Engineering Ring a.k.a Iron Ring: why I care about it?

I have managed losing my engineering ring more than 3 times since the day that I attended the ceremony. The first time I lost it, I was washing my hands when it slipped out of my finger and went right down the drain. Second time, I was dancing in an outdoor country music festival, and the ring slid out of my finger and fell on the ground. I could not manage finding the ring in the grass. Today marks the third time that I lost my iron ring.

I have no idea what happened this time. This morning when I came to my office and started working, I suddenly noticed that I’m not wearing my ring anymore. For the past months I had felt that the ring has become loose; some people claim that their hands shrink in winter. I can see why they may claim that! Anyway, I have to re-order my ring. It’s a painful process for me as I live in a remote area. But this engineering ring means a lot to me. Why?! It is not because it makes me feel important or because I like to show-off and make sure everybody knows I am an engineer. I love having my engineering ring on, mainly because whenever I see it, I remember my values and oaths. It also helps me focus on my personal development goals.

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Here is the history behind Iron ring. (I have used Wikipedia as a reference for the following paragraphs).In Canada, engineers traditionally wear a small iron ring on the pinky of their working hands. As you can guess from the name, this ring is made of iron. Iron ring doesn’t have any real value, it is only a symbol of the pride engineers have in their profession and is a reminder of the obligations and ethics associated with engineering profession. To obtain this ring, engineering graduates must attend a special closed ceremony named “The Ritual of Calling an Engineer”. The first ceremony to award the ring was held in 1925 at the University of Toronto. This ring at the beginning is sharp and shiny, but as time goes by, it drags on the writing surface as the engineer is writing or drawing documents and goes rough. The purpose of wearing this ring on the working hand is to shape this transformation from a sharp ring (metaphor of lack of experience) to a rough (experienced) one. The protocol is to return the ring once the engineer retires.

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I find the ceremony a bit archaic and funny. As engineers we are not supposed to disclose the details of the ceremony.

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Learning as you go!

When it comes to the IT side of my job, there is a ton of things I still do not know. I have to learn all of them by dealing with the problems I encounter through the course of my work.

Today I was taking care of our Backup system. It was a mixture of Virtual Machines, and Ethernet Networks. Almost two weeks ago, the program which is in charge of taking back up images failed. When I looked at the error log, I noticed the External hard drive connected to the server must be full. As a quick solution, I deleted some of the older files on this server, hoping that this is going to solve the problem. Surprisingly, it didn’t!

Today, I replaced the external hard drive with a new one which was completely empty, the back up process still failed. The reason was that the program could not see the external hard drive. It took hours of investigation for me to realize that I need to share that external hard drive to make it visible through the network.

I am still wondering what caused that external hard drive to get un-shared in the first place? Maybe that happened because the hard drive went completely full? Maybe when I replace the hard drive I need to re-share it? I am not that positive about the latter, as I have a procedure for replacing the hard drives and the procedure does not mention anything about re-sharing the external hard drive.

Anyhow, The problem is solved! I’m happy … but sooooooo tired …

Problem Solving skills!

I could do it! I love the feeling of accomplishment after solving a problem by myself! My boss’s comment makes it even more exciting for me: That was not easy to solve! I am impressed!

So what was the problem? In our site, we have an application called Alarm and Event Analysis which is a part of a suite called Advanced Alarm Management. This application is used to generate reports on the bad actors in our site, the number of generated alarms in the control room, their average, etc.

This application also has the option of emailing the reports it generates. Initially we didn’t have this option configured. As I basically have the ownership of this machine, I decided to activate this option, to automate generating and sending a specific report to my boss’s boss! This may seem to be an easy problem to solve in the beginning … so you go and change some configurations to activate this option. This could be true on a normal environment, but when it comes to machines used in production world this is not just about setting up the application. There are firewalls which need to be configured between different networks, etc.

I started by reading the manual of the AEA. I have to confess that this was the most unfavourable part of the job! I was lucky enough that I had the PDF files, so I used the find command to look for keywords such as SMTP, Email, etc.

After reading the manual, as it was instructed, I installed the required windows component, and set up the IP address of the SMTP server in the application. Then I contacted the Client Support Center and asked them to open a ticket to configure the firewall to let the traffic pass from our server to the SMTP server through port 25.

Also the person who was working on the firewall change, contacted the server team and asked them to add the IP address of my machine to their SMTP configurations ..

Everything was done, but guess what?! The email would not be sent! I called Honeywell, to review what I have done, to make sure I have taken the right steps in the installation and configuration of the application. The person from Honeywell guided me to the events summary for this application which showed that the report gets generated but the target server refuses the connection on port 25. It was time to conference call the IT and server team, I was tired of them passing the ball into each others’ field. After a conference call, the conclusion was that the target server is configured correctly and was suggested that the problem is the Firewall configurations.

After many calls between IT and me, and asking my boss to join us, we found out that, the traffic doesn’t reach the firewall at all. This would happen just on port 25!!! My boss suggested that maybe the windows firewall is blocking the traffic? Of course disabling the windows firewall didn’t help. I could not even telnet a server on the same domain on port 25.

Eventually, I decided to do a google on: SMTP server gets blocked on port 25. bang! I found a person with the same problem for another application! Guess what?! It was one of the protective rules of McAfee which would block any application from sending emails through port 25, except the excluded ones …

I think my team and I had an awesome systematic approach to solve this problem! I consider it a success!

Final email sent on this:

I could narrow down the problem to McAfee 8.8 blocking port 25.

On the AEA server, you have to go to McAfee console, right click on Access Protection, Go to properties, Antivirus Standard Protection, Prevent mass malign worms from sending Emails. This is the rule that blocks port 25.

You have to exclude AEAReportLauncher.exe from this rule.

Everything seems to be working now!