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Me, by Jenn

I am Made of Bitch-Slap

Posted on 2007.07.09 at 19:35
I intended to post this on Friday, but, distractions, distractions, distractions!

So, I'm a tech support rep for an internet service provider. We specialize in business-class clients. Friday afternoon, I get a call from a client, who we'll call Abraham (Although that's not his name) from a company we'll call Combined Chasm Control (Althouth that's not its name.)

Abraham tells me that he's having a mail problem, but further investigation tells me it's actually an internet connectivity problem He thinks that problem is related to DNS, but, as I start to ask questions, it quickly becomes apparent that this is not the case.

(As it becomes relavent: DNS is the system by which a computer on the internet can find what it's looking for. When you type a name in a form you can understand [www.livejournal.com, say] your computer will only understand that in the form of numbers [In this case,] called an IP Address. TO convert the former to the latter, your computer asks your ISP's DNS Server to tell it the number that is represented by the name. That's {approximately} DNS.)

As far as Abraham is concerned, the problem is that he's trying to send mail from his new mail server, and it won't go out. Now, it's a new server, and Abraham mentions that the old server is still in use doing something else, and when it is re-started, the mail that's in queue on the new server all sends while it's restarting.

Well, bingo! Obviously, our DNS servers don't know or care what computers he has turned on or off in his network. Not a DNS problem. In fact, it's pretty dclear that there is something wrong with the old server that, when it's turned on, is interfering with his internal network.

I refer Abraham to the folks who set up his network, and end the call, satisfied that I've done my job well.

Fifteen minutes later, I get a call from Mikkelito (Not his real name either {and it should be pointed out that Mikkelito sounds much like Public Radio personality and "This American Life" host Ira Glass. The contrast of that laid-back American voice and the ethnic name amused me.}) from the consultants who set up Combined Chasm Control's network, who tells me he's going to conference in Abraham, and that this is a probolem from my ISP. Well, no, I explain, it's an internal network problem, that I have no role in.

"Look," says Mikkelito, in a haughty tone that makes clear that I am made of suck, with a side of lazy, and trying to push my work off onto him, "he can get to IP addresses, but not resolve names, if that's not your DNS, I'd like to know what it is!"

"Our DNS servers are up and answering requests. You can prove this from your own destop, but sending a request. We don't restrict DNS in any way. Abraham told me this is a problem that only happens when one of his servers is on, and the problem goes away when he shuts it off."

"That's not correct," Mikkelito informs me, with the cocksurety of one whose rightness is axiomatic.

"Well, OK, let's prove things out."

We're about a half-hour into this phone call, with Mikkelito insisting that DNS is somehow teh problem, and me unable to get into the customer's network to prove that DNS works from there unless their network is somehow filtering it, when I finally arrive at teh simplest solution:

"Abraham, can you just set up one of your computers there -- just some desktop near you -- to make DNS requests directly from our servers? Just to prove out DNS as an issue."

"That won't work," Mikkelito tells me.

"Sure it will. It won't repair the problem, but if he can get around using our DNS servers on his PC, then you'll know it's not a DNS issue."

So, Mikkelito reluctantly consents, but, for reasons passing understanding, instead of telling Abraham to configure his own desktop machine and reset DNS there, he has him use "Remote Desktop" to set the Old Mail Server to use our DNS. When he does, it promptly logs him out, and he can't get back into it. "OK," Says, Mikkelito, "instead of going by name, go by IP address."

"I am," says Abraham, "I'm going to" (Not the real IP address)

"No," says Mikkelito. "That's the IP of the firewall."

"No, no," says Abraham, "It's the IP of the Old Server."

"Look," says Mikkelito, "I'm in your network, and logged into the firewall, that's the IP of the firewall."

"Pardon me," I say, "but when I spoke to Abraham earlier he definitely told me his problems went away when one of the servers was shut off. Abraham, was it the old--"

"I see where you're going," says Mikkelito. "Abraham, would you please go and unplug the network cable from teh old server?"

When Abraham goes off to do this, I say to Mikkelito, "See, I told you, back at the beginning of this call, when we werre both being snotty to one another--"

"Well, all tech conversations begin that way!" (I can hear the flop-sweat starting to form.)

"No, no, it's cool, but I said then that Abraham told me the problems went away when one computer shut down."

"Well, you know, that's not what he told me--"

"It's what I told you he told me." I'm smiling now, and it's at about this point that, in IM to a friend, I coin the phrase, I am Made of Bitch-Slap! "Now, if he has the same IP on the Old Server as the firewall, well..."

"Yeah, that would certainly cause problems, but that's not it, he just mistakenly changed the IP of the OldServer instead of the DNS. This won't work, and then you can get to work on the real problem."

"Well, he does report that the problem goes away when the old server is off. I figure that since you guys configured his network in the first place--"

"I gotta tell you that was four years ago."

"Well, yeah, but we didn't so for us it was an infinity ago, so you're still at a significant advatange."

"Fair point."

Abraham comes back. "The network cable is unplugged from the network."

I start to tell Abraham to try to use the Internet, but Mikkelito interupts with, "Give it another try, Abraham."

We wait a few long minutes.

Mikkelito asks, "How's it going, Abraham."

"I still cannot connect to teh Old Server."

Mikkelito and I simultaneously face-palm, thinking No, that's a little hard with the server unplugged. and I say, "Try to do something on the Internet," while Mikkelito, much more intelligently, gives Abraham a specific task, "Send me an e-mail."

"Okay," says Abraham.

"Now, this isn't going to work," begins Mikkelito, "and then we-- Oh." You can hear the defeat in his voice. "Abraham, what's your e-mail address?"

"Honest dot abe at combinedchasm dot com." (Not his real address.)

"Oh," says Mikkelito. "I've, uh, I've got your e-mail."

"So, with the old server off the network, it all works?"

"Yes," says Abraham. "I can get to Yahoo, I can send mail, the queue on the old server is empty."

"So," I say, "You're going to need to configure the old server to use a local network address that's not already in use by another device in the network."

"Er... Yeah, exactly," says Mikkelito, who was starting on a much more long-winded version of the same statement. "Now, there may be dependencies that will also have to be fixed..."

"And that's your gig, isn't it, Mikkelito?" I ask. "I mean, I really don't see where I play a role any more in this."

"No, no," says Mikkelito, "I guess you're all set... Thanks for your patience."

He doesn't acknowledge that I not only had the patience, but I also figured out the problem, which he didn't because he was too busy blaming us, in the face of all logic.

But that's OK. He knew it, and so did I:

I am Made of Bitch-Slap!


harrysmom at 2007-07-10 11:01 (UTC) (Link)
I am scared of you Jon and I bow to your bitch-slapness!!! that is so sexy
Jonathan Andrew Sheen
leviathan0999 at 2007-07-10 18:41 (UTC) (Link)
You'd think, as often as i do it, the thrill would have worn off, but I just love being right!
Jenna: fomerly chocolate_coins
jennashaped at 2007-07-10 11:10 (UTC) (Link)
*snicker* Well you ARE!
Jonathan Andrew Sheen
leviathan0999 at 2007-07-10 18:48 (UTC) (Link)
I forgot to tell him he had a smudge of dirt on his nose.
mythicvictory at 2007-07-10 14:33 (UTC) (Link)

Ah, I love the smell

of Tech smackdown in the morning!!!

Way to keep your temper, big guy!! I would have been foaming at the mouth by the middle of his "I can deny truth" dance!!

There's nothing like having Jesus in the witness box, backing your story!

Jonathan Andrew Sheen
leviathan0999 at 2007-07-10 18:49 (UTC) (Link)

Re: Ah, I love the smell

Honestly, I started out pretty annoyed, but the last fifteen minutes of that call were such a pleasure, it totally made teh process worth it.
xedra at 2007-07-11 00:06 (UTC) (Link)
*high fives*
Jonathan Andrew Sheen
leviathan0999 at 2007-07-19 18:10 (UTC) (Link)
Mine... Is... The superior...
abovethestars at 2007-07-11 00:13 (UTC) (Link)
You are made of WIN!
Jonathan Andrew Sheen
leviathan0999 at 2007-07-19 18:10 (UTC) (Link)
So true, so true!

And humble, too!
alloy_ at 2007-07-11 05:32 (UTC) (Link)
Another surperb entry into the annals of idiot tech support.

Far more interesting than my usual:

"I can't access the network." (IE the SCO server that hosts the primary Application)

"Check your cables."

5 mins go by.

"I still can't, it says time out."

Marc (my real name) gets off his comfy arse walks up the stairs and inserts the ethernet cable.....

"Oh look it works now.'
Jonathan Andrew Sheen
leviathan0999 at 2007-07-19 18:14 (UTC) (Link)
First, may I mention how grateful I am for the phrase "walks up the stairs" above, thus sparing us a truly terrifying visual?

Thanks so very much!

Still I totally expect EUs (End Users, not European Unions) to be clueless n00bs, without the slightest bit of common sense about computers or networks. That's what they pay me for. But I have a special layer of bitchslap for consultants who get paid five or six times as much as me, whose jobs I have to do for them as they're too stupid and/or arrogant to do them themselves.
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