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BlueWolf's Howl

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April 03, 2008

Word Shortage

Apparently there are not enough words in the English language to describe computers and networking. This became painfully obvious to me today -- since so many words are used over and over to describe very different things.

One of the server guys wanted me to change the port settings from 'hard-coded' at 100 Mbps / Full Duplex to Auto Detect (both speed and duplex). I asked him for the MAC or IP addresses of the connections so that I could find the ports to change. Since the device he was working with was a little different from your average server (they are on the SAN management connections), he was having quite the time coming up with that info. Finally, he came by my cubie. He told me that all my worries were over and that he knew for sure what the ports were. He was positive of it because he had asked ____ (insert smart guy's name here). Then he confidently told me that it was Port 80 and Port 443.

Yeeeeeeaaaaaaaah. I'm sure this stuff does run over ports 80 and 443. So we took a walk down the hall and I explained the difference between a logical port and a physical port. I explained to him what actually comes 'over the wire' to the switch... what I can see and not see. Yes, I can always see the MAC address. That's why we always ask you for it - that's the one way we can be sure that we're working on the same exact connection. If we only go by server name (and whatever resolves in DNS), we might be tweaking the wrong connection - since most of the servers have several connections to different networks. We're not being lazy and not looking it up for you. We're just trying to make sure that we can compare our information to yours and verify it.

So he asks me "Can't you just do a trace?" Well...that's another word that had to be reused. Did he mean a 'trace' as in pulling out WireShark and capturing several hundred MB of data to see something? Or did he mean the results of the 'tracert' or 'traceroute' command? He meant 'tracert' -- since he didn't even know about the other kind of trace. Again, I had to point out that a 'trace' will only show the path (of routers/layer 3) to the device ... as resolved by DNS. This will not show you the connections - just ones that resolve to that device name. In this case, it's not giving you any more information than a ping.

And this got me thinking of all the reused words in our field. When the Sun admins ask for a 'trunk' ... they're not passing several VLANs over it. They just want an EtherChannel bundle (using LACP). So why are both things called a trunk? Didn't they know this would be confusing? Why are both things called ports? Can't you call one of them something else? Did they isolate the creators of TCP/IP on a Survivor island? Did the Sun company not know about 802.1q when they created the ability to bundle their connections?

Of course they knew about the other definition of their word. But they used it anyway. So there you have it - proof that they didn't have enough words. And they used the verbal equivalent of PAT. One word - multiple translated meanings. Maybe someone will come up with Nomenclature V6 or something. That way we can have globally unique names for these technologies. Nah, on second thought... let's keep it confusing. I got a pretty good giggle out of the port thing today.

Posted by BlueWolf on April 3, 2008 10:33 PM