Like a ninja in the night, Hanz M., AKA Hanzo, stalks across Hesse University’s Dresden campus. The go-to man in the IT department, he fixes the messes that others leave behind. This is one of his stories.

The techs from central IT in Berlin were an hour late, to Hanzo’s’s chagrin. He and his boss Gertrude were waiting in the campus server room. The Dean of Dresden campus, after numerous complaints from staff about the internet connection, demanded that IT give them a new gateway. The old tower unit, a file server in a past life, was dropping more packets than it successfully received.

The Dean also demanded that downtime be limited to five minutes. Central IT had given their assurances, but Hanzo remained skeptical.

"It’s not that complicated," Hanzo said. "Why won’t they just let us install the new gateway ourselves?"

"The guys in Berlin never trust us to get things done right," Gertrude replied. She gestured to the mess of AC ducts above them. "Things here tend to be held together with string and red tape."

Hanzo heard them before they entered the classroom: three skinny tech guys, led by a blonde, body builder type. "Get the old server out of the way," the body builder ordered Hanzo, who grudgingly obliged.

Another tech retrieved the new server, a typical rack-mounted blade. Only it wasn’t new: Hanzo noticed a thin layer of dust on the faceplate.

"Where did you get that from?" Gertrude asked, pointing to their "new" gateway.

"It’s a retired webserver," the body builder replied. "It should do fine."

"That’s at least four years old," Hanzo said. "It’s likely been running continuously until now. Those things don’t power back on if they’ve been running hot too long."

The body builder, after taking down the old gateway from the shelves, towered over Hanzo’s slight frame. He ripped the network card out of the tower case. "This," he said, "is the problem, not your new gateway." He snapped the network card in half. "Now stay out of our way."

Permanent Meltdown

Hanzo and Gertrude stayed out of the way.

"Okay, it’s on," the body builder announced, as one of his techs turned on a nearby monitor and switched to the new rack-mounted gateway. Hanzo and Gertrude peeked over their shoulders to watch.

It froze in the BIOS boot sequence.

"Try resetting it," the body builder said. Another tech did so. The monitor flickered off and on, but the gateway never went past the initial boot sequence.

"What did you do?" The body builder asked Hanzo, as if he has used an ancient Japanese curse on the machine.

Before Hanzo could respond, the body builder’s cellphone rang. His face grew pale as he spoke. He hung up and turned to the other techs.

"That was the Dean. We’ve got an hour to get the internet back or we’re all fired."

Plan B is Broken

Half an hour passed, and the rack-mounted gateway still failed to boot. The body builder was sweating profusely under his muscle shirt and windbreaker. "I need some ideas," he finally said to Hanzo and Gertrude.

"Plug the old gateway back in," Gertrude suggested. "Then get a real piece of hardware to replace it."

"Well, let’s do it!" the body builder shouted. He rushed to the old tower and picked up the case when his face turned pale again.

"Missing something?" Hanzo said, holding up the two pieces of the old network card the body builder had broken half an hour before.

"We got any spares?" the body builder asked the other techs. They shook their heads.

"‘Do nothing which is of no use,’" Hanzo said. "Book of Five Rings. Now, where can we get a spare network card in twenty-five minutes?"

Everything Old Is New Again

Hanzo’s car tires skidded on the pavement outside the building as he parked. He rushed inside the building, brandishing the newly-bought network card. He checked his watch: two minutes to spare.

The body builder grabbed for the new network card, but Hanzo pushed him aside and handed it to Gertrude, who had better hands for installing parts. She installed it in thirty seconds flat. Then Hanzo plugged in the Ethernet cord, booted the computer, switched the monitor to its video feed, and crossed his fingers.

The old gateway booted to Windows without a hitch.

Hanzo said nothing as the body builder and the other techs slinked out of the building back to Berlin.

"I hope they’re not coming back to install the new hardware," Hanzo said.

"There won’t be any new hardware," Gertrude replied. "No budget for it."

"Well, waste not," Hanzo said.

Photo credit: Iwan Gabovitch / Foter / CC BY

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