back to article The best way to screw the competition? Do what they can't, in a fraction of the time

Friday has rolled around once more, and so we welcome you to the latest instalment of On Call, where readers share their tech support achievements. This week, we hear from "Antonio", who was working at a small software company back in the early '90s. "That was when Novell NetWare was in its heyday, and we managed to sell the …

  1. This post has been deleted by its author

  2. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

    Re: Novell WAS ethernet.

    As some folks on Experts Exchange are/were very fond of saying when I was a contributor/moderator there "Novell is/was a company, Netware is/was the product'.

    ...and Netware is/was compatible with Token Ring, so to amend the title: "Netware was not just ethernet."

  3. PiltdownMan

    For my Souvenier of these days

    I have a representation of SNOOPY in ASCII, on 8-bit paper-tape. Used to print on Line Printers and Teletypes.

    Maybe I'm no longer middle-aged (I already have an MR2 just for fun).

  4. JimC Silver badge

    and Corvus Omninet

    Our original Lan installation ran on Corvus Omninet. This was a shielded twisted pair installation (as opposed to UTP - unshielded twisted pair - onto which little 5 sided (IIRC) boxes were installed where you wanted a LAN point, which a standard length drop cable ran into. ISTR is was 1MB/S, so 10MB ethernet was a big advance when we moved to that. One of the big advantages of Netware was that it ran on all sorts of different cabling technologies, and would happily route between them with multiple cards on the server. Indeed I recall having a dedicated server with damn all disk space that's only role in life was to route between different cable technologies. I think we had 10base2, 10base2 over fibre, Corvus Omninet and 10baseT all running at the same time at one stage.

    10baseT was considered a royal pain in the neck due to the huge physical volume of cabling required compared to the much neater cabling of the bus installations.

  5. keith_w

    Re: Don't forget arcnet

    No, it's not.

    Attached Resource Computer Network (ARCnet) is a type of LAN protocol that provides network services to 255 nodes at data rates of up to 2.5 Mbps. ARCnet is similar to token ring and Ethernet network services. ARCnet was fast, reliable and cheap, and it allowed different transmission systems to be merged and implemented on same network.

    Attached Resource Computer Network (ARCNET) - Techopedia

  6. sisk Silver badge

    But coax *shudder* - so glad it died out as a networking solution. Ethernet is so much better.

    Oh come on, who didn't love vampire taps? :-)

    Seriously though, I've only read about EoC, a fact for which I am thankful. I'm a little under 40, so by the time I left college and started my IT career in the early noughts EoC was mostly just a memory outside of cable ISPs and a few places in desperate need of an infrastructure upgrade.

  7. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    Re: "Ethernet is so much better"

    "One of my employers had installed, at great cost, 10Base2 networking using make-before-break plug in cables, so in theory you could connect and disconnect individual machines without killing the whole network segment."

    One of our customers had that. But they were in an old Victorian building with the original heating pipes. Yes, pipes, not radiators. Cast iron pipes about 4" in diameter, running along all the office walls about 3' off the ground. Just below the trunking and wall points of this expensive make before break system. Bendy metal contacts just inches above a nice heat source that went on and off during the day. And we all know what bendy metal and varying temperatures leads to, don't we boys and girls?

  8. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    Re: "Ethernet is so much better"

    "OK, if it's an obscurity contest .. how many of you remember Polynet ?"

    ISTR some vague memory of Banyan Vines too. No idea why I remember it it what it was. Some sort of networking kit or protocol or something related.

  9. pirxhh

    Ethernet is (was) coax - originally (10Base-5) thick, yellow coax with transceivers mounted to the cable by drilling a hole to the cable core, then came the so-called "Cheapernet" (10Base-2) RG-58 cabling that we all loved to hate.

    Twisted pair (10Base-T and later) came later.

  10. pirxhh

    Re: Don't forget arcnet

    Archer was token passing, but no ring architecture.

    Then there was Corvus Omninet, 1 Mbps over very simple tweisted pair cable and dependable as hell.

  11. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

    Re: Archer was token passing

    Typical auto-correct: Correcting the words you don't want to correct and leaving ones you do wanted corrected, uncorrected (e.g., tweisted).

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: "Ethernet is so much better"

    who could forget! I had a very large cab filled with MAU's right behind my chair at my desk back in the late 90's We didn't have much running on Token ring at that stage. The IBM type 1 cable was thick as electrical flex and the hermaphroditic connectors, were massive!

  13. hplasm Silver badge

    Re: "Ethernet is so much better"

    "Nobody has yet mentioned Token Ring. "

    i will then....

    Th big fat black cables were a nightmare.*

    The twisted pair alternative was a fucking nightmare.

    *The hermaphrodite plugs were quite neat though. Would fit right in in these gender-fluid days :)

  14. sisk Silver badge

    Re: "Ethernet is so much better"

    "Nobody has yet mentioned Token Ring. "

    i will then....

    Th big fat black cables were a nightmare.*

    I dealt with Token Ring for about a year. Thankfully we were in the process of phasing it out when I started so I didn't have to deal with its quirks for long. However for about 3 years after we finally got completely moved over to Ethernet I had a few dozen defunct Type 1 cables hanging from the ceiling in my office. I wasn't allowed to pull them out myself (no, I don't know why) and getting rid of them was so far down on the list of priorities for the guys who were that it never happened. Eventually I asked for and got permission to just cut them off right above the ceiling tile so I at least didn't have to look at them.

  15. DustyP

    Re: "Ethernet is so much better"

    ...and before Token Ring was ArcNet which also worked over RG-62/U coax cables. I installed and managed a couple of networks running on Novell Netware 2.2

  16. jake Silver badge

    Once in the rain ...

    ... I stopped and helped a lady with a flat tire. After waving her on her way, I put my jack & lug wrench away, and carried on to my destination somewhat dirtier & soggier than I wanted to be. When I arrived I apologized for my appearance, told the gal at the front desk that I was there to talk to the Boss about bidding on a network upgrade. The secretary spoke into the phone, and the Boss came out to meet me. He allowed as to how most folks bidding on lucrative contracts at least took a little care with their grooming, and told me to fuck off. In those words. As I was leaving, his wife walked out of the office. It was the lady I had helped. Later that afternoon, I got an apologetic call from the guy, offering me the job. I told him to fuck off and hung up the phone.

  17. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    I'm sure you appreciated the what-goes-around-comes-around moment, but I think you would have been better served by humbly accepting, then fucking him over on the price of your services.

    That's how I deal with smug pricks, I make them eat their hat - metaphorically of course.

  18. jake Silver badge


    I don't play those games. I'd rather lose a contract if the client is a shit. Life's too short.

  19. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    Re: Nah.

    @jake - I agree most fully with you. I most certainly don't need problematic clients quibbling over every.single.thing.

    I'd rather have a couple of clients, keep them very happy than having hundreds of clients all quibbling and so on, and be a sour worm at the end of the day.

  20. MonkeyCee Silver badge

    Re: Nah.

    I'll also note that it's a bad idea to judge anyone on appearances.

    The only people I've known well who are actual self made millionaires spend most of the time looking flat broke. Old car, cheap serviceable clothes, clipper hair cuts, sarnies for lunch. Same for some of those who inherited a telephone number amounts, although those were mainly in the countryside, and everyone dresses the same when you've got mud below and rain above.

    My main bank deals mainly with farmers. So I've walked into a business loan application meeting literally stinking of pig shit and got approved. The loan officer did politely offer for us to step outside for the formalities and had a preventive cancer stick to deal with it, but otherwise handled it very well.

    It's far easier to look broke and prove that you have money than the other way around. It's also always possible someone is having a bad day.

    Quite frankly if I want to get a measure of how someone (contractor or employee) will perform, I'd rather see them on a shit day rather than on their best day, as that will tell me more about their character and composure.

    Oh, and I concur with jake's "No shits" policy. One of the few perks of being self employed is being able to pick your clients.

  21. jake Silver badge

    Re: Nah.

    I've done the "visit banker after cleaning the hog pens" thing. I completely lost track of the time[0], until SWMBO reminded me. Fortunately she (the banker) grew up in a barn and can look past my peculiarities :-)

    Another example: The last 9-5 I interviewed for (in 1989), I was wearing my racing leathers. When the interviewer queried my choice of "uniform", I pointed out that he had asked me to drive up from Palo Alto to South San Francisco by 10AM ... and had called at 9AM. I knew I could make it on the bike, but there was no way I was driving the Bayshore without armor ... I got the job.

    The 9-5 prior to that, I wore the same outfit, for similar reasons. When queried, I responded along the lines of "are you hiring an engineer or a fashion plate?" ... They made me an offer. I counter offered, they hired me at my price point.

    [0] Time flies when you're having ... uh ... fun?

  22. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

    Re: Nah.

    Speaking of interviews, I landed my most lucrative contract ever even though I was stacked up against people who had 5* the qualifications that I did.

    When the hiring manager told me I asked him why he hired me instead of the others - he said that compared to my CV, what I told him during the interview made it clear I had done 10* more than the CV contained, yet when he spoke to the others it was the other way round :)

    Some people 'get it' - but not everyone unfortunately.

  23. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Re: Nah.

    "used a thick (1/2" dia)"

    Was it really only 1/2"" dia? It seemed bigger than that. Maybe that was just because it was so inflexible.

  24. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Re: Nah.

    "I'd rather lose a contract if the client is a shit."

    On the whole I'd agree but in your particular case I'd have thought you'd have had a rather pliable client - you could always drop slight hints about grassing him up to his wife if he didn't behave.

  25. Chris King Silver badge

    Re: Nah.

    "I don't play those games. I'd rather lose a contract if the client is a shit. Life's too short".

    If a client treats you like that at the start of a relationship, what are they going to be like towards the end of it, i.e. the bit where you're supposed to get paid ?

  26. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Re: Nah.

    "The only people I've known well who are actual self made millionaires spend most of the time looking flat broke."

    Memory of Last of the Summer Wine. The three scruffs wandering round a car show room. Salesman asks manager "Shall throw them out?". "Nay, lad. Round here they they can look like that and be millionaires."

  27. PM from Hell

    Re: Once in the rain ...

    Working in a rural location I got used to new suppliers arriving late as they would not believe they would spend 20 miles behind tractors on a regular basis but also the 'oops I've had an RTA phone call as they ditched the car trying to overtake said tractors.

    Funniest occurrence was the salesman who drowned the demo printer he was delivering when he slid off the road into a dyke on an icy road, thankfully he was OK but the printer and the car carrying it both ended up submerged in 5 meters of water.

    I would ignore late arrivals for the first visit with no penalty but after that would expect them to listen to me when I would tell them to allow 1 1/2 hours for a 40 mile journey during harvest. Beer icon as its friday.

  28. bpfh

    Re: Nah.

    That’s what she said...

  29. Trygve Henriksen

    Re: Nah.

    Just google for pictures of "Olav Thon".

    He's a hotel magnate...

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Nah.

    I've been told that back in the late 60s or very early 70s, or about then, a fisherman walked into a car dealership in Trondheim, looking 'rather scruffy' and smelling... like dead fish...

    The guy on the floor saw him and sent him packing. The manager saw saw what happened but was too late to intervene, but managed to catch up to the fisherman outside. He apologised, and said that he understood if he didn't want to shop here, but could he come by afterwards?

    The fisherman came by again before closing, this time cleaned up and driving a brand new car.

    He was sent by the crew to go and buy cars for them all while they showered and got ready to go home.

    (It was common for crews to buy the same car in the same colour, and preferably the top of the line of that brand if they hit it big on the sea. Which one wasn't all that important.)

    The seller learned two things;

    1. Never judge anyone by their looks...

    2. '2 weeks notice' doesn't mean a thing if you lose such a lucrative contract...

  31. rototype

    Re: Nah.

    LMFAO - That's Compo!

  32. John II

    Re: Nah.

    I knew of an auto dealership in my University town that NEVER did understand that. (Dissed a professor's wife who had just come in from the horse farm. She immediately went to a larger town and paid cash for her upscale vehicle.)

  33. Montreal Sean

    Re: Nah.

    "Was it really only 1/2"" dia? It seemed bigger than that. Maybe that was just because it was so inflexible."

    Said the actress to the Bishop.

  34. ICPurvis47

    Re: Nah.

    I went for an interview for a position as a Technical Writer at a small publishing house. I was accepted for the job. Some time later, the chap that interviewed me (George) introduced me to some bigwigs from Head Office, and said that, when he showed me the PID (Process Interconnection Diagram) of a chemical plant that they were writing instruction manuals for, and pointed to a particular symbol, I was the only interviewee that had told him a) what it was, b) what its purpose was in the circuit, and c) a detailed explanation of how it worked. He later went on to become the IT Manager, and took me on as his Deputy. (see some of my other stories on this site).

  35. wurdsmiff


    Blessed Operator From Heaven?

  36. wmpattison

    Doesn't work for us

    We've had the opposite experience. We were on site doing stuff. As we left, the client asked if we'd swap the toners over in their office laser. Which we did. Not long after, we started to get steaming phone calls from the client's main site, complaining that their SQL server had gone off-line. When we asked why they were shouting at us, they told us "it was OK until you fiddled with the printer". We tried to explain that changing toners in a printer was unlikely to crash a SQL server 40 miles away, but they wouldn't have it. It was definitely our fault, and nothing at all to do with the building maintenance crew wandering around their machine room...

  37. DJV Silver badge

    Re: Doesn't work for us

    I hope you eventually managed to convince them of the error of their ways or, at least, charged them a "hassle fee" to make up for their idiocy.

  38. sawatts

    Do what they can't do but in a fraction of the time?

    Whats a fraction of infinity?

  39. Mark 85 Silver badge

    Re: Do what they can't do but in a fraction of the time?

    Whats a fraction of infinity?

    A lifetime.

  40. RockBurner

    Saving the incompetent from themselves

    I know it's wrong to gloat, and no-one likes a showoff; but sometimes you just can't help it....

    First 6 months into a web-dev position within an agency I was given the task of building up a CMS back end for a new website whereas my colleague had been building the front for quite some time. For some reason best known to themselves the client had insisted that the website be AJAX driven in it's entirety (this was around 2007/8 iirc when asynchronous loading of content was still relatively new for small companies in the UK).

    After many, many weeks of trying to build the AJAX front end my colleague was "spoken to" and resigned his position. I was handed the task and despite having had 0 experience of AJAX at that time*, the front end was completed in 2 weeks (including registering each 'page change' with the browser history, one of the main stumbling blocks).

    In addition my colleague had decided to build the website's database in such a way that each 'page' had a row in a table, and each page's visible contents were contained within 1 cell per row. The content formatting wasn't encoded using HTML in the cell, oh no..... each content "element" (title, sub-title, paragraph, block etc) was divided by special characters " | " and the meta information (html tag, classes, etc) contained elsewhere (IIRC in a different cell, also sub-divided by pipes), the two bits had to be tied together in the code before display, and each string of content/data concatenated by the code within the CMS before entry into the DB. Talk about a headfuck. (I think he'd heard of JSON and was trying to be clever)

    The biggest joke though was that the client went bust about a week before the site was due to go live.

    * Well - apart from the entire CMS system which had also been built to operate via AJAX. The Front End became a stripped down version of the CMS.

  41. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge


    I once worked a contract in the city for a very well known firm, ending up effectively doing two jobs (for two different managers) at once. One of them was always having a go at me for not spending enough time on their projects.

    It all came to a head when I was planning a road trip across Italy (during my lunch break) and the manager decided I was a lazy sod and terminated my contract.

    About two months later I ended up having drinks with a few former colleagues and discovered that they'd had to hire two contractors to replace me, and neither of them was getting as much done as I did in 1/2 the time :)

  42. Caver_Dave

    Re: Karma

    I'm a permi and yet I've still had 2 people replace me on 2 occasions and 3 on 1 occasion.

    Managers truly do not understand what their staff do in my experience. But that's probably because Brits don't shout out their achievements and applaud themselves 5 times a day like most of the Yanks I've worked with.

  43. Alien8n Silver badge

    Re: Karma

    Very familiar. I still end up with the occasional contract job to keep me busy in the evenings because it's still cheaper to hire me on a contract rate than pay someone to take twice as long. In my defence I helped design the system while at a previous company. Said previous company however couldn't find anyone else who could do what I used to do so in the end replaced the entire software package. I heard after I left that they went through several IT managers in just a few months. Served them right for blaming the IT person for an accountant's cockup.

  44. phuzz Silver badge

    Re: Karma

    I'm clearly doing it wrong. In my last job I was originally hired as the PFY to do all the shit jobs, with my boss as a high up manager doing everything complicated.

    By the time I left, having automated the shit out of everything, there was just one position left, being a rather more junior manager, because I'd streamlined everything to the point where my old job didn't exist any more.

  45. Spazturtle Silver badge

    Re: Karma

    The trick is to either store your automation scripts/software on a pen drive or encrypt them. That way only you can run them.

  46. Hollerithevo Silver badge

    Re: Karma

    @Spazturtle, but that is both unethical and unprofessional.

  47. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Re: Karma

    both unethical and unprofessional

  48. onefang

    Re: Karma

    "they'd had to hire two contractors to replace me, and neither of them was getting as much done as I did in 1/2 the time"

    I've had that a couple of times, been replaced by two guys, coz one couldn't cope with my work load.

  49. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    Re: Karma

    "It all came to a head when I was planning a road trip across Italy (during my lunch break)"

    Wow! What do you drive? A TARDIS?

  50. defiler Silver badge

    8hrs vs 5mins

    I once had the MD site me down for a chat, whereby he pointed out that an incoming support call could be routed to:

    1) Steve - a call-out, a couple of hours onsite, come back and speak to Dave, back onsite for an hour and get the job fixed. All chargeable.

    2) Dave - a call-out, about an hour to an hour and a half onsite, get the job fixed. Happy customer, all chargeable.

    3) Me - fixed in ten minutes over the phone. Delighted customer, and bugger all to bill.

    I can't say I had an answer for him. I have, however, gone onsite, fixed the problem and got back before my tea got cold. I can't help but feel I maybe had a hand in that company going bankrupt.

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