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Shining Star of the Week (2)

tags: life

I used to work in a large, international company, stock market and all. It so happened that I had the interesting experience to be mentioned in the "Shining Star of the Week" list three times. And since the events were somewhat interesting, I decided to write them down. For the wonder and enjoyment of others and possibly myself as well.

Shining Star of the Week (1)


At the time I was working as a support engineer for the Unix operating system widely used at this company.

England calling

Some morning the phone on my desk rang. Of course, I don't know the exact sentences any more, but I think, I can still capture the essence. Some voice is on the phone, let's call him P. for Peter. But that is made up just now.

> P: Hello this is P. calling from $some_place_in_England. I know that I'm not allowed to call you directly, but I do it anyway just now.

I haven't received a lot of calls with openings like this.

> Me: Hello, now that sounds way too interesting to hang up. What can I do for you?

Think about it. A stranger, well actually a colleage calling me at $dayjob in the morning and telling me he's not allowed calling me? Have you had that? And no, it wasn't a marketing trick.

P. explained to me that he was working in $same_department and the server with their allmighty application had been rebootet on schedule. So far everything allright but the bloody application would not start and noone had a clue as to why. His manager had begun the process of a "formal escalation" a few moments ago, so he wished himself luck and called me. Not bad for a Wednesday morning.

> Me: I'm sure there is a ticket number for this already?

> P.: Yes. Since many hours (something like 2 days iirc).

He gave me the number and I promised to deal with it afterwards.

So, what to do? I did not know the server, let alone this particular application. But: I don't need to know everything in order to know something. I pulled the SharedX stunt again and shared an XTerm onto his workstation. Good old HPUX with CDE GUI, remember?

Whether he logged in or I logged in due to having root access to everywhere because of my role, I do not recall.

> Me: I assume this application is normally starting automatically after a boot, right?

> P.: Yes, of course! It has always worked until now.

> Me: Ok, so let's inspect /etc/init.d/ (or something such), because everything that starts automatically would be somehow visible there.

I simply did a directory listing.

> P.: Oh, look, I can see it. Its name is $whatever!

> Me: So we look inside, I suggest ...

I opened the file probably with less ...

> P.: Oh, FXXX! I can see it! The application was moved to a different directory weeks ago, but this file apparently wasn't updated.

So I checked the new location, opened vi, edited and saved the file. I called the start script, and ***drummrolllll**** the application started. Of course! Relief! P. thanked me, I'm sure, and ran off to inform his manager. :-) I opened the ticket and added a comment as how we solved the whole thing.

Nice 10 minutes of my life in Unix support!


To my surprise P.s manager called me in the afternoon. She thanked me for fixing this problem. Then she wanted to know, why it took P. calling me directly (which clearly wasn't an official option) to get this problem fixed. And I thought, that this is really a good question.

We talked a bit, and I made the point, that we were able to fix this ONLY because an application person and a system support person looked at it SIMULTANEOUSLY. And I still think, this is correct. If you have an inexplicable problem, you need to bring the involved people together to look at the same thing.


The next week, my name appeared in the Shining Star of the Week list again. I noticed faster this time. Probably I was a little proud, but again: I just did my job.


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