Saturday, April 3 2021

easter, ziggy's limp, and IT night



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Dear Journal,

Good evening, readers. Happy Saturday. Did anyone else forget that it was Easter weekend? Don’t be ashamed to admit it, because we didn’t realize it until just a few days ago. If you had asked me what I was planning on doing this weekend last Tuesday, I might have answered “lounging around in my sweats, drinking coffee, and browsing twitter”. But now we’re having Kelly and Jeremy over tomorrow. They’re going to spend the day eating and hanging out with us in the yard. The kids are going to hunt for Easter eggs in the backyard while the dogs run around. Lounging around in sweats is nice, but let’s be honest I think we’ve all had a enough of that in 2020, and that’s why it was a very welcomed change of plans. It’s nice to cook for people, host, and be hospitable again. We’ve missed that a lot.

Tonight is a big cooking night. We’ve got a dozen apples to turn into appelmoes. There are four boxes of baby bella mushroooms that need to get washed, chopped, and reduced into a red pepper filling. I couldn’t think of a better way to spend Friday night than putting the kids to bed, cracking open a beer, and cooking into the night.

Sip. But first, how did your weekend go? I don’t have too many updates on my end. The biggest news around here is Ziggy’s limp, which remains a mystery. She’s reluctant to put any weight on her back left foot, but she doesn’t mind when we rub it and move it around. In fact, she encourages it. She’s been milking her injury all weekend, casting those big watery eyes up at us whenever she wants a cuddle or a snack. Last night she talked me into feeding her an entire banana one bite at a time while she laid out in our bed.

Injuries are no joke, but there are plenty of reasons to keep us from being worried. We have reasonable suspicion that she’s faking the injury. Earlier today we caught her zooming around the yard at full speed. We caught her barreling up and down the back porch stairs. She leapt over the baby gate and off the arm of the couch, then went right back to hobbling.

“She could be faking, you know that right?” I said to Marissa. “She’s smart. She knows we’re getting a puppy. I think she’s just acting out.”

“We’ll keep an eye on it,” said Marissa. “It’s already getting better, so I don’t think we need to take her to the vet.”

The reader might remember that only a few days ago, we burned seventy dollars at the vet to find out that her urine sample was literally perfect. We think our hesitation is justified.

In other news, Friday night was an IT night. We put the kids to bed and blocked off the rest of the evening to power down the network and install my new build. Marissa and I were excited. The new build was smaller and quieter, and it would be replacing the unsightly grey power source and dusty motherboard I installed as a temporary measure. I laid out all the parts on the dining room table before we began.

“So you’re testing it first?” asked Marissa. “What are you looking for?

“I’m testing the assumption that this new build will just work with the old hard drive,” I said. “Usually it’s not a problem. The file system should be the only thing that matters, but there’s a lot of new parts on the motherboard and you never know.”

Marissa and I screwed the hard drive into place. We wrapped the cables and tucked them into the case. I stretched a long VGA cable across the room to the dining room computer monitor. The computer booted.

2021 04 03 new build

Intel Atom board, SSD, and a Pico PSU all buttoned up in a 1U case.

“It works!” I said, fist pumping. “I’m not going to test the ethernet - there’s no reason why that shouldn’t work.”

That would come back to bite me.

We schlepped the parts upstairs to get started. We had some trouble pulling all the parts out of compact metal rack we set up in the corner, but piling all the unwieldy, dusty parts in the corner was gratifying knowing that they would not be returning. Marissa cut a new Ethernet cable to reach the new server.

“Do you want to tie it all up now?” I asked.

“You’re not going to try it first?” she replied.

“I guess that’s a good idea,” I said. “It will probably work, but there might be something small to fix.”

I flipped the red switch on the rack. The machines purred to life. I sat quietly with my ear to the panel waiting for the familiar electronic jingle my router plays while booting, but there was nothing.

“I’ll try again,” I said. I flipped the switch, counted to thirty, then flipped it again. Zilch.

I got up and began to pace nervously. “Well crap,” I said. “I’m kind of in a dither. The only way to know what it’s doing is to plug it into the monitor.”

“Let’s try it,” said Marissa, trying to be encouraging. It tooks us ten minutes to seat the VGA plug between the narrow gap in the shelves. And even worse, the cable didn’t work with my monitor.

“So what do we do now?” asked Marissa.

“Well, I have one idea, but it’s gonna suck,” I chuckled. “I know that cable worked with my old monitor - the one we just donated. But we still have the same one downstairs in the dining room. We’re going to have to set it up in here to test it.”

“Let’s go get it,” said Marissa. “That doesn’t sound like it’s so bad.”

But it was even worse than we thought. The monitor was easily removable from the wall mount, but in my infinite wisdom I had used about twelve velcro ties and a long track of electrical tape to secure the power cable. We had to cut it out. This evening was turning into something like If You Give A Mouse a Cookie, only it was the nightmare home network version.

“We’re just ripping up the whole house tonight,” I sighed. We opened a bottle of wine. I rigged up the monitor on the bedroom floor so I could independently test boot each machine in the rack, and Marissa rewired the dining room computer.

The hours waned. I got the network back online, but the new server wouldn’t connect. Marissa turned in for the night at 1 AM. “Downstairs is all done,” she said sleepily.

“Thanks so much for you help,” I said. “I think I’m getting close up here, I’m going to at least try to get everything turned on again.”

2021 04 03 the horror

At 1:30 AM I finally found the issue. There was a config file that was still referencing the name of the network interface from the old computer. Something that I would have found if I took the extra five minutes to test the network cable before tearing the whole house apart. The next morning, I told Marissa the good news, and I thanked her profusely for helping, even after the project went wildly off the rails.

“I’m glad you finally figured it out,” said Marissa. “That looked so difficult.”

“That’s the thing,” I said shaking my head. “It shouldn’t have been that difficult. I’m really disappointed with how I set everything up. But I didn’t lose my temper, and that’s a small thing to be proud of.”

Trying to untangle my own mess, I may have felt discouraged and ashamed. But I didn’t lose my temper. At no point in the night did I storm off to cuss under my breath. No doors were slammed, and exactly zero metal cabinets were punched out of frustration. I remember how I used to be when Marissa and I were first married, and there’s no way I would have made it through a catastrophic failure this big without saying something from anger that I’d later regret.

We applied the final cable ties to it this morning. The new server is smaller and quieter. In fact the whole set up is a lot less noticeable, tucked away in the corner. But it took about four hours of work last night, and now I’m feeling so good about it that I can’t even walk by the new build without stopping to admire it.

2021 04 03 new box

Thanks for stopping by, everyone. Have a good Easter weekend.