I'm guessing they probably stood there with big fans and took turns wafting it.
Welcome again to On-Call, our regular reader-contributed weekender in which we recount tales of the weird and wonderful things you've been asked to do at anti-social times in decidedly out-of-the-way places. This week, reader Michael tells us that "a couple of years back I was working for a large German university hospital". …
Monday 10th August 2015 04:17 GMT big_D
I worked at a datacenter in the 80s and the aircon packed in. They couldn't shut the Vaxes down, so they opened the fire doors at both ends of the server room to enable some fresh summer night air flow through the building. It kept the machines just under critical until the maintenance company managed to get the aircon working again.
Wednesday 14th October 2015 22:29 GMT GBE
It was so cold outside the computer room overheated
I remember back in the 80's when it got so cold outside (around -20F) they had to shut down all the VAX and CDC 6600 machines -- because the computer computer room overheated. The computer room was in the basement (no windows or outside doors) and was cooled by water pumped through chillers on the roof five stories above. They didn't have enough anti-freeze in the coolant water, and it froze solid in the roof-mounted chillers.
No water flowing through the exchangers in the computer room in the basement, and temps got pretty high down there...
Sunday 9th August 2015 10:09 GMT aBloke FromEarth
Sunday 9th August 2015 10:59 GMT Anonymous Coward
Re: Probably air con fear
That belief also persists in Finland. I think the belief is that cold drafts can cause colds, and stiff necks (to the point of not being able to move at all). While $work has no aircon apart from a hefty ventilation system able to recover the heat from air getting pumped out, it has happened on more than one occasion that while ambient temp has been reaching 28C, with outdoor temp at below 15C, and the ventilation computer deciding it should just blow in fresh air straight with zero recovery, to lower indoor temp, people have compliained and asked for the temp to be turned up. Madness.
Also, it is curious, that the Germans just like the Finns claim "oh there's just one week every year of unbearable temperatures, getting aircon for just a week is a waste, let's just enjoy the brief summer!"
Somehow the duration of "unbearably hot summer" is exactly the same regardless of how far north you go.
Sunday 9th August 2015 14:55 GMT Solmyr ibn Wali Barad
Re: Probably air con fear
"I think the belief is that cold drafts can cause colds, and stiff necks"
It's a bit more than a belief. It truly happens to some people. Half a day under the aircon, and next day they are almost immobile. Not to mention red noses (well, more red than usual).
But there's also a time-honoured cure - a sauna treatment with 100 grams and 100 degrees.
Sunday 9th August 2015 16:26 GMT Lee D
Re: Probably air con fear
What if you don't tell them they're UNDER the aircon? Like you just tell them it's a vent to the outside world that's blowing and they can't see it? I bet they wouldn't even notice, and they'd tell you how much fresher it was.
Because, for sure, I think evolution would have found a way by now for people to not be immobile after a brief draught down the back of their neck.
I call "rubbish". All the comments I've ever received about air-con (and I work in schools so all the IT rooms are aircon, with parents, teachers and kids in them all day long) are - as far as I can tell - unfounded. I get half the staff sheltering IN my offices because they enjoy the coolness. And I get a handful of moaners who get overruled from the top (after I explain the consequences of no aircon with a brief demonstration of my rising-temperature-warning-system) and then never mention it again. And we pump aircon air all the way round the IT suites with dozens of little kiddiewinks in them all day long and not a peep, or pattern, even with a staff nurse to notice suchlike.
I've had people complain about aircon that is NOT ACTUALLY CONNECTED. Or is in maintenance mode so it's not doing anything because the fans outside are in parts on the floor. I've had people turn it off, open the windows and then complain that it's hot. I've had staff who regularly turn it off because they claim it makes them ill but yet - when it's on and they're NOT noticing that it's on, they're fine. And, no, never once resulted in stiff necks or even a day off. Is this like that French "tired legs" crap? Doesn't exist anywhere else in the world except for around the parts where people all say they have "tired legs" and get a day off work with it?
Air con is cooled, filtered air. It's cooled by the same tech that cools your fridge, so if it's introducing germs or similar, you REALLY don't want to be eating anything out of a fridge. That's it. It's not even recirculated most of the time, all the units I see bring in outside air and let the cooled air exhaust out of the building any way it can. It's absolutely rubbish to suggest it's doing anything - especially not compared to blowing fans in your face (or in empty rooms, mostly!), 2KW heaters under desks pointed directly at teacher's legs, or the pittance of moving air that comes in via a modern "safety" window.
But, I swear, if one more person tells me that my office is "too warm" in winter or "too cold" in summer (and variably throughout the year), when it's the same temperature to within +/- 1 degree ALL YEAR ROUND, I really will see what items to hand can be used to monitor their internal body temperature. Because, seriously, if you don't notice how variable people's opinion from minute to minute about the temperature are in a climate-controlled environment, then you have no idea why building managers just stick it on 20 degrees and leave it like that.
This isn't like fluorescent lights affecting people (though that unhealth-fad seems to have died off in recent years since they didn't notice that all their "old fashioned" bulbs had actually been replaced with tiny fluorescents for years) - I get that some minority of people might feel a bit funny because I had seen all kinds of weird colours come out of cheap CRT's, LCD's and fluorescent lights in my peripheral vision. That's "plausible" even if the people affected by any kind of serious effect from them are so in the minority, it's uncertain that we could/should do anything about it. Like photosensitive epilepsy warnings on video games - if you truly have that, you CANNOT play video games, or watch TV, or anything else. It's that simple.
But a bit of a cold draught crippling you the next day? Nonsense. And I used to be married to someone with a severe genetic condition that's mistaken for arthritis, and IS affected by temperature just like arthritis. If it really does that to you, don't sit directly under the damn vent (we're talking literally inches!) - that's why any decent air conditioner will aim UP at the ceiling and let you divert the flow left/right too - normally from the same damn remote control that you use to turn it off!
Sunday 9th August 2015 17:19 GMT G.Y.
tempearture is not the only issue Re: Probably air con fear
At one place, half the people complained it's too hot, half that it's too cold. The aircon crew were going around with a thermometer, trying to adjust, but had no humidity meter.
One employee would bicycle in in the morning, hang her sweaty T-shirt on her chair -- and it was just as sweaty 9+ hours later.
Absent a humidity meter, I suggested that that thermometer be replaced by an astrology book
Sunday 9th August 2015 18:51 GMT Anonymous Coward
Re: Probably air con fear
>>I call "rubbish". All the comments I've ever received about air-con (and I work in schools so all the IT rooms are aircon, with parents, teachers and kids in them all day long) are - as far as I can tell - unfounded.
Can't find it now but I remember reading a study many years ago where they investigated the merit of the idea that if you go out in cold weather without enough scarves or whatever, you would catch cold.
IIRC the upshot was that temperature changes won't make you sick, but humidity changes will.
AC units are dehumidifiers so it wouldn't surprise me if they lower peoples' immune systems somewhat, if the people are switching between the AC air and outside air.
I've gotten sick a couple of times when I was frequently switching between hot and humid outside weather and chilly and dry inside environments and I wonder if that wasn't the cause.
Sunday 9th August 2015 23:03 GMT Snafu1
Re: Probably air con fear
Legionnaire's disease? Plenty of examples of that being spread by AC.. not a nice way to suffer or go :(
Anyone stuck by a fan blowing cold air to a specific part of the body (eg a person stuck at a specific desk) may suffer joint pain (usually neck) if ambient is significantly different. Older people (say 35-40+) tend to feel this more frequently.. ofc the older ppl are more likely to be in more senior positions, so they can get the grunts to move the furniture or vent as necessary.. I'm sure you get the idea
Thursday 13th August 2015 18:05 GMT Alan Brown
Re: Probably air con fear
The day you catch that from a modern split-cycle system is the day you'll be in the Guiness Book fo Records.
Legionnaires requires a very specific set of circumstances (and lack of hygiene) to proliferate. Being a soil bacteria it doesn't get into evaporative water cooling systems without assistance and won't spread if the water is disinfected/chlorinated. From there you need cross contamination from the chilled water to the ducted air system which carries cool air around the building.
Decent ducted-air systems include air filtration and UV sterilising lights. Failure to maintain those is when trouble starts.
As for fans blowing cold air onto someone: Simples: Don't do it. Anyone being blasted by a fan (AC or not) has ample reason for complaining already.
Monday 10th August 2015 02:22 GMT foxyshadis
Most of what you wrote is snort-worthy silliness, but one part is not:
"But, I swear, if one more person tells me that my office is "too warm" in winter or "too cold" in summer (and variably throughout the year), when it's the same temperature to within +/- 1 degree ALL YEAR ROUND, I really will see what items to hand can be used to monitor their internal body temperature."
It's called acclimatisation and normal people do it all the time. Regulating your temperature so rigidly not only wastes energy from overcooling and overheating, you have less of a chance to get used to and enjoy the outside climate. It's nice to step outside and not feel oppressed by the sudden change in temps all year round, so it's no wonder people who live closer to the land feel that way.
Otherwise, agreed that anyone affected by dramatic temperature shifts should ask to be moved, not suffer or make everyone else suffer.
Wednesday 12th August 2015 13:24 GMT Anonymous Coward
Re: Probably air con fear
about 15 years ago we had an annoying scientist working at our lab (he still comes in as he's a fellow now but thankfully he has got better with age) Anyway he was a menace to all support staff not just IT, and was moaning on and on about the light in his office (fluro tube) Eventually the lab sparky got fed up with this, as there wasn't anything wrong with the tube, so he turned up to the office removed tube, popped outside the office for a few seconds and came back in with the same tube, put it back in the light and told the user it was new tube. Ahhhhhh that's much better came the response and the moaning stopped!
Thursday 13th August 2015 17:58 GMT Alan Brown
Re: Probably air con fear
"that's why any decent air conditioner will aim UP at the ceiling and let you divert the flow left/right too - normally from the same damn remote control that you use to turn it off!"
The best way of dealing with AC idiots is to set it up correctly, then hide the remote.
We had problems some years back in the data centre because the security staff would turn the AC off at night. Sending the security firm a $30k bill for repairs solved that one pretty fast.
Sunday 9th August 2015 11:52 GMT Anonymous Coward
Sunday 9th August 2015 15:00 GMT Anonymous Coward
Sunday 9th August 2015 17:34 GMT Turtle
@aBloke FromEarth Re: Probably air con fear
"Germans are notoriously anti air con -- they say it 'makes you sick'. Although I've never managed to elicit exactly which illness that is."
Fan Death. The compressor makes the fan in the unit even more lethal than it would otherwise be. So their ability to recognize the increased danger of air conditioners as compared to mere fans shows a very good understanding of bio-mechanics. Kinda.
Sunday 9th August 2015 10:51 GMT Chris Miller
In the late 90s I was running computers across Europe for a global financial services operation. Visiting our German office in Frankfurt, they said they'd take me to see their call centre in (former) East Germany because their AS/400 system kept overheating. The computer room was sealed behind a glass screen plastered with 'Nicht Rauchen' stickers. The room had aircon, but I immediately noticed that the operators had opened all the windows, which was obviously interfering with the aircon. Why I asked why the open windows, the reply was: "If we close them, our smoking sets off the fire alarms".
My (West) German colleagues told me this was a not untypical attitude to rules for an Osti.
Sunday 9th August 2015 11:02 GMT Anonymous Coward
Our office in the UK was quite old and had opening windows. However the building had been updated to have air conditioning to handle the presence of IT equipment. In the summer one or two people would open the window next to them "to get some air" - and the air con balance would go awry so parts of the office then overheated or became very cold.
Sunday 9th August 2015 10:55 GMT xerocred
just following orders...
Reminds me of a story from base station installers... they were told to go and take the antennas down of site 10- they just finished installing it the week before. The site was live and carrying traffic. Ouch.
Turns out they reused the site number, the contractors only knew of the one site of that number, not the old site 10. Lesson learned - don't reuse numbers.
Sunday 9th August 2015 11:10 GMT Anonymous Coward
Re: just following orders...
The local council installed a guard rail between a footpath and a cycle track - although it seemed unnecessary. I took some photographs showing that everyone now avoided the footpath and used the cycle track.
The problem was that the guard rail was a regulation distance from the kerb. At one point there was a large ground swell from a large old tree's roots. The guard rail meant that the ground swell made the path impassable at that point. After discovering that the tree was in a conservation area and couldn't be damaged - the rails were removed.
Sunday 9th August 2015 11:57 GMT Anonymous Coward
A right of way through a hedge had been abandoned and blocked when houses were built on the field. A nice path was laid that rerouted it by a few yards beyond the hedge.
After about twenty years people had torn down the mesh that blocked the hole in the hedge. Someone then complained that there was a potential safety risk to any JMI school children using the hole and possibly running across the pavement on to the road. Very few children actually used that path through the hedge - so the situation was largely hypothetical.
The council then discovered that they had not executed the final legal step to close that part of the right of way permanently - and could not block it again. Any attempt to resurrect the closure now faced a long legal challenge from the Ramblers' Association as a point of principle.
The council therefore put a guard rail for a few metres along the pavement's road edge - so that JMI children could not run straight on to the road.
The guard rail had to conform to regulations - one of which was the distance from the kerb. This meant the pavement was now effectively reduced in width by about a third for several metres. The tall hedge was only trimmed once a year by the council - so the available pavement width was often reduced even further.
The road was an urban rat-run across a railway line. There was no pavement on the other side of the road due to the relatively narrow width of the old bridge. So large numbers of pupils walking to/from the secondary schools used that pavement. When they reached the guard rail they now split into two streams - with one in the road. In the evening they had their backs to the traffic.
The council declared themselves in a cleft stick. They couldn't block the hole; they couldn't remove or modify the guard rail; they could do nothing about educating teenagers not to walk in the road.
Thursday 13th August 2015 18:26 GMT Alan Brown
Re: Unintended consequences
" They couldn't block the hole; they couldn't remove or modify the guard rail; they could do nothing about educating teenagers not to walk in the road."
Bollocks - sheer unmitigated bollocks.
DfT guidelines state that guard rails (actually "pedestrian guide fencing[*]") should be removed immediately if pedestrians are walking on the "wrong side" of them as the danger is increased well beyond whatever point the guard rail was intended to protect from.
There are a number of UK govt publications pointing out substantial council misuse of guide fencing and berating councils for continuing to position the stuff to address non-issues, or making safety substantially worse. (The #1 complaint of the DFT is use of the stuff when bollards would be more appropriate)
At least 50% of fencing installations are unsafe and inappropriate. TFL has instituted a policy of removal of as much of the stuff as possible and is facing resistance from councils because of entrenched attitudes miscontruing the purpose of the stuff, despite long-term evidence showing that it's killed far more people than it's ever saved.
[*] Pedestrian guide fencing was created to try and guide pedestrians away from spots where it was dangerous to step onto the road. The moment people start walking around or jumping over it, its purpose is negated.
It's not "guarding" anything, nor is it "safety" fencing and it provides negative protection from vehicles - the negative stemming from the fact that it offers _zero_ protection from vehicular impact over 5mph and if a vehicle hits the stuff, anyone nearby is likely to be hit by the fencing as it breaks away from its mounts. This _has_ happened.
In addition the stuff kills cyclists/motorcyclists trapped between it and cars
I cringe when I see the local school yobs all clustered behind fencing on a dangerous corner and pushing against it/leaning out over it. It's actually encouraging them to loiter in a spot where they're in greater danger than if they were 20 feet away.
Sunday 9th August 2015 14:27 GMT Uberseehandel
The True Echt Of The Sweaty Armpit
When I first went to Germany, I had a big office with a floor to ceiling view of the Alps, which was fine, but very soon, as the weather improved, like most of the other folk with offices facing south, I had to organise portable air-con units. Which worked,up until the point where there were so many of them in the building that the fuse boxes were all tripping and the electricity bill was soaring. Fortunately, I got wind of the forthcoming ban on self-installed AC units and managed to swap my nice Alpine viewed sunny office for larger but less plush one on the north side of the building. Unfortunately, nearly all the meeting rooms were on the sunny side. After a time a few of us used to hand round deodorant sprays before meeting began, being Germany they had to be the kind that does not harm the environment.
Sunday 9th August 2015 18:23 GMT Anonymous Coward
This may not be as stupid as it sounds
Let's say you don't know a lot about computers and you don't know that they produce a lot of heat or require a cool environment.
You go into a server room with an AC unit and the temperature is perfectly fine. In fact, the AC unit might be idle at that particular moment and seem unused.
Many rational people might conclude that the AC unit was just taking up space and potentially electricity and might find better use elsewhere, cooling humans.
If anything this story is less about German stubbornness and more about keeping your servers in the IT department and not in small random rooms in random buildings that are apparently easily accessed by almost anybody.
Monday 10th August 2015 10:07 GMT David 45
I drive a private hire vehicle with air con. and climate control (not bragging - nothing special, as a lot of cars now have it fitted as standard!) and I wish I had a quid for every passenger that gets in on a stinking hot day (we've just had one yesterday. 28 degrees, believe it or not, in the UK) and promptly opens a window, which then triggers my standard, pre-prepared script of: "I do have the air conditioning running and if a window is open, you'll let all the hot air in". Should have a recording of it really as I say it so often!. Kids are the worst. Cue whining voice........"I'm hot. I want the window open". I usually counter that with the remotely controlled child locks (also disables the window controls - cackle, cackle!) and this spiel: "Now, imagine you're sitting inside a fridge. You wouldn't leave the fridge door open, would you?", which normally works, especially if the parents cotton on and intervene. I distinctly remember one guy in the car with, I suspect, limited intelligence who insisted that: "That's all right, mate. It's cooler with the window open". Hmm. There's no real answer to that assertion. He was bigger than me. One person insisted on having the window cracked open a couple of inches the whole 60-odd miles during an airport trip on a hot day and there's always the odd passenger (VERY odd!) who "hates air-con". Doh!
Monday 10th August 2015 15:00 GMT Kubla Cant
Re: Brain required
I used to commute between King's Cross and Huntingdon. The route is served by clapped-out trains that must be at least 30 years old. Air is delivered through eyeball vents above the seats, but there are notices telling you to open the windows for more ventilation.
One sweltering evening I had to share a compartment with a moron who insisted that all the windows remain closed "so the air conditioning will work". The air blasting through the vents was obviously about the same temperature as that outside, but he knew better. By the time he alighted the temperature in the compartment must have been well above the 30C.
Monday 10th August 2015 10:07 GMT John Styles
It is amazing we didn't burn the building down
Our previous office was on the top floor (servants' quarters) of a grade 2* listed 19th century manor house. Over the years our number of servers crept up from 2 under a desk in an office (one of the bedrooms) to a whole room. We had 2 aircon units in the room but they were a bit dodgy - at one point they failed over a weekend and when we got in it was subtropical and a number of the machines failed over the next week or two. The basement also had some electronics in and was permanently like a sauna.
The electrics were quite dodgy too - fuses still of the type where you had to whittle away a bit of wire then stick it in a strange Bakelite contraption. One winter the heating failed and the power would go occasionally, we discovered that my boss was using an air heater. I think we ran out of fuse wire and went home.
About 20 years ago PCs were not made of the stern stuff they are now, and we had a problem with PCs turning on on Monday mornings in winter - basically PCs aren't designed to cope with the temperatures you get in England in winter in buildings with dodgy (grade 2* listed and poorly maintained) sash windows so the lubricant for the hard disks was too viscous for them to start.
Then there was the time the river flooded and almost reached the power transformer in the basement.
Monday 10th August 2015 10:56 GMT Jagged
Monday 10th August 2015 12:59 GMT Anonymous Coward
MS update screw-up
Despite the title, MS is (surprisingly) not directly implicated here.
I spent a significant time working as a consultant for a major European company (name withheld to protect the innocent, not that I think they are). One time about 15 years or so ago, everyone got an e-mail from the IT department telling us to leave our desktop PCs switched on over night (you normally had to switch them off, or else) so that IT could push a major update out. All we would need to do is reboot the machines the next day to finalise the update.
Next day dawns and in I go, nice and early, with a pile of work that needs to be done on a PDQ basis. Reboot desktop, and all hell breaks loose - Windows fails to come up and instead gives me a whole slew of error messages. Facing a definite "pot of petunias" moment I take a deep breath and call the hell desk; after only waiting 10 minutes they pick up the phone and (surprisingly) say more-or-less immediately that an IT technician will be around sometime that morning.
When the techie turned up (after only 2 hours wait) he diagnosed the problem and fixed with with a surprising amount of speed. Feeling a little suspicious I asked him what happened, and he responded that the update pushed out the last night had failed. He then said the immortal words: "we (as in the IT crowd) are feeling pretty happy: the update only failed for half of the users; our testing suggested that three-quarters would be impacted".
This was on a site with something like 8,000 employees!
Monday 10th August 2015 15:43 GMT The Nameless Mist
Hack and Slash
We used to have a problem with BT (this is before they span off their engineers into Openreach) where they could come on site to do some kind of engineering work; speak to reception and flash some badges and then charge in to do whatever they thought was best.
In one case they were working in a ceiling void and decided that all the other cables were in the way of their working area. So out come the clippers.
clip .. clip .. clip. (cue lots of alarms going off on security desk as they chop and short out the door and window alarms to 1/3 of the site).
then they found the nice big thick mesh armored cable. out come the bolt croppers (I never found out why they had those in their standard toolkit); clip.
Cue 1/3 of the building dropping off the site LAN as they shear through the F/O links between the racks; and the spanning tree has conniptions trying to reconnect.
We eventually had to force BT into coming back on site with a F/O splicer (incredibly expensive back then) and have them splice the line back together.
Their argument was "anything in the ceiling void that is in our way can be removed per our access agreements". Our response was to ban them from unaccompanied work on site.
Thursday 13th August 2015 09:33 GMT Anonymous Coward
Re: Hack and Slash
A couple of years ago in Portsmouth and Southsea, several thousand pairs of BT lines went offline for several weeks, followed by a number of BT bodies running around distributing leaflets about cable theft.
The real reason was that BTs own contractors chopped several very large cables and removed them.
Compensation for my business being practically unable to trade for two weeks..? Yeah right.
Monday 10th August 2015 18:59 GMT Stevie
Is the author trying to tell me that he or she seriously believes it is the place of the janiotorial staff to interpret work orders? Am I being asked to believe that this would have gone any differently in Captain Mainwaring's patch?
Surely the story should have been about who it was that made the f*cktarded decision to remove the A/C in the first place, as should the headline.
I call shenanigans.
(It has just occurred to me that this very story from that angle may have run in another venue where it earned a T-shirt for the author, and so had to be adjusted for emphasis to hide the double dipping.)
Thursday 13th August 2015 18:34 GMT Alan Brown
"Surely the story should have been about who it was that made the f*cktarded decision to remove the A/C in the first place"
Janitor disengaged brain. Contractors disengaged brain.
Fucktard should have the repair bill (and the bill for lost working hours) subtracted from his salary, but that will never happen, so he'll never learn. (In my experience people learn very quickly if publically humiliated or hit hard in the wallet, otherwise clue never sticks.)
Tuesday 11th August 2015 21:34 GMT Henry Wertz 1
"“the good old Germanic tradition of 'brains off and just follow orders'.”"
Works the same here. I've heard of *TWO* cases here where a room full of computers got the air conditioning removed at the university, then stuff started melting. The people performing the work orders are so used to getting work orders that are totally daft, they are not going to question them, and to be honest I don't expect them to question them. The blame is fully with whoever was daft enough to issue a work order, without asking whoever "owns" the room why the A/C is there. Of course, in both cases here it was "Oh, this A/C isn't even venting outside so it's wasting electricity", with no regards to the equipment inside some closet. In one case, they NEVER got whoever to authorize reinstalling the A/C, so the $10,000s of hardware just sat there turned off!
Thursday 13th August 2015 18:37 GMT Alan Brown
Re: Follow orders
> Of course, in both cases here it was "Oh, this A/C isn't even venting outside so it's wasting electricity"
Hunting down and killing said fucktard is not an option?
Failing that, being hauled into the Provost's office to explain why they've rendered a department unable to work?