“We need it”

At the company where I work, we have numerous CNC milling machines. I know very little, but I’ve been told by numerous people that we need very specific Dynex brand USB-floppy drives to run programs on them. Unfortunately, Dynex has discontinued them, and the replacements somebody bought are junk and die after about 2-3 uses. Our options are to A) buy dozens, if not hundreds, of brands and models in an attempt to figure out what works; B) buy every Dynex drive off ebay no matter the cost; C) spend $350 per machine (there are dozens) to make them network capable. There was no good option.

Or so I thought. I was attempting to see what brand of floppy drive the CNC manufacturer made when I found some interesting info: We have two kinds of CNC machines. One kind has a built-in floppy drive, and those are working great. The other has a USB port. For flash drives. I asked someone why flash drives didn’t work (hence why we NEEDED the floppy drives), and I was told “They work, but the programs are already on the floppies, so we didn’t want to have to make a copy.”

In the past two months we have spent over $600 on floppy disks. In that same amount of time, for a FRACTION of the cost, we could have put all of the programs on flash drives, given two to each employee, and use the floppy drive built into one of the engineers’ computers to make floppies as needed.

Moral of the story: Anytime someone says they “need something to do their job,” ask, “Why?” Odds are they will say “That’s what I have been using,” and not “It is the best solution.”

Identifying mysterious wireless issues.

“The first drop was at 11, when lunch began.”

In my current position, I have been struggling to identify a particular wireless issue that was sporadically taking our wireless network down. At the moment, we have put APs our throughout the building, but only three people in one office are using them. As such, it’s a very small sample size, but still peculiar when all three simultaneously drop.

These issues tend to be what I call quantum mechanic problems (as in car problems that exist until observed by a mechanic). Nobody who witnesses them is technical enough to give you adequate data to diagnose the problem (“The internet is down”). Watching for an issue that crops up once every two weeks is impossible, and automated reporting tools were not providing useful data.

Today, after having worked until 3 AM the previous night and existing on 3 hours of sleep, I revisited a previous notion that the microwave might be to blame. This was discounted in the past as during the one drop I was able to witness, I ran to the kitchen to find nobody using the microwave. Today, however, I recalled that on the shop floor, we have microwaves scattered everywhere for lunch. The nearest microwave in the shop was 30 feet from the AP, and delicious burrito testing revealed that the AP was completely drowned out by this crappy plastic $30 microwave.

Replacing one microwave may prove to be enough, but I am also delving into “other avenues” to solve this if it continues as we roll wireless devices out to the entire shop.