Proximity-aware printers that hate Jim from engineering
The massive multifunction document center printer/copier in the finance department absolutely hates Jim from engineering. Every damn time Jim shows up for budget meetings or whatnot, the printer throws a fit, spitting out half-documents if it works at all and sending network scans and faxes into the ether, never to be seen again. It took many months for this phenomenon to be fully realized and several more for it to magically disappear on its own, like a poltergeist. To this day, half the finance group wants to ban Jim from the area, but they can't justify it to the higher-ups. What would they say? The big printer hates him?
This case is a little peculiar. It involves Marcy from finance, though she doesn't know it. You see, Jim went over to Marcy's house on a Saturday to fix her wireless network. (This is not an euphemism; Jim's just a nice guy.) While there, he configured it as a simple wireless bridge since her DSL router doesn't have wireless, but is providing DHCP and so forth. During the course of troubleshooting the network, Jim joined the wireless network with his smartphone and hard-coded an IP address into the phone because there was a problem with the DHCP that he later fixed. Months later, Marcy's DSL service was upgraded, and the upgraded router came with Wi-Fi. The installer pointed this out to Marcy, and she opted to use that, freeing up her separate access point.
Now armed with the extra access point, she thinks about how great it would be to be able to add wireless to her office so that she wouldn't have to plug and unplug all those cables from her laptop. She brings in the access point and plugs it into the wall. All is well until Jim comes over and his phone automatically joins Marcy's network -- and is hard-coded to the IP address of the printer.
The moment of borrowed clarity
I know that every IT pro reading this has run into this sort of problem: You've been working on a project or task that's absurdly simple in theory, but just isn't clicking. You've gone over it a few dozen times without thinking, yet in this case, the rules don't seem to apply -- the known becomes the unknown once more.
After toiling on a problem like this for a while, the frustration level grows exponentially. You've tackled this very duty a dozen times before and it's always worked. You aren't trying to venture into the unknown; you're following a familiar trail that suddenly has a mountain in the middle. This is invariably the time when a colleague comes over to discuss another matter, and during the course of that conversation, you mention your problem, at which point he blithely asks a single, simple question that provides the answer. It's like every episode of "House" ever produced.
But that doesn't make it less annoying. The fact that you somehow forgot to HUP the process or that your brain decided a certain syntax has always been one way and not the other or that you inexplicably omitted the functional statement in a route map is a very human occurrence. But hey, we're the ones with the Midas touch, right? This shouldn't happen to us. We understand the magic!
Not always. Sometimes we find ourselves threatening our laptop with an early demise because the magic has abandoned us, if only for a little while.
This story, "Revealed! Secrets behind IT magic tricks," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Paul Venezia's The Deep End blog at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.