Monday, September 10, 2007

A Day in the Life

Just to give some idea about life here at Siena's I&TS:

I&TS runs several computing labs across campus. We are always changing things and testing things, but no matter how much you plan and test, unanticipated things go wrong once students return. One example was last week.

Without getting too technical, the labs are set up so that the local printer is set up on each computer at log in. Well, last week we got reports that this wasn't happening. Students were logging on, but no printer was displayed, making it impossible for them to print.

Now the printers in the labs are set up identically. Yet the problem was only in certain labs. Other rooms it worked perfectly.

We had several people all in the labs, logging on, logging off, using different accounts with different permissions. There was even an outside expert called in to go over the logs and scripts for anything wrong.

Finally, we found an answer: a slash character in the name of the lab's computers. Slashes are dangerous: they get mistaken for a path or web address and send the system to the wrong location. We tested it out. At first, it made no difference: the problem wasn't solved. Then, as we waited and the computers looked into their configuration data, things started being fixed. The printers were mapped.

But it took us a long time to come up with the solution. And sometimes, one character can make all sorts of difference -- and you may not notice it.