After 6 years of working on Communitynet Aotearoa I’ve stopped. Today. More or less.
It was a contract worth about 10 to 15 hours per week recently, although 6 years ago it started as about 5 hours per week. I approved (or not) notices submitted by community groups, wrote and distributed a monthly newsletter, handled email and did sundry other tasks. Lately I handled floods, torrents, deluges of spam — both email spam and submitted notices.
Back in mid-April I decided it was time to move on, and today finally provided some training to Nick, who is replacing me.
Communitynet Aotearoa is supported by the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA), so I went downtown to the DIA building and Nick and I sat down together at about 9 am at an elderly computer that no-one else was using.
Once the machine had finished starting up — a 5 minute process at least — we began by looking at the email, which is handled in a Gmail account. Or we tried to. The web browser on the Windows 2000 machine was Internet Explorer 5. IE5 can sort of do Gmail, but not very well really. Still, we managed.
Then we turned to the website that Nick will be editing. It runs on a Microsoft Content Management system that requires Windows Internet Explorer for the editing side of things. We typed in the URL and eventually the website loaded. Sort of. A bit. Well, parts of it kind of loaded. But mainly the screen was blank. Especially the parts we needed. Hmmm. It seems that IE5 can’t handle the website. I’m glad that’s not my problem.
Anyway, that meant Nick and I couldn’t edit the site, and that’s what the training was all about.
The relevant manager said we could use his computer, but he needed to do an urgent email first, so Nick and I chatted about some stuff he needed to know, then we transferred to the other computer.
The IT staff had upgraded it in the last couple of days. It was running a shiny new version of Windows XP and had a recent-ish version of IE. Good. The manager logged us on with his password and disappeared on an errand. Nick and I clicked our way through to edit a notice. Except there was no text in the text fields. Instead there was a worrying little red x where the text should have been. Hmmm.
We looked at the Internet Options. Or, at least, the singular option. Like many organisations these days the Department of Internal Affairs don’t want their workers to do anything unauthorised on the computer they have on their desk so they lock the computers down and strip out anything that could conceivably allow the worker to change the settings.
Long story short, we were stuck. From the depths of my brain emerged the idea we needed to install an ActiveX control. [Snip lots of to-ing and fro-ing, web searches, Helpdesk calls.]
By the time the DIA Helpdesk had done some mystical reset magic and the ActiveX control was installed I had a headache and it was almost past lunchtime. Nick and I headed down to the cafeteria where I discovered that DIA workers can get very cheap, very tasty meals, right in the building. Wow! Roast turkey, roast vegetables, gravy: yum! $6.50. Amazing! It was a small plate, but I was very happy.
OK, so finally at 2 pm things were on the right track: we had a computer that worked, complete with ActiveX control. Except that after half an hour of inactivity we’d been logged out, and needed the manager’s password to get back in, and he was away at lunch or a meeting or something.
Again, Nick and I talked through some stuff. I gave him a quick lesson in HTML: he needs to use HTML a lot, but fortunately only a limited set: paragraphs, lists, headings, links, acronyms pretty well covered it.
The manager returned, logged us back in and we finally got really, truly underway. At about 3 pm. By 4.45 I had to leave to catch a bus home.
So here I am at home again, more glad than ever that I work for myself, using a computer over which I have total control, in a room with a view down the valley to the sea, with natural light, windows that open. I’m so glad I use a Mac and don’t have to worry about all the security garbage that plagues Windows users. And, as of today, I no longer have to do battle with a Microsoft Content Management System that is, quite frankly, utter garbage.
I’m too exhausted to actually celebrate tonight, but, well, hooray!