Ben was half of the two-man IT department at Bob’s Family Fun Center. It was a popular local place for kids and adults alike to come get wild in go-carts, blast each other in laser tag, and spend copious amounts of tokens to win cheap plastic crap with tickets from arcade games. Bob the owner employed his nephew Ted as the “head of IT”. All it took to qualify Ted for the job was helping Bob out with a home computer problem once.
Ted didn’t actually do a whole lot around the Fun Center, but he complained to his uncle enough to hire some help. Ben was fresh out of college with a networking degree, Ben figured he’d get some real-world IT experience at the Fun Center while maybe getting some free go-karting out of it.
Upon starting, Ben was intrigued by the network setup Ted had. While strange, it worked. The network had to support the handful of office computers, point-of-sale terminals, a printer, the free customer wi-fi, and a system known as “Impale” that handled all the debit card transactions on the games.
At the heart of everything was an excessive-overkill Dell enterprise server in a wooden rack Ted proudly built himself. “Pretty cool, huh?” Ted asked as he showed off his handiwork to Ben. “I spent so much of the budget on this beast of a server, I didn’t have enough left over for a proper rack. So I took matters in to my own hands!” The rack was clearly constructed out of leftovers and scraps from the plywood obstacles installed in the Laser Tag arena, and it wobbled worryingly when anyone walked past.
“Sure, Ted, that’s great…” Ben lied as he deduced that even a 1000 person laser tag match with 50 categories of stat tracking couldn’t tax this server. As for the rest of the network topology, that was apparently a budget afterthought as well. The ISP line came in to a small, aging 10/100 router that in turn ran to an equally old switch. A cable in the switch ran to one of the server’s NICs. Everything but Impale depended on this router and switch for network connectivity. The other NIC on the server ran to the dedicated Impale server, which had all the games and registers talking to it. It was certainly not an ideal setup, but it sufficed.
One Monday, Ted came in to tell Ben that his uncle was complaining about the Fun Center’s phone service at a family gathering over the weekend. Looking to be helpful, Ted came up with a solution, “You see, Ben, I devised a way to cut the phone company out of the equation completely! I heard about this thing called Voicing on IP, or VOIP. We can cut our phone lines, and do all the calls over the internet!”
“Uhh, yeah. It’s actually Voice over IP,” Ben corrected him. “I’m familiar with that. If you want to utilize that I can help get it set up.” Ben gave their ISP a call that afternoon and scheduled a tech visit for the next week.
The tech predictably arrived towards the latter part of his estimated 4 hour window. Ben and Ted escorted him to their “network closet”, which was really just a small closet that housed their IT equipment as well as a helium tank for blowing up balloons. The tech started running a line for the phone service when he came across the router it was to be hooked in to. “Well now, that won’t do,” he observed. “That router’s older’n dirt. So’s that switch. Won’t support them blazin’ speeds we got. You gon’ have to git a new’un.”
Ted began to get upset at the thought of old Uncle Bob taking the “fun” out of Fun Center if they didn’t get the phones upgraded that day, like he’d promised. “There HAS to be something we can do! What if we run out and get a new router right now??”
“Now son, I gots more appointments to get to,” the tech said, eager to leave. “Tell ya what. Since y’all seem like smart guys, I’ll leave this here cable for ya,” he handed the loose end to Ted.“ Go’n get yer new equipment and plug this sucker in along with the rest of them devices and you’ll be good to go!”
“I got this!” Ted shouted, before he ran away to the front counter. The tech saw himself out before Ted came back with a wad of cash he took out of one of the front registers. “Ben! Run to Best Buy quick and get the finest router you can afford with this. Bring it back and I’ll get us hooked up and my uncle will be pleased when we have our phones on the internet!”
“Um, Ted. You do realize we need new phones that support VoIP too? We can’t just use these old analog ones,” Ben informed him.
“Crap! I’ll be right back!” Ted exited again, and returned with another wad of cash. “Get some phones too! Now go!”
Two hours later, Ben returned with the gear. “Good, you’re back!” Ted greeted him in the parking lot. “You go get the phones set up, I’ll take care of the router!”
Ben did as ordered. He went around and disconnected the old phones 1 by 1 and got the new ones ready to connect to the WiFi. As he was installing the last one at the front counter, he noticed the touchscreen register was frozen. He tried using it to no avail, so he did a hard reboot. It came back up but froze again. The other registers exhibited the same behavior. A mother suddenly came from the game room with her crying kid in tow. “This place is terrible! None of these games work right! They don’t do anything when I swipe my card! You’ve ruined my son’s birthday!”
The lady stormed off just as Ben realized that all these problems had to be related to what Ted was doing. He ran to the back room to find Ted sitting there admiring the new gadgets he hooked up. “All set, Benny! Are the phones ready?”
Ben ignored Ted as he saw the network/helium closet lit up like Christmas with constantly blinking lights on every port. The Impale server, normally almost silent, kicked its fans into full gear. The PC they used to administer Impale was frozen solid like the registers. “Ted! What did you do???” Ben questioned, starting to panic.
“What? I did like the guy said. Plug the cable in to the new router, then plug in all the other cables.” Ben quickly inspected his work. He started tracing each cable to where it ran, when he made a gruesome discovery. Somewhere in the shuffle, Ted ran not one, but two cables from the router to the switch. This caused a massive broadcast storm that crippled anything connected to the network. Ben quickly removed one of the cables and everything started getting back to normal.
Ben tried explaining to Ted what happened but it went in one ear and out the other. “Whatever, Ben. It’s working now. Let’s go play some laser tag!” Ted didn’t seem to care that he temporarily turned Bob’s Family Fun Center in to Ted’s House of Horrors.