Archive for September, 2007

Thoughts on imposed IT and software limitations in the workplace

I have recently noticed a few limitations imposed on the machines and domain at school where I work which has since got me thinking about limitations imposed in the (few) workplaces I’ve been in and the many I’ve been told about first-hand where people are limited to various degrees by IT departments. While I understand decisions need to be made and it’s much easier to let nobody have power then to give everybody power it still irks me sometimes some of the little things that are done to prevent our own IT freedoms.

Warning: I work in IT and this is mostly a rant so stop now if you like.

Here are some recent examples I have encountered.

Blocking iTunes sharing

At school department where I work now it’s not possible to share iTunes libraries amongst co-workers or others in the department’s network. The setting is imposed centrally and cannot be overridden by individual employees. Because of this I’ve been forced to take other means and privately promote an application called SimplifyMedia to share music with others. I’m not sure if this has been successful for anybody.

The reasoning I’ve been told for this restriction is that music being shared is likely to not be legal and so a stance of “better safe and limit than use the application’s default settings”. My question is: is that the IT department’s job to impose limitations over use of iTunes with its default features?

I’m not speaking only about my current employer because this is an issue lots of IT directors have to deal with and organizations have to deal with. While general tampering should be restricted in order to preserve the working status of personal machines and network resources

General application installing limitations

Adam recently casually mentioned to me that he was unable to install OpenOffice on his desktop machine at the school where he teaches and (because of reasons I will not rant about right now) had to then spend time re-building slides created at home because of this limitation. It’s not right. Please, for the sake of the children!

Software lock-in (in my case, Outlook 2007)

Where I work we just got a huge lot of new 24″ iMacs for our labs and a few have been used to replace Windows desktops in the IT office. I was one of the lucky ones to get to start using and iMac so I rejoiced to ease my email/calendar workflow with and iCal. I have since been urged to keep everything updated in Outlook 2007 on my Windows partition in order to allow for people to schedule me for meetings based on my free/busy information.

Okay, I have to say that with Exchange managing email, scheduling appointments for others is pretty neat but why can you only do this within Exchange?! Also, if I’m not in a position where people are often scheduling me for appointments may I please just use this other sync-able, integrate-able application on the Mac to manage my own calendar and, when the case comes, provide a thorough account of my availabilities to those who would like to schedule me for a meeting?

Adam just, as I was writing this email, reminded me of iTunes’ limitation to only allow iPhone syncing through Outlook if you’re on Windows. Why?! This seems like a situation where Apple would want to provide options not to use Outlook. Or, maybe it’s a secret strategy of Apple’s to make you angry at Outlook lock-in and to switch to Mac.

Please companies who make widespread desktop software (hrm, Microsoft) realize that people may not want to do things only how your software allows and would like to use other tools to get their work done. Also, please IT departments realize that not everybody works one way and people need freedom in choice of software.

I just wish there was a more lax policy around for things like this. That’s all. If the work is getting done, let people do their thing. Thanks.

Waking Up

Every so often I wake up earlier than planned and I feel absolutely wonderful for a few minutes. That is, until I fall back asleep for another hour or two and wake up to feel like I had barely gotten any sleep at all. What happened? I was just feeling so great. Wouldn’t more sleep help me more than hurt me?! It doesn’t seem right!

Does this happen to you?

Are human sleep patterns too difficult to pinpoint, document and optimize? I know I’m not the first one to have this type of experience on a regular basis and it seems like there should be some miracle reference for how to optimize sleep. If there is, please let me know and help me wonder why this isn’t something that’s taught to us as school children or provided to us by employers and academic organizations.

Maybe it’s the snooze button’s fault.

Update from chat conversation with Daniel Nicolas:

Daniel Nicolas: and so to lay down rules for when people have to go to bed – you’re naturally going to be against it Daniel Nicolas: i mean, i’m ready for bed ~ between 10am and 2am Zach Hale: it’s not WHEN to sleep Zach Hale: it’s how to gte the most out of sleep Zach Hale: just general guidelines Zach Hale: there’s nothing wrong with that i dont think Daniel Nicolas: yeah so what should be taught is Daniel Nicolas: the importance of sleep Zach Hale: yes. Daniel Nicolas: the idea that every body is different, thus you need to find out for yourself what your body actually needs Daniel Nicolas: the science behind sleep – the REM cycles, etc Daniel Nicolas: and then after all that a “Reality check” where you apply all this knowledge to life – if you have to work two shifts and you don’t get to sleep until 1am every night,… well you can’t just sleep through the natural cycle — so basically teaching people how to schedule their sleeping so they can get enough sleep, be happier, get more stuff done Zach Hale: exactly Zach Hale: it’s the science and how to use it to your advantage Zach Hale: thats what needs to be more widely known Daniel Nicolas: and this should be taught and reviewed in class at the beginning of every semester, from 1st grade through 8th grade, and then have specific required classes in high school every year

And so it begins … again

I’ve returned to with ambitions to do all the usual things: write more often, write better content, blah blah blah.

Fall quarter starts today at UW and I’ve got high hopes for the year. I’m trying to wrap up some lingering commitments then I can commit myself full force to school, work, and my personal projects like this here blog.

Here’s to a refresh and a positive, productive year!

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