A Day in the Life of a Civil Engineer – Day 47

Day 47

As I had mentioned yesterday I took a vacation day on Thursday so I could attend the student-parent day at my daughter’s middle school. But back at work today! And after today, I’m ready to say lock me in a dark, lonely room and hang a sign on the door with a big “IT!” Wow, did we ever get into running down some IT-related issues today. Read on to hear our problem, and how we went about discovering the solution!

First, some background!

Our engineering division oversees the GIS for the city. And we are in the process of structuring GIS so that we are primarily responsible for the geospatial part of GIS and each city department is responsible for the data side of it. We have set up a GIS team for the city, and each department has identified someone who is their team member and GIS liason. That person most likely will have GIS software on their computer and will be responsible for representing and managing the GIS data for that department.

And, now the problem

In addition to managing the geospatial side of GIS, we also manage the server and the web applications. And yesterday, my supervisor emailed me to let me know the web map was down. This had happened once before, and the GIS technician had to create a new web map to fix the problem. This time, she tried to just edit the existing map rather than create yet another map, but she could not save her changes. So I tried logging in and editing the map discovering that the software allowed me to do so. But it would not take my changes because it said it was locked out by another account. She mentioned that the only thing she could think of that was different was that our Windows system had required her to change her password recently. So I told her to ask our IT department to change it back so we could see if that was it.

The research

In the meantime, I started researchig the error displayed when I had tried to edit the map. It appeared to have something to do with the user and permissions. It seems that when a user creates a web application, a config file is created that tells the app how to perform. Because the app must access data to display on the map, it must do so by “pretending” to be one of us. So the user name and password of the map creator is captured and stored in encrypted form in this config file.

And of course, the trial and error phase

So to test this, I made a copy of our map and edited the config file as directed in these instructions adding in my username and password. And although this sounds easy, the instructions are not as straight forward as they need to be for someone doing this for the first time. It took me longer than I liked to figure out on my own exactly what to keep or delete in the original file. Also, the fact I had copied the text from the instructions to paste into the file messed me up until I realized the quote marks had not copied over as quotes even though they looked like it. Once I got everything as it needed to be, the map worked!

The root of the problem

At this point, I found out from the GIS tech that the IT person told her he didn’t need to change her password back because there was no way it had anything to do with our problem. But based on what I had found and tried, it appeared it has everything to do with the problem. And it seems to have explained some other issues we’ve seen over the past year with files being locked out. Apparently certain functions in the software lock in that username and password so when it changes, the file locks up for any other user.

And finally, the FIX!

Finally, the GIS tech remembered she could go in and change her password back from the log out screen. So when she did this, the original map came back online. Yay! It might have taken most of our day, but we solved our problem and in doing so learned more about how everything is connnected.

Whenever there is a problem like this, it always makes me think of the funny video, “The Website is Down.” I embedded it below although I have to add the following – please read before you view:

WARNING: If you choose to view this, you should be over 18 and not offended by foul, risque language or comments and violence that could be found offensive by some.


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