This has been one of those weeks.
Mostly the problem has been yak shaving — where to get one thing done you find yourself in a pile of other related but annoying tasks. For instance, yesterday someone needed to move an old SparcStation 5 that acts as a terminal server onto a new subnet. Yak shaving in action.
What I expected to do:
- Log in as root
- Edit a few configuration files
What I did:
- Try to login as root, fail
- Realize that the machine has a very old workstation password, and the guy that might know it is away
- Wait a day in case he returns
- Try to boot off of an install CD to get into single-user mode to change the root password
- Dig around for other media after that install CD fails
- Take the machine back to my lab after those fail too
- Dig around for another Sun-compatible SCSI CD drive
- Watch the magic smoke leave the terminal I had connected
- Find another terminal, but discover that it requires MMC connectors of which I have none
- Find another terminal, but discover that it offers a female connector instead of male
- Find no gender changers anywhere
- Get an old laptop from desktop guys, boot Knoppix, run minicom
- Futz with cables for null-modemness and minicom for proper comm settings
- Watch a few install CDs fail in that drive before one finally works
- Blank the root password, change the machine’s IP address
- Replace original CD drive since other one is not slim Sun type
- Return the machine to its lab, tell its owner not to power it up until it’s all cabled up
- Watch as he powers it up before the keyboard is connected
- Explain that it’s now trying to use a serial console, power-cycle it before it starts dealing with disks
- Boot with keyboard and display, see that it can’t find an NIS server
- Discover that the IP address change was not just renumbering, but moving it to a new subnet which does not, in fact, have an NIS server on it
- Talk to lab manager and cabling guys about using the old subnet’s interface on its NIS server for the new subnet; inconclusive
- Decide that having an NIS slave on a subnet with a single workstation is overkill; try to set up machine to use remote NIS
- Realize that it’s still running SunOS 4; Solaris remote NIS procedure won’t work
- Google for instructions
- Try; can’t reach NIS server
- Switch around NIS startup and default route bits in rc.local; works
- Reset root password
and wave goodbye to the afternoon!
5 responses to “Yak shaving”
Some of the other explanations I’ve seen focus on a positive kind of yak shaving, the way fixing one item can lead you to redoing all sorts of other stuff. It’s extra work, but everything is better for it in the end. That’s the sort of thing I do at work quite a bit, trying to fix a problem in one line of code that leads be to rewrite half a module, but for the BETTER.
What’s up with the example given at the top of the page, though? Finding the gas discount card involves finding your keys? Don’t you need your keys anyway? How do you expect to drive without them?
I didn’t quite get that either, but the alternative was to point to the Jargon File.
Yak shaving… I love it. Another favorite is percussive maintenance.
Having said that, while looking for an unrelated post, I came across this post from Reddragdiva which mentions the canonical instance of yak shaving.
I’d originally thought TeX was the winner, then someone on a mailing list pointed out the Space War game.