back to article Sysadmin flees asbestos scare with disk drive, blank pay cheques, angry builders in pursuit

Welcome again to On-Call, our Friday frolic through readers' memories of jobs gone bad. This week, meet “John” who once worked for a construction company that printed its payroll checks every Thursday afternoon. “If the cheques were not ready early on Friday morning, the superintendents were more than willing to give the …

"horning in" just makes perfectly sense!

Just picture the parents as a huge dust cloud following a herd of of angry heavy set cattle with lots of pointy horns barreling in your direction...

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Jad

Windows NT

"Back then even with the exact same model drives a tape created with one drive could not always be read by another. Plus the weekly backup wouldn't have the last two days' work anyway"

I call Windows NT ... that was before I grew into proper operating systems

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Re: Windows NT

Probably the same version where, if you wanted to set up a cluster, the disks all had to be the same make and model, the same size, the same speed, and the same firmware level.

Such, such were the joys.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Windows NT

I call HP DAT drives...

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Re: Windows NT

ESDI was only in use until mid-nineties and by that time, the interfaces were finally pretty standard.

I'd say this happened in late eighties which would make DDS/DAT unavailable yet (and believe it or not, DDS/DAT has a pretty good track record in terms of recoverable data).

I call DLT or Data8. Although the latter format was fairly new in the time frame, it was already infamous for its crappy compatibility track record (pun intended).

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Silver badge

Re: Windows NT

"I call DLT or Data8."

QIC

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Re: Windows NT

QIC vanilla or QIC-MC (Maximum Crap)?

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Re: Windows NT

I'd say this happened in late eighties which would make DDS/DAT unavailable yet (and believe it or not, DDS/DAT has a pretty good track record in terms of recoverable data).

More likely to have been QIC.

Perhaps I've been unlucky but I've found DDS utterly unreliable, whereas I've never had any issues with Exabyte 8mm drives. Having said that those were mostly EXB-8500/8505 drives. If you venture to the XL, you may start to experience slight loss in reliability especially if you're into reusing tapes more than once or twice as the 160m tape (obviously) has more of a tendency to stretch compared to the 112m.

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Silver badge

Re: Windows NT

I've heard the same thing many times. I've actually found DDS to be quite reliable, but with a major caveat.

When our HP drive stopped reading the tapes it had written, I called support and was asked just how many hours a night I was running it? I answers 14, and was scornfully told that there was a 20% daily duty cycle limit on the heads. After that the heads would heat up enough to soften them and they'd experience excessive wear.

I asked where I could find that in the manual... At which point he admitted it wasn't there. So I said, ok, I get warranty on this unit, and afterwards it's up to me to keep the wear down on the next unit, now that I'm informed.

Next time we bought (non-HP) DDS drives I proactively asked about the duty cycle and was told 15%.

So I very meticulously scheduled backups to limit the duty cycles, and after that the drives worked pretty well.

If the manufacturers were not bothering to mention the little detail of the heads smoking after 3-5 hours of use, no wonder DDS has such a bad rep. I don't actually know if that's the case, I haven't exactly been doing surveys, but so far nobody I've talked to has admitted to knowing about the limit.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Windows NT

Ok, let me hide behind my AC cape.

There.

Most LTO drives (and almost certainly not half-height drives) really don't have 24x7 operation capability at 100% duty cycle despite what it says in the spec sheet.

Up to the point that there's a huge difference between 100% and 50%. The only reason they specify 100% is because they can get away with it as it's quoted in hourly intervals. So yes, you can run the drive at 100% duty cycle for an hour, but then you should really stop.

If you want to write a whole tape length, which may take 8 hours, you should really consider dropping tape speed to 50% and ensure proper cooling.

And if you really need 100% duty cycle, you seriously need to go for Oracle or IBM enterprise drives.

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Silver badge

The joys of working on a rural campus...

One year, I got dragged to help with an induction day, so I ended up manning the computer centre reception desk on a Saturday afternoon to deal with enquiries.

A friend of humanity wanders in, hammer in one hand and a hand scythe in the other, looking totally out of it. Yep, definite whiff of strong weed in the air.

Potheads wielding DIY/agricultural hardware usually spelt trouble with a capital TROUBLE, so "Hello, can I help you ?" rapidly turned into "DROP THE FUCKING TOOLS AND GET OUT !!!"

Chummy ran off, leaving his toys behind. No idea what I did with the scythe, but I've still got the hammer somewhere.

Needless to say, I was never asked to welcome poor lost ikkle firsties again.

And there was much rejoicing.

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Not a Star Wars quote

"You see, money doesn't exist in the 24th Century"

That's Star Trek: First Contact. Picard introducing Lily to the ship.

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Flame

Management

Typical owner/management behavior. Payroll is the most important system, as it insures that staff as well as useless overpaid managers, get paid. One would be think management would appreciate them taking care of this, as they could've bailed and pointed those constructionworkers in the direction of the company owner. How would that have been?

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Bronze badge

Re: Management

Hell, it's the first thing they (used) to teach new hires here:

Job one is 'get paid'.

a couple years ago we changed the system we used for tip reporting. the masses almost set the system analyst on fire due to the fact that the changes to how tips were cashed out were not communicated adequately. Fun times.

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Silver badge

Yes, it's quite an experience to face an angry mob of some 200 people who feel they have to take issue with the project you are supposed to build.

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Anonymous Coward

Have you dodged toxic substances to do a job?

Have I?, I wake up some mornings wondering how the fsck I've managed to make it into middle age..

An OTOMH list...

Unshielded 'hot' Radioactive Sources? ..check

Asbestos? ..check (many, many times...)

Open containers of Sodium Cyanide which were balanced precariously next to various beakers containing various acids (just don't ask...) ..check

Working right beside a bench heavily contaminated with shock sensitive picrate salts? ..check

Working beside a metal cupboard containing several Kg of dried out Picric Acid..stored beside the Carbon Tet?...check (I should point out that this was beside the bench contaminated with the salts above..)

Thallium? ..check (left on a windowsill beside a computer I had to visit on a number of occasions over a period of a couple of years..several large lumps, nicely oxidising away..no-one knew what it was.)

Mercury? ..check (bottles of the stuff in unlocked cupboards, well over 10 litres total volume, mostly contaminated, mostly inappropriate bottles, some 'uncorked'..)

PCBs..check (In the centre of London, mid-late 90's...200 litres of the stuff in an open container)

Various nasty OP compounds? ..check

Being in a sealed lab working on a computer when a 'fridge' right beside it decides to vent Nitrogen (the computer station being amusingly placed so that anyone sitting at it got the, umm, 'full benefit' of the event...ok, not toxic, but even so...) ..check

Exposed to very high levels of SO₂? ..check

Zinc Oxide fumes ? ..check

Lyme and Weils diseases? ..check (Ok, not toxic per-se, but having to get yourself checked for ticks after fixing a computer issue isn't normal..as for the Weils...well, lets just say rats get everywhere)

Laser dyes? ..check (Sloppy, sloppy 'housekeeping', hey they're only both toxic and carcinogenic..)

And this was mostly IT work..exposed to all this (and, unfortunately, more, much, much more), yet a microscopic amount of egg can send me into anaphylaxis..on a bad day you'd almost swear that something, somewhere has a somewhat exceedingly warped sense of humour.

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Re: Have you dodged toxic substances to do a job?

What city department did you work for? "Parks and Recreation"?

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JQW

I used to work for a Yorkshire based IT company who had customers all over the country.

One week I was sent down to Sussex on a four-day course to cover an imminent new release of one of the systems we dealt with. On leaving the course on the final day to catch a train home, I was stopped at reception and told that there was a call from my office - this was before I had a mobile phone. Apparently one of our customers in the City of London had a problem with a server, and could I pop in to help out a hardware engineer who was having problems as he didn't understand our OS. Of course this meant that I would have problems getting home that evening, but I could stop at a salesman's house overnight.

So I made my way to the station, and caught a train to London Bridge, and then made my way to the customer's office for an evening appointment. The hardware engineer seemed to be pretty clueless, as all he had to diagnose faults were tools on a floppy that he didn't understand. He was convinced that the fault was with the motherboard, and he would arrange for one to arrive at the office for him to fit the following morning. Could I be on the phone the following morning to guide him?

So I headed off to call our salesman to arrange to stay the night in his spare room. I somehow managed to catch the last District Line train to his house to stay for a few hours, then on to catch the first train back to the office.

Tired and exhausted, I make it into the office the following morning, and start talking to this engineer. It takes him hours to get the system working again. Then once fixed, it's obvious that he has somehow managed to wipe the server's RAID array in the process, so could I guide him through the process of re-installing the OS and restoring a backup? By this time it is about 5pm in the evening, and I've only had one sandwich to eat all day, and most of the staff from our office have already left for the pub.

So I stay on the phone laboriously guiding him through the various steps to reinstall the operating system, which weren't that easy. The process was made a bit worse as we needed to install various patches to the server before we could attempt to recover from backup, and each one of these took some time. I remained in the office until about 10:20 that evening, caught the bus home, and then stayed on the phone to him until about 1am the following morning.

As I'd been away from home for a week on the course, I had no food in, and by 1am there were not even any takeaways still open, even on a Friday. So I went to bed starving, and missed a local event I had planned on attending.

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"Crisis is what I pay you for"

Re: "This is what I pay you for"...

Load of doodoo! That's what any trouble-shooter gets -- except when there is no trouble -- then they get "what have you been doing and why haven't I had status reports on your progress". I.e. if you organize things to run well, you are not appreciated when things run well -- only those who are seen as doing well in responding to a crisis are seen as performing "adequately".

Motto: don't create good self-running policies and programs, but only those that create regular crises that you get credit for handling. Saw it at nearly every big company I worked for. No credit for things going well, only credit for when things don't go well and seen as hero in saving the day in the midst of a failure (that could have been prevented by a good plan -- but what's the point in that when such can get you axed as not being "useful")...

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Anonymous Coward

Never a truer word has been said !!!

Astara,

Re: Your last comment.

If only there was a way to keep the upvote button pressed for the next Century or two :)

So true ...... learnt the hard way BUT I am unfortunately genetically incapable of creating the 'crappy' systems to keep looking good by rescuing the company at regular intervals. :(

Got stabbed in the back by someone who could & still sleep at night.

[Who was aided and abetted by a Manager who played similar games and was attracted to a like minded soul/'Equally duplicitous Git' :) ]

Never did get the 'Office Politics & Greasy pole climbing' side of things sorted out. :) :)

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