Before you report you've fixed it, TRY IT

Submitted Tue Mar 17 18:00:14 2009 under tags "technology,effectiveness,debugging"

I just went back and forth with IT, trying to get write-access to a network share. They told me four separate times, "no, really, it's fixed this time, log out, then back in, then try it."

What makes me most annoyed is not that it seems nigh-impossible to administer a Windows box. I think that is just part of corporate life these days. I am thankful that I personally am not a system administrator for Windows. What bothers me is that we had to go back and forth four times. I finally posted in my last response, "can you check to make sure it's working before you tell me to try again? Maybe log in as my username and make sure you can create a file?"

In UNIX this would be as simple as "su grantham" then "touch /share/foobar && rm /share/foobar". If "touch" reports an error, then you know you didn't actually solve the problem. Is there just a paucity of good tools (like "su"? WTF?!) on Windows? Is it really that hard to double-check the result of a fix?

Or is this a procedural problem? I suppose it's possible that our IT group does not know to try an operation after thinking that you have fixed it. I administrate machines in an amateur capacity, so it may seem arrogant to even ask the question. But I think double-checking fixes has lent me a lot of reliability. I know that in the past I've "fixed" things without verifying the fix, and it's embarrassed me. So I've steadily built a habit of (mostly) double-checking my fixes before I ask people to "try again."

Will IT be embarrassed and change their procedure? Probably not. This is only one problem among the hundreds they will field today. They probably get paid too little and have to deal with too many assholes (now I'm in that set) to bother with thinking twice about their job. I don't know how to solve it. I'm not in a position to change IT's procedures, and they won't give me permission to do any of the administration myself.

I see this kind of thing in the wild all the time, especially from tech support engineers at places like my cell phone company or DSL company. Those are the places where I would imagine they have the best tools for double-checking their results!

So I guess my advice is, well... Check to make sure the fix you have implemented actually fixes the problem before you report that it is fixed!

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