Tuesday, September 22, 2009

But What Price Victory?

Software approval WIN! I finally got ArcMap installed on my work computer!

ArcMap is great for many purposes related to travel and tourism. It’s rather a pity, then, that after a year and a half of making logical, convincing, nay, even impassioned arguments for approval to get it installed, I can’t remember much about how to use it, have no clue how to connect to the geodatabase(s) I need, and months ago suffered an epic friendship fail with the GIS analyst who was going to help me out.

In contrast, you get all the Novell products you could ever want* just by showing up to work – at least in theory. “You’ll have to call me when it’s ready,” my cube neighbor told someone over the phone yesterday, “my GroupWise is down. Again.

There was a pause. “That’s our email system,” she explained.

Early in my career at Sematech – which was federally funded at the time – we had something called cc:Mail. What a baffling name for an email client. “I’ll send you a cc:Mail,” people in the office would say blithely to outsiders, who no doubt wondered why the sender wouldn’t simply address it to them directly? Perhaps if you worked for the CIA, you had bcc:Mail.

Before that we had – and I can’t believe I’ve never killed off the brain cells that remember this, while the neurons that know how to use Arc have gone to the big happy cerebral cortex in the sky – an email program in VAX/VMS, displayed in white dots on a screen the shade of blue now reserved for letting you know you should’ve bought a Mac.

GroupWise may be an improvement over cc:Mail, but that’s only because it’s fifteen years newer. It seems to be the system of choice for government agencies. Which makes sense: it’s slightly outdated and sluggish, with a stodgy, joyless interface; it may also have something to do with the state mainframe, which is housed (unless someone in my old division accidentally vaporized it by hitting the F12 key) in San Angelo. What does a mainframe even look like? I picture a dark, massive, Nixon-era hulk with lots of switches and random blinking lights, crouched ominously on the grounds of San Angelo State University, rumbling low in its bowels, occasionally belching out bursts of steam. There might be punch cards involved. I bet it eats microwave popcorn, too.

About a hundred yards to the west-northwest of where I work now is my old building, chock full of people who remember punch cards, eat microwave popcorn, and have a rudimentary understanding of Arc, but – how shall I put this – whose collective work ethic might not always be said to include a strong predilection for service to others. My remaining GIS-using friends have scattered to the four corners of the globe.** ArcGIS is only used by one other person in our division, so our IT guy can’t really help me out; and my pushing so hard for Arc kind of trod on that other person’s territory, so I hesitate to approach him. I find myself therefore unsupported, not to mention insupportable.

But dammit! I got the software!

*Assuming you had taken such complete leave of your senses that you wanted any Novell products
**A globe doesn’t even HAVE corners. And they call themselves geographers!

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At September 22, 2009 11:07 PM, Blogger Billy Joe said...

Call me anytime. I use that craptacular Arc software almost daily.

At September 23, 2009 8:28 AM, Blogger Sara the Brown said...

Call James at ISD or whatever it's called now. He is in the "support" group, so he should be able to help you. Tell him I told you to contact him. :)

They have added some rather neat features to ArcMap, if you got the latest version.


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