Some people have interpersonal drama issues. No matter what they do, or how much they try, they always seem to be involved in some kind of clusterfuck or another. You've known these people: everything they get near turns into a disaster, and no matter how nice they seem, they are best avoided.

Me? I have computer drama issues.

I have completely dysfunctional relationships with machines. The simplest thing, that normal people do every day, starts a big screaming fight. I only rarely find myself in situations where I'm genuinely angry at a person, and yet, computers leave me in a blind rage on a pretty regular basis. It's been worse in the last few weeks, but there have been a couple times in very recent memory where I had to make a conscious effort to close my eyes, breathe deeply and talk myself out of smashing things.

Today was the second time in two weeks that my firewall/gateway machine at the club just lost its mind, and stopped routing whole classes of packets. Like ssh and http connections -- but only 99% of the time. My existing ssh connections were still working fine, and responsively, but I couldn't make new ones. I spent hours reloading rules, staring at tcpdump, and looking at packet logs, and all kinds of things that I have only the most remedial understanding of. Nothing affected it at all. So I rebooted the machine, and it started working again, just like happened three days ago. Three days ago when I booted it, it had been up for something like 290 days, and the ipf rules haven't changed in months.

This kind of shit happens to me all the time. All the time. It's always like this. I don't even get problems that make sense. Am I highly radioactive or something? Did I piss off a gypsy witch who put a hex (adecimal) on me?

And -- let me emphasize -- I do not enjoy this! Oh sure, you say, why do you keep doing it? I don't know. I think I still enjoy writing software, usually. But what I end up spending almost all of my time doing is sysadmin crap. I hate it. I have always hated it. Always. If you made a Venn diagram, there would be two non-overlapping circles, one of which was labeled, "Times when I am truly happy" and the other of which was labeled, "Times when I am logged in as root, holding a cable, or have the case open."

And like the relationship-drama fuckups, I seem to be incapable of just walking away. I finally got it together to leave that cesspool we call the computer industry and what did I do? I filled my nightclub with computers, and with insufficient budget to make them be someone's problem other than mine.

I'll be over here in the column labeled "DON'T".

Speaking of which, the new motherboard and power supply I ordered as a result of last week's adventure arrived today, so that will be my project for the rest of the evening.

I think I'm going to get drunk before I begin, though. It can't possibly make things any worse.

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21 Responses:

  1. atakra says:

    " I think I'm going to get drunk before I begin, though. It can't possibly make things any worse. "

    Ah, that usually makes everything better.

    • mcgroarty says:

      I can't bear putting things together well unless I'm smashed. I'm too fucking impatient otherwise.

      Being drunk lets you do things like route cables in pretty and airflow-friendly ways without wondering if you're wasting your time. (You're usually not.)

      Being drunk also doesn't hurt where laughing at a fuck up and starting a system install over is concerned. I'll posit that no sane man can install OpenBSD or hand-configure sendmail sober.

      • yakko says:

        I usually use m4 to run my .mc file to give me a suitable ... am I cheating? If I had to write the rewrite rules myself, I'd definitely need mass quantities of something to numb my brain. Before finding out I could m4 my way to a sane config, I used to tweak the simpler sections by hand...

        Yet I haven't had the motivation to get something like postfix working properly with my network... hrrm. . .

      • dormando says:

        I can't drink, yet I'm a sysadmin/programmer by trade.

        How long till I go nuts (again)? :P

        very happy with my new openbsd setup... yup yup...

  2. octal says:

    It sounds like you need a sysadmin. Presumably you could do paid contract development or speaking or whatever in the time saved, and use the money to hire one of the millions of unemployed sysadmins in the bay area to do the other stuff for you.

    • jwz says:

      Yes, there are millions of unemployed sysadmins, but none of them (whom I would trust with my root password, at least) are willing to commit to just a few hours a week: they all want real jobs, and if they have real jobs, then they don't have time for mine on top of that. I do have a couple of friends who help out a lot, but it's definitely not their top priority, since I can't pay them enough to care about it more than the other stuff they have going on.

      And I have, like, zero desire to work as a programmer any more. Though if any of you dot-commies would like me to be on your board and pontificate, that'd be fine: I understand that's how you make the big bucks without actually doing anything. (Or maybe that was only in 1997.)

      • hepkitten says:

        Couldn't you offer someone free drinks + free admission for this? Or hire someone part time? I know plenty of people who want small part time contracting positions.

        Hrmm but yeah there is the "who I trust with my root password" bit. heh

  3. yakko says:

    I just got done solving this fucking moronic problem and its accompanying problems, and I'm a sysadmin/pooter hardware guru by trade! This is my flipping JOB, which I supposedly get paid for. I can't recall a time before or since then when I wanted to yank the box out of the wall and hurl it off the balcony.

    Oh wait, yes, I can! My damned laptop which kept locking up under (only) Windows XP.

    On a related-but-unrelated note, excessive stupidity with DNS drove me to the brink of insanity.

    Suffice to say, I've had much better luck with my other job, which is to keep packets flowing and build new networks

    After all that bullshit, tho, I found out that the UPS was bad. In retrospect, I should've also bought a bottle of Vodka to mix with my OJ that day (and this is coming from someone who -never- drinks to smash the stack).

  4. icis_machine says:

    what the hell happened to picking a fanboy to do your laundry and adminning?

    it could be worst... have any of your 'coworkers' ever come up and asked you why you got into software/computers when you are raging mad?

  5. andrewducker says:

    I love programming. I love having computers that do cool stuff. I object to playing with broken computers. And yet it seems that (1) and (2) mean you have to spend a fair amount of time with (3).

    Oh, and when things stop working, the first thing to do is reboot. I suspect that the problem is a malformed packet (or an attempted intrusion) which causes the firewall to close up, either in a protective way, or because it's got a bug that someone is deliberately causing.

    Check for a more recent version.

    • knowbuddy says:

      Oh, and when things stop working, the first thing to do is reboot.

      What a Microsoft-inspired view of the world. Sounds like self-imposed ignorance to me. It's that type of defeatist attitude that got us into the craptastic state of software we are in today. Sysadmins whose first solution is to reboot drive me up the wall.

      • andrewducker says:

        Ok, technically, if a program suddenly decides to not work properly after days of running fine, then it's unlikely to be the config, it's more likely to be a crash. You can kill just that process and restart it. Or, if there's a whole bunch of intertwined processes that you're not 100% sure of, then the simplest way to restart them all, in an order that you know works, is to reboot the machine.

        If that _doesn't_ solve it, then the problem _is_ a config one, and you need to start looking more closely into it.

        I'm a programmer. I know that programs break. I know that restarting a broken program is frequently the fastest way to solve a glitch. Sure, long term you want to get it properly fixed so the glitch won't repeat, but right _now_ you want your internet connection working again so you can go and check the Buglist for that product and pick up the latest version.

      • grahams says:

        He never called himself a sysadmin... On the contrary, this whole conversation revolves around the fact that many people who have root don't want root....

      • linoleumcp says:

        A defeatist attitude would be not turning on the machine in the first place.

    • yakko says:

      In this case, unloading ipf and reloading it back into the kernel would do the trick. No reboot required.

      At least it works that way on SunOS5, where I've actually had this problem. Just stop the firewall, modunload the ipf, and restart the firewall out of /etc/init.d, and it's back! Of course, the rc system is different for BSD, so I dunno if it'd work this way.

      Also, if ipf was built into the kernel, a reboot would be necessary.

  6. communista says:

    The more I keep dealing with computers, the more it resembles a bad redneck romance, constantly flipping between "I love you so much!" and "Baby, why you gotta make me hit you?"

  7. this reminds me of why i got into computers to begin with. i used to buy computer games and when they wouldn't install correctly, i'd ask my father (a programmer) to help me fix them. after a while, he started telling me that he didn't know what the hell was wrong with my system, he'd never seen problems like this before, etc., so i started calling tech support, and eventually tech support started telling me the same things.

    then i spent an entire summer of my childhood learning to effectively manage memory on multiple-boot systems with MS-DOS 5, in a vain attempt to rectify the situation. it's been downhill ever since.

  8. uke says:

    How odd. I just had this very same problem, with the same solution. (The linux box which is my home firewall and gateway stopped allowing certain kinds of connections, and was fixed upon rebooting. I rebooted because I was changing some hardware, not because I had any expectation that it might solve the problem.)