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Tony's Rules for Computer Consultants


2006/10/13

Document everything you do. Keep a paper log - and I do mean paper: it can be transcribed to a computer log later (more billable time!). You can't trust a computer with something so valuable!

Whistle or hum while you work. I've always liked the Scarecrow's song from the Wizard of Oz ("If I only had a brain"). Clients have sometimes asked me to choose something different.

If you are billing by the hour, do not wear a watch.

Programmers should always carry a tool kit. At the minimum, it should include Philips, flat and Torx screwdrivers, a chip puller. a soldering iron and a volt meter. These should be brought to your desk but larger items (like your oscilloscope) may optionally be left in your vehicle.

Hardware service folk should carry no tools nowadays - there's nothing repairable in modern computers.

If you are a programmer and are required to provide source code, deliver it on 5-1/4" disks - or 8" if you can. Bonus points for EBCDIC tape!

For hardware service, always take the machine "back to the shop". Don't plan on returning it without a court order.

Submit hand written invoices on Post-it Notes TM . Try to emulate your physician's handwriting and be as vague as possible. Dates of service rendered are optional, but discouraged.

Never submit these until you need money. Think of it as money in the bank (except that it isn't).

Demand payment in cash. Preferably the actual payment should be made at dusk, in a parking lot or other secluded place. Look the other way while they tuck the money in your coat pocket. Count it a week or so later and complain if it is short.

Yes, they do have Remote Desktop, VNC or ssh access. But it's very important for you to be on site because you get mileage and more billable time.

There are other rules you should know, but these are certainly enough to guarantee your success. Best of luck!



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Fri Oct 13 14:01:29 2006: 2517   BigDumbDinosaur


Programmers should always carry a tool kit. At the minimum, it should include Philips, flat and Torx screwdrivers, a chip puller. a soldering iron and a volt meter. These should be brought to your desk but larger items (like your oscilloscope) may optionally be left in your vehicle.

You forgot about the kit of assorted hammers. Also, what about a hook for pulling stuck tapes out of drives? This reminds of a prank I pulled on one of my oldest clients (still with me after 21 years).

One of the tools I have (although I don't usually carry it with me) is a 300 watt soldering iron. This thing is about 16 inches long, with a solid copper tip that's about 3/4 inch in diameter. It's powerful enough to solder terminal lugs onto battery cables.

Anyhow, one day, back when you could fix things inside of a computer (as opposed to removing the failed assembly and throwing it away), I went to a client to put some SRAM chips in his server to add cache. This was in the days of the 80386, which didn't have any cache RAM of its own. The particular day was April 1st, so just for fun, I brought the 300 watt soldering iron with me and pretended to plug it in to get it hot. I set the SRAM chips out on a static pad next to the server, along with a spool of 1/8 inch diameter acid core solder (which you would NEVER use in any electronic device) and a big pair of lineman's dikes, and waited until the client was in the room.

When he happened to stop by to see how I was doing, I picked up the big iron and pretended to be soldering something inside his server. His eyes bugged out at the sight of me wielding that monster. I explained to him that with it, I could solder all the pins on an SRAM chip in one operation, thus saving time and money. He gave me a strange look and said, "Okay."

Later, after I had installed the SRAM chips (which plugged in -- no soldering required) and restarted the server, I called him over and gave him the "April Fool." I swear that if he had had a gun handly I would have been dead. We had a good laugh over it!



Fri Oct 13 14:28:31 2006: 2518   dhart


What - no gram guage, card saw, spring hook, start wheel tool?

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