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, November 27, 2023

A hard DNS problem

While I'm in a testing mood, I came across this post:

The job was for a position involving the day-to-day operation of DNS servers and firewalls involving DNS and client systems involving DHCP and DNS systems, and was a senior role so the ideal candidate would probably be able to say a little more than "magic" as to how DNS works.

A hard DNS problem: the owner of the zonefile added a new record that you requested. The serial number of the zone did increment (and there is no funny invalid wrap-around of the serial number going on (bonus points for knowing that)). The new record is not visible. What went wrong? This is probably too hard a question for a job interview, though you might explain all this and then ask how they would go about debugging the problem.


The first paragraph sets up the context, and at the end, presents a DNS problem. I worked with DNS before, and this doesn't seem that hard a question.

So, I've noticed an issue with a record I wanted added to a zone file, say a TXT RR for that reads “I have a red pencil.” I'm also assuming I've done a check from an outside network and didn't see the record, and that looking up the SOA RR (also from an outside network) showed the new serial number. My first step would be to query the authoritative name servers (typically two to four, could be more) and see if the record is there. If the record does show up, then it's a propagation issue, maybe related to caching or TTL issues. If not, then my guess is that the owner of the zonefile messed up adding the record, possibly by adding a spurious “.” to the end of the domain name—the owner effectively added

foo.	IN	TXT	"I have a red pencil."

This might not even show up as an error in any log files, but this is as-if the record was never added. But if the record was indeed added correctly, as in:

foo	IN	TXT	"I have a red pencil."

Then the next place to look is at how the change was made—did the owner update the record in some editor that then failed to properly update DNS? That would be the next place to look, and the results from that should indicate where to look next.

Why yes, I have done my fair share of DNS troubleshooting … why do you ask?

Update on Tuesday, November 28th, 2023

Some more information came back.

Obligatory Picture

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

Obligatory Contact Info

Obligatory Feeds

Obligatory Links

Obligatory Miscellaneous

You have my permission to link freely to any entry here. Go ahead, I won't bite. I promise.

The dates are the permanent links to that day's entries (or entry, if there is only one entry). The titles are the permanent links to that entry only. The format for the links are simple: Start with the base link for this site:, then add the date you are interested in, say 2000/08/01, so that would make the final URL:

You can also specify the entire month by leaving off the day portion. You can even select an arbitrary portion of time.

You may also note subtle shading of the links and that's intentional: the “closer” the link is (relative to the page) the “brighter” it appears. It's an experiment in using color shading to denote the distance a link is from here. If you don't notice it, don't worry; it's not all that important.

It is assumed that every brand name, slogan, corporate name, symbol, design element, et cetera mentioned in these pages is a protected and/or trademarked entity, the sole property of its owner(s), and acknowledgement of this status is implied.

Copyright © 1999-2024 by Sean Conner. All Rights Reserved.