back to article Toaster cooks network and burns 'expert' user's credibility to a crisp

Welcome to On-Call, our Friday frolic through readers' tales of being "used and abused to serve like hell", as Grandmaster Flash once said. This week, meet “CJ”, who back in the day “finally managed to convince the owners of real estate agency that their ageing 10B2 thin Ethernet network needed to be updated and made reliable …

  1. chivo243 Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Love it!

    Gotta love when we IT'ers are not to blame!

    We need the egg on face icon!

    1. Triggerfish

      Re: Love it!

      Once spent a whole night, adding anti virus and clearing spyware from a network of about thirty PC's (the prev cough IT guy had said its fine for all users to have admin rights on their desktop - cue crazy frog downsloads etc).

      Go to bed, get a call a couple of hours later, everythings tits ups you have killed the network etc etc get your arse in here.

      Turn's out the head of sales had heard me complaining about the spyware issue, had a chat with his mate who knew about computers and come in early and installed some anti spyware and anti virus stuff of his own on every computer.

      Secretary took one look and led him from the office, later she told me it was because I was looking like I was planning to throw him out of the window and we were on the second floor.

  2. Robin

    Sparky's Magic Fusebox

    This is a genuine question, as I do typing rather than wires, but is it normal for something that happens in the kitchen to trip the whole building?

    Even here in Spain with their dodgy electrics, all I ever need to do is reset the fuse switch for the one room/zone which has the problem.

    1. psychonaut

      Re: Sparky's Magic Fusebox

      Maybe they had an rcd on the box

    2. DropBear Silver badge

      Re: Sparky's Magic Fusebox

      Well just as it's common knowledge in electronics that transistors exist to protect the fuses, it's also widely known that higher power and closer-to-the-trunk-line fuses are there to protect your smaller, line-specific breakers. I blame Murphy.

      1. big_D Silver badge

        Re: Sparky's Magic Fusebox

        I blame Murphy.

        Don't you mean Morphy, as in Richards?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Morphy Richards! There's a brand I learned to really hate

          My mum had a Morphy Richards iron which broke down at regular intervals,

          Because I finished junior school early on Wednesdays, the lot of taking it to the repair centre fell on me.

          So on top of a half hour bus ride home, I got another half hour's bus ride taking the bloody thing to the repair centre, and then another half hour's bus ride home. When they deigned to fix it, the same to pick it up again.

          On one occasion I had to visit the dentist for some fillings on the way home, then pick up the iron and take it to the repair centre. 2 buses to reach the dentist, a further 2 home, then then dreaded 2 to the repair centre and back, the last 4 with a numb gob.

          I have avoided buying anything from Morphy Richards ever since.

          1. Kennelly

            Re: Morphy Richards! There's a brand I learned to really hate

            These days, a new iron is probably cheaper than four bus journeys

            1. Barry Rueger Silver badge

              Re: Morphy Richards! There's a brand I learned to really hate

              "These days, a new iron is probably cheaper than four bus journeys"

              But likely also won't survive much longer than that.

              Cheap Chinese crap.

              I can remember when you could buy a toaster that was...

              Made in this country

              Actually toasted bread

              Would work reliably for a decade

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Morphy Richards! There's a brand I learned to really hate

            Have never heard of Morphy Richards till I looked it up and it sound horrible.

            "Morphy" because it quickly morphs into a useless pile of brokenness?

        2. Peter Simpson 1

          Re: Sparky's Magic Fusebox

          I blame Murphy.

          Don't you mean Morphy, as in Richards?

          If it's in the UK, I blame Lucas, Prince of Darkness.

          1. jelabarre59 Silver badge

            Re: Sparky's Magic Fusebox

            But if you have a car with Lucas Electrics, you need to keep one of these on hand:


    3. DaLo

      Re: Sparky's Magic Fusebox

      If you get overload on one of the circuits then the MCB will trip but it needs a very big overload to trigger it.

      However each you will also usually have an RCD which will trip the whole CU if it detects an earthing fault or you decide to test if a wire is live with your tongue.

      You could also have RCBOs, ELCBs, MCCBs etc in that equation as well.

      1. The First Dave Silver badge

        Re: Sparky's Magic Fusebox

        "You could also have RCBOs, ELCBs, MCCBs etc in that equation as well."

        Not very likely, back when twisted pair was only just taking hold.

      2. regadpellagru

        Re: Sparky's Magic Fusebox

        "You could also have RCBOs, ELCBs, MCCBs etc in that equation as well."

        Or you could have GEJKKD, or TDQX, or even mighty LKSPZ. But beware of GJQPAE ...


    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Sparky's Magic Fusebox

      It depends on the standard of wiring. Most of mainland Europe is point to point wiring, the UK uses the ring main system, but some ring mains are not well implemented.

      With point to point and the upstream RCD having a higher trip current than the downstream ones, an earth fault at the end of the chain should not trip the second level RCD. But if there is enough capacitance and inductance in the wiring, an earth trip may cause a spike which takes out the higher level rcd. This can especially happen if there is a lot of electronics on a ring main, because the X and Y capacitors of the spike protectors all add up, and while the lower level trip is opening they may cause an arc which is big enough to trip the the higher level one.

      You used to get the same effect with incandescent bulbs blowing at the end of a long wire and, despite there being no earth leakage as such, the inductive energy in the loop was enough to trip an RCD.

      1. Stoneshop Silver badge

        Re: Sparky's Magic Fusebox

        With point to point and the upstream RCD having a higher trip current than the downstream ones,

        The codes I know don't allow cascaded RCD's; it's either an RCD with a group of plain circuit breakers downstream (here in .nl it's four maximum, ISTR it used to be six), or a combi RCD/CB per circuit.

        1. Martin an gof Silver badge

          Re: Sparky's Magic Fusebox

          The codes I know don't allow cascaded RCD's

          In the UK there are a very few specific circumstances where cascaded RCDs are allowed. Specifically the main case would be where the installation earth is from an earth electrode (e.g. a rod) because the impedance of live-earth is then too high to blow a fuse or trip an ordinary MCB. In a typical domestic installation, rod impedance to earth might be as high as 200 Ohms, which at 230V is only about 1A - obviously not enough to trip even a 6A MCB.

          However, it's no good "the upstream RCD having a higher trip current than the downstream ones" because in the vast majority of fault conditions, the fault current will be higher than both ratings. RCDs used on sockets are usually 30mA while upstream RCDs which are used when earth rods are present are 100mA. Either, or both (yes, I have seen that several times) will trip under even fairly normal fault (to earth) conditions.

          In the UK, if such an installation is unavoidable, the upstream RCD must be time-delayed. It's a few years since I was a registered sparky, but 100ms comes to mind. This is to allow the downstream RCD time to operate first. 30mA RCDs for the preservation of life (which is what these are) must trip within 50ms (again, IIRC) for a 1x rated current fault.

          The 100mA unit isn't there to preserve life (100mA for 100ms may kill you), it is there to remove mains voltage from the earth wire and anything else (metal pipes for example) connected.

          Of course, many domestic users will also have "portable" RCDs on their lawn mowers or hedge trimmers or whathaveyou, and these will have the exact same rating as the installed ones, so it then becomes a race between the 30mA RCD on the extension lead and the 30mA RCD protecting the sockets circuit.

          The best installation method is to avoid cascaded RCDs at all, and if the earth can be upgraded to a TN system (earth from the supply side) you can get rid of the rod and the 100mA unit. RCDs on each individual circuit is the ideal situation, but when an RCBO (combined RCD and MCB) from a cheap brand costs perhaps £20 while a bare MCB is only £3.50 (more expensive types here and here), there's an economic calculation to be done, especially in larger houses which may have a dozen or more circuits.


    5. GrumpenKraut Silver badge

      Re: Sparky's Magic Fusebox

      Shortcuts where the resistance across the shortcut is _very_ low tend to trigger not only the fuse on the branch but also the main fuse. Prime examples are water boilers and, indeed, toasters.

      Modern installations with faster fuses can mitigate this, but may trigger unnecessary when set to "very sensitive". I have seen one that would trigger upon touch of the glass of a light bulb, go figure.

      Putting the IT on its own "main" rail makes a lot of sense.

      [edit: here I assume a tree-like topology, cf. other posts]

    6. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Sparky's Magic Fusebox

      In the UK, they moved our office around, facilities moved my floor-box a couple of meters and plugged it back in, I then plugged in my PC and BANG! They had rotated the box 90° and Pos, Neg and Earth had moved around, the PSU didn't take well to that!

      Here, in Germany, the sockets are sunken into the wall and the Earth is exposed. Great for getting rid of static.

      But in my office, the trunking is a waist height, which is very useful. One day, I lost my balance and reached out and grabbed at the wall, managing to stick fingers in a socket to save me and, BAM! I got a shock right up my arm and my shoulder was killing me.

      I went to our technical department and they laughed and said, not possible. I insisted, that my arm hurt and that I had received a belt from the Earth connector. They came out and tested, it was live! The electrician, who had wired up the building over a decade earlier, had managed to swap earth and positive on that one plug! It was pure, dumb "luck", that nobody had ever plugged anything into that socket.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Sparky's Magic Fusebox

        > They had rotated the box 90° and Pos, Neg and Earth had moved around

        Are you sure you didn't imagine it? ;)

        1. big_D Silver badge

          Re: Sparky's Magic Fusebox

          Yes, I'm sure, they put the box in the wrong way, forced it in. The 2' long blue spark and the smoke out of the PSU weren't imagined, now the repair costs! 90° or 180° not sure? Either way it go BANG!

        2. This post has been deleted by its author

    7. Mage Silver badge

      Re: Sparky's Magic Fusebox

      Not in a major office, but common in a home or small office. Toasters will even do it with build up of carbonising crumbs, don't forget to empty the crumb tray or shake it upside down.

      A L-N short will just knock the individual trip, but an L-N imbalance of less than 50mA (due to leakage to case / earth) will trip the main safety trip. Some countries the lighting isn't on it. Usually Cooker, Immersion/water heater etc isn't on it. So a toaster with a shorted filament / Kettle shorted element on a socket wired on cooker supply (used to be common in UK) will hit the cooker fuse or trip only.

    8. Cynic_999 Silver badge

      Re: Sparky's Magic Fusebox


      is it normal for something that happens in the kitchen to trip the whole building


      Yes. Older buildings had each circuit protected with their own current breaker (or fuses in really old boards), but with only the main breaker having been upgraded to a "modern" RCB. Therefore an earth leakage fault would trip that one and only RCB but not any other breaker, thus cutting power to the whole building.

    9. Sureo

      Re: Sparky's Magic Fusebox

      Why bother with lots of little fuses/breakers when you can have one big one to protect everything? (Remove tongue from cheek.)

    10. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Sparky's Magic Fusebox


      Or at least it happened in my ( now demolished ) building.

      When someone in the kitchen used the toaster they'd brought in it tripped the electrics. Which meant that we all had to wait for an official person to come and climb the official ladder to switch it back on. (Or for the admin to do the same unofficially by standing on an unofficial chair). Until I was given the H&S role. And immediately banned people bringing in dodgy equipment (and standing on chairs).

    11. TeeCee Gold badge

      Re: Sparky's Magic Fusebox

      There's a reason that Britain has those daft, square-pin plugs with fusing at each plug and switching on the sockets.

      It's 'cos in anything other than new build, everything back from that point will be a bag of crap reliant on slow-blow fuse wire for "safety".

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The first cybercafe in Peterborough had a neighbour who kept coming in and insisting his television reception was worse since they opened. Suffice to say it was weather related.

    1. molletts

      That cybercafe incident reminds me of a neighbour I once moved in next to who claimed to have a severe WiFi allergy, along with her children. She had obviously spotted my SSID on her laptop and guessed it was the new guy, so she came around, looking as haggard as possible and, having ascertained that it was indeed my network, explained the family malady and asked if I would kindly refrain from using WiFi.

      Of course, I made a show of graciously turning off the AP while she was there. Later on, when I knew she was out, I turned it back on and set it to "hidden". She was perfectly fine with that - her allergy must have been to beacons containing non-null SSIDs rather than to WiFi itself :)

      1. Dan White

        So she was OK with having WiFi enabled on her laptop though...? FFS.

    2. Doctor_Wibble

      Of course if it was a rooftop cafe and they only brought out the metal tables and chairs when it was sunny, or only put up the metal-strutted umbrellas when it was raining, yes - easily done. Though I have no idea how many rooftop cybercafes there are in Peterborough, possibly less than the number of piano tuners.

      My indoor TV aerial took some cunning positioning (it is of course an outdoor aerial but indoors) to work with reflected signals and interference and was prone to interference when there was trouble on the railway line in the line of sight between here and Crystal Palace, until I got Even More Cunning with its placement. Moving Crystal Palace was easier than I expected.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        There are no rooftop anythings in Peterborough, that's way too cool for the local bylaws.

        (Born there, evacuated at first opportunity)

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        "My indoor TV aerial took some cunning positioning (it is of course an outdoor aerial but indoors) to work with reflected signals and interference and was prone to interference when there was trouble on the railway line in the line of sight between here and Crystal Palace,"

        My problem was signal reflection from the big metal hulled ships parked at the bottom of the street. Fortunately the UK ship building industry is now dead and even the repair work has mostly gone so no longer have that problem. RIP Swan Hunter, Hawthorn Leslie, Palmers etc.

      3. SImon Hobson Silver badge

        > My indoor TV aerial took some cunning positioning

        I have a friend that lives at a fairly low level near the sea, and his TV signal comes from a transmitter somewhere past across the bay. His signal strength varies with the tides, because of multipath effects between the direct signal, and the reflected signal off the water - with the path length varying with tide state. I suspect it would also depend on sea state - with a flat calm surface being a good reflector, and a rough sea being a bad one.

        My grandmother used to live ina valley, relying on the TV signal diffracting over the hill, and reflecting off the cliff opposite (High Tor, Matlock Bath). She loved watching the snooker - even with 3 to 6 sets of balls on the 3 to 6 tables, there was a lot of ghosting !

  4. Martin Summers Silver badge

    I need closure, what did the guy say when he learned the truth, was he appropriately humble? Did he sneer and blame the network again? Enquiring minds and all that...

    1. DropBear Silver badge

      Oh, I'm sure he was appropriately humble, probably along the lines of "what kind of lousy wiring have you installed you clown if even a shorted-out toaster can bring it all down, huh?!?" You may or may not have noticed that the more undeniably and obviously a party in a traffic accident is at fault, the louder they scream bloody murder from the top of their lungs...?

      1. Wensleydale Cheese

        "You may or may not have noticed that the more undeniably and obviously a party in a traffic accident is at fault, the louder they scream bloody murder from the top of their lungs...?"

        Corollary: The louder an ISP or telco screams when you question an invoice, the more likely that it's an attempt to obtain money you don't owe.

    2. Ian Emery Silver badge

      He probably blamed the new network for killing his toaster.

      Troll....... or is it??

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Well, he continued to snark at me for the five or six months after the incident before the email archiving system provided some rather tasty evidence to the police (at the request of the MD of said estate agents I would add) about his fondness for developers who provided wodges of cash in envelopes in exchange for over valuing 'bought from plan' apartments that were being punted to southern Irish property investors.

      He was oddly quiet after that.

      1. Martin Summers Silver badge

        Re: Aftermath

        Now *that's* closure AC and would have been great in the story!

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I hope CJ put in a big fat chargeable emergency call out fee for the toaster fix, never give an spawn of satan estate agent a freebie because they sure as hell won't give you one.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  6. Roq D. Kasba

    Replacement system

    To get through Y2K hoops, a dBase4 app needed reworking into something else. Simple task, added a bit of chrome along the way. All good and happy until the belligerent departmental manager who didn't see the point in changing things raised hell that this new system done reports didn't match the old system 'heads will roll', you know the drill.

    Turns out, in certain cases, his old system had underbilled for the previous 5 or so years. By sometimes large numbers. I was lucky enough to still get the blame, but there was a bit of red faced mumbling in there too, that he hadn't ever done any kind of reconciliation/audit would not have looked too clever to his management. So aside from me being at fault, we said suspiciously little more about it...

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge
      Paris Hilton

      Re: Replacement system

      ..and you accepted that?

      1. Roq D. Kasba

        Re: Replacement system

        Yeah, he was a twat and there was too much Y2K goodness to be solving. And I was significantly younger 17 years ago ;-)

  7. Anonymous Blowhard


    A story mentioning SCO without lawyers; although it does feature estate agents (USA = "realtor") which are like lawyers, but without the intelligence and integrity.

  8. kmac499

    CJ can come around to my house any time ,

    1) Popping the solenoid powererd door lock on the washing machine could trip the RCD

    2) Turning on the toaster could trip the RCD.

    Not always but usually at the most inconvenient time..

    1. phuzz Silver badge

      I know your pain. Our (rented) house is wired up wrong apparently, with the RCD before the breakers (or possibly the other way around), so that it will trip if there's too much going on.

      It's been tweaked a bit now, so that it only trips one ring main, but that's the one with my computer on :(

  9. Linker3000

    Daisychained Daisys

    It was the mid/late 1980s and we'd just installed a row of spanking-new IBM PC-AT computers (286 processor, no less) running a CAD application called Daisy on a *nix OS called Daisy-DNIX. In those days RAM was very expensive so not a lot was fitted and the systems swapped to disk constantly.

    Everything was going swimmingly until some electronic-engineer-who-should-have-known-better fancied a brew-up and plugged his electric kettle into the end socket on a run of daisy-chained (heh!) extension leads. Of course, the fuse blew in the FIRST plug and all the computers went down.

    The resulting mess caused by machines that were shut down incorrectly while busily swapping took a couple of days to sort out.

    Those machines swapped so much that we were forever replacing busted disks.

    Happy days. Have a read:

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The amount of times

    I have been blamed for something I have not done, or more crucially, the client has not done in a 30 year IT "career" is scary. That's the trouble with some members of the public, they will accept that changing a tyre, then 4 weeks later their brake light bulb blowing is not a connected issue, but you install software A then, 3 weeks later, the HD fails, well, that IS your fault. You were the last person to "touch" it.

    Once had a bloke scream at me at the shop counter because his digital camera wouldn't work days after he had seen me "fix" it and demonstrated it fixed. That was a driver issue, which I didn't expect him to be able to do, so did it for free. The new issue? He had neglected to remove the cellophane wrapper off the cheap "flying bomb" style batteries he had purchased from the local tat shop.

    So, as the queue built up behind him I very publically decreed that I was not responsible for his inability to install batteries and then charged him £15 for the privilege of ripping off the layer of insulation. He paid up, never saw him again. Few of the customers gave me a wry smile... Had he spoken to me in a less hostile way, I would have happily done it for free. Sometimes, twat tax MUST be added..

    1. regadpellagru

      Re: The amount of times

      "Sometimes, twat tax MUST be added.."

      Twat tax. Nice term I'm gonna use in the future. Upvote incoming.

    2. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: The amount of times

      That's the trouble with some members of the public, they will accept that changing a tyre, then 4 weeks later their brake light bulb blowing is not a connected issue,

      I quite disagree. I replaced a leaking radiator hose on my former mother-in-law's car and two days later the radio died. It was a rather old car that should have seen the scrap heap a decade earlier. But, guess who was to blame?

      I've been around far too many people who want to blame everyone else for their a) own stupidity b) lack of knowledge and/or c) just won't take any responsibility for their actions. It's those people who keep the ambulance chasers in business.

  11. Niall Mac Caughey

    This is one I didn't get blamed for, but possibly should have.

    Back in the day I was Head of Engineering (for want of a title) for a national broadcast radio network. I planned studio layouts, tech spec, etc and supervised construction and installation. I specified that the studios and news booths would have a panel at the end of the mixing desks to allow the connection of (theoretically obsolete) reel-reel machines. Each panel had two XLR connectors and an IEC socket for the mains. Simple stuff, although there was a rush on at the end of the install to get everything ready for our on-air launch.

    About nine months after we went on air, I was in the main recording studio, chatting to the recording engineer who was leaning with his back to the desk and both hands on the edge. Suddenly he screamed and leaped into the air, which was very entertaining, if a little surprising.

    Recording studios are traditionally dimly-lit, so perhaps that was the reason we hadn't spotted that the installer had fitted a chassis-mounted mains PLUG instead of a socket. Three pointy pins in the perfect spot where someone could - and did - idly stick their fingers. Obviously I should have looked more closely before signing off. Oh how how we did titter!

  12. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    reminds me of this Giles cartoon :

    Published caption: "Stand by for tidings of good cheer from the neighbours - Dad's just blown every fuse in the road."

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Toasters - The scourge of the workplace.

    Someone in our office once attempted to make cheese on toast by turning the toaster on it's side. Yes, really.......

    Discounting the various hideous hygiene issues of this, the user then left a toaster unattended to go the loo. The resulting smoky conflagration resulting in a full evac of a 600+ staff for 45 minutes until Barney McGrew and co could turn up to pump out the smoke and confirm that this man was, indeed, an idiot of the highest order.

    Why 45 minutes? Well that's simple, the fire alarm company had been in to service the system a few days prior and diverted the callout line to their head office for testing, instead of the Fire Brigade. They then forgot to swap it back afterwards.... So at least the incident flagged up that little treat up without anyone being hurt.

    The staff member involved is now no longer allowed in the kitchen

    1. toughluck

      Re: Toasters - The scourge of the workplace.

      What do you mean hygiene issues? You just stick a fork and knife into the toaster to get the tasty grilled cheese bits out of it.

      It's even easier to do when the toaster is turned on so the bits are more fluid.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Toasters - The scourge of the workplace.

        What do you mean hygiene issues? You just stick a fork and knife into the toaster to get the tasty grilled cheese bits out of it.

        In my experience, that only works while it's still toasting.

    2. James O'Shea

      Re: Coffee machines - The scourge of the workplace.

      Setup: this is a company I was once a contractor for. They were a startup, starting small and later getting a lot bigger.

      The company had a\ dedicated electrical circuits just for computer equipment. All of the wall sockets had red bezels. There were four circuits, two upstairs in the main building, one downstairs in the main building, and one in the annex across the parking lot. The circuits were linked to several large UPS systems, one UPS for each circuit except for the downstairs main building circuit, which had two.

      So there was a large break room upstairs, where there was a Very Big Coffee Machine. The nearest wall socket to where it originally was was a white bezel normal circuit socket. All is well. For whatever reason, the electricians who'd wired the building put at least one red socket into every room, including the break room. I was not present when that particular decision was made.

      It was a quickly made tradition that the first person in from [name of department redacted, someone at the company might read this and would _know_ what I'm on about] would turn on the coffee machine when they came in in the morning, as that department ran on coffee. They would then go to their desk and turn on their computers.

      So the company brought in more staff, and there was a re-org. Stuff moved around. New computers were added. One item which moved was the giant coffee machine. The nearest socket was now the red computer socket. And then IT (that would be me) started getting complaints that all the computers in a large part of upstairs would die at the same time every day. And would die again, repeatedly, throughout the day. Checks of the systems showed no problems other than those caused by unscheduled power-downs. After the third day I came in early to see what was going on. I saw the first guy in turn on the coffee machine and then go to his desk. Purely by chance I had a look, discovered exactly where the coffee machine was plugged in, and went downstairs and got an extension cord and plugged it into a white socket. No further problems. What was happening was that the coffee machine drew a Very Large Load, and if someone then did something like sending out a print job to a laser printer (one of the large floor model copier/printer things) which was also plugged into the computer circuit, the resulting demand would blow the circuit breaker, a minor fact that had NOT been reported to IT (me) but only if all the computers and printers and whatnot were already running.

      The solution was to not have the coffee machine on the circuit, and to upgrade both the circuit breaker and the UPS to handle heavier loads.

      Yes, there was a write-up in the employee handbook warning people to not plug anything into the red wall sockets, but someone who really couldn't live without coffee and who couldn't be bothered to either leave the coffee machine where it had been in the first place or to get an extension cord knew better.

      1. Roq D. Kasba

        Re: Coffee machines - Red Bezels

        On the grounds that life is not static, the company really should have fitted non-standard sockets for the red ones - MK make one where the earth and volts pins are rotated by 90 degrees on their own axes, so normal plugs just won't fit in the holes.

        Employee handbooks won't come between an early morning staff and their coffee - if something should be impossible, you make it impossible ;-)

  14. John 110
    Thumb Down

    It's a well known fact...

    It's a well known fact that the last thing an IT person touched is responsible for all the ills that visit an office for the next fortnight.

    "You put toner in that printer and now my phone's not working"

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    RAID5 failure blame

    Someone I know had done some IT work for a company, whilst there they notied the main RAID5 server had a failed drive, they mentioned this to the company but nothing was done, presumably because the management didn't see any failures because they could still access their files ok.

    As everyone here would've predicted, a few weeks later another drive died in the array, crashing everything.

    Apparently they didn't have a backup.


    So guess who got the blame, and was steps away from being taken to court for something that wasn't their fault... thankfully it never even got that far, and I think the company had to pay through the nose for the data retrieval, all because they didn't listen to someone who knew what they were doing.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: RAID5 failure blame

      This is why reports should always be as comprehensive as is reasonably possible and signed off by both parties whenever work is carried out. I recently did a fix where I noticed the power lead for a screen on the desk opposite was damage, the coloured wires being exposed. Mentioned it and they didn't seem to care. So I put in the report too to cover myself since it was a bit of kit that we might have on cover. That's apart from the "everyone is responsible for Health & Safety" mantra.. Same applies to dings and dents on the kit being serviced. They shouldn't have dings at all and any impact big enough to ding it might well be a contributory factor in failed HDDs etc.

      I've also had the "your engineer was here yesterday and now the printer doesn't work" story. Well, "yesterday" I fixed a bloody PC in the room next door. If you want the printer fixing book a chargeable call out. Of course it turned out that someone had accidentally adjusted the universal paper tray to US letter instead of A4 when re-filling it and according to others, the printer was working just fine long after I'd left "yesterday" from the room next door.

  16. Andytug

    We frequently used to get people plugging fan heaters into the "clean power" plugs

    ...despite them being bright red as opposed to white for "normal" power. Usually took out a quarter room approx 20 desks worth.

    You wonder what they do with the electrics at home........

    1. Martin an gof Silver badge

      Re: We frequently used to get people plugging fan heaters into the "clean power" plugs

      This is why there are slightly "non standard" mains plugs available, such as this or this, or others. Both the above are fully regulations compliant and can easily prevent most of this sort of problem.


      1. BurnT'offering

        Re: We frequently used to get people plugging fan heaters into the "clean power" plugs

        Non-standard plug? Hammer time

        1. 's water music Silver badge

          Re: We frequently used to get people plugging fan heaters into the "clean power" plugs

          Non-standard plug? Hammer time

          no, just cut the plug off, strip the cable ends and poke them into the non-standard socket. Simples. Cover with gaffer tape if you want to keep the elf'n'safety brigade off your back.

          1. Martin an gof Silver badge

            Re: We frequently used to get people plugging fan heaters into the "clean power" plugs

            cut the plug off, strip the cable ends and poke them into the non-standard socket

            Best of luck doing that with the Electrak - go on, take a look at the design and tell me you could do it without some kind of especially-made tool!

            I first met these when I worked in local radio. My boss, the engineering director, had specified Electrak for the roadshow truck because previous experience had taught him that while running a PA capable of filling a car park, a mixer, CD players and some lights from a 2.5kVA generator was feasible, also running the kettle that the DJs brought along was asking a bit much.


    2. SImon Hobson Silver badge

      Re: We frequently used to get people plugging fan heaters into the "clean power" plugs

      Ah yes, the fan heater incident ...

      We had one of those. The customer has a large unused (and officially empty) "upstairs" which at some point will become office space as they grow. The server room is also up there out of the way. When I fitted out said server room, I provided some sockets off the UPS in places convenient for powering stuff in the cabling rack - and labelled as something like "UPS maintained - IT equipment only".

      One day (a couple of years after this was all installed) we get an "angry" phone call demanding to know why we had installed such crap equipment as the UPS was beeping madly and it's all our fault for installing rubbish. I think many of us know the sort of phone call.

      I believe one of my colleagues remotely checked the UPS status and found it in overload bypass.

      After a bit of questioning, it was determined that a member of staff working upstairs (they use it for storage of their marketing stuff, I guess they were probably preparing some sort of mailout) was a bit cold, and seeing as there was only one socket at each end of the space, decided the sockets in the server room were more convenient - for the fan heater.

      Strangely, when they came to us with long list of gripes* at a meeting, this one wasn't made a big deal of it.

      * Many of them of the "why doesn't this work ?" "Well we've been suggesting for ${long period of time} that this part of your system isn't fit for purpose but you refuse pay for a new system" "It's still your fault".

  17. JJKing Silver badge

    I was tasked with building a new computer lab for a school and the only thing I didn't have to do was get quotes for the furniture. Had the cabler and the sparkie in at the same time so they could sort any technical details that I may have not been familiar with and got them to send me a quote. Sparkie mentioned that the lab would need 2 circuits due to the number of machines drawing power.

    The Principal eventually got his ex teaching college friend to do the electrical and cabling work, much to my annoyance (I had previously seen his work). I was setting up the new machines ready to Ghost the image but when I plugged in computer number 22, the room along with several others went dark. My suspicion was that the idiot friend had skimped and only installed a single electrical circuit and it tripped the safety switch. Machines were imaged in 2 pushes instead of 1 and the fault was logged to be rectified. In the meantime I inadvertently was sent the invoice for the work done. Not only had they screwed up the power circuit but they charged $16,000 and change for the job when the quote that I had organised was just over $12,000.

    When it came to the fix of the power tripping once more than 21 machines were plugged in (not started, just plugged in), the Principal's friend just removed (or bypassed) the Safety Switch. Now if any of their treasured students stuck a fork or other related items into the wall socket they were dead. I had emailed this to the Principal and cc it to other appropriate staff members and interested parties (had to cover myself) but it was never fixed while I was there (left in disgust 4 months later). Don't you just love the duty of care catholic schools provide their little ones. I guess they were hoping anyone struck down in the lab would arise 3 days later.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "I guess they were hoping anyone struck down in the lab would arise 3 days later."

      More likely they assumed that anyone struck down probably deserved it. God protects his own :-)

  18. Lysenko

    Opposite way round

    I used to do network/IT stuff for a County Council as a contractor back when NetWare owned the market. Another outfit came in (mates of a Councillor, naturally) and promptly underbid me while ridiculing the Token Ring and 10-Base-2 systems in two of the offices. You can imagine the drill: "This guy put in fragile systems. Star wiring is the where it's at. He's ripping you off on call outs intentionally. He's an amateur" etc.

    Naturally I lost the contract and they refused to pay for about £5k of work. I wasn't feeling too charitable. Particularly since no-ever asked WHY I chose to stick with 10-Base-2.

    New guys come in one weekend, rip out all the coax, start putting in CAT5. Unfortunately someone tipped of the planning department. You can't go punching holes the size of coke cans through the walls of a Grade 1 listed building. That's why I had coax in there in the first place. Oops.

    1. James O'Shea

      Re: Opposite way round

      Hmm. 'Someone' tipped off the planning department? Hmm.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Reminds me of an incident shortly after my grandparents moved in with us so we could look after them.

    With a routine that consisted of spending most of the afternoon asleep, my grandfather would always get up earlier than everyone else and make himself some toast for breakfast. It worked fine for several months, with only the occasional slice of burnt toast setting the smoke alarm off.

    Then one Sunday before six, he comes into my bedroom and shakes me awake to say "The toaster's not working". I try to turn the bedside light on but it doesn't work and I can hear my home server's UPS's alarm bleating too. "You can't use the toaster - we've got a power cut" I say to him. "Well, it was working fine a minute ago" he replies...

    I get up, get dressed and go and investigate the problem. Main breaker in the consumer unit has tripped so I reset it. I make sure everything is working properly again by making his breakfast for him. The kettle boils, the toaster toasts and nothing burns, trips, blows or fails. Next morning, I'm fast asleep and he shakes me awake again to say "The toaster's not working"...

    This went on for a few more days until I got fed up and decided to take the toaster apart to investigate the problem. Before upending the toaster, I emptied the crumb tray... and discovered that it's full of congealed butter! Which was not quite what I was expecting! I asked my grandfather why the crumb tray was full of butter but he said he didn't know. Anyway I cleaned up the mess and apart from the unexpected reservoir of butter, my inspection didn't reveal anything wrong with the toaster.

    Next morning I set my alarm earlier than usual so I could be in the kitchen to observe him as he made his breakfast. He put the bread in and turned the toaster on properly. So, so far so good. But then took a knife, carved a generous chunk of butter out of the butter dish, balanced it on the flat of the knife and held the knife over the toaster. Quicker than he can react, the knife heats up, the butter melts, slides off the knife and disappears down into the toaster. Now if the inadvertent insertion of a large lump of rapidly liquefying butter between the toaster's elements wasn't enough to trip the main breaker, then the fool chasing after it with a metal-handled knife certainly was...

    But why had the problem only just started after several months of successful toasting? Well, winter was coming and the kitchen had become much colder at night resulting in the butter in the dish no longer being in a spreadable state first thing in the morning. So he thought he'd worked out a clever way to make it warm enough to spread again!

    Normal toast production resumed after I bought him a tub of spreadable butter...

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A few years ago I was working in a secure Dutch lights-out datacenter. As far as I knew I was there only one in this huge place other than the security guard.

    All going well until after an hour or so the security guard ran in and marched me into a little room and proceeded to question me in Dutch. Not knowing Dutch this didn't go too well. Bad things were obviously happening due to the many phone-calls he was receiving. Within half an hour a posse had arrived to fix things.

    Cutting a long story short, it turns out that this secure establishment had suffered a rather large network outage causing untold critical infrastructure damage due to physical interference with their network. Scary! Luckily I was not to blame.

    I found out later that a local telco guy doing a job on the other side of said datacenter had plugged his laptop into the nearest patch panel to see if he could get Internet access. This was not the best thing to do on a secure site.

    I expect he was held in another small room for quite some time longer than I was. Never did find out what happened to him, but I was escorted 1:1 for the next two days while I did my piece.

  21. Stevie Silver badge


    I once was almost the cause of a strike when I replaced a busted fuse in my supervisor's electric fire.

    She had requested someone from the electrician's department come and do the job, but no-one had moved since India crashed into Asia so I thought I'd do what was needed.

    The electrician who came by the next morning replaced my fuse with one of his own supply and promptly called his supervisor and union shop steward.

    I was called into the office and dressed down by my pointy haired boss (could have been used as the model for the Dilbert version, haircut and all) in front of the chief electrician, who then made a dreadful mistake by telling me that my actions were potentially dangerous because I wasn't a licensed electrician and more importantly, not in the electrician's union.

    I rose up to my full height, mentally said "goodbye job", then said "Don't lecture me on electrical safety. My father is a chartered electrical engineer and taught me how to properly fuse an appliance before I left school. If you care to look at the fuse you're electrician removed, you'll see I fused the device at three amperes, which is exactly the safe amount for that electric fire. The fuse he put in to replace my "unsafe" one was a 13 ampere fuse that stands a decent chance of allowing my supervisor to be killed and setting the factory on fire before it does its job."

    I was about to go on but my PHB grabbed me, pushed me out of his office in mid rant and sat down to placate the red-faced chief bodger. It was never mentioned again, and I kept my job.

  22. Picky

    Allways carry a multimeter

    Many years ago I was flown out to Barcelona to install software at a huge Print exhibition. The hardware was supplied by our German distributers - new Compaq's

    The Spanish electricians managed to wire the stand with 440V - and nobody checked - every PSU blew when powered on. The Germans were able to fly in several replacement PSU's overnight - so the show did go on.

  23. Oengus

    A building I used to work in was regularly evacuated at around morning tea time. The fire brigade would turn up, clear the issue and allow us back into the building after about 30 minutes.

    After the 5th or 6th time, the alarm source was traced to one company's kitchen area.

    The smoke alarm was being triggered by the toaster. It turned out that one particular bread had a lower "smoke" point than all other. The user couldn't work out how to change the setting on the toaster to reduce the "browning" for this different bread. Sometimes the user was distracted and didn't "pop" the toaster before it got to the smoking stage.

  24. jimmyj

    although only slightly related: my introduction to pro audio - in a brand-new recording studio. this 'way back when' their Ampex 2" 24 track recorder was the very latest 'state of the art' ... was asked to 'look at' a problem which was "the machine sometimes goes nuts & throws the tape around the room". as I'd never been near or even in such a facility... I arrived with concealed trepidation to find most of the boards pulled out & the maint guy quivering in a corner. questioning got "when the musicians come into the control room to listen back..." some hither-to unused common sense prompted me to pull the monster out & away from the wall to reveal the big AC plug. 'gosh' I thought... 'let's examine it'. ha - aha ! = most/all 3 'screws loose'. tighten, replace, start up... golden ! asked to be head of maintenance... accepted !!

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