Why I do what I now do at the office…

or “One way my life changed in  2002”  – Some names have been changed to protect the innocent (and all those that are not me….). That probably wasn’t necesary, but there’s no need for competitors to Google the comany name and find company mission statements… 🙂 So, for those who know the name, I am not working with Petra’s former lead singer Greg X. Volz – any resemblance of names be they fictional or real is purely intentional yet inconsequential.

Company Mission Announcement

Today [as founder, president, co-owner, and name sake of the company], I’d like to announce the creation of a new group within [our company] which is being charged to lead a very important mission. Specifically, the “[Software] SWAT Team” is being reorganized and re-chartered to focus on [Windows product] system installations – their quality and efficiency. I believe improvement in this last area is vital to our company’s future and want to take time in this email to give the entire staff an understanding as to why.
Our mission as a company is to reduce what it costs to install and support [our Windows POS system]. We’ve done similar things in the past with other products and it is now essential to make this happen with [our Windows product]. Here are some specific points to my vision for the mission:

  • Specifically, I’m calling on our company to cut the amount of time it takes us to install a [site] to ¼ of what it is today. And this needs to be done without reducing the quality we deliver to the customer. If anything, I expect such efforts to increase quality and customer satisfaction.
    We want to make our installations “plug and play” in the field. This means that we are 100% set up before we ship and all of our time at the site is spent training. Installation is done here, not at the site. If we go to the site it should be for training.
  • I envision us establishing proven/standardized ways to set up and install systems. This likely includes documented best practices and tools (like a “wizard”) to automate such setups. Our install team needs better tools and processes.
  • This project will take time and no doubt will be refined for years to come. That said, it is vital that we get about it. I expect us to have made demonstrable improvement by the end of this calendar year.

Making it Happen

This mission is for the entire company. Indeed I expect it to affect every aspect of our organization. But to lead this effort, we’re reorganizing and re-chartering our “[Software] SWAT team”. Brian Layman and [Greg X. Volz] will constitute this team and will take charge of the mission for achieving our objectives. Together they will answer to [Steve Taylor] as part of the deployment group. Here is some background on these key players in our mission to improve:

  • Brian Layman has been a programmer with our product development team since he joined us in 1998. For the past six months, Brian has helped in the [company’s] telephone support department. This mixed background gives Brian a unique perspective on the challenges and solutions in improving our installation and support techniques for [our software].
  • [Greg X. Volz] started with [us] in 1996. He first served as part of our [DOS product] installation and support team and later was promoted to coordinate our original [Windows Software] beta support team. Since the merger of [Windows Software] support with the main telephone support group, [he] has served with [Steve Taylor] as part of the [Software] SWAT team working as an interface between support and deployment.

Again, this team will have the chief responsibility of delivering this mission — but they will need the help and cooperation from many departments to be successful. This includes QA, Telephone Support, Marketing, and R&D. Our existing installation team in particular has already played a big role in taming the new beast of [Windows Software] installation. [Others] have already made important strides to get us to the level we are at today. I expect these folks will play a major part in our future improvements.

Official Job Title 2005-Present

Names changed to protect the innocent (and all those not me)


Process Automation and Production Test Engineer


Basic Function/General Description

Develop tools for the Configuration, Shipping, Installation, and Support of the company’s products.  The tools will provide consistency while reducing labor content.


• Develop and maintain the images for the various servers and clients and supply to Shipping and Service with written instruction.  
• Attend design and review meetings for new stages and products.
• Maintain the System Control Diagrams for the Installation and Support Departments. 
• Develop and maintain the tools to configure the current software releases.

o These tools will aid in the configuration of new sites, legacy conversions and add-on modules.
o Evaluate the feedback from the Support staff on existing tools the need for tools to be developed.
o Emphasize the standardization of site configuration and only automate the configurations we support.
o Write Help documents for the tools developed to assure consistent application

• Assist in escalated Support issues, as required, when the cause is a hardware image, internal tools or documentation setup issue.  This escalation should result in a corrective action for the tools or documentation.
• Develop and maintain a system testing process and tools to be administrated by the Shipping department.


• Experience with the following programming languages: Delphi, Visual Basic, Turbo Pascal
• Knowledge of the Windows XP Registry structure and Windows XP Pro deployment tools.
• Advanced DOS Batch programming experience
• Experience with DOS & Windows TCP/IP networking and related hardware
• Proficiency in SQL and Relational Database concepts.


Computer degree or equivalent work experience.


Knowledge of our current products, legacy products and the POS industry

Position Reports to:  Director of Operations

Nothing in this job description restricts the right of management to assign or re-assign duties and responsibilities to this job at any time.

Alternate Data Streams

I sent this to some of my coworkers.  You might find this interesting too..

One of the members of a technical forum to which I belong had a virus detected in a dll that he could not find anywhere on his computer.  In the end, it was discovered that the file was embedded as Alternate Data Stream (ADS) attached to his System32 directory.  The full path to the file was something simlar to c:\windows\system32:dhht.dll.

I was not familiar with using streams in this manner; so I looked it up.  In short, any file or directory on an NTFS drive can any number of files piggy-backed onto it without affecting its reported file size.  These files remain intact through normal file copying and renaming actions as long as the file remains on an NTFS drive (or compatible archiver).

I’ve never come across this before and thought I would share.

Summary/Demo….    (adjust paths as necessary)
1. Create a directory off the root called test
2. From the command prompt in your test directory type:
   Echo a>test.txt
   That will create a nice 3 byte text file.
3. Now type:
   type c:\Windows\system32\notepad.exe>test.txt:notepad.exe
4. Get another directory listing and notice that the size of test.txt remains 3 bytes though an additional ~70kb has been added to it.  The time has changed but that could be set back.
5. Now, from the command prompt in your test directory, execute the hidden stream:
   start \test\test.txt:Notepad.exe
   (You must use include the path to test.txt)

You are now running an exe that was hidden in 3 byte text file.

Windows supplies no tools to display this.  The attached zip file, also referenced in this article, includes an exe that does.

The Task Manager shows the running proces in different ways depending upon your Windows version.  In SP2, the executable is listed as test.txt:Notepad.exe. However, in earlier versions of windows, only the host file is listed.  So, if you’d embeded Notepad.exe in calc.exe, calc.exe would be in the task list even though you’d be running Notepad.  Nifty huh?

Of course, you’ll have to find a transport/archiver that supports these streams, if you want to distribute them.  Outlook and WinZip do not seem to do so.

Apparently ADS are there for backwards compatibility with a Macintosh file system (HFS).  I’m not sure why we’d want/need that…


Weird Words: Turducken


A culinary construction. Many of us have heard of this gastronomic excess, which in the USA is associated with Thanksgiving and to a lesser extent with July 4. A chicken is stuffed inside a duck inside a turkey – the inner two deboned first and themselves stuffed with such delights as sausage, cornbread, or oyster. A culinary chimera, it might be thought to stand on the same level of gustatory invention as the Glaswegian deep-fried Mars bar, though those who have tried it say it’s quite tasty. Some chefs draw away in horror from it, citing the excessive amounts of skin and fat and the high risk of bacterial problems because it is so hard to ensure that all three birds are properly cooked through. If this creation were not enough, a news article from 1997 said that a store in Louisiana was experimenting with a “pigturducken”, though nothing has been heard of it since. And a rumour has reached me via the Internet that South Africans have gone one better, producing an osturducken, in which the whole concoction is stuffed inside an ostrich. However, this may possibly be an urban legend, because the only reports come from somebody who has heard of it from somebody else.

Bimbos of the Death Sun by Sharyn Mccrumb

Media Type: Unabridged Audio

Source: www.NetLibrary.com

Purchase URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/034541215X?v=glance

Sadly this book is 90% setting and 10% predictable plot. I was very hopeful about this book.  I thought that with a precocious title like this, it would strive to achieve better.  Plus it won an Edgar Award (whatever that is). To be honest, I am very surprised that this isn’t an author’s first work.  If this book were a piece of carpentry, it would be the set of shelves you made in junior high shop class.
Other people have reviewed this as a comedy novel – an extremely good one.  And maybe that’s why I rate it so poorly.  The audio book version offers you no clues that it isn’t meant to be taken seriously and it is way too close to reality to be taken as a spoof.  I didn’t find anything in here that would classify it as a comedy unless the use of stereo types is supposed to allow us to the opportunity get enjoyment out of ridiculing people.  “Ha ha – the fat chick and the geek are doing the nasty right now. giggle giggle giggle”.  However, if that’s the case, why is the promiscuous, liberal, feminist college professor type (Is she another stereo type role or the author placing herself in the book? I just don’t know.)   making such a big deal about how bad it is to make fun of people? 
There’s a character in this book that wrote a book called BotDS based upon a scientific theory.  I have to admit I did laugh about how the audio book reader got slower and slower when reading technical description of the concept behind the book within the book.   That was quite funny once I realized it wasn’t being done on purpose!
The writing is full of too many literary mistakes for me to give it a good review.  It has everything from supplying information that is never again needed (perhaps just there to give you giggles?), to redundantly explaining simple concepts (might have been funny if over emphasized), to throwing in meaningless techno babble (you’re in a hotel with a thousand geeks surely if this were meant to be funny it could happen more often), to using the novel to express ridicule of your own current pet peeves (never really funny), to criticizing other authors and then making the same mistakes (humor through ridicule never does it for me), this novel has it all.
The over-simplified stereotypes throughout the book shows the real prejudice in the author’s mind as we are repeatedly told:
1. Americans are stupid, ignorant and loud (a message repeated in so many words perhaps a dozen times throughout.)
2. Scotts are stuck up alcoholics
3. F&SF only exists because of the psychoses of the fat or ugly or fat and ugly teens that work at supermarkets or burger king.
4. Fat girls can only get ahead through sexual encounters with those more desperate than they are.
5. The mind of a cop is a slow thing, so, use small words.
6. A liberated feminist is always the only psychologically healthy individual in a room.
The scene painted of the “con” by half way through the book was intricate in detail and enjoyable until you realized that absolutely nothing has happened so far.  Then you are forced to realize that due to the Shakespeare quotes tossed in here and there, the author has left only one avenue for the plot to follow.
Also, I would have respected the work more if she wouldn’t have failed on the fine details of the computer stuff.  This was set in the 80’s, so there is talk about computers and programs.  I feel that the research on that subject was done through one email to a friend who responded with a couple name brands and buzzwords.  It’s  a shame too because she almost got that part of it right.
I guess if this was meant to be a comedy, she needed to be a little less accurate.  Treading the line between true satire and accurate portrayal, gives the reader nothing on which to make any traction.  To straight for a farse, to sloppy to be taken seriously, this novel is a worth reading if you can get it for free.
I always feel bad when I don’t finish, or if even I don’t want to finish, a book.  This novel is another reminder that it is not my fault that the author writes a bad book.  I will say that I REALLY felt like I was one of the people hosting a convention, time dilation and all.  I decided 3/4 of the way through the book that someone should take this exact setting and characters, and make something exciting happen.  There’s plenty of potential in a full rewrite.