The Problem is Always the Cable: My 2015 High School Internship

It always feels friendlier, in my opinion, to write essays and articles as though I were in conversation with my readers.1

So hello! I’m Daroc Alden, a freshman at the University of New Hampshire and a Test Technician in the IOL’s AVnu Testing Services.2 I was recently asked to write a blog post about my internship experience during the summer of 2015. Although I am writing this 18 months after my internship, and so my memories might be faulty and fleeting, here are some of my most important memories:

I was scared at first. It was my first time living away from home3, living in the city4, and actually working in my chosen field of Computer Science. Although it was difficult at first, I am very glad that I took the chance. Everyone at the IOL was helpful and friendly, and I quickly adjusted  to my new routine.

On the walk home from work, I saw a deer once. I have seen deer5 before, of course - growing up in the country tends to facilitate that - but this one was only about 4 feet away. We stared at each other for 15 seconds before the deer bounded away. That’s one of the nice things about Durham, where the IOL is located: the wildlife is used to all the college students, making them quite approachable.6

When I started as an intern the lab was located 2 miles off campus on the 3rd floor of the Goss Building. There was excellent hot chocolate in the break room - about 10 feet from the desk where I worked with my fellow AVnu interns, Griffin and Raghav. I drank a lot of hot chocolate, sometimes just to have an excuse to stand up and take a quiet walk to get my focus back.7 When I started as a UNH student the lab had moved to their new location8; one of the many great things about it is how spacious it is, and how quiet it can get. My fellow interns were all lovely people, but it was a little crowded and noisy in the IOL’s old location. I was lucky enough to be one of the last people to work in the old location before moving here, so I can appreciate the contrast. I was also lucky enough not to have to help with the move, which happened the winter after my internship.9

I have learned that the problem is always the cable.10

In between trips to industry companies, helping and being helped by the other interns, and learning from the people who are now my colleagues, I got to work on actually implementing an automated script that was used to test vendor devices. I implemented a test for gPTP11​ that ensured that devices would correctly handle leap seconds, as well as working on other projects and skills, such as putting on demos, and helping with editorial work. We are actually re-writing our gPTP tests now, to run on Violett, our updated test tool. So in a way, I’m continuing my work from when I was an intern.

I learned many skills during my internship at the IOL, some of which I use everyday - professional writing, practical use of ticketing systems, writing clear code - and some which were and are simply fun - TCL, understandable computing, and how to make really good hot chocolate.12

Being an intern was fun - I liked a lot of what I did and still do at the IOL. Being an intern was hard - 40 hour work weeks are exhausting until you adapt to them. Being an intern was useful - doing a good job almost guaranteed my current employment in AVnu. Your experience certainly isn’t going to mirror mine,13 but if you have a free summer, consider an internship at the IOL.14

1Although I have a bad habit of non-linear thought, which comes through in the form of a lot of footnotes. Ever since reading A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, by David Foster Wallace, I have a much deeper appreciation for footnotes.​
​​2AVnu stands for Audio Visual mumble mumble - basically, we test high-precision networked audio-visual equipment, although we are looking to expand into automotive and industrial equipment as well.
3In the excellent Waysmeet center. Since I was underage, I couldn’t stay in University housing. Luckily, there is a lot of non-UNH affiliated housing on or near campus.
4People native to the south of New Hampshire assure me that Durham is not a ‘city’. It still felt that way to me, because I grew up in the middle of the woods.
5I think it was a doe, but I’m not certain.
6Although I hate how bold the squirrels become. I call them tree-rats.

7I deny any allegations that I was just as chatty as anyone else.
8In Madbury Commons, 5 minutes and 45 seconds walk (on average), from my dorm.
9My colleagues tell me that because there was no way to fit many things into the elevator, that most of the IOL’s desks, servers, etc. had to be carried down three flights of stairs to get them here.
10First, check the power cable. Then check the network cable. Then complain to Griffin that it still isn’t working. Griffin will check the power cable and network cable, and be similarly confused. Realize that you are looking at the wrong device, and the one that you are actually testing *is* unplugged. Sigh.
11The Generalized Precision Time Protocol. Despite the name, gPTP is actually a less general adaptation of the Precision Time Protocol to specific network environments. I still don’t know why they named it that.
12Add half-and-half - it makes the hot chocolate creamier.
13Griffin and I had very different experiences. He lives close enough to commute from home every day. I would occasionally bum rides off of him when I missed the last bus. I’m glad I didn’t do that on the day I saw the deer.
14When they ask if there’s any area you’d like to work in, ask for AVnu. We’re quite friendly, hardly ever bite, and have a lot of interesting tasks that we need help with.