Tech Support Stories

March 17, 2006

Part of my job is tech support for our field employees… On most days the calls I get are easy to fix, but sometimes I get these bizarre issues that just boggle my mind.

I encountered the weirdest email problem ever today.

A guy called me up complaining that his Outlook won’t pull email anymore. I run him through the usual hoops, checking and retyping all the settings, creating a new Outlook profile and etc… Nothing worked.

He can ping both the POP and SMTP servers. He can telnet to both servers and issue commands. When creating a new profile (via Control Panel), the “Test Account Settings” shows him that everything is set up correctly, and he can connect without a problem. And yet, when he runs the same test in Outlook it fails to even connect.

Something is preventing Outlook from connecting, but it’s not the firewall. The guy swears up and down that the firewall is disabled, and switched off. I made him check it like 20 times. But there has to be something blocking it – I just can’t get any useful info out of him. Clueless people make phone support really difficult…

I told him to install tightvnc – and on Monday I will make him plug the laptop directly to the modem so that I can remotely get in and poke around. I bet this is something fucking trivial – he is just to clueless to notice…

Another guy actually managed to completely destroy a fresh install of Win2k in 3 days. I sent him a clean laptop with Norton AV and Windows AntiSpyware crap on Tuesday. I run a virus and spyware scans before I packed it into a box. Today his machine was barely moving at all. Norton is completely disabled, and something is locking his task-manager (when he does Ctrl+Alt+Del, or right clicks on taskbar the Task Manager option is grayed out). He said that AntiSpyware found tons of things and removed it yesterday. When Norton was still working, it also removed 5 or 6 viruses in the past few days. And then it just died. I actually don’t know if it is even possible to recover from this shit. It sounds like his system was completely overrun…

I seriously don’t know how people do this… How can you get your system so badly infected? Sometimes I think it would just be easier to have a training session on how to download pr0n without destroying your system. I’m pretty sure this would really cut down on the amount of tech support we need to do here…

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Some days are just weird…

March 16, 2006

Today was a weird day…

I think I saw the stupid ProLiant logo in my dream… Damn that stupid server. This is the only thing it does these days – it shows ProLiant on the screen and stops. I have seen so much of that logo in the past 2 days that I think it got burned into my retina…

When I was getting ready for work today, the TV was on some news station (I think CNN). I actually caught a glimpse of a HP commercial on TV at some point. Guess what were they selling? Pro fucking Liant servers! Agh!

HP technician finally showed up to replace the mobo. After he plugged in all the hardware into place, but before he put the air-guards, latches and all the other funky bullshit in place he did a test. The server zoomed through the ProLiant logo and started doing the POST. I was ready to hug him! But my joy was short lived… Soon after POST finished we run into a non-system-disk error.

The technician said not to worry, because we might need to fiddle with the BIOS a bit to get the RAID working and all. He powered the machine down, put it together, closed it and and booted back up… Only to see the static ProLiant logo. He spent the next hour and a half fiddling with the parts and scratching his head.

He is supposed to come back tomorrow with a new CPU and power supply… Will it get fixed? Who knows. This damn thing is shot… I’m just praying that the MySQL database and the nightly backup dumps are on the backup tapes… If the drives are dead, I am going to puke.

Fast forward till after the lunch. One of my co workers went absolutely hysterical. Apparently her boyfriend tried to commit suicide, took something and then called her at work while being barely coherent. It sounded really serious… There was really nothing we could do. We all sat there listening to her pleading on the phone with him. Petrified… Another girl quickly called in an ambulance for him (while he was still on the phone), and then offered to drive her home. That was pretty much all the assistance we could give.

What do you say in that situation? What do you do? It’s messed up.

When I got home I saw another ProLiant commercial… Fuck ProLiant! I hate their guts!

Some days are just weird like that…

Plan B? There is no plan B!

March 14, 2006

Our server at work went down… It went down hard… So hard that it’s out of comission till tomorrow, when a new mobo and cpu get here. Sigh…

Why on earth did we cheep out on the super-duper HP care package warranty thingy? I really wish I we had it now – I could have a tech at my location in 4 hours flat. When you deal with a critical server, next business day service just doesn’t cut it.

I hope to God that this is just a bad mobo. If the drives died I will fucking shoot someone… But since we had a RAID setup we should be ok. Both drives would have to die… Of course, with my luck that is certainly not ouf of question. So I keep my fingers crossed and pray for the best.

Of course we do have a a tape backup – but that’s only data. Setting up this system from scratch will drive me up the wall.

We are pretty much dead till the new mobo is sitting in the case. This server was our domain controller and hosted our DNS server, DHCP server, SMTP server and HTTP server. This was a really bad idea to have all that shit on one machine. And we have no backup strategy, no contingency plan, no nothing. If the server goes, we are royally fucked. And it just happened.

I turned our sonicwall into a temporary DHCP for the office so at least people can use internet in the morning. That’s as much as I could do today. I can’t just plug in my RAID SCISI disks or the SCISI tape drive to our low end Dell office boxen… Sigh…

Once we get up and running I’m thinking about distributing the workload to more than one machine. I would really prefer to have a separate box for the webserver and another one for mailserver. We will probably need to keep the file and printer sharing, DNS and DHCP on the windows box… But there is just no reason why we should not have a dedicated webserver and mailserver in the office…

It doesn’t have to be a beefed up server beast either, as we are only hosting web apps user internally by the employees. This is all low traffic stuff. Our official webpage is hosted offsite (and is crappy as hell, but it’s not my pair of shoes so screw that). We can probably put in some low end Dell server to accommodate our mail and web needs – as long as we have a backup strategy for it it should be ok.

I need to run it by the boss. As it is right now our biggest issue is 50+ employees in the field trying to push their outgoing mail through our dead server, and trying to access out web apps. If we had that on a separate machine, we still would be fucked but at least it would be an internal thing – leaving all the people in the field unaffected…

I never thought I’d say that, but thank god that our POP3 server is hosted and maintained offsite by a consulting company. It is usually annoying as hell to go through them to set up new accounts and do tweaking… But at least our employees can still receive email now.

Update Wed, March 15 2006, 09:30 PM

Server is still down 😦 HP dispatch did not have my parts. The motherboard will be shipped tomorrow morning, but the CPU is on back order and they don’t know when they will have one. This is absolutely ridiculus. If this is not fixed by tomorrow my boss will explode… HP tech support blows!

Update Thu, March 16 2006, 15:17 PM

Replacing mobo on the server did not help. The technician should be back tomorrow with a new CPU and a power supply backplane. This is day 2 of downtime, going into day 3… We have never been down so long… Fuck!

Update Fri, March 17 2006, 08:59 PM

Server is finally up! Yaaay!

Donnie Darko

March 14, 2006

I just watched Donnie Darko. I can honestly say this must be one of the best movies I have ever seen. Amazing, profound, thought provoking movie. Zewrestler mentioned it was good, but damn – I was completely blown away.

I’m not even going to talk about the plot here – this movie just needs to be watched. The director actually managed to make Drew Barrymore act in this one – something I didn’t think was physically possible. If he got her to actually work for once, you can just imagine how the the rest of the cast performed.

This is one of those movies that causes an instant thoughtstorm start brewing under your skull. I still can’t shake it off. Was the tangent universe real or only a figment of Donnie’s imagination – a side effect of his mental illness? Does it really matter? What is reality anyway?

We all assume that reality is the objective state of truth. We establish reality by comparing and contrasting our own subjective perceptions, against those of other individuals around you. You take what you perceive to be true, and what other’s do and take a simple set intersection operation. Whatever you get is the objective truth. The rest are subjective distortions, dreams, hallucinations, and illusions.

But there is a problem here. What if my brain is not working correctly? Why if the individuals whose views I use to generate my definition of objective reality are only figments of my imagination? The only way I can even try to establish what is real, is by process of subjective, and biased observation. Everything that I ever knew, saw or experienced may have been a dream. How do I know it wasn’t if I haven’t woken up yet?

Do you really exist as a separate entity? Or do you only exist with respect to me? This is the dilemma of the Demirug. Am I a lonely architect of my own personal universe that lives and dies with me? We are truly tragic beings, yearning to connect with each other but destined to exist in solitude. As Granny Death said in the movie: every living thing dies alone…

Sorry for the existential outburst. Just go and watch the movie and you will understand 🙂

6 Firefox Extensions I could not live without

March 13, 2006

Here is the list of 6 Firefox extensions I could not live without:

  1. Adblock – I do not consider Adblock an extension anymore. I feel that this is an essential part of the browser. Adblock is the reason why I refuse to use any other browser ever. This extension allows me to enjoy the web the way it should be – clean, and without blinking banners, and loud annoying flash ads. If you are not using Adblock, you are missing out.
  2. Session Saver – this must be one of the most useful extensions of all times (except for the king of extensions – Adblock of course). It will save your browsing session, and restore it next time you open your browser. Have you ever closed the browser window by mistake, loosing your long blog post or comment? Have you ever lost a link to a really cool website because of a sudden crash? If you did, then this is an extension for you. I absolutely love this extension, and it made my life so much easier – I can simply close the browser whenever I want and have all my tabs restored for me, from a cashed version – complete with scrolling, and data entered into text forms. This one is a must-have.
  3. Spellbound – spellbound is a spell checker for online text forms. It allows you to check and correct text in virtually any web form. I can’t spell to save my life, so this extension comes extremely handy when I post comments to other people’s blogs, or use online forms that do not have a built in spell-checker. I use it even on sites that provide spell-checking features – because my SpellBound is trained to my style, and contains a custom dictionary of geeky words that I use on daily basis.
  4. del.icio.us – as the name suggests this extension allows you to post del.icio.us bookmarks with a click of a button. The dialog box provided by this extension, replicates all the functionality of you get when using the bookmarklet.
  5. Gmail Manager – the ultimate Gmail extension. Unlike some other extensions that I tried, this on just works. It always shows the updated state of your inbox, and never “gets stuck” on some rogue email. In addition, it allows you to manage multiple accounts.
  6. Greasemonkey – Greasemonkey is one of these extensions that you either don’t care about, or absolutely love. I would die without Greasemonkey. I mainly use it to streamline adding technorati tags to my blogger posts. Until Blogger adds folksonomy tagging, I use a Greasemonkey script to add that feature to my Create Post pages 🙂

These are my favorites. Few others that do warrant a honorable mention are ImageZoom, Disable Targets for Downloads and Timestamp.

Woke up this morning, got myself a gun…

March 12, 2006

Sopranos are back! Yay!

First things first – Medow’s strip dance thing scene was definitely to short. Was that a flashback scene or was this new? The whole beginning sequence was kinda funky, mix so I don’t know anymore. I don’t remember seeing it before though, and I can’t google up anything at this moment so I guess this is new. And I want more.

Could someone please explain to me the whole Burrough’s Western Lands quote? It went totally over my head the first time around (mostly due to distracting Jamie-Lynn DiScala’s sexy dancing thing). Burroug’s piece is talking about the 7 souls in Egyptian mythology. Here is the actual text:

The ancient Egyptians postulated seven souls.

Top soul, and the first to leave at the moment of death, is Ren the Secret name. This corresponds to my Director. He directs the film of your life from conception to death. The Secret Name is the title of your film. When you die, that’s where Ren came in.

Second soul, and second one off the sinking ship, is Sekem: Energy, Power. Light. The Director gives the orders, Sekem presses the right buttons.

Number three is Khu, the Guardian Angel. He, she or it is third man out…depicted as flying away across a full moon, a bird with luminous wings and head of light. sort of thing you might see on a screen in an Indian restaurant in Panama. The Khu is responsible for the subject and can be injured in his defense – but not permanently, since the first three souls are eternal. They go back to Heaven for another vessel. The four remaining souls must take their chances with the subject in the land of the dead.

Number four is Ba, the Heart, often treacherous. This is a hawk’s body with your face on it, shrunk down to the size of a fist. Many a hero has been brought down, like Samson, by a perfidious Ba.

Number five is Ka, the double, most closely associated with the subject. The Ka, which usually reaches adolescence at the time of bodily death, is the only reliable guide through the Land of the Dead to the Western Lands.

Number six is Khaibit, the Shadow, Memory, your whole past conditioning from this and other lives.

Number seven is Sekhu, the Remains.

– William Burroughs, The Western Lands

I’m to tired to actually do some proper analysis but I bet this is supposed to be some really deep shit right there. The die-hard Soprano fans should get cracking on deciphering the symbolism here.

I’m guessing this is about Tony’s life falling apart and him slowly dying inside, and getting more fucked up (and thus loosing his souls) or something like that. Although he seemed to really be doing well recently… Maybe this is supposed to be foreshadowing, or whatnot? I don’t know. I’ll leave it to the true soprano-heads to figure this one out.

I know one thing – there is no way Tony is dying. He is the show, so killing him off in the first episode of a new season would be ridiculous. Nice attempt at a cliffhanger, but we know better than this. 😛

New Caprica is a Dump!

March 11, 2006

Some comments on the Battlestar Galactica Season Finale last night:

Why the hell did Cylon’s send Al from the Quantum Leap to deliver a peace message to Galactica? Wouldn’t it be easier to send another Boomer or #9? Now humans know about another Cylon model… I guess this was supposed to be a show of good will or something. By outing their our own agent they wanted to show humans that they are serious about it… I think this was really stupid. Humans would be skeptical whether or not an agent was outed.

New Caprica is a dump! The settlement was a dumb idea. I would much rather live in one of those cozy apartments on Cloud Nine than in a fucking tent on the surface. What were these people thinking?

Wouldn’t a year be enough to actually build some normal houses? Or at least some sort of huts and whatnot? Baltar lives in his nice starship landed on the surface, and the rest of the population sleeps in crappy tents. I understand that the planet may have few natural resource, but come on. Even little mud huts would be better than the shitty refugee camp they built.

I also don’t get why all the people were living clumped together in this really poor looking camp. I mean, they have a whole planet for themselves. It’s not like they are running out of space. Why does the camp look so congested then? Shouldn’t the people be farming the shit out of the land, building settlements and stuff? The camp looked like it was built last week, not a year ago…

Sigh… I don’t know – I just had hard time buying this 1 year gap. I feel like we missed up on some good character development. What happened to Sharon in that year? Is she still locked up on Galactica? What happened between Starbuck and Apollo? How did Chief and whatshername patch things up?

I guess we will get to see at least part of this stuff in flashback scenes but.. Meh…

MobuzzTV

March 8, 2006

Karina from MobuzzTV is Hot!

Recently I discovered a great little vlog news site called MobuzzTV. It is a daily 3 minute vidcast, talking about the things that are currently hot news on the interwebs.

The site describes itself as “A vlog for the mobile generation”. The self imposed goal of the Mobuzz people is to provide us daily news in byte sized chunks that can be easily watched on a mobile phone or an ipod. I like this format. My attention span is way to short these days, and I just don’t have time to sit through the lengthy podcasts.

Mobuzz is done very professionally, the commentary is clever and witty and the news presenter Karina is hot. I swear, there is nothing hotter than an attractive girl delivering an intelligent, and passionate commentary on technology related news, quoting slashdot, boingboing and the like. The fact that she really seems to know what she is talking about and this makes her so much more irresistible 😛

So this is not just some random silly vlog. This is the fresh web and tech buzz, professionally delivered by hot chicks in byte sized increments for people without any attention span. I think I’m addicted…

Picky Fast Food Eaters

March 8, 2006

One of the most annoying things in the world is a picky fast food customer. I bet you saw one of them at least once in your life. Those are the people who make ridiculously complex orders at Burger King or Taco bell. For example they order a Whopper without mayo, onions pickles and tomatoes. Or a Big Mack without the middle bun… Or a chicken Quesadila without the spicy sauce.

Meanwhile you are on your short lunch break trying to eat something really quick and go back to work. But no… You have to wait 15 minutes, as the picky eater makes up their mind on the order, then changes it, and then complains when they mess up his crazy ass order. And the fast food employees always mess it up – partly because they are not the smartest or motivated folks on the block to begin with (otherwise they would not be flipping burgers) and partly because these orders are plain stupid.

When I go to a fast food place, I’m not picky. Hell, all fast foods sell you garbage. If you want to customize your sandwich go to Subway or something. But when you are at Burger King just picked a numbered combo item, and move along… It’s all the same shitty food anyway.

Open Letter to Earthlink Wireless

March 8, 2006

Dear Earthlink Wireless,

You suck! If you want to stay in this business, please get your shit together. You already lost me1 as a customer, and I will make sure I tell all my friends and business contacts to stay away from your wireless services.

Let me give you a hint – when you send your customer a new blackberry using next day delivery, that said customer expects the device to work upon arrival. Not 3-5 days later. Not 2 weeks later. Not a month later. We really want to take the device out of the box, and stat using it.

Why is it so difficult to get a blackberry activated on your system? I went through this process 3 times in the last few months, and each time it’s the same old story. After the mandatory 5 day wait, your customer service apologizes profusely, offers me downtime credit and escalates my case. I am told to wait another week. Another week goes by, and my device is still not working. I call you, threaten cancellation. Usually at this point one of your managers promises me to “personally” take care of the case.

This happens every single time!

Is it really that hard to get these thins squared away quickly? Why do you make your customers wait half a month, and make no less than 6 customer service calls just to get their mobile device registered on the network?

On more than one occasion I have been told by your reps, that the communication system you use is really bad and not all the requests go through. I don’t care about that. This is your problem! This is not an excuse. All I need is a working blackberry – I really don’t care how you guys do this. I don’t care about the poor implementation of your systems, or the lack of communication between the departments. If it is so bad, then fix it! I really couldn’t care less.

How can you call yourself a service provider, if you failt to provide me with any kind of timely adequate service. I do not need my blackberry to be activated in April – I need it working NOW! What is this so damn difficult?

I do understand that according to the blackberry warranty the replacement device will be a refurbished one. However, last time I checked “refurbished” in the dictionary it did not mean “broken piece of garbage”. That is exactly what you have sent me 2 weeks ago. The blackberry refuses to sync up with the PC. The only thing your tech support is able to offer me is a new another refurbished blackberry.

I have waited 3 weeks to activate my replacement device. There is no way I’m waiting another 3 weeks again. I had enough of this. I’m switching to Verizon. You people suck.

1 – when I say me, I actually mean my boss. It is his blackberry, but I figured that this letter would sound better if written in first person. Especially since I am the person doing all the footwork and making all the calls in this case. 🙂