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Monday

Memory-Lane Monday: Did they say anything about an offer you couldn’t refuse?

After working for a company that provides services to regional automobile dealerships such as sales, financing and inventory-control software, this pilot fish leaves to start his own company.

Shortly after that, he gets a call from a dealership that’s a client of his old employer.

“They heard I now owned a small software-development business,” says fish. “They’re interested in dumping the old company and want to know if I can develop competing software for them.”

That sounds like a good opportunity to expand his business, so fish sets up a meeting.
Turns out the assignment is simple: The dealership wants software just like what fish’s former employer provides.

Sure, says fish, I can develop new software to meet your needs.

“No,” the guy from the dealership says, “we don’t want new software. We want it to be exactly like the old software.”

Then he hands fish the distribution diskette for his old company’s software. “Will this help?” he asks.

Reports fish, “I told them thanks for the opportunity, but I didn’t want to spend the next few years of my life — and the pittance they were willing to pay me — defending a copyright infringement lawsuit.”

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.



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Memory-Lane Monday: Never let a software guy near hardware

This pilot fish gets an early-evening call from his business’s security company, telling him that the computer room is sending out a “high thermal event” alarm.

There’s no answer after several tries to contact the tech who’s on call, so fish makes the 45-minute drive to the office.

“I assumed the office must have lost power and the IT systems were still running on battery backup,” says fish.

Wrong.

“While the general office space was fine and showed no evidence of power loss, the computer room felt like Arizona — the thermometer read over 90 degrees — and the two redundant wall-mounted air-handling systems weren’t running.”

Some of the older hard drives are making horrible screeching sounds as fish gets to work. He props open the computer room doors and then begins to shut down all the servers, arrays and network hardware as fast and as safely as he can.

Once that’s done, he puts some fans in the doorways to draw cooler air in from the main office space. Then fish turns his attention to the pair of air handlers, wondering how two systems running on separate electrical circuits could have died at the same time.

He pushes the power button on one. It roars to life, pumping out cold air.
He flips the switch on the other air handler. It starts right up too.

A few minutes later, the on-call tech arrives with one of the company’s software developers — and an explanation.

“The two had been out golfing at a course about two miles from the office after work,” fish says. “The tech put the on-call cellphone, which was set to vibrate, in his golf bag. He never noticed until they were finished with the round that he had voice mails from me.”

Then fish describes what he found in the computer room — the Arizona-like heat, the screaming disk drives, and the air handlers that were switched off.

That’s when the developer groans. Turns out he had been in the computer room a few hours earlier, troubleshooting a problem over the phone.

But between the noise from the servers, disk arrays and air handlers, he was having a hard time hearing the person on the other end of the line.

“Figuring it would only be a few moments, he turned both air handlers off to quiet things down,” says fish. “But he forgot to turn them back on when he left.

“Fortunately, the damage was minimal — we lost one drive in a RAID array and missed our nightly backup cycle, but all of our systems were working, communications to the remote offices were back up and our data was safe.

“And I got movie passes and a gift card to a restaurant from the developer as an apology.”

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.



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Comparing 3 top project management tools: Trello vs. Monday vs. Asana

If you’re shopping for an online project management tool, you could be forgiven for feeling overwhelmed. Luckily, there are three good ones that are free – or at least free to try – so that you can find a good fit for managing your deadlines and projects. 

We decided to check out popular online services that are all good choices for assigning work and tracking progress – Trello, Monday and Asana. Each takes a slightly different approach, however, so we considered how each of these tools might appeal to different types of users. Let’s take a look.

Trello

Target audience: Project owners who want an elegant way to keep on top of things, for ongoing projects. 

Trello uses an elegant, visual approach to project management. The interface features an agile-inspired Kanban board, with columns of tasks displayed on cards. It’s a very efficient and friendly to see what’s coming, in progress, or done.

Moving cards and changing who they’re assigned to is a simple, drag-and-drop affair. When you start a new project, you’ll create a new board, add tasks and if necessary, rename the columns – which Trello calls lists – to suit your needs. Click the Home button, and you can view all your boards in one place.

[ Related: 14 Microsoft Teams apps to help you work smarter ]

To help get started, Trello offers dozens of prebuilt templates. Some of the templates include boards, for example, that help you create a software product, organize a meeting, or manage a publishing schedule for a blog. 

trello boards Trello

You can add one of Trello’s pre-designed boards with a few clicks, then customize it to fit your project.



There are also community-created boards you can select in Trello. Project managers have posted boards designed for making and tracking a big decision, for example, or setting objectives and tracking results. You can also submit your own templates to share on Trello for others to use.

Trello provides optional add-on features called “power-ups,” which enhance the interface, automate a process, or integrate with a third-party tool. The calendar power lets you view due dates in, you guessed it, a calendar view. The Card-Repeater power-up automates the creation of cards you use regularly. And you can add power-ups to integrate with third-party tools, like Google Drive, to easily access project files in the cloud. There are also integrations for, among others, Microsoft Office, Slack and Salesforce. To use some power-ups, or to use more than one per board, you’ll need a paid plan. 

Log in or subscribe to Insider Pro to read the complete comparison.

 

If you’re shopping for an online project management tool, you could be forgiven for feeling overwhelmed. Luckily, there are three good ones that are free – or at least free to try – so that you can find a good fit for managing your deadlines and projects. 

We decided to check out popular online services that are all good choices for assigning work and tracking progress – Trello, Monday and Asana. Each takes a slightly different approach, however, so we considered how each of these tools might appeal to different types of users. Let’s take a look.

Trello

Target audience: Project owners who want an elegant way to keep on top of things, for ongoing projects. 

Trello uses an elegant, visual approach to project management. The interface features an agile-inspired Kanban board, with columns of tasks displayed on cards. It’s a very efficient and friendly to see what’s coming, in progress, or done.

Moving cards and changing who they’re assigned to is a simple, drag-and-drop affair. When you start a new project, you’ll create a new board, add tasks and if necessary, rename the columns – which Trello calls lists – to suit your needs. Click the Home button, and you can view all your boards in one place.

[ Related: 14 Microsoft Teams apps to help you work smarter ]

To help get started, Trello offers dozens of prebuilt templates. Some of the templates include boards, for example, that help you create a software product, organize a meeting, or manage a publishing schedule for a blog. 

trello boards Trello

You can add one of Trello’s pre-designed boards with a few clicks, then customize it to fit your project.

There are also community-created boards you can select in Trello. Project managers have posted boards designed for making and tracking a big decision, for example, or setting objectives and tracking results. You can also submit your own templates to share on Trello for others to use.

Trello provides optional add-on features called “power-ups,” which enhance the interface, automate a process, or integrate with a third-party tool. The calendar power lets you view due dates in, you guessed it, a calendar view. The Card-Repeater power-up automates the creation of cards you use regularly. And you can add power-ups to integrate with third-party tools, like Google Drive, to easily access project files in the cloud. There are also integrations for, among others, Microsoft Office, Slack and Salesforce. To use some power-ups, or to use more than one per board, you’ll need a paid plan. 

Trello offers three tiers. The Free plan lets you create unlimited cards, lists and boards, with an attachment limit of 10MB. And you can use one power-up per board. Business Class adds priority support, unlimited powerups and additional third-party app integration.

Trello is an excellent choice for individuals and small teams that need a basic, free tool. It’s also good for executives who want a tool for quickly spinning up ideas without a steep learning curve. By comparison, Monday may be a better fit for any process that is typically managed with spreadsheets, where you’re interested in reducing the need to create them from scratch. And if you’re looking to manage a large project with many teams and deadlines, Asana may be a better choice. 

Monday

Target audience: Nontechnical users, creatives and spreadsheet pros. 

If you’re spending too much time in spreadsheets, manually adding tasks, deadlines and charts to show what’s happening on your projects, Monday might be the right tool for you.

In Monday, the default view – called Main Table – looks like a simple, attractively designed, color-coded spreadsheet. Here, you enter new tasks, assign them, and show their status: For example: Working on it, Stuck, Done, or Waiting for Review. You can quickly see how projects are coming along, and the status of those working on them.

Click a menu and you then see that same information in Monday’s Kanban view, with lists displayed on cards, providing a quick visual snapshot of where your project stands. Another view called Timeline can display projects with concurrent deadlines. Or you can view your deadlines in a calendar. A chart view lets you break tasks down visually by percentages, for example to see how many tasks each member is handling. As with Trello, you’ll need a paid plan to use some of these features. 

monday main table view Monday

Monday’s Main Table view is an excellent way to see who’s doing the work, the deadlines for task, and when the jobs are completed.

It also costs more to add some integrations, like Github, Outlook and Zendesk. Monday also offers integrations with Trello and Asana, so coworkers or clients who work in those tools can add tasks and deadlines there, which will automatically appear in Monday’s interface. Upgrading your plan also means the ability to use automations. Monday offers pre-written automations you can customize, taking a trigger like a date, or a change in status, to fire off an action, like creating a recurring task.

Monday doesn’t offer a free version, however, they do provide a 7-day free trial. After that, pricing starts at $39 per month per user, for their Basic plan. The Standard Plan is $49, this option adds features like a Gantt chart view (called Timeline) and a calendar, and you can share your boards with people without requiring them to sign up for a Monday account. The Pro plan costs $79, for additional views and enterprise features like time tracking. For a full plan comparison click here

Monday is easy on the eyes for nontechnical staff and may appeal to creatives, like designers and ad staff, or anyone who finds that spreadsheets are the way to stay on top of projects. Like Trello, it’s better for ongoing deadlines, rather than large projects that have a hard stop. For those, Asana is likely a better choice. 

Asana

Target audience: Teams operating concurrent deadlines, large enterprises, creating new products or services.

Asana may be the most full-featured of the tools we examined for managing projects, and potentially, large teams. If you don’t mind a steeper learning curve – or if you like the idea of automating routine tasks – Asana may be the tool for you and your colleagues.

Asana provides a free version of its Basic plan for up to 15 users. This tier lets you create tasks, assign them to team members and view them as a Kanban board (Trello and Monday also offer this sort of view). In the Basic, plan, you can also display all your deadlines a calendar. (Check out the complete plan comparison here.)

But many features, like the capability to view your project in a timeline, require a Premium plan, which costs $10.99 a month per user (each of Asanas plans is discounted if you pay annually). The Business plan adds priority support, and additional features, including the ability to see task dependencies, and a “workload” view that shows what everyone is working on – and potentially which employees are overloaded.

asana list view Asana

Asana can help you manage large projects, but most users will need a paid plan to see more than a simple list view, and access features like Gantt charts. 

To speed up routine tasks, Asana offers automation through its “Rules” feature. You can create your own rules based on triggers, like moving a task to a certain column as soon as it’s been marked complete, or use pre-designed ones from Asana.

You can add comments in projects, but there’s no built-in chat feature. That said, Asana offers excellent integrations for third-party collaboration software, for creating tasks assigning them, and adding or editing deadlines without leaving Slack, for example, or Microsoft Teams.

Asana offers a deep list of integrations for other tools as well, including G Suite and Microsoft Office. Asana also offers an app integration with Trello to sync up projects between them. Some of the integrations, like those for Salesforce and Adobe Creative Cloud, require a paid Business plan. 

Test drive before you decide

If your primary interest is in flexibility, and choosing how you want to work, Asana may be a good choice for your organization. It’s an excellent tool for managing sprawling projects with many moving parts. If you’re interested in simplicity (and need to watch costs) Trello is likely a better choice for you. And if spreadsheets seem a natural way to organize your project, Monday could be the right move. We recommend test-driving all three, for free, to see which approach best fits your team.



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Memory-Lane Monday: A patch in time …

This big international airport has a huge computerized central control system that’s maintained by an on-site field engineer — with help from the vendor half a world away.

“The software engineers relied heavily on the knowledge and expertise of the field engineer to install our software on the running system,” says a support pilot fish working for the vendor.

One day, the field engineer calls the vendor to say that the system’s BitBus device — which relays data between a network of sensors and the central control server — has a bug in its software.

According to the engineer, the BitBus device runs fine for a day or two. But then it begins “jabbering” — spewing corrupted messages onto the network — and has to be reset.

And since the device is the only way for the central control system to listen to thousands of sensors and to control remote devices, that’s very bad news.

Worse still, the malfunction makes no sense. “Other than having added some new hardware devices to its inventory, the BitBus software had been stable for quite some time, so its recent misbehavior was a mystery,” fish says.

Fish asks the field engineer to report the checksum for the embedded software. The engineer does, and fish checks it against the current version’s checksum. They don’t match.

Fish has the engineer reload the software onto the device and then reboot it. Now the checksum matches, and the BitBus device appears to be working correctly.

But how could the loaded software get corrupted in the first place? fish asks engineer.

“I didn’t do anything,” engineer tells him. “All I did was run the patch that you gave me a few months ago.”

Um, the latest version of the software we shipped you was newer than the patch, fish tells engineer. That patch could only be run on the previous version of the software.

“What he had done in effect was poke a random change into the newer program,” sighs fish. “This caused the BitBus device to slowly develop the malfunction anytime the randomly patched code was executed.

“I had him discard all copies of the previous program, as well as any patches, so he couldn’t make that mistake again.”

It’s always a good time to send Sharky your true tales of IT life. Email me at [email protected]. You can also subscribe to the Daily Shark Newsletter.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.



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Memory-Lane Monday: And he’s still on Windows 7 to this day

It’s back in the … never mind; you’ll figure out the time frame soon enough.

This third-tier support pilot fish is used to getting the really difficult cases, and he suspects that why a ticket has been routed to him. A user would like to have Windows 7 installed on his PC. He’s close to retirement, and he’s a nice enough guy. But he also has a son in IT who provides him with tips and tricks to make his job easier.

Today’s tip from sonny: Get Windows 7 at work in order to be more productive.

Fish explains to the user that Windows 7 isn’t yet supported by IT. There are plans to roll it out, but not this year.

“He protests and throws his hands up and goes back to work,” fish says. The ticket is closed.

“The next day, we get a new ticket with a request for Windows 7.”

This time the ticket includes a long list of the benefits of Windows 7 over the current Windows version. The request ends, “When can I get it installed?”

Fish makes another trip to the user’s desk and explains that the advantages are well-identified and the benefits are also well-known. But, he goes on, the investment is large because IT has to test the company’s systems to ensure they can run on the new operating system.

“He throws his hands up and goes back to work,” reports fish.

“The next day, we get a new ticket with a specific request for Windows 7 Pro with Windows XP virtual running for programs that are not compatible.”

This time, fish goes looking for the help desk supervisor — and they hatch a plan.

They bring the user’s PC into the shop for its upgrade. There, they install a different desktop theme and wallpaper to give the user’s Windows XP a fresh look.

Then they sit down with the user, train him on the “new” system, and even show him how to pin items to the toolbar — just like in Windows 7.

“Next day, we get a thank-you note from the user for installing Windows 7 on his computer, saying how much better it performs,” fish says.

“A copy of the note ends up getting to our boss’s boss, who blows up and decides to pay us a visit.

“We explain the situation and the available options. He agrees that we made the right decision, considering the other options.

“And we all breathe a huge sigh of relief.”

Sharky can be just as persistent in asking for your true tales of IT life. Send them to me at [email protected]. You can also subscribe to the Daily Shark Newsletter.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.



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