back to article Bombastic boss gave insane instructions to sensible sysadmin, with client on speakerphone

Hey, hey, it's Friday! Which means weekend frolics aren't far away once you get through this edition of On-Call, The Register's weekly reader-contributed tales of workplace woe. This week, meet “Craig,” who shared a story of working for a small IT services company that hired a new “team leader”. Craig used italics because …

  1. Alistair Silver badge

    Clustered hosts

    And a boss that doesn't understand what a 'cluster lock disk' means.

    One node barfed, and volume was unreadable. Entire cluster shuts down.

    "Allocate from new array, restore from backup"

    Umm, no, give me a few minutes to look at the volume spindles and see what's happening.

    "Just restore on new spindles, its faster"

    Umm, no, 400+Gb, and 100Mb ethernet for the restore.

    The problem with large clusters and shared volumes and cluster lock disks is that some idiot somewhere will *eventually* use a volume for the wrong thing just because they can't see that it is in use elsewhere in the cluster. Just like the poor bugger that had added the cluster lock disk from the dead node to the DB tempspace elsewhere in the cluster. Because, you see the idiot yelling at us to "restore from backup" had yelled at him to "Just add that unused #$%@#$% disk to the tempspace NOW" 25 minutes prior to the one node crashing. I was on the PM for that. With emails, and since we were using the in house conference call tools, the audio recordings.

    I've worked for some truly dickish humans. And I've worked for some amazing bosses. I've learned how to speak the right language.

    And I always cover my ass.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sysadmin is a somewhat grandiose title for a desktop tech going about repairing PST files.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Which if you read

    my replies, you will see I agree.

    I was a desktop techie with a small smattering of server knowledge.

    I have never attested to being anything more.

  4. J.G.Harston Silver badge


    What italics?

  5. Martyn 1

    Once had a system rapidly running out of space on one of the disks which stored the word processing docs for the company, it wasn't really my job so I wondered into the Ops room for a chat and to make sure somebody was dealing with it.

    Response I got was "yep we'll have it sorted out in a few minutes" which surprised me a little as I expected it to be more complicated than that so I asked what they were going to do "Eric (the boss) told us to delete everything on the disk more than 6 months old[1], if anybody needs any documents older than 6 months we will get them off backup".

    Thankfully I managed to intervene and stop him before he hit <CR>, I then had a brief chat with Eric where I explained that the disk also had the word processor system executables, which was installed a couple of years earlier and so would have been deleted in the purge, and all the template docs that the various departments used which had also been around for a long time., The fallout would not have been pretty when all the word processing and telex (yes it was that long ago) stopped working.

    [1] VMS, IIRC: $delete [*...]*.*;*/bef=-180-00:00:00

  6. Archtech Silver badge

    "Craig put the call on speaker so that Dianne could hear it..."

    A smart move.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Confusing from the start

    >>Craig used italics because after meeting his new boss he quickly surmised the title “was an entire contradiction, as he was neither.”

    I understand the new person not being a leader, but nobody is a team by themself.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Confusing from the start

    Conjoined twins?

  9. sabroni Silver badge


    From the comments it's obvious which side of the call you identify with, the hero Craig or his evil boss....

  10. TechnicalBen Silver badge

    Re: Bias

    Some people honestly think the way they act is the right way to do things.

  11. Anonymous Coward

    It support is where the basic people stay

    The TL while maybe a dick but first asked him to use the .pst repair tool. There was no statement of "I have a non sanctioned tool". Ultimately it was a .pst repair tool that fixed it. Aside from scoring points I don't see any great skill here. Our protagonist is a dick trying to score points and make himself look better.

    Honestly, if you were a developer and you had to do a slightly hacky thing to make something work you'd just say to your boss. Support people really think fixing an Outlook file is magic and all the twat colleagues in support are a hardship. You chose the dregs of IT work and have shown how twaty people are to fuck each other over.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: It support is where the basic people stay

    Don't take this personally. I guess you may anyhow. But a lot of people commenting on this article seem to have selective reading ability. Go back, read it again, and tell us who in the story made a request, with violent language, that if executed would damage the clients system?

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: It support is where the basic people stay

    I bet you even taste bitter.

  14. Chris King Silver badge

    My rules of engagement with speakerphones

    (1) Tell the other party you're switching to speakerphone '

    (2) Tell them who else is listening in on the call at your end;

    (3) Check that they're okay with that before proceeding ;

    (4) Assume that the person at the other end has gone to speakerphone anyway and hasn't afforded you the same courtesies, so be careful what you say ;

    Put another way - always assume your audience is bigger than you think it is, and don't make any assumptions about who's listening in at the other end. Been there, done that, got the T-shirt that says "Sorry I can't sit down, my arse just got kicked big style".

    Mine's the one with the armour in the seat region.

  15. elDog Silver badge

    Re: My rules of engagement with speakerphones

    A totally rational view.

    Also assume that any hallway, for-your-ears-only, top-secret conversations will be spread.

    If you're in a business environment, assume that someone will tell someone else. Shit, this even happens at the top levels of government (if you can call the US "governed".) Speaker phones, forwarded emails, IT staff (and other taps) - all is possible.

    Of course the really successful Team Leaders learn this early and have a visceral knowledge of what they should say and to whom. The TL of this story is a walking fountain of bad intelligence. Not to draw analogies to the current US TL situation.

  16. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

    Re: My rules of engagement with speakerphones

    When the phone call is made from the client site, you could reasonably expect that the enemy - excuse me, the customer - is listening. Also, you can tell.

  17. Terry 6 Silver badge


    Being no more than a semi-professional tinkerer ( since the 1970s though) this business of PST ( and Thunderbird "profiles" ) has me very puzzled. Why did the industry choose to package email messages into a single file - for which read single point of failure. If a message gets corrupted you've lost a message. If a profile or PST get corrupted you've potentially lost the lot. The whole kit and caboodle down the Swanee.

  18. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip Silver badge

    Re: PST

    Databases commonly are a single/small number of files. Managing hundreds/thousands of files is highly inefficient, difficult to search, and backup.

    A single PST file can be difficult to back up due to its size, although hopefully it is generally used read only to refer to past e-mails rather than being actively updated. As mentioned earlier, Exchange used to have a storage limit for its data store that was easily reached with a small population of heavy e-mail users (still, it's better than its very early versions that didn't include reference counting on attachments, so an attachment storm could down a server..).

    It's not so much that PST files are a bad idea (usually, they're quite reliable), it's that there were few sensible e-mail/workflow alternatives at a price companies were prepared to pay. See also Access databases, which had a cost free runtime free, and worked 'fine' until taken beyond their capabilities or hitting the 4GB file size limit. At least Microsoft eventually lifted the datastore size Exchange could handle in the non Enterprise limit, and released SQL Server Express (whatever it used to be called originally, I forget) for free, to release people from Access shackles.

  19. Terry 6 Silver badge

    Re: PST

    Well, this is the thing. Purely in an amateur, user sort of way. ( I'm sure these things are discussed in Comp Sci courses) it seems to me that data should be stored in a database. But documents should be stored in folders. Which to me would suggest that an email programme's database should be there to index the emails; but the emails should be in a folder. If the database falls over the emails, or at least a backup folder of the emails, would still be there.

  20. J. Cook Bronze badge

    Re: PST

    *falls out of chair laughing*

    Outlook (and exchange, and most other mail programs) treat mail as data, because storing *thousands upon thousands* of what is ultimately tiny documents (1 per email message!) would have brought most file systems to their knees in short order, regardless of how janky (FAT12!!) or robust (ZFS!) they are.

    Ordinarily, I'm in total and complete agreement. I keep reminding my users that Exchange/Outlook Is Not A File Storage System. And yet, I have users with OST files over 5 GB, and PST files approaching the *30 GB* mark, because they can't be arsed to delete ANYTHING EVER.

    That having also been said, the ESE database engine that Exchange uses is pretty damned robust and puts up with most of the abuse I (and my users) put it through.

  21. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    Just wondering

    The boss wasn't Bombastic Bob by any chance?

  22. Paul

    I worked at a company developing a customer facing portal, and we had regular deployments which had to go through some level of formal testing and the deployment by the sysadmins.

    It was just before December and we were late making an important release with features the company felt were really important and urgent. Problem was we were late, and there was nobody around who was able to give formal approval to go live. I was also quite ill, and really shouldn't have been at work that day, and didn't want to take any **** from anyone!

    My manager, X, who had made it clear for a long time that he despised me, rang me and told me to "go live". I sent out an announcement to all the usual people announcing I was making the release, and that X had told me to do it despite not having gone through the usual QA process.

    Just as I was about to press the button to deploy, X rang, and told me "you can't say that!". I asked what he meant and said I was merely repeating word for word what he said, and he again repeated "you can't say that". I feigned innocence and asked if I should deploy or not, or if he would email and reply-all and rescind the order etc, he audibly shrugged, swore under his breath, and said yes.

    My theory is that that X would have claimed all the credit for a successful deployment, or throw me under the bus if the deployment went bad and say it was nothing to do with him, either way he could punish me for not following the usual process.

    Some months later a bunch of us were made redundant, and X was clearly agitated that, unlike the others some of whom were in tears, I was grinning as I left and walked with a spring in my step at being paid to leave!

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sounds like they were being encouraged to "manage" you out of their redundancy scheme ahead of the obvious future staffing loss. You dodged that one well.

  24. Wensleydale Cheese Silver badge

    "Some months later a bunch of us were made redundant, and X was clearly agitated that, unlike the others some of whom were in tears, I was grinning as I left and walked with a spring in my step at being paid to leave!"

    In my first IT job, the Company Secretary was a complete and utter bully.

    I found another job to escape the tyranny, and from the moment I handed my notice in until the point I left he refused to speak to me.

    A result, of sorts, but it's unbelievable what complete and utter bastards some people can be to their juniors.

  25. Angry IT Monkey

    I was once at a friend's wedding where my boss's boss was also attending. He jokingly said my name was mud because the firm was have problems during stock take and I wasn't answering my phone. Bit selfish I know but this was the middle of 2 weeks leave, the bosses knew about the wedding because the bride worked at the firm and it was my birthday.

    Turns out the stock take program crashed and in some attempt to get at the data the IT manager had dismantled the barcode scanner, pressing too hard while unscrewing the back and pressing the hard reset key combination so a factory reset ensued.

    It was still on my desk when I got back along with the notes he'd made chronicling my part in this debacle - "3pm not answering phone". I think you can guess what time the couple took their vows and why I didn't answer my phone.

    The couple are still happily married and I'm happily not working there any more.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    aah, how easy can a migration to O365 be?

    So nice to work with, even use an app on your mobile devices to access your emails, or from a browser or desktop client...the world is yours.

    No need for lots of 'exchange-support', and if something would go wrong with the service, ask MS to solve it....

    It's 2017, why would you install and maintain your own mail servers? Price? Well, in most cases your own infra will cost you more. Be in control? You still have control of your 0365 accounts.

    Ignorance probably?

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: 2017

    Why would I install and maintain my own mail servers?

    Well, for starters, data retention- if it's in the cloud, the data can just evaporate, unless you've taken a backup.

    My company is 90% on prem because we are entirely owned by a sovereign entity and a good portion of that data contains sensitive information.

    Control? If you don't own the servers, you don't have control over them or the data that's on it, plain and simple.

    Anon because _reasons_.

  28. Disgruntled of TW

    Rude not to say speaker on

    Generally a positive story with everyone more or less getting what they deserve, however not making sure the belligerent boss was aware he was on speaker was not cricket. The BOFH lost some cred there.


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