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Wasting The Big Bucks

This is just wrong. This should never happen. This is just entirely too easily and cheaply avoided.

From the Associated Press you get the very badly worded headline: Computer glitch causes 5-hour delays at LAX

LOS ANGELES – About 2,500 international passengers were stranded for as long as five hours Saturday on planes and in terminals at Los Angeles International Airport because a computer shutdown prevented them from passing through customs, authorities said.

The passengers were stranded in four airport terminals and on runways starting at about 1:30 p.m. because of a breakdown in a computer system that contains names of arriving passengers and law enforcement data about them including arrest warrants, said Mike Fleming, a Customs and Border Protection spokesman.

Authorities had begun using a backup system by 7:45 p.m. and were processing passengers in order of their arrival.

However, the system could only support half of the inspection booths normally used by customs officers, Fleming said.

First off, if you subtract 1:30 from 7:45 you get 6:15, not five hours. The five hours applies to the wait on the taxiways by passengers who arrived at 2:30PM when the terminals were full and couldn’t accept more people.

There is no explanation on why they waited over six hours before going to the back-up system, or why they don’t have a fault tolerant system in place with multiple servers and RAID mirroring on the hard drives. Badtux has a better system than Customs and Immigration at LAX!  I realize that pictures of the mighty Fang and ‘Tux’s Jeep are important, but this is just flat pathetic.

8 comments

1 Steve Bates { 08.12.07 at 12:21 am }

This is ridiculous.

I’ve done work on two large-scale systems that had to run 24×7, systems on which people could not only be mightily inconvenienced but also lose tons of money from extended outages. In both cases, my clients’ backup systems were awe-inspiring. In the case of one client, I was present one time when a widespread city power outage brought down their primary system; the well-thought-out procedure for bringing up the redundant system and getting it online was impressive, and downtime was measured in a small number of minutes, not hours.

So why the hell can’t Customs do something like that in LAX?

2 Bryan { 08.12.07 at 12:43 am }

It’s a damn database, not an accounting system– redundant servers and a RAID array. You could build the damn thing from parts in less than six hours.

I worked on one banking system, and the computer room lights wouldn’t dim if there was a city wide black out. They had a true UPS power system for the entire room with status lights indicating grid, battery, or generator power. They had three servers available in case of failure. It was a package, not a custom solution.

3 Cookie Jill { 08.12.07 at 11:15 am }

I prefer flying out of Burbank, although, the landing and take off are a little nerve racking as you have smaller planes, smaller runway and closer proximity to houses.

But, you have smaller lines and crowds.

4 Bryan { 08.12.07 at 1:23 pm }

Just another reason for people not to fly to the US. If that had happened to my Mother, someone would have been wearing her cane as a necktie.

5 Mustang Bobby { 08.12.07 at 4:05 pm }

Patrick Smith at Salon.com’s “Ask the Pilot” has a posting about airlines that brag to their customers about flying around the world and not flying through the U.S.

As he asks, “What have we come to?”

6 Bryan { 08.12.07 at 4:19 pm }

We have made it a pretty bad situation for anyone to visit and we are paying the price on the Gulf Coast, because the Canadians and Germans just aren’t coming in the numbers we need during the winter.

7 Badtux { 08.12.07 at 5:48 pm }

One of the three hotels in Death Valley National Park just had to lay off an employee with 15 years tenure because the German tourists no longer wish to brave the U.S. airports. For tourism it’s past the point of cutting off fat, now they’re having to cut off muscle because of the DHS goons terrorizing foreign tourists so badly. So it’s not just Florida’s tourism that’s hurting, it’s everybody. Used to be the most common language you heard in Death Valley in the summertime was German. Now… well, probably still German (masochistic krauts want to experience 120F temperatures up close and personal, having lived in Arizona and experienced 115F temperatures up close and personal I gotta say they’re screwed up in the head). Just not so many of them.

8 Bryan { 08.12.07 at 8:11 pm }

The Canadians would show up just after the prices dropped at the end of summer and stay 6 months. There’s a local AM station that carries the CBC news on the hour. Now they can’t stay more than a few months because of the changes.

The Germans were swimming in the Gulf when it was 50°.

There are more Russians, but not in the numbers of the Germans, and they don’t spend money like the Germans.

The things is that these people bought time-shares and condos, so the real estate market has been slammed. If you bought a condo thinking the rents would cover the costs, you’re screwed.