Archives » April 18th, 2003

April 18, 2003

Karmic Meltdown

I know you’ve been there. I know it’s happened to you. It’s those days when everything stacks on top of everything else, and the stars are aligned in exactly the wrong order, and birds go out of their way to poop on your head. Allow me to quote a passage from The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul:

Dirk hurried on, opening the newspaper at the horoscope page as he did so.

“Virtually everything you decide today will be wrong,” it said bluntly.

Dirk slapped the paper shut with a grunt.

That’s my day today. That’s absolutely what this Friday is like. A day when the Universe decides it would be a jolly good laugh to kick you in the butt as often as possible.

Actually, it started last night. I was supremely foolish enough to think I should run an offline defragmentation of the Exchange Server database at work, like I do every few months or so. Nothing wrong there, I’ve done it a dozen times before and it’s pretty routine by now. So I logged into the server, ran through the defrag and restarted Exchange.

“The Information Store service did not start.”

Some frantic Googling turned up pages on database corruption and what to do about it. “Run a repair”, they said. So I did that. Three hours later (in a job that was supposed to take only thirty minutes before bedtime), I restarted the services. They started fine. I opened Outlook.

My mailbox was empty.

I rooted around the server a bit.

Everyone’s mailbox was empty.

Fifty people, tens of thousands of e-mail messages, and it was all gone.

That’s when I knew Friday was going to be a bad day. I couldn’t do anything more from home, since the backup tapes were all in a stack on my desk. So I decided to sleep it off and get there first thing in the morning.

This morning, I popped in Wednesday’s backup tape, and started a restore.

Only half the mailboxes were on the tape.

I looked at the backup logs. Someone had put a huge file on the file server Wednesday, and the tape filled up, leaving no room for mailboxes. This is about when my eye started to twitch.

I grabbed Tuesday’s backup. Thank the stars, everything was there. Set up the restore job, run it. It skipped over A-K and started restoring from the L’s. (twitch twitch) Fine. Whatever.

Today is payday, so why not go online and balance my checkbook a little? Go to my bank’s website — “General Error. Please try later.”

Okay, so I call the bank’s phone system. “Please call back later.” (twitch twitch)

Fine. I know I have the money in my account, so I go online to pay some bills. I notice that has been redesigned, and is running slower than molasses. I try to log in. “The request has timed out.”

By this time the mailbox restore, L-Z, is finished, so I start up A-K.

I call my wife’s cell phone. “We’re sorry. The number could not be reached.”

(twitch twitch)

After a half hour on I get through to my account page. I notice that the bill was due on Tuesday, because Cingular doesn’t know or care what my pay schedule is. I click “Pay My Bill”.

“The request has timed out.”

“Pay My Bill”.

“The request has timed out.”

Finally, on try five, it accepts my payment. “Thank you for using Cingular!” By this time I’m ready to put my foot through the monitor.

A-K is done restoring, and I glance around to make sure everyone’s mail is back in place. Yes it is, except for the messages from Wednesday and Thursday. They’re gone for good, having been chewed up by the Exchange defragmenter. I send out a note letting everyone know this. And since I worked until midnight last night and I’m now on overtime, I decide to head home before they can organize a lynch mob.

I crawl home through the traffic, and collapse in my chair. It’s good to be back, it’s good for this day to be over. I turn on my computer.

“Windows Protection Error. You need to restart your computer.”

Twitch. Twitch…


The World Wide Web Consortium has undertaken a massive redesign of their site, replacing their stale old digs with spiffy new window dressings. This new design marks a bold departure from their long-held tradition of function over form, and…

Oh wait, that’s not real, that’s just the winning entry in the WThRemix contest. This unofficial contest was launched in response to the W3C’s December launch of their new redesign. Their new site is semantically valid, uses XHTML for structure and CSS for layout, and is generally a great step forward, but, frankly, it looks like something I would design. Great under the hood maybe, but very light on the visual punch. So Zeldman, Doug Bowman, Nick Finck, and a bunch of others got together to see what the creative side of the Web could do to jazz things up a bit. The winners were announced this week. I think the W3C would do well to snap up one of these designers and redo their site for real, just because they’ve taken so much flack for their new design.