And here it is… the first snowfall of the winter in Nanaimo. This is pretty unusual for us, as we don’t typically see our snow until early in the new year. Valentine’s Day seems to usually see snow, with our heaviest concentration coming in March. Being that Nanaimo is a coastal town, snow is a rare occurrence, so to get accumulations like we’d just had is really something… er… special.
So how much? I know my friends in Sweden and other parts of Canada will laugh at this, but we’ve had seven inches in the last 24 hours. For any of you who have not driven in coastal snow, it is extremely wet, and very slippery. Not at all like the dry powdery (and relatively sticky) stuff you get inland. This picture shows the ruler stuck in the snow on my deck railing (from four and a half hours ago).
The ironic thing about this? Yesterday morning my wife and I were at Home Depot looking at snow shovels. They had this “ergonomic” one, with a bent handle, and we didn’t buy it because it’s the same model that broke on us last year. (The bent handle just folded in half on us.) They had another one, too, which looked like a big scoop, but it didn’t have a metal strip, so we passed on that one too. We walked out of the store with no snow shovel. It started snowing like crazy about two hours later, and hasn’t stopped!
Home Depot now has no snow shovels left at all. We’ve been talking about buying one for a month now, and just never got there.
Fortunately, our neighbor lent us there two shovels, one of which is the exact scoop design we passed on. They worked great, and the driveway is now clear… until we get the rest of the snow that is forecast to come tonight.
Now, this wouldn’t be a technology blog of any merit if I didn’t share some techy stuff here too. So if you are not tech inclined, stop reading now. If you are, then have a good laugh at my expense.
As is natural to happen when we have any kind of natural weather phenomena around here, the power went out at work. Who cares, right? I do. Being the guy responsible for our network, I have to drive in and restart the servers when things go down.
Oh, I can hear you now. “Ken! There is power management software to do that for you, you know!”. Oh, I know. I even have it! My servers are smart enough to shut themselves down on their own, and they even text message my mobile phone to tell me they’ve done it. In fact, they even text message me when the power comes back on to tell me that they are rebooting.
Unfortunately, we have our data stored on a SAN device (Storage Area Network), that attaches to our file servers by direct SCSI. (I tried iSCSI at one point, but the device I got wasn’t compatible with Novell at that time.) The issue, according to one of my external consultants, is that the SAN device does not initialize before the Novell servers try to contact the SCSI connection, and therefore the SAN never mounts. Basically, this means that we have no access to any of our data until I drive to work, flip the rocker switches on the SAN to off, shut down the servers, turn the SAN back on, let it fully initialize, then boot up the servers.
Honestly, it’s no big deal, and it takes me about an hour, all told, to drive to work, reboot everything, and drive home. The frustrating thing is that, as Murphy would have it, the calls always come at 2:00AM, on the weekend, or at any time that it is inconvenient. Further, the reason the power usually goes out is that is that we’ve had big storms. The last kind of weather that you want to go out in. In fact, I’ve had to journey out three times in the last month, through record rains (and huge puddles on the roads,) to get in there and clean things up.
Only now it snowed. The radio is telling people to stay off the roads as they are a mess. And now I have to go in to deal with the servers. To make matters even worse, my car would not even have made it to the resort, as there was over a foot of snow in some areas. Fortunately though, my boss is a super nice guy. He has a nice 4×4 truck and offered to give me a ride out to the resort.
Pockets of the town were powerless, many traffic lights had been turned into four way stops, cars in the ditch… it was ugly out there. But we did it, and we’re both home safely now, with the resort back up and running.
Now, the ironic thing about the whole power management thing is that we have tests scheduled, and have since a month ago, to run the servers through a full power outage on Tuesday morning. There is a time controlled power bar that I can buy, which will allow you to program how long each port starts up after power is restored. So the purpose is to shut everything down, and simulate using this power bar. Starting with the SAN, we’ll reboot the system in the order we know works. I do have some reasons to be skeptical here, but we’re going to try it out. If my system tech wins the bet, and it works, then I’ll be a happy guy. If not, I’ll blog about why.
Here’s to hoping that it works, and that I don’t have to put my life at risk to reboot a few servers!