Printer not found

You’ll be amazed at the things you’ll see when you go up on the roof.

Computerworld  |  Shark Tank
Computerworld / IDG

It’s the ’80s, and this consultant pilot fish gets sent out to see what’s going on with a client who is complaining that files are printing days and even weeks after they were submitted. But not completely — only a page or two at a time.

Fish has plenty of things to check before giving serious consideration to the idea that there’s a time portal hidden somewhere.

It’s a NetWare network on co-ax. The server looks OK, and fish sees nothing queued.

Printer looks OK, too.

But when fish tries to disconnect the BNC connector, it falls off in his hand.

Next, he opens the wall jack — and the co-ax falls out of the connector. Things need a closer look, and what fish sees is that, instead of nice, even crimps, there are markings that look like they were made by — pliers?

So fish asks for a rundown on the wiring. It’s all new, he’s told, done by an electrician who was there to do some other electrical wiring and was asked to put in the co-ax network.

Which he was glad to do, but he didn't have co-ax tools; he just cut and crimped with his electrician’s pliers as he put in dozens of co-ax wall jacks and made some co-ax connector cables. The vast majority of those connections just fall apart when touched.

Fish uses a time-domain reflectometer to bounce a signal down the cables and see if there are any discontinuities and whatnot. And he gets some really strange readings.

That leads to the discovery that the electrician had gone outside the building with a couple of runs, then over the roof to different parts of the building — “just to avoid all that pesky cable pulling, you know,” says fish. But where the cable wasn’t long enough, the electrician just put in barrel connectors to splice to a new run of cable. Outside. On the roof. With interior (i.e., not waterproof)

Water had been leaking into these connectors, of course, then draining to the lowest point of the cable. And because some wall jacks had been leaking inside the walls, there was mold, too.

So is this frail network the time portal? It’s a big part of it. But fish missed something in his first assessment of the situation: The main server isn’t printing; jobs are being sent to a forgotten NetWare print server long forgotten in a closet. It would get jobs, then try to push them out over this waterlogged, badly crimped network — and fail. But it would keep each job and retry — again and again and again ...

Fish’s firm gets the job of re-terminating everything, replacing soaked cables as necessary (and not going over the roof). Someone else had to take care of the mold.

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Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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