Jake Vinson

May 2009

Infinity Nines of Uptime

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Working freelance for a small, three-person company named StruggleCo, Ivey saw firsthand how they struggled to make do. Part of this involved understanding StruggleCo's terminology for things. For example, though he was retained on an hourly, as-needed basis, Ivey was StruggleCo's Senior Network Engineer. Whenever Gary, the owner, needed to "consult with legal", that actually meant Googling for boiler-plate legal documents. And when Gary said "data center with offsite backup", he really meant "the broom closet and basement."

At least, that had been the case for as long as Iven could remember. But after been fighting a long, uphill battle against some larger competitors, StruggleCo finally landed a huge contract (for them) with a medium-sized company we'll call MediumCo. And this time, they would do things right.

Importing Data the WTF Way

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AwesomePro 2.0 had it all – the low price of a mom-and-pop software company, 24/7 support, and a surprisingly robust feature set. Their presentation to the higher-ups couldn't have gone better, with the bigwigs ready to whip out the checkbook before it was even over. AwesomePro were light years ahead of the competition at literally a fifth of the price. It would be the perfect fit to replace the aging and temperamental in-house ERP solution in use by one of Stewart T.'s clients.


Getting the software in the building was to be Stewart's top priority – his client was like a child on Christmas begging his dad to set up the Wii. "Is it done yet?" No. "When can we use it?" Um, soon...? "But we wanna use it to prioritize our initiatives and do some claims processing nowwwwwwww!"

Not in the Budget

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All of the terminals in the warehouse had two things in common: one, they needed to be air-dusted frequently because of all the cardboard fibers and dust in the warehouse, and two, they had all accumulated an impressive pile of masking tape labels written in Sharpie. The labels were like the rings of a tree, revealing the history of the system. You could peel back the label INITWAREHS07 to reveal that the system used to be X-DATAPROC, before that it was SYSXDS, and before that it was ENIAC.

All of the machines had been repurposed, re-repurposed, re-re-repurposed, and so on. The Frankenstein boxes all crawled along, crashing frequently, but one of the systems in particular was prone to extreme mood swings: VL-LBLSTA1. This was the system used at label station 1, or, more accurately, the only label station in the warehouse. It was responsible for re-labeling items in the warehouse with price stickers.

Cursed and Re-Cursed

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Graham K. was working for an atmospheric chemistry research group in a university in Wollongong, New South Wales, Australia. They'd been running a field experiment in sugar cane fields on a government research farm that was roughly 1500km (~932mi) away in Mackay.

This wasn't their first choice; they were originally based at another site, but it had been quarantined due to a parasite that was discovered in the area, leaving Graham and crew to find another site for their research. Actually, "finding another site" is a bit of an understatement: they had to scramble to scout a location, carefully negotiate with the land owner, convince the locals that the "government experiment" was only about sugar cane, establish local research offices, move all of the field equipment, and relocate the scientists. As you might immagine, field support was foisted on an already overworked team.