Letter to USPS CEO/Postmaster General Megan Brennan

Ms. Brennan,

It saddens me to write you today, because no consumer should ever have to write to an organization it does business with to express the poor experience they’ve had with a companies services, or the horrible experiences I’ve had in the customer service aspect of dealing with your organization.

The United States Postal Service is one with a long history – I don’t need to tell you that. But, after 241 years in the business, I find it very hard to fathom why the USPS just can not seem to get mail where it needs to go, on-time, all the time (barring bad weather, natural disasters, and situations which may put carriers at risk).

In 2014 I moved to the Raleigh, North Carolina from the San Francisco Bay area. Since moving here, I’ve had nothing but issues with our mail service. To name a few:

– Mail service to my home address (in an apartment building, in an established city) is frequently very late (6p – 7p)
– Mail carriers do not deliver packages to the door, and when they arrive after 6pm, they can not leave packages at the leasing office, which causes further delays in receiving mail
– Mail service to my business address at a private PMB facility that is in the shopping center directly next to my apartment is frequently late which causes mail and packages to be delayed when they arrive at that location past their 7pm closing time
– Packages get delivered to the wrong address
– Packages get lost completely
– Packages sit at a Raleigh sort facility for days before making their way to my local post office
– Packages sit at my local post office longer than is expected before being delivered
– Packages are scanned out for delivery, and then not delivered

What frustrates me the most, is I’ve been told numerous times that the purchase of postage funds the post office – not tax payer dollars. Well, I’m a tax payer – and you carry the name of my country. I’m also a postage patron – in fact – as a private citizen and as a business owner – because I believe in supporting the efforts of the USPS. I’m starting to question that.

In my most recent interaction with the USPS, I ordered stamps on November 25, 2016. As of this writing – I still do not have them in hand. The shipment did circles around Kansas City before finally getting on the road. Once arriving in Raleigh, they just sat for days. I was told they’d be delivered yesterday – they weren’t. I called back today and asked for the shipping portion of my order to be refunded because of the delays that are being caused by the post office – I was told no – I just need to deal with it because of the holidays. When I got agitated at that response (and really, can you blame me?), the person I spoke with in your Kansas City fulfillment center HUNG UP THE PHONE on me. Really? Get it together.

I get it – Congress screwed you guys over with their antics. I get it – postage pays the bills at the USPS, and you don’t take any tax payer money to operate. But here’s what I don’t get:

Why do you make it so hard for me to do business with you? Why do you make me feel as though I’m part of the reason the USPS is bad at providing a service? Why is it that I can’t trust the USPS any more? That’s not fair – and that’s not right.

The barrage of excuses I hear from USPS employees is never ending:

– Holiday season (poor excuse – plan better, staff better)
– Understaffed (poor excuse – this is never the consumers problem)
– Mishandling (poor excuse – the USPS uses some of the most technologically advanced systems in the world)

It’s time to get it together. You’ve been in business for 241 years – it’s time to act like the mature organization you are. Be the pillar you should be, and be proud not only of your heritage, but mindful of where you come from as you push to reach where you’re going. Make it a better experience for ALL of us.

Chris Hesselrode

Memorial Day 2016

For most, today means a day off of work, a bank holiday, some BBQ or other good food, and the company of friends and family. For some, though, today is about a lot more. It’s about loss, life, and the war machine.

I spent the last few days in Washington, DC, amongst those that were visiting just to visit, those that were there to beat the Memorial Day crowds, and those that were there to remember. During my visit, I stopped by a number of different places, including the memorial to the Korean Conflict service members. My grandfather served in Korea, but we were fortunate enough to have him come home to the family. Still, I remember.

We are a nation of great freedoms, great privilege, and great success. But, what is worth more than all of that, is we’re also a nation of great loss.

Freedom is not Free

In grade school, I was incredibly fortunate to have been taught by a gentleman who’s love for shaping young people was only exceeded by his own integrity and self-commitment. He shared those values with those that he taught. In grade school, I thought he was only teaching us arithmetic, vocabulary, grammar, spelling, reading comprehension and history out of a book. In adulthood, I look back on his lessons and realize that he was also teaching us far more valuable things: compassion, teamwork, and individual thought. He challenge(ed/s) us, then and now, to put thought before action. To weigh the consequences. He taught us to be a more intelligent part of society that thrives on making this a better place for us all – in any capacity we can.

This educator also served in Vietnam. I’m reminded every Memorial day, Veteran’s day, and throughout the year just how much he (and so many others) sacrificed – no matter if they came home, or didn’t. The loss is great.

The loss was sanctioned.

Our government is challenged with protecting our people from threats near and far, those known and unknown, and from enemies and friendlies alike. But at what cost should we, as a nation, go so far as to involve ourselves in needless and/or unwarranted war? The cost is great … and behind that great cost are two factions. One winner. One loser. The military industrial complex always wins – no matter the outcome of the war. Our service members, their families, friends and other loved ones lose – every time.

We’re reaching a point of critical mass – that mass being the amount of BS that is fed to us to justify needless killing, unwanted intervention in regions that are not our own, and the real value of what we stand to, and will lose. We’ve lost our way.

America the Free. Free to whom?

Our country, soon, will be asked to make some decisions about the next Commander in Chief. I’m scared to see who ends up on the ballot, not because I fear the person themselves, but the machine that operates behind them. We, as a nation can not handle more division, more hostility, and more loss. We, as a nation, are broken and wounded. We, as a nation, are not free.

This memorial day, I beg of you to take just 5 minutes out of your day to stop what you’re doing, think about the sacrifices that have been made in your name, and ask yourself – was that sacrifice justified? Was it worth it? Once you’ve done that, think about the men and women that have, and will continue to unless we change course, sacrificed the priceless gift of life in the name of this once-great country of ours.

I wish you, your family, your friends and loved ones a safe and memorable Memorial Day.

My heart bleeds today for those lost while serving under our banner. Today is a day to remember.

A Letter to CentriLogic CEO Robert Offley

To: roffley@centrilogic.com
CC: mrok@centrilogic.com, jedward@centrilogic.com, mrok@centrilogic.com, kaplin@centrilogic.com, cstaats@centrilogic.com, jreinard@centrilogic.com, jreinard@dacentec.com
BCC: robert.offley@centrilogic.com, mrok@centrilogic.com, jeff.edward@centrilogic.com, monica.rok@centrilogic.com, kevin.aplin@centrilogic.com, charlotte.staats@centrilogic.com, jason.reinard@centrilogic.com, jason.reinard@dacentec.com, offley@centrilogic.com, offleyr@centrilogic.com, levine@centrilogic.com, leviner@centrilogic.com, rok@centrilogic.com, rokm@centrilogic.com, aplin@centrilogic.com, aplink@centrilogic.com, staats@centrilogic.com, staatsc@centrilogic.com

Mr. Offley,

It saddens me that I need to be writing this message to you today, however I’m at my whits end and there seems to be nothing but lost hope with the support management at your Lenoir, NC facility, Dacentec. I do appreciate you taking the time to read through this message, and providing some feedback.

While I understand that we’re a very small fish in a very large pond, I’m a firm believer that a customers worth in feedback is calculated at a much higher rate than their worth in dollars. I have a long history and background in delivering exceptional customer experiences through support and service, which makes me incredibly critical of poor service/support I get from companies that I choose to do business with.

This note is about issues I’ve had with services and support at Dacentec. Some of these issues stem from lack of infrastructure / training, and some stem from complete lack of care for your customers. I’ll outline each below.

We turned up services with Dacentec on August 21, 2015, starting with 1U colocation, a /29 IP block allocation, and then adding BGP announcement of our /22 with the anticipation that we can add additional servers and eventually move into cabinets as we expand our business.

September 5, 2015 : Ticket # 770027 : Network Packet Flood
We were advised that our port was shut due to a network packet flood to our machine. We had made some changes to services on the machine, and it looks like it got compromised. We requested additional information origin and/or destination IPs and were told that only Layer 2 monitoring is performed. That’s a scary lack of insight to what is occurring on your network.

September 23, 2015 : Ticket # 394140 : Consolidate Invoices/Billing Dates
We requested to have our services consolidated to a single invoice/billing date. Currently we receive (just for the colocation and “extras”) 3 invoices with 3 due dates. We were told that this can’t be done, until we pressed harder. The answer never made sense so we just dropped the ticket.

October 19, 2015 : Ticket # 319017 : URGENT – Server Offline
Our server went offline and we were unable to access the machine, IPMI (not on our IP space at the time), or the gateway. Requested a Root Cause Analysis for the issue (advised it would be available next day). On 10/27/2015 still no RCA/PIR, requested escalation to management. Received PIR on 10/28 with no escalation to management.

October 21, 2015 : Ticket # 379284 : Abuse – Packet flood from 192.168.92.122
Packet flood notification from an IP that we’re no longer using (we’ve since moved to our own IP space). Requested information on source/destination – again unable to provide.

November 22, 2015 : Ticket # 696006 : Can not access server
Advised of inability to access machine. Asked for root cause and was told “adjustments made by the network team”. On 11/23 asked what remediation steps were being taken since we pay for BGP announcement of our own IP space. We had no ability to ping our gateway, nor pull any BGP information about our announced space. Requested update on 11/25. Requested update on 11/30. Requested update on 12/1. Received response on 12/1 indicating a network hardware issue – completely different than what I was told originally.

November 22, 2015 : Tickets # 804422 & 405648 : SLA Credits
No response to tickets until 12/1.

December 1, 2015 : Ticket # 529179 : Support Management
Requested Support Management contact info. Received response that ticket was escalated. Received call on 12/2 (voicemail – see attached). Followed up by phone a few days later and left a voicemail. No response. On 12/10/2015 advised on same ticket that no response has been received. A reminder sent to management by support staff. Left another voicemail for Jason on 12/11. No response. 12/14/2015 I updated the ticket that i had yet to receive a call back. Ticket notated that the agent was informed that management would call me Tuesday. It’s now Tuesday at 5:36p Eastern.

December 9, 2015 : Ticket # 927333 : Server Outage this morning
Submitted ticket with bandwidth graph showing 3 hour outage. Requested root cause. Advised of carrier outage and PIR would be made available in 24-48 hours. 12/11 (Friday) requested update on PIR availability. Received PIR 3 hours later. PIR indicates that review and approval was by Jason Reinard – the same person I was told in Ticket # 529179 was out of the office and would call me back on Monday. I asked when the PIR was made available for customer consumption, and support advised 5 minutes prior to my receiving it. Either it was available before that and wasn’t sent to us until requested OR Jason Reinard did approve it on Friday but for some reason was unavailable to respond to me after numerous attempts.

Today, December 15, 2015 : 5:41p Eastern : Still no phone call, email or other form of communication from Dacentec management after my repeated escalation requests.

As an organization, we were excited to find a data center provider in North Carolina that we could grow with / grow into. The prices are reasonable, and the ability to advertise our IP space a huge plus. Support, for the most part, is lacking. It’s unfortunate that your support staff have to deal with people like me, because it’s not their fault. Teams win. Management loses. It is absolutely apparent to me that the issues stem from management – not from your support agents themselves.

I anticipate a response shortly, and to ensure that this is properly received, a copy of this message is also being posted on your Facebook page, sent to you via Twitter, and on LinkedIn.

I can be reached at 415.488.5444 at any time.

Best regards,

Chris Hesselrode
General Manager | Conflux Technologies LLC

P. 919.867.1456
F. 919.930.8699
M. 415.488.5444

Update: added contact e-mail addresses for Centrilogic/Dacentec executive staff for existing customers experiencing issues with Dacentec services.

Veteran’s Day

Today is marked as a special occasion where we get to give our thanks to those who have put on a uniform and served our country in its armed forces. I have been blessed to have a great number of people in my life who have ante’d up and stepped into the life of a soldier over the years – from teachers to family, friends and coworkers. To each and every one of you – thank you.

However, today, November 11th, should not be the only day that we celebrate our veterans. Each and every day, we have veterans who have to live with the sacrifices they made – mentally and physically. These people have devoted their lives to forever being America’s soldier – America’s warrior.

I encourage each and every person, today and every day, to think about how you’re giving back to those that serve (past and present) in our military. As the problems of this world get more complex, so will the life of a soldier. Even if it’s just a “thank you” or buying someone coffee on days that aren’t sanctioned, do it. It doesn’t have to be a big scene, it doesn’t even have to be a thing. It should just be something you do, if you’re truly thankful for the sacrifices made by our military personnel.

Again – to all of you who have served, thank you – today, and every day.

Customer (Service) First

For anyone who works in a mid- to large-sized business, you’ve likely heard this new, great and wonderful idea of putting the customer first. It’s great in theory. It really is. But, how many companies actually do this, and those that do, how many actually do it right? The answer is an astonishing (albeit not surprising) very few.

Putting the customer first means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. To most, it means that your business is doing everything it can to ensure that your customers keep paying you money. This could be done through policy and procedure change, product changes and innovation, or even the introduction of new and meaningful marketing collateral that tells the world how awesome your organization is because you’re customer-centric. That’s all well and good, and yes, it gets people and their money in the door – but here’s the question that almost every business asks, but rarely wants to hear the real answer to:

How do I keep them once they’re here?

Chances are that at some point in your life you’ve been faced with that very same question only to realize that its your sales team that’s responsible for keeping customers happy after the sale. Now, before we continue, lets define a sales team. These aren’t the people that are (usually) the first impression of your organization. They aren’t just the ones that make occasional calls to the customer to make sure they are getting the most out of the product or service, to ensure retention. More often than not, its a combination of the two – the later being called “Customer Success” these days (because why not – it sounds much better than Customer Retention).

Most organizations – and there are some very notable exceptions to this – don’t realize that having a tried and true customer service organization from the very beginning is often the key to being successful long term. In fact, most organizations don’t even really put customer service to the front of their minds until there’s a problem, where customer service is usually the answer. This is so horribly wrong that it makes me sick to my stomach to think about.

But why is customer service so important from the get-go? It’s important because it’s the relationship maker. The customer service folks are the ones highly responsible for the post-sale/post-contract experience that your customer has. They are usually the ones that your customer will talk to most frequently during their time as a customer. It’s true in almost every aspect of life, sans basic utility services. The bigger question when you realize all of that, is why is customer service looked at as a cost center, and one of the first places to cut costs when the business demands it? It’s because you’re doing it wrong.

If you truly know how to implement a world-class customer service organization, then it can quickly become a profit center. Profits by way of retaining customers through exceptional interactions. Empowering your customer service group to be a customer champion, instead of the firewall between the rest of your business and your customers will only make your organization stronger. Empowering your customer service professionals to own their interactions, to be a part of the solution, and to drive customer feedback into the business with visible results makes them shareholders in your organization. How many people hold share in a business and don’t want to see it succeed?

In the past 12-18 months, I’ve talked with a few folks opening their business, or launching their next “great app.” Every conversation at some point has turned to “I’m not sure what to do if someone needs help.” Maybe you should have thought about that before. In fact, you should have thought about that before. Customer service isn’t easy – especially if you’re doing it right. There is a lot of work that goes into it, and a lot of trial and error in order to make it work really really well.

To be really good at customer service, you need to be really good at iteration, really good at focus, and willing to not jump in the deep end without ever having walked down the steps of the shallow end first. Find someone who knows how to do these things really well. It may be someone that you least expect.

Recently, I launched a business that focuses on helping small businesses succeed by employing enterprise-grade customer service techniques in their organization. We’d love to be a part of that conversation with you too, if you’d like. Just drop us a line. And, for those of you who want to take a go at it on your own, take a look at this book – The Customer Support Handbook: How to Create the Ultimate Customer Experience for Your Brand. It’s a great read, and also a great “gift” to the executive(s) in your life that just “don’t get” customer service.

Be well.

Successful Failure

Some time ago, I left my previous job as the Sr. Manager of Customer Service at Tapjoy. While I am legally prohibited from discussing the particulars of my departure, being asked a few times lately if I considered my demise at Tapjoy a failure, made me get to thinking. In short – yes and no. It was my most successful failure to date.

Most of us are taught from a very early age, and it continues through adulthood, that success and failure are exclusive of one another and only tied by an overall outcome. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

“Failure is Success in Progress.”

I was put into a very precarious position about a year after I started with the company … my boss was suddenly no longer with the company, and I was being told that I was going to be responsible for the department. I had no experience leading an entire team independently. I had no experience managing a multi-million dollar budget. I had no experience with the expectations of C-level executives – especially when some of those expectations are unreasonable and ill-conceived. But, I made the best out of what I had. We accomplished some amazing things in the 14 months that followed. We decreased our ticket backlog by 80% (for any of you that have worked in customer service/support – this is huge – especially at Tapjoy’s volume). We made a decision to change, and successfully transitioned to a outsourced team in Mexico away from the team we had in India. We cut expenses, spent money where it was needed. Improved infrastructure. The list goes on. By and large, each of those were wildly successful.

So, where did it all go wrong? Remember a few moments ago when I mentioned I had no experience? Yeah. That happened. I wasn’t prepared to run a team. I wasn’t prepared to “massage” peoples egos and feed them lines of BS just so I could keep my job, and make them feel warm and fuzzy about the sub-par performance I was getting out of them. I wasn’t prepared to be held responsible for violating a company policy that didn’t exist (yes – that happens). I wasn’t prepared for HR to tell me that my entire team was supposedly ready to quit. So, instead of that happening – I left Tapjoy to “pursue other challenges and opportunities.”

I’ve asked myself numerous times, where did it all start to unravel? The day I took responsibility for all of it. The velocity at which it came apart only increased as time went on, and increased exponentially after an org change. Putting sales people in charge of a service organization is never a good idea. You can’t turn the customer service experience into a sales cycle. It doesn’t work that way.

It’s not often that I can honestly say that I felt as though management of an organization felt more like dealing with the Gestapo than people who are supposed to be supporting you in being successful. However, that’s what it was like. Every. Day. There was no support for me to get the knowledge and mentored experience necessary to be great at my job. The CEO talks so much about “winning,” but there is no real foundation for it. I was naive enough to believe that I could build my own foundation, stabilize my team, and be successful with or without their support. Oops. That pissed some people off.

Was I a failure? Yes. It was my most successful failure to date. I learned more than I think I even realize.

One of the key take-aways from my time at Tapjoy was that employees need to be treated like school children. You can’t scold them. You can’t point out their faults. You have to build them up, always give positive reinforcement, and sugar coat everything. If you don’t, you’re a horrible human being and should be shown the door. </sarcasm> I thought we were all adults? Why not act like it?

I’m looking forward to my next opportunity to lead a team, but it won’t be today, tomorrow or next month. I’ve internalized everything I’ve learned in the past two years and made the conscious decision that all of the fluff should be someone else’s problem to deal with. It’s time to love life. I didn’t love who I was half the time while I was in that role. It didn’t make me a great person.

My epic failures were my epic successes. I learned from it. I changed. I moved forward. My epic failures came from the epic failures of others. It’s a snowball effect.

Are you going to be a snowball, or a snowplow? Choose wisely – the later may just end up helping you find a way to the door.

Don’t be afraid to fail. If you are, you’ll never become a success. Good luck!

 

This post and its contents are protected under the California Labor Code Section 232.5, which prohibits an employer from requiring that an employee refrain from disclosing information about the employer’s working conditions. Any waiver or other document signed in contradiction to this is also in violation of this section.

The opinions expressed in this post and throughout the suchafias.co website are solely mine, and do not represent the opinions of other individuals, my employer, partners, advertisers, or any business venture in which I am a party to.

Happy Independence Day, America

Many of you will be out at a BBQ, drinking alcohol, and enjoying time with friends, family and loved ones. I wish you all a very safe and happy holiday weekend, but, lets please not forget some very important things:

– Please don’t drink and drive
– Please be responsible with alcohol consumption
– Enjoy the opportunity to be with those you love
– Please don’t set your neighborhoods on fire with fireworks

Most importantly, though, let us not forget the spirit of the holiday. Today celebrates the day that we adopted the Declaration of Independence, establishing the United States of America. This ultimately led to the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the liberties and freedoms we now have as Americans.

This Independence Day is encircled by landmark progress in the recognition of rights and liberties for all Americans. As we celebrate this holiday in true American fashion, becoming satiated, inebriated, and practicing our skills at pyrotechnics, take a moment to realize how each and every one of us affects one another. Our thoughts, feelings, attitudes, views, beliefs, etc. are often brought up in conversation. Don’t let that conversation turn to an argument. Respect one another. Accept one another.

Your time is limited. Don’t waste it by living someone else’s life. Think for yourself. Challenge the status quo. Enjoy life.

May you and yours have a safe and happy 4th!

Welcome Marriage Equality

Today, June 26, 2015, marks a day of importance for many in the United States. The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) has issued its opinion on same-sex marriage.

I applaud efforts in order for everyone that is a citizen of the United States to be able to marry whomever they choose to love – regardless of gender. But, I think there’s two much larger discussions that need to start happening soon – one of them brought up in Justice Alito’s dissent: “Today’s decision usurps the constitutional right of the people to decide …”

The first, and biggest discussion that I feel needs to happen on a broader and wider scale is that of tolerance, acceptance, and self-understanding. It all gets wrapped up in humility and self-control.

Too often in our society, we see imagery, hear stories, and experience people being intolerant of one another. This surfaces in all walks of life, in different topics, arguments, and societal “norms”. Tolerance of one another is a fundamental pillar. It upholds happiness, sanction, and responsibility. It is the inalienable action that can make or break someones, and is an action that endures every decision we make. In order for us not to continue to tear at the very fabric of our being, we must be tolerant of one another.

The second, and touched on by Justice Alito in his dissent, is that as we continue to bicker and fight, we are slowly and surely shredding and nullifying the framework which was laid before us which grants us rights, privileges, freedoms and liberties. The issue of marriage equality, while an important one, should never have been put in front of SCOTUS for a decision. One of the largest problems we have in this country, is that our government maintains far too much control over us. Us … a free society. Would we have had marriage equality today, or next week, or even next year? Probably not. But, we would have had it eventually. We were already moving that direction.

Today, SCOTUS provided us with an opinion. They did not interpret the law in a manner that would be beneficial to the better understanding of the rights under the Constitution and the constitutional Amendments. They told us what they thought was the best method of interpreting it, according to their beliefs.

In order for the United States to succeed, and to prevent the spoilage of the framework of law, we must take account of our actions. We have to be tolerant of one another, respectful of each others choices – even more so when those choices are things we don’t agree with, – and provided the ability to freely choose for ourselves within the confines of governing laws meant to protect us all equally.

President Obama said today that we are now a more perfect nation after this decision. He’s right. We are a more perfect weakened nation.

Love one another. Respect one another. Tolerate the unknown, the unwanted, and the misunderstood. Love each other as you would love yourself. We’re all in this together, and none of us are getting out alive. Let’s make today count, and let’s allow ourselves to individually choose what is right and best in our own lives.

My fellow Americans … as a wise man once said:

“It’s a jungle out there. You gotta look out for number one – but don’t step in number two.” (Rodney Dangerfield)

Request Tracker 4 on Ubuntu 14.04 LTS

Request Tracker from Best Practical has been around for a while, and to a lot of people and organizations, a very robust and purpose-built ticketing system with a lot of flexibility. But, it’s not always the easiest thing to install. Sure, there are packages in common distros, but we don’t always want to rely on the distro/package maintainer to keep it current.

So, I’ve set out to give you a step-by-step on how to get Request Tracker 4 installed on an Ubuntu 14.04 LTS server. This will not be a tutorial on configuring / customizing RT4. That will come in a write-up to come at a later time. But, without anything further … let’s give it a whirl!

For the purposes of this write-up, we’ll use the following information which need to be changed to match your environment:

IP Address: 192.168.1.100
Hostname: rt4.example.com

The first thing that you’ll want to do is install a basic Ubuntu 14.04 LTS system with SSH access (if it’s remote). Once you’ve done that, let’s ensure that it’s updated, and that our hostname is set properly. It’s best to start by sudo’ing to root:

# sudo su
{ enter user password to change to root user}

Now, let’s update the hosts file. If it doesn’t exist, add info for your host:

# nano -w /etc/hosts
192.168.1.100     rt4.example.com

Changing the hostname is as simple as editing the /etc/hostname file, removing anything in the file, and then typing in your hostname in FQDN format. Once changed, reboot your machine.

Now that we’ve gone that done, let’s update our machine:

# sudo su
# apt-get update
# apt-get upgrade
# apt-get dist-upgrade

Once you’ve verified that you want all of the updates provided, and installed the updates, let’s reboot one more time before getting started with RT4.

Now that your machine is back up, updated, and has the correct hostname, let’s get started with RT4. We’ll download the source for RT4 into the /usr/local/src directory and work from there.

# cd /usr/local/src
# wget https://download.bestpractical.com/pub/rt/release/rt.tar.gz
# tar -zxf rt.tar.gz

At the time of this writing, the version of RT4 that downloads is 4.2.11, so we’ll move into the RT4 directory and then install some dependencies before checking to see what’s missing:

# cd rt-4.2.11
# apt-get install build-essential openssl libyaml-0-2 libyaml-libyaml-perl libyaml-appconfig-perl libexpat1-dev \
apache2 mysql-server mysql-client exim4-daemon-light eximon4 mailutils libcurl4-openssl-dev
# ./configure
# make testdeps

After testing for dependencies, we’ll want to setup and update CPAN before fixing any missing dependencies.

# /usr/bin/perl -MCPAN -e shell

Answer YES to the two questions you’re asked:

Would you like to configure as much as possible automatically? [yes] Would you like me to automatically choose some CPAN mirror sites for you? (This means connecting to the Internet) [yes]

Once this completes, you’re at the CPAN shell where we’ll be able to update CPAN before continuing.

cpan[1]> install CPAN
cpan[2]> reload CPAN
cpan[3]> quit

With CPAN updated and configured, we can now run fixdeps to download and install perl dependencies. Grab some coffee and a muffin while this runs – it can take a bit, but keep an eye in case it needs your input.

# make fixdeps
# make testdeps

You should see a line that reads: All dependencies have been found. Now let’s get on with the install. To install in default locations:

# make install
# make initialize-database

Now comes the fun part – configuring Apache with FastCGI. Enabling the module and restarting Apache isn’t necessary, because it should happen when you run aptitude, but we’ll do it just to be sure.

# apt-get install libapache2-mod-fastcgi
# a2enmod fastcgi
# service apache2 restart

We’ll put together the configuration file for Apache:

# nano -w /etc/apache2/sites-available/001-requesttracker.conf

Copy and paste the following:

# Tell FastCGI to put its temporary files somewhere sane; this may
# be necessary if your distribution doesn't already set it
#FastCgiIpcDir /tmp

FastCgiServer /opt/rt4/sbin/rt-server.fcgi -processes 5 -idle-timeout 300

<VirtualHost *:80>
 ### Optional apache logs for RT
 # Ensure that your log rotation scripts know about these files
 # ErrorLog /opt/rt4/var/log/apache2.error
 # TransferLog /opt/rt4/var/log/apache2.access
 # LogLevel debug

 ServerName rt4.example.com

 AddDefaultCharset UTF-8

 ScriptAlias / /opt/rt4/sbin/rt-server.fcgi/

 DocumentRoot "/opt/rt4/share/html"
 <Location />
 #Order allow,deny
 #Allow from all
 Require all granted

 Options +ExecCGI
 AddHandler fastcgi-script fcgi
 </Location>
</VirtualHost>

It’s recommended that if RT4 is the only site you have running on this machine, that you disable the default site. You can do this with:

# a2dissite 000-default.conf

Then, we’ll enable the Apache configuration for RT4:

# a2ensite 001-requesttracker.conf
# service apache2 restart

Now, let’s visit your site: http://192.168.1.100. You should see the RT4 login screen. The default username and password is: root/password – CHANGE IT.

To receive e-mail into your RT4 installation, we’ll need to make a change to Exim, and add some info to the /etc/aliases file. We’ll do that now. First, we’ll run an initial config on Exim:

# dpkg-reconfigure exim4-config

We’ll want to set Exim to be an Internet site with mail sent and received via SMTP (unless you send through a Smarthost – you’ll need to to configure Exim for that – but it’s not hard). Enter your system’s public IP address (or the IP address on your ethernet card when asked, and the domain you’re using if you’ll receive e-mail that is destined for this server only. When asked if you want to split the config into small files, I’d always recommend NO.

Now, we’ll want to create the file exim4.conf.localmacros and add a line:

# nano -w /etc/exim4.conf.localmacros

Add and save:

SYSTEM_ALIASES_PIPE_TRANSPORT = address_pipe

Restart Exim:

# service exim4 restart

Let’s add some lines to our /etc/aliases file:

# nano -w /etc/aliases

At the end of the file, add:

rt: "|/opt/rt4/bin/rt-mailgate --queue general --action correspond --url http://localhost"
rt-comment: "|/opt/rt4/bin/rt-mailgate --queue general --action comment --url http://localhost"

We should be all set with configuration … let’s give it a shot! If you were to send an e-mail to rt@rt4.example.com right now, RT will reject the e-mail because of settings in your queue. Before we get to those settings, lets make some adjustments to RT’s config file to ensure it’s working properly. In the /opt/rt4/etc/RT_SiteConfig.pm file add/edit the following:

Set( $rtname, 'conflux' );
Set( $Organization, 'prism.confluxtech.net' );
Set( $CorrespondAddress, 'rt@prism.confluxtech.net' );
Set( $CommentAddress, 'rt-comment@prism.confluxtech.net' );
Set( $WebDomain, 'prism.confluxtech.net' );

To fix this, let’s adjust the queue settings. Log in to your RT instance, hover over Admin -> Queues, and click Select. Once the page loads, click General, and then look on the far right and click Group Rights. On this page, set Everyone and Unprivileged to have the following options checked under the General tab:

Comment on tickets
Create tickets
Reply to tickets
View ticket summaries

Now, the last thing to do is to restart Apache:

# service apache2 restart

Send an e-mail to rt@rt4.example.com (remember to change this to your domain), and you should see a ticket created, and get an automated response from RT!

Coming soon will be some configuration of RT, and how I’ve been working to integrate it into a project I’m working on now. Stay tuned!

3,120 Miles

At the end of March, I set out on a journey that would take me from concrete and busyness of San Francisco, California to the quiet nature of North Carolina – a journey that took a week and brought us through some of amazing parts of these great United States. But, I’ve had a lot of questions about what brought me to make that decision, what the drive was for me, and if I was actually happy with the choice.

Some time ago, I decided to “leave” my job in order to “pursue other opportunities and challenges”. Doing this gave me great opportunity to be selective about my next venture, and make some really informed decisions about where I wanted to go. In that search for something better than what I had just left, it became very clear that having my previous employer on my resume was nothing more than wearing a scarlet letter every time I applied for a position in the bay area. It became even more evident when I had recruiters tell me that very thing. So, something needed to change – my career path, or my location. I love what I do, and I love having the opportunity to continue to grow – something I never was overly successful at, at my last job – but not for a lack of effort.

The choice was made that I’d pick up and move across the country to the Raleigh area of North Carolina. There is a ton of tech moving into the area, the cost of living is cheaper, and there’s less of a rat race. Boy, was I right.

Everyone wants better, no one wants change.

Aside from the professional reasons, I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to make this move with someone who is not only my best friend, but the foundation of my drive and my being. I get to share in this life changing experience with someone whom I love and care about more than life itself, and the opportunities this will give us are infinite.

So, am I happy about this change? More than I could ever express in words. Am I excited about the change? Beyond compare. Is there any nervousness or reservation? Of course. I’m in a new area where I don’t know many (I know maybe 4 people here?) people or what’s going on completely.

This journey wouldn’t have been the same without the support of family and friends. We had a great friend and my mom along for the journey. We had our ups and downs along the way, but at the end of it all – we couldn’t have done it without them.

I’m ready for the next chapter. It’s time to get started. Are you writing your own book … or are you letting someone else write it for you?

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