Print Story A Day in the Life
By ReallyEvilCanine (Thu Jan 11, 2007 at 03:40:05 AM EST) A Day in the Life, cubicle, WTF, fonts, Arial, Unicode, pie (all tags)
$CompCorp Update: Narrowing Down the Suspects

Some time back I figured out what $CompCorp's creative admin had done and told them the solution, which required $$$Custom$$$ $$$Programming$$$ $$$Group$$$ because of the mess they'd made of their database. They got lucky: I had an idea which I passed on to $$$CPG$$$ to pull a little switcheroo on the database and make it think it was in Arabic all along so that the data could be correctly migrated. Setting this up took a couple hours but saved days of scripting and testing, which in turn saved $CompCorp thousands in custom programming charges and tens of thousands in lost time.

$CompCorp was happy to get a quick and cheaper fix, upper management gave me a tip of the hat for it, but no good deed goes unpunished. Upper Upper Management saw my solution as an "unconsidered revenue-reduction activity" and "detrimental to support division future earnings projections" which they told Upper Management. Shit runs downhill.

x-posted to da brog, sans typeface poll.

$CompCorp came back today screaming. Again they're seeing seeing corruptions. And boxes. And somehow, despite knowing that I fixed what they fucked up, they're sure it's all my fault, not even $OurBigApp's.

I found the problem quickly enough: their CSS templates were wrong. And the reason they were wrong is that one of their admins -- quite possibly the same clever dick who caused the initial problem -- had a clever idea.

Arial, scourge that it is, is ubiquitous. Almost every damned computer in the world has it or can display it, substituting Helvetica if Arial isn't installed. But Arial is only a simple codepage 1252 set of 222 glyphs. Worse, it's not Unicode-compliant. When a character which isn't in the set is specified, for instance a "Latin Capital Schwa" (Ə -- U+018F), a box will be drawn. The proper behaviour is to get the operating system to find a font which does have that letter. A font like "MS Arial Unicode" which is only available from Microsoft when you purchase Office.

Most systems with Arial also have Arial Narrow and Arial Black. Not one of these three is Unicode-compliant. There is only one MS Arial Unicode and it has no variants other than the stretching and compressing tricks most graphical word processing programs can now do.

$CompCorp had been using Arial Narrow for all Western characters because it looked best in conjunction with the Arabic font they used. But since they're now using Unicode they had to change the font in their CSS sheets to "MS Arial Unicode". Which they did. Almost.

They'd made changes but the screenshots were such exercises in ugliness that even the most experimental modern art museum director would cringe. The pages were next to impossible to read. The text was bloated, it was clipped, it pushed the Arabic characters out of the way. I took a look at the CSS files.

Clever Dick figured since "Arial Narrow" had been specified before, "Arial Unicode MS Narrow" made perfect sense. Since there's no such font the operating system went to its look-up and substitution lists and settled on Arabic Transparent since the display characters it needed were in there.

I explained it all and sent back corrected CSS files. Again, not even a thank-you.

Specifying a font which doesn't exist: Root Cause: 17-Fuckwits

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A Day in the Life | 8 comments (8 topical, 0 hidden)
And to think by debacle (4.00 / 2) #1 Thu Jan 11, 2007 at 05:28:00 AM EST
Some people make a living selling cunnilingus to lonely older women.

You've got it made!


Saving money by jimgon (4.00 / 3) #2 Thu Jan 11, 2007 at 07:10:11 AM EST
Never ever try to save the company money.  That's not your job.  You're job is to suck on the teat until it's too dry to produce milk, then find another cow.  That's what the CEO and CIO are there doing, and you should follow thier leadership since it's gauranteed to bring gold. 

Technician - "We can't even get decent physical health care. Mental health is like witchcraft here."
True by ReallyEvilCanine (4.00 / 1) #3 Thu Jan 11, 2007 at 07:33:26 AM EST
I just wanted to find a good solution that would work well, a way around a serious boneheaded move. I did, and in doing so made my own boneheaded move by cutting into the cash we could've earned from them, cash which they couldn't have complained about because they fucked everything up with such a boneheaded move that the DBA or sysadmin or whoever the fuck it was who fucked with the code page settings should be drawn and quartered.

the internet: amplifier of stupidity -- discordia

[ Parent ]
I understand the motivation by jimgon (4.00 / 2) #4 Thu Jan 11, 2007 at 07:59:45 AM EST
We were part of an outsourcing years ago, and I, as manager, have had to systematically destroy all loyalty to the client in order to get the needs of the consultancy met.  What I've failed to be able to do, and I don't think can be done, is to transfer the loyalty to the new company.  I don't think it can be done in the customer-vendor model.  People want to help, and if they're not allowed to they withdraw.

Technician - "We can't even get decent physical health care. Mental health is like witchcraft here."
[ Parent ]
That's not his problem by squigs (4.00 / 1) #5 Thu Jan 11, 2007 at 09:32:13 AM EST
REC is technical support (or something like that).  His job is to solve problems.  Selling is not and should not be his concern.  He doesn't have the resources (either in terms of information or experience) to determine whether the cost in lost customer satisfaction is worth the potential sale. 

If they don't want their tech support people to solve problems when they can make money, they need to find a way to prevent them from providing technical support.

[ Parent ]
Ummm by jimgon (4.00 / 2) #6 Thu Jan 11, 2007 at 11:04:23 AM EST
Never put your customer ahead of your own bonus.  The customers are cows to be milked. You'll never get to upper management thinking otherwise.

Technician - "We can't even get decent physical health care. Mental health is like witchcraft here."
[ Parent ]
jimgon isn't INcorrect by ReallyEvilCanine (2.00 / 0) #7 Thu Jan 11, 2007 at 09:08:41 PM EST
In a vague sense, selling is also my job. There are things customers want to do that should be left in the hands of $$$CPG$$$ and once it's passed to them, I'm normally out of the picture. I seem to have stayed on stage a bit too long. While I didn't send $CompCorp off to a competitor, Upper Upper Management really only pay attention to income and outgo. There only see each case as an analyzed and projected chance that we would've made $X.

Why the hell $$$CPG$$$ didn't figure out this hack is anyone's guess. The cynical would say "revenue" but in their defense it is a rather weird way around things that requires an awful lot of experience in dealing with codepage manipulation.

the internet: amplifier of stupidity -- discordia

[ Parent ]
unconsidered revenue-reduction activity by clover kicker (2.00 / 0) #8 Sat Jan 13, 2007 at 05:23:31 AM EST
I dunno. If %vendor% knows how to fix something quickly but chooses to fix it slowly just to soak %customer%, that's at least a violation of the support contract, and might be outright fraud.

Charging a premium for a brilliantly quick fix is ethical, increasing the customer's downtime for cash is clearly unethical.

If it was me I'd keep a paper trail. In hardcopy. At home.

A Day in the Life | 8 comments (8 topical, 0 hidden)