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Don't mess with cops and commands

Stephen Olson started poking around a router for fun but wound up having a terrible time.

There are three types of people you don't generally fool around with: undertakers, IRS auditors and state troopers. But Stephen Olson took on the wrath of the Penn State Police and lived to tell -- and even joke -- about it.

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Olson said that when he read's first blooper he felt a special camaraderie with his fellow networking professionals and was compelled to share his story. His tale is the second in a series of networking bloopers, all based on true stories submitted by readers. In some cases, contributors prefer to share their stories anonymously, but Olson was willing to go public. Apparently his sense of IT brotherhood is stronger than his fear of speeding tickets.

Olson, a distributed systems specialist for the Pennsylvania State Police, was in charge of the routers and switches at police headquarters. He had been on the job for about eight months when he made this faux pas and secured his place in our Blooper Hall of Fame.

Olson was getting ready to take the Cisco Certified Network Associate exam (which he did indeed pass -- even after this blunder!). He was on the core router at work, poking around to see what he could learn. At the enable prompt, he thought he'd type "sh" to see what commands were available. He continued to fiddle and went into the Ethernet interface. Olsen again entered the "sh" command, and nothing happened. He then typed a "?" and got some information. Just as he was exiting the router, the help desk manager appeared at his cubicle. Olson's phone was also ringing ominously.

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"No one can access a darn thing," the help desk manager said. Olson hurriedly told him to hold on and answered the phone. What do you think the call was about? Well, more of the same –- no access.

Olson realized that something was wrong, really wrong. He began to check, and found that he had no access either. He checked the router, with his help desk manager looking over his shoulder.

"Hmmm, the Ethernet interface is administratively down. I wonder how that happened?" Olson said.

Olson quickly went to the interface and typed "no shut." Everything came up again and all was well. Later, he realized his mistake. The "sh" is interpreted as "show" at the router's enable prompt. But "sh" is interpreted as "shut down" in the Ethernet interface's configuration mode.

Oops. He quickly confessed. Olson said that overall he had about a 15-minute period of downtime. He even managed to put a good spin on the situation with his manager.

"Wasn't it wonderful how quickly I found the mistake?" he asked his manager.

Olson said he wondered if the Pennsylvania state troopers find the same things funny as networking professionals do. What do you think? Try asking one next time you get pulled over on the interstate. Every article in's blooper series is contributed by a networking professional. E-mail us to share your own blooper.

This was last published in September 2002

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