Finding a lost laptop, saving one's dignity

An IT tale of how on a hectic day with a misplaced laptop and six groups of IT customers in the building, technology actually saved the day

So often in IT we spend the bulk of our time troubleshooting problems, dealing with disgruntled users, and making sure we're up to speed on technology's pitfalls. It becomes easy to overlook the beauty of when hardware or an app or a tool works as expected.

I manage the IT infrastructure for a company that sells IT infrastructure products to IT people, so I regularly do customer demos showing how we use our products. I don't include many PowerPoint presentations -- frankly, I've had to sit through enough to know I don't like them -- so I try to be a little more interactive than that. But I have some prepared just in case, so I always bring my laptop with me.

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One particular day was even more hectic than usual. We had six different customers in different rooms, we were doing some system upgrades, and we had a WAN outage in EMEA. All of us were multitasking while working to keep a calm demeanor for the prospective customers.

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In the frenzy, I got a little mixed up, so much so that I lost my laptop. Oh my God, no laptop -- I might as well not have any pants in the middle of a snowstorm. I felt lost without it, especially when we were dealing with so many issues at one time.

I paused long enough to think about when and where I'd seen it last. The best I could come up with was that it was probably in one of the rooms in which I'd been doing a demo. But which one?

My options. I could wait until everyone left, or I could barge into each of the six rooms until I (hopefully) found it and risk looking like an idiot in front of our prospective IT customers.

Luckily, though, I was using wireless networking instead of a wired port -- with the new 802.11n speeds, it just made sense. I also (and this is bad) often don't have my laptop suspend when the lid closes. It runs almost 6 hours on a battery and I'm impatient. I know it's not green, but we virtualize a lot of servers so I figure that balances it out.

We had just deployed a new wireless management tool, and one of the features was the ability to locate a client. I hadn't tried it but figured it could save me some embarrassment if I could narrow the location down to a single room. So I fired it up, looked up my machine name, and right-clicked on "Locate." In about 5 seconds it spit out a floor map and a location. Sure enough, it was in one of the demo rooms. I was able to quietly walk in and retrieve my laptop.

It's sort of sad that we are surprised when something we spend thousands, if not tens of thousands of dollars or more, actually works. But I have to admit that I was surprised at how close the tool got me to the actual laptop. I love it when technology actually helps me.

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