The Boston Diaries

The ongoing saga of a programmer who doesn't live in Boston, nor does he even like Boston, but yet named his weblog/journal “The Boston Diaries.”

Go figure.

Monday, March 01, 2004

If I could have chucked olives through the phone, I would have …

For any of this to make any sense, I have to explain my current job situation. I work for a company, Φ which hosts a website for Σ, which is the site that is always getting slammed with SYN floods. R, who runs Φ and usually fields calls from Σ is out of town this week, so now I get to field calls from Σ.

Now, my entire weekend was punctuated with calls from Σ, usually at ungodly morning hours when I'm still unconscience in bed. The upshot of the recent SYN flood is that the site in question, Σ.com was moved to a new hosting facility in Canada, which, from talking to the owner of the company α (I would have named this company, but I never did get a clear audibly distinct name for this company other than it starting with an “ah” type sound), is apparently right off several major backbones so they're able to quickly respond to DDoS attacks more effectively than I by myself. Not that it bothers me any, for as interesting as SYN floods are in theory, in practice, they usually happen when I'm sleeping and there isn't much I can do to if I can't get to the server.

So Saturday and Sunday were spent fielding calls and changing IP addresses for Σ.com. First I was given the new IP address. Then it turns out to be the wrong IP address, so change it. Then a backhoe incident took out a fiber at α and the redunant circuits weren't cutting in fast enough so yet another IP address change. There is also some confusion on my part about who to actually talk to at Σ; I have at least four contact names and it isn't clear to me what the relationship between these four people are. So any change is followed by a round of phone tag and catch-up.


The silliness didn't end this weekend though. I get a call at some ungodly hour this morning from V, who works for Σ saying he couldn't get to the site, and asking what the IP address for Σ.com was.

First of all, Φ is no longer hosting Σ.com, so why am I even getting this call. Second—

“Why don't you do an nslookup up of the IP address?” I said to V.

“Okay,” said V, “tell me what to do. How do you do this en-es-look-up?”

It was all I could do to keep from screaming. “What type of system are you using?”

“What? I'm using a PC!”

“No, are you using a Mac, a Unix system—”

“No, I'm using a PC!”

“Or Windows?”


Of course. I would have banged my head against the desk, but I was still in bed, and banging my head against the matress just doesn't have the same affect. Okay, quickly, what's the easiest way to find out the IP address of a website under Windows? “Okay,” I said. “Can you bring up the DOS command line?” Pleeeeeeeeease be able to do this. Pleeeeeeeeease. I figure at worst, I can smother myself with the pillows.

“Yes,” said V.

“Okay, type P-I-N-G space, then Σ.com,” I said.

“Okay,” said V. “But it doesn't respond! That's the problem!”

“Right, I know that,” I said. “But what does it say the IP address is?” V rattles off the IP address. “Yes, that's the IP address I was last given. That's the correct IP address.”

“But can you do anything? The site doesn't come up!”

“You'll have to call the Canadian data center,” I said, not at all remembering the name.

“But why?”

“Because Φ is not longer hosting the site, and I don't have access to the servers in Canada.” Doesn't Σ tell its employees anything? This is one of my contacts for the website?

“Oh, so I should call α then?”

Brillant deduction.

It's about 3:30pm and I'm leaving for the grocery story when I think L from Σ calls. Or it may be T from Σ. It's one of the four contacts I've talked to, and it isn't V. I have to change the IP address yet again because of problems with α. I haven't actually left yet, and it takes only a minute to do. Not a problem. Then I rush out the door to the grocery store.

Half an hour later, I'm in isle 2 (condiments) when my cell phone rings.

It's V, from Σ.

Can't get to Σ.com. What's the IP address?

“I don't know,” I said. “I'm currently in isle 2 of the grocery store.”

“But it was changed, right? To .umpteen?”

“Yes. I got a call a bit ago to change the address, and that sounds right.”

“But I can't get to it.”

DNS propagation. It may take up to three hours for you to see the changes, unless you restart your name server.”

“How do I do that?”

I will be so glad when R returns from vacation and he can field the calls from Σ.

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[The future's so bright, I gotta wear shades]

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