Open Source

Support diary: Tony Geraghty (Tuesday)

This week, read the tech support diary entries from network administrator <B>Tony Geraghty</B>. Tony tackles Linux today.

Today our network and systems administrator tackles static IP addresses and loss of electric power.

Read Monday’s entry.

8:00 A.M.
Tuesday starts like any other day: A quick check of last night’s backups, change the tapes, and verify everything is running smoothly in the computer room. I didn't get a chance to clear my desk following last night’s meeting, and I hate sitting down to a new day with a cluttered desk. Last night’s meeting was productive.

Updating the servers
When I first arrived to this company, we were running two identical DRS6000 servers—one here in Dublin, the other in the UK. Their function in life was to provide user access to an accounting and costing package used extensively in the construction industry in this part of the world.

Upper management decided to replace both aging servers with a brand new HP 9000 R class, located here in Dublin, and port the accounts packages to this new one. Because of some minor differences in construction law between the UK and Ireland, it was necessary to maintain two slightly different versions of the software on the same server, with each user’s login profile determining which area the user would access. Despite this, porting the application was a resounding success, and drastically improved the efficiency of the IT department in supporting it.

It was recently decided that the effectiveness of a second application used on the actual building sites to manage subcontractor payments, plant equipment expenses, and other site-related costs would be doubled if we could automatically update the head office application with the site data every night. As there was no built-in functionality for exporting in either package, we contacted the developers and outlined our ideas. They enthusiastically lent support, and we started work.

Two months later, and we're ready to start testing the transfer and output, with a view to going live in two weeks. Last night's meeting was primarily concerned with the scripting issues revolving around the nightly file transfers which would be necessary to ensure success. We managed to decide on some definite procedures and set up a test run.

Along with the phasing out of the UK-based DRS6000, we've managed to replace quite a few terminals with real-life, honest-to-goodness PCs. Adding them to our network has caused one or two small problems, due to the nature of our existing network infrastructure (more on that later).

All in all, we are comfortably on track in revolutionizing the way we deliver information to the desktop within the company. Exciting times, indeed.

9:15 A.M.
First call of the day: an IP address conflict caused by yours truly not paying attention when setting up a new PC. Due to the nature of our network, we're not yet using DHCP, so I have to keep track of all the static IP addresses in a host’s file, and I must admit I sometimes forget to update it.

Luckily, the users here are a very understanding bunch, and this user is no different. A quick fix and she's up and running. Slightly embarrassed, I determine to pay more attention next time.

11:00 A.M.
It has been very quiet for the last few hours, so I've been playing around with recompiling the kernel on the Linux box I use to monitor the HP9000 because I need to add support for an external CD-writer.

So far everything looks okay. The box has rebooted successfully, which is a major achievement, as far as I'm concerned, since this is the first time I've attempted to recompile a Linux kernel! Now all I need to do is find some software to burn a CD.

12:15 P.M.
We've just had a power cut. Every power socket in the building is out, and the phones are down. We are currently building an extension to our building, so I wonder if this is an accidental outage caused by the construction work outside. A quick visit to the utilities manager upstairs, and I discover that the entire area is blacked out and may not be back for a couple of hours.

The UPS systems will keep everything running for no more than 45 minutes, so I decide to warn all the users in the remote sites that the UNIX boxes are going to have to come down for a while.

Within five minutes, everything is shut down. The remote offices still have their local LANs and NT domains, but head office is completely out. There's nothing I can do until the utility company gets things back together.

1:50 P.M.
Power is restored, and I call the remote offices to let them know they can access the UNIX systems again. I don't yet know what the cause was, but it’s not important—there was no data loss, and as the power cut straddled the regular lunch hour, the users weren't too inconvenienced. I'm sure I'll eventually discover the cause.

4:00 P.M.
A quiet afternoon gives me the chance to install some new virus signatures on the anti-virus domains. I also physically install the PC I prepared yesterday and give the new user a quick rundown on his network drives and our security policies.

My colleague who's visiting the sites in the UK calls to make sure I'm not snowed under with work, and also to discuss his installation of some new top-of-the-range PCs in the drawing office. The CAD application requires the installation of a second video card to allow a two-monitor display, and he's managed to overcome some problems he was having with stability.

5:00 P.M.
It turns out the earlier power failure was an extensive "brown-out." Apparently, the utility company was experiencing supply problems over the last twenty-four hours and things finally came to a head today. Let’s hope it doesn't become a regular occurrence. When 5:30 P.M. rolls around, it’s time to head for home.
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