back to article What's it like to work for a genius and Olympic archer who's mates with Richard Branson?

Welcome back to On-Call, our Friday glimpse at readers' tales of being asked to fix the ridiculous. This week, reader “Alien8” shared a story about “One of the worst jobs I ever had” doing “IT support at a fulfilment house.” The big problem here was his boss, the IT manager, who Alien8 says just made stuff up all the time. …

  1. wolfetone Silver badge

    You know you're in trouble when some clown thinks Microsoft Access is a viable database.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Yes. Everyone knows that Excel is all the database anyone would ever need.

      1. DaLo

        Especially in finance and accounts, use Excel for everything (I've even seen it suggested that it could be used for a location map, with all the cells reduced right down each of the hundreds of houses in an individual cell!)

        1. Roq D. Kasba

          Nothing wrong with Access

          It's actually a perfectly decent tool for the jobs it was designed to do. It's also capable of doing far more than almost anyone who ends up using it, which means without an understanding of ER, they mash the keyboard until they come up with something that looks pretty whilst having no concept of their data, and without even validating that the system does what it was intended to do.

          I figured here we'd know better than to blame the software for the users limitations.

          That aside, it's often a reasonable marker for something that needs starting all over again ('please add a 'show history' button, it must have rounded corners' - yep had that one on a system with no audit functionality), or something that a finance person hacked together, and has become business critical and now has to service multiple sites. Or they just link every single table from the real enterprise system and munge a load of inner joins for meaningless, but pretty reports (killing network performance as every record crosses the network multiple times per report/query, and for good measure, scatters a handful of locks in its path).

          It's a shame, as it does what it was designed to do perfectly decently, especially in the late 90's when it ran Toyota's website for a while.

          1. Jason Hindle

            Re: Nothing wrong with Access

            Whatever happened to Microsoft's plans to merge Excel and Access into single product called Excess?

            1. Tom 13

              Re: single product called Excess?

              Well, that was the point at which Ballmer's brain cells gave their all at providing him with a coherent thought and he realized the joke was on him. Sadly it was the last time they ever did that.

          2. Alien8n Silver badge

            Re: Nothing wrong with Access

            For what it was doing it wasn't a bad tool, it was the implementation of it that sucked.

            It used an ODBC connection to create a faux SQL connection to take a dump of the entire fulfilment system. By the time it was taking 8 hours to run the database tables were hitting 2Gb each (this was around 2004 so was hitting the maximum size Access could handle at the time before corrupting everything). It quickly grew into 3 separate databases to hold the data and a 4th database to do the actual work, at which point it got handed to me. Turned out all the views were pulling everything from the ODBC connection, then pulling everything into a single query which was the filtered for the final report. I rewrote the ODBC view adding where clauses to only pull the data we actually required (resulting in a single database of a few hundred Mb) and then added where clauses to each view accessing that data so all the filtering was done before it hit the final report view.

            From 8 hours it went down to 2, most of that now in the SQL of the ODBC connection.

            1. Sequin

              Re: Nothing wrong with Access

              I worked at a company that used an Access front end to a MSSQL backend for an order processing system.

              Every couple of months the system was required to create about 5 million records in one table with sequential serial numbers for gift vouchers - an identity column was no use as there were four series of serials, for different denominations of vouchers.

              The guy who created the system did this using loops in access - get the next serial number, create a record, add one to the serial number and repeat until the correct number of records had been created, then do the same again for each of the other three denominations.

              This routine usually tool at least 12 hours to run, so was left to run overnight. Often it failed part way through. I replaced it with a SQL stored procedure that used a tally table ( - the new routine ran in 15 minutes

          3. Sequin

            Re: Nothing wrong with Access

            I always says it's not the tool that's used, it's the tool that uses it that is the likely problem.

        2. Triggerfish

          I have seen a whole pseudo ERP/ manufacturing system created on Excel pivot tables. I still have nightmares about trying to work out how people can mislay 5 tons of cotton.

          1. Tom 13

            Re: how people can mislay 5 tons of cotton.

            It's easy. They accidentally shipped it to the warehouse with the Saturn V engines.

        3. Alan Brown Silver badge


          I saw it used in a Regional Health Authority (who constantly had financial troubles, but were handling $500million+ each year using this thing, which also held details on half a million patients) and to my eternal shame it got pulled into my company as the accounting system.

          One of the company directors was "mates" with the "authors" of this monstrosity and rather than spending the "exorbitant" sum of $500 for a networked version of Quickbooks, insisted that we use the accounting system from hell on the basis that his "mate" saw it as a simple conversion from the existing larger setup (I was outvoted by the other director, who happened to be non-technical and his wife)

          6 years later, after the company books were in a complete shambles (said director and his "mate" at the RHA were the only one able to understand the accounting system. Even Inland Revenue gave up trying to audit it) I finally managed to wrest the system out of his control and spent 6 weeks feeding everything into.... Quickbooks (with the aid of a couple of friends).

          We very quickly established that rather than turning a profit every year, the company had been making a staggering loss and to cap it off had been trading insolvent for the previous 18 months.

          Time to call in the receiver - who was very understanding and had seen this kind of thing several times before, but that didn't make it any less stressful.

          Lesson: When someone pulls this kind of stunt, resign or get as far away from the financials as possible. When the inevitable happens, shit will fall on you (as a director) from a great height even if you're not involved in the money stuff, but at least you won't run the risk of a nervous breakdown trying to cope with it all.

      2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Yes. Everyone knows that Excel is all the database anyone would ever need.

        Oh God! The flashbacks! The nested ifs and vlookups. The brackets! The horror!


        I remember the day I took over a "database" responsible for running a £20m budget. On Excel. It took me about 2 weeks with a whiteboard and a lot of paper and highlighter pen ink to work out what it did. A day to change the colour scheme from purple on brown, black on hideous flourescent green and the like. My eyes! Another 2 weeks to re-write it so it actually worked properly. Another week to test that I hadn't screwed it up. A week to put the data back in correctly. And a few weeks to fail to persuade my boss to buy some proper software to do it, or to get someone competent to make it into a proper database, using something a touch more robust than Excel.

        I think it was a 200MB file, extensively linked to 3 other equally huge Excel abominations - and I know that some other people linked their stuff to it across the network. It was the sort of file you hit open on, then wandered off to make a coffee. Back in the 90s, when 1GB of RAM was something that happened to other people.

        It worked though, but it scared me. Infernal audit were called in, and after two weeks pronounced that they couldn't find a single mistake. I suspect they just couldn't untangle the spaghetti and were bluffing...

        1. Alien8n Silver badge

          "I remember the day I took over a "database" responsible for running a £20m budget. On Excel."

          My first "IT" job. I was a trainee engineer for a semiconductor firm. The engineering budget was somewhere in the region of £40M per day and I was given the budget variance report to run. It was an Excel spreadsheet that ran on an old 486 laptop in Excel 5 and took 20 minutes to run. The report was run at exactly 10:30 every morning (ready for the 11:30 engineering meeting) which just happened to coincide with the day shift's breakfast break (so tea/coffee and full english was consumed while the report ran).

          Unfortunately for me I took over in the first week of April which meant having to rewrite the report for the new financial year. This being the first Excel report I'd ever used. And most of it being VBA driven.

          Somehow I managed to decode 4 pages of VBA code over the course of a weekend and got the report out without any mishap on my first full day on the job.

          1. phuzz Silver badge

            I also worked at a company (~£10M turnover) where the head of finance had a 2GB Access (plus numerous copies for roll-back) 'database' that pulled in data from SQL so he could then run his own reports (via Excel of course).

            Eventually for equally stupid reasons they moved to using SAP, which in the circumstances was as overpowered as the Access system was underpowered, but it did at least include a budget for VMWare and a SAN which I enjoyed spending.

          2. scasey

            Impressive. I'm also an Engineer, and have had similar experiences. Isn't it interesting how us Engineers like nothing more than working weekends, and evenings, for free (or rather, just the buzz of solving a problem, which, of course, is priceless)? I don't encounter many admin people who say 'no problem. I'll take it home and have it sorted by Monday morning'.

            Yes, I am a Grumpy Old Engineer.

        2. Jonathan Richards 1

          Inexpert Excel

          Some years ago, I was working in one of about a dozen different teams which were improving Information Assurance throughout a UK department of state. In order to track the performance of these teams, and hence the Department, the central organization devised a monitoring tool, which they were pleased to call a 'dashboard', implemented in ... Excel.

          So, the teams sent in their performance measures to the centre, where they were entered centrally into the spreadsheet, which was then published.

          So far, so good, and this went on swimmingly for many months, until one of my team members looked hard at the formulae underlying the pretty graphs and pie charts... It turned out that at some point in the dashboard's history [1] somebody had inserted a row into a "table" and put all the values off by one, so that reported values for target X were contributing to the charts for target X+1. Executive summary: Borked and meaningless. And this for a product that was meant to be tracking Information Assurance!

          Irony overload, you might think, but that would leave you nowhere to go when you heard about the response from the central Information Assurance team. They acknowledged the fault, but declined to fix it, because "it would make the previous reports look different, and they had already been published to the Secretary of State".

          If there's a moral, it's to have training for Excel operators in the use of the rather excellent but (IME) underused Auditing Toolbar, and then to audit its use!

          [1] version control? No, that would have been a good idea, wouldn't it?

        3. Tom 13

          Re: they just couldn't untangle the spaghetti

          Well, if they couldn't untangle the spaghetti, they weren't bluffing about not being able to find a single mistake.

      3. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge


        How soon they forget...

        "How The London Whale Debacle Is Partly The Result Of An Error Using Excel"

        "Over at The Baseline Scenario, law professor James Kwak, says that what has been generally under-reported about the London Whale debacle is how badly Excel failed as a financial modeling program."

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Excel

          And yet in all my work in the US and UK financial system (not my primary focus, but substantial and ongoing) Excel remains the primary tool for most levels of financial analysis, reporting, and modeling - before you jump to the massive back box applications like Hyperion.

          Every project has the absolute requirement to manage tens of thousands of large (20MB+) excel spreadsheets which are all linked in a gordian knot of bullshit.

          Equally scary is the fact that when "real" databases are used they are all managed by the lowest possible cost offshore teams who have 100% turnover every 3-6 months. All have full dbo / sys access from across the seas, so goodness only knows where the data ends up.

          The more industries I work in, the more I realize that the entire economic system of the developed world is a house of cards.

      4. beboyle

        I once worked for a director who used a spreadsheet as a word processor. Literally, just typed memos or whatever in at one line per cell. And complained about how much work it was to manually re-word wrap everything if she had to make a change. She thought we should write a macro or something to do that for her.

        And no, we never did get her to use Word, although she did eventually graduate to writing everything in her email client.

      5. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        Back in the 80's as an refrigeration application engineer I used Lotus 123 and it's tax lookup tables to size refrigeration units.

        That is what made me realize my future should be in IT........

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I would post

    But my worst boss is a household name with a knighthood.

    And he'd have to kill me.

    1. Simon Sharwood, Reg APAC Editor (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: I would post

      We can anonymise. Rigourously.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Re: I would post


      1. Roq D. Kasba

        Re: I would post

        Anonymisation - Prince Saccharine

        1. Roq D. Kasba

          Re: I would post

          Baron Aspartame

    3. Bloakey1

      Re: I would post

      "But my worst boss is a household name with a knighthood.

      And he'd have to kill me."

      Ahhh, using a LART. Would that be one lump or two?

    4. Eponymous Cowherd

      Re: I would post

      You weren't the guy who tried to tell his Lordship what a steaming pile of manure the "eMailer" was, are you?

      1. Roq D. Kasba

        Re: I would post

        Duke of Diabetes

      2. Alien8n Silver badge

        Re: I would post

        Reminds me of the story of the bloke who wrote (part of) Windows 95. Article was on here a few years ago but I've never been able to find it since.

        He started at MS back in the old Windows 3 days and for fun created a 6 line program in MS Basic. And then couldn't understand why it wouldn't work.

        New developer "It won't work"

        Boss "It's a bug in the code"

        ND "It's 6 lines"

        B "Not your code, in MS Basic"

        6 months later he's debugged MS Basic and fixed the bug, calls everyone in to show them and then exclaims "What kind of idiot writes a piece of shit like this?"

        Bill walks out the office and his boss tells him "That idiot was Bill". Amazingly he wasn't fired, which was lucky as he fixed the memory issue with Windows 95 iirc.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Gates Horns

          Re: I would post

          @ Alien8n

          I've heard Paint and Notepad versions of that over the years too. Makes me wonder which (if not all) of them might be true.

          Poor Bill!

        2. AIBailey

          Re: I would post

          It's a good anecdote. It's taken from "Barbarians Led By Bill Gates", and apparently took place sometime around 1983. It revolved around some graphics code to perform flood-fills that Bill Gates had written for the version of BASIC they were shipping at the time.

      3. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

        Constructively criticising the Amstrad Emailer

        That was Dave Gorman in his UKTV one man show.

      4. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: I would post

        "what a steaming pile of manure the "eMailer" was, are you?"

        I wasn't, but I told the NZ Sugar wannabe that it was (they sold it there as the "iPhone" a decade before Apple thought up the name), especially given they wanted ISPs to stump up 20k for support software that would only work on SunOs 4.1.3 (hardly justifiable, given the poor user experience it offered with a price tag approaching a week's salary. IIRC I called it a "very slow, extremely expensive shiny toy which can't even display web pages properly")

        They weren't happy and harrumphed a lot. I eventually saw the thing on sale in Dick Smith Electronics where it sold for several years through the 1990s - right up to the point where they all stopped working one night.

        It turned out that Sugar-wannabe had managed to get the demonstrator devices running by installing the control software on a sparcstation in a student lab at Victoria University (unauthorised). One day the sparcstation failed to switch on and ended up in a skip shortly afterwards as it was a decade old.

        Yup, all those commercially sold units (a few thousand) were using the software on that Sparc, not something purpose-installed by some gullible ISP.

        Yup, all the user data was held on the sparcstation - without any backups.

        Users weren't happy at losing their mail and other data.

        Dick Smith Electronics wasn't happy, as they were court-ordered to 100% refund all buyers and Sugar-wannabe had slung his hook, so they ate the costs.

        The fate of the drives in the sparc remain unknown - they weren't in the thing when it was recovered from the skip so it's unknown if they were erased or not.

    5. hplasm Silver badge

      Re: I would post

      Ol' Prune face the Sid James Impersonator?

  3. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

    Olympic Archer

    Mrs. Archer once described her husband Jeffrey as suffering from "narrative inaccuracy". Presumably this guy was a Lord Archer, but on an Olympic scale of telling porkies.

    Incidentally, Spike Milligan describes a similar person in his war diaries. That ended much better because when the shit hit the fan the senior officers told the storyteller that he was delusional.

    1. frank ly Silver badge

      Re: Olympic Archer

      As I remember from his book, the Colonel told the idiot, "Stop boring the arse off tired soldiers with your stupid fairy stories. By the way, I'm a friend of Lord Northcott and he's never heard of you."

  4. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

    For one awkward moment I read that title as "Olympic archer who mates with Richard Branson".

    I need more coffee.

    1. TimR

      I need something stronger now that you've planted that image in my brain....

    2. Simon Sharwood, Reg APAC Editor (Written by Reg staff)

      Yes, you do. And maybe glasses?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        A blindfold and a last cigarette for that image

        1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

          "Yes, you do. And maybe glasses?"

          Like this one? >>>>>>>

    3. hplasm Silver badge

      Re:For one awkward moment...

      As did I...

    4. jelabarre59 Silver badge

      > For one awkward moment I read that title as "Olympic archer who mates with Richard Branson".


      Same here. I had wondered if anyone else had the same sort of twisted mind. Now if they were in Japan someone could draw up a clever yaoi doujin of it...

      1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

        Playmobil "artist's image" of the, erm, event?

        @jelabarre59: remember - a dirty mind is like a never ending party.

    5. cd

      Think of the children.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The IT manager had the wrong profession

    Well, his IT manager should have become a politician instead.

    That would have gotten him to use his innate ability to adlib lies wholesale while arguing about weapons of mass destruction in the commons, lying about supporting terrorism and intentionally destabilizing whole regions so that tens of millions go homeless, are murdered or die on the long "trek of the exiles".

    Any likelihood to any characters known or imaginary is purely coincidental. Me coat.

  6. Yugguy

    I wonder if it's the same bloke

    25 years ago as a student I knew a bloke who claimed, with an absolutely straight face, to be an ex-Marine and to have competed in the Tour De France. He didn't look like either.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      You could get away with it 25 years ago

      Today, you're just one web search away from being thoroughly debunked, right after spinning your tale.

      Thing is, that kind of people hasn't stopped telling porkies. I wonder how they adapt to the enormous risk of being called on their fabrications.

      1. Wensleydale Cheese Silver badge

        Re: You could get away with it 25 years ago

        "Today, you're just one web search away from being thoroughly debunked, right after spinning your tale."

        There were other ways before search engines came along.

        The snobbish pub landlord who liked everyone to think he had hit the rank of Major in his army days turned out to have reached the dizzy heights of corporal.

        1. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

          Re: You could get away with it 25 years ago

          "The snobbish pub landlord who liked everyone to think he had hit the rank of Major in his army days turned out to have reached the dizzy heights of corporal."

          I once worked for a company where the nepotism-in-chief claimed to have flown Spitfires in WW2. His rank tended to vary a little, but was observed to be higher than that of anybody else ex-Services in the room.

          The time came when we were working on a project with RAF personnel involved, and over lunch this guy held forth. As everybody was leaving, the company project manager asked one of the RAF guys "Do you think he really did fly Spitfires?"

          "Put it this way," said the officer, "I guess that during his National Service he might have seen a Spitfire."

      2. This post has been deleted by its author

      3. Tom 13

        Re: how they adapt to the enormous risk of being called on their fabrications.

        They repeat the lie and claim you can't prove otherwise.

        Sadly, in a world that doesn't know you're a dog typing on a keyboard this often works.

    2. Chris King Silver badge

      Re: I wonder if it's the same bloke

      I knew one like that, turns out he was actually a cook, and not a very good one ! I had some fun with that loon when I found out (from someone who'd actually worked with him)...

      "Oh, the shelling was terrible", he whined.

      "And when you'd finished the peas, you had to peel the spuds ?"

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The Dunning-Kruger effect

    Those who are most incompetent consistently over estimate their own abilities. Conversely, those most highly skilled and able typically under report their competence (since really smart people know there is always more to learn and know).

  8. Anonymous Coward

    “Surgical titanium is quite distinctive,” Alien8 wrote.


    Alien8 ate him????

    1. Alien8n Silver badge

      Re: “Surgical titanium is quite distinctive,” Alien8 wrote.


      No, it was removed after his shoulder healed up, he kept the titanium as a souvenir.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Thumb Up

        Re: “Surgical titanium is quite distinctive,” Alien8 wrote.

        Ah! Thanks for the explanation - I was a wee smidge concerned.

        You sure it wasn't a demonstration sample he stole from his GP's surgery?

      2. Voland's right hand Silver badge

        Re: “Surgical titanium is quite distinctive,” Alien8 wrote.

        he kept the titanium as a souvenir.

        1. These things are not titanium (usually). They are various alloys.

        2. They are _PROPERTY_ of the NHS (ditto for other health services in Europe). They in fact are entitled to come to visit your earthly remains in the morgue, open you up and _REMOVE_ all prosthetics because they cost a fortune and are recyclable. You do not own them. Period.

        3. While the rest was believable, him keeping surgical implants as a souvenir is even a bigger porkie than everything else.

        1. Alien8n Silver badge

          Re: “Surgical titanium is quite distinctive,” Alien8 wrote.

          Depends, while it's entirely possible he was lying about it's purpose (for all I know it could be part of a motorbike) I do know when my brother had brain surgery they rebuilt his face using a titanium wire mesh. Had to explain every time he went through customs...

        2. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

          Re: “Surgical titanium is quite distinctive,” Alien8 wrote.

          As I'm on the continent, I wouldn't know about NHS terms and conditions.

          However, I've got a little souvenir like that from the time I broke my ankle in a motorcycle mishap in 2001. Had it in me for a year, and the hospital gave it to me after removal. They told me it was titanium. Well, it's definitely not steel or aluminium. Very, very light, yet very, very sturdy. ln the x-rays it looked like something from a DIY shop, screwed to the bones with Philips screws, though.

          I keep it on the keyring with my motorcycle keys as a 'don't do stupid things' reminder.

        3. Bluto Nash

          Re: “Surgical titanium is quite distinctive,” Alien8 wrote.

          "We're sorry, but these parts are LICENSED, not sold. The license expires when you do."

        4. Drewc Gold badge

          My Titanium implant is on my bookshelf...

          Metal rod inserted through the marrow of my broken shin bone. When bone healed, it was removed ibu surgeion who asked if I wanted to keep it as a memento. It is still mementing.

  9. BurnT'offering

    Let me see ...

    Delusional, self-serving nutcase - check

    Inability to design software or code - check

    Unable to do simple financial calculations - check

    Creates a slow clunky system that sends out wrong payments - check

    Ladies, gentlemen - I believe we have found just the right person to take on the troubled Universal Credit project

    He and IDS will get on like a taxable bedroom on fire

    1. Alien8n Silver badge

      Re: Let me see ...

      Wouldn't surprise me if he was behind the design of the Universal Credit system. If he'd been in the army they would have promoted him to General in order to keep him as far away from anything important as possible.

      1. BurnT'offering

        Re: Let me see ...

        Or an admiral? I wonder if we have passed the tipping point when offering to send in consultants to help with Government IT has become more of a deterrent to our enemies than Trident. They share some characteristics: ruinously expensive and too dangerous to ever deploy

        1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

          Re: Let me see ...

          Do they have admirals in the army?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Let me see ...

            >Do they have admirals in the army?

            I bet they do in his. Probably dragons too ;)

          2. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

            Re: Let me see ...

            "Do they have admirals in the army?"

            They do. But it's stictly 'dont't ask, don't tell', so mum's the word...

            1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              Re: Let me see ...

              "Do they have admirals in the army?"

              They do. But it's stictly 'dont't ask, don't tell', so mum's the word...

              Well...the "boss" has loose lips and we all know that loose lips sink ships so even the army has a give a rank to their secret weapons and since he sinks ships, Admiral seems to be perfectly cromulent rank to give him.

              I may have had too many ----------->

          3. BurnT'offering

            Re: Do they have admirals in the army?

            Someone has to run the project to convert the aircraft-less carriers into bloody big tanks

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I think I can top that story with my first boss.

    However, as he's apparently now a fugitive from justice it might be unwise for me to share the details.

    1. Alien8n Silver badge

      One ex-boss did end up in jail. After the Finance Director went to the SFO with the company accounts and told them to investigate.

      The irony being the FD used to work for Enron.

    2. Steven 1

      "apparently now a fugitive from justice"

      What was Julian like to work with?

      1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

        My first thought was 'McAfee'.

  11. VinceH Silver badge

    "Among the boss' claims were “I have a Cray supercomputer in my barn” and “I'm friends with Richard Branson.” He also claimed to have been picked for the UK's Olympic archery team and to have studied six degree courses concurrently, and to have won prizes for all. Oh and it took just 18 months to study those six degrees."

    His name wasn't Jake, was it? :p

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Good catch!

    2. GrumpenKraut Silver badge

      Wow, beat me to it. Including exact quote and icon. Dammit! Beer.

    3. Alien8n Silver badge

      Lol, no, Richard.

      Unsurprisingly everyone called him Dick (with just a slight emphasis).

    4. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

      I don't think Jake would get along with Richard Branson.

      1. GrumpenKraut Silver badge
        Black Helicopters

        But it might be quite entertaining to watch what happens.

        Next day's news: "Branson DECAPITATED by a helicopter made of pure opinion!".

    5. jake Silver badge

      @ VinceH

      What is it with people like you putting words into Jake's mouth/typoes? Jake never stated any of that. Are you delusional? Or do you simply have a massive inferiority complex?



      1. GrumpenKraut Silver badge

        @jake [was: Re: @ VinceH]

        jake, just relax.

      2. VinceH Silver badge

        Re: @ VinceH


        Try looking down the back of your sofa, behind the fridge, or in whichever cupboard you look in least often. That'll be where it is - your misplaced sense of humour.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: @ VinceH

          My sense of humo(u)r is just fine, thank you.

          I'm just wondering why people are picking on poor old Jake.

          Poor old Jake only posted twice, in November of 2008, see for yourself:

          Or the other poor old Jake:

, who only posted 6 times, between mid Feb, 2009 and mid March, 2009.

  12. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    "I am a f**king genius" as one of my co workers liked to proclaim regularly

    And to prove it "upgraded" the software on the PC's running the night shift reporting functions.

    Which prompted f**ked up that night reports.

    No, he wasn't.

    1. BurnT'offering

      Re: "I am a f**king genius" as one of my co workers liked to proclaim regularly

      Did you ask him if he was any good at f**king right off?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "I am a f**king genius" as one of my co workers liked to proclaim regularly

      ""I am a f**king genius" as one of my co workers liked to proclaim regularly "

      John Lennon?

      Or a fisherman?

    3. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

      Re: "I am a f**king genius" as one of my co workers liked to proclaim regularly

      Well, if that's the case, he should do rather well in the porn biz.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I had a boss

    who was an Archer. He once refused to sign off on a new UPS because he'd spent several grand on iPads to fellate the directors with and "didn't see the need".

    Then he got upset when, after a power outage, the 7 year-old existing UPS failed and we lost a day of productivity fixing the resultant cock up. Not his fault, obviously.

  14. Efros

    “One of the worst jobs I ever had”

    Expecting lobsterisimus bumbakissimus to feature heavily, but no :(

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Unfortunately I am genius...

    But you don't need to be one to work out it's not something to shout about.

  16. HmmmYes Silver badge

    Sod the red fags for MS Access + Excel being used in business - they are! By idiots.

    There's lot of money to be made de-MS businesses at the mo. Most have not grasped that MS are going to screw them over rotten soon.

    The huge red flag for me would be mentioning Richard Branson as means to impress someone with their business + financial acumen.

    The only difference between Branson and some tramp under the bridge is that loads of thick people think Branson has money.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Yeah because buying a tropical island to live on took no cash at all.

      1. Archie Woodnuts

        Idiot, of course it doesn't. I got mine free in a box of Weetos just like everyone else.

      2. HmmmYes Silver badge

        I see you have a traditional understanding of the words 'buy' and 'own'.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      > Sod the red fags

      They witnessed many a deed and vow,

      We must not change their colour or sexual preference now

  17. disgruntled yank Silver badge

    the witchery of archery

    In some vernacular "pulling the long bow" means "making stuff up". So he could well be Olympic-class at pulling the long bow.

  18. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge


    I once had a boss (several layers removed from my direct presence I might add) that outsourced and entire database team to India (around 20 people) - oddly enough to a company he seemed to 'own'.

    Of course, he entirely forgot to raise a request for a new VPN into the network for them to do anything.

    These people really are fucking clueless.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Sir

      > I once had a boss (several layers removed from my direct presence I might add) that outsourced and entire database team to India (around 20 people) - oddly enough to a company he seemed to 'own'.

      > Of course, he entirely forgot to raise a request for a new VPN into the network for them to do anything.


      What, you work for IBM?

  19. jason 7

    I had a boss that...

    ...was a right pig and a bully. He was the Director of IT and thought he was the big 'I AM'.

    I remember once he came in to talk to my boss about the current laptop choices and I was the only other one in the office.

    He really started laying into my boss (who was a good bloke) about there not being any fancy ones for the Directors to pose with etc. and it was really embarrassing and unprofessional to tear into my boss in front of me.

    I just snapped. I stood up, looked him dead in the eyes and said as calmly as I could muster "'s just a bloody tool to get the job done! If you were a F1 driver we'd get you a Ferrari but to look at your email the Thinkpad will do just fine. We're workers not posers!"

    My boss looked like he shat himself. The Director just looked dumbstruck and then started back-pedalling and apologising like crazy. He left the room. Boss didn't say anything but I said from behind my monitor "No one shits on my boss in front of me!". I got a good bonus that year.

    As for the director, he was always overly chummy when he saw me after that. He got the sack a few months later for signing off contracts he shouldn't have.

    I danced on my desk when I heard.

    Since then I've challenged many a higher level Director etc. full on. As long as you are right and they are being an idiot they crumble every time. Bullies and bullshitters always do.

    1. paulf Silver badge

      Re: I had a boss that...

      "As long as you are right and they are being an idiot they crumble every time. Bullies and bullshitters always do."

      Amen to that. A beer for you, Sir!

  20. Alien8n Silver badge


    Love the idea of this story being promoted with a picture of Ralph from the Simpsons. Almost a shame I don't still work there, but not sure he'd understand why everyone suddenly starts calling him Ralph instead of Dick

    1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

      Re: Ralph

      We have a "Ralph" on our team. And his name is Ralph.

    2. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

      Re: Ralph

      How could I forget? There is a song for this:

      Atom And His Package - Happy Birthday Ralpf

  21. TeeCee Gold badge

    Access? Excel????

    That's almost sensible.

    As I may have mentioned elsewhere here, I once worked for a place where the Management Accountants had replicated the entire Nominal Ledger structure in Lotus 123 V3......(!)

    A spreadsheet for each account, using V3's "3D" link feature, so that actions in the base level accounts cascaded up the structure, just like the real thing......only much, much more slowly[1]. It was like a software version of a massive ziggurat built entirely of turds.

    [1] Some of the more senior lads has 386SX 16s....Woohoo.

    1. TeeCee Gold badge
      IT Angle

      Re: Access? Excel????

      Much as I hate to reply to my own post, I have just revisited it on returning from the Evildrome Boozerama and decided that (IMHO) "Ziggurat of turds" is a phrase that deserves more common usage.

      1. PNGuinn

        Re: a massive ziggurat built entirely of turds.

        Does that mean you'll be releasing it under CC or the GPL?

        Hey - el Reg? How big is a ziggurat in nano cubic Waleses?

        1. Chris King Silver badge

          Re: a massive ziggurat built entirely of turds.

          "Does that mean you'll be releasing it under CC or the GPL?"

          Creative Crappings, or the Generally Poopy Licence ?

    2. PNGuinn
      Thumb Up

      Re: Access? Excel???? @TeeCee

      "a massive ziggurat built entirely of turds."

      Y'know a single upvote is not sufficient for the right to steal that...

      I'll nick it anyway....

  22. Mike 16 Silver badge

    Cray in the barn?

    I have seen such things:

    In the upper loft, of course. The pigs are on the ground floor, or were when I was there some years ago.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Cray in the barn?

      Cray in the loft, pigs are on the ground floor?..

      That must be jake's house.

      1. jake Silver badge

        @AC (was: Re: Cray in the barn?)

        I don't own a Cray.Yet. Never claimed otherwise. If I had one, it would be in the machineroom/museum/mausoleum/morgue, attached to the main house.

        The hog barn is about 100 yards down wind from all human habitation.

        Methinks most ACs here on ElReg can't read for content, and/or can't fully comprehend what is actually being type(o)d on a day-to-day basis.

        Sad, that.

        1. Stoneshop Silver badge

          Re: @AC (was: Cray in the barn?)

          The hog barn is about 100 yards down wind from all human habitation.

          So, on wheels on a circular track. Nifty.

          1. jake Silver badge

            @Stoneshop (was: Re: @AC (was: Cray in the barn?))

            "So, on wheels on a circular track. Nifty."

            No. We almost never get wind from the South East here in Sonoma.

            HTH, HAND

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Should've posted this earlier

    You'll see why this is anonymous!

    (One of?) The UK's biggest employer of engineers. Utterly inept after decades of "cost plus". They've already gone after me in the past because...

    I knew computers a bit. They saw "engineer" in my CV and hired me. Put me in various computer related rules because I "knew computers".

    My last role, I was underling to a guy who really thought he knew computers and databases, but in fact knew VBA and a bit of Access, & boy, did he run with it.

    Imagine a billion £+ multi year budget(s) system for thousands of technical staff, being run from not one, but dozens, of Access databases. So complex that there was an Access database which was the front end to the Access databases, all pulled across the LAN/WAN. Data integrity? No worries - there was a set of Access databases that pulled the data from er... Access into other Access databases. Seriously, there were are least 20 databases, used for reporting, for budgets, for long term requirement capture, everything, including Secret projects.

    Data was stored on servers that were backed up nightly, but the first time we needed it, guess what? The IT people didn't back it up because it was an "old" file with an unchanged timestamp, so there was an old version, somewhere. They pulled it from the last full backup, so it was nearly a week old! That's a 200 users database (can you tell why the Access databases were split up to avoid too many concurrent users? There was a database to merge them, don't worry!) and hundreds of man-hours lost.

    So the next plan was to use Access to back up Access onto other places every night - specifically a 'secret' mirrored HDD that was swapped into a laptop!

    You couldn't make it up.

    Anyway, eventually the boss left and they tried to stuff me with it, so I left. What happened next? No idea. Don't care. But I bet it was expensive.

    Oh, and I probably shouldn't mention that the Head of Department (Director level) accidently emailed the main db to a large US competitor instead of a *screenshot*. They might've deleted it or something - it was 200mb or so, back when that was still "big". I bet they still chuckle over that. Entire 5+ year strategic plans for multiple expensive projects, mostly not for non-UK eyes, and those bits that the Septics were allowed to see were 'firewalled' from the EU bits, and so on. And the head spanner emails the entire thing.

    Then draws attention to it. Not to IT or security or anyone else who perhaps could do something useful, like a tactical EMP strike on the servers... No, he got his secretary to email them to ask them to delete it, because it was secret!

    1. PNGuinn

      Re: Should've posted this earlier

      Are you trying to hint that O'bambicare runs on a stolen version of the Bald One's shiny new benefit system database(s)?

      Enquiring minds etc ...

      That could be construed as an act of war.

    2. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

      Re: Should've posted this earlier

      Reminds me somewhat of the system our department head is tinkering with, on amuch smaller scale. We use it for budget allocation, a bit of project management and just a faint hint of information management.

      Upsides: not a bad system as such, gives a good oversight of total budget, project budgets, manpower allocated, exchanges data with the accounting systems, semi-automatically generates a lot of the paperwork needed to write and document contracts / commissions to external companies, boss is really open for suggestions and thankful for bug reports and fixes them. Actually an improvement, all things considered.

      Downsides: he brought the system with him from another department and it is still full of functions and references that are totally meaningless to our department, he writes and maintains it all by himself as a self-taught part-time Access guru (so absolutely no one has the faintest idea of the system's inner workings), he keeps adding new functions but forgets to tell us they are even there (let alone what they are for) and constantly changes the layout of the screens.

      Oh, and he called the thing ISIS.

    3. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Should've posted this earlier

      'They might've deleted it or something - it was 200mb or so, back when that was still "big".'

      It may have never arrived. Back in "those days" oversize mail often went down a black hole instead of generating NDNs.

      One of my earlier experiences as an ISP was dealing with a government department (NZ's version of the DVLA) who were attempting to _email_ databases to consultants in another city, on another ISP.

      About 250MB, over a 14k4 dialup modem, transfers initiated at end-of-day (5pm)

      This was back in the days of sendmail 9.6 or lower and when the default (almost universal) mail limit was 10MB, but size only got checked AFTER the message was received. It didn't help that the /tmp/ area the mailserver used for buffering incoming messages only had about 100Mb of allocated disk space (this was the days when 1Gb cost £1000).

      After several hours grunting away trying to send the message, our mailserver would choke and crash. It took a while to nail what was causing it (SunOs wasn't helpful in that respect) and when we increased the space, error messages about the oversized mail started being issued.

      The "head of IT" at the govt department made out that it was all our fault that they couldn't send these dumps to their consultants, never mind that the other ISP also had a 10Mb mail limit (he was the one who'd had the bright idea of emailing it, claimed that he knew mailsystems backwards and that none of them had size limits)

      Some years afterwards he showed up at another customer (a large clothing distributor) where thankfully the IT staff knew of his past and managed to get management to keep him on a short leash. He didn't last long there, but apparently that was down to being caught downloading porn on company equipment rather than technical reasons.

      FWIW: That 10Mb per message default limit is still in sendmail and most other MTAs. ISPs often set the limit to a lower value, but at least these days when the ESMTP handshake takes place and the client side says "I have a message of N size", the server side will say "No, too big!" BEFORE the message is transmitted.

  24. OzBob

    Let me get this right,...

    your supervisor instructed you to make a change that cost you your job. How did this happen without lawyers / violence becoming involved?

    Forget ITIL, agile or any other methodology, if someone invents a way of providing evidence capture on IT systems to a legally submittable level (before, after and authority to proceed), and a way of challenging technical decisions in a legal forum in a quick and relatively painless manner, 50% of British IT managers will resign in fright and all of a sudden projects will actually be delivered on time.

    I had a manager who insisted that the operators only needed to see the 10 commonly occurring types of error AND NO OTHERS. I pointed out any new and interesting errors would go un-noticed until their impact was felt, and this was a risk to the business. "Tough, over-ruled!" came the response. And then 6 months later the systems catastrophically shut down due to overheating. When the main director comes knocking on my door asking why monitoring did not pick this up, I sent him the meeting minutes detailing the decision, a snapshot of the monitoring tool showing the SNMP alerts for the temperature warnings (not on the top 10, naturally) occurring for 2 hours before the event, and copied in a yahoo email address (that I created myself) called "whittleandcrouchassocs@[etc]". The issue seems to be dropped after that.

    (Bonus points for those who can identify the TV program I got the lawyer names off.)

    1. Alien8n Silver badge

      Re: Let me get this right,...

      All honesty at that point I just wanted out of there by any means possible. When the IT Director handed me a months wages and the opportunity to called my manager an idiot to his face I took it (and moved to a job that paid considerably more with considerably less stress). Unfortunately it was to the company with the FD that used to work for Enron... After that I went to a company that made GPS mapping tools and manufacturing systems for the timber industry (don't believe a word of the US when they say they're trying to stop illegal logging, the system they built was all about taxation). That company soon realised that if you have 2 support people it's a bad idea to make the Crystal Reports developer redundant just so you can keep the cheaper employee. I made their eyes water when I told them how much it would cost to hire me as a contractor (they paid it though :) )

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019