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Prompt #406 - Word List


Cia

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On the Road: Nashville

 

I love working in Nashville. I drive all over the South and it's the only town I know of with a Parthenon complete with Greek statues.

 

Summer before last I camped out at the Red Roof Inn by the airport and did a ton of work there.

 

The company that I was working for was a contractor for a huge national grocery store chain. They were doing a major upgrade on the in-store networks. I was one of a number of engineers they had working on the project.

 

I would arrive a little before midnight and prep the equipment. If it wasn't all there, we would have to reschedule. Thankfully that never happened. As soon as the store closed I would get to work. The first thing I had to do was disassemble the existing network- making sure that I could put it back together if one of the major components was dead-out-of-the-box.

 

I had to pull all of the existing network switches and label the cables- that usually took about an hour.

 

The next stage was to flash the network controllers. The controllers are small servers that always come in pairs called the master-controller and the co-controller. In case one fails, the other takes over and the store can continue to operate. I had the new programming on a flash drive and it took about a half hour to upload it and get the controllers to test ready.

 

The next part was the biggest pain in the backside: chasing down the fiber-optic cables to find the distributed switches in the store. They never put them anywhere nice and for reasons known only to chaos, they were usually way up high out of easy reach. They would be in the deli, the butcher shop and pharmacies.

 

I was climbing over freezers full of steak and wiping out on patches of ice to find these junction boxes. I figured out why there were always rain coats in the butcher shop. The condensation in that space made it seem like it was always raining. Once I found the junction boxes, changing the switch out was no big deal. More often than not, the UPS (uninterpretable power supply) was dead. All I could do was flag it for replacement and run the switch off of wall power. This always took more time than I had. Up to two and a half hours.

 

Once I was done with the satellite switches, I had to install the core switch. It was a big one from HP that weighed around 90 pounds (40.8 kg). I would mount it on the rack, plug in my laptop and fire it up. Here's where things got dicey. If the core switch died, everything was a bust. Than goodness it only happened once.

 

It had four way redundant power drawing power from two different UPS's, from wall current and auxiliary generator power. As soon as it was up I got into it and started it up. Then I would plug the stores router and firewall into the switch so the corporate tech support guys could get in and do their thing.

 

Then I started connecting devices and you would be surprised at how many networked devices there are in a modern grocery store. Everything from the scales in the meat department, time clock and every single register. On a separate secure network, financial info is exchanged so debit and EBT cards will work.

 

Plugging everything into the core switch doesn't necessairly mean they will like each other. Many devices refuse to talk until they've been rebooted- sometimes a couple of times. Once everything is talking to the core switch, I move on to the next big job- replacing the point of sale terminals.

 

The register at a grocery store is an amazing device. It is basically a networked PC with a scanner, scale, pin pad and several other obscure devices attached to it. These stores had 12 registers up front, 3 in the pharmacy, 2 in customer service and one each in the deli, meat department and a spair. Make it an even twenty.

 

I spent the balance of the night installing new registers. First I prep them all and then take them on a dolly four at a time to install.

 

Theoretically, everything should be ready when the early crew arrives at 6am.

 

In truth, there's always other stuff to fix: pin pads that won't work. Dead power supplies. Scanner/scales that die when connected to the new hardware.

 

That wasn't really my job. I just wrote them all up for other techs to take care of. Usually- I was done with a site by 8:00am.

 

After I was done, I would go find an IHOP, eat a Smokehouse platter and then go to my hotel to sleep all day.

 

People would look at me funny waking up in the afternoon wearing my blue fuzzy slippers but, that's how the job gets done.

 

I worked Monday through Thursday then I go home and start out again Sunday.

 

Some people hate the road but after many years in an office behind a desk, there's nothing I like better.

 

core-switch_zpscvuzx8jy.jpg

A New Core Switch- shiny with flashing lights!

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