Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Just a little self congratulation

I have no one else to brag to, so please forgive me a little self patting on the back.

As a few of my previous posts has alluded to, I work, at least tangentially, in the world of information technology. After I graduated college with a degree that I did not want to use I fell into retail. Specifically, I managed video game stores for Electronics Boutique, EB Games and then Gamestop after the buy out. There was a brief sojourn into Best Buy territory in the middle. Please take my advice: never work for them. Gamestop is not the same company that EB was, so it was time to go. It was also time to make some money, so I went back to school and got a few Microsoft Certifications.

First IT job was very, very good. It was with a company that did over the phone mortgage modifications. Great job for learning... but I started about two months before the housing market crashed and the company ceased to exist about ten months later. Next was the network/systems admin for a law firm. Another good job, but I was not ready for it. After three months of not being myself due to stress and never sleeping I left for the job I have now. My current employer is a rather small company which means I can get my hands into all sorts of things. There is no dedicated internal IT person; instead I support a few different pieces of software, mostly in the time and attendance world. This includes quite a few antiquated ethernet clocks, and so the story begins.

A customer had a remote clock (and by clock I mean a device that employees use to punch in and out) that they moved to a new location on their own. They had their own cables pulled, mounted the clock, tried to set  everything up, then called me because they could not ping the clock internally. Please note that this is much further than most customers get. I arrived on site to find everything set up exactly right and yes, the clock could not be pinged internally. I tried several different static IP's with no luck. I plugged my laptop into the same line that the clock was using, which worked, then put the clock back and it didn't work. The final straw was setting the clock to use DHCP instead of static addressing. The clock gave me a meaningful error: cannot find DHCP server.

Reasonable conclusion: the network card in the clock is dead. I took the clock back to my office and to check my conclusion plugged it into my network. Of course it worked. Not only could I ping it, it made it all the way back to the customer's server and started uploading information.

At this point I remembered a different customer with a similar problem that I solved by forcing the clock to connect at 100 Mbps. It was a another very long cable run and for some reason the clock and the switch would not negotiate. Back on site this afternoon, tried setting the clock up and nope, still nothing. I checked the connection on my laptop when connected to the same line and I was getting a 1000 Mbps connection. Pretty good for as long of a run as it was.

Aha.

Perhaps, and I do not know if this is the case, they had some sort of ethernet booster on the line. No one was around for me to ask, but I did have a login and password for the router. Maybe I could force a specific port to run at a slower speed. (Did this once at the law firm with a device used to lock out a copy machine). Nope, it's not really a managed switch, just some all in one Asus device that was missing all sorts of options. I had to slow it down, but how?

Answer: the cheapest 10/100 switch that Best Buy had in stock. Network drop at 1000 Mbps to cheap 10/100 switch to clock set at 100 Mbps full duplex. Tadaaaa.

It is nice to get to do real IT work once in a while. Earlier this week I had to re-crimp two ends of a cable that someone had set up as straight instead of crossover. And I had to do it with about a half dozen union guys standing around 'supervising'. When it worked on the first try I couldn't help but raise my hands and give them a little attitude. Just a little.

That's how you network shit, bitches.

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