Saturday, July 11, 2009


Let's start using the familiar phrase "24x7" correctly. You usually hear it as "24x7x365."

The 24 refers to 24 hours in a day. No problem.

The 7 refers to the days in a week. No problem.

There are 365 days in a year. Huh? We've already gone from days to weeks, now we're back to days? That's stupid. It's also very common.

Logically, it should go from days to weeks to years - 24x7x52. It's even more logical and simpler to say 24x365.

Of course, it's even simpler to skip the cliche and just say "All the time," but people love to speak in gibberish (including me). So let's just think it through.

If you need to emphasive something that's always there, just say "24 hours."

If you want to emphasize a week, it's "24x7."

If you want to point out something that is present for an annual period, it's "24x7x52."

Let's take it to a comic extreme. Why stop at a year? Why start with an hour? 60x60x24x7x52x100x10. That's seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, years, centuries in a millenium.

Unless you're talking about dogs. A dog-year could be described as 24x7x365.

I'm not a dog person.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

I Don't Know What I Did

But it worked. My internet service is back up.

I work in customer support, so I know firsthand that things that shouldn't break do, and things that have no business working work, but I didn't do anything to my computer that should have made a difference, yet here we are.

Since the built-in ethernet connection wasn't working, I slipped the ethernet card from my old computer into the new one. After an hour of tinkering with no success, I pulled out the card and rebooted. As soon as I enabled the on-board port, my internet connection was restored. That's right, all I did was put in a card that I really didn't think would help, then removed it. And it fixed the connection.

I'm so excited by this development that, after I post this on the blog, I'm not going to do anything that might make the connection break.

I didn't hear from the cycle shop today so I don't know how lucky I am overall, but at this moment, things are looking up.

Shhhh. Don't jinx it.

If It Weren't for Bad Luck...

I've had a string of bad luck the past couple of weeks. I still have my health, but somedays it feels like the world is out to get me.

The air conditioning in my car went out at the beginning of last summer. I've been putting off getting it repaired because of the expense, and because I usually don't use the car very much during the summer. I am using it more this summer because...

The starter went out on my Goldwing. It's in the shop right now. Hopefully, it won't be too major of a repair. It's under warranty so my pocketbook should be OK, but the Minnesota cycling season is short enough the way it is - don't want to miss too many beautiful July days.

When I built my new computer, I was never able to make it network with the old one, so I put off moving programs and data over to the new one. That's bad luck on top of the human failing of procrastination. That caused more bad luck.

The old computer died the other night. Diagnostics point to the mother board as the culprit. Fine, the hard drives survived, so I took them out and tried to make them work in the new computer. Not so easy - more bad luck. The new computer kept using an old hard drive as the boot drive. After three painful hours, I realized that the new computer's BIOS was automatically setting itself to use the most recently installed hard drive as the boot drive, even though I was setting the C: drive manually. Maddening.

I made it work and was able to copy files over after that, but...

My internet connection failed. Last night, I spent three hours diagnosing it, including 45 minutes on the phone with Comcast Tech Support. It turns out I had at least three issues at once, or maybe one issue that affected three components. The Comcast guy and I got the cable modem to connect again, then after another hour of tinkering, I was able to get the router back up, but the new computer is still not working. I can see that the computer is connected to the router but it's not connecting to the internet. Maddening.

So I've had a string of bad luck lately. Yet, it's not all bad. No one in the pre-industrial world had air conditioning in their house, like I do. No one had refrigerated food. No one had a device in their pocket that could contact another person anywhere in the world, like I do. No one had the ability to watch "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" at a time of their choosing, like I do. No one had a device in their other pocket that would play their 9000 favorite songs at any time, either.

I have a bunch of conveniences and I have my health. But it still sucks to not have the internet or a motorcycle.

(written and posted at work)

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

A Day at the Office

Having trouble picturing what I do at work all day? I get e-mails like this, chock full of jargon. I'll translate below. Names have been changed to protect the innocent and avoid lawsuits filed by the guilty.

From: Mr A
Sent: Wednesday, July 01, 2009
To: ~Reroute Group
Subject: XYZ reroute

I put a skip on XYZ today as a result of troubles we are having with them. We are getting 503 messages with delay of 4 or more seconds causing PDD on the reroute. We are also getting 504 messages indicating gateway timeout after 20 seconds. The 504 messages are dead air calls if they are reported. From the hammer it looked like 10% of the calls to XYZ are having this problem. We also have a number of trouble tickets on calls trying to route to XYZ.

Mr B/NOC is working with XYZ to resolve this problem. When they fix the problem we can increase the SIM’s on trunk group XXXX.

Mr A


My company provides long distance service to other companies at a wholesale level. We do this by connecting to several other networks, known as carriers. In this e-mail, XYZ is one of our underlying carriers.

Mr A is Translations Engineer for my employer. He decides where calls should route on our network.

Reroute group is a handful of people - like me - who need to know when we have network issues.

A skip is an override in our Lowest Cost Routing tables (LCR). The skip tells the network to treat XYZ as if it doesn't exist. The LCR is a database table that the network uses to determine the cheapest way to route a call.

A 503 message is an error code that you would see if you were logged into a Translations terminal. It means calls are talking too long to connect.

PDD is Post Dial Delay. When you dial a phone number, the amount of time after you enter the 10th digit until the destination switch sends a signal that it is ringing the call is known as the post dial interval. Ideally, the post dial interval should be measured in milliseconds. If you have to refer to the post dial interval as PDD, that's bad. PDD of four or more seconds is very bad. PDD that lasts until the timeout limit of 20 seconds is monstrously bad.

A 504 message is an error code indicating that a carrier has taken a call but hasn't connected it nor have they sent back any indication why the call isn't connecting. This is not a message you want to see. After 20 seconds, the network times out, or stops trying to connect the call.

The Hammer. I have no idea what that means.

10% means that XYZ is connecting most calls (90%) just fine but is trying to offload some of the calls to another carrier and not succeeding. The calls they are not connecting are probably ones that cost a lot to terminate. XYZ has their own LCR and it is busy trying to offload the calls to another carrier who doesn't know how much the calls cost to terminate, aka a sucker. In theory, XYZ should begin termination of all calls in a few milliseconds and do it on their network. In practice, they'll spend a few seconds trying to find another sucker to do it. That 504 error tells us they didn't find a sucker and they won't do it themselves.

A trouble ticket is a way to report and track troubles.

Mr B is the supervisor of the Network Operations Center. When stuff breaks on the network, the NOC fixes it.

SIM stands for simultaneous call. It's a measure of capacity - how many calls are being simulaneously fed into a trunk group.

A Trunk Group is a circuit going from point A to point B, in this case from our network to XYZ's.

The last paragraph can be summarized thusly: Mr Y will see if XYZ is aware of the problem or not. If it's intentional, we stop sending them calls for a while. It may be unintentional, which means that when they fix the problem on their network, Mr X will increase the number of calls we send them (remove the skip).

This is an ordinary message from an ordinary day for me. There's plenty more jargon where this came from.