After about half an hour, I got a call from one of the Mac users -- he couldn't save his work on the server. Hmm, I must have missed a permission assignment. I started checking permissions on the directory, and while I was doing that another Mac user called with the same complaint. Perhaps they were in the same group? I kept looking for an error in permissions.
Soon, it became apparent: No Mac user could save to the server. If they logged in from a Windows computer they could, but not from a Mac. What was going on?
The answer was found in a readme file on a floppy disk that accompanied the Novell documentation. It turns out that the Macintosh System 7 client couldn't write to any volume larger than 2GB. It could mount the volume and read from it, but not write to it. Bummer!
Fortunately, the old server was still there. I had everyone log off and swapped the servers. For the remainder of the day, I repartitioned the new server with five 2GB volumes, then spent the evening copying data.
The next day, we tried the new server again -- and this time, it worked just fine. Incidentally, we battled this problem until we got a server with Windows NT 3.5. Windows NT's Services for Macintosh would present volumes to the Mac clients as 2GB, even though they were much bigger, and this allowed the Macs to write to them.
I learned several lessons from this experience. Probably the most important was that if someone has set things up a certain way before, don't assume it's because they aren't as smart as you are. Rather, look to see if there is a very good reason for what they did! That lesson, coupled with a good dose of humility, has helped me greatly ever since.
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This story, "Network admin eats humble pie," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more crazy-but-true stories in the anonymous Off the Record blog at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.