Waiting is the hardest part

Even with 100Mb/s end-to-end links across campus, waiting for your backups to go ‘cross the net is still rather boring.

Especially when you still have 3 hours or so of work in front of you

Not a Systems Engineer

You know, on both my business cards, and on the staff site – I’m listed as the “Systems Engineer” for eXtension. (or “Senior Systems Engineer” – but the people working in IT in eXtension started dropping all the “Seniors” with our titles when it seemed like everything and everyone in eXtension was a “Senior something” or a “Blah Leader” – it just sounded… well, it didn’t sound right)

But I’m not a Systems Engineer. I grok the discipline of Systems Engineering – probably way more than any normal Tom, Dick, or Harry that calls themselves Systems Engineer. But as a Computer Science graduate, and having worked in an Academic institution where I do actually believe that words matter – I’m not a Systems Engineer. I haven’t gone through any of the Academic Programs (which, by the way, run the gambit of disciplines – e.g. see UVA’s list of disciplines). And while I wouldn’t really think I’d have to do that if I was actually doing Systems Engineering – I’m not even doing that. (and part of me wonders if I’m supposed to be doing that 😉 ).

I really am more the Systems Manager. I think I’m probably going to go change the labels on the staff pages for a while.

Too much

There is just too much to keep track of in my job.

This post brought to you by the Planet aggregator (particularly its use for Apache and Jabber), the VMWare ESX book I picked up at the bookstore today, my attempts to find Subversion 1.3.x RPMs for Red Hat Enterprise Linux version 4, kickstart configurations, and failed attempts at making the OS X VPN service work, while also trying to ascertain the current state of the Cell-phone service providers and their data plans for monitoring/notification purposes. Oh, and DNS planning too.

Way too much.

Presentation Lessons learned

So, if you are going to rely on command+tab to switch between macintosh applications while you are using keynote to give a presentation – make sure before the presentation to go to the Slideshow preferences and check the box for the “Allow Exposé, Dashboard and others to use screen” option.

And also, if you are going to semi-wow your very bored audience with a demonstration of how easy it easy to install wildfire – make sure to a) not the skip the step of import the .sql file for the mysql schema into the database you just created on your laptop – and b) when you do – make sure to read the error message in red at the top of the screen, instead of assuming it’s just some impossible-to-quickly-troubleshoot localhost resolution/ issue. When wildfire tells you in an error message that “ The Wildfire database schema does not appear to be installed. Follow the installation guide to fix this error.” – then by golly – that’s probably the error.

It’s not just Power that I’m an idiot about.

And I really should install chatbot somewhere and hook it up to our FAQ database.

A power tale told by an idiot

I’m a power idiot. I had years of physics drill into my head the whole “V = IR” deal – and the only thing I think I practically have retained from that is that my brain must be pretty resistant to any current understanding of power.

Ok, so my jokes aren’t any better.

My extent of dealing with the power issue has consisted of “does this plug fit?” And “do I have enough plugs.” I sort of delegated everything having to do with power when I managed a systems group before to the Electrical Engineering majors – because to be sure, they knew more than I did. And they did, but we all practically did that “does this plug fit” and “do we have enough plugs” thing.

A few years ago, my first real power issue came whenever the facilities staff would buff the floor – the floor buffers would be plugged into circuits that were shared by the server room, which would trip the breaker, and take out the server room, because usually we had a failed UPS of some kind. Well, did I take that lesson and learn about power? Of course not, we just ran a dedicated panel for the server room, and made sure that our UPS’s were updated and checked.

A year or two ago, the second power issue came in another server room, in a room with plenty of power, but only 15A breakers and of course, we co-located our servers with another group on campus, and had too much equipment off one or two circuits and tripped the breakers.

Did I learn about power then? No, of course not. The lesson was “don’t trip the breaker.”

So when I started looking about the power feeds for a server cage – I went out to try to learn a little more. And I got the general feel that the consensus for power a full rack of equipment was to up your voltage, because with that old standby equation volts x amps = watts, and upping the volts gave your more watts to your rack, and that you might be pushing it with a full rack of equipment – especially if you start looking at any blade server infrastructures. I went and read an APC whitepaper about “Rack Powering Options for High Density” – and that talking about doing 208V to your racks. And it was all about using 20A circuits. Well, mainly because they were pushing their own PDU solution. But I ignored that. And the idea of 20A+208V stuck in my head. And it was reinforced by the layout of a peer group on campus that built a “cage” environment – but mainly for network equipment – and they were using NEMA L6-20 receptacles in the rack.

So that’s what I spec’d out. A whole room of 208V+20A circuits, with L6-20 receptacles.

And when I went to buy the APC UPS’s for the racks – and when they mentioned L6-30 plugs. I really didn’t think much about it. Of course it’ll work! Right? I mean – even the tiny little web graphics looked the same.

APC Picture of an L6-20R: conn_L6-20R_sm.gif

APC Picture of an L6-30R: conn_L6-30R_sm.gif

So, if you are following along still. You should be laughing now. Trust me. And pointing. Guffawing even.

And I didn’t have the faintest clue that this would be a problem. Until of course, the worst possible time. I come in over the weekend, all jazzed up about getting a head start and racking up the UPS’s (p.s. 100+ lb. UPS’s are much easier to rack when you pull the batteries out 😉 ). I pull the plug through the top of the rack – and attempt to plug in the L6-30P into the L6-20R – and…

Well, of course it doesn’t work. You know, those standards have different numbers for reasons. Good thing too, I’d be tripping out the breakers all the time. (Well maybe, probably).

And there’s not really a UPS product that uses a 208V 20A plug. So what do you do? Well, you re-wire your room to do 30A and L6-30R outlets. $3000 and (worse) two weeks delay. All because I really don’t grok power.

(and as you can tell, this whole note is still not inspiring much confidence that I even know now what I’m talking about – I don’t. But I do know the different between the plugs now! Small moves! )

Images From UF

Yes, I’m really at the University of Florida: large campus (at least for the NC State grad)


I really liked the lake in the middle of campus. And what I guess is spanish moss everywhere:


The lake is a wildlife preserve. I saw an egret or two, a great blue heron, a hawk, and yes, even the reason that the school’s mascot is named for what it is named (not the best picture, but it’s hard to shoot alligators with a handheld camera 😉 )