back to article Trainer regrets giving straight answer to staffer's odd question

Monday morning can mean only one thing. No, not a general sense of foreboding – it’s Who, Me?, El Reg’s way of easing you into the week ahead with tales of other people’s mistakes. This week, “Giovanni” writes in to tell us about the time his candour had his bosses fizzing with rage. “In the early ‘90s – the era where Dot …

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So preventive maintenance..... pour the 7-up on before any colas get spilled on it.

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Not the same Giovani...

But I do recall some DMP printers screamed like a banshee, and some just made a sort of tired moan. It doesn't say what sort of printer it was.

In my view the 5mm paper square in the optical head positioning sensor was enough to deter the IT staffers though. They never had a clue what was broken and far less destructive than coke...

Although the sales team I worked with seemed to have in infinite amount of powdered coffee to fill up the gaps between keyboard keys.

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Another good one is ( or so I've heard...) is to slip a Desktop's power supply voltage input selector slider between 110v and 240v. Said power supply makes a resounding 'Zap!/Fizzle' as it goes. Once you've heard it once you'll remember to check what the site voltage supply if you're expect to have a 'mobile desktop'.

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Yup, that does it

When I ran my own company, a family friend asked me to price up a repair for a Packard Bell desktop, and put it on headed notepaper.

I found out (after I had written a no economical repair possible report - Packard Bell systems had proprietary power supplies and motherboards) that he used it in an insurance claim, and he admitted to switching the power supply to 110 volts to deliberately break it (after all this time, there's no comeback, as unfortunately he is no longer with us).

The mobo and graphics card were fried, as well as the power supply, but the Pentium 120 that was on the mobo survived (this indicates how long ago it was), and went on to run fanless in my built-from-scrap-parts firewall system for several years.

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We had a batch of Fujitsu PCs a few years ago that did that by themselves

Auto-sensing power supplies, every so often one would set itself to 110V, which meant a rude awakening for the poor person on the opposite desk as the fuse blew.......

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Facepalm

NOT auto voltage

Several years ago the local maintenance crew had an old PC dismantled on the workbench for a PSU replacement due to it developing an interesting smell. Simple swapout, vacuum the box at the same time and jobs done. At the exact moment that power was applied for testing our elfin safety bod walks into the room to witness the impressive flash & pop.

Turns out that the box of spare PSUs were all factory set to 110v - a new 'Check Voltage' sign soon appeared on the workbench.

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Re: NOT auto voltage

Not quite as impressive a failure, but we got a largish shipment of second hand Dells (60 of them) from an Amsterdam bank's back office to deploy in our Quark teaching labs. Set then all up, checked the voltage plates were all OK, Ghosted them an image we had built, which was a pain with NT, but doable. Half the machines wouldn't run Quark - license failure. Checked everything we could think of - swapped the dongles around to eliminate any that had been damaged in storage for the summer, none had been. Eventually, after many days of arseing around with networks and software builds and Ghost and dongles, we discovered that half the machines had the BIOS settings for the parallel port configured for dumb printers, the other half set for EC2. Much self-kicking went on, and the lesson was learnt that not everything that looks identical, or should be identical is.

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Back in the days when 1 Gbyte was a LOT of storage, we took delivery of two SCSI 1 Gbyte disk units for our brand new workstations. Plugged them in, and turned on the power to be rewarded with pop, crackle and expensive blue smoke. Turned out they'd been shipped set to 110V, and hadn't got voltage sensing PSUs! Fortunately the supplier acknowledged the mistake...

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Re: NOT auto voltage

"we discovered that half the machines had the BIOS settings for the parallel port configured for dumb printers, the other half set for EC2."

Maybe because it was obviously so long ago it's forgiveable, bit surely setting the BIOS to defaults (and then maybe setting specific required settings) should be a the first thing done when refurbishing/re-purposing a PC?

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What a crazy country you live in where the power is not the same from one building to the other!

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Re: repurposing a PC

Indeed, they had been supplied by the broker as "factory reset". Which didn't include cleaning the fans of dubious cigarette smoke. Yes, apparently Dutch banks allowed smoking in their back rooms in that era. Smoking of herbal cigarettes as well. Either that or it was a total lie that they were ex-bank and they were extracted from a cybercafe instead, in which case I wouldn't have touched them with a bargepole. Well, I didn't have a choice really - the central IT procurement bought the damn things, 1000s of them, and distributed them around the various campuses to the local techs.

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Not so fond DMP memories...

...we had one of these noisy beasts in our open plan office. The sticky fizzy drink trick wouldn't have worked seeing as there was no real alternative. We eventually silenced the beast with a sound proof printer cabinet. Sanity returned, almost. Wading through 2 inch thick accordion printouts was never pleasant. Print quality was dire too. Happy daze!

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Clumsy Executive Officer

A former CEO at #{ex_employer.last} was actually that likely to (legitimately) break his Blackberry in some manner (down the toilet, usually) – and had such tendency to kick up an almighty shitstorm about how imperative it was that it be replaced immediately so he could send his 4am missives – that they had a policy of keeping a stock of them fully charged and preconfigured with his account on stand by.

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Re: Clumsy Executive Officer

I've always found my Blackberrys to be quite robust, that must have taken some effort.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Clumsy Executive Officer

Yeah. "Let's keep a live, active record of every email, SMS and phone call- personal or private- the CEO sends or receives" is just there for disaster recovery.

Absolutely.

Though it does make a decent cover story...

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Happy

I find it heartening...

... that human ingenuity will always find a way to defeat bureaucracy.

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Re: I find it heartening...

Finding a way to jump the queue and get something that you are not entitled for, and doing so, depriving a colleague from his due, is rather disgusting.

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Re: I find it heartening...

"Finding a way to jump the queue..."

That may well be, but I'd like to point out that human existence throughout our entire history as a race all the way up to the present has never stopped being entirely about "how can I take possession of $scarce_resource instead of that other guy". Wealth, power, the chance to reproduce - it applies to everything. Those sufficiently skilled get to make a choice about screwing over others and enjoying the spoils or voluntarily taking the high road and doing without. The rest of us don't have that problem, we just get screwed full stop. Not participating is not an option. And there's never enough for everyone.

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Unhappy

Now I miss my Epson LX 800...

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I've

@Sabot

I've got one you can have if we ever get our lab system to print wide carriage worksheets on a laser...

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Re: I've

"I've got one you can have if we ever get our lab system to print wide carriage worksheets on a laser..."

Set laser printer to default to landscape mode and a smaller default typeface if required? (assuming your printing plain ASCII and a modern laser can still do that. (failing that, stick CUPS or something in between source and dest. with an appropriate filter and aquire, if required, an A3 format laser printer)

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Dilbert

A classic:

http://dilbert.com/strip/1999-09-03

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Noisy printers?

The fastest IBM Golf-ball printers.

The line printers with the letters on an embossed metal band and hammers at each character position.

Some motorised rotary duplicators.

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Re: Noisy printers?

Ahhhhhh, the BBC Grandstand teleprinter

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yl6GK42UpCM

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Pint

What an amazing coincidence

A place I worked used smart cards for all user authentication. Raving lunat... er, esteemed leader we worked for said she would rain fire and brimstone on whatever poor bastard left his card in a keyboard unattended. True to her word, she would write up formal security violation, remove door accesses, makes you pay a few hundred $ for new card, the works... even if you were talking to another guy two cubes away and in plain sight of your home cube.

Naturally her card was left in her [absolute top of the line] laptop constantly. Until some sneaky bastard used 5 min epoxy. Then it was in there semi-permanently.

Her head just about exploded.

Next some sneaky bastard - and if I ever find him drinks are totally on me - started being more subtle and just using clear nail polish on the smart card contacts. I think that was so we could enjoy watching her head explode every time an intern would come back from security empty handed and inform her Royal Highness actually did have to go in person to enroll her new card.

Fortunately she got promoted out of our misery and is now a staff infection somewhere in Washington.

Here is a pint for all sneaky bastards who make work fun!

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Pint

Re: What an amazing coincidence

One for you too Sir for some top quality BOFHery-->

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New laptop wanted

I was having my laptop repaired or upgraded (I forget which), and had a moan to the support guy about how flimsy the (Dell) laptop was. He suggested I could get a new one by switching it on, hard disc spinning, wrapping it in bubble wrap, and throwing it at a wall.

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Trouble shooting tip - ask if there are any empty drink cans by the keyboard, printer etc.

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"Trouble shooting tip - ask if there are any empty drink cans by the keyboard, printer etc."

Every now and then, a desktop or laptop come our way from a user with fault described as "Won't switch on". They forget to mention they spilled a drink over it, cleaned the outside, before reporting it. They must think we are thick if we won't spot the obvious evidence when we open it up. Sometime they work for a while after drying out, but the corrosion all over the main board is a giveaway too.

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I would of told them not to pour human blood in it .

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Anonymous Coward

As anyone who has ever worked on hardware will tell you....

Blood is the worst thing to use on something you want to die

A blood sacrifice on hardware normally ensures that the hardware will perform perfectly for many years to come

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A blood sacrifice on hardware...

hence the lethally sharp edges of casings and heat sinks found in much IT.

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Pirate

Re: A blood sacrifice on hardware...

It also depends somewhat on exactly whose blood it actually is...

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Devil

"human blood"

But some software demands the judicious application of goat's blood. Don't forget the pentagram and candles.

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I would of told them not to pour human blood in it .

So management blood would work then? management /= human normally.

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Headmaster

"I would of..."

It's spelled "would've", a contraction of "would have".

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This post has been deleted by its author

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depends on who's blood...

Well it's the IT department's techie's blood... so basically the blood of a virgin.

*shields up!*

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Re: A blood sacrifice on hardware...

My first self build resulted in a blood sacrifice to the PC Gods. Was trying to push out the case mobo plate so I could fit in the one that came with the mobo I'd bought. Took a lot of pressure to push out and then suddenly gave taking half the side of my thumb with it.

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Re: taking half the side of my thumb with it...

OUCH! That kind of puts one off completing a build, doesn't it?!

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Anonymous Coward

iPhone 5C

It was only last year that I submitted a request for my still-working-but-frustratingly-behind-the-times iPhone 5C to be replaced after three and a half years.

"Is it broken?"

"Would you like it to be broken?"

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A certain movie and an Artillery piece...

I remember a certain movie, where a small village with "simple folk" was caught smack-dab in a strategic defensive position... it was either Italy or somewhere in the Pacific... but it was definitely WWII.

So they parked an Artillery piece there... those truck-towed beauties with 88mm or 105mm or similar cannon size on them.

So, to avoid injury due to improper handling by untrained personnel, the sergeant starts chanting:

-"do not the load the upper feeder with ammo cartridges"

-"do not retreat the (pin) to feed another cartridge"

-"do not close the breech into lock position"

-"do not use the levers to rotate the barrel"...

... you see where this is going. (I don't remember the words, but they were foolproof...)

Eventually, they spot an Axis ship, and no soldiers in sight to operate the Artillery. They recite, word by word, those instructions, and manage to hit the ship... Lovely movie.

Does anybody remember its name, by any chance?

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Re: A certain movie and an Artillery piece...

"Does anybody remember its name, by any chance?"

1941

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Anonymous Coward

Laptops cheap, good, qualified, trained and competent workers not.

After reading the joy some get from making workers pay for tools they need to do their job I feel lucky to have not worked for those companies. As a tech I usually had the tools needed and often that meant the latest in laptops and tech.

Not always, this one time, at site....I did move to a different department where the workstation had an old computer. I put in a request and it was denied. A couple weeks later a boss was at my workstation and I asked him if I could show him something. Being a good boss he said sure so I opened one of the AutoCAD files we were working on.

While it was opening I pointed out that I often choose this time to go get a cup of coffee but lets wait and see how long it takes. After several minutes the drawing was ready then I showed how it took several seconds to redraw every time it was moved. I told him I get paid by the hour and it is up to management to determine what is cost effective but slow computers were a major reason no one wanted to make the effort to address the 5yr backlog of revisions.

Eventually I'm the boss and ask the IT department to supply modern laptops for each worker as they were sharing the few old ones available. IT tell me those workers do not need laptops to do their job. I replied that I'll leave the issue of who decides which tools are needed for which task alone and ask if I was being told that laptops would not be supplied. In email they said no laptops from IT.

Our department had an annual misc tool budget of $50G, which would be moved into capital account when major purchases occurred. The previous year one piece of new test equipment was over $80G so no money left but no major purchases that year meant there was money left. New laptops all around as needed. At the meeting it was questioned, as it should be, and I pointed out that the per laptop cost was less than the amount we had just paid in overtime for each worker to respond to a single extended outage.

IMO, when paying 6 figure wages, or any decent wage, it's best to not cheap out on tools. It isn't so much that quality modern tools improve productivity but the case that asking workers to use cheap old tools lowers moral and adds to higher employee turnover which has it's own expenses.

The tools a company gives you to do your job can say a lot about what they think of you.

BTW the IT department wanted the new laptops transferred to them but we were not using their software or directly connecting to their network so I said no thanks. Being able to install and manage software was just one of the requirements of those positions so no problem there. Some site laptops and computers needed to be air gaped for security and IT would install software and connect them to their network. When outages cost millions it's best to keep budget restricted IT contractors to office computers, maybe not even office computers because poor moral in the office will spread throughout the company.

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Pint

Re: Laptops cheap, good, qualified, trained and competent workers not.

I'll come work for you, mate! And I'll take 20% off what I'm being paid now!

Or at least I'll buy you a cold one if you're ever on this side of the pond.

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Re: Laptops cheap, good, qualified, trained and competent workers not.

After reading the joy some get from making workers pay for tools they need to do their job I feel lucky to have not worked for those companies.

...

The tools a company gives you to do your job can say a lot about what they think of you.

I think that most of the points being made were more to do with not wanting to supply a shiny new hammer every time the carpenter notices a few scratches on the face following proper application to a nail. I am fortunate to have worked in several jobs where "tools" (of various descriptions) would be supplied if proper justification could be given, but I wouldn't abuse that trust by deliberately damaging one of those tools the minute a new model came out.

M.

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Re: Laptops cheap, good, qualified, trained and competent workers not.

"While it was opening I pointed out that I often choose this time to go get a cup of coffee but lets wait and see how long it takes. After several minutes the drawing was ready then I showed how it took several seconds to redraw every time it was moved. I told him I get paid by the hour and it is up to management to determine what is cost effective but slow computers were a major reason no one wanted to make the effort to address the 5yr backlog of revisions."

Over my many years in field support, I've suggested many time to user that if they are hanging around wasting time waiting for the computer to finish what it's doing before they can move onto the next task, then that is the time to measure the wasted time and use it justify and upgrade. For most users, that's less of an issue nowadays than it was back in the days of DOS or early Windows devices.

The best way was to open a big spreadsheet and make sure auto-recalc was turned on so they could demonstrate to their boss how long it took to enter each cell. Bosses rarely knew there was on option to turn off auto-recalc. (SuperCalc, early Excel etc :-)

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Meh

Re: Laptops cheap, good, qualified, trained and competent workers not.

Two years ago, I had to do a task in excel (was the only tool available to handle the job) where the calculation for the INDEX MATCH took an hour to complete. The file was so long it had to be split and still filled top to bottom of two tabs.

The best thing about Excel in these situations is how wonderfully choosy it can be when deciding whether to continue calculating or to stop if you try to do something else on the computer.

So I borrowed a book on software testing and got reading...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Laptops cheap, good, qualified, trained and competent workers not.

Best FD I ever worked with went to a new company. Lots of designers there doing heavy graphics work. Noticed how slow the computers were and how disruptive it was in parts of the workflow. Went to the IT dept and said he thought they should upgrade most systems. Head of IT (who had probably been brow-beaten by previous management to not spend money) said they could just upgrade graphics cards, disk and memory and it would be just as good at lower cost. FD said, hmmm ok get your upgrades in and a brand new machine and run them side by side with the key applications and show me. It was clear from the test that the new machines were significantly quicker and would dramatically improve turn-round times for key jobs. IT head was pissed he'd been made to look like an idiot, but the designers loved the FD.

There really are finance people around who understand this stuff. Shame they're so rare, but if you find one treasure them and help them.

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it's best to not cheap out on tools.

This should be a universal rule. I don't cheap out on personal tools at home so why should a business. In the long haul, cheap tools and their replacements aren't all that cheap in the long term.

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