The Golden Child
[ UPDATE 12/16 - I met with Metro's technical lead for OBS (On-board systems) shortly after I posted this. She gave me an overview of the systems that are installed on each bus plus a quick rundown of the issues that are most frequently causing late pullouts. We discussed the possibility of me spending some time diagnosing issues in the field. While that hasn't happened yet, there have been some software upgrades that *might* have fixed the issues I was having. Then again, I've also modified my login routine a bit in response to the information I've learned. Since I'm not actively trying to break the system, there may still be some gotchas out there. Still, I've had a relatively stress-free week. If the streak continues I'll record a video of my login routine that may be useful if other drivers are still encountering the "check-mark of death" ]
Hacker - An enthusiastic and skillful computer programmer or user
A long-time manager of mine at Microsoft used to call me “The Golden Child”. Why? If I recall correctly, he said that because I had an uncanny ability to get things working. Time and time again, he’d ask me to turn a seemingly worthless set of data into something he could use for a report or presentation. Inevitably, this required massaging a non-standard data feed using a batch process or some code. During one review he said “I wouldn’t trade you for 10 employees when you are on your game”. (Of course, he immediately followed that comment up by saying that when I wasn’t interested in a project I was “Useless as tits on a boar”. Hmmm… Put that in the “things to work on” column.)
All that said, I’m basically a classic Hacker. I love to tinker with things, see what makes them tick, and make them work better. Back then, I liked to hack on spreadsheets, databases, and servers. Our group collected various bread crumbs of data on Microsoft’s Product Support operations and did our best to create tools that managers used to improve Microsoft’s support operations – back when we answered calls here in the US. Our small team had many talented individuals with complementary skills. It was one of the best work environments I’ve ever been in.
Fast forward to today: I’ve tired of the learning something new every day treadmill and decided long ago to hang up my hacker hat by taking a relatively low-tech job driving a bus. These days I’m generally content not knowing what goes on behind the scenes. Yet, from time to time, the hacker in me encounters things in my job that I desperately want to fix – Things that I would be seriously motivated to fix, if given the chance. The latest is what I like to call “The check-mark of death” which occurs during the boot cycle of our radio system. (Which, by the way, runs on Windows CE) This seemingly random problem occurs after I type in my ID and password at which point my radio freezes. Since the boot sequence takes about 7 minutes, I know I’m going to be running late if I see this screen. Now, if I had access to the source code, I’d compile in some diagnostic messages, and work with VM to use those messages to gather more data on where the code is freezing. At this point, I’d either tinker with the code or, more likely, work with the vendor to rewrite that code to make it more robust. Sounds simple, right?
Alas, I’m relatively sure Metro doesn’t have the source code and farming me out to the vendor, Init, is unlikely. That said, I’d relish an opportunity to get involved in diagnosing this problem and getting useful feedback to the developers/vendor. So how about it, Metro, care to see if my manager at Microsoft was right about my nickname? (“The Golden Child” – Not the “worthless” one…)