Bureaucratic computing

Friday, June 1, 2007 at 3:54 | Posted in Bureaucracy, computer, helsinki, internet, linux, Personal, ubuntu | 3 Comments

As I told in this declaration of economic interest, my bad finances forced me to enter into an eight month contract of employment in a suburban unit of the Culture Department here in town. They needed somebody who would agree to work mostly evenings and weekends. I was supposed to see that the visitors behave themselves and also take care of the practical side of a project involving a couple of computers installed for the general public to surf with. The house was also to get a wireless network.

When I started for almost two months ago, I soon detected that maintaining public order was not a big issue. Most of the visitors are friendly and have been regulars for ages. There was not very much to do but I enjoyed reading what the book shelve had to provide.

Having read the best books in a few weeks, though, I was becoming somewhat bored. I am used to having a 24 hour access to the Internet at my home office and I certainly could have used that. The funny thing is that there was a computer connected to the Internet on my desk but I was not allowed to use it. The computer is hooked to the internal network of the city and I have not been given a user ID there although my employment is for eight months.

Even the regular staff have silly restrictions imposed on them. They are strictly forbidden to visit their personal e-mail accounts through the city network. On the other hand they can not access their office mail from anywhere else. So I was a bit worried when the book shelve was about to be exhausted and there was no word of my project being kicked off. I had talked with the IT manager of the administration by phone for several times but delays and obstacles seemed to be rather a rule than an exception.

As I came to my post last Thursday, I detected a brand new ADSL router on my desk. I called the IT manager and learned that the web connection was indeed up and running but the WLAN box and WLAN adapters for the two computers would not come so soon. I did, however, connect one of the old computers to the web using the existing ethernet card and installed Ubuntu in it. I also installed and configured some software and intended to do the same with the other computer the day after.

As i came in the following day, I detected that I was unable to proceed with the project. The WLAN box had arrived and the ADSL router was well hidden somewhere under the surface of the wall. Alas, the house had a wireless network but no hardware to connect to it. There was also a reprimanding message for me saying that connecting to the Internet direct through the ADSL router was inappropriate.

At that point I was less than amused. I decided that whatever is going to happen with the bureaucracy, I for one was going to ensure that I have access to the web at work. I started browsing laptop ads and found somewhat of a bargain yesterday as I was in what my friend Peter would call a Männerladen.

Open source is not particularly popular around here. Many people who would not know what to do with Windows Vista must absolutely have it. It is as important as having a cooler car than their neighbour. Which is why it is by now almost impossible to find laptops in stores here with a pre installed XP. The dealers just want to get rid of them.

So I bought a basic laptop yesterday for 450 €. It is a HP Compaq nx6310 notebook with 512 Mb of RAM and 60 GB hard drive. And a preinstalled Windows XP.

So this afternoon before and during my working hours, I was pretty much occupied with adjusting the laptop. I even posted a short note into my Estonian blog. The WLAN connection seemed to be almost as fast as mine at home. That will no doubt change if several people are going to be on line simultaneously but for now I am happy with it.

I installed Ubuntu 7.04 onto the laptop and have quite a bit of configuring to do. It is early to say anything about whether or not 7-04 is better or worse than 6.06 which is running in my desktop. I am going to let the XP partition stay as well, at least for some time. It is probably going to take a while before I am going to be able to put my webcam to work under Ubuntu 7.04. And the latest Windows version of Skype has lots of bells and whisles that we Linux people still dream about. Stuff like video calls and Skypecasts.

The funny thing with bureaucracy is that it is mostly slow and sleepish but it may once in a while surprise you with unforeseen velocity. The computer project at my job has been planned for nearly two years after the decision was formally made. As I went to my post yesterday, for the first time with my own laptop, two WLAN adapters were waiting for me on the table.

The customer computers are supposed to be available for the general public some time in the autumn. Since I am going to work all weekend with no bureaucrats present, I thought I could just as well get over with the installation and configuring by Monday morning. There will be nobody to stop me or interfere with directives. And then we are going to have two computers ready for customers who will probably be allowed to use them three months later.


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