Just another day in paradise

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It's the 1990s, and this state's Department of Labor broadcasts public service announcements to local cable channels through a slick automated system that's supported by a pilot fish at the main office.

"We used a rack-mounted Inserter device that broadcast a background with text scrolling across the bottom of the screen," fish says. "We used it to broadcast things like localized jobs and job fair announcements, and updated the info from the central office every day.

"A contingent from another locale's Department of Labor visited our office, and liked what they saw when I gave them a demo. A few months later, they requested that I set up a similar system for them. Did I mention the place was a tropical paradise?"

Fish's chain of command approves the trip, and new equipment is purchased: the Inserter, modems, cables and everything else that will be installed at the labor department's central office and the TV stations.

Fish tests the new devices thoroughly before carefully packing them for shipment. Then he flies south and promptly goes to work unpacking and installing the new equipment.

But when it's assembled and he tests it -- nothing.

Fish rechecks his setup and tries again. Still nothing. And because the Inserter is a sturdy but dumb device with only a few status lights, fish can't run diagnostics without special test equipment that's back in his office on the mainland.

Next day he tries again, but no matter what he does, nothing works. He has a replacement Inserter and modems overnighted, and swaps in all the new devices. Still no go.

Finally, fish breaks the setup down completely, disconnecting everything, and starts over, looking for the problem.

"That's when I noticed a slight crack in the neck of one end of the brand-new serial cable that connected the Inserter device to the modem," says fish. "In desperation, I replaced it with an old cable that I happened to have with me. Surprise! Everything worked as it should.

"And finally I got to spend a relaxing day in paradise!"

Sharky's idea of paradise is having plenty of true tales of IT life. So send me your stories at sharky@computerworld.com. You'll snag a snazzy Shark shirt every time I use one. Comment on today's tale at Sharky's Google+ community, and read thousands of great old tales in the Sharkives.

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