FAIL - the most incompetent IT pros

This topic was created by Drewc .

  1. Drewc Gold badge

    FAIL - the most incompetent IT pros

    Commentards! We are researching an article on incompetent IT pros. What is the most stupid FAIL you have seen from a co-worker or ... cough ... what is the most stupid mistake you have made. This could make a good story - but we need your help to make it fly.

  2. Inachu

    Re: FAIL - the most incompetent IT pros

    15 years ago I was hired to be an IT admin.

    The dress code was to wear business suit and tie and dress shoes.

    Every day I was killing computers just by touching them.

    Lesson learned? Do not wear leather bottomed soles.

  3. jake Silver badge

    Re: FAIL - the most incompetent IT pros

    In my mind, accepting a position where the dress code didn't actually match the operating requirements is the fail ...

  4. Mephistro Silver badge

    Re: FAIL - the most incompetent IT pros

    " Do not wear leather bottomed soles."

    Or alternatively call an electrician and have him fix your mains grounding. ;-)

    I tell you this 'cos I sometimes use my leather soles as an 'electrician's bollocks detector'. Sometimes I even did it on intent!

    XD <--- That's me suffering a mild electric shock

  5. jake Silver badge

    @Mephistro (was: Re: FAIL - the most incompetent IT pros)

    Has nothing to do with mains grounding. Has to do with lack of human grounding. I've personally measured 61,750ish volts on an empty, unused Styrofoam coffee cup set down on an isolated table after a colleague walked across a nylon carpet wearing Nikes ... That's more than enough to cock up a CPU. HiPot is one of my favorite destructive testing "what if" games ;-)

    As a side note, most gas(petrol) station pump fires seem to be caused by females with man-made fiber underwear getting back into their cars after starting the fuel flow ... and then not grounding themselves before getting close to the fumes surrounding the fuel-flap when completing the scenario.

    Static electricity can be a bitch.

  6. TeeCee Gold badge

    Re: @Mephistro (was: FAIL - the most incompetent IT pros)

    Pump fires. Yup, I recall "Brainiac" doing this on TV.

    They took on the "Do mobile phones really present a risk at petrol stations?" thing. The technique they adopted was to slosh a shedload of petrol around inside a caravan and then ring a mobile left inside it.

    Nothing happened.

    They tried with ever increasing numbers of mobiles rung simultaneously and got nothing.

    Then, in a fit of pique, they ran a copper wire from just shy (spark gap) of the caravan's stove to outside and got some bloke to stand in a plastic bucket while wearing a nylon shell suit and jiggle about for a bit. Finally they handed him the end of the copper wire:


  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: FAIL - the most incompetent IT pros

    And to think my boss disallowed "non-static shoes" on my expenses after a trip to US clients. tsk tsk tsk.

  8. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    Re: @Mephistro (was: FAIL - the most incompetent IT pros)

    "As a side note, most gas(petrol) station pump fires seem to be caused by females with man-made fiber underwear getting back into their cars after starting the fuel flow"

    How can you get into a car while simultaneously filling the fuel tank? Must have arms like Mr Tickle.

  9. jake Silver badge

    @J.G.Harston(was:Re: @Mephistro (was: FAIL - the most incompetent IT pros))

    "How can you get into a car while simultaneously filling the fuel tank?"

    Have you ever actually fueled a motor vehicle? Start fuel flow, lock the valve open (until it detects too much back-pressure and shuts off automatically, of course), get back into vehicle. It ain't rocket science. Most sane people use the time to clean the windows/lights/mirrors instead of updating farcebook/twatter and/or touching up makeup.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: @J.G.Harston(was:@Mephistro (was: FAIL - the most incompetent IT pros))

    Fuel pumps in the UK do not have locking valves. You have to hold the trigger continuously while filling.

  11. jcitron

    Re: @J.G.Harston(was:@Mephistro (was: FAIL - the most incompetent IT pros))

    Where I live in New England, we don't have that however I have travelled elsewhere in the US and other states have it.

    The biggest advantage of having a gas nozzle lock is to keep the hands from freezing to the metal handle when it's below zero with a 35 mph wind on to of that!

    Just getting in and out of my Jeep Liberty, I have felt a good zap! The cloth seats really build up a nice charge!

  12. Known Hero

    Re: @J.G.Harston(was:@Mephistro (was: FAIL - the most incompetent IT pros))

    @Fuel pumps in the UK do not have locking valves. You have to hold the trigger continuously while filling.

    Try the diesel pumps where the vans and trucks fill up, they lock even in the UK :)


    Re: FAIL - the most incompetent IT pros

    booked for a site visit at 2pm (very civilised) because their sister company was not available until that time as they are in a different time zone. Big problem with one user not having access to corporate database despite much trouble shooting by inhouse techs. Arrived at users computer and discovered they did not have access to anything as their ethernet cable had been disconnected when they moved their computer to a desk a little further away. . .

  14. jcitron

    Re: @Mephistro (was: FAIL - the most incompetent IT pros)

    Some petrol pump nozzles have a locking-prop to keep the gasoline flowing without the person needing to hold on to the handle.

    When these come in handy is when it's really, really cold and windy. Go sit in the car until the handle "pops" and then you can finish up the transaction.

    Many of the stations have removed these additions to nozzles, and are pretty rare these days, but some still exist.

  15. Mephistro Silver badge

    Re: @Mephistro (was: FAIL - the most incompetent IT pros)(@ jake)

    Sorry for the delayed answer. Four years! That must be a record!

    The first time this happened to me I was a newcomer to professional IT. I had read articles (in paper magazines!) about electric issues and how they affected IT equipment.

    About a dozen new IBM XTs and ATs were misbehaving badly. Memory errors, HDD errors, shutdowns and the whatnot. Our techies had been visiting the customer's facilities for two weeks without any success. As I was beginning to get some fame in my employer as the official smart-ass who fixed hairy issues involving both hardware and software, I was sent to the client's facilities to try to identify and solve the issue.

    The building had been erected in the forties, the floor was made of stone tiles, with a metallic separation between the tiles. In my opinion, a kind of floor in which it's difficult to accumulate static.

    When I touched the computer I was zapped. I told the client to send in his in-house electrician to check the installation with a special focus in the grounding, and phone me later with the results.

    The in-house electrician claimed that everything was OK, so I went back the next day with my multimeter and found out that everything wasn't OK, as the earth wire was connected to one of the power wires. I seem to recall also that they obtained 220V50Hz by using two leads from a three wire plug, at least for part of the machines affected.

    After a chat with the "electrician" -for lack of a better name- and his superiors (sorry, that couldn't be prevented, though I tried to soften the pressure on the poor chap) they all agreed to adapt their electrical installation at least to second half of the 20th Century's standards. ;-)

    It took them a week, and when the fixes were finished I was called in to check if everything was OK. The PCs worked like a charm, and the plant manager invited me to a cup of coffee and offered me a job on the spot.

    I've had several similar cases and when carpets were involved, my advice was invariably to use an anti-static carpet (which were somehow common back then). One of these clients improvised a cheap workaround inserting wires and metal bands below the carpet, and the guy swears it worked!

    Anyway in all these cases the vast majority of problems vanished after updating the electric installation. And in all those cases I used myself as a multimeter. Masochism? Death wish?

    Again, sorry for the delay! :D

  16. jake Silver badge

    Re: @Mephistro (was: FAIL - the most incompetent IT pros)(@ jake)

    Still has nothing to do with mains grounding. Your scenario discusses why, exactly, hiring a non-certified electrician to save a few quid(bucks) is a fast way to quadruple your insurance premium ...

    There are no delays. This is TehIntraWebTubes. Time is suspended in these here parts.

    Beer. Just because it's been awhile :-)

  17. moiety

    Re: @Mephistro (was: FAIL - the most incompetent IT pros)(@ jake)

    Fuel pumps in the UK do not have locking valves. You have to hold the trigger continuously while filling.

    Ironically enough, a BIC lighter is the ideal size to jam in the gap and keep the pump going

  18. Conall O

    Re: @Mephistro (was: FAIL - the most incompetent IT pros)(@ jake)

    has it though? if time is suspended , then I guess you could say you had one, are having one, and will have one for an infinite period of time.

    Not that that's a problem , in fact I think i'l have a little taste...

  19. jake Silver badge

    Re: @Mephistro (was: FAIL - the most incompetent IT pros)(@ jake)

    Time is an illusion. Except at planting and harvesting time ...

  20. big_D Silver badge

    Re: FAIL - the most incompetent IT pros

    DEC engineer, early 80s. He came to do a memory upgrade on a VAX 11/780.

    The ops moved the load to the next machine in line, moved all the users over and shutdown the VAX.

    The DEC engineer then went behind the cabinets to turn off the power... Nothing happened... Nothing happened... Then the ops on the next machine, the one with all the extra jobs and users, started screaming! He'd thrown the jumper on the wrong cabinet!

    Mainframe sales guy: he delivered a test unit (big line of boxes) for a prolonged test, as we were looking to replace a bunch of VAX and ICL machines. He gave us a tape for the VAX, with the instructions, "put that on your test VAX, compile it with all optimizations, and run it. Run the job on th emainframe as well. Call me next week, when the mainframe is finished, the VAX will need about a month."

    With that, he disappeared back to his office. 2 hours later, when he got into his office, there was a message saying he should call us back.

    The VAX had finished the job in around 20 minutes, including compilation. It turned out, that, while the VAX lost out on grunt, its compiler had the smarts. It worked out that Input: none, processing: huge array that was filled with numbers from complex calculations, then dropped, output: none. Therefore it decided to optimise the processing out of the equation and finished straight away.

    Cue one red faced sales guy.

  21. big_D Silver badge

    Re: FAIL - the most incompetent IT pros

    In Germany, the sockets are sunk into the wall and they have to metal prongs sticking out to earth connections as the plug is pushed in i.e. the Earth attaches first, much like a UK plug, but the 2 prongs are exposed.

    This is handy-dandy when wanting to earth yourself before touching equipment...

    Except, I was in an office and lost balance, I reached out behind me and managed to clamp my thumb on the window sill and 2 fingers in a power socket, to stop me falling. Usually no problem. In this case, I got a wopping belt up my arm!

    I went to the electrical department and they wouldn't believe me, even though I couldn't move my arm! Then they came and tested the socket, the original electrician had wired a series together and in the middle, he had somehow managed to switch phase and earth! Somehow, over 15 years, nobody had used the socket to plug anything in! I was very lucky, I just got a hard belt in the arm, but otherwise OK.

  22. CameronB

    Re: FAIL - the most incompetent IT pros

    Recently new employee hired in our IT company as digital marketing manager and he does not anything about digital marketing and seo. He has good communication skills that is why boss hired him. Very surprisingly and demotivating for many others

  23. Martin Gregorie Silver badge

    The most incompetent contract programmer...

    ... I ever met was fired from the large Govt contract I was on a bit over 30 years ago. He evidently didn't know that a COBOL paragraph falls through to the next paragraph because all his paragraphs ended with GO TO NAME-OF-NEXT-PARAGRAPH. He was famous for arriving at work late, followed by working late and claiming overtime. Other contractors who knew him said that over several years he'd never been known to deliver a working program: he'd always managed to resign before his work was tested or inspected.

  24. BongoJoe Silver badge

    Re: The most incompetent contract programmer...

    If he went into telecoms, then I may have met him.

  25. Admiral Grace Hopper

    Re: The most incompetent contract programmer...

    That sounds horribly familiar. If he went into VB coding without managing to pick up the basics of event handling or being able to spell the word "Message" in text-box titles then my boss hired him and I fired him.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    depends on what you mean by incompetent...

    I used to work with a person who did the same thing every day. He'd park in the office lot (but worked in the manufacturing building), walk to his desk (about 1/8mi) stopping for coffee on the way. Once there, he'd check his email and then drink coffee and read the newspaper until lunchtime. He'd go go lunch (probably... corporate security never said) and not return until 4:30, in time to finish the paper, have another cup of coffee, and then leave for home at the end of the day.

    And he did this every day, but no one really knew how long this had been going on.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: depends on what you mean by incompetent...

    That's not incompetence, that's genius if you can pull it off. Or gross misconduct from the boss' POV.

  28. jake Silver badge

    Re: depends on what you mean by incompetent...

    That is incompetence. Gross incompetence, in fact, on the part of his management. Who hopefully also got the sack ... but probably didn't, alas.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: depends on what you mean by incompetent...

    Muahaha I got away with that for 3 month at one place. All my boss wanted was a progress report on his desk each morning for some reason they thought this would take up my hole day, 5 minutes and that included tea and biscuits and it was done. I still cringe when I see serious(oil in this case) companies using spreadsheets as databases, but I was soon unburdened of these thoughts on my way home for breakfast. Always made sure there was plenty supplies at the tea station before I left though! Right behind my desk it was.

  30. Blofeld's Cat

    Back in the distant past...

    When I was a Junior Operator, we had a Senior Operator who specialised in mixing up George 2+ console commands.

    His particular favourite was mixing up "Go 27" and "Go 25" (IIRC), "Restart a stopped job" and "Restart a stopped job from the beginning".

    The effects on a two-day run could be dramatic - we often went home further behind than when we arrived.

  31. jake Silver badge

    Rather than re-type them ...

    First old post: "That's the switch, they do that!"

    Second old post: "A shower of Sparks."

    Third old post: "Unclear on the concept of recycling."

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Backup FAIL

    I knew an IT manager who was too lazy to walk upstairs each morning to the server room to check the backup and change the tape. Instead, he delegated the job to the office junior. He told the poor girl that if the tape had been ejected from the drive, the backup was complete and to change it.

    Unfortunately for all concerned, she got the tapes mixed up and ArcServe promptly spat them out asking for the correct tape, by which time she was on her way back downstairs to her desk.

    It seemed nobody ever bothered to check the backup logs or the tapes, so they went for months without actually backing the server up.

    Needless to say, the IT manager concerned had to answer some awkward questions when the server was damaged in a fire and it was found that all the backup tapes were useless.

    Last I heard, he was running a burger bar.

  33. Peter Gordon

    Maybe you should just post a link to thedailywtf? ;-)

  34. Drewc (Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

    I had entirely forgotten this blog. Thanks for reminding me.

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Very recently ...

    One of our customers called up to say they had truncated the part table and could we recover it for them, please ... We asked where was their backup and they responded with "What is a backup?"

    One of the lads I work with managed to move planets and stars to recover enough of the data for the customer to continue trading.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I can top anybodies.

    Better late than never.

    I think I can trump everybody elses, but nobody will believe i'm not making this up. I could provide collaborative proof from other IT Professionals if there is ever a "worst hundred IT professionals ever" competition, however until such a point I would prefer to remain firmly anon.

    My submission for most incompetent IT pro had the following setup:-

    1) a domain, but with local profiles across the entire place, not stored centrally.

    2) Users weren't allowed to change their passwords.

    3) All passwords were the same; username0, so everybody knew each others passwords.

    4) Everybody was a local admin.

    5) Backups were performed by periodically burning a copy of C:/ from the server to CD. Data was on D:/

    6) He built the computers himself, and didn't buy licenses for windows or office.

    7) He didn't see the point of anti virus software. Until bugbear hit the network.

    8) He then went and bought 60 copies of norton from PC world. The home edition, with no central management, this being the OBVIOUS choice. Later politely queried about the lack of central management, he said that the salesdroid in PC world tried to sell that as well but there was "no point" in centrally managing them, and it was more expensive.

    9) He then bought another 25 copies of McAfee to cover the rest of his machines, because they ran out of Norton boxes in PC world(!)

    10) All of the previously mentioned home AV products updated individually...

    11) Over what when finally replaced in 2007 was probably the countries last kilostream connection (128k)

    11a) his users had been complaining about slow internet. He told them it was a problem with the websites they were visiting and not the line, since it had 1:1 contention!

    12) His site actually had fibre thanks to the previous tenant. A 10MB leased line actually worked out cheaper than the kilostream did.

    13) Upon checking that the firewall wasn't configured with a static external IP when installing the new line we discovered that the firewall rules table consisted of "allow * from interface.external to interface.internal and the same in reverse. After choking, laughing to the point of tears and then panicking we'd be blamed for the settings and performing one quick firewall config later, a colleague commented that it (the firewall) had been one f****** expensive router. Why was it setup that way? Previously it had been blocking connections so he changed the rules to allow all of the traffic through.

    14) The management once took advantage of his absence while he was off on holiday and bought us in to "cover" for him. We diligently sorted through what could only be described as a heap of paperwork and neatly filed and dealt with anything that was outstanding from the users as well as a *couple* of configuration issues that we thought inappropriate that sent him into an apoplectic fit when he returned.

    15) Those outstanding issues from his users? One example.

    A user had sent a memo requesting a new mouse because of problems with it. (roller ball mice installed since he didn't like those newfangled glowing mice. He didn't know what to do if they picked up lots of dirt like the ball ones.)

    We bought a box of spares since he didn't stock "unnecessary" things like spares. I diligently took the user a spare mouse and cheerily said to him that I had his replacement mouse. The user looked at me blankly and said that he hadn't requested a new mouse.

    I apologised, thinking I was at the wrong desk (despite directions and a description of the user) and said I was looking for user with the name in the "from" field in the memo. The user looked baffled and said that was him. I said that I had a memo to the IT manager asking for a new mouse. He denied sending it, I waved it. He asked to see it, and I handed it over.

    He stared at the memo incredulously before exclaiming "I sent this memo TWO YEARS AGO!".

    I asked if the mouse was still a problem, he replied somewhat flabbergasted that it was and he'd just gotten used to it. I smiled, held up the mouse and told him that it was his lucky day.

    16) He didn't do network printers. Every computer had it's own printer installed locally.

    17) Plenty of those printers were inkjets, because they were "cheaper" and they needed to print colour. (about once every thousand pages, roughly)

    18) All of the previous printers were different models to deny any opportunity for bulk buying on cartridges/toner.

    19) He actually had a leased colour copier that could double as a network printer. We ran a CAT5 cable to it to put it on the network, and then added the drivers onto the server before explaining to the users how to print to it and the requirement for colour printers on the desktops evaporated.

    How did he last so long? Father of one of the partners, who got him the job. I expect that he's still there.

    As you can imagine, I could probably continue for some while however I think I win already.

  37. mark 63 Silver badge

    Re: I can top anybodies.

    yeah you win.

    I feel sick thinking of the AV and the printers.

    not to mention 1 to 7

  38. jcitron

    Re: I can top anybodies.

    You more than win, you take the gold award while running laps around the building! :-)

    Whilst reading your list, I had a suspicion that this was a smallish organization and the IT person was family or a friend of the owner. I've run into a couple of these situations, but not as scary and off the walls as yours!

  39. Dan 10

    Re: I can top anybodies.


    "I say we take off, nuke the entire site from orbit. It's the only way to be sure."

    I am reminded of the on-site tech who called me on the service desk (yeah, my first job) to ask if resetting the users password on the AS400 would resolve the SCSI id boot error on the workstation. Explaining that the client bios config had no concept of the os2 user, let alone the mid-range box on the other end of a 3270 session was like teaching Chinese to a toaster. The client config was a company-wide standard build, so it was either a one-off error or a hardware failure (and he hadn't tried a reboot). The best bit was that he got the password reset, rebooted the client, then because it booted ok, he called me back to call me a clueless fuckwit!

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: I can top anybodies.


    not sure if this will top yours or not.. in some ways it will, others it won't:

    Contracted birefely at a college - 13,000 students, 1,000 staff - every user in the domain was a domain admin.. the reason?? Domain admins are automatically local admins on PCs - which reduced workload and support calls. It also made dealing with UAC easier.

    These machines also had PowerShell readily available on the start menu.

    the RDP box used for "Accessing college work from outside the college to help you learn/work etc.." had RSAT installed.

    There were no backups.

    Most painful 6 months of my life locking that lot down.

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Whilst a senior IT Manager for a huuuuuge Japanese company, I was demonstrating our amazing new UPS capabilities to some visiting dignitaries from Japan. All well and good, or so I thought.

    Rather than pull the power out of a particular UPS, I pulled the power, er, out of the back of a very important server.

    How we laughed...

  42. Simon Millard

    Cream Cake Anyone

    Back in the days of old, I did some works experience in a City Councils computer ops suite. It was my first experience of an air conditioned envrionment.

    A week into this placement, one of the secretaries was arranging a farewell party and though as it was nice and cool.

    Does anyone remember removable disk pack? This lady decided to plonk a gateux on top of one of these units without realising exactly why there is air conditioning. The gateux decided to "dissolve" all over the drive unit. What a mess.

  43. john mullee

    Government. Giant Consulting Company. What could go wrong.

    Java 1.4 server, about half a million lines of copy-pasted juju struts mess.

    One line stands out head and shoulders above them all:


  44. mark 63 Silver badge

    Re: Government. Giant Consulting Company. What could go wrong.

    isnt that 'C' for x=x+1?

    i dont get it

  45. stevel

    Re: Government. Giant Consulting Company. What could go wrong.

    Honestly? In half a million lines of code, *that one line*?


    My personal favourite, in C++ written by someone who "preferred" Java, the last statement in a function that returned a reference:

    return *new Thing(...);

  46. Derek Clarke

    Re: Government. Giant Consulting Company. What could go wrong.

    x++ is another term in C for x=x+1

    The extra x= makes a big difference as x++ is a postincrement and returns the value of x before it is incremented


    x=x++ means

    t = x (t is a temporary)

    x = x+1

    x = t

  47. Pedigree-Pete Bronze badge


    As a humble Video Conf/AV engineer I was drafted into a audio call with a client that couldn't get his VC to work in their Global Trusted WAN environment. His Global WAN Network Mgmt GURU was on the call.

    This GURU insisted that the VidConf system had to be on IP address Fortunately, our suppliers insist we have some networking knowledge so I had this vague discomfort that the IP address was divisable by 8.

    The Sub net was a /29 so worked fine. So much for experts.

  48. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Sub-Netting.

    you would think the first thing he would do if he couldn't remember off the top of his head / was too lazy to count subnet bits would be to check a subnet calc and check validity of the addresses.

    I remember explaining subnetting to some tech support agents for support Samsung AV/Smart TV equipment so that they could determine the validity of ip addressing for atypical home setups and also explain misc things like why some admin gateways on home routers are on .1.1 rather than 0.1 etc. Too many blank stares in that room for comfort.

    feels painful when people don't get things, and then proceed to stop caring even though it is the basic of the basic.

  49. jake Silver badge

    Re: Sub-Netting.

    Yes. "You would think". I would think. But would they think? Not so much.

  50. Pedigree-Pete Bronze badge

    @TeeCee ref Braniac

    Yep! I saw that one too. Excellent use for a caravan.


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