STATIC DISCLAIMER: All the stuff in here is purely my opinions, and they tend to change depending on what mood I'm in. If you're going to get bitter if I say something about you that you don't like, then maybe don't read. I avoid using names as much as possible, and would request that people who know me do the same in their comments. Basically, I often vent my frustrations on here, so if you happen to be someone who frustrates me, expect to read a description of someone very much like you in here!

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Almost nothing, and then...

Blal. That's really all I have to say at this point. I'm so completely flat and empty at the moment, I really don't have anything to blog about.

Oh, not entirely true - there is something.
Quite a while ago, I wrote this post about the pitfalls of doing computer work for friends of friends or relatives or whatever. Usually immediate circle is OK (eg: parents, cousins, friends) but if you expand to their circle (ie: friends/relatives of friends/relatives) then you run into hassles. Although that post was titled "Never Again", I now have another story to tell of the same nature.
A guy at my work has a brother who works for a particular frame/truss company. I would link them, but they have no web presence whatsoever, so the best I could do is link the Yellow Pages. Anyway, this guy at my work asked if I could perhaps go have a look at their computers. He said that they were using Win98, but the computers were all networked, and all they needed was for me to hook them up so that they could all use their new ADSL link, and I'd make some sweet moolah.

Nifty. I can do that.

Then came that still small voice: "Don't do it... you know where this will lead... It's hassle that you don't need right now..." However, I ignored that still small voice. I have a PSP without any games, and money would fix that. How could I possibly lose here?
I lose. I lose bad. I went to have a look at their computers. They are all running Win98 - they've never been updated, and most of them have spent time connected to the internet without antivirus or a firewall. Most of them have spyware-like toolbars installed all over them. The IP addressing is inconsistent and muddled. And then to top it all off, I try to change the IP on the ADSL modem, and it dies. Why? Well, see Bigpond (whom Blogger keeps insisting I should replace with "Fishpond" - might well be faster...) load custom firmware into their modems, and it just had a glitch. So I have to spend 20+ minutes hunting around for a manual over a dialup connection that just won't stay connected.
When I finally got it hooked up and working, the connection to the internet was solid enough (it would resolve domain names, and ping IPs with low response times), but using a web browser was like wading through marzipan. The guys who work there are keen to go home by this stage, so I leave it and tell them to get some anti-virus/spyware happening.
I get a call today at work via the guy who set me up with this job. They haven't changed a thing, but the internet isn't working. I get one of them to verify he can access the ADSL modem - all is good. I get him to ping The DNS name resolves (it would be in cache), but the pings all time out. Great. So now their ADSL link is unreliable. Bigpond probably cut them off because their computers spent the night distributing some virus or spyware or something.
This hasn't been a really accurate/interesting description, but I wanted to just make one point. Whenever this happens - someone asks you to do them a favor and look at their mishmash computer network - it really isn't worth doing. All that's happened is that I've been given 2 hours in a room full of dusty bones and been asked to construct a live animal. However, the people I've done the work for won't be able to come to terms with that - they'll think that I'm just a substandard operator and that I've ripped them off because I haven't walked away leaving them with sparkly new things to play with. They'll ask me to come fix the problems, when the truth is that the problems aren't mine to begin with. They need new PCs. The ones they have are at least 6 years old, and are running an operating system that was developed before internet-connected networks were a commonplace occurrence. Sure, conceptually it should work, but the fact is that practically it falls down. For example, you can't disable NetBIOS over TCP/IP on a network adapter (ie: not a modem) that has TCP/IP as it's default protocol. Why? Well because Microsoft assumed that if you were running TCP/IP on an Ethernet adapter using Win98, that you were networking with other PCs (and probably Windows PCs) on a local subnet. Hence, seeing as Win98 doesn't have it's own built in DNS server, NetBIOS is an essential for name resolution. This doesn't apply directly to the problems I was having, but it's just interesting to observe the assumptions that are made within the OS.

(saved as draft - now following day)

So I've arranged to go look at this beast of a network this afternoon. I bought SSX on Tour for my PSP which I'm pretty happy with, but I could use another game. So if I can get $50 out of this arvo, I'm pretty happy. Also, I've done something clever. I have people coming over tonight for dinner, meaning that even if the whole thing is falling to crap, I still have to leave in time to get home for dinner. Nice. I'm also downloading everything I can think of that I might need. Anti-spyware, antivirus, manual for the modem - and I'm going to burn it all to CD. Should be great I hope. Basically, this whole thing is a puddle of stinking dog's vomit, and I hope to at least draw a smiley face in it. Hopefully that will help...


Tam said...

Maybe we should have postponed dinner...or was it a good excuse to escape?

Justin Warner said...

No no - I needed it. I needed a "you REALLY have to leave now" excuse.