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Well, I was wrong about the problem, because what they were doing is a workable setup, though not one I would choose to implement. I had the chance to clear that up before I went near the customer, so my blushes were mostly spared. The trip can be called a success, from a technical perspective; not only did I get the specific system going, I also got to the bottom of an intermittent problem that had plagued the customer for over a year. That it took this long to get this kind of result does not auger well, and gives the problem a political aspect which I can thankfully surf over, not having been involved until now.

I didn’t see much of the hotel, since I checked in at 20:00 and was out by 04:30, with barely time for a shower and a room service pizza-and-beer combo before sleep. What the pizza lacked in quality, it more than made up in quantity – a good thing, since I had nothing but coffee for the next 21 hours, 12 of which were spent holding the customer’s hand (figuratively) while they went through the instructions they already had. We followed the procedure carefully, and it all worked.

The document is the kind I dislike: it gives the customer step-by-step instructions, but it doesn’t explain why they’re taking some of the steps, and it is not clear enough on a couple of crucial points. It didn’t bother me – I’m used to a more, um, flexible approach to these things – but I’m probably going to have to fix the document myself. In one place, where the document was unclear, they could have just read the instructions on the screen in plain English. I worked in that kind of environment years ago, and it’s now even clearer why I didn’t fit in.

So there I was, in a huge shed in the middle of nowhere that happens to be filled with computers and storage, which they call the second-largest data centre in Europe. At 5AM it’s still deafening, between the computers and the cold air blasting up from the floor. I had to organize things around that time, the start of a one hour window during which the running server could be taken down.

Then later, the political meeting, in which an angry manager tried to get me to explain all the problems they’ve had in the past year. Sorry, miss, my name’s not Hairy Pothead, I can’t turn the clock back. This is what you get for skimping on costs and not using your heads, frankly. The fact that this product is sold as as a “turnkey” solution is part of the problem – but it’s only turnkey when it’s doing its own thing. If you attach it to a huge external storage system, as they did, it will react differently, much as a car will handle differently if you attach a huge trailer to the bumper.

By 18:00 today, when I got on the plane back to Dublin, I’d been up for fourteen hours, most of them hot, and I got a few strange looks and wrinkled noses from other passengers. Tough. (No deodorant could survive a day like that, no matter what the commercials say.) I’m off to bed next, and don’t think I’ll have much trouble sleeping.

One more thing: we have a new travel ban imposed, for cost reasons, so my trip to Germany at the end of this month has been cancelled. Never mind, I still have two weeks off, which are not negotiable.


Written by brian t

June 18, 2003 at 9:48 pm

Posted in england, work

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