back to article Cisco restores evidence of its funniest FAIL – ethernet cable presses switch's reset button

Cisco watchers may recall that the company is infamous for two particularly odd bug reports. One attributes networking glitches to “cosmic radiation” or “Terrestrial high energy cosmic particles, neutrons, protons, pions and muons.” The other points out that “Certain types of snagless Ethernet cables have protective boots …

  1. Andy Taylor

    Who buys those cables?

    Anyone who wants to keep the locking tab on the end of the cable.

    1. Giles C Bronze badge

      Re: Who buys those cables?

      In a comms rack that shouldn’t be an issue.

      I prefer non booted cables as trying to pull 48 booted ones when swapping a switch out is a nasty job, some of those boots appear to be made out of vulcanised rubber.

      Out on the floor maybe, but once a cable is in then the only thing that causes the tag to break it when you replace the cable (at which point it is probably already broken).

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Who buys those cables?

      Probably nobody.

      Given the way that cables mysteriously breed (there's no other possible explanation) new and completely incompatible cables or knot themselves into configurations which are topologically impossible from the original, tidy configurations, they're perfectly capable of growing their own hoods after being fitted.

      Cables are an alien life-form.

      1. swm Silver badge

        Re: Who buys those cables?

        I once saw a couple of operators working a cord board exchange. You wouldn't believe the complexity of the cable tangle. The operators would be gossiping while interrupting with "Number Please." They would occasionally have to carefully unthread a cable to tear down a connection.

        1. ICPurvis47 Bronze badge
          Boffin

          Re: Who buys those cables?

          When I was in the Services, I was sometimes Switchboard Operator, and although we only had about 25 lines, by the end of the shift, the plugboard looked like a plate of spaghetti stuck on a wall.

      2. Captain Scarlet Silver badge
        Alien

        Re: Who buys those cables?

        All your cables belong to us.

        1. Tessier-Ashpool

          Re: Who buys those cables?

          “All your cable are belong to us“

  2. RegGuy1 Silver badge

    Webex?

    Cisco, aren't they the crowd that makes webex?

    'nuff said.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Webex?

      No, they are the ones that waved the big bundle of cash in front of the people who made webex, bought the company, the same founders all fled out and created Zoom instead.

  3. ComputerSays_noAbsolutelyNo
    FAIL

    Who designs such cables?

    While it is perfectly obvious that the connector itself needs to be standardized, there should also be a standard for surrounding space which may or may not be taken up by accessories, e.g. protective hoods or wings.

    Otherwise we end up with incompatible, compatible equippment.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Who designs such cables?

      The British BS1363 plug has an insulation safety zone around the pins as part of the specification. I'm surprised that this wasn't considered in Ethernet plug design.

      1. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Bronze badge

        Re: Who designs such cables?

        You don't run 240v with 16 amps across those cables. No extra space needed.

        That doesn't mean that there were too many cases in the past when 240v did run over the ground shielding of that cables though, causes funny effects. Usually an electrician failed to do the phases in the server room correct, or within the house at all.

      2. Martin an gof Silver badge

        Re: Who designs such cables?

        The British BS1363 plug...

        Part of the reason for that zone is to prevent the insertion of plugs upside-down - i.e. using the earth pin to open the shutters on the L&N. Unfortunately, this safety feature seems to have passed the makers of many multi-gang extension leads by, and most such leads omit the zone above the E pin in the interests of a more compact product. By rights - I believe - they shouldn't be able to claim compliance with the standards.

        This one's probably ok

        This one pretty definitely isn't

        </gripe>

        M.

        1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

          Re: prevent the insertion of plugs upside-down

          Whoops, I'm guilty.

          It's the lesser of other evils though, such as removing an earth pin from another plug and sticking that in, or using a screwdriver.

          I've always regarded MK as the "bellwether" for mains electrical stuff - if they do something "then it must be ok".

          (Reminds me of an advert of theirs they used to run in electrician's magazines which showed a big pile of discarded MK packaging in a corner. The slogan was "you can tell the quality of an electrician by the mess they make").

    2. KarMann Bronze badge
      Flame

      Re: Who designs such cables?

      And that goes double for USB. I hate finding I can't plug two things in next to each other on a laptop with only a scant few USB ports because of the Pauli exclusion principle (loosely interpreted).

  4. Len Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Either way

    With or without that hood, the reset button is too close to the port. I often have to change these things on the touch and the risk of pressing that button with your finger would be too big if you ask me. I understand why it's not recessed (as you some times need to press reset on the touch) but keeping it as far away from the ports as possible would make sense.

    1. Fred Dibnah Silver badge

      Re: Either way

      In the original advisory, Cisco said the problem was due to a 'problematic connector'. Nothing to do with the button being in a stupid place, no siree.

    2. TRT Silver badge

      Re: Either way

      You're holding the cables wrong, obviously.

      But as to why someone would want a locking tab protector... give it a few years and the patching and re-patching activity will have woven 24 of the 48 cables into a kind of rope. If you then need to withdraw a foot or so of one strand of this rope in order to reach a different port or socket, say a new bank of sockets has been added during renovation works or because the original space was under specified, then you have a choice of

      1) putting in a new, longer patch cable and leaving the old patch cable in place as a free floating end (this seems to be the usual approach!)

      2) unwinding a bit of the twist by pulling the ends back through the knotted, live, rest of the bunch - therein lies the risk to the locking tab as you pull it back through say a dozen pinch points.

      3) removing the whole of the old patch cable, binning it and replacing it. Whilst this might be the tidiest and "gold standard" approach, you're bound to be asked why the job took an hour longer than the guesstimate and involved additional items on the bill of materials (new patch cable).

      1. lglethal Silver badge
        Angel

        Re: Either way

        "You're holding the cables wrong, obviously."

        Come now, this isn't Apple were talking about here...

        1. eswan

          Re: Either way

          But they both run iOS

      2. DrewWyatt

        Re: Either way

        I got banned from doing any patching at one of my previous roles.

        I had 3 servers to patch in, and 3 adjacent ports to plug them in to at the weekend. At least 3 times a day the week before the infrastructure chap warned me that the cabling had to be neat and tidy. So I braided them. Nice and neat and tidy.

      3. eldakka Silver badge

        Re: Either way

        But as to why someone would want a locking tab protector... give it a few years and the patching and re-patching activity will have woven 24 of the 48 cables into a kind of rope. If you then need to withdraw a foot or so of one strand of this rope in order to reach a different port or socket, say a new bank of sockets has been added during renovation works or because the original space was under specified, then you have a choice of

        This is why I keep a roll of tape (the narrow-width office-type, not duct-tape) on top of my switches at home. When I unplug a cable, if I'm going to pull it I'll wrap some tape over the tab. This is for 'hobbyist'/home/office-type work. I imagine doing it at scale (say an entire 48-port switch like you noted) would be quite tedious taping that many tabs.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @eldakka - Re: Either way

          And then waste additional time peeling off the tape from each connector. You know, there are only two types of tape, the one that doesn't stick and the one that doesn't peel off. It has happened to me.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Either way

        4) realize that Monoprice sells inexpensive cables and your time is expensive, so you cut off the end of the the offending cable, making it easier to remove. Once done, you promise to be more careful and tidy when adding/moving cables in the future (after the one I just plugged in, I swear!)

        1. TRT Silver badge

          Re: Either way

          Or get one of those self tidying cable trays with the spring loaded thingies that work a bit like a horizontal version of the old telephone plug boards.

      5. Clunking Fist Bronze badge

        Re: Either way

        I'll go with 1): new cable. But I'd cut off the ends of the old one and at least attempt to pull it back through the knot.

    3. seven of five Silver badge

      Re: Either way

      In their (partial - it still is an inconvenient place) defense, it is a mode button for the blinkenlights. It only becomes a reset button when you keep it pressed.

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: Either way

        They could have put it in-between the sockets below instead of directly above!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Either way

          In a 48-port 1U switch with uplink ports, there isn't a lot of space above or below and Cisco's choice to use uplink modules to support 1Gbps/10Gbps uplinks limits removes the option of space at the right of the switch (looking from the front).

          They could have moved the button further to the left but space is very tight if you take the case off and see where everything is located. But I would also speculate that Cisco never contemplated this being a design issue as the could have done a little more to give them the mm or so they needed.

          1. TRT Silver badge

            Re: Either way

            Move it to the right 0.5 of an RJ45 width is what I meant.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Either way

              I'm not sure what you mean. The problem is that it sits above the RJ45 socket so moving it to the right a little puts to the right of the cable boot instead of the left. Assuming we are looking at the front of the switch/port side. And as you move it further it starts to sit over port 3 instead of port 1.

              If you move it more to the left, its no longer directly over the top of any of the ports but is approaching the left hand wall of the case.

              1. TRT Silver badge

                Re: Either way

                Do you see where it says STAT / SYST?

                There.

                Admittedly SOME snag-less booted cables with particularly square boots might still cause an issue, but the one depicted in the diagram would be clear of the button due to its narrowness and the rounded corners..

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: Either way

                  "Do you see where it says STAT / SYST?"

                  Yes - thats where I thought you meant. Above any of the ports is the issue so moving it right wouldn't resolve the issue IMHO.

      2. J. Cook Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: Either way

        Wellll....... sort of.

        If it's in a stack and the mode button is depressed for long enough, that switch will reboot, and eventually get it's configuration back from the stack's primary (aka master) switch- unless that was the primary, in which case, you had a backup, right?

        There's actually multiple uses for that button:

        Press and release cycles the port lights into various functions as indicated by the mode lights. (activity, speed, PoE, stack number) Press n hold for 3 seconds reboots it and it'll go into express setup mode if it's not already configured. Longer than that (~7 seconds or more) and it'll factory reset- if you are lucky, the version of IOS that's installed will rename the configuration instead of deleting it...

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Either way

      Pressing the button while the switch is active doesn't cause a reset - it cycles through the different LED display modes.

      The problem comes when the switch is restarted when holding the button for 15 (I think...) seconds causes it to enter recovery mode which then requires manual commands or a further power cycle to restart.

      Customers generally discover this issue when they have a power outage and a problematic cable.

      In terms of who is at fault, it's clearly a Cisco design fault but having said that the number of affected devices is relatively small because most customers don't use wiring closet cabling with problematic boots so I can understand it being missed in QA.

      Out of the thousands (literally) of these switches I have been responsible for managing across international sites, I haven't seen this issue and we have almost no input into local cabling standards as it is usually part of a building fit out rather than ITs responsibility. The real design flaw in these switches is the stupid install/bundle firmware modes that catch out so many people and cause remote switches to either fail to upgrade automatically or just fail to boot into a stack or not boot at all.

      1. sanmigueelbeer Silver badge

        Re: Either way

        The real design flaw in these switches is the stupid install/bundle firmware modes that catch out so many people

        Which ones? The Install/Bundle Mode command in 3.X or the command in 16.X.X?

        Seriously, the real design flaw is the lack of memory. This is why Converged Access is disabled after 16.3.X because there is not enough memory resources.

  5. Dan 55 Silver badge

    USB/console ports

    Nah, we don't need to be able to plug things in there either.

  6. Danny 2 Silver badge

    Cisco is just getting old

    I stayed up late last night to watch two episodes of "World's Most Evil Kittens" on Sky Crime. What a disappointment. World's Most Evil Killers.

    On the plus side I now have a great programme idea. Plus the follow up, World's Most Evil Puppies.

  7. sanmigueelbeer Silver badge

    This is the same issue with first generation of Nexus 7K and the "eject" lever -- the developers came up with a "nerd knob" to disable the eject levers.

  8. DS999

    I hate those boots with a passion

    Some of them are really damn difficult to unplug because you have to squeeze it just the right place, and with quite a lot of force, to get it to disengage. I'd much rather have to be careful about avoiding snags (or if I can't just tug really damn hard, break the flange, and replace the connector) than deal with the snagless boots.

    1. DougMac

      Re: I hate those boots with a passion

      Double down on this.

      I have to start jamming screw drivers in there in order to get some of the stiff plastic to release. Although I have ended up with unsuable switch ports because I couldn't get one of those stupid cables out of the port without more destruction than I wanted to attempt.

      I've never had a tab break off unless I was trying to yank it back through 10'++ of tray.

      In that case, I usually destroy the cable anyway, because screw it, my time is too valuable to sit and unbraid a single cable at a time through the tray. Just snip the end, pull it through, buy another.

      It seems like its only there to pacify people that they spent $25 on this one cable it must last forever and reused 1000 times. Instead, buy 25 of the $1 cable and have extra on hand.

      1. DS999

        Re: I hate those boots with a passion

        I've never been unable to remove one. I think once or twice I had to cut it flush with the connector then use a needle nose plier to crush it from behind since it apparently required Hulk-like thumb strength.

        Maybe someone deliberately makes these bastards as the equivalent of child proof medicine caps but for the kind of consumer who knows nothing about tech but think unplugging/replugging cables might help and will end up re-connecting to the wrong port half the time.

  9. tip pc Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Not a ROUTER or a HUB

    "Or in other words, putting an ethernet cable into a router can put that router into and endless spiral of FAIL. Which given that the whole point of a router is to have cables plugged into it, is a less-than-optimal situation."

    Its a sodding SWITCH for gods sake. It may have L3 abilities but its not a ROUTER & don't even think about calling it a HUB.

    1. Stuart Castle Silver badge

      Re: Not a ROUTER or a HUB

      Re: Its a sodding SWITCH for gods sake. It may have L3 abilities but its not a ROUTER & don't even think about calling it a HUB.

      It is a switch. Routerrs are quite different beasts, and the router in a corporate environment may in a different room, or even a different building. Even at home, TBH, what are marketed as routers are actually combinations of routers and switches.

      1. KarMann Bronze badge
        Flame

        Re: Not a ROUTER or a HUB

        Not to mention the typical 'cable modem', which is debatably a modem (unlike its DSL brethren), but usually also a bridge, router, and switch or maybe hub.

  10. RM Myers Silver badge
    WTF?

    Why is this even worth an article

    Okay, it is Monday, which probably means my brain is functioning at no more than 10% of normal, but this seems like an extremely trivial article. Cisco had a bug report from 2013 with an accompanying image showing the problem. The link to the image was broken, so Cisco updated the bug report to fix the link. Good for Cisco.

    I have been building a new computer and swapping parts between several others the last two weeks, and I have run into several issues where there were published how-to's on the manufacturer's website but the accompanying images, videos. or linked articles were broken (404's). HP seemed to be particularly bad about this if the original how-to was over 3 years old. I would have greatly appreciated them actually keeping their website links current. So again, kudos to Cisco for not abandoning their customer support after 7 years.

  11. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

    "Snagless Cables"

    Cables without snags?

    Surely "boot cables" would be a more appropriate name?

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    MS KB Articles

    I am struggling to find them now, but at one point there was a list of classic comedy gold KB articles from Microsoft for genuine products. A couple that stick in mind are "Blendolini choco milkshake hang" and "Sometimes interactive Barney plays Peek A Boo on his own".

    There is of course always this one: http://bulgier.net/Q209354.htm

  13. tcmonkey

    The entire industry should just switch to the 8 pin LEMO connectors we used to use for industrial grade ethernet? What's that, you don't want your cables to cost at least $100 each? Pffft, amateurs.

    In all seriousness though, this is pretty dumb. Did they not test the switch design on cables in the market? (clearly not, I'd wager)

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