Support diary: Matthew M. (Wednesday)

It's day three of Matthew's diary. Wednesday finds SuperHumanPC-Guy sorting out a misbehaving studio production machine, tinkering with his replacement PCs, and getting snagged on the "fish hook" of an uptight laptop user.


Read Monday’s entry.

Read Tuesday’s entry.

8:00 A.M. Jumping in with both feet
Ever hear the ad slogan “Time to make the donuts?” Well, now it’s time to fix the PCs. Before I could even start my day with my normal three-sugared coffee, I was greeted by one of the production guys at my office door. You remember the “Gorilla Syndrome” I mentioned on Monday? Well, this guy looked like King Kong this morning. He was concerned about the production studio that went down the night before. He does some voice tracking for a station in Cincinnati, and if he didn’t get his production on the WAN by 9:00 A.M., he would miss his time slot.

He kept telling me that he tried to log on to the network, but the system kept hanging at logon. After calming him down a bit, I told him to relax and come with me. We proceeded down to what we here call “Production Alley“—because we have eight production studios all located in one hallway—and went into one of the studios. I told him that he could use this studio and log on with his account to get his work accomplished. “While you are in here,” I told him, “I will fix your studio’s machine.”

8:30 A.M.: Making my steps count
We are in an 80,000 square-foot facility, so whenever I leave my office to go fix or do something, I make sure it’s not a wasted trip. I grabbed my tool kit, software pack, backup tapes, and my Palm Pilot and started right in on my schedule. The phone calls and e-mails would have to wait today. I went by the server room, changed my backup tape, headed to the kitchen for a cup of “Joe” for the road, and then went straight into the ailing production studio.

The first thing I did was start the machine and let it hang up again to see if there were any error messages. There weren’t any, so I decided that I was going to boot the machine and not log on to the network, as this seemed to be the triggering problem. Now remember from yesterday, I told you that this was a trial WinNT Workstation machine. This is the only WinNT Workstation out of all the production studios. I have this machine logging into my WinNT Business network and the Prophet Novell network at the same time.

As much as I hate to, I am forced in this situation to let Microsoft Windows Networking and Novell Network coexist on the same machine. I have a 3Com NIC in this machine, using TCP/IP and—you guessed it—Novell’s IPX protocol. Since the machine was hanging on the logon, I thought that I would remove and reinstall the protocols because you know how they fail sometimes. Unfortunately, it didn’t work, and the machine was still hung up at logon. So then I thought that it was time to change the NIC driver.

I reached for the SuperHumanPC-Guy’s software pack and dug out the latest 3Com driver disk. Oh, by the way—SuperHumanPC-People should never be without their software packs. That’s like Batman going around fighting crime without his utility belt!

So I installed the driver and thought to myself, “Now this should do the trick.” I rebooted the machine, typed in my super secret password, and hit [Enter]. I waited and waited and then—Oh, no! This time I got a “Stop Error.” The message pointed to the NIC driver I had just installed, so now I was going to have to remove it. Since this is a studio production machine and all the data is stored on the server, I decided that, rather than doing a remote debugging on this machine, it would be better to suck an image down from the network.

I stuck the Ghost boot disk in the machine, booted it up, and sucked a brand new image off the network in about 10 minutes. The machine was back up and running again, and I could move on to my next project. I never really figured out if I had received a bad driver disk or what the problem was. I made the disk by going to 3Com’s Web site and getting, at least what I thought, was the latest and greatest.

10:00 A.M.: Making plans for a late night install
Here in Louisville, and in particular at our facility, we have eight radio stations and one news network. The flagship station is WHAS 84 AM, and out of all the stations here, this is the one that has yet to be put on the Prophet studio system. They are still running with carts, DAT tapes, and CD-ROMs.

An engineer and I are heading up the rollout of the Prophet install. So he approached me today and said he had made all the preparations on the broadcasting side for the installation of the Prophet system in the WHAS studios. He wanted to know if I had the network and computers ready. I told him I did and asked him when did he want to put Prophet in.

Due to broadcasting schedules, he said it would be best if we did it Friday night around 10:00 P.M. I said okay and made arrangements to be here on Friday night. It looks like another all-night event here at the station. Unfortunately, this is a very familiar scene.

10:45 A.M.: Always replacing or adding on
A wise person once said something to the effect that, “nothing in this world is constant except for change.” I think our organization is a great example of that axiom. Whether it’s remodeling or moving, or adding people, equipment, and more stations—you name it, we do it. However, these are all badly needed additions.

I really should say replacements because today I started my project of replacing 20 old computers with brand new ones. The older ones are 166 MHz and below. Now you might be thinking that 166s are bad. But when I started here a little over two years ago, they were running 8088s, 286s, and 386s. Some of them were even booting from a server through a peer-to-peer network off a 5.25” floppy disk.

Today I installed 500 MHz Pentiums with 128 MB of RAM and a 6 GB hard drive. Makes you think of just how far this industry has come in just the past five years! Anyway, so I started installing these replacements. They are mainly going out to salespeople, and they will be very grateful I am sure. Ever heard of Christmas in July? Well how about Christmas in April?

12:00 P.M.: Time to break for lunch
I once took my laptop into McDonald’s to get some work accomplished. I have since realized that if I am taking my laptop into McDonald’s during lunch, then I have way too much on my plate. Heh, heh—forgive the pun but I just couldn’t resist! Besides, taking my laptop into McDonald’s means I should just tattoo GEEK all over my forehead!

1:45 P.M.: Stocking the library
I took a long lunch today because I wanted to stop by the local Books-A-Million store to get a copy of the Using Outlook2000 by QUE. I have many books in our technical library, and the QUE books are my favorite. They have pulled me out of a jam so many times I couldn’t begin to tell you. I probably won’t tell you, either, because after all—I am the SuperHumanPC-Guy!

2:00 P.M.: Time to do a little catching up
Answered my e-mail from this morning and finally got around to answering my phone messages. The past couple of days I had really let that slide way too much.

3:15 P.M.: Back to the replacements
Like I said earlier, we are in a huge facility. So every step I make, I try to make it count. With that said, there is always the “invisible fish hook” lurking out in the hallways. What I mean is that I can’t go 10 feet down the hallway without someone grabbing me to help them with their PC problems. You may think I am joking when I say this, but I try to sneak in the back door when I get here in the mornings because if I don’t, I will never make it to my office.

The reason I am telling you this is because the “fish hook” caught me as I was going back to my task of replacing the computers. This time it was a user with a laptop problem. The problem was that he was trying to get the laptop working on my network. Well, for starters, he didn’t have a NIC. This laptop was the user’s personal one, and he just wanted to hook it up to the network so he could transfer some files from his desktop.

This guy is one of the engineers who is always on the road setting up remote broadcasts, and he uses his personal laptop frequently. So I decided to let him use the PCMCIA NIC card I had in stock to get him on the network. It took some serious reconfiguration because the laptop is an older one, but after “fiddlin’” with it, I got it on the network.

4:00 P.M.: Okay, really back to the replacements!
Nothing was going to stop me now—I was not going to let the hook get me this time as I headed back to my task of replacing the computers. Whenever I take a computer and replace it with a new one, there are some guidelines that I follow. Because sometimes the data is sensitive, I have to be careful how I make the transfer.

The first thing I do is suck all the *.doc, *.ppt, *.xls, and any other data files off the PC to a special file I have set up on the network. This file has only Administrator rights assigned to it, so no roaming eyes can see the data. Once the files are safely on the network, I sit the user down at their computer and ask them to make sure I have gotten all the files that they need off the machine. After a few minutes of searching their hard drive, they will either tell me there are more or that I have gotten them all. In any event, I make them understand that once I take the machine out of their possession, they will only have the files out on the network.

After replacing the computer, I will bring all the data back down off the network to their new machine and delete the files from the network. I also make them watch me delete the files for both their peace of mind and mine. I know you are saying, “Isn’t that a bit much?”

Well, I think it is just better to be safe than sorry. After I get the old machine back to my office, I will pull the hard drive from the machine, label it with the user’s name, and let it sit on my shelf for 30 days before I format it. This is just in case one of those really, uh, “bright” salespeople makes a mistake and needs some more files off the old drive. I know, I know—salespeople rarely make mistakes, but sometimes it happens. Unlike SuperHumanPC-Guys, where everything is one with the world—yeah, right!

5:00 P.M.: Yabba-dabba-doo time
I gathered up all my tools and old computers and stored them in my storage area. I went back to my office and tried to get a jump on tomorrow’s schedule by filling out the paperwork. After filling out the paperwork, I decided to wrap it up and go home.
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