Friday, June 29, 2007

Cow-Orkers XI: Inflation

Mary just stopped by the CubeDesk of Hate and was shocked. It's clean, relatively speaking. Granted there's a board to ensure one of the four monitors doesn't fall off the edge of the desk and there's a semi-circle of keyboards and mice (and a docking station for the lappy), but gone are the piles of papers, books, food wrappers, Pot Noodle (empty and full), empty bocutlery, napkins, dictionaries, toys, CDs, you name it.

Oh, some of the stuff is still here, but most of it actually has a place to be, even though the DoH is considerably less roomy than the CoH. But the old clappy-hand fly-swatter (release trigger and two hand-shaped pieces of plastic slam together) which she loathed was nowhere to be seen. She's a bit high strung; she'd jump every time she heard it which, of course, only made me use it that much more.

Anyway, this is not the REC and the CubeDesk of Hate she was oh-so-familiar with when once we were colleagues. She's now with $BigCarCo and decided to visit us on a break while she's here in the building on some sort of training. While she didn't drop of a heart attack, she did manage to let out one of her incredibly shrill shrieks (patent pending) to indicate her surprise, a noise I'd almost forgotten, and one which is only slightly less painful than a carbide-tipped bit in a Hole Hawg making its way through the ear.

I busted her padding her numbers once. Our tickets are limited to single subjects. Ask multiple questions in unrelated areas and we'll split the ticket into multiple pieces ourselves. Come back at us with another question about something completely unrelated to the problem we've just resolved for you and we'll open a new ticket for that (or, more likely, tell you to do it your own damned self because you should know by now that this is how shit works). But a follow-up question about the same damned thing in order to get further clarification? No. That stays in the current ticket.

Not Mary's customers, no siree. And the reason I found out was that I took a fresh ticket out of the queue because it dealt with one of my specialties. About a minute later she peered over the cubicle wall and started ranting, "REC! You can't that ticket! It's mine!"

First come, first served, sweetie. That's how the queue works.
"No. Look at the creator. I made that ticket so it's mine!"
"It's a follow-up that I am going to answer."
A follow-up? I remained silent, giving her my WTF face as I tried to piece this together.
"I have a customer and they asked a follow-up question in their ticket and so I made a new SR to answer it."
Bingo. Now I grokked. I also knew how she had managed to increase her production to compete with my insane numbers.

I laid it out for her, explaining that 1) it's the queue and first-come, first-serve is the law of the land; 2) the question was my specialty; and 3) follow-up questions don't get new tickets unless they're completely unrelated to the subject of the ticket.

And that should've been the end of it. But it wasn't. Had she shut up there she might've been able to keep using this little trick. Instead she went off to bitch to the manager and came back five minutes later very quietly, dragging her tail between her legs.

It was a few weeks before relations normalised. There were other annoyances like the incessant slumber party yapping with another cow-orker and her long phone calls home to a South Pacific nation with a language that can only be described as a concoction of staccato noises, diphthongs, triphthongs, and a general shrill tone. I've dealt with worse. Hell, I have worse now.

The visit over, she turned to go to the door. As she walked away I pulled out the flyswatter. For old times' sake. All were amused... all except Mary who jumpede, then yelled out like Wilma Flintstone, "Ooh! REC!" as she clenched her fists, put on a frumpy face and marched off to see some of her other old colleagues. She shoulda known.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

My House

You have to be really, really drunk to stumble home into the wrong house. Though I've been literally falling down drunk, I've never actually managed to show up at the wrong door as a result, although I have managed to walk up a couple extra flights of stairs before realising it. I'd be even more upset if someone I was paying to make sure I was in the right house insisted on putting my near-carcass in the IBM board room. I'd be angrier still if he insisted it was my fault because I had an IBM computer.

Strange? Yes, but not as strange as the Prio-1 ticket we got from $GlobalTechCorp, which started with the usual "HELP! ALL SYSTEM DOWN! YOUR FAULT! WE CHANGE NOTHING WRONG!"

Their ticket continued:
We have moved Production Server from 5.x( Network to 58.x( network, also we have moved it from one Domain to another Domain. Since then we are facing multiple issues and errors in starting services.

Inspite of giving all logon privileges to the dependency user for $YourBigApp services, it is still its not starting. We are also getting errors whenever I am login as "RPC LOCATOR encountered a problem Pls tell microsoft about the problem". I have tried to re-configure services but it is giving errors like "unable locate SERVER HOST". We are getting Similar erros at app servers end also.
It was like looking at the worst print ad ever: I sat there staring at the description with my patented WTF face, knowing there was something terribly wrong, but needing a few seconds for it to sink in.

Their IP address was 5-dot-something? That can't be right. This is an Indian company; all the low numbers are entire Class A IP blocks owned by the original ARPAnet participants like IBM, AT&T, DoD and Xerox. The 5-block is IANA's. I did a quick look-up and found out that the 58.2.x.x B-block is owned by some Indian ISP. Pinging these two different addresses told me everything else I needed to know. IANA wasn't using the 5.x IPs; the ISP was. Yeah, that would explain the RPC errors, the inability of every machine to to get an address and contact each other except via NetBEUI, all of it.

Resolved in about 20 seconds: fix domains, meet my friend NAT, fix routing, use your own damned IPs, Root Cause: 17-Fuckwit. I went to call the idiots and take ownership of the ticket but another monkey had beaten me to it. I'd waited to enter my ID to take the thing but held off to make sure it wouldn't blow up in my face, turn into a stinker, or possibly be handled by one of the corporate contacts who've managed to make the shitlist, people such as $BigBank's MookMan.

And just as I finished writing this, who should happen to submit a ticket? None other than the notorious MookMan himself. The room exploded with the howls of monkeys of different nationalities all trying to do their best Pacino/DeNiro Brooklyn: "Iss da mook! It's fockin' MookMan!"

One day a real rain is gonna come and wash the scum and the filth outta da server rooms.

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Friday, June 22, 2007

Don't Know Much About History

Stupid design is rampant in software, and with it stupid limitations. Inevitably someone wants our software to do $Action which isn't feasible due to design limitations. After receiving a negative answer to their question about whether something is possible, they turn into Veruca Salt:
"But why can't I do it?"
"Because we said so."
"But I waaaaant to."
"It won't work, but I'll file a New Feature Request for you."
"But I want to do it nooooowwww."
Fighting with a software company is one thing, fighting with more than 100 years of historical standards and international treaties is another.

We want to use UTC time so that all our times are synchronized but why do we have to use GMT as the base time zone? Since we're in Seattle we want all the times based on our own time zone. It should be possible to turn on UTC with a base time zone of Pacific time so how do we do it? This way the data in the database is still getting stamped with times relative to Seattle time and we do't have to do any calculation for our local jobs running here in Seattle.
Um... OK? So you don't understand how time zones work and that Seattle's time is itself based on UTC/GMT. If I were to write back and say that without further explanation I'd end up in a giant game of ping-pong in the usual "Why?"/"Because." pattern.

I decided to be helpful and explain things clearly.
The base time zone for UTC has to be GMT-0 because this is the designated "starting point" by international treaty. Initially decided at the 1884 International Meridian Conference (since 2/3 of all nautical charts used Greenwich as the prime meridian at the time), it was later codified around the world in 1958 with the beginning of International Atomic Time (TAI) and finalised in 1961.

Technically you could use Pacific time since some point has to be the starting point. Had the Nisqually "ruled the waves" in the late 19th century and come up with an extremely accurate naval chronograph, no one would care terribly much these days what time it was in some village seven miles outside London, and instead we might today say "Basin Mean Time". Alas, Britannia beat us to the punch.

As to the time stamps, they already are being stamped with a time relative to Seattle, a time exactly seven hours ahead of it (six during DST). Since your local jobs already run via scripting you only need to modify the scripts to be based on UTC for a locale nine hours behind. If a script should run at midnight, set it to run at a DB time of 4:00p.m.

Love, REC
And that should've been the end of it, but it never is.
I didn't ask for a history lesson, I asked for a solution. We need to use Pacific Time because our local database uses Pacific time and we don't feel we should have to change all our scripts. If we can't use Pacific time as our base time and won't synchronize our servers times and there's nothing more to say.
Yes, stamp around the room, hold your breath until you turn blue, get it out of your system. Words can't express how dreadfully upset I'll feel if your servers aren't synchronised.

This is my boilerplate response since so many different companies have sent in almost the exact same set of questions citing xthe exact same reasons. It's really uncanny. To date, two of them have ignored my explanation resulting in Prio-1 emergencies with serious data corruption, the fuckwits.

Endnote: I have a tenuous familial tie to the Nisqually and a direct familial tie to US DST codification; for two years of my youth DST was the center of discussion, interrupted only to inquire about a test in school that day or by admonitions to clean up that filthy, messy room of mine. It's ironic that as an adult -- as old now as my father was then -- I find myself knee-deep in DST issues, still receiving admonitions to clean up that filthy, messy roomdesk of mine.

x-posted from HuSi, where the Hanna-Barbera Survivor carnage continues.

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Thursday, June 21, 2007

Difficult Decisions

$CarCorp has run into a problem. A few problems, actually, but one requires a special patch from us which allows certain new and basic software to work with ours. Said patches are still in QA. We have a sooper-seekrit pre-release version for certain noisy and powerful customers who insist on patching today and not in two weeks, maybe three, almost certainly by August. Almost certainly.

Under pressure from Sales and Accounts our engineering department has grudgingly agreed to make the pre-release version available, but only as a TAR release. That means the customer has to have a Technical Account Rep who must be on-site for the patching since Bad Things could happen. Codswallop I say, because the overwhelming majority of our TARs are incompetent fucks with the mental acuity of cold spaghetti, but that's what Eng is demanding.

$CarCorp has no TAR. They used to have one, and I know this because it was one of the very precious few TARs who could not only find his ass with just one hand but was even capable of wiping it without assistance. So why do they have no TAR anymore? He wasn't let go for being able to do his job, it was a simple matter of cost savings.

They're trying to roll out a new workstation image for a couple thousand users worldwide and have a code freeze coming up on a date at least two weeks prior to our earliest QA release. If they don't get the temp fix, the current image will only be an interim image and they'll have to do a full month of testing again once we release.

Fair enough. That's a good business case, made even stronger by the projected cost of a second image and testing running in the neighbourhood of €500K. So what's the problem? They won't shell out €5K for a TAR to come on-site.


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Friday, June 15, 2007


Just as I was about to leave the office, Sara called again. She managed not only to connect but also to replicate everything. My trip to Uppsala on their dime is off. Worse, it's not the problem I expected it to be. Assmonkeys.

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Making Lemonade

Life's been dumping bushels of lemons on me but something good may yet come of it. $SverigeInsCo is staffed with fuckwits and lots of them. They spared no expense to get India's not-quite-finest to build a version of $OurBigApp for them. No expense over $12/day for the entire 43-member team, I'm guessing.

While I've resolved two other major problems, one of which based on a network architecture so insane that even my technotard girlfriend would twig, there's a weird IE-based problem which has been dogging them -- and me -- for a full month now.

I need to see the problem in action and work on it directly. We've tried Web conferences. First they couldn't connect. Then when they could connect they couldn't repro on the connected machine. They escalated the ticket again. Conference scheduling was difficult and their Technical Account Representative (TAR) started making the Hajj to the CubeDesk of Hate each day for progress reports. We finally got a conference running and they were able to demonstrate the problem. And as I tried to then take a look at the machine, I noticed it was a Citrix session.

They, and therefore I, have no direct access to the Citrix Server. Pointless. Another escalation. More phone tag and attempts to set appointments which culminated in today's festivities. It started with Sara-the-not-so-incompetent being outside her native India at the company's HQ in Uppsala. She couldn't make today's scheduled conference but Anna would take care of it. I sent the conf details to Anna and added them to the ticket. I even called on-time; she wasn't connected.

Anna: OK please do the needful to be explaining to me how we are to progress this.
REC: Go to Webconf-dot-$MegaCorp-dot-com.
Anna: Webconf. OK. I am typing this but there is nothing happening.
REC: It's Webconf-dot-$MegaCorp-dot-com. Give the full address.
Anna: I am trying to type but there is nothing happening.
REC: Are you in Internet Exploder?
Anna: No, I am in the ticket.
REC: Open a new IE session and go to Webconf-dot-$MegaCorp-dot-com.
Anna: OK, I am opening IE. The address is conf, yes?
REC: No, Webconf-dot-$MegaCorp-dot-com.
Anna: OK, Webconf then what?

Thank fuck for the mute button.

REC: Dot-$MegaCorp-dot-com.
Anna: But we are using $BigCorp software! It should must be $Bigcorp.
REC: No, Webconf-dot-$MegaCorp-dot-com.
Anna: $Megacorp... dot... org?
REC: Dot com.
Anna: OK I am going to a page.
REC: Good.
Anna: And now what is the conference number please?

{redacted: three full minutes of explanations over a fucking 8-digit conf number.}

Anna: And I have now put the password but it will not let me continue because of another field.
REC: What other field?
Anna: It is asking me for the name.
REC: And what's your name?
Anna: My name is Anna.
REC: Then type "Anna" in there. Or type "XXX". It doesn't matter.
Anna: Are you sure this should not be the password a second time for security?
REC: Fairly certain, yes.
Anna: Perhaps I will give it the password anyway, but it is not hiding the password.
REC: That's because a field called "Name" is for your name, not for a password.
Anna: OK I will attempt what you are saying but this is most curious.

And time passed. And she still couldn't manage to log in. Fifteen more wasted minutes with a fucktard who couldn't find the Windows Start button if her screen resolution was 48x.36.

I told her to call Sara and sort this out and went off for a smoke where I regaled a couple of the cooler $MegaCorp cow-orkers with this sad tale. On the way to the smoking room I ran into $SverigeInsCo's TAR and told him in no uncertain terms what fuckwits his customers are. He nodded in agreement. "Just send my ass to fucking Uppsala and I'll resolve this problem inside two hours." Not likely with our cost-saving travel restrictions.

"OK. I'll talk to the big boss." Huh? SRSLY?! "They're very intent to get the problems resolved." Which means they'd be willing to pick up my flight, hotel, expenses and per diem. Hells yeah! I should know Today or Monday.

I went through this once back in the $BigCorp days. A customer in Scotchlandia was having trouble and had stated they wanted me and the other guy working on it to come up. Like idiots we continued staying late and resolved the problem at 9:30 the night before we would have otherwise been expected to fly. I'm not blowing the chance again. I told the TAR to get me at least two days to be safe and make sure they precede or proceed a weekend. They may tell me to get an open ticket and keep me there to be on-hand to resolve other problems quickly.

Root Cause for this problem? No fucking idea, probably Windows-based. But for once the completely incompetent fuckwits may have made my week a bit nicer. Lutefisk, anyone?

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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Our Gang

Spanky ................. MainManager
Alfalfa ................ KrautMonkey1
Buckwheat .............. KrautMonkey2
Darla .................. Orig. $BigCorp Monkey
Froggie ................ REC

Spanky: Hey kids! Let's start a new newspaper!
Darla: That sounds like a neat idea, Spanky!
Alfalfa: Oh boy! We can do it!
Buckwheat: Dat sounds oh-tay! Ah'm in.
Froggie: What the heck are you guys talking about?!

Spanky: I'm glad you're with me gang!
Darla: Sure thing, chief.
Buckwheat: We gon' do anutha newslettah jus' fer us?
Spanky: I'm glad you asked that, Buckwheat. You see, a newspaper is only one-way and I want to make this communicate in both directions.
Alfalfa: So we want to Web 2.0?
Spanky: That's right, Alfalfa. But how are we going to do it?
Darla: So not just a newsletter like back at BigCorp?
Spanky: Well of course we'll have the newsletter and you can be our star reporter! But maybe we can do more!
Alfalfa: I bet you could do it with a wiki. All the kids these days are gettin' wikis.

Spanky: Gee wilikers, Alfalfa! That's a great idea! A wiki! We'll be totally Web 2.0 with a wiki. Can we do a wiki Froggie?
Froggie: Um, what the hell do you want to put in the wiki, boss? There's folks that like a wiki but you can't do a newsletter with a wiki.
Spanky: I never thought of that. We need something that everyone can participate in. We need to have comments!
Froggie: Well, you can do comments in a wiki like the talk: page, but that's not news.

Darla: We should have articles!
Spanky: And pictures of team events!
Buckwheat: An' stories!
Alfalfa: And all the kids reading should be able to write them for us!
Spanky: Yeah, if they write the stories we won't even have to do anything.
Darla: But don't I get to be the star reporter? [on verge of tears]
Spanky: Sure you do, Darla. The other people will be your cub reporters!
Darla: Oh boy! [she brightens and is bouncy]

Spanky: And Froggie can supply the funny content each week like a regular column!
Froggie: But Spanky, there's no point since Butch and his gang started digg.
Spanky: You have a point but I'm sure you'll come up with something.

Froggie: [leans forward and shakes head] What you're talking about is a forum, not a wiki.
Spanky: Now don't go confusing things Froggie.
Buckwheat: Ah knows dat Froggie is right and we needs us a forum softwares.
Spanky: Is that so?
Buckwheat: Everybodys know dat. But den all da kids be talking all de time.
Spanky: But it's supposed to be a newspaper.
Froggie: Except it's supposed to be everything that ain't a newspaper.
Spanky: Yer darn tootin', Froggie! So Can we do this gang? C'mon! Whaddaya say?

[All except Froggie jump up and cheer]

Sparky: Why the sour puss, Froggie?
[c/u on Froggie, frame left. Animate thought balloon: "Because you guys have no idea what you want or what to do or how to do it and I have to go along with it anyway.]
Spanky: And now let's take 10 minutes to decide when to meet next.

[Time passes as all argue over meetings and plans]

Spanky: Now that's settled. You'll see, It'll be super! Froggie, you go talk to $Procurement and see if you can't find us some old hardware that we can use as a server. Everyone else, you know what to do!
Alfalfa: I'll decide if we use Linux or Windows
Darla: Not if Froggie brings back an old Sparc 5.
Alfalfa: Well then, I'll decide if we use Linux or Windows or Solaris.
Darla: And I'll write some stories and ask people what they think.
Buckwheat: An' I'll look at softwares.
Sparky: And I'll go to my next meeting with Mrs. Crabapple!

[Exuent, except Froggie]

Froggie: And I'll do what I always do.
[Froggie lets out a slight sigh as his head slams into the desk]

Four-day weekend. Mini-Me's covering my ass as I head off to Eastern Europe. On a fucking 6:00a.m. train, glub help me. I better at least get a passport stamp.


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Friday, June 01, 2007

A New Craptop

Huzzah! My new laptop arrived! The screen is wide and the resolution extra teensy-weensy so I can actually work on my PowerPoint teaching presentations without alt-tabbing. But how to get the data from my old Compaq onto this new machine with no accessories?

Luckily the Stinkpad T43 drive bays work in the new Lenovos, and the IT guy had an extra one which only cost me a cappuccino. Wotta bargain. I opened up the box and along with the tray was an OED-sized user manual in 20-some languages. There was also a driver and back-up software. On a diskette. To install on a machine for which no floppy drive is made.

The Lenovo has one other slight problem: if BIOS is set to boot from the CD/DVD first and you have a hard drive in the bay, it'll decide to boot from that instead of recognising it as a secondary drive. When that fails over to the C: drive which then boots incorrectly, you crash. After a restart it'll boot from the correct drive but by then it's too late: Windows Registry changes have been made. Once you log in it immediately goes to restart. Try safe mode and watch it log you out as soon as you've logged in. Repair requires not only BIOS changes but also drive removal, registry file extraction and changes to that.

At least they didn't have to wipe the drive after I'd finally cleaned up Windows and installed all my software. Oh, and the battery life is excellent although the fingprint reader is pants.
We are about to purchase an additional server to act within the same enterprise. However, our networks department have informed me that there are now no more IP addresses available on the current subnet and we will be given a new IP on a different subnet than

For example server 1 and server 2 will be 172.x.x.x on a subnet of and the new server will be 10.x.x.x on

I don't want to ask, but I had to:

Why does your IT department have your servers on a /28 network which can only have a maximum of 14 assigned IPs?
And I got my answer:
I asked the network engineer your question and he said that using non-standard subnets prevents hacking our system and gives us more fine grain control over the network.
No, all it does is lower the number of available IPs in any subnet, increases the amount of traffic between nodes and increases your damned latency which explains the problems you're having in another ticket you opened for performance problems, you fuckwit.

Solution: change the environment so that all of $OurBigApp's servers are in a single /26 subnet (with 62 available IPs) and make one firewall ruleset for them instead of replicating rules for every single subnet.

Root cause: 17. I'll bet their "network engineer" was previously employed at the Best Buy check-out lane.

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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.