Oh, THAT kind of change!

User can't get her new company-issued laptop to work at home, reports a pilot fish who's the webmaster for the user's department.

"She had cable Internet with no router," fish says. "Her home computer was plugged directly into the cable modem. She simply unplugged her home computer and plugged in the laptop, but couldn't access the Internet.

"Our IT folks walked her through some diagnosis over the phone, but nothing worked; the laptop could not obtain an IP address."

Fish hears about the problem and offers to stop by user's home after work to see what he can do.

It turns out that the problem is one of the cable company's security features: Only one device is allowed to receive an IP address -- either one computer or one router. And the IP address is locked to the device's MAC address, which is unique to each device.

"The company wouldn't purchase a router, so I simply changed the MAC address of the laptop to match her home computer," says fish. "Voila! Problem solved."

Flash forward several months: Fish's workload has climbed, and his boss has told him to refrain from doing any work that IT should handle.

So when IT reloads Windows on the user's laptop to cure a problem and the home Internet connection stops working again, fish doesn't try to fix it himself. Instead, he quickly walks the user through the process of recording her home PC's MAC address. Then he tells her to bring the laptop into IT and have them change its MAC address to match.

"Next day, she steps into my office, obviously frustrated," fish says. "Two of our IT staffers explained to her that the MAC address is hard-coded into the laptop, so there's no way to change it.

"I suggest she ask them why I could change the MAC address but they can't.

"She calls a little while later to tell me that IT figured out how to 'override' the MAC address. But they still insist it cannot be 'changed.' I love semantics ..."

Sharky loves true tales of IT life. Send me yours 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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Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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