back to article Boss visited the night shift and found a car in the data centre

Another week is coming to an end and that means it's time for On-Call, The Register's Friday column in which we share readers' stories of being asked to do the unthinkable to satisfy the incorrigible. This week, meet “Glenn” who told us that back in the 1970s he worked for “a large multinational that had several IBM mainframes …

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Boffin

Re: Bit risky...

The old HPC data centre at Cambridge had racks positioned over the beams in the floors and also had the air flow calculated so exactly that they could track people in the room from their monitoring systems. It was a very impressive use of a space that wasn't really suitable for its purpose. They now have an excellent new facility for their beasts.

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Re: Bit risky...

I've seen (and won the bid to fix!) a collapsed raised floor after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. Belonged to a company in Silly Con Valley, next door to MaeWest.

That said, at least a few of the raised floors would easily support an F-250 full of line printers, card readers, tape drives, and the like. You can guess how I know this.

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Re: Bit risky...

Yep, at a London Datacentre of some repute.

A reel of armoured cable was taken to the 4th Floor in a goods lift rated at 4 Tons, and rolled out onto a floor good for about 1. Underneath which was a fair amount of data cabling.

Hilarity ensued.

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Re: Bit risky...

A friend once got called in to a computer that had gone down. As in, down through the floor to the room underneath.

Turned out that the disk packs were still readable. On the way down the power cables had pulled free, and the disk drives had noticed the loss of power and parked the heads while in mid-air.

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Re: Bit risky...

I haven't seen a collapsed floor... however. the story can now be told.

I came close to seeing a collapsed floor from below...

A cerrtain young engineer (might have been yours truly) was installing a new supercomputer at Nottingham University. Twelve racks full of Sun Opteron 1U servers.

Said engineer (OK it was me) was in the machine room to run cables between the switches at the base of each rack. So I took up the floor tiles behind the row of racks. The entire row.

The machien room manager (hi Chris) ran into the room, saw what I was doign and hauled be out by my ear. Thanks Chris. You stopped me from becoming a rather squished eingineer. Ever since I have had a healthy respect for tons of equipment balanced on machine room floors.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Bit risky...

I'll second that with a similar story.

Large pre-built system delivered in loading bay (big enough for trucks) wheeled down concrete ground floor corridor to over-height freight lift...

Can't wheel the effin thing out of the lift landing as the doors to the office are standard height. the site survey guy didn't account for the fact the rack has to be LIFTED OFF THE FLOOR in order to move it around...

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Re: Bit risky...

Ever since I have had a healthy respect for tons of equipment balanced on machine room floors.

One place I worked, we bought a number of (fully pre-populated) racks of Compaq servers. Sadly, the company that were (supposedly) a professional company, had managed to build them all with the (long-life and therefore very heavy) UPS units at the top of the racks.

We forced them to send their build staff to our site so that they could redo the build. They tried to charge us, we countered with the threat of a full HSE investigation.

Strangely enough, the rebuild happened at no charge to us.

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Re: Bit risky...

On the way down the power cables had pulled free, and the disk drives had noticed the loss of power and parked the heads while in mid-air.

But did the process have enough time to write 'oh no, not again' to the logs?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Bit risky...

Yes, now that I think about it, I've seen rack with UPS units at the top. AND, nothing at the bottom. Nothing. 6U in a rack, and it's all batteries, and all at the top.

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Re: Bit risky...

But did the process have enough time to write 'oh no, not again' to the logs?

%SYSTEM-F-GROUND, I wonder if it will be friends with me ?

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Not 100% sure it doesn't belong, but...

A company I worked for had terrible trouble with overnight batch runs, almost always failing by morning. A new Ops manager took over, and discovered that the after-hours phone number given out to contact the operators actually rang at the payphone at the pub, fortuitously almost next door (this was in London). The operators spent the time until closing time in the pub, then attempted the overnight batch runs, with varying degrees of ethanol-fueled success.

The new ops manager soon put a stop to that. All was well with the batch runs for a while, but then other problems started arising, the mini-computers showing odd failures. The faults were traced to overheating, and the new Ops manager duly lifted the floor to place sensors, or some such reason. There in the under floor cooling ducts were crates - and I mean crates, not just a few bottles - of beer.

After a replacement set of operators arrived, all the batch problems, which had been a "feature" for several years, were resolved.

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Anonymous Coward

A lump of masonry

In addition to my main job, I'm also the health and safety rep, which equates to an excuse to just walk around looking at things now and then.

One of my finds was after someone had installed a new network link downstairs, which the reg standards converter tells me was a c-cup sized lump of masonry just dumped in the middle of the floor.

Needless to say official reports were written in triplicate, rolled up, stuffed with martian megaweed and the navel fluff of supermodels, and set on fire.

The lump of masonry itself was unceremoniously dumped out of the nearest window.

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Paris Hilton

The post is required, and must contain letters.

Having had to look a the CCTV footage (more than one). It appears that a spinning IBM 3380 disk unit has the same effect on a woman's anatomy as washing machine on a spin cycle.

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Re: The post is required, and must contain letters.

If you mean, "imagined to be stimulating by men, but in reality completely un-arousing", I'll buy it. Otherwise, I'm calling BS.

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Quick respray

I once did a respray of a Ford Cortina front wing in my data centre. Of course, once I'd finished, I had to rearrange the paint splattered tiles to cover the evidence.....

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Pint

Most of these beat my:-

"Cleaner using the server rack as a cleaner cupboard complete with bucket and mop"

right into the hat... Have a pint !

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Facepalm

Funny this comment should pop up today, because while I'm not having a server room problem, I discovered last night that the cleaners are storing waste paper in a fire equipment cupboard at my current workplace.

I have logged this with the very top of our "security and safety" department, alongside a lecture theatre with both fire exits blocked during exam sittings.

Not a happy bunny today.

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Bronze badge

Not a server room, but an amusing health and safety story:

I used to work for British Rail, and we had a room for wheel-tappers, shunters and other out-door workers to "rest and recuperate" as, before the days of globule warming, it was not uncommon to have to dry out a bit after work in heavy rain. (Or sleep on the table during night shifts - despite 5,000hp diesels parked with engines running 3 metres away).

The Health and Safety inspector came into the Area Manager's office and reported having found an electric kettle, plugged in, and switched on, on the gas stove, with the gas lit. The culprit admitted the offence, saying in mitigation "I was desperate for a cup of tea" - which was considered reasonably acceptable in the circumstances (after he made tea for all present).

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Mushroom

Some people can sleep anywhere

I once was bivvying whilst out with the REME. They decided that they were going to run a Live fire exercise during the night to surprise us grunts. Apparently I slept through it until the the SM hauled me out of the bivouac by my feet.

There were grenades, smoke bombs and small arms fire just feet away.

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Anonymous Coward

globule warming

I like that. Can't exactly picture what it is, but I like it.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Some people can sleep anywhere

Can't blame you really. I mean, the flow chart goes like this: Am I being shot at? Yes: get out of the way. No: go back to sleep. Your offense was to short-circuit the decision branch...

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Re: Some people can sleep anywhere

After a very tyring exercise as an aussie, ARes infantry platoon sergeant, i copped 6months extra duty for sleeping through a tri-company attack on the same feature (better known as a battallion attack, which we were not allowed to be doing) . 500 soldiers (including my platoon), hueys, 40 ish m60s, artyand mortar sims, and the quack playing the bagpipes. Luckily, my extra duties only lasted 6 weeks, until I was commissioned.

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Re: Some people can sleep anywhere

Typical REME.

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Re: Some people can sleep anywhere

> Live fire exercise

Yup, I slept through live gunfire too... and lots of it. There's a pic of the empty brass stacked jenga-style on my snoozing self.

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Happy

@Loud Speaker I used to work for British Rail, and we had a room for wheel-tappers, shunters and other out-door workers to "rest and recuperate"

I thought those guys had their own Social Club? I'm sure I saw it featured on TV once in the 70s.

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Facepalm

PAT was barred...

In the dim and distant past a member of the Helldesk let a PAT (Portable Appliance Tester) into the computer room, who we had been assured would only be conducting visual tests.

He was quickly removed when servers started going down...

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Re: PAT was barred...

An argument I've just been having. I've reluctantly agreed to the desktops being tested but they're not going anywhere near the server room.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: PAT was barred...

Even desktops only need to be tested about once every 5~6 years (this idea that everything needs to be tested once a year is not true).

New machines/cables do not need to be tested if they are genuine.

So in reality PCs will often be replaced before they need to be checked. You still need to do a visual inspection and ensure that every member of staff knows to report and potential damage.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: PAT was barred...

@rob_leady

That exact story came to mind when I read this article!

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What haven't I found...

Golf Clubs, a Stack of fancy (Glass) bottled water and a rotting plate of food in one server room.

A LARGE Umbrella, this was on the top of the rack as the roof leaked.

An inflatable chair, kettle and ashtray.

A small child

9 year old HP servers running mission critical services...

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Silver badge

Re: What haven't I found...

Are you sure that was not management or a manger in training ?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: What haven't I found...

I'll Trump that with an 13 year old Sun server.

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Silver badge

Almost forgot one

My first ever data centre was at a financial organization near Peterborough.

It seems there was a prior problem with this kind of thing, because there was a big sign on the door informing people that the data centre was "not a storage area"

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Re: Almost forgot one

The DC at my first job had a hand-printed sign on the door: "Anything left in here without my approval just became mine to use, abuse, and dispose of as I please" and signed by the lead night supervisor. Apparently some people, mostly not from the department, had been storing all kinds of things in the DC. This quickly stopped.

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Elfin Safety....

Not in the server room, but one of my colleagues used to work on his mini in the barn we rented for noisy engine tests. This was after hours and in his own time, so not an issue. Until one winter evening, whilst removing the radiator, his hand slipped and his arm got jammed between the radiator and the front of the car. Luckily, the hand-brake was off, and he managed to drag the car across the barn to the phone, and contact a another colleague who came and extracted him.

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What did he do?

When I was an apprentice a mate rebuilt a Land Rover using the facilities of the material stores and replaced every bit of aluminium. His conversion to run it on Calor gas needed my assistance, as he was drawing off the gas so fast that the gas bottle was freezing. My solution- get a reel of 23/0076 wire, wind the cable round the gas cylinder and slap it across the battery. Eventually we worked out a control system (a switch) to stop the battery going flat.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: What did he do?

all I can say is "yikes"... but thumbs up for surviving to tell us...

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Silver badge

Re: What did he do?

Working at an ex-steelworks, re-purposed into something much more "friendly", a colleague built a pulse jet engine and attached it to a go-cart frame he also built. He had to buy in his own stainless steel, but most of the other bits, including the half-empty bottles of gas, were found lying around the site.

It did work, though it was a pig to start. We found that the best way to start it was to light it on gas and let it warm up, then upend the bottle so that it was running on liquid, while also blowing air through it.

Still not sure how we managed to get the specialist welding gasses past the accountant :-)

M.

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Anonymous Coward

night shift at steel works

When I worked the night shifts at a steel works, the other employees and I had the best serviced cars in the company. They were driven in for full services, wash, polish, hoover (courtesy of the office cleaner). They were even lifted up with fork lift trucks so that the underneath could be undersealed.

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When I was an Op we used to keep a case of beer under the floor beneath the AC blowers, kept it at exactly the right temperature :-) Oh and a box of porn mags for the long lonely nights :-o

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Anonymous Coward

Pigeon nests.

Pigeon nests, complete with pigeons, young and old.

Some bright spark had had the monster Airedale AC unit removed when it failed, it didn't need to be repaired as they'd decommed the huge DG mainframe it was specced for and the cooling solution in place was plenty good enough for the WIntel boxes.

Unfortunately they'd left a gaping hole in the DC wall which the local flying rats had taken advantage of so there were racks streaked with tokens of their appreciation.

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Happy

Re: Pigeon nests.

...the huge DG mainframe...

That's not a mainframe!

This is a mainframe!

http://www.museumwaalsdorp.nl/computer/images/cyber74.jpg

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Re: Pigeon nests.

"Ah, I see you've played knifey-spoony before!"

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That's not a mainframe....

"Molest me not with this pocket calculator stuff....."

http://www.lynceans.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/Deep-Thought.png

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Re: Pigeon nests.

I'm still looking after some running Airedale (and Growclose) units

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Anonymous Coward

A football

Used by the operators for a game of five-a-side when things got boring.

Discovered by yours truly when I got called in to re-ipl the mainframe after it mysteriously went down. It turned out that someone missed the goal and hit the emergency power off button

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Big Brother

The most worrying?

By far, the most worrying thing to find in any IT area is an accountant!

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Re: The most worrying?

IT area is an accountant!

To be fair, their presence is usually a fleeting one. Followed (a few days later) by an unexplainable odd smell..

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Anonymous Coward

Re: The most worrying?

or junior accounts department people with sheets of asset tags who put them on every piece of equipment in the room including the BIG RED emergency shutdown buttons by the door.

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