“words—
lonely written words—are all you’ve got”

—Virginia Shea

“communication happens when I know you know what I know”

—Me

And the angels did sing!

The Book of QuestionsFrom The Book of Questions:

135: Which would you prefer: a wild, turbulent life filled with joy, sorrow, passion, and adventure-intoxicating successes and stunning setbacks; or a happy, secure, predictable life surrounded by friends and family without such wide swings of fortune and mood?


Friends are still asking me, “So, how do you like your new job?” After a year and a half with 318, Inc., I’m usually a little caught off guard because I just don’t have a good answer yet.

Don’t take that as I don’t like my job. Not so. I’m challenged in ways I’ve never been challenged and I love that! However, consulting is completely new to me after years of working for in-house IT groups (or being the IT group). I’m not afraid to admit I’m still trying to get the hang of it and that I’ve probably had more defeats in this job than I ever had in my old job as well as some pretty cool successes.

My job’s definitely not a wild roller coaster ride but I certainly left a secure and predictable position for one that asks a lot more of me and is far more spontaneous. Comparing the two, I’d say my old job was narrowly focussed but deep in understanding whereas now it’s broadly focussed without often going in-depth. I realized just how broad it is by looking over some of my tickets from this week.

  • New ticketing system
    Just keeping track of my time has changed because we’ve started using a new ticketing system. No matter how much training and demonstration you receive, it’s no comparison for when you actually have to use the tool. One week into it and I’m already finding it more flexible than our prior system. Good move.

  • Office 365 mail hold
    This customer asked for an easy way to permanently store all sent and received mail for his entrie office… forever. I’m not a fan of permanent retention but I’m also not a lawyer and don’t make these decisions. Office 365 does offer an eDiscovery and Hold feature but it’s not easy for an administrator to locate data. A new account, some mail folders and a few rules took care of this.

  • Restore files from archive tapes
    We’ve been working on this project a few months. One of our customers has a few hundred LTO tapes with more than 20,000 video files he wants restored to disk. This gig involves scripting to determine what’s on each tape and to create restore lists. We have another script to actually create the restore jobs. The tape library is in our Santa Monica office and I’m here in Saint Paul asking for tapes and running the jobs. Right now, we’re in “gitrdun” mode.

  • Troubleshoot backups
    One of our staple support jobs is monitoring backups. I had two clients this week where backups had stopped working. The first client’s backup software decided to label its external backup drives as “read only”. This was such an unusual problem that it took me a while to find it. The second client’s backup jobs needed a little tweaking to their retention schedules to enable overwriting tapes from a month ago. The software wasn’t really helpful in letting us know this.

  • iPhone email issues
    A customer couldn’t trash any email messages from her iPhone. Issues like this are a little tough because I can’t remote control an iPhone and see the actual problem. A little research online led me to have the customer add an IMAP prefix to her account and choose the appropriate Deleted Items folder. This wasn’t a difficult fix but troubleshooting by walking a customer through complex settings involves lots of patience and very careful wording.

  • Wi-Fi SSID changes
    A customer wanted all Wi-Fi SSIDs in his office changed to a different name. I wasn’t familiar with the office and had to rely on our internal database for specifics. Turns out he had four Cisco WAPs that each needed modification. I’d never dealt with this particular hardware but I eventually found where to make the changes deep in the bowels of the software.

  • Network issues
    Late Wednesday I received a call from our home office. Network problems for a customer were escalating. We’d been fighting what was originally just a phone issue for a few days. Then Internet performance slowed. And email was sporadic. VPN connectivity got spotty. We were blaming the router and restarting switches but nothing improved. A co-worker had mentioned he’d seen similar issues with a bridged network and I’d seen the same thing at my old job too. I directed the customer to look for a network cable with both ends plugged into network ports. He actually found a cable joining a data LAN port to the VOIP phone network. Once he unplugged it the clouds parted and the angels did sing! This closed nearly half a dozen incident tickets.

  • Windows security alerts
    A customer complained how copying a Microsoft Access database from his server to his Windows 7 workstation always prompted him with a security alert. According to him this was a real time waster. About five minutes of research pointed me to adding the server’s address to the workstation’s local list of trusted locations.

  • Munki training
    I spent a half day in training with a co-worker to bone up on Munki, which is a deployment system for Macs. I’m already familiar with deployment and management concepts from Casper and DeployStudio and looking forward to adding this to my list of tools.

  • OS X profile testing
    A couple of co-workers found a bug where OS X configuration profiles don’t correctly configure Exchange accounts on Macs. We were told the bug report was closed and I was asked to test. Nope, still doesn’t work.

  • Active Directory and Exchange migration
    I didn’t get to help with this much this week but hope I’ll be involved more in the next few weeks. We’re migrating a customer from a .local Active Directory domain to a more logically named domain. This includes new servers for domain controllers and migrating their Exchange mailboxes to new systems as well. Jobs like this are nice because they’re not only great learning experiences but opportunities to correctly configure an environment.

  • Monitoring alerts
    I’ve become the de facto monitor of our alerts system. We have agents installed on our customers’ workstations and servers. I triage the alerts (failed backups, full boot drives, RAM and hardware errors, etc.) and notify our service desk and managers so we can mitigate problems before they escalate. This is pretty dry work but then maintenance is rarely exciting.

  • Incoming email has stopped
    I’m flattered when a customer asks for me because I’ve earned her trust. Her email had stopped flowing into her Inbox on both her desktop and phone. Sending email was fine. After about an hour of troubleshooting I determined her Inbox had too many messages (over 25,000) and was “clogged”. I moved about 10,000 messages to another mail folder. As messages were moving out I saw new messages from today start popping in to her Inbox. That’s one for my MacIT talk at Macworld/iWorld this year.

One of my co-workers is now a former co-worker as of last week. He’s transitioning from contractor to in-house IT and I’m sure he’ll do just fine there. I’m curious, though, to hear how he likes life as a civilian after being a consultant most of his career. Best of luck, Blu.

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