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Practice What You Preach

There’s a saying in the medical profession that goes something like, “Doctors make the worst patients”. It due to them thinking they know what’s wrong with them or them thinking that nothing is wrong with them. It really should say, “Medical professionals make the worst patients”. Case in point: my mother. She’s a retired nurse that is DOWN to a pack of cigarettes per day. She has this cough that is so bad I swear that she’s going to hack up a lung on of these days. She says she’s fine and refuses to seek treatment.

So how does this relate to IT? Well, back in the 90’s I worked for a IT consultancy firm. You wouldn’t believe how bad the internal systems were. You would think that with all the fancy certifications and brain power that my local branch had, we would have a working network and such. Not so. It was really a simple choice: fix our own infrastructure or be out in the field and generate revenue. Revenue won.

 

The same can sometime happen in one’s own house. How? Let me regale you with a tale of woe.

Sometime around VMworld (can’t remember if before or after), I noticed my house lights flickering. My UPS/surge protector started making some funny noises for a few moments and then went back to normal. Things were good, so I thought.

A few hours later I noticed that the lower level of my house was quite warm even though the A/C was running. I turned off the A/C and called the repair company. The next morning when the automatic schedule kicked in, the A/C ran fine. The repairman thought that some of my attic insulation had clogged the A/C unit’s drip pan/pipe and that the water level in the drip pan rose to the level where it triggered the auto shutoff. Simple enough. I have a split system: The compressors is outside, but the air handler is in the attic. What I thought was a functioning A/C system was really just the air handler circulating air.

Over the next week or two I experienced my first blue-screen in two years. Then my UPS would randomly start beeping. Nothing like a 1am BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! to scare the crap out of you. Other oddities would pop up every now and then until finally, I went to wake my computer from sleep mode and it wouldn’t wake. I did the turn off/on trick and no video, no beeps, no nothing. After a lot of manual reading, troubleshooting, and the occassional sacrifice to the gods, I finally determined it was the CPU that died.

I’ve never had a CPU die. I’ve had them arrive DOA, but I’ve never had one just go bad on me. Thankfully, my Intel CPU carried a 3yr warranty. I played the 20 question game with Intel and got it replaced. Guess what? System still wouldn’t come up. So I took it to a local computer shop and asked them to run diagnostics on everything. They got my system up and running, but in the process they reset the BIOS back to factory defaults. That really sucked.

I run an ASUS motherboard that has built-on RAID. Resetting the BIOS set the drive controller back to standard IDE mode. Since this entire process of troubleshooting, a short vacation, and replacing parts took over 30 days, new Windows patches had been released. I run with “automatic updates” turned on so it had downloaded a few patches and installed them. Upon reboot, I got the dreaded “No boot device detected” message. Seems the combination of losing the RAID setting and patching screwed up the boot loader. “No problem”, says I, “I have my Win7 DVD so I’ll just boot to it and do a repair”.

DUMB! DUMB! DUMB!. Windows warned me that the repair process could take over an hour so I walked away and let it ran. I checked it the next morning and it said it was done. I rebooted to find that I no longer had anything installed on my hard drive except Windows. Everything was gone…iTunes: gone. Other Apps: gone. All my data: gone.

Sigh.

Sigh, again.

 

OK, I lost everything. Thankfully, I really didn’t have a lot that I couldn’t replace or rebuild (virtual machines). Largest loss was photographs. I can recover about 10% them from various web sites that I’ve shared them on. The rest are lost. My iTunes library consists of about 3000 CDs. I own them all on physical CDs so I can re-rip them. The other major loss was years of personal emails.

To prevent this from happening again, I went out and bought another drive and a copy of Ghost. I also turned on the backup feature of my Synology DS211. Yes, I ‘ve had a backup system at hand for over six months and never used it. I bought the DS211 for iSCSI and NFS storage capabilities for my home lab. Now I back up to my DS211 every night and Ghost once a week to the new drive.

As an IT Pro, I should have known better. How many times have we expressed to our employeers, clients, and whomever else will listen, the importance of backups? If we make claims to our customers regarding best practices, shouldn’t we follow them ourselves? Are we “doctors” when it comes with diagnosing our own IT issues?

 

By the way, I had another A/C failure a week ago and a different technician was sent to fix it. He found that the electrical connection on my A/C compressor had melted somewhat. Hmm…flickering lights, A/C outage, UPS issues, CPU dieing..I’m betting that I took a massive hit and my UPS didn’t do it’s job of protecting my equipment. Or it did, but it took some damage and eventually passed it on. Maybe the beeping was a hint.

So I bought another UPS. Like the extra drive and Ghost, it’s cheap protection in the grand scheme of things.

I’m also still experiencing random wierdness. I’m going to hazard a guess and say that whatever took out my UPS and CPU also may have damaged either my RAM or motherboard. Looks like I may be making my way back to the part store in the next week or two for some replacements.

Sigh.

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