Thursday, January 03, 2013

Another day another stupid class

Do you know why the US government uses so many contractors? Because the actual government employees are too busy taking mandatory classes that have nothing to do with their job to actually accomplish anything. I spent yesterday (ALL of yesterday) taking one of these classes.

It should have taken an hour and a half, maybe two hours. The class was taken online and involved a mix of answering questions and then reading sheets telling us what the answers should have been. Kind of backwards from your normal teaching methods, but the subject was obvious enough that it wasn't really a problem. At the end you're supposed to get a certificate that you can send in every time the government loses track of the one you did before and starts claiming you haven't taken the class yet. Then you take a quiz and get another certificate. That's two certificates for a single class.

Here's where things really went wrong. My government issued laptop runs Windows 7 and a bunch of software restricting what you can do. If you create or download a file that file will be gone the next time you turn on the computer. All settings go back to their defaults. So I have to turn on pop-ups in IE every time I turn on the computer so I can go out to this website to check my government required e-mail, because that website requires pop-ups. I can't open a file by double clicking on it. Some programs can't be run by me. Anything I download can't be run by me.

So, having completed the class, I have one chance and one chance only to print the certificate. But the laptop has no printer installed. I can see our printer, but the right driver isn't on this computer. I can download the driver from the Canon website, but can't run what I downloaded to install the driver. And even if I could, the driver would be gone next time I turned on the computer.

Can I print to a PDF?
No. That's not installed and I can't install it.

How about that "Print to File" box?
Yes, I can print to a file.
No, there's no suffix and we're not going to tell you what kind of file it is.

Can I open it in TextEdit or NotePad or Word to find out in the header what kind of file it is?
No. This is the one document in all of computer history that can't be opened like that.

Want to try printing again? Take the class all over again! Weeeeeee!

I e-mail the file to myself so I can work with it on a Mac but still get nowhere.

I try retaking the class on the Mac since there's no restrictions on who takes it. Safari and Firefox can't handle the forms on one part of the class so they both come to a stop. Chrome works clear through, but only prints a black box. Yeah, even if I print to a PDF.

What if I use a coworker's computer? Someone with their own printer installed.
Then their browser says the website is down. WHAT!? WHY!?
Because fuck you. That's why.

I finally figure out the suffix of the original certificate. There's a program on the laptop that should open it if I put the suffix on the file. Still, double clicking the file won't work. And for some reason I'm banned from opening the program so I can open the file that way.

But now that I have the right suffix on it, IE will display the certificate! I still can't print, however, because of reasons.

Can this type of file be opened on a Mac? Five forums say "no. You should install TinyPDF and make PDFs instead." This is true, but not at all helpful. I did finally find two programs for the Mac that will open the file created by "Print to File" and manage to print it. And then I went home.

I took that class seven times yesterday. I spent almost as much time trying to figure out how to either make a government laptop print against it's will or how to open the file created initially. It's a different version of the class I had to take to get my computer ID card. I have a couple dozen more classes to go and will have at least six new ones that need to be taken by the time I've finished with these. And if the government decides to be real dicks about it, I'll have to fly to Texas to take a few of them in person rather than just accept proof that I've take the exact same class already here in Maryland.

Today I'm not taking a class. Today I'm being productive.

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