Friday, April 23, 2010

One, Three, TWO!

Ok. So, understanding this post requires a bit of technical know-how, specifically concepts about how the Internet works. I will try to keep it simple, because the point of this particular WTD is not the technical details, but the idiocy applied.

As you likely know, I work in "technology". Understanding how things like, the Internet, computers, electricity, etc work is a huge help. Not understanding how things like, common sense, clothing with more than one leg or arm hole, color by number, basic "connect the dots" and counting works, does not help. Unfortunately, many of the people in my field seem to be lacking some, or all, of the above requisites from both lists.

On this particular day, I was happily working away, when I was asked to get on a phone call because a customer had upgraded some software on their system, which previously was working just fine, and it was now having problems talking to our system. Obviously this was in some way an issue with our system and I needed to fix it now. So I get on the call, and I am told that we have all of these technical resources from the customer on the line to assist me in resolving this issue.

So I ask what they are seeing that is wrong. Their lead "technical guy" states that "The Itanium server, is having problems connecting to the Intel server, and he thinks this is because after the upgrade of the software on the Itanium server last night, there are some firewall problems that are causing intermittent connectivity issues". To those not in the technology field, this likely sounds very impressive. I assure you, it is not.

Let me take a moment to define a few terms:

Itanium: a family of 64-bit Intel microprocessors that implement the Intel Itanium architecture (formerly called IA-64).
Intel: The company that makes said Itanium processors
Firewall: Part of a computer system or network that is designed to block unauthorized access while permitting authorized communications.

So, armed with this information, let's dissect what he actually said. "The server that is running this one kind of Intel processor, is having problems connecting to this other server that is running... I guess another kind of Intel processor... and he thinks that it is because a 3rd part of the network, which is designed to block unauthorized access but wasn't updated or changed in any way, suddenly decided to block communications between the aforementioned servers".

That. Makes. No. Sense. It gives me no information about anything, except that he thinks that a component that wasn't altered is likely what is causing the problem, and that he is obviously confused. So, I delve a bit deeper, and after a few minutes manage to decipher what he was trying to say. Which is: "They have 2 servers in their datacenter that are having trouble connecting to each other after they upgraded their software, and he would like my help in determining what is wrong with my system that is causing this problem."

Common sense... no check.

So I ask him if he has a network diagram, and he says yes. A network diagram is a graphical representation of all the servers you have, and how they connect. Each chunk of servers is often places in it's own colored box to differentiate it from other chunks of servers. I ask him to look at where each of the servers he is saying are having a problem connecting are located. They are in 2 different segments, differentiated by different colors, but he is having trouble understanding why they could possibly be having problems communicating.

Color by number... no check.

So then, using this picture as an example, I illustrate that this dot here cannot connect to this dot here. Both of which are on their network. He keeps insisting that I need to update something on my end. I again try to illustrate that you cannot get to dot 3, without first connecting dot 2.

Connect the dots and counting... no check.

Finally at this point, some magnificent soul appears to see the pattern here, and steps in to state that they will continue to examine things on their end. I thank them and I politely excuse myself from the call. I got back to my day, shaking my head and in a little bit of awe at what just happened. Then I get an email.

"Thank you for your help, you can close this issue. We were able to resolve it on our end."

OF COURSE YOU WERE ABLE TO RESOLVE IT ON YOUR SIDE, THERE IS NO OTHER SIDE TO RESOLVE IT ON! Traffic from your network was never leaving your network. It's like if you ask your secretary to make a phone call for you, but she doesn't hear your request, then you call and complain at the person she was supposed call because they didn't answer the call she never made. It is common sense people. 1 -> 2 -> 3. If 1 never even gets to 2, then it's not remotely 3's fault that it never got anything.

The worst part is, this isn't some crazy outlier. It's just another day in IT land. By and large, the IT field is full of people who are not remotely qualified to do the job they've been hired to do. Frankly, I'm surprised people make it to work fully dressed and alive in the morning. They generate work, stall, push paper, pass the buck and generally avoid the issue until they can get someone who knows what they're doing to fix it for them.

And it drives me freaking bananas.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Freaking kids!

So, I know that I promised to write a post about the topics in the previous post, and I assure you I will get around to it at some point in the not too distant future. I do owe all six of my avid readers some closure after all.

But before we get into that, some people have criticized me for being a "grammar nazi" and ask me why I care so much. Well, I care so much because it matters. As a society I think we are devolving. If we needed any more evidence that without some manner of outside intervention things go from order to disorder, and not the other way around, look no further than the barren landscape of competent writing skills that is our incoming college freshmen.

Thirty percent of incoming Freshmen at the University of Waterloo in Ontario fail to pass a basic English competency test. For any of you who failed to pass a basic math competency test, that is nearly one in every 3 incoming college students. It used to be that when you'd take an advanced class, the professor would say: "Look to your right and left, one of you will fail". Now they just tell kids at Freshmen orientation: "Look to your right and left, one of you doesn't possess the English skills of a 6th grader". And these are the ones who decided that education was important enough to continue on past what the government required of them! These are the leaders of tomorrow. The people in whom my future will be dependent upon.

So rather than just complain and do nothing I offer the following guidelines:
  • Nothing you learned at the "Derek Zoolander Center For Children Who Can't Read Good And Wanna Learn To Do Other Stuff Good Too" is likely to be applicable in the real world. I'm just saying.
  • There are no conjunctions that I am aware of that end in "z". This includes "cuz" and "becuz". I assure you, those are not real words.
  • Numbers are not words. Numbers combined with letters are not words. "B4" and "U2" are a plane and a band respectively; not actual words.
  • Punctuation is meant to be used as such. It is not clip-art. If you turn in a paper using it as clip-art, you will likely be ridiculed.
  • Lack of Subject/Verb agreement will make you sound like a buffoon every time. "The instructions is confusion" is not an excuse.
  • Watch your participles. Generally, if something happened in the past, you want to -ed it. "I watch TV all night last night", while hilarious, is just wrong on so many levels.
  • Pronoun errors. "Everyone needs to bring their own brain to the conversation" is wrong. If everyone brought his or her own brain to the conversation, they would likely understand why.
So please, heed my advice. Do your part to stop the decline of humanity into the depths of stupidity. The last thing we need is to prove Mike Judge's vision of the future correct. Plus, my mom says I'm awesome and the most popular and handsome kid in school. You don't want to be the object of my ire; it's just social suicide.