back to article Two foreigners, a desert and a jeep full of bank statements

Welcome again to On-Call, our weekend regular in which we share readers' tales of odd things that happen at odd times in odd places. This week, reader Alex tells us he once worked in the Saudi Arabian capital of Riyadh, for a major bank. “There had been a bunch of problems, which meant the customer account statements were …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A city called Birmingham?

    Dammam is the capital of the Eastern Province, the largest oil producing area in Saudi Arabia, and where most important decisions regarding oil production (and therefore the state of the World's economy) are made ... or rather, where the decisions from their masters in Washington are implemented--but one gets the idea, I hope.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A city called Birmingham?

      but one gets the idea, I hope.

      Yes, you're a sad conspiracy theorist.

      Bet your parents tried to sue all the kids at Kindergarten when they wouldn't speak to you

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: A city called Birmingham?

        > Yes, you're a sad conspiracy theorist.

        What a weird response.

  2. choleric

    Good story, thanks. Nothing quite like on-site support is there?

    Can't help thinking if it was the BOFH he would have had a special box for statements belonging to checkpoint guards ready in the footwell in case they got discovered en route. "I have here your home address and details of some questionable financial transactions undertaken recently. Shame if those got sent to your boss/SO..." (for cases where boss != SO).

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So, did they fix anything?

    Like, say, start mailing the statements from the city they are printed in?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: So, did they fix anything?

      If I read it correctly, they didn't have anyone manning the printers in Riyadh.

      I remember doing a little job at one company where the print servers were in East Anglia, the IT department and the file servers were in the North-East and the workforce wanting documents was in London. This could equally lead to interesting challenges trying to make the on-demand printing system work.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: So, did they fix anything?

        That's why the cloud is so great.

        Where are the statements?

        boss: We have switched to cloud printing to save money

        Where are the printers ?

        boss: We don't know they are in the cloud

        OK what do you need me to do ?

        boss: Find the printers, go there, pick up the printouts and bring them back here for posting.

  4. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Happy

    I wonder if you can help me.

    I've got this problem with a printer...

    ...

    ...

    Good Un!

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Am I missing something here?

    You go to Dammam and fix the problem stopping the statements being printed in the place they are usually printed then drive them to Riyadh.

    Why not just put them in the post where they are as per usual?

    Sounds a bit RBS to me.

    1. FrankAlphaXII

      Given that Dammam is basically Aramco country, and they can charge whatever they want to them and get away with it, its probably far too expensive to mail them from there or the Saudi Postal service will only give the company a bulk rate if you mail it from an agreed upon facility.

      The same kind of thing exists in the West, if you're American have you ever wondered why Del Rio and Plano, Texas always seem to be where junk mail originates or goes to?

      1. iLuddite

        spam source ?

        "Del Rio and Plano, Texas always seem to be where junk mail originates..."

        Texas has TOWNS devoted to junk mail? Hmm...are they well defended, do you think?

        1. Jim 48

          Re: spam source ?

          > Texas has TOWNS devoted to junk mail? Hmm...are they well defended, do you think?

          It's Texas, I think you can probably work it out for yourself.

  6. Me19713

    About 40 years ago, I worked for a bank as an applications programmer. One of the systems for which I was responsible was the US Savings Bond program we ran for some external payroll customers (we were also sort of a service bureau for some of our bank customers in those days).

    There was a definite cutoff time for these external payrolls, with checks (and bonds) that must be delivered to these bank customers in time for Friday paydays. And the armored car was late in delivering the blank savings bonds to the data center (they were stored in the Trust Dept vault in town).

    So my boss sent me into the city in a marked bank car to fetch them! I walked into the bank HQ building and signed for about $500K worth of blank savings bonds in white bags. And carried them two blocks to the parking garage. No guards, no guns... Off to the data center. We made the deadline. Barely.

    I don't think that I would do that today!

    1. Michael Thibault
      Joke

      > I don't think that I would do that today!

      The key step is "Off to the data center", right?

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Round trip

    South African cities are generally far apart. In the 1970s Jo'burg to Cape Town was a 1200 mile drive on poor roads with a maximum speed limit of 50mph**; a very slow train; or a 45 minute plane flight.

    A computer centre in Cape Town had somehow managed to wreck all the copies of its 8mbyte system disk***. This was an emergency. It was decided that the fastest way to send a regenerated replacement from Jo'burg was by air. To avoid the problems of the notoriously rough baggage handlers it was arranged for it to be handed to the next passenger plane's pilot.

    Things became tense when the computer centre complained about not receiving the new disk when expected. It eventually transpired that the pilot had forgotten about the disk. It was still sitting in the aircraft - which was now back on the tarmac in Jo'burg.

    **A 16 year old boy once claimed to have made the trip by car in 12 hours - having gone past several towns' speed patrols before they could react.

    ***In those days an 8mbyte disk pack was a sizeable object (50cm x 15cm??) - and fragile.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Round trip

      "[...] 45 minute plane flight."

      Oops! Flight time is about 2 hours. As the bird flies only 790 miles.

    2. herman Silver badge

      Re: Round trip

      I have driven from Pretoria to Cape Town in 11.5 hours in the 80s. That requires a nice little BMW and 200 km/h at night through the Karoo.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Round trip

        "I have driven from Pretoria to Cape Town in 11.5 hours in the 80s."

        What is the actual road distance? My original 1200 miles quote seems on the high side - even allowing for the road not being a dead straight run - although the very long Karoo stretch probably is.

        Pretoria to Jo'burg was a boring straight-line motorway that merely undulated as it climbed 1500 feet. Their motorway designers had apparently not learned that you need curves to help keep people awake. I remember one night clearing a crest to find an enormous pan-African truck doing a U-turn across all four lanes of the motorway. Sideways on it wasn't showing any lights - there was just a hint in the starlight that there was something there.

        I remember the flights between Jo'burg and Bloemfontein being a strange sensation of a straight line in a generally empty air space. The jet took off, climbed to cruising altitude and then shortly afterwards started its descent, and landed. All without apparently having to deviate from the straight line.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Round trip

        A colleague imported his BMW 2002. One day he put his foot down on the Jo'burg-Pretoria motorway. It felt quite smooth and not at all fast - and then I remembered his English speedometer was showing MPH not KPH.

  8. Gene Cash Silver badge

    Saudi Arabia

    Ah yes... I remember a friend describing a major issue with a 980MW GE power turbine, which might have had said extremely expensive turbine going explosively TITSUP.

    So they called in the designer of said turbine to take a look, that being my friend.

    Who was denied access to said turbine, being female.

    GE said "sure, she doesn't need access. we also won't need to reimburse you for downtime, nor will we charge warranty parts rates... that'll be full rate for those parts, boys! and no, she will not be wearing a burkha or any other garment that impedes safe access to the turbine..."

  9. Cpt Blue Bear

    Road trip

    Many years ago when this internet thingo was all new fangled, I was involved in a company move from Melbourne to Brisbane. You can get the map out if you really want to know but its a bloody long way.

    The plan: new servers are installed in Brisbane office, techs (us) in Melbourne dump a backup on Friday night and upload it to new servers and we'll all be golden for Monday morning. Now, I had some doubts about our pokey little ISDNs being able to handle that data in the allotted time, but they became moot when Telstra shut off the phones at lunch time on Friday.

    Fuck.

    By the time we found out it was too late to dump to tape and get it on a flight.

    Double fuck.

    No option then: down the old servers, pack them in the back of a car and drive to Brisbane. Two of us, two IBM AS400s and a drive pack in the back of a 1972 Chrysler station wagon thundering up the Hume in the dead of night in a desperate race to Brisvegas...

    1. Juan Inamillion

      Re: Road trip

      I think Melbourne to Brissy is about 1200 miles.

      Back when I were a hippy and newly arrived in God's Own Country (1969...) I hitched up and down the coast a bit. Mainly Sydney to Brisbane or the Gold Coast. Very very little traffic late at night but quite often weird and wonderful animals in the middle of the road just round the bend..

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