CSI is Cool, But What About Lieutenant Columbo?

OK, you may be wondering, “If this blog is supposed to be a technical blog, why is he talking about movies?” Here it is: It’s inevitable to compare all those people that work for support teams isolating software problems, myself included, with the folks from CSI. To be honest, it’s a very fair comparison since there are several similarities between these two types of investigative work.


I’m not the kind of person who likes watching TV, so I don’t follow CSI like my brother, for example, but I do like it. CSI is fancy: the guys use modern tools, and the show has blood, action, and thrills.


I also like another (very old) TV series: Columbo.  (A little curiosity about me: I have the entire Columbo DVD collection! For those that used to read Sherlock Holmes or Hercule Poirot, I bet you’ll enjoy watching Columbo.)  Columbo has no fancy tools, no blood, and no action; however, it’s suspenseful from the beginning until the end.  When I’m watching Columbo, I always think about engineers, like myself, that work for support, and I’m always amazed by Lieutenant Columbo’s skills.  To name a few:


-      He always manages to get information from the users… oops… I mean the witnesses even when they don’t want to collaborate. As he always says: “Just one more thing…”

-      He has a great understanding of human nature and uses it to solve the support cases… oh, I mean, the police cases.

-      He starts the investigation with a theory that always sounds crazy to the users… oops… I meant, the witnesses and others involved. He tries to prove his theory during the investigation instead of taking random actions.

-      He’s super meticulous, perceives all details, and is always taking notes. Later on the details prove to be invaluable. (I wonder if he uses Clarify to log his notes J)

-      He always goes on site, I mean, to the scene of the crime, to work in a “critsit” as we use to call at Microsoft. It’s always a reactive incident with top priority. J

-      Many times he has to learn more about the domain of specialization of the suspects in order to solve the crime.

-      He thinks out of the box and comes up with creative and original approaches to solve his cases. It’s not just a matter of “reading the logs.”

-      Sometimes he has to deal with arrogant people, and he does that very well by playing dumb. (The guy is smart, I told you.)

-      Sometimes he doesn’t have any initial proof, so he uses evidence to create his theory.


I dare to say if Lieutenant Columbo worked with software he would be a great debugger and troubleshooter.


Speaking of curiosities, a few months ago, while having lunch with one of my customers he asked me where I’m from. After telling him, he said: “Ah! That’s why you speak like that famous Brazilian plastic surgeon!” – He was referring to Dr. Robert Rey.

I was very happy with the comparison since I’m a big fan of Dr. Robert Rey, know his story, and think he’s a great example of success. A few coincidences:


-      Dr. Robert Rey is from São Paulo, Brazil. I’m also from São Paulo, Brazil. (Brasil in Portuguese)

-      He’s first name was Roberto, but he changed to Robert after moving to the US. My first name is also Roberto and, so far, still Roberto.

-      I guess we both speak very enthusiastically.

-      He’s multi-millionaire. I’m not. Surprised? J


See you on my next article. It’ll be a technical one: the next version of the PowerDbg library which will be hosted in Codeplex, so no more copy and paste. After that, I’ll blog one script (already created, but I'm testing it) that uses this new version and new Special Commands that are on the way!


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