I wonder what this cable does? • The Register

I wonder what this cable does? • The Register

on duty Is a loose cannon worse than a big cheese? What happens when the two are combined? Add some confidence and you have today’s entry in the On Call archives.

Our story today comes from a Regomized reader like “Jon,” who worked for a small software development company in Cupertino, California (no, not that one.) One of the company’s clients was a large corporation (not that one either) and the main contact was their Director of Engineering “who was… let’s say a bit of a loose cannon”, said a diplomatic Jon.

“This individual would show up to speak to our management, carrying Compaq luggage, and we’d put him in a conference room to wait while we gathered the requested people. And with remarkable frequency, shortly thereafter, the network would was going.”

Frantic calls were made. Users have searched for connectivity. But the connection (pun not intended) wasn’t made until the fourth time the network was brought down and the root cause was discovered.

First, some background on Jon’s network. The backbone was of thick web, and from it sprung thin extensions. The backbone of the thick web ended up in the same conference room where our friend, the Loose Cannon, was deposited. The terminator at the end of the cable was just one of the critical parts of the network, and if it was missing it would cause a pretty severe communication disruption.

You can probably see where this is going.

The Loose Cannon’s luggage carried a thin Ethernet card. And there was the backbone end of the thick network, with a connector that looked like everything would fit right in and get the luggage into the network.

“Once he had realized this fact, being somewhat short of precise knowledge of how the thinnet worked and also, as mentioned, a Loose Cannon, he simply removed the terminator from the end of the thinnet and was connecting it directly to your network card without a T.”

Naturally, no permission was sought. There was a cable. A handy plugin. He was sitting alone. What could go wrong?

The network would immediately crash, but for our Loose Cannon it just couldn’t seem to connect to anything. He ventured nothing, gained nothing, simply unplugged his Compaq, put the terminator back in, and carried on as if nothing had happened.

He did this three times, unleashing all sorts of chaos outside the conference room. But to him, it was simply duff connectivity. Or maybe very good security. Either way, Compaq’s biggest and best stayed resolutely offline.

The fourth time, however, he was caught in the act. Whether it was someone who showed up with drinks and cookies while cables were being attached or support staff who had developed a nervous tic when the pager went off something bad has happened.

Unfortunately, the education that was imparted is lost in the mists of time.

“Words were said,” Jon said.

Have you all faced a seemingly intractable network problem, only to find the solution sitting in a conference room, eating cookies? Or were you the person who activated the pagers with an innocent “I wonder what that wire does?” Tell everyone with an email to On Call. ®

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