Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Do You Have a Question?

I'm getting a lot of hits on a lot of keywords, some rather strange ("zuma or snood?" and the very mysterious "eljko gazdag 000a8"), but most are technically related to what I scribble about: people looking for information about AIX code sets (codepages), MS updates (919010, 917425 and the latest 91889), and stuff about Citrix, like "korean language breaks citrix". The latter is no surprise.

If you've got a question, I might be able to help. I might even be willing to -- I probably already know the answers to a lot of the questions from people who come here searching for codepage, Microsoft and Citrix stuff. I don't know how to set up a semi-static Q&A page on blogger and I can't really be arsed to try. Just drop your question in a comment in the most current entry. Maybe I'll answer. Or send me an E-Mail. I check the box at least once a month.

Write a 17-type question, however, and risk my wrath.

Damned Rhinovirus
I'm out this week, down with a hellacious cold which forces me to lie down for half an hour after being up for more than 15 minutes, even when sitting quietly at a computer. Not dealing with tickets means I actually remain fairly calm. The meds certainly have assisted with this.

I may hate some of the tickets I face (and the customers behind them) but this is worse.

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Saturday, August 26, 2006

Sheep != Goat

It's not only IT people dealing with 17s. Not by a longshot. Poor Alda Kalda at the Iceland Weather Report has her own, and they come in the form of major media plagiarising her as well as other sites being plain stupid.

And all of this because she wrote a little blurb about the Iceland ram groping contest in Strandir last Tuesday. I asked about the story myself because, due to the accompanying but unrelated picture, I got the feeling that the ram's nuts were being sized up. You have to understand that in Iceland they eat rams' nuts pressed into a form called Hrútspungar. It's weird but I've had worse, most of it also in Iceland.

Anyway, the contest seems to be about groping the muscles to determine the quality of the meat while the animal's still alive. A couple commenters wrote about similar contests in the US. I guess it's good to be able to know if the livestock is high quality before you kill it so those winners can stick around a little longer to make more high-quality copies of themselves.

Look, I'm a city boy. I've lived my life in cities. Most of my knowledge about the countryside comes from having driven or ridden through it, with very little actual participation. Nevertheless, I know the difference between a lamb, a sheep, a ram and a goat. Not these fuckwits.

Meanwhile I got an urgent call on the cell phone from an idiot I'll be writing about later. I've now told him Nine. Fucking. Times.: If you install 918899 before you patch $OurBigApp, nothing will work. Do not install 918899. Patch our software. Test it. Then install the Microsot August update.

He'll be back on Monday, the fuckwit.

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Thursday, August 24, 2006

Jack's Back

Kevorkian came back today. Two months later he managed to figure out how to get around all of our safety measures (MD5 hash included) and get $OurBigApp version 3.6f Configurator to install on top of 3.6h. His solution included changing registry keys, changing version files, changing, calculating an MD5 hash, moving hundreds of files to different directories and changing scripts.

"It works now so this must be supported. Please confirm."

That my desk is not a pile of splinters but only sports a my-head-shaped dent in front of my keyboard is a tribute to the quality of German wood laminate production. Can anyone out there spare a couple Vicodin?

The rest of my workload today includes problems with database settings, IE flipping and tripping out, and that damned 918899 "security" roll-up. I did have one interesting ticket that no one wanted because it was a political hot potato. I first sent the response to management, just in case. I've burned myself before with very correct -- and politically/corporately incorrect -- answers to questions like these. They liked it despite the utter lack of typical corporate sterility which I replaced with a writing style that should unruffle a few of this guy's feathers. He wrote some seriously loaded questions like,

We are planning an upgrade to $YourBigApp 4.3.5 from 4.1.9.h ... it now seems that this patch will require a further patch to 4.3.5.c...
It's not two patches. First there's a big upgrade from 4.1 to 4.3, then a single patch set. That's normal, dude.

No doubt we will see more of this in the coming months, with Vista, IE7, etc.
No doubt. If those damned haX0rz would quit picking on Win-ders, MS would quit patching and so would we. They're keeping a lot of people employed.

Or do you simply blame Microsoft…?!
This was the tough one and it took me three long paragraphs to dance my way around the issue without coming out and saying, "Well, yes. It's their shitty OS and browser. It's their lack of security by design. It's their shitty monopolistic behaviour. We're just trying to keep up."

In reality, the blame should fall squarely on Microsoft. We're only guilty of writing software for a platform which more than 90% of our customers' users have on their computers.

Lucky me! I'm Duty Monkey today! Kill me please Feast your eyes on the ticket that just came in:

$YourBigApp don't work after $YourBigApp Database Server installation.

And? It sure as fuck didn't work before the DB server was installed!
x-posted from HuSi.

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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Pres. Bill Clinton, System Administrator

Imagine one of those porcelain bobble-head figures mounted on the dashboard of a 1944 Jeep driving 90mph over, say, the lunar-like lava fields of Iceland. That's pretty much what my noggin looks like today as I repeatedly smash it into the my-head-shaped-dent in front of my keyboard while perched high atop Munich on the first floor of the Panopticon.
1) Please let me know, what is the meaning of “YES” under "CHANGES REQUIRED" column in patch installation document.

Maybe it was the full moon on Tuesday, but this ticket was submitted last month.

He also asked:
2) Do we need to do all the config changes mentioned as “YES” in the list?
No, not really. We only wrote that because we like making our customers do a lot of busywork. You see, it not only makes them feel special but it also requires companies to keep more admins on staff. This keeps admins in general short supply and thus props up our ridiculous salary demands.

But that's not the only one, not by a longshot.

We ran chkdsk on our File System Drive, and encountered numerous issues...

Please let us know if $YourBigApp files are Windows standards compliant, and if its ok to run chkdsk on our File System Drive and other $YourBigApp drives.
No, dude, we totally bypass the Hardware Abstraction Layer, go straight to the motherboard and write to the drive in a compressed, interleaved trinary format. In order for you to be able to see the files we also replace the Explorer and other Win32 DLLs with our own versions.

Having finished up with Bobo, I came across Leonard's updated ticket. It started a month ago with:
We have an ofices in Asia and they are expiriencing poor application performance.
Our servers are in US.
Do you have any reccomendations?
My first recommendation: give me some info, and I specified what kind of info: traceroutes, pings, network diagrams, router and WAN specs, an Ethereal trace... the usual kind of stuff.
OK. Here is a snapshot of Asia's Reponse time for Friday. Let me know if you need anything else.
The attachment was called "response". Not "response-dot-tee-are-see" or "response-dot-gee-eye-eff", just "response". After some trial-and-error followed by looking at the header with a hex editor it turned out to be a JPEG picture of nothing but a meaningless two-line graph made by some no-name monitoring software.

Three more tickets in need of my Root Cause 17 in one day.

Also in my mail was a note from an ex-girlfriend from some years ago who's decided she needs to help me find the right girlfriend. Considering my track record she couldn't really do much worse than I've done so far.
So really what you need is a 5', 86-pound, redheaded Japanese nympho with an Aberdeen accent who's well-read and seriously into kinky. I'm going to Scotland next month so I'll keep my eye out for you.
To take my mind off that odd and eerily fascinating image I went back to re-re-reinstalling SQL Server 2005 in the hopes that if I do it often enough it might finally work.

x-posted to HuSi.

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Tuesday, August 22, 2006


REC: "Why are you hitting yourselves in the head with a hammer?"
Evil Overlords: "Because it feels so good when we stop."

REC:"So when are you going to stop?"

You might think that after being burned badly by Microsoft once we'd have learned something. You would be fairly certain we'd have learned something after being burned again. You'd be shocked to think we'd allow it to happen a third time.

We're being deluged with tickets after this, our fourth round of Microsoft Doesn't Use Lube When They Bend You Over the Table with their release of KB 918899.

I tried. I really tried. I sent urgent requests a month ago to get the people who run our Knowledge Base site to put up a splash screen with a warning: Do Not Install the MS 918899 Security Roll-up nor any of its MS06-040 through MS06-051 component packages until after you've updated $OurBigApp to patch xyz! They declined.

I reminded them of the fun we had when SQL Server 7 SP3 was released. "Meh."
I recalled the joys of the MS JVM being disabled. "Tsk."
I mused wistfully about the tens of thousands of users cut off by XP SP2. "Eh."

As I clawed through the corporate chain of command hell I nagged my managers, product marketers, other people's managers and even an executive. The responses never changed. My managers sent notes supporting me back to the Knowledge Base people and they grew ever more weary of my very existence despite the piles of content I regularly send their way.

"We already have a Notification. And they must've seen something about it by now."

Not if they haven't been having any problems in the last six months. While the idea that a company could actually use $OurBigApp and not submit a ticket during an entire six-month window does seem rather implausible, it actually happens. It happens with really big companies. The kinds of really big companies which have 15,000 users all on at the same time. Or off if that fucking Microsoft patch is installed before they patch $OurBigApp.

That notice about the Notification is in teensy-weensy text on a screen everyone ignores and clicks past because it's utterly useless. Except this time.

"REC, we've told you for the last time we are not going to put up this splash screen." Unfortunately they didn't CC: that it to the upper managers who might've learned more about my great powers of predicting the future.

On August 8 Microsoft released the patch.
On August 9 I was a very busy mutt.
On August 10 the two-thirds of a really big company's 15,000 users who have Windows XP SP2 played a lot of solitaire and minesweeper.

Maybe, just maybe it's time to stop hammering your heads, you fuckwits.
x-posted from HuSi.

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Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Posting should resume next week

Busy working on a lot of non-$MegaCorp work. No time. Just no time.

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Monday, August 14, 2006

Who Wants to be an Admin?

My cousin used to write the questions for Who Wants to be a Millionaire. He told me how one of the first seven or nine questions always has a stupid answer. It's primarily designed to make the audience laugh but sometimes someone picks it, maybe because he's nervous and flustered being on TV.

If we did a technical version of that show, an early question might be:

Which of these is not an editor you can use in UNIX but is, in fact, a Windows file transfer program?
a) vi
b) emacs
c) pico
d) CuteFTP

The audience at home laugh themselves silly when the contestant's "final answer" is anything but "D". Not me. I sit there ranting away that these fuckers got on the show but I couldn't in the US because I was related to someone working for it and I can't do the German version because I don't "look right enough" for TV.

Anyway, Gino's got a problem in his AIX environment. Gino's got a lot of problems really, because although Gino's job is "AIX administrator", Gino has No. Fucking. Idea. about AIX nor anything that works on it, a lack of comprehension that extends far beyond the scope of $OurBigApp.

Gino doesn't understand codepages and code sets. Gino doesn't understand that if the database is Russian but his locale is Italian that the Cyrillic letters will not be displayed.

The logs are corrupt! They look OK in Windows but they're corrupt in UNIX!

I had to write back to get him to actually send me these "corrupt" logs. I immediately saw the UTF-8 byte order marker at the top of the file. I tried to explain to Gino what was going on and that although the logs looked like jumble of accented vowels under UNIX that it was only a matter of his code set and his editor's ability to work with other code sets. This wasn't good enough. He wants to look at them in UNIX.

It's possible. He only has to change his environment variables. I'll hold his hand and walk him through it. First we need to make sure the editor is Unicode-compliant. He's probably using vi but I long ago learned not to make any assumptions. Out went the mail asking which editor he uses. Two days later came the reply:


x-posted from HuSi

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Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Size matters

Before most people had Net access -- even those at the original dARPAnet universities -- we all had to rely on the likes of Cecil Adams and a few other columnists for answers to the strangest questions. Over the weekend I stumbled across one of Cecil's old columns that I first read some 20 years ago:

Dear Cecil:

I think my roommate is having sex with his cats. Could you explain the biological reasons why cats can't be impregnated by human beings? --T.S., Chicago

How appropriate.

Help!!! Our database is out of room!!! Can we delete redo logs? Can we truncate tables?

The operating system uses more than 2GB of space. The database software is also taking up two gigs of space. The way they have it configured, $OurBigApp uses about 3GB. They have more than 4,000 users and not surprisingly, nine gigabytes isn't quite enough space to hold all their data and documents.

Everything is installed on a 16GB drive.

Twenty-four years after it was first written, Cecil's answer to "T" of Chicago is still astute:

Dear T.:

For the same reason you can't park a Cadillac in a closet, you bozo.

x-posted from HuSi.

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Saturday, August 05, 2006

I Ait'nt Ded Yet

Just extremely busy. Posting should resume shortly.

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In compliance with $MegaCorp's general policies as well as my desire to
continue living under a roof and not the sky or a bus shelter, I add this:

The views expressed on this blog are my own and
do not necessarily reflect the views of $MegaCorp, even if every
single one of my cow-orkers who has discovered this blog agrees with me
and would also like to see the implementation of Root Cause: 17-Fuckwit.