Thursday, May 1, 2014

Infallible, And Incapable Of Human Error

In my reduced circumstances, I have to take orders from the Volcano Gods, who operate an infallible scheduling program I shall call Clack!. If you've been exposed to any navigational or logistics problems at all, you should know about the old Traveling Salesman routing algorithm. Using one person, hit all the stops using the shortest distance, or time. The Euhler Seven Bridges of Konigsberg problem is an example of this. Try to take a route that covers all seven bridges, and not retrace your steps. Euhler proved it could not be done. The computer repair business is a mature one. Squeezing more revenue out of customers is difficult. So, what do the bosses do? Up the call quotas per tech (they get paid per call). There seem to be a near-infinite number of burnt-out geeks available, if one geek should not be able to make the quota. As long as they can get away with it, they will. Until Murphy's Law strikes. So, the Volcano Gods order Clack!, in Tagalog, to generate the schedules. Clack! then generates the routes, which seem to be optimized to maximize distance traveled. It pays no attention to geography, topology, call volume, or logic. It is infallible, and incapable of human error, and is also immune to the phrases "overbooking" and "minimum time needed onsite". So, it generates *negative numbers* for onsite time, if there are sufficient calls in an eight hour period. If you can strip a laptop down to bare chassis, then rebuild it in *minus* 27 minutes, you have a future with us. Depending on the meaning of the word "future". That future could be shorter than you might think, if you follow Clack!'s schedule, and drive 90.56 MPH through Wash U's quadrangle. Just using Google Maps, I beat Clack! by 30% on mileage alone today. That helped make up partially for the two systems that had half the securing hardware missing, and one unit that simply should have been shipped back to depot anyway. Or the customer who was *shocked* that his outfit used laptop disk encryption, and I did not have his company's proprietary unlock codes. And held on to me for half an hour before he accepted defeat (after calling his internal IT department to complain). In four hours, the Volcano Gods will speak, again. I am truly sorry for what I did in my previous lifetime :( The company saves 30-50% on programmer and support costs by locating at Clark. Until it goes off, again.

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