PEBKAC in action …

PEBKAC is a well known principle in IT, that applies across the board, no matter what the experience level of the user. For those who have never heard the expression, PEBKAC is an acronym that stands for “Problem Exists Between Keyboard And Chair” and its used to describe all the computer problems that end up being not the result of a “problem with the computer” but rather a problem with what the human user. I’ve had a nice example today of how prevalent the problem is, even among people who are pretty computer savvy.

View From the Edge has been down for close to a day now. I first noticed the inability to connect last night from Calgary, but being that I was 300 km from a server that couldn’t be found on the internet, there was very little I could do to even diagnose the problem. As a result, my first order of business on getting home was to figure out what the problem was.

The first thing I checked was my ADSL modem and routers … the ADSL lights weren’t quite right, but I didn’t pay close enough attention to look at what the problem was. To add to the misdirection, when I picked up my phone to call for support, the line was dead (I’m actually happy about that, as you’ll see in a bit, lol). Since the two are coupled, I assumed the problem was with the phone line, so I went to check all the connections in the place (one is notorious for not quite getting back on the hook) and sure enough, there was a problem with one of the other handsets. I got my dial tone back, but was surprised to I still seemed to have “issues” on my ADSL modem.

I rebooted the modem a couple of times, and while I was doing that, I noticed that my switch had no traffic running through it … in fact, it seemed to have no power at all, which led to another false assumption. Rather than making me look to other causes, the switch reinforced my notion that there was a problem with the ADSL signal coming in. That was when I saw the error of my ways, sort of, lol.

I looked a little closer at the ADSL modem lights, and saw that the problem lights weren’t the ADSL input signal, but rather the Ethernet output signal. I started to look back at the switch that seemed to have no power, and tried to re-power it a couple of times, with no result. I was just about to run to Staples for a new switch when I had a brainstorm … finding the end of the switch power cord that plugged into the wall socket, I plugged it back in and all was fine with my internet and servers.

Just goes to show that even quite experienced people can sometimes overlook the obvious. I nearly called my ISP for tech support over it, and I nearly went out to buy new equipment I didn’t need, when all I really needed to do was make sure all my power cables were hooked up right. This was a particularly stupid example of PEBKAC, I must admit, but it most certainly a case of “problem exists between keyboard and chair.” For the record, View from the Edge is back up.


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