Thursday, January 6, 2011

Sisyphean Task no. 1: Network Device Testing

Some days feel like progress, and other days feel like swimming in molasses. Today was a molasses day.

Network Device Testing: Before

The Network Device Testing station is always chaotic. This is where network devices, like switches, routers, wireless access points, etc. are sorted and the good ones are tested.

It's tricky to train people on this station, since it often requires specialized knowledge. It has a monotonous aspect, too, since half of the job involves matching power supplies with devices. So it's often left for a few days without people working there, making it a magnet for crud to build up. A lot of network devices come in at receiving -- several large boxes each week, I'd estimate -- and sometimes they get left on the desk if there isn't room in Receiving, adding to the carnage.

I had intended to take a disgustingly messy "before" picture and present it alongside a triumphantly spotless "after", but the "after" photograph is still pretty cluttered...
Network Devices, cleaned up (again)

There are a few problems with this station, I think: it's only occasionally used, and it's too big for network device testing but probably too small to be combined with something else. The biggest problem in my opinion is the power supplies; for each device, we need to find a power supply with the matching voltage, a matching jack, and at least enough amperage to drive the device. We've tried a number of ways of sorting and storing them but nothing seems to stick. Anyone know how Portland does it? Does it work?


  1. thank you for talking about the network device
    testing station

    I believe this station is designed, developed ,
    and maintained mainly by Alec

    and I think Alec usually devote too much time to this station ( at least , that is my observation
    last fall, when i was regularly active at Free Geek)

    Alec 's work with the network devices station
    and his work at the build station
    serve as the best role models for all volunteers

    I would suggest Alec apply his energy, and
    leadership to more projects

    such as starting a camera station
    for evaluation sorting, reuse of digital cameras

    and the laptop program also require more
    leadership, planning, organizing,and development

    back to the network testing station
    this station was tried out by the ubc
    engineers sometime ago

    I looked in on the second engineering day
    to see how the students learn and do
    at the network device testing station

    i found
    the station had a couple of engineering students
    and a regular volunteer
    after working through one device
    the regular volunteer left, and did not come back
    his departure is a puzzle to me
    because the engineers come to learn from him
    and he left

    volunteers who work at the network device station
    is supposed to learn the first hour,
    and become an expert trainer the rest of the day
    and all other days there after
    because i think getting to be an trainer at
    this station should not be that difficult

    and the main benefit of working at this station
    is you progress through the novice learner, and
    expert trainer , mentor stages quickly
    by climbing this station ladder,
    volunteer learn the job skills of climbing
    the corporate ladder outside of free geek

    so the regular volunteer who found himself with
    two engineering students at his elbow
    had an excellent opportunity to train engineers
    and do engineering problem solving with some
    bright young kids, why did you left?
    it is still a puzzle to me

    so i found my self with 2 engineers students
    and I watch how they do engineering problem
    solving with the help of the manual
    it did not work very well
    i myself was a novice
    basically, we had 3 brains, but we did not know
    how others are thinking..
    finally i suggest, one way to proceed
    is to leave this problematic device aside
    and test another good one
    and use the experience of testing the good one
    to retackle the problematic one

    so we grab another device and start on it
    still we have puzzling problems
    after sometime
    Connie came around and after a few seconds
    quickly pointed out, the device we were working on
    is a printer networking device

    i was very impressed with Connie
    a display of sharp engineering intelligence
    as i know it

    all this comment , is just to say
    what an interesting station we have at freegeek
    so much fun we can have with it
    learning how to climb the engineering ladder
    the corporate ladder, or any ladder

  2. Hey George -- I was there with the engineers for one of those days, and we were almost totally prevented from working the station because the FG network was mostly broken. That was making the station a disaster. Luckily it's pretty rare.

  3. ...but let me quickly add that the engineers were fast to learn and I'd have 'em back any day!

  4. I was in today and the network station still looks great. Nice work!

  5. Maybe the tools are part of the problem. Have a look at Portland's wiki page for network device testing -- -- it looks like they have better developed tools for testing routers and switches. These take the guesswork out of the testing process. I might experiment a little bit with this next week.


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