Tag Archives: Geek stuff

No problem, Mr. “Network Engineer”

You know what experienced techs think when you feel the need to insert “I’ve been a (something – in this case a “network engineer”) for 25 years.” after you’ve described how you “solved” a problem in a manner that shows you don’t know jack shit about what you’ve just described? Let’s just say there’s a reason we have compresses for excessive eye rolling and why we put quotation marks around things like “network engineer” or “developer” or “IT guy” or whatever else it is you think is going to impress us. It isn’t. We certainly hope whoever is paying you isn’t paying you much. But if that’s what helps you sleep at night, go right on ahead and demonstrate your vastly superior knowledge while at the same time showing that it literally took you all day to “fix” the (non) issue. Well done.

Things that bug me, part whatever

“Nothing more detestable does the earth produce than an ungrateful man.” – Ausonius

Being ungrateful and disloyal – not blindly loyal, mind you, but disloyal to people who have treated you beyond well – are two things that annoy me considerably. Some days (or weeks), I really do question why in the world we go out of our way to do all the extras we do for people when we get those things chewed up and spat back out at us as people give lip service to thanking us for everything we’ve done while they sail out the door without ever bothering to discuss options with us before doing so, even when they have been perfectly happy for a decade or more. It is disheartening and depressing to go through, and very stressful in some ways.

Connected

As many of you know, I moved out to the very edge of the biggest city in the area – technically, just across the county line into a town that is both unincorporated and unknown to most people even if they live around here. Now, while I love life at the ranch, with all the ups and downs that go with it, there is one thing, above all else at this moment, that I miss dearly about living closer to civilization.

High speed internet access.

Now again, as most of you know, I run a business that is internet-based (well, one of the businesses is). While satellite is ok, it is definitely not high speed. It is also terribly unreliable, and in a place where we receive reasonable amounts of rain, generally speaking, it leads to signal loss. There is also the problem of the satellite just deciding to cut out for no apparent reason at all. We have endured outages when there isn’t a cloud in the sky, and when there is a stronger than usual breeze, as if the signals are blown out of alignment by the wind.

Over the years, we occasionally check to see if any of the usual providers have made it out here. We know that Comcast has a loop on a pole about 700′ from the house. So we went on their site to determine if service was available, and while the first guy said there was “nothing remotely” in our area, the second guy who called a day later said what we knew: there’s a loop 700′ away from us. Happy day!

He was quite interested when we said we wanted the largest business package (that runs about $300/month, give or take), and that other people in the small development here had also expressed interest in high speed access. We went back and forth for a week, only to be told, in the end that no, they would not be able to do it, because the loop at the road “already had too many people on it” and it would cost Comcast $200K to roll it out to us. Mind you, this is already after we had polled the people here – some of whom, like me, run their businesses from their properties – and almost to a person they wanted some form of service, whether it was internet only (us) or internet plus tv (several), and all were agreeable to having a multiyear contract. It seemed, when we reported those results, like a win-win, but someone on the chain knocked it down.

It’s rather unfortunate because it is so close to us since we run up against the main access road. The upper level business account dude suggested we contact one of the local offices and have them call their corporate overlords to talk about it. I’m not entirely sure what difference that will make, but it is on the list of things to do. The tiny candle of hope still flickers in the darkness of slow internet service here.

Tuesday’s child is NOT full of grace

In the tech world, for some reason Tuesdays are generally the shittiest days. Problems are extra large, people are extra dense, ticket volume is extra high, and everything just seems to be a bigger pain in the ass than it usually is. Generally speaking, all my days are pretty much the same – to the point that sometimes I don’t even know what day it is – because I work every day, anywhere from 12 to 18 hours, doing something. So I take Tuesdays in stride, because often some other whack-a-mole will pop its head out on a day other than Tuesday, and to me,it seems like Tuesday even if Tuesday is just lending an outfit to another day.

However.

Today was my personal Tuesday. It started off very calmly. As Stacy astutely points out, that’s sometimes a warning indicator, i things are far too calm. Turns out, this was one of those times. Got my breakfast, got a shower, headed off to pick up a paper scrip from one of my docs because the med contains a scheduled drugs so cannot be called in – thanks a bunch, Feds, for making it annoying for those of us who actually need the stuff. It’s a 35 to 40 minute drive to that particular office, as it’s on the other side of the world from the ranch. Picked it up, got back in the car, and started my way toward Publix, to get the thing filled, plus pick up another that was ready, along with a few assorted other items.

On my way there, I get a call from the ranch: the electric company dude who reads the meter (they just drive up the driveway to the house and use their reader without getting out of the pickup, yay technology!) managed to back into and snap a stub that is a water line. To the house. Since Gabby was there with some worker bees, they shut off the main valve that leads to the house. Therefore, no water in the house or to any of the irrigation piping until it’s repaired.

Change of plans: we have no spare 1″ PVC lying around. Everything is the wrong size. We do have couplings, and they assure me we have pipe dope. Off to the big orange store. I pop in, pop out, hustle back to the car. In the parking lot, some guy gives me a shout, starts walking toward me with his hand out, like he wants to shake my hand and says, “Hey, how you doing?” and who obviously either wants to sell something, or get something. I say, “Sorry dude, in a hurry.” and I head back to the ranch, where…

…we do some test fitting, cutting down – with a mini coping saw, because the PVC cutter I had once upon a time I cannot find – test fit things, judge it good, and get ready to finalize it. No cement. Primer, yes. Cement, no. I dig around in various places, and in a drawer I come up with cement that a) I do not prefer and b) is old, so questionable. We try it anyway, allowing it to set, then turn on the water. Sealant: fail. Off I go once again to the big orange store, and since I’m already out again, to Publix to get the other stuff for the ranch.

The big orange store has all the things I need – including a ratcheted PV cutter – and I also spy some couplings that have rubber seals and teeth to grip the pipes when they’re inserted. No cleaning, priming, or cement required. I also find a combo cleaner, primer, cement in a handy spray bottle just like spray paint. Why did it take this long to come up with this? I pick up both, along with traditional blue dope, and head to Publix, where…

…as I’m giving the scrip to the tech along with my ID, and she’s reviewing it, she says, “Oh, no. They didn’t date the scrip. We can’t fill it.” Argh. I take the scrip back, pick up the other stuff, race back to the ranch, where….

…I redo the bottom fitting in the traditional way, but cannot get the top fitting off to redo the cement on that. Fine. I do the bottom, allow it to set, wipe off the excess, and then the valve to get the water flowing again to test it, only to find….

….the top seal is definitely not going to work. Fuck. I turn off the water, cut the pipe off at the ends of the couplings, which requires digging out the bottom part of the stub a bit, get the other part of the replacement PVC I didn’t use, and cut it down. Instead of dealing with the traditional prim/dope method, I slip the newer coupling on to one end and use my body weight to push the piece snug and it clicks into place. The other coupling goes on the top connecting pipe, and I cut down the replacement pipe a couple of times until I can get it to slide under the top coupling (after pushing that part slightly to an angle in order to do so. I push down with all my weight, but can’t get it to snap into place. I grab a rubber mallet and pound the damn thing until it gives a satisfying snap. Finally.

Time for a test! I open the valve, and the pump kicks on. The couplings hold and are not blown off by the pressure. There are also no leaks at the joints. Yay. I head inside, turn on some taps and the tub in the master bath to force the pump to cycle on and off to make sure any pressure changes don’t damage the joints. it doesn’t. Problem solved!

By now, I’m drenched in sweat and my pants are sliding further and further down my hips. I have a massive spasm going on my left side, from my hip all to the way to my face. I decide – it’s now 4PM, and I left the house about 11AM originally – it’s time for lunch. Except…

…it pops into my mind that the bees need to be fed. Luckily, I had already made their syrup this morning, so I poured the jars, climbed into my suit, went out, and changed their bottles. It’s very still, with no wind, and very humid, and I’m sweating even more in the suit than normal. I head back inside, peel out of the suit, and get lunch started, only to be hit….

….with a massive new spasm that takes my breath away. I lean against the counter to let the worst of it pass, then grind up my antispasm and other meds and finally get lunch made.

Then I find out Comcast is not willing to run access to our one road development: there are too many people on the loop they have at the road now, and they estimate it would cost them $250K to do our road. Fuck. The corporate guy suggests we call our local Comcast office and have them call in to corporate. Yeah.

So, thanks, Tuesday, for fulfilling every expectation I generally have of you. But you can go now, really. Seriously.

Those who cannot do

Tip: if  you cannot secure your mail server from spewing spam to the outside world, despite being given loads of information, log snips, and everything else possible fro ma perspective outside that server, perhaps your organization should find someone else to administer it, as you’re terrible at the job.

A tech’s woes

Do  you know why, generally, many people in IT hate users, and why, generally, first level support techs despise them?

Because these jobs are, in the end, not terribly different than any other server-related job. The nice ones, who take the time to say thanks, or write a nice note out of the blue praising the service, or who do any number of tiny things to show they appreciate what you’re doing, are rare. It’s nice to get those notes/calls/etc.

The vast majority of users, their issues, and the tech’s resolutions are white noise, that constant murmur in the background that follows a tech everywhere, including into dreamtime occasionally. This group is, again, much like anything else in life, a presence that never really fades away.

And then, there are those people. The ones who are never satisfied. The cheap ones whining to you about costs. The ones who complain they “are not a tech” and shouldn’t have to be a tech just to get through an answer about how to change their password (hey, newsflash: a step by step instruction list doesn’t require anyone to “be a tech” to follow). The ones who think they can be immediately hostile and uncivil to the faceless person on the other end of their message for no real reason whatsoever. The very, very  worst of all? The ones who drive good tech people out of the field into more charming, less irritating, and more fun occupations like mucking out cow barns or cleaning sewage lines or deodorant tester.

The ones who request that you do something, confirm that they want you to do it, and never once ask any questions about what they have asked. The ones who then open a zillion tickets, all on the same subject: that they cannot perform operation ABC because what they requested was done. The ones who whine that if (company) had (XYZ), the “inconvenience” they have suffered would have been avoided, as if having XYZ would have made them magically not request the idiotic thing they requested – and that rather stunning logical fail is just another one amongst the thousand little cuts that makes techs hate users. Because it is usually the horrible ones that are remembered best.

Don’t be the horrible one. Be kind to your techs.

This might qualify

As a first world problem: a new server we ordered for a client, and shipped overnight, refused to boot. Power on, yes, but perform the POST, no – not even a hint of video and no drive probing. After unhooking and reseating every single thing, from the power connectors to the memory to the CPU itself, we got nothing. We asked the vendor to overnight a new motherboard, thinking that would solve the problem. Nada. Yesterday I asked them to overnight a new CPU, since that was the one component I had no replacement for, given this was a new motherboard type we’ve never used before. Nothing. So, tonight I’ll be ordering a server based on a specification we’ve ordered before, that we know works just fine, and next week we will ship back this server, the extra motherboard, and the extra CPU. If you want to know what drives people in tech crazy, it’s problems like this. Well, that and the people who can’t keep their passwords secure, and then bitch at us when we set minimum password strength requirements that prohibit them from using “password” as their new password.

How was your day, dear?

To sum it all up: crappy.

This morning I headed to the doctor for an appointment scheduled to talk about the near-constant fatigue I’ve been feeling lately. I’m sleeping a lot more than I usually do, too – usually, it’s 4-5 hours, but lately it’s been 8-9. Those who know me know these things are highly abnormal.

It turned into a discussion of that and discussion about my back, which is not getting better as quickly as I want it to.

And all of that discussion turned into multiple blood workups (five vials worth), a trip to have a couple of xrays (which involved a rather excruciating flat xray plus two painful positioned xrays), and a trip to pick up the prescriptions he’d called in for me (one of which, being an opiate derivative, is making me sick as a dog).

To top all of that off, we had an issue with one of the servers today, but got it back on track and things were fine. Until someone at the NOC decided to run a particular operation on a mounted (active) filesystem, completely ignoring the giant warning that tells you running this on a mounted  filesystem can cause irreparable damage. Sure enough, that’s exactly what it did, hosing the server and requiring a trip to the NOC to grab the backups so we could restore those sites to another server and start rebuilding the now dead, unbootable server.

As long as I was there, I was going to set up a new server for someone, rebuild the torpedoed server, and set up one for someone else who wants a larger server. Oh, and add another KVM unit so we can connect via console to even more servers remotely. None of that happened, as my stomach had emptied by then and the drugs were making me ill. Fortunately, one of my peeps was able to finish the restores I had started so I could pack up and get out of there.

And now, here I am, having some milk to get something in my stomach while checking on things so I can grab some sleep.

Hope your days were better than this.