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 Startech.com 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.
BUILDING A 1:1 BALUN
3 days ago