Word on a Whim

What began as a blog about writing and publishing has become a blog of whatever I feel like writing. Jules Lucton.

Archive for the category “IT”

Is McAfee a virus?

Feeling a bit flush after receiving an offer of a permanent job, I treated us to a new laptop. The old one had reached the point where you switch it on, put the kettle on, go for a wee, come back and type the password in, go off and make the tea then spend another few minutes answering error messages before it becomes usable to those who know its various quirks.

The new one came with Windows 8, which I disliked from the start owing to its Toytown interface and endless pre-installed shite. I expect to be allowed to choose what to install on a new computer, not to find it cluttered with all sorts of rubbish. Anyway, those were minor grumbles compared with the disappointment of trying to use the thing. It was so very slow, particularly when browsing the internet, and kept saying the page was unavailable or not found when it was a page I’d been on just half a minute ago. The internet speed in our area is not the fastest, so I thought it might be that Windows 8 needs a faster connection – or maybe I’d just gone too cheap on the laptop. (It was “on offer” at £200 instead of £300 but since the offer ended it has been priced at £229). My fella suggested it might run quicker without the McAfee antivirus – a pre-installed evaluation version. McAfee appeared to be a channel for other companies to advertise their products in that when you opened a browser, lots of other pages would start opening up until it all ground to a halt. I was in favour of leaving McAfee on until it asked for a subscription – but by then we were so hacked off with it that it ended up in a cupboard and the old Windows 7 laptop came out of retirement.

So, I started the new job (not in care work!) and they gave me a new Windows 8 laptop … with McAfee pre-installed and assurance that more RAM for it was on order. Using it, or trying to use it, was a déjà vu experience; “Have you seen the email I just sent you with the link on it?” “No, Outlook has frozen again … okay, got it now … but the link keeps timing out.”

A few days (and thousands of updates) later, I found I could no longer adjust the brightness of the screen. The slider went up and down but the screen remained dim. Not unusably dim but dim enough that I could see my own reflection all the time, which was disturbing! I googled and found others had this problem after Windows 8 updates, but I didn’t want to mess about with the graphics drivers and hoped maybe a future update might fix it. I consulted our PC/network guru and asked about the antivirus and he kindly removed McAfee and replaced it with AVG, a free download. Not only did the laptop run loads faster, but I was able to adjust the brightness again the minute McAfee had gone.

Back home, the Windows 8 laptop came out of the cupboard. McAfee was uninstalled and AVG downloaded. Result! A functioning laptop that can browse the Net at a reasonable speed; leaving me happy to have problems resolved, although puzzled and a bit miffed to think they were caused by a product I would have been expected to pay for.

Advertisements

Monday tomorrow so maybe I might get a call … ?

Nothing has happened that’s worth reporting and I did say I wouldn’t keep going on about care work but here I am having too long a weekend because I’ve said goodbye to the lovely old gent who was my weekend feature. Not only was he good company, sensitive and bright, but I was with him for a long block of hours rather than half an hour here and there – and regularly overnight – so it was financially viable as well as enjoyable. Now he has moved to a different agency – not of his own accord – it is to do with finance, but we have agreed to remain friends.
So what happens next? I could tell my agency I am now available for any other weekend work – but it would only be odd half hours throughout the day which might land anywhere between 7:00 and 23:00 with big gaps and unpaid travel time in between, meaning I could potentially be out all day but only have about four hours’ paid work. I would prefer to do something else at the weekend … anything really so long as it’s a job where they actually pay you for the hours you work. Despite what I said (in the previous post) about biting the bullet, I was quick to spit it out again and am feeling pathetically hopeful about the recent IT jobs I have applied for. That mild elation I felt from proving to myself that I actually can do care work was short lived. It does have its moments but mostly I am just spinning around with insufficient travel time between calls, apologising for being late and doing a bright and cheerful act – talking absolute rubbish because I am so bad at small talk and having the same conversations with the same people, day after day.
I yearn to be back in an IT team, or some similar team; behind the computer screen and in my inner world, where my incapacity to talk about nothing is appreciated by the majority, but where there is still a pervading yet varied and complex sense of humour. And it’s Monday tomorrow so I might get a call …
Anyway, here’s the end of a post about nothing – but it will serve to keep my blog alive … I see my blog as a cyber pet that might die if I don’t shake it about a bit.
Oh, I have something to leave you with – I do check my blog stats now and again and was pleased to see that this short story I posted a couple of years ago is still attracting a lot of traffic:

“The Snow Cock.” – Flash fiction
https://wordonawhim.com/2012/11/18/the-snow-cock-flash-fiction/

The surprising popularity of this story prompted me to check out the search criteria that had led people to this post. Of course, I cannot see who is looking, but sometimes I am able to see what they have entered in the browser. Was it “Jules Lucton” or was it “The Rise of Serge and the Fall of Leo”? Or was it simply my reputation as a writer of modern fiction that was drawing them?
Unfortunately not … the search terms that bring folks to this post are …

“cock flash”
🙂

I promise to change the subject soon …

You know how it is when a house has been on the market for such a time that you think there must be something wrong with it? My CV must be starting to look like that to the IT agencies. I adapt it depending on the role I am applying for; rearranging the layout to put more emphasis on those skills that seem most relevant to the role. It is a while now since I spoke to an IT agent, but in the early days of redundancy when I was new on the market and therefore interesting; no-one suggested there was anything wrong with my CV.

A couple of weeks ago, I thought I had been head-hunted, maybe for the wrong reasons but I was nonetheless excited and hopeful. An agency I had never heard of had picked out my CV – it seemed I was ideal for a particular role. He was choosing his words carefully; “The company has a person-centred ethos … they are not necessarily looking for whizz kids but for people who live locally and are likely to stay with them.” I said, “You mean they take old people? Cool!” But he phoned back two days later and said that the finance for the new role had not yet been signed off, but they were keen to meet me as soon as it had been. Since then I have heard nothing, and I think I have seen the job he was describing advertised on the internet.

Meanwhile, the care work goes on. I’m thinking of asking about doing ‘waking nights’ as this would boost the income – being in one place for a big chunk of paid hours. At the moment there is someone I visit twice daily who lives out in the sticks and has formed an attachment to me; phoning the office to ask if I could visit more often etc. This is flattering and makes me feel good, but the two half-hour visits (which always over-run unless I have another call booked soon after) entail one hour and forty minutes travel time, so the morning visit followed soon after by the lunch time visit earns me a grand total of £6.60 and takes up most of the morning.

So far, I have kept one week-day as a day off to be available for interviews, but I have only had two. The first was back when I was still working my redundancy notice. The job description was vague and I was interviewed by two guys who didn’t seem entirely sure of what they were looking for. I didn’t get the job, and subsequently saw it re-advertised with a more specific job description. The second was booked about a fortnight in advance and whilst it seemed to go well I found it a little odd that one of the guys seemed to want to chat about the AS/400 I used to work on, which was not part of the advertised role. Then, just as I thought we were getting warmed up, he said “Thank you for your time,” and that was it. I suspect they had already found the person they wanted and were just going through the motions. Or maybe I came over as a complete weirdo.
If you want to sell a house but there has been no interest for a while, you can wait a while and then try again. If you are trying to sell yourself then it’s not so easy to take your details off the market. If you’ve read as far as this, thanks and well done – and I promise to change the subject next time 🙂

Aside from that, my son and his girlfriend are here this weekend. They had planned to visit the local Beer, Cider & Perry Festival but looked it up on the internet prior to catching the bus and found it had run out of booze!
“Due to a very busy day on Friday the range of drinks that we have on offer may soon become very limited. Sorry to those of you in the queue last night.”

Only in England, eh? 😦

“And I’m trying hard to fit among your scheme of things”

The care work is going well and I feel I have bonded nicely with the people I care for, to the extent that if I ever do get back into IT I would still wish to keep in touch with some of them. I like being out and about instead of chained to a desk and I love the instant gratification of the job – knowing I have made a positive difference to someone’s day; although not every day is gratifying. There is a lane I drive up frequently where a young lad has been building a dry stone wall for the past few weeks. Sometimes I think how good it would be to be working with stones instead of people.
Yesterday, I applied for three IT jobs advertised by different agencies – although two of them looked remarkably similar so I suspect they are the same job. I asked one IT agent why jobs I had applied for ages ago were still being advertised; haven’t they found the right person yet? He explained that in quiet times some agencies tend to put the same jobs out repeatedly to attract as many CV’s as possible to add to their database.
So why do I want to return to IT? A regular income is the most obvious attraction. As a care worker I have a zero hours’ contract but also signed something to say I was prepared to work in excess of forty hours. I started the job at a busy time when carers were on holiday and off sick. Now the work seems to have dried up, in addition to students joining us for the summer break. Other carers I have met on ‘double-ups’ have said they have never known it so quiet. I guess it will even out again, as carers will move to other agencies if there is not enough work. Having less calls makes the job more enjoyable as you are not against the clock and therefore have time to do extra little tasks if required or time to simply sit and listen to them talking and learn more about the person, but it’s disheartening when you get home after a seven hour stint to work out that you’ve only done three and a quarter paid hours and earned a grand total of £21.45. On a couple of days I’ve only had one hour’s work; divided into two half-hour visits at different times of the day.
I also yearn to rejoin a workplace that is run with some competence. The care agency’s management and administration is shambolic and I seem to spend a lot of time phoning to query details or emailing to ask for records to be updated with the correct information. When I first met my boss, she said; “You look great for someone who’s nearly sixty!” It might have been a compliment if I hadn’t had to tell her she’d got my date of birth wrong (off my birth certificate, passport and driving licence – in addition to my application form) and when my first payslip finally arrived it was thanks to the post office folk that it reached me despite the random address on the envelope.
Writing novels seems to be a thing of the past now that my mind is unsettled – not just with work but with wondering whether or not to relocate, and of course each time I apply for a local job the relocation idea is set aside. I used to drive to work on autopilot, complete the day’s routine and then write for an hour or so most evenings. Back then, in an introverted job, I was on the outside of life and looking in. Now that I am part of the outside world, there is less inclination to write about it. I switch on the PC to write but end up just looking at jobs and houses. Maybe I should try to get a job in a care home, where I will actually get paid for the hours I work? I have a recurrent internal lament; “Life is a lemon and I want my old job back.” If I’m not lucky soon I will have to stop looking for IT work and fully commit to being a carer. I guess that’s the only way to eradicate the lament, but how long should I wait?

Twelve Weeks

My twelve weeks redundancy notice has been the longest time ever, and it’s not over yet.  In the new year, I found myself sharing my colleagues’ enthusiasm for future projects but then had to remind myself that I wouldn’t be around to be involved with the development, which has led to boredom and general lack of interest in any of the tasks I am given.  Although there are a few of us leaving the IT department, I am the only one from this site and have noticed that some people have started to speak to me differently, with a tinge of sympathy in their tone, as if there is something wrong.  It makes me think there must be.  Others keep asking if I have got a job yet.  No, I haven’t.

I got as far as a second interview and the guy from the agency named the day when he would phone and let me know … and then never phoned.  That was two weeks ago, and I have just about stopped carrying my mobile phone around everywhere.  I thought about phoning them but left it, thinking maybe if no-one else accepted the job they might come back to me.  Now I think I have seen it re-advertised with a more specific description of the role and the skills required.  I don’t want it any more though, I’ve moved on from that.  I said originally I didn’t want another job in IT – but this was close to home and appeared to fit.  I have applied for several other jobs that are not ruled out by my lack of experience or wrong qualifications, but other than an automated reply from a couple, I have heard nothing.  When people advise me to apply for anything, as I have nothing to lose, I am inclined to agree – I’ve probably told other people the same – but I do have a tendency to completely see myself in the particular role, so there is an emotional investment, and this is what gets lost when I hear nothing.

I have filled in a form to apply for voluntary work at a wildlife sanctuary but have not sent it off yet, in the hope that the offer of paid work might be just around the corner.  The thought of having nowhere to go, and not ‘belonging’ to anything scares me slightly. I started work straight after school and am lucky enough never to have been unemployed and, other than holidays, scheduled appointments, or working from home, I have never had time off.  I even have an award for attendance – a little plastic gold cup on my desk; an award for being a bum on a seat and for my mild OCD about being in the right place at the right time. Now at that age where bits might start dropping off, I am looking for some wood to touch in this office, but it is all plastic or formica.  I guess I’m also a little worried that if I end up out of work for a few months I will adapt to enjoying the freedom and will resent it being taken away again – but then  adaptation must be the key, so  it will work both ways.

The IT manager just made me laugh.  He was faffing around in the meeting room, setting up a projector.  Satisfied everything was ready to go, he walked across the office, stood beside my desk and said in his most polite and deliberate voice; “I have been tasked with presenting to the department a video about the state of the Company, and where we are now.  Would I be correct in assuming that you don’t give a rat’s arse?”  Bless him!

So, whilst everyone was watching telly I wrote this.  I’m glad I decided not to try to stick to writing about writing as I now have far more scope for writing – and no-one has to read it if they don’t want to!

A visit from the President

The “President and CEO” of the U.S. company I work for is visiting today.  The building smells of paint – honestly!  The painters were in last week, as well as the window cleaners.   We had the usual email about wearing appropriate attire and keeping the office tidy – it wouldn’t do to give the impression there was any work going on – and there was another request that made me laugh:  “Please ensure there is no preparation of food with strong or spicy odours.”  I don’t know why they didn’t give us all the day off, in case we make the place look untidy, or make a smell.

He is due to visit our department at 2pm and, although I only have another seven weeks left to work here, I am looking forward to meeting him.  In photos and videos he looks like Superman but with more appropriate attire.  Either he is about eight feet tall or else he surrounds himself with very small people.  I wonder if you have to put your height on your CV if you apply for a job as CEO in a large company?

Now I can hear scraping noises outside – and a colleague who normally wears overalls, but is wearing a suit today, is breaking up the compacted snow with a spade and removing it from around the visitor parking spaces – and as I watch a buffet is being delivered.  No onions, I hope.

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

Well, 2pm has been and gone, and so has our VIP visitor.  He looked older and thinner than he looks on camera – and he also looked eight feet tall, but then his posy were all shorties.

I said to him, “You should come here more often – the place has never looked so clean.”  No I didn’t.  The poor guy was wearing the glazed expression of someone who is jet-lagged and/or does not wish to engage in conversation, and walked through without saying anything.

I shouldn’t take the mickey.  My own home would be so much cleaner if I had visitors more often.

Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes

After a few weeks of ‘consultation’ I have today been given notice of redundancy from my job.  The consultation process has been a charade – a procedure that was necessary to safeguard the company from any possible litigation.  I believe they had already decided on the outcome, but we had to have meetings to put forward our ideas as to how the redundancy might be avoided.  The timing surprised me;  I was half-expecting it a few months ago when the legacy system I had developed and supported was finally laid to rest and I was struggling to learn the new programming languages, but this has happened just as I was starting to be useful.  There are a few of us going from IT and many old colleagues from other departments.  Budgets have been tightened and the company is cutting away some old wood.  The bugger of it is that I have to work twelve weeks’ notice, so I won’t finish until mid-March.  Traditionally in IT, anyone made redundant has their access to the systems revoked instantly and is escorted from the premises.  Unfortunately, that rule has just been changed here.  Maybe if I rant at my screen and say “delete” as people walk by they might let me go?

It has been a funny few weeks.   That initial meeting so suddenly called – and the first formal letter informing me that my job was “at risk” came out of the blue at a time when from my point of view we were particularly busy – so it came as a shock, followed later by a vague sense of bereavement at the thought of parting from my colleagues.  I have worked with some of them for almost thirteen years.  Now I am trying to focus on the things I won’t miss such as the bizarre heating system that blows hot air from the ceiling – drying out your eyes whilst your feet freeze beneath the desk …

I have been lucky with managers in that those I report to have always told me the truth as they saw it – but the truth has mutated with the passage of time and the failing economy.  Our project plans – all that future work – has suddenly lost its priority.

I have always believed that things happen for a reason, and was tentatively hopeful that my screenplay might make it through the BBC Writersroom and I would suddenly have loads of time to write scripts.  Not expecting to hear anything unless I was successful, I was surprised to find an email from them this morning – but it turned out to be a rejection.  By no means the first rejection I’ve ever had – it is something many writers get used to, and at least I know now, and I can knock that little fantasy on the head.  It means a lot to me to have dates and times, and to know what’s what.  I really wish it didn’t.  I wish I could be more laid back, and ‘take it as it comes’ but this is the way I am and yes, I know it is only a job, and losing it is way at the bottom of my list of the precious things in this life that I constantly worry about losing.  But yes, I was grateful to receive the email from work this afternoon.  I am on holiday this week – I was advised to use it!

So, what next?  Preferably something different – something that doesn’t necessitate sitting at a desk for hours on end … but what?  I am determined to be optimistic that this change is for the better.

Happy Christmas!

Love xxx

Old Dog New Tricks

This was supposed to be a blog that was mostly about writing – only I haven’t written anything recently, nothing in English, that is.  At work I write computer programs but the switch from iSeries RPG to web front-end C# with Sequel Server has resulted in me coming home feeling utterly mind-fucked; my head a cage-full of monkeys as the ideas of the fiction I might write come and go amidst the frustration of knowing exactly what the system I am working on is supposed to be doing, but not having the language skills to make it happen.  Then the nights are full of mind-loop dreams of unsolved and surreal problems that I would never get to the bottom of, if I tried all night, because they do not exist!  And there is the nuisance of Christmas approaching.

I don’t really have the aptitude for C#.   I believe it was created by a bunch of … gents who were concerned that higher level languages were a threat; opening the IT doors to none-IT staff.  Unfortunately, it has also closed doors for some veteran programmers, and I thought I was going to be one of them.

The transition from ‘top down’ to ‘object oriented’ programming has not been sudden.  The system I had worked on for hundreds of years was decommissioned some time ago and I expected to go out with it.  I was glad to be kept on but the deadlines for the latest project were particularly tight and I found I was doing extra hours at home, weekends and evenings, in order to just about keep up.  I am lucky enough to work with a small team guys who are not only technically brilliant but good friends too, and supportive – but I am determined I will not be carried by them.

I am picking up the new skills, slowly.   If you throw enough mud at a wall some of it will stick, but all the mud that has hit and slid away has been depleting, and all I have done in my spare time is easy-reading and nosying on friends’ Facebooks.   I am tentatively confident that this is about to change so that work can stay at the office and I can put some disciplined thought and time into another writing project.

Keep warm, and try not to get too muddy 😉

Jules

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: