Thursday, September 4, 2008

A morning in the life of a sysop

An incident a few years ago. The names are witheld to protect the guilty:

Hmm...having a nice dream. Snuggle deeper into the blankies - soooo good. The dream is about something nice - I don't know exactly what it is about, (the way dreams sometimes are), but it is definitely nice. On the border of my consciousness there is a vulgar, annoying, piercing sound. I shake my head in distaste and fall back into the warm and cosy dream....hmmm.

Pain explodes in my ribs. "What the hell?!"

She freaking poked me in the side with an elbow!

On reflex my hand balls into a fist and I coil my arm to deliver a punch to her nose.

"Oh", I realize, it's my wife.

Reluctantly I relax my arm and open my fist.

"Your cell phone is beeping." she says and promptly falls back to sleep.

I turn around and pick up my cell phone on the bed stand. Sure enough, there are messages.

This explains the screeching-animal-in-pain-sound on the edge of my dream. I scroll down on the cell phone display and read the message: The network is down. Excellent. Just what I need.

Just then the phone vibrates violently and screams at me again. I almost drop it from the shock.

Swearing under my breath, as not to wake the side-poking-villain sleeping next to me, I read the new message. "The network is down." Yea, yea yea.

I get out of bed and switch on the light. Laser beams burns holes in my eyes. With empty eye sockets I stumble to the closet to put on clothes - this is definitely going to take a while.

On autopilot I reach the office and place a call to the network operations centre of the company supplying our internet connections.

"Please run a test on this circuit number for me" I say and give him a circuit number.

The guy on the other side yawns. A few seconds pass.

"It's down he says."

I grunt.

Some several seconds later the other guys still said nothing.

I say: "it's down."

He says: "Yep."

I grip the telephone and say slowly: "Can. You. Fix. It. Please."

The other guys "Oh, ok. We will look into it." He gives me a reference number.

I put the phone down.

My watch says its 04h59. I stare at it for a while because I have never seen it show a time like that before. "Coffee." It's a single, clear thought. I get up and walk to the percolator. It's empty. I fill it up and switch it on and grab a coke while I am at it. Coke's got sugar, and it has caffeine. It'll do. I take a deep swallow from the can and then a another single, clear thought fills my head. "Nicorette." I grab my nicotine bubblegum and frantically stuff one into my mouth. While I exhale slowly the sugar, caffeine and nicotine kicks in simultaneously and for the first time today more than one thought at a time seems to be able to exist in my head.

I walk back to the computer and start up the network monitoring software. Two of the four network lines are down.

I stare at if for a few seconds and then hit "refresh". The software thinks for a while and then displays the updated status. The two lines are still down. That confirms it then. The lines must be down. I take another swig of Coke. I close the network monitoring program and start up my development tool. "Might as well do something productive while I wait", I think while I am vaguely amused by my naive ambition to salvage the rest of the day.

The phone rings again. I spill a bit of Coke jerking back from the instrument before I pick it up.

I announce my name to the caller.

"The line is up." The guy on the other side states confidently, and, I suspect, just a little snottily.

"Oh," I said, "Just a sec while I check the status here." I load the network monitoring software again and hit refresh. Still red across the board.

"No, it's not.", I tell the guy on the phone, managing to keep my tone slightly bored and just a bit aloof.

"Sir," he switches to formal talk, "I am running a check on it right now and the circuit is functioning normally." he quotes the circuit number while I write it down.

I check the circuit number.

"That is not the one with the problem.", I say. "Check the Cozahost circuit"

"It's the one you reported", he says.

"But it is not the one that is down", I say.

"It's the one that you reported", he says.

Hmm. I make my voice as sweetly sarcastic as I can: "Can you then please check this circuit number for me?" I ask, quoting the broken circuit number.

I can hear him type for a while. "it's down", He says.

Ok, he's not going to catch me for a second time. "Can you log that circuit as the error please?", I say - emphasising "please".

"Sure", he says, but it sounded distinctly as if he said a dirty word. I let it go.

"Your reference number is...", he says mechanically as he reads the number from his system.

"Thanks." I say and put the phone down.

I open my monitoring software again and let it run in the background. Next time I will be ready for that joker.

Back to the development work. I scan through the source files until I find the piece of code I have to work on. For a second I wonder if I should be doing this now...I might screw it up completely.

I take another swig of the Coke and slap a nicotine patch on my arm.

"Nonsense, I can do this with my eyes closed", I say to myself.

For the next 30 minutes the world disappears into nested ifs, case statements and post fields. I am coding up a storm and it's going surprisingly well. I finish the amendment and save the source code. I load up the program and give it a quick test. It works. Wow. Cool. I run it again just to make sure. It still works. Wow. Cool.

The phone rings again, but I don't get a fright because I just wrote code before sunrise and it worked first time. I am invincible!

I pick up the phone and announce myself.

"The line is up." It's my favourite operations guy.

"Just a sec" I say and click on my monitoring software.

"Nope, its not" I say when I see the red flags on all the indicators.

"The customer must reset the local LTU" he says sounding terminally bored.

I assume I am the customer, but what the hell is a LTU? No way I am going to ask him.

"Ok, I say and walk over to the server cabinet" A brief glance at the routers confirms that the lines are still down, but I decide to reset the only piece of equipment that belongs to the Telcom company - it must be the errant "LTU" because there is nothing else in the cabinet that qualifies. I switch the device off and back on.

It thinks for a while and returns to the state that it was before the delicate operation.

"It's still down" I say to the guy on the phone.

"The customer must reset the LTU" he says, now sounding more than slightly irritated.

Ok, now he is working on my nerves. "On which side", I ask, because, after all a network line has two ends - perhaps the guys on the other side of the line needs to reset their thingamajig.

"The A side", he replies testily.

Hell of a lot of help that is. "The A side." must be a new geographic location or something.

"Where is the A side?" I ask politely.

He gives the address - slowly. Like he is talking to a moron.

The address is mine.

Ok. if it's attitude he wants, it's attitude he will get I decide and say: "I just did the reset." a bit more loudly than necessary.

"You have to tell me before you do it!", he says at the same volume, "now I have to rebuild the circuit!"

Go to hell I think, but I keep quiet. If this guy wants to he can let the fault drag on for several more hours. I might be irritated, but I am not that stupid.

I can hear him type for a while.

"And now?" he says.

I assume he meant I must check the status lights again. I do. The error lights are gone and everything looks fine.

"Looks ok", I say feigning disinterest.

"Can I clear the fault now?" he asks.

"Uhm, not yet", I say.

30 seconds of icy silence ensues.

I'm not stupid. I know he can't break the circuit again because it will show in the logs that he purposefully disconnected us. I've got Mr Smartypants by the short and curlies and it's payback time.

"Why not" he asks eventually, in a much more civilized tone of voice. He knows he will have to explain to his supervisor that the customer did not agree to clear the fault after the service was restored. There will be questions. And consequences.

"I just want to monitor it for a while to make sure it is stable", I reply sweetly.

He knows what I am up to.

He knows I know he knows.

Revenge is sweet.

"Uh, ok", he says and hangs up."

Now that's what I'm talking about - one right up his LTU. Must burn like a mother.

I put the phone down, grinning. I just love the smell of revenge in the morning.

Oh look: the sun is up. It's going to be a gezact day.

1 comment:

  1. Brilliant .... absolutely brilliant ....