We've all been there: an IT problem so ridiculous that only a ridiculous solution can solve it.
It could be server on the brink of shutting down all operations, a hard drive that won't power up vital data, or a disgruntled ex-employee who's hidden vital system passwords on the network. Just when all seems lost, it's time to get creative and don your IT daredevil cap, then fire up the oven, shove the end of a pencil into the motherboard, or route the whole city network through your laptop to get the job done.
[ Also on InfoWorld: For more IT hijinks and absurd assignments, see "True IT confessions," "Stupid admin tricks," and "Dirty duty on the front lines of IT" | Cash in on your IT experiences by sending your war tale from the IT trenches to email@example.com. If we publish it, we'll keep you anonymous and send you a $50 American Express gift cheque. ]
Whether you're keeping vital systems humming, extending the life of faulty hardware in dire situations, or simply hunting for sport, knowing when to throw out the manual and do something borderline irresponsible is essential to day-to-day IT work.
Here are a few poignant examples of stunts and solutions that required a touch of inspired insanity to pull off. Add yours in the comments below, or send them to InfoWorld's Off the Record blog to keep a lid on the true identities of the people involved.
Jackass IT stunt No. 1: Route city services through a laptop
Ever wonder whether you could route an entire city network through a laptop running Fedora? Take a seat. Or better yet, leave the chair for your laptop. You'll need to balance it somewhere to keep city services up and operational through a two-day snowstorm.
It started out innocently, with a sizable city network core Layer 3 switch showing signs of failure and causing network instability. Errors logged to the console pinpointed the supervisor engine. Cisco was called around 10 a.m., and a replacement was slated for delivery by 2 p.m. As long as the current supervisor could keep the network more or less functional for four hours, help was on the way.
Cue Mother Nature and her blizzard machine. The call came back at noon. There was no way to get the proper part to the site before the following day due to the storm. As luck would have it, the production supervisor finally gave out minutes later, and the city's fiber network went dark. With no backup Layer 3 supervisor engine and several hundred ports in that switch, including all the servers and edge switch trunk links, there didn't seem to be anything that could be done until the next day, leaving city services bereft, including the police and fire departments.
A compatible Layer 2 supervisor for the core switch was located on site, and a plan was hatched. While this new supervisor wouldn't bring the network up by itself, it could run the switch ports on the core -- and a laptop could do the rest.