CLOSE
Original image
HBO

12 Secrets of Your Company's IT People

Original image
HBO

Anyone who works in an office has probably sent their fair share of emails to the Help Desk. But where do those emails go? How does your office IT person decide whose problem is worth addressing first? And why, oh why can’t they display a shred of urgency about your sticky E key?

We talked to a few IT pros about what the view’s like from behind the Help Desk.

1. THEY KNOW YOUR PASSWORDS.

Not because they can access them, but because you’ve made them painfully obvious. “You don’t know how many people who, if they’re not forced to, won’t change their password from the default 1234,” says Laurie, an IT worker for 15 years in New York. “There are still so many people that use combos of birthdays, their kids’ names, but they’re just really easy to crack.”

And they’ve found passwords written down in the strangest places, including on crumpled up pieces of paper hidden in the furniture, Laurie says. 

“One guy had taped to the back of his mousepad a list of probably 20 different usernames and passwords for websites he was using for personal reasons,” says Mark Z, a tech support employee in Indiana.

It’s no wonder humans are the cause of more than half of all computer security breaches.

2. RESTART, RESTART, RESTART.

If you want to do your IT department a favor, turn your computer off and on again before you even think about calling them. Despite being a cliche, a good reboot really does fix a lot of problems. “At least 50% of my job is restarting things,” says Lewis, who has worked in IT for three years. “Whether it be the entire PC or closing the browser. A lot of times I'll say, ‘let's start with closing the browser,’ and they'll say, ‘I DID THAT, SEE?’ and I'll say, ‘Ok cool, that's the right idea. That's actually just one tab though, so let's close the whole browser.’ And then it'll work.”

3. THE ISSUE YOU'RE HAVING IS PROBABLY YOUR FAULT.

“At least half of all incoming help tickets can be chalked up to human error,” says Cris, an IT worker for six years, “and at least half of all IT work is just trying to interpret the help requests of people who don't natively speak ‘computer.’”

You’ll know if your IT person doesn’t think you get computers when they start using metaphors to explain things to you. “Take networking, for example,” says Keith, who works in IT in Oklahoma. “People who don't understand how NAT (Network Address Translation) works get an explanation of how they can have a four wheeler or a dirt-bike and they can ride all around their house. Upside down, sideways, slantways, etc., but can't take it on the freeway legally without putting it on a trailer first.”

4. THE BOSS IS OFTEN THE WORST OFFENDER.

NBC

“Discovering how little people who were running the company understood the technology they were using was surprising,” says Michael who worked in IT for an advertising agency for two years. “People who made seven or eight times what I was making and had been in the industry for many years didn’t know how to reset their password or check their voicemail. There was a point where these people had everything done for them and they stopped learning about the technology.”

Still, when it comes to the boss' computer, no request is too big. “The president of the company I worked at had his laptop run over by a semi-truck,” Mark says. “But we got his data back.”

5. THEY WISH YOU'D STICK UP FOR THEM.

If your office IT department is made up of just one person and your issues take forever to get resolved, it’s probably because he or she is exhausted and overworked. In that case, it’s in everyone’s best interest to petition to get the lone employee some help. “A lot of organizations want the IT department to be as lean as humanly possible so overhead is low,” says Tom Bridge, an IT expert in Washington, D.C., “but nothing is worse than a burned-out IT person. They make mistakes and that’s where systems fall apart.”

6. THERE ARE TRICKS YOU CAN USE TO GET YOUR TICKET TO THE TOP.

It’s all about making a case for why your problem should become their priority. “Tell me why I need to stop what I’m doing right now and fix your problem,” says Bridge. “Mention deadlines. Mention who you’re working for. If you’re working on a project for CEO with a 5 p.m. deadline, that’s clearly more important than something else. But be honest.”

Also, be descriptive. Simply complaining that something isn’t working is a quick way to get ignored. “Include as much information as possible,” says Laurie. What steps have you taken so far to fix the problem? Have you rebooted? What browser are you using? “The more info you give me, the faster I can help you,” she says.

7. PRINTER PROBLEMS GET IGNORED.

“Pretty much anything to do with printers” goes right to the bottom of the to-do list, according to Keith. Not just because it’s boring, but because it’s such an easy fix and they don’t like embarrassing people who couldn’t figure it out for themselves. “The very simple stuff … the kind of issues that make people feel really stupid when you finish it. We just got a part-time PC tech. He gets those tickets.”

8. A LITTLE KINDNESS GOES A LONG WAY. 

You should be nice to your IT team, because it’s the right thing to do. But also because they’ll always prioritize a ticket for someone they like. When it comes to grumpy coworkers, Laurie says she tries not to be vengeful but admits they “might get put further down on the list of things I have to accomplish that day.”

Sometimes they’ll take bribes. Mark recalls a previous job where his boss’ attention could be bought with a two-liter bottle of Mountain Dew. “Candy’s the way to my heart,” he says. If you’re mean, “I’m not gonna erase your files or infect you with a virus but you might also just have to deal with your broken computer for a day or two.”

Adds Bridge, “What it comes down to is treat your IT guy like a person.”

9. THEY KNOW WHEN YOU'RE LYING.

When you drop your phone down a flight of stairs for the third time or spill coffee on your keyboard, it can be tempting to stretch the truth or blame it on the kids. But “a good IT guy isn’t judging you,” says Bridge. “They just wanna fix your problem. We don’t care how you got into that predicament.”

The sooner you come clean, the faster they can help. Also, they’ve probably seen worse. “I've seen pretty much every variety of food and beverage spilled on laptop keyboards, including tea, coffee, a fruit smoothie, and corned beef and cabbage,” says Cris. And Laurie says she once found Fruit Leather stuck in a computer’s CD drive.

“We once had somebody say, ‘My computer died. I don’t know what happened,’” says Mark, “and you could smell the vanilla latte in the keyboard. It was fragrant.”

10. THEY SUGGEST YOU STOP WATCHING PORN AT WORK.

In 2010,  the Nielsen company found that roughly 21 million Americans access porn sites on their work computers each month. The IT department knows this better than anyone.

“If there’s one thing I could just pass along, it’s that your IT guy knows more about your porn habits than your spouse does,” says Bridge. It’s their job to be on the lookout for questionable sites or downloads that could lead to a virus or external attack on the company’s server. “Not every company does this but a lot of the smart ones do. It’s not that we want to know, but it’s our job.”

11. YES, THEY CAN READ YOUR EMAIL. NO, THEY DON'T WANT TO. 

A good rule of thumb is to assume anything you do on your work computer can be read by someone else. “We don’t want to read your history,” says Bridge. “We probably can if we’re asked to by management. But seriously, do you think we have time to read your email?”

12. THEY'RE PROBABLY GOOGLING THE ANSWERS.

“I have heard the phrase, ‘the best place to hide a body is the second page of Google because no one will look there,’” says Keith. “If that's the case, we would be solving a lot of murder cases. I think I might have made it to the 35th page of a Google search before I gave up. The trick is to pull various sources of information together to gain a better understanding of what the actual problem is.”

According to Mark, a favorite joke in the IT world is “the reason the IT guy knows more about computers than you is because he’s better at Google than you are.”

All photos courtesy of iStock unless otherwise noted

Original image
iStock
arrow
Live Smarter
8 Tricks to Help Your Cat and Dog to Get Along
Original image
iStock

When people aren’t debating whether cats or dogs are more intelligent, they’re equating them as mortal foes. That’s a stereotype that both cat expert Jackson Galaxy, host of the Animal Planet show My Cat From Hell, and certified dog trainer Zoe Sandor want to break.

Typically, cats are aloof and easily startled, while dogs are gregarious and territorial. This doesn't mean, however, that they can't share the same space—they're just going to need your help. “If cats and dogs are brought up together in a positive, loving, encouraging environment, they’re going to be friends,” Galaxy tells Mental Floss. “Or at the very least, they’ll tolerate each other.”

The duo has teamed up in a new Animal Planet series, Cat Vs. Dog, which airs on Saturdays at 10 p.m. The show chronicles their efforts to help pet owners establish long-lasting peace—if not perfect harmony—among cats and dogs. (Yes, it’s possible.) Gleaned from both TV and off-camera experiences, here are eight tips Galaxy and Sandor say will help improve household relations between Fido and Fluffy.

1. TAKE PERSONALITY—NOT BREED—INTO ACCOUNT.

Contrary to popular belief, certain breeds of cats and dogs don't typically get along better than others. According to Galaxy and Sandor, it’s more important to take their personalities and energy levels into account. If a dog is aggressive and territorial, it won’t be a good fit in a household with a skittish cat. In contrast, an aging dog would hate sharing his space with a rambunctious kitten.

If two animals don’t end up being a personality match, have a backup plan, or consider setting up a household arrangement that keeps them separated for the long term. And if you’re adopting a pet, do your homework and ask its previous owners or shelter if it’s lived with other animals before, or gets along with them.

2. TRAIN YOUR DOG.

To set your dog up for success with cats, teach it to control its impulses, Sandor says. Does it leap across the kitchen when someone drops a cookie, or go on high alert when it sees a squeaky toy? If so, it probably won’t be great with cats right off the bat, since it will likely jump up whenever it spots a feline.

Hold off Fido's face time with Fluffy until the former is trained to stay put. And even then, keep a leash handy during the first several cat-dog meetings.

3. GIVE A CAT ITS OWN TERRITORY BEFORE IT MEETS A DOG.

Cats need a protected space—a “base camp” of sorts—that’s just theirs, Galaxy says. Make this refuge off-limits to the dog, but create safe spaces around the house, too. This way, the cat can confidently navigate shared territory without trouble from its canine sibling.

Since cats are natural climbers, Galaxy recommends taking advantage of your home’s vertical space. Buy tall cat trees, install shelves, or place a cat bed atop a bookcase. This allows your cat to observe the dog from a safe distance, or cross a room without touching the floor.

And while you’re at it, keep dogs away from the litter box. Cats should feel safe while doing their business, plus dogs sometimes (ew) like to snack on cat feces, a bad habit that can cause your pooch to contract intestinal parasites. These worms can cause a slew of health problems, including vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, and anemia.

Baby gates work in a pinch, but since some dogs are escape artists, prepare for worst-case scenarios by keeping the litter box uncovered and in an open space. That way, the cat won’t be cornered and trapped mid-squat.

4. EXERCISE YOUR DOG'S BODY AND MIND.

“People exercise their dogs probably 20 percent of what they should really be doing,” Sandor says. “It’s really important that their energy is released somewhere else so that they have the ability to slow down their brains and really control themselves when they’re around kitties.”

Dogs also need lots of stimulation. Receiving it in a controlled manner makes them less likely to satisfy it by, say, chasing a cat. For this, Sandor recommends toys, herding-type activities, lure coursing, and high-intensity trick training.

“Instead of just taking a walk, stop and do a sit five times on every block,” she says. “And do direction changes three times on every block, or speed changes two times. It’s about unleashing their herding instincts and prey drive in an appropriate way.”

If you don’t have time for any of these activities, Zoe recommends hiring a dog walker, or enrolling in doggy daycare.

5. LET CATS AND DOGS FOLLOW THEIR NOSES.

In Galaxy's new book, Total Cat Mojo, he says it’s a smart idea to let cats and dogs sniff each other’s bedding and toys before a face-to-face introduction. This way, they can satisfy their curiosity and avoid potential turf battles.

6. PLAN THE FIRST CAT/DOG MEETING CAREFULLY.

Just like humans, cats and dogs have just one good chance to make a great first impression. Luckily, they both love food, which might ultimately help them love each other.

Schedule the first cat-dog meeting during mealtime, but keep the dog on a leash and both animals on opposite sides of a closed door. They won’t see each other, but they will smell each other while chowing down on their respective foods. They’ll begin to associate this smell with food, thus “making it a good thing,” Galaxy says.

Do this every mealtime for several weeks, before slowly introducing visual simulation. Continue feeding the cat and dog separately, but on either side of a dog gate or screen, before finally removing it all together. By this point, “they’re eating side-by-side, pretty much ignoring each other,” Galaxy says. For safety’s sake, continue keeping the dog on a leash until you’re confident it’s safe to take it off (and even then, exercise caution).

7. KEEP THEIR FOOD AND TOYS SEPARATE.

After you've successfully ingratiated the cat and dog using feeding exercises, keep their food bowls separate. “A cat will walk up to the dog bowl—either while the dog’s eating, or in the vicinity—and try to eat out of it,” Galaxy says. “The dog just goes to town on them. You can’t assume that your dog isn’t food-protective or resource-protective.”

To prevent these disastrous mealtime encounters, schedule regular mealtimes for your pets (no free feeding!) and place the bowls in separate areas of the house, or the cat’s dish up on a table or another high spot.

Also, keep a close eye on the cat’s toys—competition over toys can also prompt fighting. “Dogs tend to get really into catnip,” Galaxy says. “My dog loves catnip a whole lot more than my cats do.”

8. CONSIDER RAISING A DOG AND CAT TOGETHER (IF YOU CAN).

Socializing these animals at a young age can be easier than introducing them as adults—pups are easily trainable “sponges” that soak up new information and situations, Sandor says. Plus, dogs are less confident and smaller at this stage in life, allowing the cat to “assume its rightful position at the top of the hierarchy,” she adds.

Remain watchful, though, to ensure everything goes smoothly—especially when the dog hits its rambunctious “teenage” stage before becoming a full-grown dog.

arrow
Animals
10 Juicy Facts About Sea Apples

They're both gorgeous and grotesque. Sea apples, a type of marine invertebrate, have dazzling purple, yellow, and blue color schemes streaking across their bodies. But some of their habits are rather R-rated. Here’s what you should know about these weird little creatures.

1. THEY’RE SEA CUCUMBERS.

The world’s oceans are home to more than 1200 species of sea cucumber. Like sand dollars and starfish, sea cucumbers are echinoderms: brainless, spineless marine animals with skin-covered shells and a complex network of internal hydraulics that enables them to get around. Sea cucumbers can thrive in a range of oceanic habitats, from Arctic depths to tropical reefs. They're a fascinating group with colorful popular names, like the “burnt hot dog sea cucumber” (Holothuria edulis) and the sea pig (Scotoplanes globosa), a scavenger that’s been described as a “living vacuum cleaner.”

2. THEY'RE NATIVE TO THE WESTERN PACIFIC OCEAN.

Sea apples have oval-shaped bodies and belong to the genus Pseudocolochirus and genus Paracacumaria. The animals are indigenous to the western Pacific, where they can be found shuffling across the ocean floor in shallow, coastal waters. Many different types are kept in captivity, but two species, Pseudocolochirus violaceus and Pseudocolochirus axiologus, have proven especially popular with aquarium hobbyists. Both species reside along the coastlines of Australia and Southeast Asia.

3. THEY EAT WITH MUCUS-COVERED TENTACLES.

Sea cucumbers, the ocean's sanitation crew, eat by swallowing plankton, algae, and sandy detritus at one end of their bodies and then expelling clean, fresh sand out their other end. Sea apples use a different technique. A ring of mucus-covered tentacles around a sea apple's mouth snares floating bits of food, popping each bit into its mouth one at a time. In the process, the tentacles are covered with a fresh coat of sticky mucus, and the whole cycle repeats.

4. THEY’RE ACTIVE AT NIGHT.

Sea apples' waving appendages can look delicious to predatory fish, so the echinoderms minimize the risk of attracting unwanted attention by doing most of their feeding at night. When those tentacles aren’t in use, they’re retracted into the body.

5. THE MOVE ON TUBULAR FEET.

The rows of yellow protuberances running along the sides of this specimen are its feet. They allow sea apples to latch onto rocks and other hard surfaces while feeding. And if one of these feet gets severed, it can grow back.

6. SOME FISH HANG OUT IN SEA APPLES' BUTTS.

Sea apples are poisonous, but a few marine freeloaders capitalize on this very quality. Some small fish have evolved to live inside the invertebrates' digestive tracts, mooching off the sea apples' meals and using their bodies for shelter. In a gross twist of evolution, fish gain entry through the back door, an orifice called the cloaca. In addition expelling waste, the cloaca absorbs fresh oxygen, meaning that sea apples/cucumbers essentially breathe through their anuses.

7. WHEN THREATENED, SEA APPLES CAN EXPAND.

Most full-grown adult sea apples are around 3 to 8 inches long, but they can make themselves look twice as big if they need to escape a threat. By pulling extra water into their bodies, some can grow to the size of a volleyball, according to Advanced Aquarist. After puffing up, they can float on the current and away from danger. Some aquarists might mistake the robust display as a sign of optimum health, but it's usually a reaction to stress.

8. THEY CAN EXPEL THEIR OWN GUTS.

Sea apples use their vibrant appearance to broadcast that they’re packing a dangerous toxin. But to really scare off predators, they puke up some of their own innards. When an attacker gets too close, sea apples can expel various organs through their orifices, and some simultaneously unleash a cloud of the poison holothurin. In an aquarium, the holothurin doesn’t disperse as widely as it would in the sea, and it's been known to wipe out entire fish tanks.

9. SEA APPLES LAY TOXIC EGGS.

These invertebrates reproduce sexually; females release eggs that are later fertilized by clouds of sperm emitted by the males. As many saltwater aquarium keepers know all too well, sea apple eggs are not suitable fish snacks—because they’re poisonous. Scientists have observed that, in Pseudocolochirus violaceus at least, the eggs develop into small, barrel-shaped larvae within two weeks of fertilization.

10. THEY'RE NOT EASILY CONFUSED WITH THIS TREE SPECIES.

Syzgium grande is a coastal tree native to Southeast Asia whose informal name is "sea apple." When fully grown, they can stand more than 140 feet tall. Once a year, it produces attractive clusters of fuzzy white flowers and round green fruits, perhaps prompting its comparison to an apple tree.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios