2010-11-21

Button, Button, Who's Got the Button

Sometimes my job is absurd. I end up doing things that I shouldn't be doing. Take, for example, the process of picking out computers. As the software guy, I figure that my job is to tell the system engineers how fast a computer I need. It's their job to figure out how to mount in the rack, what kind of cables they need to plug it in, if it needs a UPS, and everything else. As far as I'm concerned, the computer could be banana shaped and use a platoon of gerbils for power. That's not good enough for the engineers, though. They seem to want my opinion on everything. Plugs in the front or in the back? How many connectors? Which company should we buy it from?

I DON'T CARE.

So, for 6 months, I wrote e-mails to that effect every time they asked me. I would repeat my performance specs and say, "that's all that matters to me." Well, six months later, and they still haven't picked the computer they're going to buy. Maddening, I tell you. In the end, I ended up calling a vendor I liked, asked for a demo machine, and after I saw what the manufacturer could do, I told the engineers exactly what I wanted.

What's even more maddening is that sometimes they don't ask for my input at all. The latest issue was the joystick. Our customers use a joystick to send commands to the software that I write. It's a pretty important piece of the system. A few months ago, I got an e-mail that they had picked the joystick. "Great!" I thought. Then I opened the pdf. It look like something you'd see at an arcade, and it only had 2 buttons.

We'd had the button discussion before. I told them we needed at least 8 buttons, and 10 or 12 would be better. So I call up Mr. Engineer:

"Why does this joystick only have two buttons?"

"Because that's as many as the vendor can put on it in our schedule."

"They don't make any other joysticks with more buttons?"

"They might, but they can get this one to us fast."

"But, we talked about this, we need 8 buttons!"

"Sometimes we have to make compromises."

"I AM compromising, I wanted 12 buttons. 8 buttons in the bare minimum."

"Okay, let me talk to them."

He calls back a few days later:

"I can get you four buttons easy."

"But I need eight."

"How about six? They said that with a little work they can do six."

"Then why didn't you just say six to begin with? Wait ... nevermind... I need EIGHT."

"The company is in Britain. They're worried about export problems if they make a new design for us. They said they can do six."

"Sounds like we need to find another vendor to me..."

And on and on. So, what did end up doing? I searched the web for another vendor. Turns out there's another one, NOT ACROSS THE ATLANTIC OCEAN, that was really eager for our business. They even flew out and had a whole bunch of demo units for us to look at. Sigh. Now I'm developing a rep for being a PITA. All in a days work.