Boris is currently certified at Journeyer level.

Name: Cormac McGaughey
Member since: 2000-04-18 08:39:46
Last Login: 2008-10-16 00:04:21

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I work as a computer support specialist for the University Of Washington, Tacoma.

Email: boris@boris-

Recent blog entries by Boris

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5 May 2005 (updated 5 May 2005 at 23:36 UTC) »

Note to self: There's a really good reason why you don't use dump to backup a filesystem thats NFS mounted...


Grr... I hate outsourcing...

Recently I had a PDA that was broken. I had two options: 1) Ship it back to where I bought it and get a refund (they clearly hadn't checked it - all thier fault) or 2) Find out the repair costs.

I thought I'd see what the repair costs were first. They recommended sending a web-form email. Having worked in support for many years, I like to let the poor support techs know what they are in for when I log a call. I did the diagnosis, and logged it nice and clearly listing the problems and symptoms in the email. (Short form: digitizer was broken. What are the repair costs?)

First response: Standard email back saying "Have you upgraded to the version 1.1 firmware? If that doesn't work try a soft reset, and if that doesn't work, try a hard reset. Thank you" What?! It's a hardware problem. I'd listed it as a physical hardware problem. How's that going to fix the busted digitizer? People, at least try and use a script that parses the email. I could write something in 10 minutes in perl and PHP that would do a better job than that.

Turned it over to my wife to try to get a response (She's much better at getting people to do stuff). She did the email chat thingy from thier website. Told them exactly what the problem was. Asked what the repair cost was. Was told it would be a warranty repair. No cost. Sounds good. So, I shipped it off.

A few days later I get a call saying that they looked at it. It would be a $125 repair, and could they have my credit card number?

I called then them back, and some Indian bloke says that the head of engineering looked at it, and the digitizer was broken and it would be $125 to repair. I told him that we told them that *twice* and that they said it was a warranty repair.

He said, "Yes Sir, but the digitizer is broken and that $125, but it has a 3 month warranty".

I said "Yes, but you said 'warranty repair - no cost' and now theres a cost, even though I told you twice that this is exactly what the problem was..."

He said "The head of engineering says that to repair it costs $125..."

I said "I described the problem clearly. You said 'Warranty Repair'. The problem was a broken digitizer. Why is this not a warranty repair?"

I could clearly tell he'd run out scripted responses. He said "Sorry sir, I'm not a technician. We're in Southern India"

I asked him to transfer me to engineering. He responded "I can't do that" I repeated the request to be transfered to someone other than him, either his boss or someone who was dealing with the PDA. He said "I can't do that"

I said "Well get the head of engineering to call me then" He said "I can't do that - our contract states..." I cut him off and said "I don't care - I was told no cost, and now there is a cost, and you're not telling me why there is suddenly a cost, and you won't get the guy who is saying there is a cost to contact me."

He went back to the script and said "but the repair is under warranty and its a 3 month warranty and can I have your credit card number"

One thing I hate worse than dealing with machines are people who act like machines. I told him to ship it back and hung up on him in mid sentance.

I long for the days when you could get transferred to some tech who would take 2 minutes out of his day to tell you that it looked worse than they thought. You could at get an understanding why you are suddenly paying out almost as much as the thing cost in the first place, and feel better about supporting some guy in Southern California because you would know exactly what was wrong.

I like to know why I'm forking out cash, and not for some one liner email that Mr Call Center in Southern India got with no clear description of the problem and reasoning why there's suddenly a charge.

Grr. I hate outsourcing. If you're going to outsource, at least outsource it to some tech who will know what the heck is going on. Don't outsource it to some script machine.


OMG. Now they have spam degrees in Nigeria... Todays spam:

Dear Sir/Madam, I am Princess Chioma , daughter of HRH King Solomon Abonime, the king of Ogoni Kingdom. I am 25 years old and a graduate of Mass Communication. My father was the king of Ogoni Kingdom the highest oil producing area in Nigeria. He was in charge of reviving royalties from the multi-national oil companies and government on behalf of the oil producing communities in Nigeria.

etc, etc

17 Jan 2004 (updated 17 Jan 2004 at 01:10 UTC) »
How I wasted 3 hours in a server room,


Why I'm cursed with this cluster implimentation.

I have a cluster of linux systems, and they are controlled by some USB power switches so that the nodes can power each other off when a node dies.

Kimberlite doesn't understand these switches and the stonith module I hacked together in a couple of hours on Christmas eve just sucked too much to be stable, so I scripted the stonith stuff instead.

So I installed the scripts this morning and did some testing, and it all worked well. Until the very last reboot of the secondary node.

The module controlling the USB switch wouldn't finish initialising. It's a problem we had before and I thought I had it fixed. I decided to enable a USB option on the systems BIOS to see if that helped any.

Well it didn't. The system posted the SCSI card, then hung. It didn't even get anywhere near starting to look at the boot drive. Of course this card was controlling the quorum disk and I had to kill the cluster again. I popped out the card and the system the posted enough where I could get back into the BIOS setup. I disabled the option I had enabled, and the put the SCSI card back in again.

So now, the system posts and starts the boot process, but won't boot the drive I need. I stick in the rescue floppy.

It boots.

It goes:



And hangs.

I'm thinking, "Not seen this one before..."

I bootup FIRE and the inspect the boot-drive. Everything looks correct, and fsck comes back clean.

I reboot the system and hit Ctrl-C and disable the bios on the scsi card in case it's pre-empting the ide boot.

No change.

System still isn't booting, and I'm getting sick of seeing "vmlinuz... Ready". I mean, what the heck does it think it is? A C64?

Of course reasoning with it and trying to persuade your 1Ghz server that it's not some 8 bit glorified typewriter gets me nowhere. Just in case I type in on the console:

10 Print "Hello World"

20 goto 10

just incase I found a kernel easter egg or something. Of course it doesn't work.

I try to reenable the LSI card. I hit Ctrl-C to get into the bios. Nothing. I reboot and read the screen, it tells me to hit Ctrl-C. So I hit it. Still nothing.

I was trying to remember other control codes for LSI cards. I try Ctrl-M. Nothing. Ctrl-R, nope. Ctrl-L, nada. Ctrl-H, same. I vaguely remeber that some SCSI card I once used took Ctrl-A. I think to myself "That only works on Adaptec cards, but this is LSI. It won't work". It worked. My jaw drops. I re-enable the bios on the scsi card and reboot. Yep. It still says Control-C, except that now Ctrl-C actually works.

This has to be the wierdest bug I've seen in an age. With scsi bios enabled you hit Ctrl-C to enter the card settings, with scsi bios disabled you have to hit Ctrl-A, even though the card tells you Ctrl-C. Wow.

My linux server still won't boot my linux.

I check the system bios, and I can't see anything different. I make a few small changes (reset configuration data, etc). Nothing.

I make a few big changes, and then decide I don't want to do these all at onces. So I hit F9 to default the settings and make one change (making sure the system starts up in the event of a power cut).

I reboot, and linux boots first time.

I think "hmm... what was different"

I reboot and head back into the bios. I look and compare with what was there at the start before I made the initial USB change.

Nothing. It was exactly the same. In everything.

I could have saved myself 3 hours of debug if I'd thought that hitting the default button would have worked instead of undoing the one change I made. Ironically undoing my initial change brought the system back to it's default settings anyway, because that the way we like our servers.

Now if I can only get kimberlite to work properly on RH9...

Just now I got a piece of spam trying to make me download a tool called "Spam Ready" which supposedly stops spam.

Who in thier right mind would trust software from a company who spams...

Time to update my content filter yet again...

119 older entries...


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