So I spent some time reading in a park today…

… because I had a total of two tickets in the morning and then nothing else until the end of the day (more on that later) and I was sick of snoozing in my car in The Automotive Company™ parking lot while listening to President Bush’s press conference on NPR. Though if I have to give President Bush credit for something it’s that he’s an excellent means of making yourself drowsy when you’re sitting in a car waiting for the next six hours to creep by so you can go home from work. So when I finally woke up at the end of his Q&A session I decided to do something I’ve not done in years and stop by the local mall to wander around for a bit. I went into the GameStop to look at the used PS3 games and I ended up at Borders where I picked up a copy of Mary Roach’s book titled Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers because I enjoyed her other book Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife, of which I will be writing a review soon.

After purchasing my book I decided I didn’t want to drive all the way back to the campus, but I didn’t really have any place else to go and read my book. Then I remembered a small park not far from the office that would be perfect for sitting back and reading a few dozen pages in and so I headed there. When I pulled in and found a spot to park I couldn’t help but notice that there was a smattering of other cars already there that all seemed to have someone who was doing exactly what I was doing. Namely goofing off because they were technically working, but had nothing better to do at the time. I counted no less than six fellow book readers, four guys who pulled in to eat lunch in their cars, three people who appeared to be snoozing, and maybe five people who were legitimately doing park-related activities such as actually getting out of their car and playing with their dog or something. Those of us who appeared to be goofing off easily outweighed the number of people who had actually intended to do park related things. I was greatly bemused by this and, seeing as I didn’t recognize any of the other people, I started to wonder what it was they did for a living that seemed to be as full of downtime as what I currently do for a living. Then I pondered if any of them were actually following the classic SitCom storyline where they’d been laid off, but hadn’t been able to bring themselves to tell their families yet and so every day they got dressed and drove off as if to go to work when instead they went and sat in their cars at the local park wondering how the hell they were going to get a new job in what is the worst job market in the country.

I was there for a good couple of hours myself before I finally got a call from the office saying they had something for me to do. Naturally this call came about 45 minutes before we would normally pack things up and head back to the office for the final check-in of the day and, naturally, it involved no less than 17 machines to be decommissioned. Nothing for almost six hours previously and then just before the end of the day they hit us with 17 tickets at once. Fortunately I wasn’t the only idle employee and by the time we got done calling each other we had five of us to work on the tickets. We should be able to bang out 17 machines in an hour’s time with no problems and they were going to let us leave right from the campus when we were done instead of having us check back in at the office as per usual. Perhaps this wouldn’t be such a bad thing after all.

Which is when, naturally, it became clear that whoever set up these tickets had somehow had their brains replaced by CheezWhiz without anyone noticing. It seems the vast majority of the users of the machines listed on the tickets were not actually aware that their PCs were due to be decommissioned. That some, in fact, had only just gotten their PCs after weeks of waiting and were understandably concerned that a troupe of nerds had shown up with the full intent of taking them away again. One man seemed almost on the verge of tears as he explained how he could possibly work on his laptop but it would take weeks for him to get the permissions to move the software he’d need from the desktop to the laptop and he’d be dead in the water until then. I always love the overly emotional ones.

Needless to say we didn’t take away anyone’s PC, but we did grumble a fair bit about how this was an obvious cluster fuck. All told I think we packed up four or five PCs out of the 17 on the list. It was a whole lot of last minute rushing around to accomplish very little, but at least they gave us something to do I suppose. I so need to find a better job soon before this one drives me insane.

The magic of Internet access at Public Libraries.

So here I am once again facing a fair amount of downtime at work, but with just enough open tickets that I can’t venture too far from the campus lest I get called back. Fortunately there’s a rather nice public library just across the street that provides free Internet access without any content filters. So not only can I post to my blog, but I can also see it and leave a comment or two. My sister often makes use of her public library to check in on her blog so it occurred to me I could do the same.

Of course there’s always the danger that someone has installed a key logger on the system so I’m making use of my handy U3 enabled Sandisk Cruzer flash drive which not only has Firefox as a self-contained installation holding all my bookmarks and temporary files, but comes with the U3 edition of Avast Antivirus specifically designed to offer on the go protection. The library has done a pretty good job of locking down the system, though, as the start menu has been removed completely and icons placed on the desktop in order to allow the launching of applications. They’ve also disabled the right-click context menus in Windows XP for some reason which makes using the spell checker in Firefox impossible, but at least I can still see that I’ve typed a word incorrectly.

Naturally just as soon as I got settled here and started in on this fluff entry about how I’m braving the world of Public Library Internet access my cellphone rings and they have a ticket they need me to check up on. So it looks like my time here will be rather short as I need to finish up and head back over to the campus to see if the build team has managed to get their collective heads out of their collective asses and figured out how to do their job properly.

But at least I know I have a resource available to make use of from time to time.

SEB had some downtime this evening.

The folks at EngineHosting had a spot of hardware trouble earlier this evening that knocked a whole bunch of us off the net temporarily. Here’s part of the email I received about it.

Sorry folks, we have a number of back-end ethernet switches that handle database, storage array, and other important communications between our clustered servers.  We quickly identified that it was indeed an issue with our backend network, but as all visible indicators showed no outward issues (ie: no dead switches, typical ethernet switch blinking lights, and no warning/alert lights were on).  Deeper investigation identified a highly unusual issue between two switches sharing a high-speed uplink port to pass data between them, we found the switch with the issue pulled it out of service and replaced it with a stand-by switch and systems are again operational.

They’re taking steps to upgrade hardware and put a new ticket system in place to help avoid outages like this again so I’m happy. In fact I believe this is the first ever unscheduled downtime SEB has suffered since we switched to EngineHosting. Can’t complain too much about that.