Mint gum, anyone?

At about half past one in the afternoon today, I was sitting on a bench in the campus cafeteria, half sweating, munching on crispy Lays potatoe chips and peanut biscuits. As I dumped the empty wrappers into a dustbin and was getting up to leave, a friend handed a mint bubble gum. Not in a mood of doing any sort of chewing, I slid it inside my jeans pocket, headed down from the cafeterai building into the men's lavatory, and then, finally, found myself at home sitting in the air-conditioned server room, punching keys, and making sense out of garbled texts whizzing across the glowing monitor. A new hard-disk, along with an additional network interface card, had been mounted into the desktop system running the campus's website. Being the systems administrator for that system, I had to make both the hard-disk and NIC usable in no time, the system being a live, production server and all, and especially considering the haunting fact that the server had been running fast out of disk space. As I had to run to catch one last class within an hour before the end of the day, I hurried with my systems administration work.

An hour later, I found myself sitting on one of the lecture benches in the second row, facing my professor, who was preparing the multimedia and the laptop to kick off the lecture. As I ran my hands down over my jeans pockets, to ensure I still had my cell phone with me, I felt something in my left pocket. Damn! I had completely forgotten about the mint gum. I quickly dug it out, and was somewhat amused to find the gum had flattened under pressure in my pocket. I carefully tore and yanked the wrapper apart, dumped it under my desk — which is most irresponsible of me, and realising that, I afterwards picked it up and dumped it into a dustbin — and, took the opportunity to haul it into my mouth when the professor wasn't looking at me. The lecture kicked off. I quietly chewed on the gum. It felt great. Five minutes into chewing the gum, I was abruptly interrupted by the professor, "Ayaz, what exactly are you chewing?" "Oh, damn! Shit!", I winced under my breath. "Um, a gum, sir …", I fumbled to answer. Although the professor was a bit surprised, somewhat angry, I could clearly make out a sinister grin taking its shape across his mouth. He quickly started counting the students in the class. "15! Get mint gums for each one of them. That's your punishment!", he said, grinning. Without wasting so much as a minute, I got out of the class, and headed straight to the cafeteria. I bought three bars of mint gum, rushed back into the class, and, handing them to the professor, I calmly sat back on the lecture bench.


Suffering from Writer’s Block.

In an attempt to break ice and write something, I wrote a small piece on how it feels to be suffering from writer's block roughly an year ago.  Earlier this month, I dropped the article on, hoping it would get published there.  Yesterday afternoon, I couldn't contain my excitment when I read the e-mail from Chowk's editor acknowledging that my article has been published.  Although it is pretty trivial, the feeling of elation has not ceased since yesterday.  You can read the article here.  I can't say for how long this link will remain valid, but if it does not work, do drop me a note behind.

John, the Network Manager! (Part II)

The noun "expertise" defines, according to Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary, expert knowledge or skill in a particular subject, activity or job". It is no wonder, and for appallingly obvious reasons, that "expertise" is not considered part of vocabulary used when defining John's skills. To the contrary, John's only expertise centres around poking fingers at various holes on server boxes. No doubt about that.

John excels marvellously at managing inventory control jobs. Be it making sure which systems go where, or counting the number of laptops lying on top of a wooden closet so that the figure tallies with the previous one, John is unbeatable. He is unparalleled. The peons hold him in much respect. Last someone checked, John knew full well how to load papers on a printer, too. Hmm.

John leverages a couple of advantages at his job. Sensing trouble against his servers, John always has the option to shut all his servers down, lock himself in the room, and sit on a chair, prespiring, without even running into so much as a danger of being reprimanded for causing network downtime and consequential losses — never mind the fact that he almost always gets away with it with impunity.

John possesses an impressive sixth sense. He can sense danger from a kilometre. And when he sniffs trouble [from a kilometre, that is], he makes sure he does what he thinks is right and sufficient to thwart that trouble, including, as is on top of his list, shutting down everything and waiting for the thunderstorm to come and pass. That the thunderstorm never comes, that it never even existed in the first place is besides the point.

In loving, breathing memory of John, the proud, good-for-nothing Network Manager.

John, the Network Manager!

"Sir, browsing is dead on the systems in the laboratory!", exclaims Jamie, barging into the Network Manager's office. Frantic and sweating, John replies in a deafening tone without even looking up at  Jamie, "Oh, hmmm.". As if on impulse, John slowly bends alongside a rack of servers, and pokes his  index finger into a hole in a huge box, and retracts. "Um, it'll be ok now!" Jamie, turning around, smiles,  thinking, "He just rebooted the live mail server like it is nothing. He's one heck of a network manager!"

John barely knows his way around the administrative panel on a Windows NT box. Sure, he can check e-mails, browse, reset passwords for users, look concerned when something is not working, etc. But that is about all he can do.

John thinks himself a proud network manager. With a commanding tone and position, he loves bossing about everyone he thinks won't put his job in jeopardy. For someone who knows so little, his attitude is incredible.

Michael mumbles, pointing at the Cisco router eating dust on the top shelf of the rack, "There are exploits out there for various vulnerabilities in Cisco routers in the wild". With a look of utter concern, John innocently asks, "Hm. So, what do those do?" "Um, oh, nothing, nothing at all. Nothing surely you need worry about," Michael ducks his head and takes a step back.

"Why is LDAP running on one of your servers, sir?", a curious onlooker enquires. Looking at the screen, John, having realised he can't make neither heads nor tails of what he has been asked, pretends he missed the question. "I asked …", before the onlooker can complete his question the second time, an IT staff interrupts and seeks John's attention. John thinks to himself, "Phew. Saved in the nick of time."

For the better part of his day on the job at the office, John sits comfortably on a chair, in front of a monitor, with his eyes following the red curve being generated by the Network Traffic monitoring utility. In a way, doing so serves him right — he would not know what else to do anyway.

Although John would not admit to it, but John's famous pasttime at the job is poking at little holes on servers. Captions on most of these holes read "Reset"; the rest read "Power off". But that is understandable. If there is anything to be blamed for this, then it has to be the "Network Manager's 101 Guide to solving problems" book John keeps with him where ever he goes. It is this guide that has convinced John beyond any shadow of a doubt that the best remedy for any problems occurring on the network is a reboot. If it is the server that is misbehaving, reboot the server. If the switch is bitching, yank its switch. If the router isn't passing packets through, you know where the On/Off button is.

In loving, breathing memory of John, the proud, good-for-nothing Network Manager.