Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Define your life. Upgrade your PC!

So with this blog, our website, and our latest and greatest store inventory/sales system, I'd say we rely on information technology quite a bit, probably even above average for the bike industry. But I would not go so far as to say that we are an information-driven industry. To that end, over the years, we have traditionally gotten by with "refurbished" PC hardware.

This means that our computers started out as the state-of-the-art model on some CEO's desk, and were then inherited by some middle-level managers, then eventually passed down to some poor file clerk. When they outlived their usefulness in the corporate world, they were probably donated to charities, community organizations, or passed on to family members. When they finally wore out their usefulness to scout troops, PTA's, and even nuns and monks toiling under the watchful eye of God him/herself, they were sent to a used office equipment dealer where they could be snatched up by the frugal likes of bike shops.

As the company computer guy, I enjoy this job more than any other I've had. But yesterday was one of those days that makes you wanna hop on your bike and head into the sunset for an indefinite period of time. It started with learning what I was going to have to shell out for a new alternator for my car, but that's another story (and another good reason to ride my bike more).

One of the old PC's in the Rocky River store had just died last week, and another was on the verge of dying. I had ordered a couple of brand-new Dell replacements last week, and yesterday was the day to get them up and running in the store. One thing I learned 20 years ago is that in planning any computer upgrade project, use the following rules for estimating the time required:
  1. Take your best guess, based on everything going relatively smoothly, with the possiblity of a few unexpected glitches.
  2. Quadruple that estimate.
  3. Double it again.

That formula has never failed, and yesterday was no exception. It's always the thing you least expect, in this case McAfee's anti-virus software has some issues installing with Microsoft Internet Explorer 7. The kicker is that I set up this exact same configuration last month in our Medina store, and it was a painless 10-minute effort, but this time around, 5 hours of effort left only one computer working right. You would think that in the weekly e-mail report I get from McAfee, reminding me of what I've already purchased from them and how much more wonderful my life would be if I purchased more products from them, they could have been bothered to mention that their product has some incompatibility issues with the latest version of the number one web browser program in the known universe, but no.

The one surprising bright spot was that their technical support line was helpful, and I only had to spend about 30 minutes on hold, which is probably better than average for software support. I've gotten minimal calls today from the gang in Rocky River, so I assume that no news is good news and their keyboards are clicking away happily. If that turns out not to be the case later on, we appreciate your patience...

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