August 5, 2002

Important Roshambo Update: it

Filed under: Archives — mhoye @ 12:00 pm

Important Roshambo Update: it turns out something beats rock. Who

A few weeks ago, being quick off the mark and logged in
at just the right time, I scored an SGI Indy. This spectactular
blue box is a few years old, but I’ll tell you – the monitor that
came with that bastard brings a man closer to God. It’s huge. If by
chance I just start basking in the awe it inspires and forget to
turn it on, the hugeness of that black rectangle makes me want to
crack a skull with an antelope femur or walk around a wierdly-lit
bedroom in a space suit.

I’ve got to get a home connection back up, so that I can treat that
baby right. It’s a little scary – for somebody exclusively used to
PC-grade hardware, this kind of thing is difficult to even describe
properly. One thing that I can tell you is that there’s a password
on the incredibly-colorful BIOS, which refuses to give way so that
I can reinstall the OS. This is a concern, because as far as I can
tell from my brief foray into this thing, the BIOS isn’t resettable
even if you have access to the hardware. This kind of thing is up
Sun‘s alley – the
batteries are hardwired right into the chips, and if you don’t like
that, well, you’re on your own. Off to the documentation, I guess.

The other thing that I’m off to the documentation to
solve, is to get my CD-ROM working again. I reinstalled 2.5.20 and suddenly,
I’ve boned the whole thing. I’ve learned a few things about kernel
modules in the last few weeks. The first one was that you can’t
make your IDE driver a module, ’cause it can’t load modules until
the drive is ready to go. The second one is that all CD burners are
SCSI burners – the IDE ones are bridged, and they all take the SCSI

The other thing I’ve learned, discovered really, is that
the documentation for Linux’s low-level tools sucks every ass
regionally available. My two current bugbears in that regard involve
X modelines and mknod. Take a look at “man mknod” or “info mknod”
sometime. Point to the information about what “MAJOR” and “MINOR”
are all about. If you spot it, come over to my house and guide my
finger towards the appropriate part of the screen.

August 2, 2002

Blarg? Those of you

Filed under: Archives — mhoye @ 12:00 pm


Those of you who have, at some point, pointed at Blizzard’s grunts and sent them off to do
your nefarious bidding will know exactly what that sounds like. The
rest of you can sit and talk quietly amongst yourselves.

Aping my betters, I’ve started
writing up some observations about the world. This may or may not
be interesting to you, but it’s an outlet for me. I don’t promise
timely, well-scheduled or entertaining, but it will be a good way
to make sure that my ability to form basic sentences doesn’t fade
to grunt.

I’ve started a new job as a sysadmin, or at least as the sysadmin’s
PFY. It’s at a bunch of car dealerships with a common server farm
– they have a common network base, wireless com, VoIP phones,
the works. This is cool, or at least it would be if I spent
more than half of my time knowing what I’m doing. I was promised
that most of the problems I would face would be trivial, or at
least straighforward – my computer doesn’t work, my printer
is out of paper, that kind of thing. Instead, I’m getting
printed-out e-mails on my desk that say things like “Fix our
by noon or GM doesn’t send us any cars next month”.

This one on my second day, no less, when the boss is out at
a course and the only other IT guy is nowhere to be found. I
didn’t even know how to find, much less fix, the afflicted
box(s?). I’m not a panic-prone guy, but this was a bit much. When
I realized that this message, cc’ed to the owners and managers of
the whole joint, had been dropped on my desk by the aforementioned
missing colleague, my initial idea was to track him down and
unleash a two-fisted
monkey-style attack
. That passed as quickly as the panic idea,
thankfully, but it did leave me with a good head of adrenaline
(hereinafter referred to as “fire”) onto which I poured a cup of
coffee (hereinafter referred to as “gasoline”) and set off in search
of the problematic device. I found it, I managed to test a few
terminals, got a common error – all good, promising results. I
don’t know much, as I said, about NT Terminal Server, so I phone
up this company’s support group.

That phone call changed my life. It really did.

Now, I have never been exceptionally proud of my computer skills,
but I like to think that I’m a good problem solver. One thing I
remember clearly from my time as a phone-in tech support guy is
that phone-support types can develop an attitude in an incredible
hurry. “This user is too stupid to know/fix [foo]” is a common enough
thing to hear, with the associated looking-down-the-nose that comes
from people who get snotty when they’re in on some secret. Cast your
mind back to grade 6 or so, if you’re fishing for examples. The
thing that bites my bag about this attitude is that when a caller
(in this example, me) deviates from the script, or from a
small set of well-recognized problems, that snide self-satisfied
phone-support weenie almost invariably vanishes, to be replaced
by a blubbering idiot who asks blubbery, idiotic questions.

In other words, they turn into the object of their prior contempt –
somebody who doesn’t know something about their system. In short,
suddenly they’re too stupid to fix [foo] and fixing [foo]
is their goddamned job.
The average weenie will put you on hold
at this point, and ask somebody higher up in the food chain. The
real bottom feeders, though, will just thrash like their brains
have been hooked through the lip, and will refuse to deviate from
The Script, making them worse than useless. (Free tip: If nobody
in the building can log on, for example, and it says it’s because
too many people are logged on, and I can ping the server just fine,
then I don’t need to fix my goddamned network card. It’s not the
capslock key. Let me talk to your supervisor right now.)

So what, I hear you cry, was wrong? The key conversation went like
this, after much thrashing:

  • [me] Listen, again: It says we can’t log in, because there are
    too many people logged in.
    How many people are logged into that thing?

  • [them] There are 70 people logged in.
  • [me] That’s nice. How many constitutes “too many”?
  • [them] You’d have to check how many client licences you have.
  • [me] Can you do that, from where you are?
  • [them] Yes.
  • [awkward pause]
  • [me] Are you going to check it?
  • [them] Oh, yeah. One sec.
  • [awkward pause, take 2]
  • [them] You only have 40 license.
  • [me] There’s only 50 machines in the building. How can 70 people be logged in?
  • [awkward pause take 3 and …. cut.]

That’s enough info, really – the server was keeping dead sessions
open. Hard-reset, a quick reconfigure to keep it from happening again
and we’re ready to go. Half an hour to spare.

The lesson here, perhaps, is that knowledge is not wisdom. Or to put
it more succinctly, in the hopes that the weenie in question can see
this: the ability to read a checklist and follow simple instructions
does constitute a mad skizill, you big tool.

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