Wednesday, June 16, 2010

My time at MITEC

What is MITEC?
MITEC is an event held in the Detroit area each year by several IBM midrange users groups in South Eastern Michigan. It has been my privilege to present to these folks several times and on June 8th I had the chance to do it again. Laura Ubelhor of Consultech Services is the primary ringleader for this event each year and she works tirelessly with her band of volunteer to do a wonderful job.

Getting There
The day before I drove up to Detroit with a good friend of mine, Jerome Hughes who is the webmaster for The Hideout, and had a great time up and back. Jerome is the guy that first got me interested in PHP and so I thought it was fitting that we travel together! For dinner we met several other speakers for a burger at the local Red Robin. Great seeing folks who we usually don’t get a chance to chat with as we are doing sessions.

Day of event
The day started out like many others in the world of user group events. There was a wonderful venue in the VisTa Tech Center that is part of Schoolcraft College in Livonia, MI. This facility was designed for events such as this and is by far one of the best places I have been asked to speak. I had a chance to present a couple of pretty standard discussions on the basics of getting started with PHP on IBM i. Both presentations were well attended and the discussions were lively. As always there were the standard discussions about Zend Server and what comes as part of the relationship with IBM.

Last year there was a downbeat atmosphere as the downturn in the economy had taken a firm grip on the attendee’s and their jobs. This year’s event had a decidedly upbeat feeling to it and the attendee’s were looking for new ideas, concepts and topics. Several folks I had talked to had a wonderful experience and left the event with strengthened resolve to try something new in either PHP, RPG or CL!

Lab Challenges
I conducted an onsite lab and have to thank a few folks for helping make this turn out well. Let’s look at the issue and then see what we did to address it. I had 8 of 24 workstations reaching out via SSH to one of Dr. Franken’s machines. So the fact that some of the machines could connect while others could not was puzzling. I spent a fair amount of time playing around with the software before Jerome summoned the good doctor from his temporary lab in the lunch room where he was performing surgery on something organic for a change. When he heard the problem he immediately assessed that “this doesn’t sound like a problem at the server.” So the facilities engineers were brought in to look into the issue and they started tracing wire and looking at switches. Turns out that one of the switches was bad and was not opening a path out of the VLAN. After about 20 minutes they had a new switch installed and all was well. First, I have to thank the facilities staff for reacting to a switch configuration issue. As I have always offered, you really need to verify your network infrastructure before getting started. The next shout out goes to Stephanie Jerome Hughes who helped me with my session and did an awesome job helping round up resources. Both of these folks saw that I was working though lunch and got me a plate of food and brought it to me in the lab where we were working. By the time the students returned from lunch, we were ready to go!

Since this issue I have run in to two customers with similar constraints where there was a VLAN blocking SSH. The moral of the story is that you can never be too careful with your environment. Talk to your Network Admin and you might be surprised at what you can learn from each other!