Support diary: Tom S. (Friday)

The hot topic of the final entry from this week's support diary is passwords!

Friday’s headaches included dealing with users who couldn’t read their e-mail because their passwords had expired.

Read Monday’s entry .

Read Tuesday’s entry .

Read Wednesday’s entry.

Read Thursday’s entry.

I must say, this has been one of the least technically challenging weeks I’ve ever had. Instead of reading about a variety of computer hardware/software mysteries and how they were solved, you got the real day-to-day happenings of (pretty much) a one-man show. A few of my friends help me out (A LOT), but for the most part I’m the client support and helpdesk guy, the Network Administrator, and the PC repairman. And here it is, my last day, and you’re going to get another ear-full of my bureaucratic battles.

A central theme this week has been my problems with our Network Services department. At one time, we completely ran our own systems (e-mail was our biggest business service), and we only relied on Network Services for the Internet connection. We were able to take care of our own problems in our own way. But now we are just another cog in the machine. It’s very annoying. Everyone is forced to call the “trouble desk,” and must usually wait a day or two to get a response. It’s a classic example of government bureaucracy at work. Bigger is not better here, and they cannot provide the same level of service I once did. And the end users are the ones who suffer. I think they should read the article What's the IT prime directive? by TechRepublic’s Jeff Davis and take a few pointers from it.

Home firewall update
I got really tired of trying to make the crappy old hardware work, so I ordered new stuff. I’ll be building a new Celeron 433 for my wife and turning her P233MMX into the Linux Firewall box.

I get up and go through my morning routine with my wife, the cats, and the coffee, and plop my butt down in front of my computer. I keep thinking “TGIF!” And it’s payday, so how bad can this day be? I shouldn’t have asked. The first thing I see is an e-mail sent out late last night explaining that the center will be performing assessments of a new security application. I consider this to be no big deal until I read further down that one part of the test is a forced expiration of EVERYONE’S passwords. I’m screwed! I’m not going to do anything else today but fix peoples passwords. Whose ———- idea was this?!

I pick up last night’s backups from the production customer service box and then head to my building, where I go straight to the LAN room to take care of the rest of the backups and check out the logs. This will probably be the only chance I have to get in there.

I end up having a brief meeting with my boss to discuss new computer allocation. We’re getting ten new computers before the end of the year, and we need to come up with a plan. My boss is a firm believer that someone who only uses Word and Outlook does not need a new PIII 550, so we have to develop a trickle-down chart.

My boss and I get coffee and go our separate ways. Then I’m off to start the fixing. They [Network Services] have made changes to their login scripts and are testing a new security application. I think it’s a piece of crap, and it’s causing many of our 9x boxes to barf up a fatal error.

OS side note about passwords
I wanted to go all NT when we designed the new network, but management decided that it was too expensive. They’ve more than paid the price in my labor, as I have repeatedly rebuilt 9x computers after users attempted to “fix” them (in some cases, several times for the same users). Finally, about a year ago, they started ordering all computers with NT. And many of my 9x users have figured out that if they uncheck the “Log on to a Windows NT domain” under Client for Microsoft Networks they do not see the annoying Kix32 program run.

By unchecking the “Log on to a Windows NT domain,” these users do not get a dialog box to change their passwords when they expire (or in this case, are forced to expire). They simply log into their local machines and go about their business, until they start e-mail. E-mail tells them they cannot use e-mail until they’ve changed their password. So they click into the control panel and change their password.

But, remember that they are only logging into their local machines, so they end up merely changing their local passwords. (But they do not know this). When they try to e-mail again, it doesn’t work. They log out and log back in and try e-mail again, but it still doesn’t work. It is at this point that I get the calls of desperation. And I have to listen to how they changed their password, logged out, logged back in, and their e-mail still does not work, and they don’t know why, and their [Network Services] e-mail sucks, and ours was so much better, and how I never let this happen to them...and on and on and on.

The “fix” is easy but tedious: Go into the Client for Microsoft Networks, check the “Log on to a Windows NT domain...” You know the rest. It’s amazing how many people can uncheck that feature but forget how to go back and check it. Or simply say, “I don’t know how that got unchecked.”

Whoohoo! Big lunch day. Nine of us are heading out to get some chow. This is a bigger group than usual.

After a well-deserved long lunch, I return to find five new computers stacked in my cube. I wish I could play with them, but I must return to the password grind.

Finally, everyone’s password problem is fixed (I think), and I head back to my desk. One of my friends has found another “Weapons of Destruction” Mod for Quake II (we “have” to play it). We rally for about an hour before heading off for the weekend.
If you’d like to write a support diary for TechRepublic, please send me a note to find out how.

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