I know, “woes”? Who pairs “new computer” with “woes”?!
Normally I wouldn’t pair those two words myself (although, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve become less keen on adopting new technology and much more keen on keeping my functional, familiar technology running as long as possible). But the last few days have convinced me to avoid getting a new work computer for as long as possible in the future, and that’s driving my unusual pairing of new technology with sorrow, misery, and anguish.
Setting up a new computer always kind of stinks. You have to configure everything the way you had it on the old machine, or adapt to slight differences in the new one. You inevitably you forget to download some program until you desperately need it and then you spend an hour searching through your ancient, archived Outlook email messages trying to find the registration key you received when you first started in the job three years ago. Then, when you go to download the program, you discover you only have a license for version 12, and the software has moved on to version 19 now, which means you have to mount an archaeological expedition into the depths of the company’s site to find the “Archival Downloads” or “Depreciated Versions” or some equally disheartening-titled page that lists your version near the bottom of a long, long list.
Once you’ve finally downloaded the Jurassic-era version of the software, you realize that when you first started using it you configured all these complicated settings and then completely forgot about them for three years. Now you need to try to dredge up the long-forgotten memories of configuring those settings, but because your job involves spending all day learning and documenting new settings, hell will freeze over before you actually remember the exact right combination. Fortunately, your coworker supplies you with the settings from her version of the software on her not-yet-upgraded computer, and after forgetting to save or missing a crucial step in setup multiple times, you finally heave an enormous sigh of relief: That’s one program correctly configured. Only about a zillion more to go.
Of course, all those initial encounters look like a piece of cake compared to the final boss: Source Control.
Oh, that’s right, you should be quaking in your boots. Configuring source control makes setting up any other program look like cupcakes, rainbows, and unicorns all wrapped up into one shiny, happy package.
First you realize your new machine doesn’t come with Visual Studio, which you need to manage source control directly. Then you learn you can’t just ask your local IT guy to install it; you have to go online and submit a ticket through the IT version of Zendesk, wait for a few hours, and hope some IT person has mercy on you and provides you with the ability to download Visual Studio. Then you discover with a slightly creeped-out shudder that the IT guy has deposited the Visual Studio .exe file directly onto your desktop remotely, which means your new computer has platinum-level corporate oversight. So much for your plan to download Spotify. Big Brother is watching.
Once you’ve set up Visual Studio, you of course have to spend a small eternity finding the correct server path URL, identifying your folders on the server, and then mapping those files to folders you create on your machine. If that was it, setting up source control wouldn’t cause you to quake in your boots. But that’s not it.
Now you have to try to get your version of source control (you remain irrevocably wedded TFS, for reasons unknown and unknowable, since half the company uses Git and the other half is fleeing in that direction as fast as practicable) to work as an integration in your authoring tool. As with all integrations, the prospect sounds rosy: Automatically check out and lock files you’re editing to prevent merge errors caused by two people changing one file at once! Easily track and check in changes from within the authoring tool, no Visual Studio or other third-party software required!
Let me tell you: After three days of troubleshooting, including precious several hours over the weekend, “glorious” may be, if not the absolute last adjective you’d apply, darn close to it. “Nightmarish,” “disastrous,” maybe even “a f*cking nightmarish disaster” — yes. Because your authoring tool, while seemingly happy to connect to the source control server, exhibits behavior heretofore only associated with excessive magic mushroom consumption. You shouldn’t even try to go into all the bizarre, incomprehensible, aggravating, and downright infuriating oddities you’d see courtesy of the TFS integration. You wouldn’t subject your worst enemy to that list.
Suffice it to say, this afternoon, after numerous failed attempts and days of wasted work, you finally throw in the towel on the source control integration. But the saga doesn’t end! No, like the Star Wars prequel trilogy, one last turd remained to be polished.
Because, of course, you can’t find the old tool you had on your previous computer to manage source control, which allowed you to stay out of Visual Studio. Now, like plebes, you have to use Visual Studio to check in and out. But, even worse, it turns out you set up Visual Studio only partly right. Just right enough to go very, very wrong, in fact — because now files aren’t updating at all. After even more troubleshooting, time you spend mostly watching over your boss’s shoulder (it tells you how serious of trouble you sink into, that you have to call him in to throw you a rope), your boss finally configures Visual Studio and your local files with the correct mapping.
It’s about 3:00 pm, and you go into one of the phone booths and take a 15-minute nap. For reals. Because that’s really the only correct response to the end of this epic saga.