Sunday, February 05, 2006

Yet Another Example Of Why I Hate Computers

If I haven't mentioned it previously I work as a traveling engineer for a computer hardware vendor. My latest job has taken me out to a mountain town in the middle of nowhere, New Hampshire, which wouldn't be so bad except I've been out here for six days so far (the whole project was supposed to take 3 days) and am going to have to come back for more. Let me tell you why... First the fiber runs didn't work; the customer eventually had to get their fiber contractors to fix and recertify the runs. Only a day lost there, most of which I spent twiddling my thumbs. Annoying, but not unexpected. It gets better though... I spent the past four days wrestling with a piece of software that we just couldn't make work. First I talked to other engineers. Then I talked to the software support folks. Then I talked to the software vendor, who turned out to be completely useless. The vendor basically threw up their hands and told me to rebuild the system. So I rebuilt the system and had the same problem. I finally figured out, without the vendor's help, that it was a MSSQL permissions problem. That's what pisses me off... a permissions problem which took 1 minute to fix stole 4 days of my life. In a previous lifetime I worked as a line cook and was studying to be a chef, a situation I aspire to return to in the future. When people ask me why I still want to cook for a living I tell them its because I never have to reboot my knives. Its not like you come into work one day and spend hours on the phone with tech support figuring out why the onions won't saute, only to be told that you need to upgrade to Soybean Oil v2.0 in order to get the system to work. Fucking computers. On the upside, while we were killing time waiting for the software vendor to pull their heads out the customer showed me this really cool CLI from Microsoft called the Monad Shell. Unverified rumor has it that MS is developing a GUI-less version of Windows Server; my guess is that if that's true then this is the CLI that's going to be used to administer it. Two observations:
  1. This shell represents a big step forward in the evolution of CLI interfaces. Things like directories and files are treated as objects, not just text streams. When you pipe output between commands you're actually piping object streams, not just text streams. And it has builtin interfaces to things like the registry and WMI. I'm a big Unix fan, but this shell is a big improvement over any Unix shell I've ever used. There's a lot of crap that's Windows-specific (more on that below), but the basic object paradigm could be ported to Unix without issue.
  2. This shell exists, in part, because all of the information in a Windows system is buried in inaccessible places. Yes, its cool and usefully innovative, but part of the reason that this shell is so particularly useful is because there's previously been no convenient way to script may of the things that it allows you to do. Contrast this to Unix systems which, as a general rule, keep all of their configuration in easily-manipulated text files.

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