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Those Are Not Corn Chips

January 11, 2017

We had planned to meet for dinner in the hotel restaurant. He arrived first and while he was waiting, had ordered an appetizer of chips and salsa.

Bad move.

In honor of my friend Tim, and his incredible career, I thought I’d tell a story about when we had to work together. Got to. When we got to work together. I had recently left Microsoft and was doing work as an independent consultant. Since I had worked for both WordPerfect, the original maker of Novell GroupWise email system, and Microsoft, the maker of the Exchange email system, I attempted to carve out a niche right in the middle. I sold myself as an expert on the migration between the two.

And it was true. . to a point. Truthfully, I was a smart technical guy with a long history of email administration and my friend Tim had assured me that he had access to a wonderful migration tool to take Microsoft Exchange 5.5 accounts and migrate them to GroupWise. The fact that I hadn’t actually migrated any mailboxes was a detail that turned out to not be pertinent.

Microsoft Exchange 5.5 was significant because it was the last version of Exchange that had its own directory system. That might not sound like a big deal, but back ten to fifteen years ago it was huge. It meant that you could put Exchange 5.5 on your Novell NetWare network. You didn’t need Microsoft Active Directory, or Windows NT. For companies that were trying to avoid completely embracing the Dark Side, it was an important distinction. However, Exchange 2000, the next version after 5.5, required you not only upgrade your email system, but upgrade your directory to AD as well.

Novell saw an opportunity to win back some email accounts by offering a migration path to GroupWise. That’s where I came in. Well, it’s where I wanted to come in. And that’s where Tim came in. Tim was (and is) a respected expert on all things Novell, including GroupWise. His company, NDS8, which is sadly closing its doors this week, was respected as one of the top integrators in the world. And NDS8 was Tim.

Tim let it be known that in his opinion, I was the top world expert on Exchange 5.5 –> GroupWise migrations. It was largely as a result of that recommendation that I got the gig. We were migrating 5000 users at a hospital in Fargo, ND. We were there during the summer, and it was lovely. Really, if your only impression of North Dakota in general and Fargo in particular is the movie, you have no idea. First, the movie was shot in winter. . .in Minnasota. Second, the locals hate it when you reference the movie.

The gig went really well. And the tool that Tim supplied me also worked well. I worked with a brilliant group of Novell consultants. The project started in the spring and went all the way through the summer. At one point, our lead Novell consultant had a conflict. Novell came to me and asked if I knew of anyone who could step in and do the network side of the migration?

Yes, actually, I know a guy.

Tim, as an independent contractor had no problem working in the United States, despite the fact he lives in Scotland. I was delighted that his schedule allowed him to join the project. We spent a lot of hours pouring over spreadsheets and log files.

It was one night shortly before we were ready to do the cutover that we had what should have been a typical dinner. He was already at the table and was just about to put another chip in his mouth when I walked into the restaurant.

Tim, I thought you couldn’t eat wheat.

What do you mean?

Well, that whole celiac thing. Isn’t gluten one of the things that you are supposed to avoid?

Yes, of course.

I saw realization dawn as his face fell.

These chips aren’t made of corn?

Slowly, I shook my head.

Oh boy. I may be a little late in the morning. I’m in for a bad night of it.

The next morning as he came down to breakfast, he looked like he hadn’t slept all night. Later, I found out it was because he hadn’t slept all night. Fortunately, he made a full recovery and the migration, the job that he got for me before I got it for him, went smoothly and definitely bolstered my resume.

NDS8 will be missed by all those in the Novell community.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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