Tuesday, September 23, 2008

So Slow You Can Watch Your Own Hair Grow

Recently I started working on-site at a new client’s office. Not unusual for us consultant-types, they even provide a comfy cubicle or office, desktop or laptop, and if you’re real lucky, a good cup of hot chocolate.

This contract, I’m working in someone’s cubicle temporarily – until Monday when she returns from vacation. I’m using her desktop computer also on loan, until they set one up for me.

I don’t know how on earth the person who’s desk I’m at uses the computer – it is so slow you can watch your own hair grow. I got into the office around 8:30am and the first thing I did was turn it on. At 8:45am, it was still loading – the login screen hadn’t even appeared yet!

If I try to run more than two Internet Explorer windows at the same time, the system slows down so much, you have to wait for the keys you pressed moments ago to register.

You’d think technology like this would be in a museum, or if still in use, by a small, mom and pop shop that just hasn’t caught up to the technological race. But I’m actually working for one of the largest healthcare research centres in Canada – and one of the largest hospitals in the country.

The computer I’ve been temporarily assigned at this client site is so painfully slow, that I’ve actually been dragging in one of my laptops to their offices, to do much of what I have to do. I can’t plug it into their network – most companies won’t let you just drop in any computer into their private network for security reasons. So, I’ve been using the computer they assigned me for their emails and other internal network-related tasks, and my laptop for everything else. I use a USB jump drive – or “stick” to exchange data between the two machines.

Using my laptop solves many issues, though it has created some new ones. For one thing it isn’t always easy to cart around a 17-inch laptop through megacity traffic downtown. It’s so busy downtown, people just push there way through the crowds – meaning I could easily damage my own equipment en-route.

Also, although I work out, it’s nice not having to carry heavy bulky items to and from the office – so lugging the laptop is just that.

And then there is the fear of expectations – once you do something at the office, it is expected you will always do it. We’re looking at getting a couple more consultants that do what I do, to build the team, so I know eventually they will have to get decent systems that we can use, else anyone we get won’t be able to do what they hired us to do. But as they have been using outdated systems for so long, and as they didn’t have anything ready for me when I started, time is something they seem to have plenty of when it comes to spending on new technology. They could keep delaying any purchase of new hardware, saying I’m getting by using my own tools.

Most clients where I work on-site, have everything setup prior to my arrival. It is nice to be in on the decision-making process, and build my own dream system for use at a client’s office. But at the same time, it is a pain in the butt to work on outdated machines, which just can’t handle the applications I use to do my job.

The ideal would have been to consult with the consultants prior to us starting. But ideals and reality seldom happen.

Still, it amazes me that an organization as large as the one I’m working for – with funding from all three levels of government, private donations, and major fund raising drives – has money constraints so tight, they force their staff to wait 15-20 minutes for their computers to start in the morning.

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