back to article Disk drive fired 'Frisbees of death' across data centre after storage admin crossed his wires

The working week's winding down once again and that means it's time for another edition of On-Call, The Register's Friday tech support tale recounted by readers. This week, meet “Tim” who in the 1980s worked for Data General. Yes, that Data General, the one that EMC acquired for US$1.1bn in 1999 so it could make hay with the …

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Pirate

Re: Lathes

I don't know about that. Recently had a tour of the high school my young 'un will be going to next year and they had all sorts of cool stuff in the workshops.

Did you notice the castor wheels underneath, where they roll the stuff out during parental unit tours and put it back into hiding at term time? Did you notice how the female parental units were steered into one room while all you male ones were steered into another (rumour has it the rooms the ladies see have large amounts of cotton wool everywhere, so while the menfolk are seeing nice toys they can only drool over using (and hope their sprogs come away with nothing worse than bone-deep cuts that miss nerves and arteries), the ladies see a very protected environment where a paper cut on a student results in the immediate firing and life imprisonment of the teacher)1

1 Implied stereotypical sexism not intended, even if it appears this post was written as such!

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"“It transpired he had made a very small mistake and connected the black and white wires from the accelerometer the wrong way round."

In WWII the bomb disposal squads never got a do-over when they made that mistake.

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Mushroom

"In WWII the bomb disposal squads never got a do-over when they made that mistake."

"Cut the red wire..."

"Now is a bad time to admit that I'm colour-blind..."

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Re: "Cut the red wire..."

"There's another bloody wire!"

Toby Wren

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Re: "In WWII the bomb disposal squads never got a do-over when they made that mistake."

>"Cut the red wire..."

>"Now is a bad time to admit that I'm colour-blind..."

You really have to worry if the enemy guy assembling the bomb was colour blind

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Wrong-way wiring

This is why you use polarised plugs.

It's also why you try to avoid using plugs of the same type/size even if they ARE colour coded.

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Re: "In WWII the bomb disposal squads never got a do-over when they made that mistake."

"You really have to worry if the enemy guy assembling the bomb was colour blind"

Or if the timer/detonator had been fitted with a booby trap. (Many of them were)

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Re: "Cut the red wire..."

Conventional rather than nuclear explosion "But He'll never know".

Keep a tight hold on your wire cutters.

Pity that episode is missing presumed lost.

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Devil

Re: "Cut the red wire..."

if _I_ had designed the thing, cutting ANY wire would detonate it.

I can think up many ways to defeat someone trying to disarm an explosive device by cutting a wire, like "cut any exposed wire, or remove any cover, and it goes BOOM". [real bomb disposal would probably just safely transport it in an armored container, then detonate it someplace away from people+things]

Good thing I'm not a terrorist, yeah - but it's the way white-hat hackers think - anticipate what is being done by thinking about how YOU would do it, muahahahaha!

/me thinking of 'Lethal Weapon 3' at the moment...

afterthought - I think the military deliberately detonates IEDs by use of claymore mines and/or C4

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Re: "Cut the red wire..."

You might wish to have a safe method of disarming the bomb in case your own aircraft has to land again without using it

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "In WWII the bomb disposal squads never got a do-over when they made that mistake."

"Cut the red wire..."

"Now is a bad time to admit that I'm colour-blind..."

OR a cyclist...

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Re: "Cut the red wire..."

You might wish to have a safe method of disarming the bomb in case your own aircraft has to land again without using it

No, because if you have a method of disarming it - then so does your enemy. And from watching varuous documentaries on TV, it's clear that the Germans did booby trap the detonators in the stuff they dropped on the UK. So we had to develop various methods of disarming the bombs without triggering them - one of which was to physically cut a hole in the bomb and take the explosives out (IIRC it was steamed out and then shovelled up off the floor or something like that).

If you have armed the bombs and then can't drop them on the target (or any secondary target) - you simply ditch them in the sea on the way home. I believe a heck of a lot of UK bombs were dropped in a specified zone in the Channel - and there was a theory that Glenn Miller was killed when his plane was hit by a bomb being dumped after an aborted raid, but it seems that theory has since been debunked.

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Pint

Re: "Cut the red wire..."

E-beer for you, Kingstonian, for volleying back appropriately.

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Re: "Cut the red wire..."

It is possible to design a bomb with 'collapsing circuits' so that if any wire is cut the bomb detonates. That has been true for a long time.You can even include fluoroscopic detectors that might identify attempts to x-ray the device and detonate it. One way the EOD teams used in WW2 to get round this and timers was to pour liquid oxygen into the fuse cavity to freeze clockwork mechanisms and stop current flowing to the detonators.

Modern techniques usually use a container of water that is used to 'disrupt' the device using an small explosive charge to drive a wall of water through the device, disrupting it without sparks an removing thed explosive from the detonator and timing mechanism.

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Re: "Cut the red wire..."

There is a wire that the bomb must have in order to explode, that's the one powering the detonator.

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Re: "Cut the red wire..."

"One way the EOD teams used in WW2 to get round this and timers was to pour liquid oxygen into the fuse cavity to freeze clockwork"

That would be liquid nitrogen I hope - or given the technology available perhaps solid CO2 in acetone.

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"Somehow most of us kept our fingers."

Annnnd now for the, ahem, Sysadmin* stories from the unlucky few...

*Because once bitten....

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Coat

"Annnnd now for the, ahem, Sysadmin* stories from the unlucky few..."

So this is where someone called "Stumpy" makes his debut On-Call post ?

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Coat

Somehow most of us kept our fingers

Blasted dot matrix printed tried to take my hand off.

Got a new dot matrix printer machine in (6 years ago), went to press the Online button and the panel fell in much to my surprise (This Lexmark machine is certainly not made to the same standard of their dot matrix printers from years earlier, with the previous one only being replaced because no official printer driver for it came with Windows 7/Server 2012). I put my hand in to push the button panel back and of course I hit the Online button.

The printer did as instructed and I got away with some cuts and bruises (And a reminder to turn off any machine being worked on if you put your hand inside it).

P.S sorry but thankfully I am not called Stumpy.

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So this is where someone called "Stumpy" makes his debut On-Call post ?

I still have scars on my arm from where the brown workshop coat I was wearing got caught in the lathe spindle at college.

Just as well that (like most of the stuff at college) the coat was old and worn and so the sleeve stitching came apart quickly. Otherwise I'd have been typing with only my left hand for the last 32 years.. Also luckily, I was cutting stuff at a fairly low speed.

(Moral of the story - always check that opening the safety guard *actually* stops the lathe like it's supposed to and that some previous student hasn't disabled the safeties. I've never seen a college lecturer go so white so quickly.)

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Joke

Re: Somehow most of us kept our fingers

"but thankfully I am not called Stumpy."

But your name suggests there was blood all over the place...

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> *Because once bitten....

A chemistry lecturer I know used to wander around the hall whilst mixing up black powder in a mortar and pestle. Cue nervous students trying not to be near him.

He stopped doing it after a former student showed up minus 2 fingers. Said student had become a science teacher and tried the same stunt without realising that you need to keep the mixture wet to prevent ignition...

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A chemistry lecturer I know used to wander around the hall whilst mixing up black powder in a mortar and pestle. Cue nervous students trying not to be near him.

One of my teachers many years ago recalled how he "cured" a student of being over inquisitive and always fiddling with stuff. He deliberately left a pestle and mortar on a side bench with something unstable in it. Needless to say, when the over inquisitive student came in for the next lesson, he couldn't resist giving it a bit of a grind ...

Mind you, we found that most of the cupboards in our form room (a physics lab) weren't locked - oh what fun we had with the Wimshurst machine. Could get some real sparks off that one ! Then one day someone said "what happens if you put a polo mint between the balls ?", so we tried it - put a polo mint in the gap, held by the balls which were adjusted to grip it and wound it up. There was the usual crack as it sparked - and we could find no trace of polo mint, no bits, no dust, we had no idea what happened to it.

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No - but I was once working inside a small 19" ethernet switch to clean or replace the fan.

Since my workspace was rather cluttered, I had it on my lap while I was sitting in a chair.... (you see where this is going.)

I powered it up to check the fan plug orientation was correct, and the case went live with 220V. Its rather hard to have a complex coordinated muscular response when sitting down.

So from memory I leaned back, pushing hips forward at speed, sending whoile switch flying through the air to crash into the solid concrete floor. Surprisingly only two ports ceased working due to this abuse.

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Unhappy

Re: Somehow most of us kept our fingers

"But your name suggests there was blood all over the place..."

hmm I do keep cutting my fingers on cardboard (My god the paperwork and the moans of thats a first aid injury from the H&S checkbox committee) so i suppose its true

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1980's Technology

My god it's full of springs!

Servicing a VCR was like playing with a Hellraiser puzzle box

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Coat

Re: Servicing a VCR was like playing with a Hellraiser puzzle box

I know... I once had to pull a banana out of one... And a peanut butter sandwich out of another...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: 1980's Technology

Have an upvote, the number of those things I took apart to align the heads and never suffered fatal injury or electrocution still confuses me to this day. I was only 7 years old as well but I managed to fix them all.

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Re: Servicing a VCR was like playing with a Hellraiser puzzle box

In my case it was a PB&J out of a Betamax ...

https://forums.theregister.co.uk/forum/containing/1649281

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Pint

Re: Servicing a VCR was like playing with a Hellraiser puzzle box

Did it manage to toast it? Some of us with broken toasters want to know.

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Re: Servicing a VCR was like playing with a Hellraiser puzzle box

But little Calum knows he's not allowed to touch the video recorder so it couldn't have been him that posted the chewed Duplo man through the slot.

Which does rather suggest that all the foreign objects jammed under the tape carriage are the work of one of the adults in the house...

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Re: My god it's full of springs!

For those imagining VHS or Betamax or Umatic, a VCR before then had to be moved very gently. Especially the Philips N1500 which was like a proof of concept prototype made of Meccano. Even the chassis. Really it's amazing it didn't have valves (tubes) in it. The two reels were stacked maybe to make the cassette smaller or to make the helical path on the drum easier.

Philips N1500

Though there was a Panasonic that used a single reel cartridge (based on EIAJ 1/2") and a stiff leader. One way of ensuring tapes were always rewound.

A 1950s EMI giant BBC audio recorder full of valves was less insane inside.

Called a "portable" because it had a lid and handles. Weighed 29kg and mains only.

EMI portable like BBC used in mid 1950s

HiFi mono by using full width of tape.

I used a near washing machine sized disk drive with the large "cake cover" style disc packs. Part of an Intel system running ISIS II. I can't imagine how the accident can happen and surely the heavy metal cover and lid must have been off?

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Pint

Re: 1980's Technology

"Hellraiser puzzle box"

The Lament Configuration.

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Re: Servicing a VCR was like playing with a Hellraiser puzzle box

I know... I once had to pull a banana out of one... And a peanut butter sandwich out of another...

Buttered toast with marmite on it in the case of our family VCR - but it survived for another 6 months before I finally built a compact (ish - this was 15 years ago) PVR. That did solve this particular problem - in fact it took almost a year before my better half asked out loud where the VCR slot was.....

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Re: My god it's full of springs!

I worked on lots of N1500, 1700s and V2000s from the late 70s into the early 90s and I can assure you they were all hellish, arms, levers, motors, pulleys, bastardo springs & unknown electricikty circuits that somehow managed to work.

The modular versions added extra fun where (ex)rental jocks(tm) would spray everything with servisol (in an attempt to get high or fix it) and then that would degrade the plastic around the module mountings and the modules would then flap about.

Cheers R*Jocks for that extra workload.

We had I believe these style drives for the backup kit and there were trusted *nix nerds that were only allowed to handle anything to do with the kit and they lived & worked within the halon environment ...

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Re: Servicing a VCR was like playing with a Hellraiser puzzle box

Never, ever repair a broken toaster.

Lister.

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Re: 1980's Technology

My god it's full of springs!

A 1980's VCR has nothing on a 1950's mechanical calculator.

Springs. Cogs. Levers. Gear racks. More springs. More levers. And some more springs, to top it off.

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Boffin

Re: 1980's Technology

Servicing a VCR was like playing with a Hellraiser puzzle box

Kid's stuff. I still have a VHS camcorder in pieces somewhere.

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Re: My god it's full of springs!

Called a "portable" because it had a lid and handles. Weighed 29kg and mains only.

I had a Pye TV like that. Cream metal cabinet with side panels that opened up like a WW2 lorry bonnet for service access.

On that subject, anyone ever try to move an AR88 radio?

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Re: 1980's Technology

"Servicing a VCR was like playing with a Hellraiser puzzle box"

Sony 3/4 inch machines have one particular screw that, when removed, is tantamount to opening a box of live grasshoppers. Stuff flies everywhere!

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Re: 1980's Technology

I'll see your 1950s calculator and raise you a Creed model 7 teletype with 1/8hp motor spinning at one end to drive everything.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: 1980's Technology

What I find interesting about video recorders is how much simpler the later ones were in terms of design.

Granted, a lot of that would have been electronics boards, many of which would have been replaced with a few chips after 25-30 years, but even *mechanically* my parents c. 1990 video was- IIRC- quite a lot simpler inside than my neighbours c. 1980(?) video (which was passed on to them when theirs broke down). (#)

And- again IIRC- the one I bought circa 2004 (##) was simpler still and ridiculously shallow at the back.

Is this all down simply to refinement of the mechanical design over 30 years or so?

(#) My Dad did mention something about the plastic construction quality of some parts of the 1990 model when he was repairing it, but I've no idea if that was a factor in their ability to simply things mechnically. (Why would it be?)

(##) i.e. The last few years of video recorders, when DVRs were already an option. I only bought the former as a stopgap because the price/capaciousness of DVRs wasn't *quite* there for what I could afford, but I knew it would be in two or three years.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: 1980's Technology

"Servicing a VCR was like playing with a Hellraiser puzzle box"

Jesus wept.

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Re: 1980's Technology

"Jesus wept."

Oh, no tears, please - it's a waste of good suffering!

- Pinhead, 1987.

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Unhappy

Re: Servicing a VCR was like playing with a Hellraiser puzzle box

I understand that cockroaches loved to infest those things - stories from repair techs of roach-infested electronics. Who knows, maybe they were eating the grease...

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Re: 1980's Technology

How about the line printers used by the US Navy in the 80's (I got out in 1990 so can not speak for later).

You had a large spinning drum, hammers and feeders. Talk about trying not to service while in use...

GB

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Re: Servicing a VCR was like playing with a Hellraiser puzzle box

@malle-herbert

Not sure they compete with fried rice.

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At Bombastic Bob, re: cockroaches in VCR's.

Bob, there's a perfectly good explanation for why they were inside the VCR...

They were trying to get into film!

=-)p

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Re: Seems like a good idea...

I serviced Creed T150 teleprinters in the R.A.F. We had an instructor with a dent in his forehead, received when he was fixing one. He had removed the airbrake (yes, really), from the carriage return, then fired the print carriage into his head. It probably weighed about a kilogram and was made of cast iron.

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Re: 1980's Technology

I see your Creed model 7 teletype and raise you a Linotype ... all the bells, whist^Wsprings, and levers with molten lead thrown in just for fun.

etaoinshurdlu<<ker-CHUNK>>

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