NetBEUI tunneling; TRWTF is that it worked.



  • During college I had gotten tired of school and wanted to get a real job, it ended up being a 1.5 year break from college, and a simester of part time school/full time work before the company went defunct. As Multi-Image Network (MIN) no longer exists, I feel no need to anonamize anything or change names to protect the guilty. I could probably post a Multi-Image WTF a day for several months, if my memory was that good; it was a very WTFey company.

    Now in this story the ultimate WTF is that in the end it actually worked.

    Some context: Multi-Image made Televison Automation Systems, basically the product was a 4RU server installed in a cable head end usually in some remote location; in this story (i think) it was located in the mountains of montana. Almost all of MIN's products were named SomethnigStar, e.x. MediaStar, someone had a *Star fetish.

    The first WTF was our IT guy Tom, his work philosophy, as best anyone could tell, was that saying "I don't know" makes you look like a fool, and less of a man or something, because he was incapable of saying it. Instead of admitting that he didn't know something Tom would just make up bullshit on the spot. He once told our GM 'Asshole' Dave that a RAID array could loose 2/3 of its disks and keep running; incidently the only raid configuration i could come up with to satisfy that condition would be a, highly wasteful, 6 disk raid 51 (or raid 15) (and no Tom didn't even know what a raid 51 was).

    So it turns out that some time long before i started at MIN, Tom had suggested the products should use NetBEUI ... instead of TCP/IP! He suggested it for, get this, security purposes, as in this shit is so fucking old no one will ever think of it, or be able to access it via the internet. Asshole Dave loves security through obscurity, and he took it a step further and banned TCP/IP for being used in our products at all. This story happened some time after Tom quit.

    One quick side note Tom had failed to realize that if any machine on the network was compromised, it could be used to 'break into' the 'secure' NetBEUI network provided it had both protocals installed, there was usually at least one internet facing 'special' production machine, named the NetStar (another completly unrelated wtf, MIN charged it's users a whole lot extra for this 'special' NetStar), that had both protocals installed; most production machines didn't have tcp/ip installed. This WTF and Tom's plethora of WTFs are another WTF for another day.

    For those of you who don't know NetBEUI was a very old DOS/WIN3.1 Networking protocal. Mostly it was only used for file sharing, and back in the day was a good fallback since it just worked. NetBEUI did have some connection oriented capabilities, but for the most part it was a brodcast protocal. The exsting programmers either didn't know about the connection oriented capablities, or coludn't figure out how to use them; in fact i had tried to figure out how to use those features, but the documention was so bad i decided it wasn't worth the time to learn an ancient protocol, this was in '04/-'06 afterall. (incidentally you colud let windows handle the specifics of setting up these NetBEUI connections, if you used network pipes; pipes would work regardless of the specific protocal).

    Since the software was written under a TCP/IP ban, and by programmers who didn't know how to set up a NetBEUI connection (or the pipe trick), all the network commands were written into special text files on special network shares. While this is a pretty big WTF, windows did provide a way to register for change notifications on certian directories which would have made this text-file-sharing-command network much smoother, but they didn't use that, they just repeatedly tried to open the file. Another WTF for another day.

    I don't recall the exact name of our montana based customer that this story revolves around, so ill just call them HickCable; the acual company was an independant cable company not part of a larger well known company like comcast, cox, or timewarner, and IIRC they servered like half of montana, so maybe someone from montana knows the company im talking about.

    So HickCable was unique in that they covered a very large area with a low density of subscribers, remember this is montana the place where "it's just around the corner" means a 45 min. trip by car. They had an extensive WAN, IIRC a series of ATM connections. Regardless of the specifics, they had a large WAN, and they wanted to talk to the servers over the network, they didn't wan't to use the modem option as it would take forever and, and would require extra phonelines to talk to all the servers at the various headends in time.

    So now we have a WTF-text-file-sharing-NetBEUI-Command-network/clusterfuck, which needs to operate over this TCP/IP based WAN. I don't know how other customers solved this networking problem, but in this case, their equipment refused to pass the brodcast oriented protocal.

    Now we have a big problem, as far as i knew getting this to work would be impossible, so naturally Asshole Dave tapped me to fix it. After quite a while explaining how this would never work Asshole Dave appears to listen and move on. The next day i find two piece of SHIT netgear routers on my desk. Asshole Dave's brilliant plan was to set up a VPN with these craptastic routers and try to get NetBEUI tunneld through it.

    It didn't work. I think i wasted about a week trying to get that to work, i report this Asshole Dave, btw yes he is that big of an asshole that i feel compelled to give him that title evertime i need to write his name. Now Asshole Dave won't give up a customer that easilly. So i was instructed to call Cisco and find out if they have any way of tunnelling NetBEUI. The particular salesman i talked to had no idea how to do this, but would get back to me. Several hours later he calls back, and tells me that and VPN router that can run some verison of their router OS will work, which translated to a minimum model number our client would need.

    I didn't think it would work, but Asshole Dave, passes the information over to HickNet, and they buy the system /facepalm. Fast forward a while and they can't get the NetBEUI tunnelling to work with this ~3k ea. Cisco hardware. There was a lot of runaround on whose responsibility it was to get this to work, etc. HickNet, presuambly because it was being run by ignorant hicks, didn't want to call Cisco's tech support, and since we didn't sell em the router we couldn't support it. They did, however, have a Cisco support contract.

    I was hoping the run-around would stalemate, and i wouldn't ever hear about this again ... but i wouldn't be so lucky. Enter Asshole Dave, he gets their support contract number, and has me call cisco to troubleshoot this for them. I had a bad feeling about this, I would have prefered HickCable just cancel the order and send the equipment back than enter this quagmire. So Cisco won't help me because i don't own the support contract, so we had to conference in the customer to get Cisco to help us. HickCable gives us their dimest emplyee to try talk to support. They spend the first hour arguing with the support tech, that they authorized MIN to call support on their behalf and they should be able to hang up now. Cisco wouldn't have it, the contract holder had to be on the line. The first tier support quickly escalated to the second tier. Neither tier would acknowledge my input, so the next couple of hours went like this:

    Cisco Support: some techincal question
    Me: some technical answer
    Cisco Support: "your not on the support contract. Someone who is ..."
    HickCable: "what he said"

    Ad Nauseum.

    Finally the second Tier coludn't get it to work either. And the call was eslcalated again. But there were no more support tiers left, 'tier 3' were actually Cisco's engineers and developers. It wasn't long on the tier 3 call before we had 3 engineers/devlopers, in 3 different countries on the line. Luckilly they didn't want play the same "your not on the support contract" game, and most of this call was being on hold as they were doing actual work on the problem now.

    At one point i said something to the effect, "but i was told this would work." The engineer was quick to reply, "the sales people will tell you anything to make a sale." I wanted to say "you think you have trouble with sales people selling impossible shit! You should see the kind of shit our sales people try to pull!" but i didn't, and i won't go into it as it's another WTF for another day.

    So after several hours with Tiers 1&2 and about an hour or so with Tier 3, THEY GOT IT TO FUCKING WORK. The girl from HickCable syncronized with the headend, and it connected; I was amazed. And thus ended quite possibly the worst day of work i have ever had. It was definitly worse than the day i showed up to find the doors locked, locks change, and a sign telling us we were out of buisness, and to when to meet at the holiday in for our final paychecks. Which is another WTF for another day.


  • Discourse touched me in a no-no place

     I do not find this hackery working a wtf. Indeed, I find it an awe-inspiring tale of engineering prowess (Cisco's, not your defeatist attitude) overcoming the idiocy of the salesforce.

     Yes, it's a hugely dick move when products are sold to do things they actually can't, and yes, management and sales people that do it need to be BURNED AT THE STAKE.

     Yes, it's total bollocks that your product was engineered by a bunch of goddamned morons.

    Also, I'm pretty sure any old Cisco router can forward NetBEUI - I don't have one handy, but I'm pretty damned sure I've seen it in the stupid huge list of protocols that I skip over and ignore all the time. So, either that feature made future OS updates and this stupid-assed problem made the world better, or it was just a matter of "We never tested for this and it needs some jiggling to work"



  • @Weng said:

     Yes, it's a hugely dick move when products are sold to do things they actually can't, and yes, management and sales people that do it need to be BURNED AT THE STAKE.
     

    Then there wouldn't be a whole lot of managers or salesdroids left in the world.

    Not that that would be a bad thing.



  • @rpjs said:

    Not that that would be a bad thing.
     

    You would have to do their job.



  • @esoterik said:

    . So Cisco won't help me because i don't own the support contract, so we had to conference in the customer to get Cisco to help us. HickCable gives us their dimest emplyee to try talk to support. They spend the first hour arguing with the support tech, that they authorized MIN to call support on their behalf and they should be able to hang up now. Cisco wouldn't have it, the contract holder had to be on the line. The first tier support quickly escalated to the second tier. Neither tier would acknowledge my input, so the next couple of hours went like this:

    Cisco Support: some techincal question
    Me: some technical answer
    Cisco Support: "your not on the support contract. Someone who is ..."
    HickCable: "what he said"

    Is it just me who'd have hung up as soon as Cisco started being stupid, and then called back claiming to be from Hicknet? I detest companies who insist that they won't deal with anyone except the customer, but have no way of actually telling the difference unless you tell them.



  •  Text-file-based network commands. Unfortunately that somewhat reminds me of a certain "desktop search engine."



  • Good story, but it would have been better without calling half of the population of Montana hicks.



  •  Argh, the pain. NetBEUI alone is bad enough.

    I bet that while you were on hold with Tier 3, the engineers first huddled in a sidebar meeting and concluded that you had a fun challenge. The rest of the time was spent coding. Betting on the outcome may have been involved.

     TRWTF is Cisco IOS image names. I don't think they really write the images, they just have an auto-generating system that takes the alphabet soup of a name and spits out a .bin file.

     "Oh, you want a router that does OSPF, NetBEUI, Appletalk, and Lantastic? That's image ios-hfw_78r(32)_T-%#h.bin. What's that? you also want to be able to access the console by tapping on the case in morse code? Well that's image ios-qq(5)_T-ël11.3.bin"

    On the bright side: you can now call yourself the world's foremost expert on tunneling NetBEUI. The downside: you are the world's foremost expert on tunneling NetBEUI.

     



  • @esoterik said:

    I feel no need to anonamize anything or change names to protect the guilty.

     

     You don't anonymize to protect the guilty, you anonymize to protect yourself when the guilty happen to be related to someone who could potentially write your next paycheck.



  • @blakeyrat said:

    Good story, but it would have been better without calling half of the population of Montana hicks.
     

    This.

    You should be calling all of the population of Montana hicks, of course.



  • This post made me feel old. More than a decade ago NetBEUI was
    just how we networked computers. Issues with routing NetBEUI over
    TCP/IP, yep I've been there and yes it was a pain.

    Not to diminish or dismiss your suffering, but if that was your worst day at work ever then you haven't lived. How about putting in 48 hours straight having to deal multiple vendors, and some damn convoluted systems to get a critical system/software back up. Another time I had to spend 24 hours straight on the phone with IBM to try to recover a corrupt database after a massive disk failure. BTW: the customer never bothered to backup the system, let alone the database. This was in a manufacturing setting with noxious fumes and ceaseless, mind-numbing racket. So many late nights, too many lost weekends to count. If I had a good memory I could write a book, but alas much of it a haze now.

    However, I do feel your pain regarding dealing with Cisco. That was pretty dick-ish of them, but I also understand their position and have had to endure similar constraints when dealing with other software/hardware vendors in the past. Back in the day IBM had similar restrictions on third-parties initiating support calls, but they would at least allow me to get authorized by the client to handle such support issues. I haven't run into this lately, so I guess they've changed their policies.



  • @davedavenotdavemaybedave said:

    @esoterik said:
    ...

    Is it just me who'd have hung up as soon as Cisco started being stupid, and then called back claiming to be from Hicknet? I detest companies who insist that they won't deal with anyone except the customer, but have no way of actually telling the difference unless you tell them.

     

    Years ago, I was on the phone with IBM support for an RS/6000 issue. I wasn't on the list authorised to call support, so asked who was. Jim was on the list so I said, "Jim is standing right here", then counted to 5 and said, "This is Jim."

    No need to hang up and call again.



  • i think OP ought to reconsider anonymizing the entire article (names, products, locations, etc). not for the now defunct company's sake, but for yourself. you'll regret it when your post comes back to bite you in the ass.

    ie. web search for company name now brings up this post on page 2 using duckduckgo.com. only a matter of time before its indexed by google).



  • @tariq said:

    only a matter of time before its indexed by google
    It already is.



  • err my bad, indexed by google was a bad choice of words. meant ranked/indexed high enough to be visible when searching for the company name. not showing up yet.



  • @davedavenotdavemaybedave said:

    have no way of actually telling the difference unless you tell them.

    In the UK at least, and provided the 'other end' hasn't withheld it, they have CLI (Caller Line ID) which delivers the caller's phone number, which they can match to a customer list. This is why most home users with ADSL broadband in the UK can typically only log in to their ISP from their own landline and not any other landline. Most call centres also have this technology, so many customer call centres in the UK only ask for your phone number (as part of the security process) if you've withheld your number; otherwise, the number you're calling from is on the screen, usually along with your entire customer record if it's a match with their database.



  • @Weng said:

     I do not find this hackery working a wtf. Indeed, I find it an awe-inspiring tale of engineering prowess (Cisco's, not your defeatist attitude) overcoming the idiocy of the salesforce.

     Yes, it's a hugely dick move when products are sold to do things they actually can't, and yes, management and sales people that do it need to be BURNED AT THE STAKE.

    I'm equally impressed by the prowess of the Cisco engineers. This would be comparable to the hack that enabled MIDI-MAZE  multiplayer (16 player games by daisy-chaining 16 Atari STs through the MIDI Port) and its GameBoy Faceball descendant (same thing, with the DATA port). Especially taking in mind that the CCNA material specifies that NetBEUI isn't routeable ... the Cisco engineers could've easily responded with "that's impossible".

    But then there's the matter that the salesmen said it could. Ouch.



  • @tariq said:

    err my bad, indexed by google was a bad choice of words. meant ranked/indexed high enough to be visible when searching for the company name. not showing up yet.
     

    Google search for "Multi-Image Network" shows this thread on page 6 for me.

    In other news, Google now stuffs around with the keyboard and doesn't let you use "/" to search within the page any more. Of course using the Australian Google it does (since it doesn't support "instant" search)



  • @blakeyrat said:

    Good story, but it would have been better
    without calling half of the population of Montana hicks.
     

    Have you been to Montana? They would likely receive it as a complement.

     

    @Zemm said:

    @tariq said:

    err my bad, indexed by google was a bad choice of words. meant ranked/indexed high enough to be visible when searching for the company name. not showing up yet.
     

    Google search for "Multi-Image Network" shows this thread on page 6 for me.

    In other news, Google now stuffs around with the keyboard and doesn't let you use "/" to search within the page any more. Of course using the Australian Google it does (since it doesn't support "instant" search)

     

    i mis-read that and thought it said 6th down, not 6th page. Though it did lead me to find the first result <http://www.mediastar-sg.com/multiimagenetwork.html> which contains this epic lie:

    "<font face="georgia, 'times new roman', serif">Mediastar-SG©
    was founded by us key members of the development and support
    departments in partnership with the former management team from
    Multi-Image Network."</font>

    I know for a fact that the lead programmer/R&D manager did not end up there, i didn't end up there, richard quit and hates dave with a greater passion that I. That only leaves programmers who had quit before i joined the company, and two junior devolopers who had only worked on new products that never got finished (due to the companies demise.) Tom was the only support person MIN had. I have a hard time coming up with anyone who could be called a 'key' member who possibly could have joined.

    There are two possibilities as to who started that:

    1) Tom's employer after MIN; i know they were looking to pick up the support contracts.

    2) Asshole dave; he contacted me a couple of times after MIN went down, everything he wanted to do sounded illegal, due to that and the fact that i never wanted to work for him again, i quit taking his phone calls.

    Ironically Asshole Dave is probably responsible for both the demise of the old MIN and apparent resurection of the company! There were rumors floating around from the first day i started at MIN that Asshole Dave was stealing from the company, I also heard from the develper who helped the previous owner dig through Asshole Dave's work PC, after the closure, and found receipts for stuff purchased with the company credit card that was no record of in the inventory or elsewhere.



  • @danixdefcon5 said:

    @Weng said:

     I do not find this hackery working a wtf. Indeed, I find it an awe-inspiring tale of engineering prowess (Cisco's, not your defeatist attitude) overcoming the idiocy of the salesforce.

     Yes, it's a hugely dick move when products are sold to do things they actually can't, and yes, management and sales people that do it need to be BURNED AT THE STAKE.

    I'm equally impressed by the prowess of the Cisco engineers. This would be comparable to the hack that enabled MIDI-MAZE  multiplayer (16 player games by daisy-chaining 16 Atari STs through the MIDI Port) and its GameBoy Faceball descendant (same thing, with the DATA port).

    I built a home-brew dev system once by plugging two C-64s into the same 1541 floppy drive :)

     




  • @Cad Delworth said:

    which they can match to a customer list

    "Yes, I know that's not an IBM customer number, but the guy from XYZ theis in our office today. Wait, please hold, and I'll transfer to him"

    (count to 5)

    "Hello, this is the guy from XYZ"?



  • @danixdefcon5 said:

    @Weng said:

     I do not find this hackery working a wtf. Indeed, I find it an awe-inspiring tale of engineering prowess (Cisco's, not your defeatist attitude) overcoming the idiocy of the salesforce.

     Yes, it's a hugely dick move when products are sold to do things they actually can't, and yes, management and sales people that do it need to be BURNED AT THE STAKE.

    I'm equally impressed by the prowess of the Cisco engineers. This would be comparable to the hack that enabled MIDI-MAZE  multiplayer (16 player games by daisy-chaining 16 Atari STs through the MIDI Port) and its GameBoy Faceball descendant (same thing, with the DATA port). Especially taking in mind that the CCNA material specifies that NetBEUI isn't routeable ... the Cisco engineers could've easily responded with "that's impossible".

    But then there's the matter that the salesmen said it could. Ouch.

    I've seen teenagers solve this problem in a classroom.  Just use L2TP.  L2TP stands for Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol and it makes a layer two connection between two remote system.  This effectively makes the networks on either side of the tunnel behave as if they are plugged into each other, including forwarding broadcast packets.  NetBEUI will work just fine over it.


  • @esoterik said:

    [[stuff deleted]]

    And thus ended quite possibly the worst day of work i have ever had. It was definitly worse than the day i showed up to find the doors locked, locks change, and a sign telling us we were out of buisness, and to when to meet at the holiday in for our final paychecks. Which is another WTF for another day.

    That was a good wtf.

    While I can agree with you that, that was indeed a crappy day, I have had far, far worse days. I worked at a wastewater treatment plant as an "operator" for 4.8 years. And we had an Asshole boss there too! We also had wastewater. Wastewater has everything that's ever been poured or flushed down the drain in it. You have to remove as much of the "non-water" from the water as you can. The actual technical term for the substance so removed is: SLUDGE. The technical name for the small building that contains the pumps that pump the sludge is: SLUDGE HOUSE. I could keep going, but you get the gist.

    --

    Furry cows moo and decompress.



  • @wyrder42 said:

    Wastewater has everything that's ever been poured or flushed down the drain in it. You have to remove as much of the "non-water" from the water as you can. The actual technical term for the substance so removed is: SLUDGE. The technical name for the small building that contains the pumps that pump the sludge is: SLUDGE HOUSE. I could keep going, but you get the gist.

    You drank it? Thinking it was coffee? Then later it was poured into your eyes?



  • @blakeyrat said:

    @wyrder42 said:
    Wastewater has everything that's ever been poured or flushed down the drain in it. You have to remove as much of the "non-water" from the water as you can. The actual technical term for the substance so removed is: SLUDGE. The technical name for the small building that contains the pumps that pump the sludge is: SLUDGE HOUSE. I could keep going, but you get the gist.

    You drank it? Thinking it was coffee? Then later it was poured into your eyes?

    No. However once there was a new guy at the plant that didn't notice most of the water lines were marked "non-potable"--the only partially treated water gets re-used at the plant for rinsing down the very gross equipment. He drank it. It was icky.

    I never had sludge or wastewater in my eyes although some got on my glasses a few times. Oh yeah also, I remember one time a guy got a face full of sludgy wastewater while attempting to demonstrate how to clean the upper spray box on the belt filter press.

    --
    Furry cows moo and decompress.



  •  PS.

    If you want a sig, you can put it in your profile.


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