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I.T. War Stories at DC401 this evening – My Story Part 1. February 4, 2009

Posted by truthspew in Uncategorized.
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So tonight I attended the DC401 InfoSec Standup with Pepin (Joe Pepin).

Some of the stories from the trenches were amusing to say the least so it inspired me to write about my career in I.T.

My first brush with I.T. was at Brown University in the Alumni and Development Information Resources/Systems unit, alternatively ADIR/ADIS. I was responsible for a Data General MV9600U Eclipse system as well as technical support.

My boss at the time was a guy named Bill Hanway. Bill was a good guy but don’t get him upset. For you see when Bill got upset this big red knot would pop out on his forehead.

One day I decided that the rats nest of async cables behind the MV9600U needed to be cleaned up because anytime we needed to get back there it was a pain in the ass to locate the line in question.

I’m pulling out dead cable when all of a sudden I hear the system console start beeping. All the disk volumes had names from Hansel and Gretel so I’d says “Volume Hansel dismounted…” followed by all the character names of the disk volumes.

I look at the disk array and I note it’s completely dark. Cycle the power switch to no avail. At this point Bill comes into the computer room, the knot clearly visible. I checked the fuse on the unit, the cord at the unit, looked at the wall plug and all looked fine. On a lark I decided to twist the Hubble connector at the wall and it just falls right out when I just touch it.

Apparently I’d turned it just enough to loose contact. Plugged it back in and the disk array came back on. But it required a reboot of the system and the old “b 24” command to get things running again.

That MV9600U used to be an MV9500 which leads me to another story.

When you logged onto the DG system you’d be presented with what was a menu system designed by WordPerfect that let you access things and kept you in a tightly contained shell.

The problem arose when we upgraded to the MV9600U CPU board. Apparently the WordPerfect front-end (Henceforth WPFE)application was tied to the CPU serial number. So WPFE refused to run and we had no user shell to contain the users.

I was adept at writing and scheduling AOS/VS II CLI scripts. (I’ll translate for those non-technical – AOS/VS II = Advanced Operating System/Virtual System 2.) Essentially the DG Eclipse MV line was their answer to DEC’s VAX systems.

So I did what I had to do I wrote a script that you couldn’t break out of that offered up the correct options and kept us running.

Another project I worked on was interesting too. We were migrating away from using the WordPerfect document (WPD) format in favor of Microsoft Word.

They had gone out and gotten estimates for the conversion job, the price was fairly high, over $30,000 to do the whole job. I figured out how to do it in-house for essentially a couple hours of my time.

I wrote scripts to walk through every directory looking for WPD files, then batched them up and moved them to a special directory. On the other end I had a Novel 3.10 file server that mirrored that special directory. We setup MS Word on another machine that would dip into the folder on the Novell server, load up the WPD’s one by one and convert them to Word DOC format and save them to another folder on the Novell box.

Took about 3 days to go through the whole process but saved $30,000.

On the stupid user tricks side I’ve got a few more anecdotes for you.

I had one user decide to re-arrange her office. Then I get a call from her that neither her phone nor her net connection are working. I take a walk over to her office and find out she’s jammed an Ethernet connector (RJ45 style) into a phone jack, and the phone was plugged into the Ethernet jack.

Took a lot of struggle to get the RJ45 out of the phone jack and I had to call in campus networking to replace the jack.

Another problem we’d run into was envy. We used mostly Macintosh LC II’s, III’s and IV’s. There was one user that was jealous that her coworker got a new LC III. But we just didn’t have the budget to buy her a new machine. I had recently gotten and LC III so I swapped covers between her machine and mine.

Lets just say she was very happy with her new machine.

In my next post I’ll talk about my next place of employment, Ernst & Young, LLP.

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