Monday, 26 January 2009

The triumph of mind over matter

Nobody should let me loose on IT. I'm a programmer. Software, not hardware. Still, my primitive software brain has proved that mind can conquer matter. Eventually. Even if it only manages a somewhat Pyrrhic victory.

Example 1: Moving a tape drive

It was a simple requirement: move a working tape drive from a big shiny server into a ickle replacement server so I can continue to make backups. Here's the score sheet:
Time to completion of task:Months of effort, on-and-off (over Christmas, if that makes any difference)
Extra hardware bought that wasn't necessary: A new SCSI card.
Wasted money: £30. Ish.
Reason hardware wasn't necessary: The SCSI card wasn't the problem.
Reason new hardware was a particularly bad purchase: It didn't have the right SCSI connector on it anyway. Who knew there are about a million different SCSI connectors? Good grief! Is this some kind of old archaic connector standard that's gone through many,. many revisions, or what? What.
Observation: Software, not hardware. Don't let Pete near IT.
Does it get better than that: Yes. Sadly.
Other extra hardware hardware bought that wasn't necessary: A new tape drive
Wasted money: Ahem.
Wasted money: I'd rather not say
Wasted money: OK, about £500.
Oops: Indeed.
Reason hardware was a particularly bad purchase: The tape drive wasn't the problem.
Even better reason the hardware was a particularly bad purchase: I bought a tape drive with the wrong kind of SCSI connector. It didn't attach to either of the SCSI cards I had. Sigh.
So, mind over matter: Yeah. I kept fiddling. Installed kernel drivers. New versions of the Linux mt command. Googled for Britain.
And?: I fiddled with the SCSI card BIOS. A lot. And found a very well hidden random little setting that made it work.
Result: Mind beats matter. And the wallet.

Example 2: Redirecting a phone call

Less expensive, this one. And marginally less frustrating.

Another simple requirement: get my office phone to forward to my mobile, so if I'm not in the office (skyving) or away from my desk (making tea, or pooing) I don't miss a call. The phone system can do this. We've done it before. It just wasn't me that did it. And there's no one else around these days. How hard can it be? Consult the score sheet:
Time to completion of the task: A little under one month.
Observation: Phone exchanges are nasty, complicated, stupid things.
Time to find exchange: Quite some time. Turns out it's a nondescript box on the wall.
Time to find the exchange's UI: A little while longer. There's not even a light on the box on the wall. Turns out you just configure it by dialing magic numbers on your phone. Very magic numbers.
Time to find the manual describing the magic numbers on the phone: Not long. Once I figured I had to look for one.
Time to work out how to divert phone calls: Some time. The manual is a fairly incomprehensible jumble of text and numbers. You have to know the phoney rhetoric. I'm an email/instant message kinda guy. Yeah, I have a mobile. But I'm not a corporate phone whore. Turns out it's "Call-Forward External" Obvious when you know what it's called. And can deal with the lack of contents page or index.
Time to work out how to switch it on: 2 seconds.
Time to work out how to set the number it forwards to: 1 hour. Turns out it forwards to Speed Memo *49. Whatever that is.
Setting Speed Memo *49: Not too bad. Lots of random button pushes. A bit like playing Daley Thompson's Decathlon on my old Speccy.
Does the speed dial number dial my mobile: Yes
Does the call forward work: No
Why: Beats me.
Keep playing with the phones for how much longer: Oooh, weeks.
The epiphany: Although speed dial *49 works fine without adding the magic '9' for an outside line, if you add one (and the speed dial no longer works as a speed dial) the call forward now works.
Result: Skyving (or pooing) is easier.
So yeah, hardware and me don't really get on. Oh, and don't get me started on the wireless network. I've lost a lot of sleep over that one.

I'm having great fun cutting code, though. So it's not all bad.

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