November 2001 Reader Challenge

Congratulations to Dorin Dehelean of Macon, Georgia, who wins First Prize in the November 2001 Reader Challenge. Dorin wins a copy of Admin911: Windows 2000 Registry. Second Prize, a copy of Admin911: Windows 2000 DNS & WINS goes to Philip Cheatham of Dover, Delaware. Both books are from Osborne/McGraw-Hill Publishing.

The Problem
At one of my client sites, the Help Desk folks eat lunch outside, or if the weather is inclement, they sit on the floor of a large closet off the main lobby. Primarily, they just want to get away from the sound of a ringing telephone. However, during lunch they usually talk shop, so they don’t really get a mental-health respite. I eavesdropped last week, and heard the following discussion.

Stan: "The new computers we added to the clerical department have some problems. Users can’t get to the right resources. Resolving host names to IP addresses isn’t working right. I need to figure out where the problem is."

Felicia: "Run netstat at the command line."

Harry: "No, run Ipconfig."

Karen: "No, run Nslookup."

William: "No, run Arp."

Who’s right?

Hint: This company assigns an IP address to every computer and uses DNS for resolution.

The Solution
The correct answer is to use NSLookup, which displays information about DNS name servers. Many readers said that using IPConfig would provide information that could help resolve the problem, but they weren't paying attention. The challenge clearly stated that administrators had issued discrete IP addresses to each computer. In addition, most of the readers who guessed IPConfig also referred to its ability to provide information about DHCP-provided IP addresses, and many of those readers commented that DHCP might be a better idea.

Whether DHCP is preferable isn't part of the challenge, and that kind of thinking isn't helpful if you're an administrator trying to solve a problem on your network. After you have the facts, you need to head for the most logical, most promising, solution. This challenge was a good exercise in learning how to use the available information, and then use the most direct route to solve the problem.

In the real-life situation from which I drew the challenge, the problem was that the network cable for the company's DNS server had been disconnected from the outlet. Running NSLookup produced the error message: "No response from server. No DNS name server is running on the server computer." When the administrator checked the server, he found the unplugged cable. Plugging it in resolved the problem.

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