Probably one of the things on my list on what I really dislike is working.. inefficiently. All my life I have been striving to improve myself, my skills, social relations, work(-load^^), [..] – and while I certainly cannot say that I reached perfection, the path taught me one thing or another.
On the other hand I am struggling with how processes sometimes dictate me to function. We are all surrounded by grossly static and therefore always imperfect well designed systems that need us to include ourselves in a more or less clearly defined way. It doesn’t matter if it’s the educational system that needs us to do just one paper after another, to finally have accumulated enough redundant and in itself senseless paperwork to be able to perform just a sequel of the aforementioned menial task or if it is our employer who urges us to use Microsoft Windows, because that’s the operating system imperatively declared as “business-proof” – when it comes to conforming to these given rule sets, I am at constant struggle with myself on why I am investing time in actions disclosed as being utterly inferior to alternatively available methods. There used to be a strikingly insistent explanation for everything – studying is important, because it proves to everyone else that you’re capable of doing your desired job while working with Microsoft Windows is important, because the guy ultimately paying your bills told you to. So far, this argument sounds simple enough, but I am afraid it can be dismantled just as easily.
For instance, there weren’t many exams that I didn’t succeed in without not having to put up any measurable effort beyond letting my tired eyes hover over some boring notes for two hours or so(annotation: I actually succeeded in using double double-negation in only the first half of this premise which already means more to me than all the papers I had to pile up during the last years) which ought to disprove (at least to myself) the declaration of improving me in matters of computer science any reasonable extent in relation to the vast amount of time spent simply holding the title “student” that used to imply a lot of restrictions like not being able to earn any appreciable amount of money. One might argue that I could study a lot quicker and therefore finish earlier if I frivolously declare my studies to be too easy for me which might be true, but I simply cannot overcome those fundamental motivational issues I have with studying itself – ever since I have learned that it doesn’t prove anything for myself, each hour invested into it just plainly feels like lost time I can never take back. This is why I chose the way of least friction – to be a student, but only to an endurable extent.
On the other side, I can’t stand working in topologies consisting of Microsoft powered machines – in fact I can’t even think of any way on working less efficient. There’s either a missing a license for VPN or there’s no license left for accessing the terminal server or the server won’t respond, because the operating system just went for a memory leak; there is always an obscure explanation why the programmer has to earn his money rather waiting than actually doing something useful. Then there’s always the thought that close to any requirement could be fulfilled amazingly easier in a Unix based environment; to only quote one example of today: A co-worker/project-manager had a serious and business threatening problem. There’s a bank which deploys some kind of ASCII-list on the web and this list is somehow important to one of our customers. Therefore there was a role created for some encouragingly qualified person minion(who is probably living in a very dark cellar) to download this file each week, time and time again, and to store it in a certain folder. The obvious problem is that intelligence obliges us to not to repeat simple and redundant tasks over and over again, but to seek out for new opportunities(or at least letting our mind wander) – and so did the person having the role of being a downloading machine. Of course the project manager is qualified and therefore would have liked someone to write a daemon process which would have loved to do the job on a regular basis(even if only lacking a infinitesimal amount of consciousness in comparison to the human downloading machine), but since application programmers are a rare resource these days, there was no-one available to write it. Evidently this task could have been performed in just about any other operating system with pre-installed tools; with any kind of Unix it would have been a matter of seconds to create a cron-job doing a wget. Of course Microsoft Windows can never be underestimated and since I’m trying to look a likable fellow human being, I hacked together some lines of Python code which then had to be re-assembled with a wrapper program to look like a stand-alone executable, because scripts are not allowed on some so called servers, because they impose a security threat – or more often are considered as being not performing enough(yeah, like Python would ever decline on a dare on who downloads the ASCII-file faster considering the opponent to be some random guy whose sole peripherals are a mouse and IE6). Even so – using Python for this trivial task took me more minutes than it would have taken me to implement a cron-job calling wget – saying that, other programmers even might have implemented a real Windows service using C++ or something equally gross. I mean – the customer did pay a guy to do the downloading so far.
This is where I finally reach my conclusion; if there are customers willing to pay for slowly built, hardly maintainable, badly scaling software whilst there are so much more efficient ways of doing the same job without the customer ever knowing about the reduced development costs, wouldn’t the intelligent course of action be to do just that instead of growing older from waiting, because the man in charge told you to?
Annotation: At least I have seen something incredibly efficient today. As I have been driving with the tram to work as every day, it was this morning that I witnessed the first control for tickets – leaving an impression on me. About 20 seconds before arriving at a seemingly random station there was an announcement to ready our tickets. While holding at the next station 10 men in uniforms entered the tram bringing up memories of a SWAT team storming a building that is to be re-pacified. Only another 20 seconds later they were already done and left the tram as quickly as they entered.
Two things I find peculiarly interesting:
1. Efficiency and speed were close to a theoretical optimum.
2. Absolutely no one tried to dodge the fare. I repeat: No one in the whole tram.
I have never seen the like before in my life. This finally has proven a statistic to me that I have recently dug from the depths of modern information distribution systems where a German consulting group sought to identify which city of the world held the most quality of life.
The pleasure was mine while reading that the 39 criteria that were used in the fields of politics, culture, life standard, income, health, etc, lead the consultants to crown Zurich(CH) as just this city. I would like to further mention that the #2 city of the world is Geneva(CH). Additionally counting #9 (Bern), this clearly shows the dominating factor of Switzerland.
Even though I really am in love with Zurich(or probably because of my definite affection), it’s a little strange to know that there is no better place to live in the whole world. Well, I better not screw up around here(;