God didn't want me to reload the OS on a customer server, though it wasn't apparent right away that this was going to be such an involved process. This was to be a routine reloading of Fedora Core 5 - how hard could it be?
Scenarios: customer's office working late (by myself), a stack of 5 Dell PowerEdge servers that were quite old but still entirely functional. All were purchased in 2000, were no longer under warranty (Dell apparently won't sell extended warranty coverage for servers past 5 years). One machine simply needed an upgrade from Red Hat 9 to something newer, so I was to wipe and reload. Did a quick network backup of the data, rebooted the machine and pushed the eject button on the CD-ROM to load the first disc.
Or not. Heard a small buzzing sound for about the right amount of time, but no ejectage was seen. Hmmm. Used the paperclip eject method, and one end of a rubber drive belt popped out. Guess that belt reached end of life - it happens, I'll just swap one of the other units in.
Or not. All five units had the same failure - not a working CD-ROM in the stack. Well that's sure a nasty turn, but no matter: I had just bought a new USB CD-ROM drive and had it in my car.
Or not. This "new" unit purchased from Fry's was in fact a customer return, and it had a sticker on the side noting the condition of the product: "Missing USB cable". How about that! I'll just scrounge around the office for a USB cable and get cracking.
Or not. Scoured the IT supply cabinet and all over the office - not a spare USB cable in the place. Not a lot of choices at the office supply store, but found one suitable. Returned ready to reload.
Or not. These old PowerEdge units simply do not support USB booting - Dell added that a generation or two later. Well ok, so we'll just replace the drives: cheap CD-ROM drives suitable for OS loading couldn't be more than $40-$50, right? And they can be picked up at the office supply place.
Or not. These are SCSI units, not IDE, and are more expensive and harder to find. At this point I decided that God won this round, so I headed home.
I had a few old SCSI CD-ROM drives on my shelf, and was able to return another day to complete the job, but the string of hurdles (especially all five NEC CD-ROM units failing the same way) was something I'd certainly not have been able to plan for.