Patching the patch for the patch for the patch...

This pilot fish gets responsibility for a 600-user IP phone system -- and it's a mess.

"My predecessor didn't know how to differentiate incoming calls from outgoing calls based upon where they came from," says fish. "So he had the IP PBX vendor add code to prepend outbound calls with a 9, then had the voice gateways remove the 9 after routing the call.

"This code was added to each new IP PBX as they were deployed, six in total."

Then fish is hired -- and shortly after that, the system is upgraded. But the upgraded system is just slightly incompatible with the add-on code that sticks a 9 in front of outgoing numbers. For some reason, that code now fails for about 25 percent of calls.

Fish doesn't know why the code is failing -- just that a lot of outgoing calls aren't going out. But he does know how to configure the gateways to route calls based on their source.

As an emergency fix, he reconfigures them so that they'll route calls correctly whether there's a leading 9 or not. That makes the kludge to add a 9 unnecessary, so even when it fails, all the calls can go through.

But then the help desk begins getting a few complaints a month from users about a new problem. A user will occasionally get the message that says "Please dial 1 plus the area code when calling this number," even though the user has actually done that. And if the user dials the number again -- or even hits redial -- the call goes through.

Fish troubleshoots, researches, and finally identifies the issue. It's his work-around that makes the 9 optional -- even though that's working perfectly.

The problem: Sometimes all the phone company's circuits are busy. When that happens, the telco sends an all-circuits-busy reply to the IP phone system. Then the IP PBX's voice gateway automatically tries the call a second time -- but this time without first removing the 9 that's been added by the old kludge.

"Rather than patch my emergency fix for the bug in the work-around for the incompetence of my predecessor, I recommended that the IP PBX vendor be brought back to remove the prepend code," fish says. "That way I could simply reconfigure the voice gateways as they should have been configured from the start.

"I was let go as a cost-cutting measure instead."

Dial S for Sharky. Actually, don't do that -- just send me your true tale of IT life at sharky@computerworld.com. You'll score a sharp Shark shirt if I use it. Add your comments below, and read some great old tales in the Sharkives.

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