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Please Listen Carefully as the Following Options Have Changed

The other day when I arrived at work my phone's voice mail light was lit up

The other day when I arrived at work my phone's voice mail light was lit up. Cool, except that after pressing the voice mail button I was asked to enter my password.

Since it was so long since I had retrieved a message, I'd naturally forgotten what my password was; after several unsuccessful attempts to get it right, the system got tired of my wasting its time and announced that my mail box had been deactivated and I should contact the system administrator to have it reset.

The system administrator isn't actually a real person; it's an automated phone system that you need to call to reset the password. The first hurdle is finding the number to call. Why the message saying "please contact your system administrator" couldn't have put me through to the system, or perhaps tell me the number, is a design decision I won't dwell on. Having eventually found the system administrator's number, a task achieved by first finding a colleague who'd recently had to suffer the same fate that unfortunately befell me that morning, I'm chirpily warned that I should "listen carefully because the following options have changed." Having never contacted them before, I find this puzzling; however, leaving this thought aside, I soon find that resetting my password involves entering a huge amount of information, some of which is non-numeric as it involves bits of my name, so I end up doing a kind of numeric and SMS mix on a keypad that has no text feedback. Eventually, after many failed attempts and hang ups and re-dials, I am finally told that a new password is going to be sent to my e-mail.

This is great news. Armed with my reset password I now confidently re-enter the voice mail system to retrieve my message, only to be told that there have been three invalid attempts to access my messages and that I should contact the system administrator if I am worried about this. I've spent twenty minutes of my lunch break already trying to read my own voice mail, the sandwich bar is closing soon, and the irony of being told that my invalid attempts to read my own mail may have been from some kind of voice mail hacker is what is worrying me right now. After a long pause I am then told that my password needs changing, presumably as a precaution in case said hackers had intercepted my e-mail and were busy getting ready to break in later that day. The first attempt at resetting my password failed because, the system barks at me, it didn't comply with the security standards and should I wish to read the standards I should contact the system administrator. After a second failed attempt to enter something that wasn't too simple, I just punched out the first long set of numbers that contained no repeating sequences to get past the validation rules, and was finally told I had one new message. The disappointment was huge though, because after listening to the first few seconds of the message I realize that it wasn't anyone trying to talk to me, it was a fax machine or modem that mistakenly called my number and was busily trying to establish some kind of network communications protocol with my voice mail system, which had happily recorded this unanswered half duplex machine on the other end of the line.

Issac Asimov's first law of robotics states that "A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm". Around this time my office mate returns from lunch and inquires why I'm still there given it's such a nice day outside. The answer is that it was taken away from, me by a robotic system administrator and a fax machine who together, figuratively speaking, ate my lunch.

More Stories By Joe Winchester

Joe Winchester, Editor-in-Chief of Java Developer's Journal, was formerly JDJ's longtime Desktop Technologies Editor and is a software developer working on development tools for IBM in Hursley, UK.

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Most Recent Comments
Sujay 09/21/07 09:04:06 AM EDT

Good one, enjoyed reading it.

Java News Desk 09/18/07 11:34:27 AM EDT

The other day when I arrived at work my phone's voice mail light was lit up. Cool, except that after pressing the voice mail button I was asked to enter my password. Issac Asimov's first law of robotics states that 'A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm'. Around this time my office mate returns from lunch and inquires why I'm still there given it's such a nice day outside. The answer is that it was taken away from, me by a robotic system administrator and a fax machine who together, figuratively speaking, ate my lunch.

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