back to article 'The server broke and so did my back on the flight to fix it'

Reg readers are awesome and none more so than JT Smith, who sent us an epic tale of the time he was called out to solve a backup problem. It started with a chap called “Hubswitch”, who was in charge of technology at a remote site that JT oversaw. Hubswitch earned his name because he kept using the word to describe any piece …

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  1. Mycho Silver badge

    That is a really idiotic design choice.

    Notwithstanding this engineer, that is the kind of situation you're likely to be called in to look at at 3AM. One keypress from obliteration without so much as a warning message when you're only half awake is seriously not what you want to deal with.

  2. LaeMing Silver badge
    Unhappy

    I feel your pain (quite literally)

    My manager one pulled me off important work and sent me to the medical centre, I looked in so much pain despite efforts to soldier on. She even escorted me to the taxi rank to make sure I didn't try to walk there (as is my habit).

    Turned out one of my ribs had dislocated from its socket while sleeping badly the previous night and every slightest movement or twitch of my body activated the muscle that was supposed to keep it in its correct place to try to pull it back there, but the muscle contractions kept missing the socket and making it worse in the second most agonising thing I have ever experienced (kidney stones still win that one!).

    Backs are hell when they don't work to spec.!

    1. graeme leggett

      Re: That is a really idiotic design choice.

      "There were two options on the screen. The first was 'No'. The second with the bold default lines around it was 'Okay'"

      Isn't there a rule that the option that does least 'damage' should be the default?

      1. John Sager
        FAIL

        Re: That is a really idiotic design choice.

        It's obviously Apple following the Microsoft dictum of making stupid choices for the unwary. Though they would cast it as being user-friendly for the complete newbie (new to this? Ok, we'll format the disk & then you can load up OS-X from the DVD you have in your hot little hand).

        Quite why you would want a server to behave this way is beyond me though.

        1. Gene Cash Silver badge

          Re: That is a really idiotic design choice.

          I like to think of it as the BOFH GUI designer going "READ the damn dialog before blindly punching buttons, or take it up the butt, MUHAHAHAHA!"

          I have recently run into the hated practice of double negatives in dialogs in my TomTom GPS:

          "Do you not want to avoid freeways?"

          Yes! No! Wait! What?

          1. gnasher729 Silver badge

            Re: That is a really idiotic design choice.

            My TomTom often says "Do you bla bla bla Toll Road bla bla bla". Once led to a heated discussion with my wife whether to press YES or NO because of double or triple negatives. It would have been so easy to have a button "Toll" and a button "No Toll". Especially since reading and thinking about the meaning of a sentence while driving is not the safest user interface.

            1. This post has been deleted by its author

              1. Tom 13

                Re: "Do you want to save? Yes / No / Cancel"

                Seems pretty clear to me and gives you a third option which is sometimes preferred.

                The TomTom one is annoying because they chose the wrong default. Here in the US, if it includes a toll road, you probably want to take it as opposed to losing an hour of your life to traffic on a four hour trip.

                What's worse is that it doesn't necessarily reverse routes for planning. This past weekend I was using one to get to a friend's house. For the first part of the journey it was okay. It took me up I270 to the PA Turnpike, across to Philly and north to my friend's house. For the return trip it wanted me to go south on I95 then back up I270 to get home. Because of this I spent an hour in hyperspace trying to get to the toll road.

              2. J.G.Harston Silver badge

                Re: That is a really idiotic design choice.

                Exactly. When you press a button you are issuing a command, the button should must be labeled with the command it initiates. That's such basic basic user interface design it predates feudalism.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: That is a really idiotic design choice.

            "...my Tom Tom GPS..."

            The more I learn about Tom Tom GPS, the happier I am that I never bought one.

            Several coworkers own Tom Toms. Reportedly, they periodically need to bring them into the house and connect them to the Interweb in order for the receiver chipset to work properly in regards to boot time. They didn't know any better, not having seen the counterexamples, and so thought that this was normal.

            Crazy.

            Excuse the interruption.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: That is a really idiotic design choice.

              TomTom's are a POS. Mine now langushes in the cupboard because it flatly refuses to update the maps.

              I even rebuilt an old laptopn with Windows 7 just for connecting to TomTom. All I get is basically 'connect your device to the PC'. It is effing connected. Windows knows this but your crappy software can't understand that.

              The Support forums are full with posts like this. In the end I just gave up.

              I'm buying a new M'Bike at the end of the month. This one comes complete with a Garmin SatNav so I'll have firsthand experience of both popular makes.

              1. phuzz Silver badge
                Meh

                Re: That is a really idiotic design choice.

                I think nowadays the two main makes of SatNav are Apple and Google.

              2. werdsmith Silver badge

                Re: That is a really idiotic design choice.

                I'm buying a new M'Bike at the end of the month. This one comes complete with a Garmin SatNav so I'll have firsthand experience of both popular makes.

                Welcome to the wonderful world of Garmin uncommanded restart when approaching a complex junction.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: That is a really idiotic design choice.

                  If you are watching your SatNav rather than the road ahead when navigating a complex junction then frankly you deserve to become an organ donor.

                  Sorry for being blunt but that is how it is these days.

                  Far too many others drivers are bindly following their SatNavs these days.

                  I was lucky and got away with just a dislocated shoulder last year when some Idiot who was just following their SatNav directed them to turn into a One-Way Street the wrong way and we came to a meeting of machines. Needless to say, the tin can (car) won.

                  Posting Anon because I get enough calls from Ambulance Chasing Scum (lawyers) as it is thank you very much.

                  1. ChrisC

                    Re: That is a really idiotic design choice.

                    Who said anything about *watching* the satnav? Or are Garmins unique in the world of satnavs in not having a voice guidance ability?

                    1. TeeCee Gold badge

                      Re: That is a really idiotic design choice.

                      Hmm, I tend to sneak a look at the junction layout picture as, with a complex junction, the voice direction for turns, merges and changes is invariably too early, too late or complete bollocks.

                      Easier to look and see where it expects you to end up and then work it out yourself with the aid of the signage.

                      1. Kevin Johnston

                        Re: That is a really idiotic design choice.

                        I remember using one which treated a protected '1st exit' lane at a roundabout as a separate junction so unless you wanted that exit you were always being told to leave the roundabout one exit early.

                2. Captain Scarlet Silver badge

                  Re: That is a really idiotic design choice.

                  "Garmin uncommanded restart when approaching a complex junction"

                  Yes my current model likes to do this, where as my previous Garmin's were rock solid (i3 and C510).

            2. Luiz Abdala

              Re: That is a really idiotic design choice.

              My Tomtom has this button... wait for the signal before showing the planned route or...

              just show the planned route, even if the GPS was turned off in a different place that he is now and cant get a signal just yet...

              Major facepalm.

              JUST SHOW ME THE GODDAMN ROUTE from whatever place you think you are AND LATER YOU FIGURE WHAT THE FUCK HAPPENED WITH THE SIGNAL.

              But other than that, he works better than my android. No advertising, no lock-ups, no facebook beeps, it is great!

              1. Tom 13

                Re: wait for the signal before showing

                Have you ever told it to wait for the signal?

                I did once, and still sometimes inadvertently fat poke it. It's a truly amazing option. It never seems to find satellite signal, so I invariably wind up canceling, then planning again from last position.

                For even more amusement, I've sometimes left the device on all the way home, and am using the "Plan from last Known Position" option in the house. As I walk to the car it finds satellite data, and starts replanning the route.

              2. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: That is a really idiotic design choice.

                > But other than that, he works better than my android. No advertising, no lock-ups, no facebook beeps, it is great!

                *ahem*OsmAnd*ahem*

          3. elDog Silver badge

            Re: That is a really idiotic design choice.

            It's just another case of some kid with programming and GUI chops who has never been in a situation like the one in this story.

            I've always felt that someone who is designing/developing a system should spend at least a year using something similar in production, a few months answering customer calls, and a few months in QA.

            Better yet, all initial designs/prototypes for a system should be acknowledged and then thrown away with the team sent back to their caves to make it better.

        2. DougS Silver badge

          @John Sager "why you would want a server to have this way"

          It probably wasn't a server, just a desktop Mac that was put into the role of a server. Apple hasn't made any servers for quite some time, and when they did AFAIK none ever ran OS X but rather A/UX.

          Not that this is a good default for a desktop machine by any means... And surely if the disk is unbootable you'd still want the OS to scan around on it for a bit and see if it can find any hints it has a filesystem on it before offering to format!

          I find it hard to believe that OS X doesn't do just that, and maybe the drive had suffered one of those controller deaths where the drive's data is left inaccessible for reading or writing, and it shows up with a capacity equal to the size of the cache (and Hubswitch formatted the 8MB cache)

          1. /dev/null
            Boffin

            "Apple hasn't made any servers for quite some time"

            Erm, you don't have to go back to the good ol' days of A/UX ...until fairly recently they did a version of OS X called OS X Server (which is now just an "app" for OS X), and it wasn't so long ago that you could buy a proper rackmount XServe system to run it on.

      2. SteveK

        Re: That is a really idiotic design choice.

        Can't come close to matching the suffering of the story, but on the subject of illogical UI design, was upgrading RAID driver on an elderly Windows server a little while back. Downloaded the latest driver from the manufacturer and ran the installer. Was presented with a standard Windows dialog box: "Previous driver detected, click 'OK' [the default] to uninstall, 'Cancel' to upgrade."

        Err, ok. What about if I now decided that I wanted to do neither and just exit instead? I only have those two options (or kill the process...). And why is the default button the one that uninstalls the driver for the disk array which might be fairly vital.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: I feel your pain (quite literally)

      I don't think any believer in Intelligent Design can ever have had back trouble.

    3. dcluley

      Re: I feel your pain (quite literally) (LaeMing)

      The trouble with backs is that spines were designed as beams for four-footed animals. Walking upright we have turned them into columns and the stresses are completely different. Hence the backaches and other problems.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: I feel your pain (quite literally) (LaeMing)

        "The trouble with backs is that spines were designed as beams for four-footed animals. Walking upright we have turned them into columns and the stresses are completely different."

        No. They evolved as beams for four-footed animals. Then they evolved into columns. Evolution is effective at optimising things but it can only achieve local maxima. So what we have is probably the best column that can be adapted from an articulated beam but probably not the best column that could have been evolved directly from a notochord and certainly not the best column that could have been designed. And hence, as you say, the backaches & other problems.

        1. BinkyTheHorse
          Boffin

          Re: I feel your pain (quite literally) (LaeMing)

          "Evolution is effective at optimising things but it can only achieve local maxima."

          Well, someone slept through their Heuristics 201. Evolution is wholly capable of breaking out of local maxima, if not within a species, then within an ecosystem - that's what mutations are for.

          Nobody said it's easy, fast, or guaranteed 'though.

          (the rest of your post is spot on)

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      What is, having a spine instead of an exoskeleton?

      In fairness, the ID (Idiotic Design) argument is only taught in US schools, most of the rest of the world thinks we just evolved that way.

      1. sisk Silver badge

        Re: What is, having a spine instead of an exoskeleton?

        In fairness, the ID (Idiotic Design) argument is only taught in US schools

        ID is not taught in US schools. There's a push by the ID believers that direction, and for a (very) brief time schools in one state had the option to include it in the curriculum (after which the state school board who made that decision were shown the exit en masse during the next election), but only in religious schools is ID taught as anything other than...well, religion.

    5. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: I feel your pain (quite literally)

      Ah, back pain memories... Or should I say, Aaaaarrgghhh!!!!? It's astonishing how painful they can be. Rib injury that led to the whole upper back and neck going into spasm for me. Morphine took a couple of days to touch the pain, and I have no memories at all about the rest of that week.

      One thing it's taught me is never to try to soldier on. Loosening excercises every half hour and maybe NSAIDs or muscle relaxants. If you're in too much pain to do stretches, then it's time for the doctor.

      I've learnt to dread that slow progressive stiffening and tightening, with increasing levels of pain, as the muscles start to spasm. And it's a right old bugger to stop major back spasms when they're taken hold. Plus hurting like someone digging knives into your brain. But I've found it mostly can be controlled early on in the process.

      Now if I'd got my domestic robot and jet pack, like Tomorrow's World promised, there'd be a lot less strain on my back. Can I sue the BBC?

  3. gerdesj Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Respec'.

  4. Efros

    The trouble with backs

    If your boss has never suffered from back pain then you are a whining skiver.

    1. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

      Re: The trouble with backs

      Back I don't mind so much. My neck and previously broken ribs are what does it for me.

      Having to keep your head bolt upright gets very annoying after a while but the ribs like to remind you their broken every now and again for no good reason (and usually only solved so I can breathe again my hitting my chest. Looking like I'm beating myself up)

    2. Cpt Blue Bear

      Re: The trouble with backs

      I had one of those once.

      Right up to the afternoon he slipped on the stairs* and landed on his coccyx on the edge of a tread. The poor bastard never walked quite the same and watching him get up from a meeting room chair after half an hour was traumatic. The following few months were interesting as by mid-afternoon he was usually out of his tree on codeine.

      The upside was you only had to start doing lower back stretches to get sent for a break and anything up to three days sick leave (the maximum he could authorise) got waived through as long as it was back related.

      * I swear, officer, I was no where near at the time.

  5. Roq D. Kasba

    'Lost lift'

    I doubt you did, relative to the air around it your plane carried on without any drama - it was the body of air having a wriggle that caused you the sensation.

    Sorry to be a dick in mentioning it, but we're all engineers here and engineering terms have very specific meanings in our world ;-)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 'Lost lift'

      An aircraft crossing a windshear boundary can suddenly find its airspeed drop. This can cause hopefully-temporary loss of lift, until the pilot puts the nose down to regain speed. These can happen at altitude, for example over Greenland for one famous incident, where a large aircraft 'lost lift' and several people were injured.

      'air having a wiggle', in the case down, would be a downdraft. Downdrafts are typically found close to the ground, under thunderstorms. Usually on approach into an airport in the southern USA it seems.

      So it's not clear that your correction in necessarily correct.

    2. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

      Re: 'Lost lift'

      Would the engineers working for the airline have mentioned anything about Cb when they sold him the ticket?

      Sounds like a nice get rich slow scheme for a lawyer. Also the dickheads at Pimple should be asked to pay for selling a dick a dipswitch.

  6. streaky Silver badge

    Hubswitch..

    Hubswitch earned his name because he kept using the word to describe any piece of kit he thought might be the problem

    We sure it wasn't because he was one of those people who couldn't tell the difference between them, which not all that many years ago was shockingly common amongst allegedly qualified network engs?

    1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: Hubswitch..

      The previous generation always blamed problems on "the picture valve" :)

      1. eJ2095

        Re: Hubswitch..

        Oh god yes i rem this....

        Back in the early telewest days where people where advised by pcworld to buy a switch (Not me i knew better)

        Then i get a call to go and see why its not working with the cable modem... sure it was a early Surfboard 4100. (Thats the modem)

  7. Mr Dogshit

    "Apple server"

    Now there's an oxymoron. Funny how they don't make them any more.

    1. streaky Silver badge

      Re: "Apple server"

      The thing I always remember about Apple servers was it's the thing they could actually do competently in a world where Linux wasn't the big deal it is today. Weird how times change.

    2. MJI Silver badge

      Re: "Apple server"

      For years I never realised you could buy a server without Netware!

      And I have come across some shocking PToP systems.

  8. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Back Problems

    Always a great joke... until you suffer from one. Boy, do the jokers clam up fast then!

    In this case "Beyond the call of duty" comes to mind.

    1. Alan W. Rateliff, II
      Paris Hilton

      Re: Back Problems

      A number of years ago I was involved in a very bad vehicle collision in which the otherwise pleasant driver of an SUV traveling 40mph (give or take) tried to park said SUV, without applying the brakes, in the trunk of my fully-stopped compact sedan. Not many months afterward I called up my father and told him that I get it now, then apologize for all those times I was younger when I became aggravated because whatever the family was doing was brought to an abrupt end because "your father's back is hurting him."

      As I accumulate years I find myself empathizing more with old farts and poking less fun at them.

  9. Chemist

    so he scoffed “a huge handful of ibuprofen and acetaminophen”

    Just got to point out that an overdose of acetaminophen ( paracetamol) is VERY dangerous and will often prove fatal. I hope everyone knows this but ...

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. phuzz Silver badge

        Re: graeme@the-leggetts.org.uk

        Not to mention that paracetamol is no more effective than a placebo for back pain.

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