back to article Boss put chocolate cake on aircon controller, to stop people using it

Far out, it's Friday! Which means it's time for another edition of On-Call, El Reg's week-ending reader-contributed tales of support gigs that went south. This week, meet “Jim” who one tended “a reasonably-sized server room/wiring closet, which hosted a number of internal and production systems. We were rather fortunate in …

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Re: Heating / Aircon

MOST folks I do not want to see nude

There, FTFY

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Re: Heating / Aircon

I don't know what the solution is to prevent air con wars in offices, but dismissing people who genuinely can't cope with the air temperature being cold is not it.

It's not much fun the other way either. Worked in offices where the ladies had firm control over the AC temperatures. This left me a molten puddle of human flesh; Unable to think work, think or do anything useful. They thought this was great fun and many snide remarks were made at my expense.

Started spending time in the machine room. You would often find me sitting on the machine room floor with a laptop & Ethernet into the back one of the switches.

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Re: Heating / Aircon

"No! Set it to warm. If people are hot, they can undress."

There are many more people on this planet in proportion that I'd rather NOT see unclothed, thank you very much.

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Re: Heating / Aircon

Before you suggest that, look around the office at your co-workers and consider very carefully whether you really want to see them nekkid.

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Re: Heating / Aircon

Not sure you'll read it, 3 days after the original article.

Wearing a scarf is a good solution . In fact you need to protect your head, neck, and spine the most. When your body gets cold, it will send warm blood to the essential places listed above, so you will have less blood to warm your hands and feet.

It is not very useful to protect your hands and feet, you better keep the very essential places warm. That's one of the reason why scuba diving wet suits has double layer of neoprene along the spine (triple layer if you count that pants too) and a hood. But you can go bare feet and bare hands.

When you have cold feet, cover your neck.

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Coffee/keyboard

The Juice Is Loose

Back in pre-history, Philips made a useful workstation system called Maestro, a mini-computer and desktop system that we used to make life easier for the mainframe developerr. We used them very effectively and were pleased when we upgraded to the new Maestro 9000 series, which had a lot of the functionality put into some slick and spendy (£3000 in 1990) keyboard units. You can see one stuck to the wall of the Starbug in Red Dwarf. They were well built, but sadly not environment sealed as we discovered when my desk neighbour over-exerted himself while trying to open a recalcitrant carton of orange juice and when the carton opened in a rapidly evolving failure mode dumped the contents into the keyboard/desktop computer unit. Orange juice and PCBs are not amicable companions. He was known as OJ for a long while after that, until the nickname acquired unfortunate connotations.

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Re: The Juice Is Loose

"dumped the contents into the keyboard/desktop computer unit."

Wasn't that also the sort of time period when even thinking about eating or drinking within 10 feet of the computer or keyboard was a sackable offence?

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Re: The Juice Is Loose

We were developers, what were they going to do?

Taking food and drink near any of the msnframe nodes in the computer hall, however, was utterly forbidden (unless you were an op and it was anywhere near Christmas - we’ve had BOFHs in our life ever since Knute was a lad).

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I think I've written before about our comms room. Unusually, we, the Ops staff were given the opportunity to design the space and layout from a blank sheet when we moved into the building, as it was a new build specifically for the company.

We therefore designed the whole area to be open and spacious, with a central row of racks down the middle of the room with power distribution and network access from the ceiling, and wide sturdy worktops down one side, with loads of power outlets and network ports available. Dedicated air-conditioning was put in place with a hot side and a cold side for the racks.

Access to the comms room was controlled by electronic tags as well as physical locks, and only IT staff and company Directors were allowed access.

Within 3 months of moving in, the room had changed from a roomy, pleasant work space, to being jammed full of crap. There's a golf cart, a set of car wheels, broken desks and chairs and all sorts of other stuff, to the point that it is no longer possible to open the rack doors unless you first empty the room into the corridor.

The IT staff have not done this, so guess who?

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That one would have been easy: an urgent maintenance that needs all the rack doors to be open. Dump the junk in the corridor and let the owners deal with it.

Of course, the maintenance will take several weeks.

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No need for urgent maintenance. Just send out an email: "The junk from the comms room has been moved to the corridor. The owners WILL retrieve their Junk before date X. On date X any remaining objects will be dumped in a skip. We are NOT responsible for loss of items."

There is no need to NOT be a dick about it.

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Obvious design fail

Designing it "roomy" was asking for trouble. If there is spare space in a non-client-visible part of a building, it WILL be used as storage space until the room is no longer usable. You're lucky that you didn't end up hosting the cleaning staff's wheelie cart as well. I for one have never seen any place where that did not happen, and I've seen quite a few places on several continents. It's just a basic law of the Universe. If you want a garbage-free environment, design it with enough space for operation, but barely (of course that doesn't apply to client-visible places such as lobbies, where hundreds square meters of empty, wasted space seem to be desirable).

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Stop

There is no need to NOT be a dick about it.

Erm, I think the part where it's the Company Directors' junk would imply a good reason to not be a dick.

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I would still be a dick about it. Just because they are director doesn't mean they can just dump personal items in a work environment without problem. Tires/wheels and such do not belong in a comms room, so they don't stay in the comms room.

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You designed the computer room wrong.

The doors need to be 2" wider than any unit to be placed inside(usually the racks) and no more. The room needs to be long and narrow, and the racks facing towards one of the long walls, so that there's decent working area in front and behind, but no more. Workdesks and storage is to be at the end furthest away from the doors.

You need a raised floor, and a step up just inside the door. And a ramp that is cumbersome to assemble and put in place, and must be removed again to close the door.

That will make it a PITA to store large objects in there...

Mark off any corner or other floorspace with yellow and black tape, and write 'for recycling'...

Then track down and... 'no one ever heard from them ever again' anyone who has access without a good cause.

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Mushroom

Erm 2...

I think the part where it's the Company Directors' junk would imply the best reason to be a dick.

Play them at their own game.

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Re: Trygve Henriksen

Nonsense. Some of the measures you are recommending will also make life difficult for day-to-day work, and the others are just useless if not harmful. Storage and desk areas, that you recommend be placed in the furthest area of the server room, should really be completely separate and placed foremost so as to serve as additional access control. In the real world no raised floor or access ramp will prevent strorage of any kind of object, including very heavy ones. You would only create problems for yourself by increasing the hassle of removing them. No raised floor will prevent clueless people from thinking that storing it there is easier than chucking it in the lift and putting it in *proper* storage in the -creepy, dark, distant- basement. Or, god forbid, filing the proper paperwork to have it discarded. "recycling area"-type marking actually makes it WORST, as people do genuinely believe that it's now YOUR problem and will dump MORE garbage there. Trust me, been there, seen that, and quite often, too. We even had to deal with a "work accident" claim from someone who got a backache from dumping a small (broken) fridge from the rest area into a tech space. Said tech space being difficult to dump gabage into was designated an Occupational Hazard in the claim. Yeah, right. (this one didn't go through, obviously).

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"Within 3 months of moving in, the room had changed from a roomy, pleasant work space, to being jammed full of crap..... to the point that it is no longer possible to open the rack doors unless you first empty the room into the corridor."

Which is what you do, and then make an anonymous call to the local fire service that a unannounced random inspection would be a good idea.

Or just tell the maintenance staff that all the crap in the hallway needs to go into a skip - NOW.

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Re: Obvious design fail

"Designing it "roomy" was asking for trouble."

No, allowing anyone other than the IT staff was.

Noone outside IT goes in our server room unaccompanied. The extingushant system is potentially lethal.

That's our excuse and we're sticking to it.

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Re: "potentially lethal"

It's not worth having a dangerous system if it's not fully, and reliably, lethal, takes all the fun out of it.

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Re: Erm 2...

Just move the crap directly into the skip. When asked what happened to it, reply that you dont know, one day it was gone and you assumed whoever put it there took it away.

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Steak

Used to work in a place with a tiny server room with huge air intake.

All was fine apart from a nearby company kitchen that sometimes pumped out the aroma of steak and garlic.

The hazard in the room was of saliva.

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Re: Steak

When there's a southwest breeze, my office receives the scent of toast in the morning and chips at lunchtime. In the ten years I've been here I've put on two stone.

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Re: Steak

This sounds a bit familiar. Our office is next to a company making sweets. At 4-5am we can smell it, and can usually make out if it's licorice, caramel or strawberry on that day. I like it - many of my colleagues, not so much.

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Ah yes, the AirCon adjustments

Somewhere in Central Asia we installed a system on the 4ft floor of a Communist Era Office block. The climate was controlled by how much a huge window was opened.

This worked fine until a Hooded Crow flew into said window and killed itself. As anyone who has seen the aftermath of a Sparrowhawk meeting a pigeon in mid air knows, that all that is left is feathers and dust and lots of both. They went everywhere.

It took a month of work to finally get rid of the detritous from the incident. It was a good job that the HDD's were sealed units. I'd hate to think what would have happened if we were still using removable disk packs.

When I departed the site, they were still using the window but some netting had been strung over the outside of the building to stop the birds from flying where they shouldn't have been.

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Re: Ah yes, the AirCon adjustments

4ft floor? Seems a bit low.

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Re: Ah yes, the AirCon adjustments

Something like this I guess

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T2Y7oo3iB40

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cake, and grief counseling

+10 rep for not using duct tape

-10 rep for not using clear packing tape or something approximately as photogenic

-50 rep for using a schizophrenic's sense of causality

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Re: cake, and grief counseling

This is the first time I've actually seen someone use that quote and not the overused one.

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Re: cake, and grief counseling

in case you missed the connection, here's a nice bit of back story and bonus mid-story leading up to the endgame

"The bad news is that reality doesn't exist. The good news is we have a new cat graveyard."

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Re: cake, and grief counseling

'Tis a shame-- that's the first strong hint that you are probably in the Twilight Zone, and my favourite.

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Facepalm

Winter tyres...

we had a Russian office where the partners stored their winter tyres for their Zils or whatever tank was popular at the time, in the comms room...

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The first I have ever said this

Cake is not the solution

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Re: The first I have ever said this

"Cake is not the solution"

Of course it is. What's the problem?

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Re: The first I have ever said this

"Cake is not the solution"

Of course it is. What's the problem?

Wanting to have a high blood glucose level due to a partial failure of the feedback monitoring and control system..

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The ops manager eventually just went and got the office vacuum cleaner...

Srsly? He didn't unplug an entire rack of kit to power up the hoover? Where's his sense of comic timing ffs?

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It's not just cake which can annoy the real folk.

Many years ago I ran a computer department. The management of the company decided that they wanted to run "musak" throughout the building. In vain, I protested that we were coding and needed quiet in our little area.

The day after the speakers went live, they were suprisingly quiet - due to a small pair of wire cutters I just happened to have in my desk :)

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Re: It's not just cake which can annoy the real folk.

"a small pair of wire cutters"

One former colleague who preferred piece and quiet in pubs was known to carry a pair of wire cutters in her handbag.

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Re: It's not just cake which can annoy the real folk.

I have to confess to acquiring a very handy Casio watch (when they went bells and whistles in a very impressive manner) that seemed to have a comprehensive collection of TV remote IR codes. Yup - when you wanted to turn down the volume/turn off an irritating television it turned out to be very useful Guess it dates me a little......

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Re: It's not just cake which can annoy the real folk.

I have an off-brand one of those, bought from a market stall in Thailand... It's very useful indeed, and good for playing tricks on people.

Finding a perfect match to any tv might take a while, but a lot of them share codes for some functionality.

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Re: It's not just cake which can annoy the real folk.

I have to confess to acquiring a very handy Casio watch

Awww. Given the mention of wire-cutters above, I was hoping for a James Bond style watch with a laser in it to cut the speaker wires...

Disappointed now...

:(

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Re: It's not just cake which can annoy the real folk.

"piece and quiet"

Dammit. I'm having a bad weak with my tiepin.

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Re: It's not just cake which can annoy the real folk.

"piece and quiet"

And here I had that scored as pun of the week!

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Re: It's not just cake which can annoy the real folk.

"The day after the speakers went live, they were suprisingly quiet - due to a small pair of wire cutters"

I can now reveal that, as a student and at the request of my boss, I replaced the 100V line speaker in the outer office with a suitable wire wound resistor, so that the people running the muzak system would not notice that the current had reduced.

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Megaphone

re Musak

In a design lab at Marconi Chelmsford - so I was told:

Manglement decided that the department warranted a Tannoy speaker. A loud one.

The engineers disagreed. Complaints were ignored. Repeatedly.

Over the weeks the sound became more distorted, but quieter. Eventually whatever the fault was, the thing was barely audible and everyone was happy.

Some years later - redecoration time. A chippy (and probably a sparks) was sent round to remove the speaker. He nearly dropped it it was so heavy. Removing the back out of curiosity revealed a speaker cone peppered with holes and a box half full of lead shot.

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Re: It's not just cake which can annoy the real folk.

"Yup - when you wanted to turn down the volume/turn off an irritating television it turned out to be very useful "

Some android phones have IR emitters and in the App store there are a few apps that can utilise this for switching off TVs.

Guess how I know this? :)

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Re: It's not just cake which can annoy the real folk.

"Some android phones have IR emitters and in the App store there are a few apps that can utilise this for switching off TVs."

Pierogi on the N900 here. Very useful.

pierogi.garage.maemo.org

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Storing stuff in the server room (because it's the only room in the office which is regularly locked) is so commonplace in SMBs that I'd be surprised if it wasn't a 'Recommended Cost Saving Security Solution' in some PHB management book by some business management entrepreneur.

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The other place to store stuff is the plantroom, if there is one. I was in a £200+ a night hotel in Kensington a few years ago where they dumped the old mattresses in the room with their drinking water tank. And left them to slowly rot.

God knows what else they stored in there, but there was an inch deep layer of un-identified black goop on the floor.

Funnily enough when the maintenance manager later offered us a drink, we declined.

I'm not quite sure why maintenance was in his title. One of their pump motors had literally exploded several years before. And they'd just left the place running on the single back-up pump since, and hoped for the best. We were in to design them a new system - but they stopped talking to us after they got a surprise inspection from the water regs inspectors. Thought we'd dobbed them in. Not guilty m'lud, I reckon it was the fire officer who turned up for an unannounced inspection when I was there - I could see quite a few breaches of those regs too, and I think he saw that tank room and did it to annoy them.

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