Friday, December 16, 2016

It Is Indeed Late, Gentle Readers -- And The Rest Of You, Too.

     I am off today, having worked the early-early watch Sunday and Monday in what we call the "sore thumb" shift.  I shall probably be working it every other week through the end of January, at which time one of four things will have happened: my counterpart who works it the weeks I do not will have quit, I will have quit, we both will have quit, or the IS guy we're supposedly training to work the early shift on weekends will be up to speed.  Or I suppose they could dump all of Engineering and IS and hire a couple of guys on H1Bs, who will sleep in the mezzanine and cover everything.

     What has prompted this is that the third member of our merry band of victims has had enough and will be retiring once January's in the rear-view mirror.  Since he's a subject matter expert on several critical systems, we've all got to be picking his brain while we can -- and those early-early shifts are nearly entirely solo.

     Today is worse than usual; while I normally crash pretty hard on the sixth day, last night I worked very late and shuttled between the Main Campus and the North Campus, a nice 11-mile run in stop-and-go traffic.  Managed to solve a vexing interface problem -- running steam-powered RS-232 serial data over a microwave IP link with a SOIP* system that wasn't working.  Brought the two pieces of equipment together, plugged them in and they were happy; plugged them into the two Startech boxes, side-by-side and talking directly to one another (they'll do that, no crossover required) and happiness continued; added a very "dumb" network switch in the middle, everything was still happy; plugged both cables into an only-slightly-"smarter" h/p† switch and...only one end was talking.  No happy activity lights on the smarter switch for one of the two SOIP boxes. Power-cycling was of no avail.
     So, okay, I'm not the best IT person on the planet, but I'm only about half stupid: so I could say I had tried everything, I stuck the "dumb" switch between the non-talking SOIP box and the smarter switch -- and the system started working!  Taking it out killed things again, so I left it in, picked up all the bits that needed to be at the other end, went down there, plugged right into the smart-ish switch at the other end and...nothing.
     Fine.  If the trick worked once, would it work twice?  I dug out my last saved, can't-be-managed, please-don't-use-them-here, dark blue, four-port, dumb Netgear network hub and stuck it between the SOIP box and the oh-so-clever switch and the thing lit right up and worked.  --Yes, you can use a horrifically fast IP link‡ to carry a 9600 Baud RS-232 link eleven whole miles, if you can find stupid-enough hardware to connect the interfaces to.
     Why this worked, I don't know.  I'll ask our IS guys later but my hopes of having any light shed are not high, as the issue may not be sufficiently esoteric for them to grasp.

     So, anyway, what with one thing and another, I came home quite late, ate okay-but-not-great pizza (a compromise: for edible delivery pizza, we have the slow place, the place with crust Tam likes and the place with crust I like), fell over into bed, slept until cat-feeding time, and went back to sleep for nearly four more hours after they'd been fed.  And now here I am.
* Serial-Over-IP.  Blasted things won't do Cheerios or Froot Loops at all, no matter how finely you mash 'em.  I tried adding milk but the hardware just made fizzy sounds.  Is that a problem?

† This stands for Hewlett-Packard, and was routinely used in the company's literature back when they built very good and innovative test equipment.  That part of the company got spun off and now makes pretty forgettable stuff that's (IMO) no better than anyone else's.  The present computer/peripherals company using the name has a similar logo but a howlingly different corporate culture.  Somewhere between the two, the h/p I knew and loved has vanished.

‡ There's a lot of other digital payload on the microwave link, a few tens of gigabytes per second each way -- the serial data is a flea on an oxpecker bird on the back of a hippo strapped to asteroid the size of Manhattan hurtling along at seven-tenths of the speed of light; I do hope they'll be all right.  That little RS-232 circuit is, however, carrying mission-critical control and telemetry information, without which all the rest of the payload might come to naught.  Now you know why I say that as far as my family and non-geek friends are concerned, I might as well be working on a starship for real.


Fuzzy Curmudgeon said...


Opinionated Grump (Rich in NC) said...

Ms Ecks... I got a bunch of db9-db9 and db25-db25 in various flavors of Male/Female configurations.... Does your Starship need any of them?
Oh, BTW it'd take a couple of weeks to find the one(s) you need because they are (probably) buried under a bunch of 386xt boxes.

Rich in NC

pigpen51 said...

I am the executor of my parents estate. I am renting their house out. The renters move out, I list it with a realtor to sell. No bites, so I try to rent it again, and at 11 this morning I sign a lease with the new renters. At noon, my realtor calls me, and tells me he has an agent wanting to do a showing on Monday, and could I have the snow plowed for him?
Mind you, I wanted to get rid of the house. But, like a good many of those who meet here, my word is important to me, and so, I have renters moving at the beginning of the year.
Nothing as crappy as your day, but at the time, I didn't think I would hesitate to punch somebody if they said something mean to me. Did I mention the part about snow? I hate it. Make it go away, global warming godfather.

Jeffrey Smith said...

My hat is off to you.
My technical expertise was required today to set up a new TV. The cable channels did not show up where they ought to have been. After a half hour of plugging and unplugging cable inputs and converter box, I finally had a brainstorm.

I was using the wrong remote control.

Old NFO said...

Amazing how 'dumb' things still work... And smart move on your part to have the 'spare' on hand! :-)

waepnedmann said...

It appears you have been sideswiped by Resistentialism vectoring you into Finagle's Law iwith a malevolent piece of hardware.
All is not lost: a Kamakazi imbged immediately upon entering the environs of Roseholme Cottage is proof against questioning your sanity and brings clarity and vanquishes the inantimate demons that haunt you.
Once again: "You're not paranoid if those components really are out to get you."

stuart said...

Like you I mourn the demise of the once great H/P

Roberta X said...

Rich in NC, thnak you for your offer! I had stocked up on DE-9 F-F adapters, as well as more 9-pin null-modem adapters than I am likely to need (because I'm usually looking for them and fining only clumsy great 25-pin ones). So I was okay on that front.

(And yes, I am the kind of pedant who notes shell size -- because we have had altogether too much gear with high-density D-series connectors and the pin counts overlap.)

Unknown said...

If your HP switch has been used previously, it may have some non-default port configurations. You'll need to get into the switch's management interface and set MDIX to auto for the port(s) you're trying to use. This will cause the switch to detect whether it should make the port behave as if a regular or crossover cable is required and do the right thing.

Roberta X said...

Rod, the switches were returned-to-default by IS before releasing it for use elsewhere -- and the behavior was the same at both ends and over multiple ports. I'll work with them on the situation as time permits; for now, the workaround works.