Tag Archives: geek

Some days

Sometimes, it seems like days just start off badly, as if the world wants to crack an eye at the sunrise, yawn, and roll over for a bit more sleep.

This morning was one of those mornings. The plan was to get up in the wee hours, get the smoker going, and have some pulled pork ready by the 1 PM games. I thought I had slept through my alarm, having had only two hours of sleep the night before. Not the case: I simply set it for PM instead of AM in my fog. When I did get up and go to get the smoker going, I found that the smoker portion of my Bradley was not working at all. I also found that I was going to have to go to the NOC to take care of a server that was simply down for no apparent reason and which would not respond to a reboot request.

Thinking the smoker issue may have just been built up sawdust in the feeder, I left the heating side of the smoker on, so it would be fully to temp by the time I got back, and hurried off to the NOC. Problem found: blown power supply. Easily enough solved by swapping out the power supply, but a pain in the ass for interrupting my day, which was already not starting off well.

Back at the ranch, I finally discovered the motor that powers the feeder arm was simply not working at all. I figured I could just rig something to keep the microswitch in the down position, hoping this would keep the smoker from knowing the arm was not moving. Didn’t work – the timer that feeds the wood expects the switch to trigger and then depress when the motor arm comes around once more. The switch is also not in a position easily reached when the control unit is back together. Alas, no smoking available. But the heat still worked, so I went in to rub down the butt and get it in the thing.

I made the rub, using my usual 20+ ingredients, and then dropped one of the bottles straight down on the tile while putting it away, shattering the thing and spewing glass everywhere. Swell.

By 9:30, the butt was finally on the smoker. We didn’t eat until the late games were well underway. It was good, but not as good as it usually is, of course. I also made rolls, mom made potato salad, and I’d made a huge batch of barbeque sauce the last time around, so at the end of the day, my sisters, newphew, mom, and I had watched a bunch of football and eaten good homemade food. Not a bad end to a day that started off so poorly.

On the plus side, it was another absolutely gorgeous day on the ranch, although unlike yesterday, almost all of which I spent outside, I did nothing outdoors today at all. Tomorrow after getting one of my eyes looked at, I hope to transplant some tomatoes at least to get the last ones out of the flats. From there, I’ll be left with the brassicas and the onions to get into the frames, and will be able to move on to breaking apart the garlic bulbs into cloves and prep for that planting. The great garlic plantout of 2011 is at hand.

The answer to the question

The question being: why do so many people get the hell out of tech? This is why.

User: Mail from (IP) is being blocked.

Us: What is the reject message?

User: It says at this link that (IP) is listed at (some obscure spam list).

Us: What is the reject message? The (IP) is not the mail server IP address, and is not what the outside world sees when mail is sent out. There is no indication in the mail logs of any rejects from (obscure spam list).

In between: we look through the logs on the server, and check out 54 different spam listings for the actual, server IP – the one the outside world sees – and find nothing at all. No one else on the same server reports any rejected mail anywhere.

User: It says at this other link that (IP) is listed at (some obscure spam list).

US: Once again, we need the actual reject message for the mail. The IP (IP) has nothing to do with mail delivery. Only the server IP is seen by the outside world when handing off mail. Places that are rejecting mail will do so with a reject message. That is what we need.

User: (Copying us on a whine to his webmaster): Interesting “customer support”. Find me another host, I’m not spending another dime with these rude people, and I don’t care if the server is blocked or not.

Us: Asking for specific information is rude? We’re trying to investigate an issue you claim exists when we can’t find any indication there is one. We asked for the reject message, and got another listing that has no bearing on this issue. Clearly, further explanation was required about what we needed, and that’s what we did. Since you haven’t provided a reject message and we can’t find any evidence mail is being rejected to anywhere from that server, we’re considering the issue closed.

User: Close this ticket. Your customer support is amazing.

Brilliant riposte. You really got us with that one. Thanks for wasting our time chasing down a nonissue. Guess mail from that server really isn’t being rejected anywhere after all.

And that is why people eventually leave the tech field. The insistence of problems where there are none and the refusal to follow the simplest of instructions combine over time to form a thousand little stabs into the soul of the tech that has to deal with your asshattery.

No vampires here

Last October – after recovering quite a bit from having a chunk of lung removed during the summer – my sister and I planted out 35 pounds of garlic. This July, I pulled up two of the type we had put in.

This is the Lorz Italian variety. It’s a milder garlic, one we use more for roasting. We won’t be planting this one again this season, as we really do prefer the stronger garlics.

This is the Inchelium Red garlic, one we like quite a bit. It’s a stronger garlic, and around here, that’s what we like.

The third variety, Chesnok Red, is also a strong garlic with a bite, and that one was pulled in late August. It’s currently curing in the garage, awaiting processing.

The other two, though, are cleaned and in storage.

Why yes, we do go through a lot of garlic around here. Tonight’s use was in a batch of guacamole whipped up for taco night. Unfortunately, yours truly was at the dentist for three and a half hours for two crown preps and was unable to partake in dinner. Ow.

Work funnies: one guy saying he was going to “rethink his relationship” with us, because the application he installed once upon a time and apparently hasn’t updated at any point has a component that doesn’t like one of the usual and routine updates run for security reasons. After over seven years with us. Interesting method of dealing with it, instead of simply taking care of your site maintenance, something with which we could certainly assist. Another guy insisting that the server where his site is located is down constantly, when a review of the firewall shows he’s locked himself out via login failures to a password protected area. Under his own site. Aren’t you glad you don’t work in tech?

How the season flies

Spring was fleeting. Summer was long, and hot, and humid, and sweaty, and buggy. And vulture-y.

This guy was sitting quite calmly on top of one of the compost piles during one of the hottest days in the season. I suspect he was waiting for me to keel over from heat exhaustion, but I outlasted him.

More stuff to come about the summer season. There was a lot of weeding, lots of pickling, and the tragedy of tomatoes.

Banner day around here today in “real” work, as well: this morning, someone telling us to fix a problem at their ISP. This evening, someone calling us incompetent  – on facebook, no less, where naturally we can’t respond – and accusing us in a ticket of “deceiving” him because we didn’t read his mind about using a nonstandard mail format. Nice bookends to the day. Fortunately, not all of our clients are like that.

Tech funnies: outages

Facebook went down for a bit today, and apparently yesterday as well. Since I don’t hang out on facebook all day, every day, I didn’t realize they’d been down yesterday, and only noticed today because of the posts to one of the admin-type lists to which we subscribe here. I was kind of waiting for a snowball effect of twitter taking a dive as everyone flocked there to tweet about how facebook was down…

Yet more ways to irritate tech support

So, you write in, telling us that you’re getting all sorts of trojans in your email. Mind you, you don’t bother to provide any evidence of anything of the sort, but someone on the staff tells you (quite correctly) that the virus definitions are always being updated, and if for some reason the server where you’re located needs an updated signature set, we’ll take care of it. You go away. We check, everything is up to date. Three days later, you’re back, telling us that you’re still getting these mysterious trojans, you’re not satisfied with the service, and you want to cancel. After five years of us hosing the account – during which you’ve opened very few tickets indeed, and which gives you plenty of time to know how we work, knowing that we do the things we say we will – instead of just saying “Hey, I’m still having this problem, what can we do”, you just want to cancel the account entirely. Then, when you’re asked, multiple times, for the headers of the mail you’re claiming is trojan-laden, so we can look at the logs, claim you have no idea what we’re asking for – this is even more ironic if your site indicates you’re claiming to be some kind of software developer. Then tell us we are “unconcerned”, “harsh”,  and have “email security issues”, and continue to ignore the requests we’ve made of you to provide any sort of information whatsoever that we can use. In the meantime, we’ve been going line by line in the mail logs finding every instance of your domain, including the system rejecting all kinds of crap from known spammers/spam locations, and, as it happens, deleting outright things found to have trojan-laden packages attached. That just makes us feel all sorts of warm and fuzzy around here, to be insulted while we’re trying to figure out, sans any useful information from you, what exactly you’re talking about, wasting our time because clearly you have zero interest in actually addressing the issue. And then to top it all off, claim that two of your systems were “damaged” by these so-called trojans, after telling us in response to our query about what it is that you’re seeing as trojans is whatever your antivirus says they are. That, of course, will make us wonder which of these situations apply: you foolishly didn’t actually have any antivirus  applications installed previously, and someone stupidly opened some random attachment. You didn’t keep your antivirus application up to date, so it didn’t trigger by whatever you claim was damaged when someone stupidly opened some random attachment. Or, the antivirus signatures were not updated in response to whatever the latest crap is being sent out – which, ironically enough, is exactly what we ourselves told you was a possibility and which we were checking on. Somehow, though, I figure in the latter case, you probably didn’t bother to write to the developer of whatever antivirus app you’re using to insult them in the same manner you insulted us. However, it’s a very interesting, although quite idiotic, way of dealing with a vendor with whom you’ve had a relationship for years. I’d say we’d keep that in mind, but pointing to an issue for which you won’t provide any investigative material, and which, remarkably enough, no one else has reported, is probably not a good framework on which to base just dumping a vendor without even bothering to make a good faith attempt to determine what is going on. But hey, best of luck with the next host, who perhaps will be able to read you mind.

I know people like to claim or think that tech support folks don’t like people. But that just isn’t true. They just  don’t like you.

Technical difficulties

I haven’t really been paying attention to the main site, but apparently I probably should have, because nothing I’ve posted in the past week has shown up. This is what I get, I suppose, for looking after other peoples’ stuff better than my own. There is an automated job I use to post things that I write and save, and not only has it not posted them, the posts have vanished entirely after the job runs. That’s not a good bug (or, shall we say it isn’t a beneficial insect, given that this is at least in part about gardening?). Time for another automation job, or a return to the way I used to post, just posting things as they were typed up. We’ll be catching up on what’s been happening here.

Tales from the trenches

I told myself when I started the previous incarnation of this blog that I’d try to avoid talking about work at all. But quite frankly, sometimes the only way to vent about something or share a funny story with other people is to put it here, so there we go.

Let me tell you about yesterday’s experience.

Our service is just that: a service. Like any utility or subscription – electric, cable, what have you. If you pay your bills, your service stays on. If you don’t, it doesn’t. It’s very simple. For some reason, though, various people seem to think this is different. I haven’t quite figured out why that is, exactly. Is it because it’s all Internet-based, and thus doesn’t seem quite real, or that they have a strange notion that it costs us nothing to actually run it? No matter; this is half about people who can’t grasp the concept that this is a business and half about people being deadbeats.

We’ve always been fairly lax about suspension policies, which isn’t exactly what we’d like to do, but there always seems to be something other than searching through billing for nonpayers to be done. Toss in the last few years with everything that’s been going on, and it makes the situation worse. We’ve been addressing that, and being more aggressive about either getting people to pay their bills or getting them gone. Cost efficient, the beancounters like it, and it cleans up the billing system. Works. We understand that sometimes circumstances result in an invoice here or there being declined. Credit cards are stolen. People get sick. They have an issue. Believe me, we understand, and really, our clients know that if they have some temporary problem and let us know, we’re fine with it. However…

Periodically, we rerun failed invoices, as people will update their billing information so the processing can be completed. Yesterday, we did just that. We then received an email from someone telling us that only one of her accounts was set to payment by credit card, so why were there two invoices processed? Well, that would be because you had the current invoice as well as the previous invoice outstanding. This is a paraphrase of her response.

“I didn’t know there was another invoice too, and now this is going to cost me another $35 because there is no money in that account. Take it off the card and put it on Paypal with (other account).”

Let’s examine this, shall we? At the bottom of every invoice is a notation of any other open invoices that might exist, and the total due of those other invoices, so if you’re actually looking at anything that’s being sent to you – and since you’re asking about two processing notices, you appear to be – or if you simply log in to the billing system to look at your account, there is no reason for you not to know about this. The total charge here, for these two invoices, was a grand total of $12. If you don’t have $12 to pay for your service, and you’re habitually behind on invoices, perhaps you should rethink having that service. Beyond that, you’ve just told us to take it off the card and change it to payment by Paypal. That’s what the above means to us, and being the nice people we are, and even though we will incur an additional transaction fee, we void those two invoices. In the meantime, we’ve looked at the billing for the other two accounts you have, and lo and behold, you have half a dozen invoices open for one, and two on the other, which doesn’t make us inclined to do what we’ve just done for you so you can avoid whatever overdraft fees you have. So we ask you, nicely: when can we expect payment for these other accounts? This is the response we received, verbatim:

“Please stop with the tone – I’m doing what I can – go ahead and just park the (name) site and that won’t be an issue right?
(Other site) may get caught up on the 5th, the other one on the 20th.”

Let’s examine this, shall we? First of all, you’re lucky that the one account still exists at all, given that it’s so far behind, and that any of them are still up, period. Second, whatever “tone” you think there is in a simple question is a mystery, but guess what? This isn’t a charity, and being a bitch to us isn’t helping your case. Third (and this is rich), “doing what you can” and telling us on the 29th of a month that one account “may” get caught up in a week, and the other in three weeks is entirely insufficient. You know what all that gets you? Suspended.

And that’s what we did. Which, in turn, led to this same person telling us we were “petty and vindictive”, that she just made payment in December, and that she wanted the sites back on because having them down was “impacting a lot of people”. Wrong: this business is not a not-for-profit enterprise, and no matter how much of a unique snowflake you believe yourself to be, you are not above our policies. And yes, you made a payment in December. To pay not one, but six open invoices on one of the accounts, for June through November, which still leaves you with December and January invoices open and past due. As to the third: well, quite frankly, the impact to others is being caused by your failure to address your obligations. Perhaps they should have chosen someone more capable of dealing with keeping the account current to handle this.

She further went on to claim that she had been asking for the three different billing system profiles to be put into one, and since it hadn’t been done, that was the reason she hadn’t paid. Au contraire: no such request had ever been made, but even if it had been and wasn’t done, leaping from there to the conclusion that it absolves someone of having to pay open invoices is absurd to say the least. It certainly has no basis in reality.

It also led to another rather amusing little game on her part. As we moved through helpdesk tickets, I came across one from someone asking how long an account upgrade would take. Not long, I replied. Just long enough for whoever caught the ticket to do it. The response to that was “Good. There is currently a problem with my account (name) and two others, because they were suspended and I think that’s unethical.”

I see. Apparently it’s unethical for us to expect to be paid, but opening a support ticket under a dummy name, using a freebie email account, and asking a bogus question in order to waste our time is entirely ethical.

In the end, because she continued to insist that we were wrong to suspend the sites, wrong that she had told us to take any charges off and recreate them, wrong to claim she was behind by two months (rather than one) on one account, and just plain wrong about anything else, we told her to move along. Others may live in bizarro world, but that doesn’t mean we’ll be dragged down into it as well.

All of this took away from the time I was spending tracing power cables in order to put together a plan for replacing certain power distribution units and moving some equipment off one buss to even the loads. I completed a bit of that work, but there is more yet to be done. Now that the current nasty, seemingly crazy person has been dealt with, though, maybe we’ll catch a break until the next one comes along and we can get some real work done for our real (paying) clients. I am not sure, though, that there will ever be enough time in the world to understand why peopl behave in the manner this person did. It strikes me as a rather odd way to move through life.

Frosty mornings

Our freeze/no-freeze/frost overnight betting pool – wouldn’t you love to be the weather person, where you really don’t need to get it right, ever? – turned out to be frost. I stepped outside with my sister as she was getting ready to head to classes: lock frozen, windows iced, clear and very cold. The veggies were covered in ice crystals, but not rock-hard frozen, and I suppose they’ll make it. The garlic is really the only thing that concerns me. I don’t eat collards, the broccoli, as I mentioned before, isn’t right, the brussels sprouts I don’t eat and are not doing anything from their transplanted states, and the lettuces/spinach seem to be just fine, although they also seem to be frozen in time, having not changed in size very much over the past couple of weeks. Looking across the road to our neighbors, I saw the western side of their roof covered in frost and glistening as the sun came up.

Standing outside for less than ten minutes made me appreciate even more having the ability to work from anywhere there is a connection to the internet. Even right at home, at my desk, with my heater going full blast under my desk to warm my feet after being outside.

Geek food

I am a huge fan of pizza, even though I rarely eat more than a bite or two these days. What true geek doesn’t like pizza and a nice caffeinated beverage to go with it? Pizzas are the staple of long support sessions, NOC cleanup/realignment nights, and gaming sessions. The fam loves pizza, and generally we do have homemade pizzas every ten days or so. We used to do that with pizza crusts bought from the store. Not now: homemade pizza dough, socked away in the freezer, stretched on a peel, and topped with all our favorite things is now the way.