(First of all, I tried to send this to folks who I felt would not be offended by it. It's the story of one of the first implementations of Corillian's products and is a stab at making light of some heavy moments.
PART I - THE SAGA BEGINS......
Dying and going to hell have become a lot less scary after the relative torment of the last couple of days!
The final days of preparation (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday) were filled with excitement and nervous anticipation. Moods fluctuated like Apple stock as the final moment neared. Tempers flared. Michael throwing things at Jason, Alex yelling Russian profanities at Javed, Jason flicking lit cigarrettes at passerbys, Brent kicking neighborhood cats, Kevin taking more naps than normal, the group was just not themselves.
Nine oclock Friday night found Michael and Brent working in the lab on the two remaining servers to be shipped out to TechFed the next morning. Brent was buttoning up sql and verifying that all of the last five weeks work was safe and could be transferred to tape for safe transfer to the server in TechFed's location. Michael pounded away at the TP machine, readying it for the trip.
Just to be safe, I wanted to attempt to restore the backed up data to make sure that it would all work out okay. After a little preparatory work I began the transfer back to one of the servers in the lab. It was one of those situations where you know you have done something wrong one millisecond after you do it. I hadn't even heard the last click of the mouse after clicking on "Restore" when I realized with dawning horror that I had overwritten the good data with trash. The database was garbage. Five peoples hard work over a four week period shot to hell. Michael hollered across the lab, "Hey, Brent, I just tried to start Switch and it's giving me some message about bad data or something, did you do something?" He didn't notice me kneeling in the corner dry heaving quietly. I held onto the cold chrome rack steadying myself with an image in my head of Ted with a gun, chasing me around the parking lot. "If you don't get it installed, don't bother coming back!" played over and over in my mind. I called Alex for advise, he advised suicide. I zomby walked to the door and out to the deck to breathe and plan a new career in truck driving. After hearing the news and learning that sql doesn't have an "Undo" key, Michael began calling the airlines to see if we could get our airline tickets changed to Siberia or someplace further. He gave up shortly and left for some supper or because he didn't want to start throwing heavy objects at me which he somehow felt compelled to do.
Soon after the blood began to return to my head I remembered that I had prepared for my database transfers with a backup to disk. After successfully restoring the good data I greeted Alex as he entered the lab and we square danced for a while. A lap around the Corillian building got rid of most of the whim whams in my stomach. Michael returned soon after and the three of us worked til early the next morning with final preparations and boxing the servers up.
The following day, we prepared for Sunday's plane ride to San Jose, California. Would the servers make it okay? Would the installation go smooth?
We'll just have to see............
PART II - THE SAGA CONTINUES......
Yes, Michael and I arrived in San Jose just fine on Sunday night. The flight was delayed for somewhere around forty minutes during which time they were kind enough to allow us to board the motionless plane and quickly discover how much heat eighty antsy passengers can generate. They seated Michael at least ten rows in front of me and he reminded me of a ground hog popping his head up every few minutes to check for empty seats further back in the plane. The turkey sandwiches they served up somewhere over Southern Oregon were surely treated with a mild explosive. By the time we pierced the clouds over the Bay area I was experiencing very mild hallucinations brought on by holding back the forces being contained in my stomach which would have easily powered LA for days.
We arrived in San Jose, picked up a van from National Rental Cars, who by the way, makes a habit of hiring folks who make the DMV look like the leaders in customer service. The woman who dealt with us would much rather have been watching TV. When asked how much more it would cost to rent the van for three days instead of over five, she responded, "Well, like, it might be less overall, but the cost will be higher daily!" She glared at us in a "How can you be so stupid?" look.
"How much more?" I asked.
"I'm not sure" she said with no intention of pursuing the answer to my query.
"Okay, you need to tell us how much more." Michael coached her.
Meanwhile I noticed him scanning the rental agency office for a spot to place her unconscious body while we got the van and got out. Thankfully she pulled out a calculator (to figure out how much ten dollars a day for three days would be!!) and gave us the final figures. We signed the papers, stashed our gear in the back of a soccer mom minivan, and headed off to find a soft bed.
Michael had reservation thing down pat and got his room in no time. The woman behind the counter was efficient and very helpful to him. Michael had settled down after the close encounter with National Rentacar homicide and was pleased with the service she gave him. Then came my turn.
"Your name sir?"
"Brent" I replied
Last name? she pursued.
Michael laughed out loud from the corner.
I mumbled something unintelligible that didn't even resemble my lastname. You see, she was an African American lady and I have long since learned (through the course of several beatings and near death situations) that sometimes it is just not a smart thing to blurt out my last name to some folks. Especially when your last name is Weide (pronounced whitey!!). They just don't think it's too funny. I mumbled my lastname a few more times before I clearly spelled it out for her. "Oh, she said, Weedy, that's a funny name". Yeah, that's it, do I have a room? Yes, but I show you as sharing the room, is your other party here with you? It took a good half hour to establish that I was alone and not sharing the room during which time I could hear Michael snickering from the overstuffed armchair in the corner.
The first day of work at TechFed dawned overcast, cool and urged me out of bed with the promise of an exciting day of installation. As we made our way through traffic toward the credit unions office building, we pictured excited TechFed employees welcoming us into their midst, patting us on the back, beckoning to us to bring our miracles of technology into their lives and end their suffering forever. But, reality hit hard when we got there. The security person, who turned out to be a female retired hockey player with an attitude to prove it, greeted us.....
"Who are you and what do you want?
Michael calmy told her that we were from Corillian Corporation in Portland, Oregon.
"That's great", she puffed. We prepared ourselves for her greeting and possibly a red carpet.
"Now, what is it that you want?"
"Umm, wer'e supposed to meet up with Dave Bernard. We'll be installing an Internet Banking system over the next few days."
"Well, Dave Bernard's not here and I don't know nothing about any Internet stuff" she snatched both of us by the napes and started trotting toward the door.
"Please, can't we just wait for him?"
"I guess so, but wait in the data center, you don't look smart enough to do any damage in there." she guided us instead toward one of the internal office doors with electronic locks and released us with a stern look.
We quickly ducked inside the office and made our way to the lab area. A completely confused employee notified us that she knew nothing about the installation and Dave probably wouldn't be in til later but go ahead and look around in the lab. Just don't touch anything. Like normal, we ignored her and set about uncrating our servers and setting them up in the lab. In short order we had placed them as per Dave's instructions (wherever you can find room). By noon we had the boxes talking and were ready to begin configuring the serial connection to the ominous HP3000 grinding away in the corner.
The remainder of the day was spent with Michael staring crosseyed at the TP box trying to get the serial connections to talk and Brent staring crosseyed at the SQL box trying to figure out why the database had no intention of allowing me anywhere near it. In fact it pretty well puked every time I got close. This was starting to feel like a high school date!
Thankfully, things started looking like they would work out around the time we quit our first day at TechFed at eight in the evening.
We stumbled out of the building looking and feeling beat, hoping tomorrow would bring with it easier problems and more successes.
But that will have to be another story.....
PART III - THE SAGA CONTINUES......
It's a well known fact that the city of San Jose swaps their street signs every night just to keep the tourists and business travelers guessing. I swore softly as I rounded the corner to where TechFed was yesterday. Today it was nowhere in sight. My internal global positioning system was so far out of whack that I had stopped by the market earlier in the day to pick up seventeen loaves of Wonder Bread in order to leave an easily retraceable trail in case we got lost. I think last nights short trip to the shopping market might have had something to do with it....
Being just as cheap as I am (don't let him tell you different) Michael agreed that just going to Safeway and picking up pop and chips would be better than spending big bucks in some bar. So we asked at the front desk and were told that the market was just around the corner and we'd find it easily. Yeah, right. I used to think that I was bad about asking for directions when I get myself lost but I don't hold a candle to our friend Michael! We were on our third tank of gas before he finally gave into my glares and asked me nicely to "Get the heck out of the car and ask somebody where there's a market." Glad to be out of the Oldsmobile from hell, I bounded into the gas station and asked my new friend Abdul for directions.
"Oh yes, I know where there is a 7-11 where you can make your purchases. It's not very distant." He began to scrawl some directions on a piece of dirty paper. "You will notice these round circles I make on the street here?" he asked knowing I had no idea what they were. I nodded my head,
"Yes, those are drops of grease from your hamburger there." I surmised.
"No, not those", he brushed a sesame seed out of one of the intersections of the map. These ones here, they're traffic lights, you see there are twenty three of them that you need to pass on this street to get to the 7-11." He was very proud of his map making skills.
"Oh, great, yeah I see. Listen Abdul, don't you think you could just tell me the name of the street that the store is on?"
" I don't know the names of the streets, I only know the lights. This one on the corner in front of the 7-11 is almost always red! You just look for the red traffic light and you will know you are close to the store." he looked as proud as a mountain guide bringing the Donner Party back to safety.
"Okey Doke. Thanks for your help." I dashed for the door.
"If you wait til later to go to the store I will see you there, I work at the 7-11 after I get off of work here." he smiled revealing a huge golden front tooth with a couple of renegade sesame seeds stuck to it.
"Well, did you get instructions?" Michael acted like it was my fault we were lost.
"Yes, look for a red traffic light, there's a convenience store nearby."
Well we drove for a long time before coming to the store Abdul had told me about. And damned if it wasn't twenty three lights from Abdul's daytime job! We pulled into the parking lot and I noticed Michael's face losing color in a hurry. He glanced nervously around the lot at the energetic youths collecting hub caps off of cars in the area. It wasn't until the second bullet whizzed through my open window that the rear tires of our Oldsmobile rental car gained purchase and we skidded sideways through the crowded parking lot into the boulevard. The friendly neighborhood folks were shouting goodbye, letting us know we were number one by showing us their middle fingers, and hurling fist sized rocks at our carriage in a gesture of goodwill.
"We could have been killed" Michael was regaining color in his face.
"Oh for goodness sake, they were just playing, Abdul probably called ahead and told them we were coming".
We finally got to another store in a well lit area. For some reason Michael wouldn't get out the car to help out with the groceries.
Our second and third days at TechFed have been very educational. We've learned a lot about the idiosyncracies of cranky sql databases, serial cables that allow data flow only when they feel like it, and the moody operation of the Switch program. We've learned that Switch does indeed have it's own little language.
For example, if you start switch and a dialog box with a message box pops up it equates to the following symptom:
Runtime error, missing dll files Means You triple clicked the Switch icon
Transport protocol error Means The desktop color is clashing with the operators shirt
Bad command or missing path Means Say please next time you start the program
We've had the chance to work out a bunch of puzzling configuration problems and have left the TechFed building exhausted late every evening. On the way out, our favorite security watchwoman, who by the way has taken quite a shining to Michael, asks sweetly, "So, will we have to deal with you guys again tomorrow?" Touched by her barely concealed affection, we wish her a goodnight.
We've run a series of demos already. Dave Bernard is quite pleased with the progress we've made and is excited to see the program in person. I got the Idiot's Guide, I mean the system admin guide binded at a print shop today. It's way to pretty to give away but I guess they paid for it. I'll begin training a group of three tomorrow afternoon.
We've sure appreciated the support that the home base has given us so far. Javed, Alex, Jason, and Kevin have been great. We know just how the astronauts feel when talking when they're thousands of miles out in the dark scary talking to Ground Control. Nice to know someone is there to help.
Hopefully I'll have a chance to bring you up to date on the latest trials and tribulations. Michael discovered with great joy that the National Rentacar lady he almost strangled the other night works at Symantec in the evening providing support for pcAnywhere and has been assigned to our case!!
But more later....