Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Spring Cleaning Through A Blizzard
I had a plan yesterday, which was no plan at all really. I had originally been scheduled to teach 160 miles away. Thank God that was reassigned to someone else. It left me free to do what I really wanted to do ... drop a visit to my new friends. My training company was recently merged with a larger, better training company. But I had not spent much time out at the new location, and I needed to. I was desperate to talk to anyone out there, just for the sake of making contact. I also needed to open the doors on discussing what will happen with my small server farm at the smaller training center.

So I showed up at the new training center. Drove up there, sat down in their cafeteria, and then began e-mailing people in the offices upstairs. This newly renovated building slightly resembles a land-docked cruise ship with it's pointy front end. My e-mail went something like this, "I have docked, and come aboard your facility. You can find me in the bow of the ship, near the coffee bar if you want to come shake my hand". About five minutes later, two guys that I had met a few weeks ago came down and got me. They were happy to bring me upstairs to 'hang out'.

They showed me around the offices giving me another short tour. We discussed a few "issues" with my little server farm, and then they gave me a place to throw my stuff down. It was nice. I had a little desk facing a window to prop up my laptop and ... "get to work?". I thought the first thing I should do is check my e-mail. Yet ... I was getting nothing in response from the mail server. In fact, my router back at home base was denying all my traffic from this wireless connection. I'm still not sure why. But I was able to connect to my PC at home, and then check my e-mail from there. Only to find I had a few requests for things to do back at home base. So after about 40 minutes or so, I had to slide out and say goodbye. Still, it was a good visit, and I appreciated the very nice welcome I got. Especially since I came unannounced.

As I was driving back to my little office I thought I might stop for lunch. I had a few projects planned based on e-mails I had gotten. And McDonalds was looking pretty tempting. But then I got a call. Patrick, whom I had just spoken to about 20 minutes prior was requesting that we bump up his "discovery" of our network to today. This "discovery" process is where they come out and examine our network, and how we do things. This map will be the basis for the plan to dismantle some of the servers, and move most of the business stuff into the larger building.

I was NOT ready for a visit. But I said that was fine! So skipping lunch, I headed right back to the building and got to work. I had planned to clean out my server room on Thursday, so that they could come examine it on Friday. I had some work to do. I started by throwing away as much as possible from the server room. There were a lot of empty boxes that we didn't really need any more. That was a trip to the dumpster. When I put together a PC as a router, I had hooked up an old Samsung monitor to it. That monitor was so near death that you could barely read anything on the screen. That was a separate trip to the dumpster. Unfortunately, even at the altitude and speed that I propelled it into the dumpster, it did *not* explode. I was hoping.

I didn't mind the cleaning part at all. In fact, it was a long overdue house-cleaning. What I didn't like was that it was pouring down inches of snow while I was trying to run around to the dumpsters. I had worn "nice" shoes since I was going to the new place and making attempts to look presentable. Luckily I had also packed my dirty old Chuck T's. So I was changing shoes all morning.

Patrick arrived about 1:00PM which had given me enough time to clean up my room really well, and also draw a network diagram on the whiteboard in the next room. I was expecting more people to show up, so I shoved a few chairs into my server room. Yet, it was only Patrick. He didn't even have a laptop! "Discovery" to me generally means an intrusive scan on someones network. Aparently, to this company a "discovery" is more of a Q and A session. He had some great questions. And in trying to answer a few of them, I had to go poke around on my servers. Simple things like DHCP left me drawing a blank. Did I put that on "Endor" or "Tribble"? Patrick was able to answer many of his own questions by checking things out on our Windows boxes. But on my three FreeBSD boxes, I offered assistance. I wasn't sure if he had any Unix skills. I generally assume people do not, unless when you mention that you are running Unix in your production environment, they gesture for a high five.

While Patrick was busy on his check list, I was able to slip back and forth on setting up a remote PC for our receptionist. Rather than try to establish a VPN connection, etc, we opted for a remote PC on our network. So she can connect to it, transfer files, check mail, etc all on our network - from afar.

As it drew closer to 5:00PM I could see Patrick was trying to wrap things up. I imagine he is obligated to work a full day, so he hung around right up to 5:00PM. I was anxious to get out into traffic, so I hurried along to finish up this remote PC and drop it off into the server room.

Now my plans for the week have changed. I had planned to have tomorrow off (or at least part of it off) for a conference in my sons school. Yet, we never got details on this conference, so perhaps it was cancelled. Patrick requested a map of my network and an IP list. So tomorrow morning I will be mapping my network! In the afternoon, I will have to drive over and drop off this info. If possible I would like to hang out with their administrators and talk about this 'migration'. I am pushing to get rid of my mail server back at home base. Its a flakey piece of trash with hardware issues, and my boss does not want to replace it. I would like if they could add our domain to their exchange server, and serve our accounts from their location. Then I could put an axe in the mail server and kiss it goodbye. They are frowning on the thought. I need to work on them a little bit.

And meanwhile, I am stuck out in this old damned house with no Internet access. I would love to be able to check my e-mail. Oh well. I suppose I could get a pen and some paper, and try to map my network on paper, so that when I create it in Visio tomorrow, I will have an easier time. I gotta keep busy doing something or I go crazy out here. Monday I found myself standing outside shooting hoops and wandering around the property. Did I mention I found a 3 1/2 foot swimming pool? It looks like the pool was enclosed by bushes at one time. But the bushes have grown into trees. And the pool is more of a mud pit these days.

So ... back to work!

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