Life as an system/network admin can be extremely fun and satisfying when you’re not bogged down with management and people breathing down your neck. Of course it has moments to cause you to sweat a giant puddle in the middle of the server room. We’ve all made mistakes and (hopefully) learn never to repeat them. Sometimes we’re doomed to repeat them no matter what precautions we take.
In one of my first jobs as a system admin, I used to be responsible for a small business server in a 5-10 user office. One of the downsides of working in a small business is often the budgets don’t coincide with the real needs and you’re often forced to make things work using bubble gum and sticks. Duct tape was a luxury for spoiled admins that was completely out of the budget I was given. The first machine purchased was a bare-bones Windows 2000 machine which served as a file and print server for the office. Not too bad, right? Unfortunately due to budget constraints, this machine ran Windows 2000 Professional, not the server edition that was recommended. It had to function on a workgroup as a server since Active Directory was not an option. Security was managed at a workgroup level meaning all changes had to be made on every PC individually as well as the server. Luckily with 5-10 users, it wasn’t unmanageable and changes could be made to most machines after hours.
As the business grew due to better use of the technology and skills of the IT team (read: Me), the budgets increased slightly and I was allowed to upgrade hardware to a better machine but the Server license was still out of the budget I was provided. The network still purred and all users were happy with the performance and uptime and how smooth things ran. As more data was used and saved, backup became a major priority. With the limited budget a tape backup drive was too expensive, and as this was pre-cloud era, a Maxtor One Touch backup and DVD backups were the only solutions available as options to consider. Dual backup systems were a must for redundancy and off-site backup capability. Everything was implemented and tested successfully with restores working with no issues from both the drive and DVDs.
Flash forward roughly two years and the server’s primary hard drive fails and the secondary seemed to have become corrupted. Luckily the server was under warranty and the hard drive was replaced at no cost. There were backups of everything so data loss wasn’t a concern. After replacing both drives, I loaded the Windows disk and began the install process. Setup detected the new drive and my standard operating procedure is to format the drive to get it NTFS ready. The C: drive was selected and setup began the format and I walked away to complete other tasks. I came back a short while later and found Windows was installing and smiled. It was about then I noticed the lights on the Maxtor drive blinking as if data were being read/written.
A frown replaced the smile as my brain tried to process why the light would be blinking if Windows is installing on the drive and hadn’t gotten to the driver installation portion yet. I processed different scenarios as quickly as possible trying to find valid reasons why the lights would be blinking. It was a horrifying realization that there’s no way to cancel the install without shutting down the machine forcibly which could damage a drive. I weighed my options carefully and decided that in the event that my fear was for naught, I’d simply be able to start the install process over again.
Off the machine went and the Maxtor drive stuttered. Sweat began to build on my forehead as I knew there was no denying it. Windows setup was inexplicably installing to the external drive even though I selected the C: drive. I began damage assessment to see how bad things were. I unplugged the drive and reinstalled Windows and loaded the drive back on. All the data was gone and a partial Windows install was all that remained.
“Wait! Maybe data can be recovered using one of the many tools in my arsenal!” I so foolishly thought to myself. Windows had somehow managed to install itself over only the sectors where all the data was and only a few files were recoverable. I then realized I had DVD backups and quickly rushed to retrieve them from my office. I plopped the most recent disk in and then tried to copy the data back. A message box that simply said “Cyclic Redundancy Check” suddenly greeted me. I grabbed the next disk and tried to restore from that to find the files wouldn’t copy or open. I grabbed the first disk that I tested and knew worked only to find even the files there wouldn’t copy or open. I was dumbfounded as I had tested the discs to ensure that the backups were valid.
So at this point, you might be asking yourself what could possibly have happened? It turns out for some completely inexplicable and idiotic reason, Windows setup chooses the external drive as the primary and sets it to C. The DVD backup issues I only figured out recently. The issue was caused by the NTFS ID being different for the new Windows install. The NTFS IDs were now different on the new server. As the data was on non-writeable media, there was no way to set permissions of the files which made them completely useless.
Lesson learned? Unplug all drives when doing any OS work and DVD backups aren’t worth the disks they’re saved on.
Years later, a friend called me up with issues with his PC and asked if I could help. I went over, diagnosed that the hard drive was failing and that it needed to be replaced was done with no issues. After reconnecting all the cables back to the PC, I checked and saw no backup drives anywhere. I double checked and asked if said friend had backups of the data to be restored and was assured he did and that the drive was safe. I began the install and Windows began to format the new drive. It was then I heard the familiar grind of an external drive when data was being written to it. Reflexively, I shutdown the PC and cut off the installation. I called to my friend and asked why I heard an external drive when none were around that I could see even after tracing all cables. One of his many skills was carpentry and it turned out that he felt the drive was an eyesore and mounted it away behind the desk completely out of sight. I didn’t find any cables to it when I traced them all because the drive was plugged into a printer with a USB hub built into it. Even worse of a coincidence, the new drive wasn’t recognized by Windows due to incorrect jumper settings. The single drive I saw in the list which assured me there was only one drive available turned out to be the external drive.
I spent about two weeks recovering the data on that drive. Luckily I only lost some unimportant videos.
Lesson learned? Unplug all USB cables until after Windows setup is complete.
If you’re installing IIS with Windows 7, you may find that the IIS (Internet Information Services) installation hangs while the progress bar indicates 100%. The menu displays: “Please wait while Windows makes changes to features. This might take several minutes.” and appears to do nothing.
The solution? Disable ESET antivirus and try again. I’ve found that it seems to conflict with the trustedinstaller which causes the lockup issue. It might be the same with other anti-viruses as well.
Following my ordeal with Ford, I started my drive home and drove past a BMW dealership. I decided to check it out and pulled into the lot, parked, and walked inside. My mother and I walked around looking at the cars and nobody walked over to help for a good 15 minutes. Finally I walked over to the front desk and the girl looked up and asked what I wanted. I said “I’m looking to purchase a BMW.” She suddenly had a smile on her face and said “OH! One second, let me see whom I can get to help you.”
The girl made a phone call and spoke softly and then followed by “uh huh. Ok.” and then looked up to me and said “One of the sales reps will be right with you.” I nodded and gave her my thanks and walked back to the car I was looking at. I couldn’t help but feel like the lack of anyone coming to help and her initial attitude was caused by some sort of racial profiling but I could totally be off base on that (but based on prior experiences, I’m more than likely correct). Finally a salesman came out, introduced himself and then asked how he could help. I explained I was looking for a 328xi to which he responded we should step into his office. He started filling out some paperwork to which I stated “Wait, we haven’t discussed anything yet. Why are you filling out forms already?” to which he replied ”This will save time. You obviously seem like you’ve decided on the car you want.” I eyed him suspiciously and after he filled in the paperwork, he excused himself and took the paperwork and walked away. I looked at my mother and whispered “I seriously think he’s running a credit check to see if I can get the car.” We were both agitated already from our previous experience not 30 minutes prior. I’ve purchased a few cars in the past, for both myself and my parents and have never encountered the type of obnoxious behaviors I’ve run into that day.
So he comes back, sans paperwork and sits down. He starts asking me what I’m looking for and is interrupted by a phone call. He says “Excuse me one second, that’s my wife.” and I happened to see that the phone was an extension internally. I listened very carefully and heard “The credit is seriously excellent. They can buy the 7 series if they wanted.” to which he replied “Wonderful! OK, I have to go, I’ll talk to you later.” and turned to us. “Sorry, she wanted to let me know dinner would be waiting for me when I got home.”
I’m going to shorten the story but we discussed what I wanted, and he said he had the car in the lot and made me an offer. I countered and he looked at me and said “This is BMW. We don’t negotiate.” I was totally surprised and countered with “I know for a fact that’s not true as four people I know negotiated before they bought their car.” He said “They might have got a good special, but the best I can do for you is give you a 1.99% financing. It ends tomorrow so we have to sign today.” I said “If I sign, how long do I have before I can cancel the deal with no penalties?” He said “You have until you take delivery.”
“Let’s go look at the car.” I got in and drove it a bit, and it handled great. Even my mother was impressed how it handled, but it had no options or features. I wasn’t so thrilled since I was giving up everything I actually wanted and not getting a great deal. In the beginning, I told him I wanted one thing no matter what – a hookup for my iphone to connect to the Bluetooth and to play music through the radio. If I have to compromise, that’s the one thing I refuse to give up. We talked as I drove the car around the lot a bit and he made comments about it’s power, acceleration, etc. Finally I got out of the car and began to look for the hookup for the iphone. When he inquired as to what I was searching for, I said “The iphone hookup which you guaranteed came with the car. I don’t see it anywhere.”
He said “It’s right…” and opened the center console followed by “uh-oh”. “Wow…ok…looks like the car doesn’t have the connection after all…not a big deal. You can get an aftermarket part. Let’s go finish the paperwork.”
I looked at him and point blank said “No. The deal’s off. I told you flat out that I’m giving up every option I wanted with this car. I’m settling for a lesser car and the ONE thing I REFUSE to give up is the one thing you guaranteed to be included. Now you’re telling me it’s not and I have to spend MORE money? I’m done.”
He replied “You’d really walk away from the deal for just this?”. “I already said deal’s off.” “OK, OK. Let me go talk to my boss. See what I can do.”
We go inside and he walks inside the manager’s office. He says “I have a customer who wants to purchase a car but he wants to hook up an iphone to it. The car is supposed to have the part but doesn’t. He’s ready to walk away on the deal.” I heard the manager say “For a $30 cable? Give it to him!”
The sales guy comes out and says “I convinced my manager to give you the part. It’s a $650 part that we’re giving you for free.”
We walked back to the office and sat down to sign the paperwork. Again I asked, “Just to double check, if I sign, how long do I have before I can cancel the deal with no penalties?” He said “I’m so confident you’re going to want the car, that you can break it until you take delivery of the vehicle.”
I signed the paperwork and told my friend what happened. He had been researching cars with me and said I should check out the Hyundai Genesis. He went with me to test drive the car the following Monday. We were both seriously impressed with the car and how it handled. I told the salesman that I’m looking to pay X for all the features and I don’t really need the car. If he can meet it, I’ll sign and drive away. If not, no hard feelings and I’ll walk away. He said “Wow, that’s low…but let me see what I can do.” He went to talk to his manager and came back after about 10 minutes. He said “My manager is calling the bank to see if they’ll approve it. It’s a real low offer and he doesn’t think they’ll approve but we never know.” Five minutes later, the manager comes over, shakes my hand and says “Congratulations. I hope you really enjoy your car. It’s the pride of our fleet.”
I called the BMW dealership and spoke to the salesman to let him know I was cancelling the deal. He responded “What can I do to keep your business?” I said “Honestly? There’s not much. You’re not going to beat the price.” He said “What kind of car are you getting and how much are you paying monthly?” I said “Hyundai Genesis and x dollars.” He said “You’re giving up a BMW for a HYUNDAI?” in shock. I chuckled and said “Not just any Hyundai, one that ranks higher than yours, is cheaper, more room in every direction, has every option you offer, and uses regular gas instead of premium.” He said “Is there anything that I could do to make you reconsider?” to which I calmly replied “Sorry, you’re BMW. You don’t negotiate.”
I will freely admit it – I’m an impulsive buyer. I get an idea into my head and it just cycles through the gears and synapses of my grey matter until I am finally forced to act upon said impulse. I’ve learned to temper and control these impulses recently but sometimes I can’t talk myself out of a purchase. My first car back in 99 was a Pathfinder. Oh how I LOVED that car. The memories I have of cruising around with my friends and the shenanigans we pulled will be something I treasure until the day I die (or I lose my memory, whichever happens first).
After about 5 years and 75,000 miles on the Pathfinder, it started to break down. First it was minor things but then suddenly I was in the shop on a monthly basis paying $500 each time. My transmission fell apart and I ended up shelling out close to $2200 if I remember correctly. The next month was $500 struts and shocks. My mechanic then commented that he’s never seen what happened to my shocks happen before. He also then informed me that it seems that it’s not just my Pathfinder breaking down. Everyone who has the same model/year of my car was experiencing the same problems. I just seemed to be the first and he could count on at least 5 more people bringing their car in. At that point I realized I could buy a new car and pay less a month than I was for the repairs. I got an ad in the mail for the Scions. I checked it out and the car was uncomfortably, ridiculously small. I ended up wedging my knee in between the steering and pedal. I seriously couldn’t move it at that point and I’m not even that tall. I’m average height. I ended up checking out the other cars and because they gave me a great deal, I ended up going with the Toyota Camry.
I will state for the record that I totally hated the car. While it was reliable, it had nothing desirable. It had no cool features, it had the same body style since 1992 (which my mom had) with a minor tweak here and there and a poorly designed interior. There was so much empty space and poor designing that it aggravated me every time I got into the car. Going from the Pathfinder to the Camry was a serious step down. I wanted the luxury edition of the Camry but I wanted the 4 cylinder as I was looking to save money gas. The gas prices at this time were hitting $4 a gallon and the hybrids weren’t so great for an option at the time. The dealer at that time told me that I can’t get the luxury package on the 4 cylinder as it was only available on the V-6 so I settled and purchased the 4 cylinder. I drove the car for a little over 5 years. It was reliable, but it didn’t excite me or particularly enthrall me in any way shape or form.
Recently I got it in my head that I should get a new car. It was one of those thoughts I cast aside as it was just not feasible with the apartment situation and the job and the commute I was doing. The thought would come back up periodically. I just wanted to drive something a little more exciting. I helped my friend move and drove his Infiniti to his place while he drove the truck. It was a totally different experience than my Camry or Pathfinder. The strangest part of the experience were the two or three cute women who waved at me and smiled as I drove past in his car – something that had never happened to me before in any car I’ve been in.
Fast forward a about a year and I moved back home. I did the commute to work again and it was horrible. The drives were over an hour and a half and with traffic up to 2. Then came the new job unexpectedly. It let me work from home and I went into the office only occasionally. Then out of the blue, the idea cycled back into my head. I ran it by mother because it was a large purchase and I wasn’t sure if I should do it. She surprised me with “Do it. You should be driving a better car than a Camry.” which totally surprised me. So I did research and looked at different brands. There was no major need for a new car since my current one ran fine so I wasn’t pressured to actually buy something right away.
I narrowed it down to these cars (in the order I wanted them originally):
- BMW 328xi
- Ford Taurus 2010 Select
- Ford Fusion Hybrid
- Chevy Camaro Transformers Edition
- Buick Lacrosse
- Hyundai Genesis
- Nissan Maxima
I started off with the Ford primarily for 2 reasons – the first being that with the terrible economy, it made more sense to me to support America. Secondly, they have two cars that I am interested in – the Ford Fusion Hybrid and the Ford 2010 Taurus. The cars had appeals for me in totally different ways. The Hybrid was great because it ran up to 47 mph on full electric (What limitation did they run into that they couldn’t bring it up to 55 I wonder?). The test drive was impressive. I hit the button and my friend and I looked at each other and I shrugged because nothing happened. I restarted the engine and the salesman was like “The car’s on Bro. It’s hybrid, it doesn’t make any noise until the gas kicks in.”
Needless to say, both my friend and I were seriously impressed. We test drove it and drove it and it handled fairly well, but it was nothing extravagant or special though. It was a practical ride with some luxury. For a technology buff such as myself, it was a fun toy. Then I test drove the Taurus and to sum it up, Ford finally got a car right. The Taurus was impressive in all aspects – design, handling, speed, power, space, features, and safety. It felt a little underpowered compared to it’s weight when I test drove it as the acceleration was a little slow. It turned out that it was a safety feature that parents can use for their kids to limit how fast they go through a governor. I decided I wanted the car and asked for pricing.
Things started off lousy when they told me the Taurus had 0% financing but the Fusion doesn’t. They wanted to steer me towards the more expensive car. I totally get it – however, I dislike being jerked around, especially when it comes to business. I told the sales manager “Listen, I don’t need the car. I have a perfectly fine car sitting outside. I want a new one. If you’re not going to give me a good deal, I have no problem walking. I just dislike wasting time.”
The sales manager replied “Sorry, that’s the deal we have going on now.” to which I replied “OK, thanks for your time. If I’m interested, I’ll come back.” to which they replied “Wait, let’s see what we can do.” They talked for a while amongst themselves and came back and gave me a price which was higher than MSRP. I said “OK, when you get your act together and are serious about doing business, call me.” and got up and walked out.
I got home and called two other Ford dealerships and requested quotes both via email and phone calls. One guy returned my call and told me he’s heading home but would get the quote out the next day. I told him if he gets me a good price, I’d be in the first thing in the morning to sign the deal. He said he’d get a quote out to me. Of course, I heard nothing back from them. I told my parents about my decision to buy a Ford and the reaction was a typical Indian parent’s response. Summed up – “NO FORD! NO AMERICAN CARS! THEY’LL KILL YOU!”
I took my mother with me to check out the car as my dad was so against me getting it that he didn’t even want to see it. I got to the same dealership and the same salesman saw me. “Ready to sign bro?!” I said “I want to show my mother the car first. I need to convince her it’s a good car.” I’ll admit, the next part shouldn’t have shocked me, but it did. “BRO! You already test drove the car! You don’t need to drive it again. I got five clients coming in today, I don’t have time for this.” I’m looking to buy the highest end car you have and you don’t have time for me? Even though I called ahead and told you I was coming in?
I stood straight up and said “Alright, I understand. I’ll just go somewhere where they have time for me. Thanks.” and turned to walk. “WAIT, WAIT! I’ll get the keys.”
He had already made a poor impression on my mother and she wasn’t thrilled with spending more time there but she waited it out. We got in the car and took a look through it. She was impressed by the quality, comfort, and space of the car. She still wasn’t thrilled with buying American but if I wanted to spend the money on it, it was mine to spend. Then we went to negotiate and it turned into a huge runaround ending with the guy arguing with me that the car on the lot was the model I wanted and me arguing it wasn’t. I wanted the 303 package and the car was the 302. “BRO! IT’S THE CAR YOU WANT!” “It’s the 302 package. It’s different from the 303 and is missing features I want. It’s not the same car. Here, look at the printout from YOUR website and compare. It’s missing seven features.” “BRO! IT"S THE SAME CAR!!”
I finally said “Are you seriously going to sit here and argue with me after I’ve proved it’s not the same car??” to which he responded by calling his manager over and said “Tell this guy that this is the car he wants. He won’t believe me.” The manager seemed puzzled by the request and said “Well what are you looking for?” to which I replied “I want the 303 package.” The manager glanced at the paper and said “The car we have is the 302, it’s different from the 303.” The salesman piped up “No, it’s the same car!” The manager looked at him and said “No, the 303 is a different package. It’s premium and costs more.” to which the salesman went quiet and turned bright red. “We don’t have the 303 in stock though. Is that what you’re looking to sign?”
I replied “Yes – if you can give me a good deal on it.” to which he replied “OK, let me see what I can find.” and walked away. The salesman walked with him and my mother quietly asked “Are you sure you want to do this? They don’t seem to know what they’re doing.” I was certain until this crap all happened. I had already been there 1-1/2 hours and haven’t even received a quote. I said “15 more minutes and we walk.” she didn’t say anything else. Then the salesman came back, sat down, and said “My manager’s looking into what we can get. You excited about this car? It’s a real beauty!” With a sinking feeling, I said “We’ll see. It all depends on the deal you give me.”
The manager came back and said “I got one located. Here’s the deal I can give you.” and handed me the paper. I looked at him and said “Seriously? This is the best you can do?” I can’t remember the exact cost now but it was something like $20 under MSRP. I said “This isn’t even a realistic starting point for discussion. let me know when you get a real deal to talk. I’m going to check out other cars now. I’ve wasted enough time here.” and got up to leave.
The salesman said “Bro, time is money. I’ve spent a lot of time with you and it’s only fair you give me a chance to get your business.” to which I replied “I already gave you two. By the way, good luck with the other five other clients you had coming in since none of them are here and you close in one hour.” and left.