Mar 18 2013

Star Trek and the Death of IT

GAAAAAAAHHHHH!!!!

I feel slightly better, but only slightly.

I started watching Star Trek: The Next Generation on Netflix just to unwind my brain and relax a little. Instead of relaxation I found myself pacing back and forth in front of the television, gesticulating wildly, with a string expletives coming out of my mouth in a torrential flood (yeah, my kids loved it). What happened in the 24th century? Did the entire race of IT Pros die out in the 23rd? Because there sure as heck is no evidence that they are ANYWHERE to be found. Episode after episode there are computer problems. And episode after episode my blood pressure is rising. I can’t believe what I’m seeing.

For example, in one episode they get an alien computer virus (firewall, checksums, anti-virus, hell, common communication protocols, nah) that’s going to cause the ship to run into a star or something. OK. No big deal right. Shut everything down, format the system, reinstall the OS, restore the last good backup, open the Romulan Ale. No, we go through the episode basically ringing our hands and running around in circles, and that’s the engineering crew. The bridge crew just sat there slack-jawed. Then finally some magic is injected into the computer or something and everything is fixed. WHAT!!!??!!ELEVENTY!!!???! Come on. Where was the 19 hour meeting after the episode where the captain goes on and on at the engineering staff about how “We can never let this happen again.”

Nope. That didn’t occur. Instead, in the next episode (or maybe it was a previous one, I really don’t care at this point), a couple of verbal commands from within the holodeck (and what military in history… scratch that, just been reading about the Austro-Hungarian army in WWI… what COMPETENT military anywhere in history would allow that horror device to remain on board ship past the first time it kidnapped a crew member or whatever other tortures it inflicted, but I digress) allows a piece of one of the programs from the holodeck to take over the entire ship. Everything. Everywhere. Oh, they notice that there’s a lot of memory & cpu power going to the holodeck, but evidently the on-call rotation is in the hands of a junior ensign or something because they don’t DO anything about it. Nope, one program is allowed to rewrite all the other programs. And then, it somehow goes away because they ask it to. Again, no one had to restore any of the memory or storage that was wiped because this thing took over everything.

Look, I get it. It’s fiction. Not only that, it’s fantasy (no, it’s not science fiction, not with all the magical crap injected into the show, sorry, you lose there) so anything can happen. But please, can’t we at least have some internal consistency? Can’t we have a little logic. Couldn’t just one of the screenwriters talk to someone in IT, or barring that, someone in the military. Because, funny thing about the military, and IT, it only takes one serious slip-up before the competent do a review to determine what went wrong, why, and fix it. So, no more insane computer breaches. No more trainees, however smart they are, being given full admin privileges to production (just because their mom once slept with the Captain/CEO, oh, shut up, she did too). We’re going to start running backups. We’re going to test them. We’ll keep an owner’s manual around. We’ll put new programs through a thorough test environment before we plug them into the ship and wind up flying to the far side of the universe (oops, sorry). We’ll keep an original copy of the OS somewhere we can get at it because clearly, the 24th century has more viruses flying around than most free porn sites. We’ll start doing reviews of the ever-lovin engineering staff so that maybe, just maybe, we can make it so the holodeck can’t do ANYTHING to the rest of the ship, EVER. And if we can’t do that, great, we’re getting a squash-ball court or something where the holodeck used to be and I’m ejecting that thing out the nearest airlock (because I wouldn’t trust the thrice-damned transporter to move it successfully off the ship without beaming it inside someone’s head, to another dimension, or creating an evil holodeck with a cool beard).

The 24th century knows more about the evils of the 20th than most of us knows about the evils of the 15th (Crusades & Burning Times for those who aren’t history nerds) but somehow, all we can get are hectoring lectures about how morally backward we all are. Well, I’m here to tell you, maybe we are morally backward, but I sure as heck could revamp your IT department and turn the Federation into a force to be reckoned with, because you don’t want to get me started on just how bad the competing organizations IT work seems to be.

Rant over, I feel a little better. Oh, but if your IT department resembles the one on Star Trek, time to get to work.

I’m going to go watch Babylon 5.

8 Comments

  • By G Bryant McClellan, March 18, 2013 @ 9:03 am

    Try the new(er) version of BattleStar Galactica. Admiral Adama will not let any of the myriad computer systems aboard his ship be networked. Why? Viruses. Apparently when we start building toasters (early Cylons) we unlearn basic technology, like firewalls, anti-virus and anti-malware software.

  • By Grant Fritchey, March 18, 2013 @ 9:06 am

    Yeah, I watched that one too. Could be the concept of walling off each system makes sense in a combat vessel when fighting intelligent machines. Otherwise they’d find their way through. I can kind of defend that one (a little).

  • By Brandon Leach, March 18, 2013 @ 9:33 am

    A writer asking someone in IT for advice?… Not gonna happen. It’s like someone in sales asking a developer before promising feature x in 2 weeks to a potential client.

  • By G Bryant McClellan, March 18, 2013 @ 9:38 am

    I could see the point on BSG from the combat perspective. But I would not have wanted to be an IT guy on that crew. Every simple upgrade would take months.

  • By Grant Fritchey, March 18, 2013 @ 9:45 am

    Look upon the Ceylons then as a permanent employment contract for IT personnel.

  • By Mike Donnelly, March 18, 2013 @ 10:32 am

    What happens to the future of IT is that they off loaded all of the basci IT functions to the cloud and let Skynet monitor for any issues like Alien viruses or self aware holograms.

  • By Chuck, March 18, 2013 @ 12:20 pm

    there are no spoons

  • By Grant Fritchey, March 18, 2013 @ 1:21 pm

    At this point, I just quote Rumplestilskin, “All magic, comes with a price.”

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