back to article Attempt to clean up tech area has shocking effect on kit

Hello, Friday, El Reg’s old friend. We’ve come to talk with you again… because the vision that has softly crept in must be the latest instalment of On-Call. This week, our reader’s tale of tech support conundrums solved is a real shocker – so without further ado, let's meet “Gerald”. He takes us back a couple of decades to …

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  1. Korev Silver badge
    Joke

    Static

    So if the cleaners' trolleys had been static would they have still had the problem?

    1. Andy 68

      Re: Static

      You're right, maybe it would have been better if they were stationery carts.

      1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

        Re: Static

        I don't know what pens and pencils have to do with it.

    2. LisaJK

      Re: Static

      Obviously the ESD controlled area wasn't!

      The cleaner's carts and all equipment should have been been ESD control compatible to be allowed into an ESD controlled area. Clearly at least one piece of their equipment wasn't.

      I have seen so called anti static dusters, claiming they reduce dust by reducing static buildup. Presumably they are at least partially conductive.

  2. Korev Silver badge
    Coat

    C

    Maybe the cleaners were trying to join in with the science and work out the speed of light in a vacuum...

    Mine's the white coat -->

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: C

      The "What if ... ?" aspect of destructive testing was one of my favorite games for several years. I've measured 115,000V after running a standard vacuum cleaner over the floor of a SillyConValley shipping & receiving department. Lots of very small particles moving quickly through a plastic tube caused the static buildup. The next stop on the cleaner's schedule was the stockroom, with shelves & shelves full of static sensitive parts. Much hilarity ensued.

      I once 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 ... Was an example, just to prove the point.

      In other news, the average secretary can generate upwards of 85KV walking down the hall to get a cuppa, but myself walking alongside her came up static free. Seems my unmentionables were made of cotton, hers were made of petrochemicals. Her heels were leather, my soles were high-carbon rubber.

      Along the same lines as the above, 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. (Yes, in the enlightened state of California, we're actually allowed to fuel our own cars! Don't you wish your government trusted you as much?)

      1. A K Stiles
        Coat

        Re: C

        In Blighty, not filling your own car is really the exception to the standard. What we don't have though, is the clip on the pump handle that allows you to walk away whilst the fuel flows. You have to stand there for the 2 minutes holding that lever up, all nicely grounded through the pump. So we're free to wear as many nylon stockings and polyester underpants as we could wish too...

        Yes, the one with the 20 denier lace-tops in the pocket, thanks!

        1. MJI Silver badge

          Re: C

          My fuel cap fits nicely in the handle to hold it open.

          If you want slow try LPG, have to hold a button in for about 5-10 minutes.

          I do NOT miss that side of it

          1. A K Stiles

            Re: C

            Well I hope your undergarment proclivities don't cause you too much trauma whilst pumping. (Sorry, is this not a Dabbsy article?)

            One vehicle has the cap on a 'string', the other has no cap.

        2. regadpellagru

          Re: C

          "What we don't have though, is the clip on the pump handle that allows you to walk away whilst the fuel flows."

          Same in France. This has been removed in the whole country some 25 years ago, I think. It was available back then, but not any longer, specifically to avoid the issue the OP pointed out.

          1. Andre Carneiro

            Re: C

            Fascinating, I never knew that’s why they were removed!

            Yet again I learn interesting stuff from El Reg commentards.

            You guys rock!

        3. Daedalus Silver badge

          Re: C

          To the best of my knowledge, it's only New Jersey that forbids you from pumping your own gas petrol. Which puts you in the ridiculous situation of waiting for a drone to take your credit card from you and swipe through exactly the same on-pump reader that is used in more enlightened states. Cash? Who uses cash?

          As for the pump trigger lock, that is a rare luxury (except, for obvious reasons, in New Jersey). Most stations remove it because of abuse by drunken idiots etc. resulting in spills. In NJ the lock is retained so the drone can service more than one car at a time.

          1. Stevie Silver badge

            Re: As for the pump trigger lock

            South of the Mason Dixon Line, pump trigger latches are the usual case. Gas is cheap too.

          2. Mark 85 Silver badge

            Re: C

            To the best of my knowledge, it's only New Jersey that forbids you from pumping your own gas petrol.

            Oregon also. The vehicle gets fueled by the attendant.

            1. oldenoughtoknowbetter

              Re: C

              Actually, Oregon joined the real world last year and legalized driver pumping.

              I'm in Washington and when I'd visit it was always a PIA to get gas, although sometimes passing through a more remote local they didn't care and wouldn't stop me from pumping.

              It was funny watching interviews on the news with many Oregonians horrified at the change, thinking it unsafe and some even unsure how to.

              1. ROC

                Re: C

                So most Oregonians never travel through other states where they have to refuel? That explains a lot...

          3. DougS Silver badge

            I don't recall ever NOT seeing the pump trigger lock

            Everywhere I've ever filled up in the US. I don't see how not having them is any advantage. Either you have no lock and are holding it down and the fuel flow stops when it detects the tank is full or the trigger is holding it down and the fuel flow stops when it detects the tank is full.

            While I suppose the "tank is full" sensor can fail either way, the trigger is usually pretty much of a hair trigger which will let go at the slightest provocation. It would be more than a slight provocation if the fuel kept flowing and pushed the handle out of the car to the ground below. So I don't think you'd spill any more fuel with an manned trigger lock than you would with a manned handle. The difference is whether you get fuel all over you as well as the car and ground, or just on the car and ground - I know which I'd prefer!

            1. cd

              Re: I don't recall ever NOT seeing the pump trigger lock

              They do fail occasionally, after the first time it happened to me I made a habit of being nearby. And I listen for the click, if I don't hear it in a reasonable time I stop doing the windshield and check.

              When they fail it makes a puddle very quickly. Busy stations often have pumps taped off, could be lots of things, but I have reported failed shut-offs a few times.

            2. Stevie Silver badge

              Re: I don't recall ever NOT seeing the pump trigger lock

              In NY they are illegal. The little arm in the upper part of the trigger is still there on some pumps, but the strip of ratchet-stuf into which it engages has been prised out, so it no longer works as a hands-free latch.

              It's illegal to improvise a hands-free gas pump too. If you put the gas cap in the pump handle (and it fits so nicely it was obviously designed for the purpose) you can get a spot of jankers if the Peelers catch sight of you doing so.

            3. Glen 1 Bronze badge

              Re: I don't recall ever NOT seeing the pump trigger lock

              What happens if you don't want a full tank, just a few gallons worth? In the UK a full tank can easily cost over $60 (equivalent), so people tend to put multiples of £10 in rather than pay that sum all in one go. If your doing less than 10 miles a day you're paying to carry the extra weight. (See also: British success of managing to get the precise round number on the pump)

              1. MJI Silver badge

                Re: I don't recall ever NOT seeing the pump trigger lock

                Over £100 for a full tank, but much easier than going to filling stations every few days

          4. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: C

            Oregon requires attendants to pump the gas as well. The funny thing is that when I go there, I have far more experience putting gas in a car than the PFY doing it for me.

            1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
              Coat

              Re: C

              PFY - Petrol Fumes Youth.

          5. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: C

            Oregon also bans you from pumping your own unless you are a commercial driver, or live in a very rural county - which is a lot of Oregon given that most of the population resides on about 5% of the state.

          6. Solo Owl

            Re: C

            Also in Oregon it is illegal to fuel your own car, last time I was there. In my experience the trigger lock is universal in the US and Canada. They want you to wander into the C-store and buy something more profitable than gasoline.

            1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
              Pint

              Re: C

              It's not universal alas, that's another reason Costco is appreciated.

            2. katrinab Silver badge

              Re: C

              How long does it take to fill up? UK pumps dispense 50 litres per minute. My car has a 35 litre tank, and I usually fill up when there’s about 10 litres remaining, so it takes about 30 seconds of actual pumping. Big cars typically have a 60 litre tank, and the average fuel purchase seems to be about 50 litres, so about a minute to fill up.

              1. DavidRa

                Re: C

                50 litres a minute? Wow. The Australian nanny-state seems to have limited most of the pumps I've used in the last couple of decades to about 20-30 lpm at most. Can't find any supporting requirement (e.g. Wikipedia lists US as limiting to 10Gpm or ~38lpm, but nothing for AU).

                Certainly makes filling a 90L tank in 40C temps a bore.

              2. MJI Silver badge

                Re: C

                Mine holds well over 80l of tractor juice

                Large cars are usually around 70 to 75l (around 15 gallons)

            3. Blank Reg

              Re: C

              I can't remember how it is in the rest of Canada as I've not driven outside Ontario or Quebec for quite some time, but trigger locks are rare in Ontario. Costco has them, but hardly anywhere else that I've seen,

              1. NBCanuck

                Re: C

                I live in the province of New Brunswick and have never seen a trigger lock here, or in neighboring Nova Scotia or Prince Edward Island either. Nor have I encountered any of them in the state of Maine.

        4. imanidiot Silver badge

          Re: C

          @A K Stiles

          Only in the pockets? That's not how you wear stockings you know...

          1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
            Pint

            Re: C

            When it's -31C outside*, that trigger lock is more than appreciated when filling up.

            *That time will be upon us soon

          2. A K Stiles

            Re: C

            @imanidiot

            Only in the pockets? That's not how you wear stockings you know...

            Well, the ones in the coat are obviously in the pocket. Where else would I keep my spares?

        5. CountCadaver

          Re: C

          "In Blighty, not filling your own car is really the exception to the standard. What we don't have though, is the clip on the pump handle that allows you to walk away whilst the fuel flows. You have to stand there for the 2 minutes holding that lever up, all nicely grounded through the pump. So we're free to wear as many nylon stockings and polyester underpants as we could wish too...

          Yes, the one with the 20 denier lace-tops in the pocket, thanks!"

          Many moons ago as a student I worked in a petrol station, a gentleman got on the receiving end of a rather blue tirade from my then boss.....he was using a large plastic clip to hold the pump trigger on while he checked the oil...reason for the tirade would be potential loss of licence had the local authority petroleum officer come around for a random inspection or had someone complained.

          Pumps we had were Schlumberger, seemingly same design as the USA and other countries that allow hands free pump usage, but with the catch mountings removed from the casting, still had the clip in the handle but it wouldn't lock as the catch wasn't there. Watched an American lady for several minutes try and lock it on and then come in to complain the catch wasn't working......she had a very puzzled look when it was explained to her she had to hold the trigger on the whole time....sort of a "this place is backwards look"

          1. tony trolle

            Re: C

            some golf tees fit some UK handles......

        6. 9Rune5
          Flame

          Re: No clip

          A couple of years ago I had a nice long chat with a guy who was SAAB's "fuel guy". His team, among other things, re-did the filler tube when SAAB adopted ethanol (E85).

          One of the stories he told me was that E85 is extra easy to ignite when the fuel temperature is about -8 to -12 degrees Celcius (or thereabouts). So, assuming all the involved components hold that temperature, a static spark near the filler cap could potentially reach all the way down to your fuel tank.

          SAAB, he informed me, chose to mitigate by adding a few extra twists, whereas Ford/Volvo (he politely coughed) chose to not make any design changes at all. (only fair to mention that Sweden switches to E75 during the winter, which does not have this problem)

          The ethanol gas guns lack the clip, but regular gasoline guns usually still have them (here in Sweden).

          YMMV.

          1. Luiz Abdala

            Re: No clip

            In Brazil, we have pure Ethanol cars (would that be E100?) but these never induced static mishaps above their gasoline counterparts... to a significant statistic, that is.

            All the employees handling the fuel pumps use 'grease monkey' cotton overalls and rubber sole boots for some obscure reason... and the extra warm and moist weather precludes static buildup anyway.

            In fact, the only occasion where such things ever happened were those where that same grease monkey was SMOKING, and shoved his face on top of an open tank of a fuel tanker, cigarette butt still lit on one hand...

            I believe the low temperature just precludes MOISTURE in the air, which prevents the dissipation of static charge that would normally occur.

            So yes, E85 is easy to ignite at -8 Celsius only because the dry air is, counter-intuitively, non-conductive.

      2. Paul Kinsler
        Headmaster

        Re: I once measured 61,750ish volts on an empty, unused Styrofoam coffee

        Just to be picky, you do not measure voltages "on" things. Voltages are differences, so you measure them "between" or "across" things.

        1. Phil Endecott Silver badge

          Re: I once measured 61,750ish volts on an empty, unused Styrofoam coffee

          > Voltages are differences, so you measure them "between" or "across" things

          When the answer is 61 thousand volts, it probably doesn’t much matter what your reference is.

      3. phuzz Silver badge

        Re: C

        The diesel pump on the side of the petrol station in the UK might well still have the clip, so that lorry drivers don't have to stand there waiting for a thousand litres to be transferred.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: C

          So in the UK you have to stand there breathing in the carcinogenic fumes from the evaporating petrol generated by the hot British sunshine ?

          1. theblackhand

            Re: C

            "So in the UK you have to stand there breathing in the carcinogenic fumes from the evaporating petrol generated by the hot British sunshine ?"

            If you avoid filling up on that day each year, you can avoid the issue with the fumes.

            Or just enjoy deaths sweet embrace.

            1. Stevie Silver badge
              Pint

              Re: C 4 theblackhand

              Well done. Friday e-pint for you, awarded for drollery above and beyond the call of wossname.

          2. H in The Hague Silver badge

            Re: C

            "So in the UK you have to stand there breathing in the carcinogenic fumes from the evaporating petrol "

            No: vapour recovery system, captures those fumes where the dispensing nozzle meets the vehicle.

            https://www.sepa.org.uk/media/144898/summary_guidance_note_for_service_station_operators_on_petrol_vapour_recovery_requirements_under_ppc.pdf

          3. LisaJK

            Re: C

            Hot British sunshine, when was that, did I blink???

            Most UK petrol pumps have had evaporation control suction thingies for a while. So even if there is evaporation, little of it gets to the person holding the trigger.

            Germany still allows trigger latches.

          4. FuzzyWuzzys Silver badge
            Happy

            Re: C

            "So in the UK you have to stand there breathing in the carcinogenic fumes from the evaporating petrol generated by the hot British sunshine ?"

            Yeah, one of those things happens so very, very rarely that it's statistically a non-issue!!

          5. 10forcash Bronze badge

            So in the UK you have to stand there breathing in the carcinogenic fumes from the evaporating petrol generated by the hot British sunshine ?

            No.

            Most modern (post 2014) petrol vehicles have a capless filler neck and a seal that prevents fuel vapour from leaving the filler neck, this in turn allows the fuel vapour to be recovered to a carbon canister where it is then fed into the engine in a controlled manner.

            This type of ORVR has had various revisions since it was devised in the 1970's.

            TLDR: It's not warm enough in GB to worry about fuel vapour

        2. Nick Ryan Silver badge

          Re: C

          The lorry diesel pumps deliver fuel considerably faster than those intended for cars.

          1. CountCadaver

            Re: C

            "The lorry diesel pumps deliver fuel considerably faster than those intended for cars."

            Local shell has a yellow override button for use by HGVs stuck near the top of the pump display (prob to stop someone inquisitive pushing it, though there have been times I've considered using it...the fuel pumps inside their pumps are glacially slow, worse when both sides are in use...looks like someone cheaped out on the design, though the local ASDA is far far worse....I refuse to go there though after their petrol caused a relative's eurobox to chuck a collection of dashlights on till it was refilled with petrol from somewhere else....shell, tesco, sainsburys, esso, bp....didn't matter, just ASDAs fuel.....

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