posting about how I hated being patronised by my computer which seemed unwilling to accept the proper UK spelling for things and tended to shove everything into active US grammar. Another thing I mentioned was how the computer constantly wants to shove downloads at me. This is still going on. I find that I am mid-way through writing an email for work when I am told I have to exit and shut down the computer because some download I did not request is complete. Again I feel patronised that my work counts for nothing compared to what the machine feels is more important. Of course it is not really my machine, which is loyal to me, it is the company at the end of the internet connection that keeps on wanting to remind me that it is there and install some incremental change. They did not provide me the computer for free so I do believe that my priorities should outrank theirs, but that does not seem to be the case.

It is far worse when the computer is provided to you for free, namely at work. In my company IT support did not feel we were paying them enough attention so now they have changed all the screensaves to simply show their name and have disabled us from putting any other screen saver on. They have done the same for the default internet page so that a dozen times a day I am told how wonderful the IT support team are and by implication how grateful I should be to them. I know IT staff feel undervalued now that so many of us can edit our own webpages and set up email accounts, but the finance department does not keep sending me reminder cards now that I can make payments to temporary staff employed electronically; the canteen does not pile cakes on my desk now that I can go across the road to a bakers instead of to them. I would like the ability to personalise my computer at least a little bit, but now, it is now a servant of IT support to force me to bow down to them with the respect they feel is due.

The other thing is passwords. Anyone could access my computer and find nothing of commercial or personal sensitivity. No-one has even tried to hack into my machine, I am sure they have better things to do with their time and if they really want to see a series of dull reports I am more than happy to email them to them. So, why do I have to keep changing my password? I have enough trouble remembering all my pin numbers (needed even to operate the photocopier these days, let alone to open doors) and now the passwords to get into my email account, to access this place, to shop online, to restart the computer when it has gone into screen save and so on. To make it harder every four months I have to change my password away from the one I have become familiar with to something else. At my last employers it was worse, you had to change it every month and you had to have 10 different ones as they would not allow you to repeat the first password until you had used 9 others. Consequently, what do you do, to stand any chance of remembering not only the current password but also the one you used 2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9 months ago especially when you come back from leave? You write it on a piece of paper which you stick next to the computer. So this is supposed to increase the security? IT staff need to realise to hold all these passwords we need another computer to put them on. I end up emailing it to myself and then at least I can go to a cybercafe and access the list of passwords so that when I get to my office I can get into my own computer!

IT support we love you, you do not have to keep on thinking up rituals to insert yourselves into our everyday life and make us poor workers exasperated as we watch your name scrolling across our screen as we struggle to conjure up yet another memorable password.

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