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Working remotely

I'm sitting here in Canada trying to work for my employer back in the US for a month. It's been a few weeks already, and I'm surprisingly pleased (or pleasantly surprised) with how well it's working. At the same time, certain aspects of this rather suck.

One huge obstacle so far is (of course) Windows. Aside from the Linux server that I convinced IT to let me run out of a closet, the whole place is Microsoft. Whatever MS VPN software we're using is slow, clunky, unreliable, and generally annoying.

At one point I tried to fetch a file from a network drive and watched it download at 0.2 k/sec. Then I had someone back home copy it onto my Linux box, and I downloaded from there at 120 k/sec. The Windows and Linux servers are in the same room in the same building behind the same network connection; I don't understand how VPN overhead slowed things down by that many orders of magnitude.

After connecting to VPN, there's about a 25% chance that Outlook will be able to connect to the Exchange server at work. Generally I have to fire up the VPN, turn it off, turn it on, turn it off, turn it on and then Outlook will find it. Sometimes I close Outlook, but it lives on as a zombie, futilely hammering away at the server but unable to find it, until I CTRL-ALT-DEL and kill it. This is with Office 2007.

But the work I do on the Linux server is (of course) easy. No problems whatsoever. Working over SSH is how I did things when I was sitting in my office anyways. I tunnel in and use local GUI SQL clients. I put VirtualBox on my laptop and I do a bunch of stuff in a Linux VM and rsync it back home with no problems. I can edit files over SSH right in Emacs as if they were on my local box, if I care to.

Sometimes I wonder if my dislike of Microsoft is irrational. Any belief that is caused by or results in a strong emotional response should be subject to questioning. Then reality comes waltzing by and reminds me that no, MS software really does suck.

I've worked for this company for over two years before moving. I don't know how well I'd be doing if this was a company I just started with. It's hard to see how important face-to-face communication is until it's impossible. Email is OK, but the benefit of knowing people in person and knowing how they talk and how they think really goes a long way to being able to interpret and understand plaintext communication.

January 26, 2010 @ 2:59 AM PST
Cateogory: Rants

3 Comments

Job Hunting Tips
Quoth Job Hunting Tips on January 29, 2010 @ 4:57 AM PST

I guess no work situation is ever perfect, regardless of whether you are in the office or telecommuting. At least you are in Canada now! Good luck with the server issues.

circuit_breaker
Quoth circuit_breaker on February 01, 2010 @ 3:42 PM PST

I work remotely and have for almost 3 years. I've only met one of my current coworkers, because he was on the same team for a previous contract with the same company. Honestly, with the phone, email and instant messaging we get work done. Meetings automatically are held on phone conference lines. It works just fine, really!

I love it.. I get to sit with the best view of the gulf of mexico and work with the most expensive hardware at the same time -- as long as I can get online with this laptop.

Ben Atkin
Quoth Ben Atkin on February 07, 2010 @ 2:54 PM PST

I'm glad you're not a designer. There's a studio in my town where a graphic designer, a web designer/developer, and about six developers work. The connection has been slow for the last month. The two designers combined have complained about it more than the six developers combined. It's mostly because they keep large graphic and video files in sync over DropBox.

It's interesting what you say about telecommunication. I'm in a similar situation; only I just moved between states rather than countries. I think I'm having difficulty communicating right now, but I think it would be worse if I hadn't known them in real life.