Never mind the beer ...
That's exactly what google is for, innit?
The hour is immaterial. The drink is immaterial. The dramatis personae are immaterial. He googled the problem, and found a fix.
Welcome back to On Call, The Register's weekly dive into the world of those who live in dread of the surprise pager or midnight phone jangle. Today's tale comes from a reader we'll call "Jordan", who was working at a systems integrator a few short years ago. He and his chum (who was put into the Reg anonymiser and spat out as …
My personal rule - if I am not sober I do not answer work phone calls and I do not reply to work emails.
Experience has taught me that the temporary consequences of me not answering are a lot less than the permanent damage I can do to myself & my career if I have an impaired conversation.
Knowing how to phrase a search to get the best results is why so many family and friend think I am a computer God.
I do get pissed when the same old question gets asked over and over; when simply typing the error message into google gives you the answer on any one of the first 5,000 hits.
"...simply typing the error message into google gives you the answer on any one of the first 5,000 hits"
Well, once you manually quote half the words it does. "<error message> is not very common, so we didn't search for it. Here are some shopping results for things we noticed you've browsed to on other web sites that you thought we weren't tracking. Did you actually want to search for <error message> instead?"
To be fair, Jordan isn't that bad. It's when somebody (not infrequently a know-it-all "manager") googles and in that situation turns and says "Have you ever heard of this hosts file thing?"
And the most annoying thing is, the cunt will more than happily take all the credit for "sorting" the problem.
My excuse with Googling something to fix a technical issue is that I'm an expert at doing it. It's not cheating, because you have to understand what you're doing and the context of the issue to implement the fix. This as well as understanding what the fix will do and whether it is appropriate and it's impact on everything else.
Sometimes trying to find something sensible amongst the thousands of pages of misleading information and wrong answers on technical forums is like digging for gold and a skill in itself.
Of course. Googling is just today's RTFM, with the huge advantage that TFM hasn't gone permanently missing as it routinely used to do.
Now consider the quality of many FMs - not least those for the most sophisticated and expensive packages - and the information on Google (when filtered through the basic techiedom of a Reg reader) is b***** brilliant by comparison.
<quote> ...with the huge advantage that TFM hasn't gone permanently missing as it routinely used to do.</quote>
Or even more fun is a PDF which, because the manufacturer is run by a tight-fisted bunch of accountants, is not supplied on CD or DVD but is only available on the machine which is now refusing to boot because of an issue you can't fix 'cos the answer is in the manual...
A bit like putting the Recovery Partition of a Windows computer on the "Primary" (as in, ONLY) HDD and forgetting to tell the non-technical purchasers that they should burn it to CD or DVD in case the HDD dies...
The hint is in their name - General practitioner. They are the gateway to specialists. A couple of years ago I had to take a couple of photos* of the superflous dangly bits in my throat to my doctor - he'd never seen the condition in real life before, and not being an ENT specialist it was something he didn't have the equipment to examine himself, but my photos were enough to gateway me to an ENT chap.
*A USB miniuture camera has more uses than examining hard-to-see electronic equipment ;)
And to the point of the chap who started this thread with "my excuse", the difference is that a qualified GP will interpret the results differently from a casual googler. It's really not an excuse, it's an explanation. I'm not going to stop it because it works well.
* I peanut butter it for management with "consulting Stack Exchange", because that's where most of the useful results come from.
I am trying to register with an NHS Dentist, they are very hard to find around the welsh borders. I phoned one practice and had a very technical discussion with a nice lady dentist about the problem I am encountering. She said afterwards that she was impressed by my technical knowledge, and asked whether I had a background in dentistry. I replied that no, I didn't, but that Google was my friend, and as an engineer, I like to get all the relevant facts at my fingertips before I open my mouth (no pun intended). I am now on their waiting list, but have been warned that it could be up to 12 months before I reach the top of the list.
Fun Google game if you are bored... Google a symptom. Anything, split fingernail to itchy penis. It won't take long until you find a condition where that is a symptom, and the end result is "you will die slowly and in pain".
There's a lot to be said for NOT looking up medical conditions until you have enough experience to sort out the likely (minor ailment) from the unlikely (agony-death).
No excuse needed.
There are two things that I learnt doing my BSc IT degree that I still use today.
1. The 7 layer OSI model
2. How to research / search
Google does still support some rudimentary Boolean logic in search terms, and knowing this, as well as using site:www.acme.com search term can get you very quickly to the right answer
Even as an Apple Genius, you were taught to use the very excellent Apple Technician Guides to diagnose and fix problems. After watching two of my ex colleagues literally replace every component of an iMac only to have it fail POST, a quick shuffties of the Technician guide, replacement of RAM with known good, and up it boots.
RTFM will outlive nearly every technical mantra there is, apart from turning it off and on again.
Yeah, the only time it's actually been of any use to me is to do technobabble so Networks will actually listen to what I'm saying.
Honestly, it boils down to "is the plumbing working?" (connectivity, NIC, cable, drivers), "can a packet get there on the right port" (routing, firewall), and then the rest is "application layer" almost always.
Googling a problem is not science it's an art form. You first have to understand what it is you are trying to do/fix then you have to understand how it's supposed to work and the process. Only then can you use search to fix the problem unless of course it's a straight forward error message however nine times out of ten it's not and the potential to make it worse is always a pitfall you have to avoid.
Another pitfall is being the first person to ever encounter a particular error. I too have google-fu, and sometimes it amazes me how many error message I get don't show up in google search results. All I can think is: Come on! Surely they indexed the source code for this application from GitHub or elsewhere and the error messages have to be in the source code, right? Right?
Sometimes I'll RDP into a machine in another state or on another continent and run the same search from there just to see if they are hiding things from me....
Surely they indexed the source code for this application from GitHub or elsewhere and the error messages have to be in the source code, right? Right?
I've written enough code where the error codes are built up from various parts and the error message isn't in the source at all but retrieved using the error code (iSeries using message files), but my source code isn't on GitHub either.
I've occasionally(ish) written chunks of code under the influence of several alcoholic concoctions in the past. Nothing part of a core system, for the record, just my various background "glueware"-type projects, but I've noticed they tend to be more creative than I would be normally. Sometimes they're a wonderful solution to a problem inasmuch as they work in a nice, concise way that I couldn't previously figure out, but sober me can't quite understand the reasoning, nor how I managed to imagine it into existence. Which is something that perturbs me a little.
I've had a couple of bosses in my early career that would take me out for 3 pints before setting me off on some complex programming stuff. I'd consistently get the core of a complex problem implemented in an afternoon, and spend the following morning dealing with the compiler not recognising my genius (aka syntax errors)
Having once spent an entire shift in a diagnostic centre popping to and from the toilet, I cannot agree that a hangover helps in problem resolution. We had a team nigh out of the Friday and I was the unlucky stooge who was scheduled on at 8AM Saturday. I had arranged a lift to and from work with an older more sensible colleague as I knew it was going to be a bit of a session but hadn't really expected to finish drinking at 2 am not get home until 3 then be up dressed and ready at 7. It was a 12 hour shift but felt more like 12 days.
Which brings me back to the story of a chap nicknamed "Pebbledash", so named because while in a secluded corner of a building covered in the stuff, lost his stuff into the mouth of a lady that was until that point relishing his manhood, who promptly showed her displeasure by scraping the exposed head along the exterior wall.
Icon...Muff said I mean Nuff..
Then the chances are that you're either too tense, or too worried about making a mistake.
A small amount of alcohol will decrease each of these, and will increase the ability of most players by allowing them to relax or to ignore the potential for failure.
One easy way to improve your game is to learn to cue in a straight line. Get hold of a square bottle, Jack Daniels or Jim Beam work fine. And then attempt to cue down the neck of the bottle. If the cue keeps touching the side of bottle neck then your cue is not travelling in a straight line. Once you've trained yourself to be able to cue down the neck of the bottle consistently you should find your game has improved and become much more consistent.
Have been on both sides of that equation too often.
I found that one of the best ways to get past the black ball jitters was to live in the moment. The last shot doesn't matter, the next shot doesn't matter (except the need to gain the right cue ball position), the current shot is all. And even then it's just a shot .... something I've done thousands of time before. When I could do this I won way more games than I lost, some of which I had no right to win at all.
The downside to getting into the moment is that you can easily lose the enjoyment of actually playing the game well. Each shot is forgotten the instant it's over, and in the end all you have is the satisfaction of shaking your opponent's hand.
On a side note I've never dropped a kebab on the way back from the pub so there must be some sort of magical science at play.
That is known as the magic of Lesmosyne, the goddes of forgetting and the often forgotten sister of Mnemosyne, the goddess of memory.
I like your thinking however regardless of drink I forget nothing. I even remember my last kebab six months ago and stopping off at a mccolls for a bottle of lambrini on the way home, the dogs had most of it to be fair (the kebab obviously). I also remember my best kebab which was an £8 monster from a kebab shop in ashton-under-lyne opposite the baths back in 1994 that eventually closed due to hygiene issues. Memory can be a blessing and a curse.
Much enjoyment can be got from a memory that remains intact regardless of alcohol intake. Only once have I forgotten the events of a night out. I remember everything from that night with the exception of how I got from the bottom of the stairs to getting into bed.
My most memorable kebab was in Cambridge. While waiting to be served, past 11pm, very busy, a pair of ne'er-do-wells took a crowbar to the fag machine on the back wall. It came off pretty easily, and they then headed off down down the road with it. The speed at which the guys serving vaulted the counter was Olympic (they were Greek). One of them was still holding his mahoosive knife that they use for slicing the kebab meat off the skewer. And shouting, there was lots of shouting.
I remember that place.....alongside the even dodgier place near to the RBS over the road from Lidl (used to be Spread Eagle) with the even more avoidable health rating. Usually only ever ventured when being ejected from the nightclub formally known as Yuppies at 3am when the bouncers had had enough.
In fact at some point we were probably trawling the same pubs in 1994, AUL was legendary cos a beer crawl was simply a stumble from one pub to the next without having to focus too much. Shame it all ended the way it did
Paul Erdős took amphetamines, despite the concern of his friends, one of whom (Ron Graham) bet him $500 that he could not stop taking the drug for a month. Erdős won the bet, but complained that during his abstinence, mathematics had been set back by a month: "Before, when I looked at a piece of blank paper my mind was filled with ideas. Now all I see is a blank piece of paper." After he won the bet, he promptly resumed his amphetamine use.
I'm just putting that one out there just now, because I'm cobbling together SQL to strip an orphaned Hyper-V host out of the database. And I'm trying to catch the bugs in somebody else's instructions so that it doesn't delete *all* the NICs from *all* the hosts in one go.
The relevance? Not much, but it's the Edinburgh Festival and I shall be imbibing later on. I may be called upon to give insight whilst drunk. --->
And SCVMM? I like Hyper-V (mostly), but SCVMM sucks more balls than Ms Pacman...
If its more than a couple of beers then I'll try anything and come up with some awe-inspiringly stupid solutions to problems (though not wrong per say....). Usually in the style of 'hold my beer'.
On whisk(e)y however, 2 and a half measures is great for bug hunting.
That said I'm glad I gave up smoking all those years ago. Always made the hangover so much worse.
I was taught at college that a good engineer doesn't know everything but they know where to find the info they need.
Back then it meant which 3inch thick book it was in, now it means which search pattern in which engine will find it quickest.
Most solutions are found by doing the 'idiot checks' which are easier to suggest when slightly dis-inhibited by alcohol. Plus next day one can always say "You knew I'd been drinking what did you expect?"
Years ago, working for a bank doing 24 hour shifts in the mainframe department, midnight shift started at 11pm, back when pubs shut at 11pm. Was Christmas time, well late in the year anyway. Can't even remember going into work let alone understanding why I did the night shift and morning shift's work. They complained to the afternoon shift that I'd left them sod all to do so they had to sit around reading newspapers and drinking tea all day (pre-internet this was). Fortuneately the afternoon shift didn't mention I'd turned up so p!$$ed, I would barely walk, as they told me the following day!!! This was in the days when going to 'lunch' meant a few pints of Diamond White (which are a source of many more stories).
Far too many years ago, writing my Honours Dissertation on Ice Ages - this was back in the days before "Global Warming" when the next glacial was coming "real soon now" - I had one or two drinks and rattled off 1500 words on Ice Ages in Fiction. A couple of weeks later, I came across my supervisor, walking across campus and laughing hysterically. On closer approach, I realised he was holding draft N (where N=>infinity) of said dissertation, and had just got to that bit.
We then had a discussion about and he told me to leave that section in - it must have worked, as I ended up with a First and a PhD studentship....
Separately, the dissertation was supposed to be "around 10,000 words". Some time before submission, I told him I was going to be "a bit over" - he said that was OK, and suggested I might get to as much as 15,000. I told him I was then "at 20,000 words and counting", and ended up over 25,000 (and enjoyed writing all of it). I got away with it, but these days Universities take word counts far more rigorously, and wouldn't even accept such an overrun.
These days Google is a more up-to-date and accurate technical manual, installation and user guide than anything published by by most of our suppliers. The Red Hat documentation is still worth accessing in its own right, but for how long under the new owners remains to be seen.
Google is only useful if you have the kind of easy problems that someone with a clue can resolve on their own. If you know your stuff, and run into a problem you can't solve and try Google, 99% of the results are irrelevant, useless, misleading, wrong or all four.
Once in a while you will find the right answer, but only because someone took the time to post to a question to some type of forum, and someone who knows their stuff took the time to answer (or the original questioner eventually solved it and was nice enough to come back and provide the answer)
If you can't separate the wheat from the chaff, you should not use google to search for answers.
I never use any information gleaned from a single stackexchange thread, or any personal blog unless I can confirm it elsewhere. If I cant' confirm it elsewhere, I'll poweroff, snapshot, power on and test knowing that I have an image to revert to in case the cure is worse than the problem itself.
I believe he was refering to BS, which came out of University of California, Berkeley.
I seem to remember there was a command called BIFF, which would notify you of incoming emails, and was named after Biff, a dog on campus that would let students know the mailman had arrived by barking his head off.
Something happened with the non-liquid refreshment just the other day... not a work incident.
The rest of the family is away so I am rolling some fat ones, and eventually run out of the little bits of card i use for the filter, so i delve into the paper recycling box. First suitable bit of card appears to be from the post office, about a parcel that was delivered while we were away... must have been dumped with the usual ream of junk mail and pizza leaflets. Turns out it was an irreplaceable parcel with a prize that my daughter won, even including £50 in banknotes!
All saved by the weed.
Many, many moons ago I was enjoying a sunny afternoon in the swimming pool. My excuse: I was still at university at that time, so this is obviously no representation of my work ethics. Until the phone rang - a colleague ran into some sort of problem. That was deep in the pre-smart phone era and with no computer, let alone internet connection, nor any book/manual at hand. Mind you, I was actually in the water. Having only a cordless phone in my hand and no clue at all, I simply started to ask questions, trying to understand the very abstract problem. That is,
until I until my colleague found the solution.
To these days I still haven't got the slightest idea what the actual problem was. But my colleague had been deeply grateful for my invaluable help. And I've made a career out of it and became auditor.
Having been in support, I learned it was worth blogging/documenting the solutions to problems, to benefit others. It is amazing the number of times Ive searched for a problem and found I had already documented the solution. My short term memory is not what it was - Ive forgotten what it was.
My memory plays tricks on me sometimes, it's like one of those things, round and full of little holes so you can drain stuff, it'll come back to me soon enough.
I also make sure to take notes when I come up with a solution to something, because I just know I'll forget it otherwise and have to start from scratch...
SIEVE !!!! That's what I was thinking of !
Once upon a time I worked on the Commissions system at a mobile telco... I haven't the foggiest what was going live that night but I made it clear to the people doing the deployment that I was going to be unavailable, as I was going to see Iron Maiden at Brixton Academy (which means, thanks to SongKick I can tell you it was 20th March 2002).
So having thoroughly enjoyed the gig, and many alcoholic beverages with mates, I'm off the last tube and waiting for the night bus home. And my phone rings. I don't recall any of the conversation, but something had gone wrong, and I was being asked if I could help them identify what!
My boss said he had two things to note... I was quite obviously hammered, and yet was giving the exact SQL commands for him to run with no problems whatsoever. And I was very loud, so half of south London probably heard what I was saying :)
In one of my early jobs, I used to solve lots of technical issues over a beer with one of my managers. Most of them were solved after the first or second pint, but he did occasionally throw me a "three-pinter" when everyone else had given up on the problem.
Problem solved - but what price my liver ? Cheers !
One particular Thursday evening, we got stuck in to the Whiskey. Aided by 3 colleagues and a bored barmen. Then the lock-in. Finished when I should have already been at work and called in sick. Cue three hours later and our biggest market local Exchange 5.5 raid bites the dust. Spend Friday arvo feeling a whiter shade of pale while talking them through a tape restore of MSX databse.
Then drove through the night to Germany for a 21st birthday party the next day. Party finished also during the daylight hours of sunday. Talked colleagues through Exchange integrity check of MSX database from midnight to 6am monday morning, while driving back to said abode. 4 hours sleep over three days.
Home, shower, shave, off to work I go.
Turned up looking worse for wear and I am sure smelling like brewery. To a nice smiling boss and an thank you from Senior Management for saving the business.
Not that young anymore and I'm sure a hangover like that one would now take me a week to recover.
Had to do some emergency work for a Spanish bank once to help move a banking operation from the Caymans to Jersey after the Caymans got hit by a bad hurricane many years ago. Had to fly to Jersey in an emergency and with no Caymans staff, some vague assertions of help and not much else, try to get global payments back up.
That's the background.
Turned up, was there for a couple of hours when the Spanish staff said we were all going for lunch, my response being "Er...I just got here"
Lunch + Beer, wine, shots.
Back to office
Work for a few more hours
"We're going to dinner now"
Dinner + Beer, wine, shots.
Stagger back to office, stare at wavy screen and continue until midnight....
Repeat for 5 days
What came out of this, was working payments, staff they found in the caymans and flew over and a happy bank.
5 day working bender paid for by Spanish bank and bender instigated by Spanish staff on full expenses paid!
Pfft! I once recovered an entire database, by hand, *after* the trainees had been given a free hand to effect "repairs" and thus turned a "puppy crapped on the carpet" problem into "and then the roomba was left alone in the same room for three hours" one.
Did it on a Saturday night. Did it before Google was invented. Did it on a skinful of Bacardi. Did it over the phone spelling stuff character by character to a production controller.
Effected complete recovery and repair in splendid order, saved the day and brought the system online before the Sunday schedule was seriously impacted.
Or so I'm told. I remember nothing of the event because I had drunk so much rum.
And yes, this was a wake-up call on every level.
a few years back, I was on holiday in the land of Wine and Cheese, and lunchtime quaffing. I had finished a nice lunch at the in-laws house, was on my third or forth glass of wine and cheese after lunch, and I get a text one of our DC's gave up the ghost. Gladly I didn't have to talk to anyone as my Franglish was kicking in. I sent an email back with my advice within 30 or so minutes. Not one word of my advice was heeded, it was a nice return to work ~ \s
At a former job, I was on call a lot. It became a lifestyle.
The NOC would call at some wee hour to escalate a problem, apologizing for waking me up. I'd politely reassure the caller that I hadn't just been dead asleep, and proceed to walk them through some technical solution.
This became such a routine that I didn't remember any of it. My girlfriend would tell me the next morning, or I'd see a call logged on my phone. Then I'd fish around at work to learn what happened on the call. Somehow this didn't go horribly wrong, though I got a reputation as someone who never slept.
About 25 years ago, when I was transitioning into industrial maintenance, an old army buddy and his wife were visiting over the Christmas holidays. We'd spent the evening drinking, went back home and everybody retired for the night. Just as I was turning the lights out, my pager went off in that annoying fashion that they have. Even though it wasn't my week to be on call, I answered the page anyway (new enough at the job to want to appear reasonably eager to please).
The tech paging me was in full-on panic mode: He had what he swore was an electrical problem at a paper mill, and the entire mill would shut down in about two hours if he didn't get the machine up and running. I told him I was three sheets to the wind and not about to go to work in that condition. He said I was the only one who had answered his cries for help, and he was practically in tears. So I agreed to look at the problem, but he would have to pick me up and drive me back, and under no circumstances would I speak to the customer or touch the equipment - I would just point and tell him what to do.
Got back to the mill with about 45 minutes left before the shit hit the fan. Several mill supervisors standing around asking dumb questions. We went to the machine in question and shut the door behind us. The original tech showed me the problem - the motor would bump a little, but give no more movement before tripping the overloads.
I took one look and told him that the motor was fine, but the brake was so far out of adjustment that it wouldn't release. Not an electrical problem at all. Two minutes later everything was running smoothly, and I was in the passenger seat of his truck snoozing while he wrapped up the paperwork and basked in the adulation of a grateful customer!
If you go to an accountant or solicitor's office you will see bookcases full of -er- books with boring titles.
I have a customer whose name graces the title of a series of books on a very specific aspect of Law: when he speaks he does so with the air of someone who knows what they are on about, regardless of subject, and yes, his library is chock full of books with boring titles.
I remember the last VAT inspection I had the lead inspector thudded a copy of Tolleys onto the boardroom table before introducing himself - thankfully it remained closed throughout the proceeedings, and the table survived the impact.
The issue with Google is the amount of "old wives' lales" that appear in the search results, often from people who have a problem and resolving it by doing something that, by complete coincidence, occurred at the same time that the real reason rectified itself - and this is where our skills come in, separating the wheat from the chaff.
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