back to article The developer died 14 years ago, here's a print out of his source code

Welcome again to On-Call, our Friday wallow in jobs that are nastier than yours. This week, reader “Earl” tells us that just this year he responded to “a Craigslist ad for a Novell NetWare Admin to figure out why .nlm files would not be loaded and fix the issue.” Earl says he “wrote back and told the person that I was very …

  1. wolfetone Silver badge

    It's clients like this that really, really make me question myself why I still bother working in IT. Every day that goes by it gets harder to justify it. My sole reason for continuing being a developer is that I have a mortgage to pay. If I didn't have that, I'd be working behind a bar. Quite possibly the best job I've ever had, regardless of the hours.

    1. IsJustabloke
      Facepalm

      er....

      "My sole reason for continuing being a [INSERT CAREER of CHOICE] is that I have a mortgage to pay"

      Whereas the rest of us do it solely for love, a warm glow of happiness and a hearty handshake.

      1. Captain Scarlet Silver badge
        Unhappy

        Re: er....

        That doesn't cover me unfortunately, I'm still trying to save up a big enough deposit to then be able to get a big enough mortgage to get a show box flat!

        1. h4rm0ny

          Re: er....

          Whether saving up to get a mortgage or trying to pay one off, mortgages are the chains that keep modern Western society working. If ever a sizable proportion of the population begins to consider a paid off mortgage beyond their reach (and we're getting close to that), or even worse - a general attitude of fuck it, owning my own house isn't that important catches on, then British and American society will collapse faster than a soufflé in an ice-bucket.

          Medieval peasants used to believe if they worked hard and were well-behaved, they'd go to Heaven where they could finally rest. We're more modern these days. We believe that if we work hard and are well-behaved, then by the time we're sixty we can own our own home and finally rest.

          1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
            Facepalm

            Re: h4rm0ny Re: er....

            "....a general attitude of fuck it, owning my own house isn't that important catches on, then British and American society will collapse faster than a soufflé in an ice-bucket...." Or we'll just become majority renters rather than homeowners, as happened in France, and is already happening in most major cities. Sorry, you'll have to postpone the Revolution for a a better excuse, Comrade.

            1. Code For Broke

              Re: h4rm0ny er....

              @Matt Bryant:

              Yea, I guess you're probably right. The governments of nearly every modernized country would have intervened back in 2008 to keep people borrowing if it important to world order.

          2. BuckeyeB

            Re: er....

            Then retire sooner. All you have to do is spend less. Mister Money Mustache suggests living on 50% of your take home pay. Or less.

            http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2012/01/13/the-shockingly-simple-math-behind-early-retirement/

            Good luck with that.

            Brian

          3. fajensen Silver badge
            Coat

            Re: er....

            If ever a sizable proportion of the population begins to consider a paid off mortgage beyond their reach (and we're getting close to that), or even worse - a general attitude of fuck it, owning my own house isn't that important catches on, then British and American society will collapse faster than a soufflé in an ice-bucket.

            You got that the wrong way up!

            1) Your debt is a another persons asset.

            2) When one has an asset, one can borrow against it, creating Money.

            3) 1 & 2 means that, in modern finance, Debt and Money are Equivalent - Money is Created by the Creation of new Debt, Money is destroyed when Debt is paid off (or written off). Money Destroyed increases the value of the money that is left, when the value of money increases in relation to the goods and services it can buy, we have Deflation.

            Deflation is The End of The Universe, according to economists, which of course nobody with any sense gives a rats arse about since they are always wrong about everything if not flat out lying. (Politicians, sadly, do not have any sense).

            I.O.W. The most destructive thing you can do to torpedo the modern e-con-me is: Not acquire debt in the first place. When you in spite of principles still have to, you pay it off aggressively, you do not keep it around till when your 60 and its all over for you. The young people are getting it, mostly because they have no opportunities, but that works too.

            Heaven is Right NOW, peasant.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: er....

          >get a big enough mortgage to get a show box flat!

          You all throw poop at us Yanks (often deservedly) but being one has its advantages. 3500 sq ft house decent yard middle of metropolis of 4 to 5 million people or so for $250k mortgage ain't bad. Key is like everywhere else avoid the coasts.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: er....

            "3500 sq ft house decent yard middle of metropolis of 4 to 5 million people or so for $250k mortgage ain't bad."

            Damn, I have a similar sized house in the UK, in a small village in Cambridgeshire with a very small population and it cost nearly 4 times that!

            maybe I should move the the US, it sounds extremely cheap!

        3. fajensen Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: er....

          Don't sweat it.

          Deutsche Bank is busy going tits-up with about 70 Trillion EUR's of derivatives stashed in it's vaults - obviously the Ackermänner never worked out who the sucker is. The resulting crisis should make debt financed assets very affordable for a while.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: er....

        [do it solely for love, a warm glow of happiness and a hearty handshake]

        Or a very good pension scheme and the requirement to not work too hard.

        (Anon for obvious reasons)

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Gimp

          Re: er....

          Hark at you lot! You poor pathetic wretches. I love my job :D

          -- Don Juan DeLesbos

      3. Hugh_Johnson
        IT Angle

        Re: er....

        I stick around for the hot chicks, good drugs, and cool t-shirts.

        oh, wait, that was my "other career" in rock-n-roll

      4. Colin Tree

        Re: er....

        A Laurel and Hardy handshake is always heart felt payment.

    2. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge
      WTF?

      Huh?

      Who the hell in the US would ever ride a train?

      1. Kumar2012

        Re: Huh?

        "Who the hell in the US would ever ride a train?" -- apparently the kind of guy who didn't walk right out the door once he saw this clusterf*** of a setup.

      2. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

        Re: Huh?

        Having done it (Cross country too, Vancouver to Seattle) I can safely say 90 mins is just for the inevitable delay whilst waiting for a freight train to get out of the way.

        (That said, still one of most comfortable train seats I've even been on, with more leg room than an emergency exit seat on a transcontinental flight) .

        1. herman Silver badge

          Re: Huh?

          Well, having just done a 14 hour stint in a flying cattle truck that some like to call by a 3 digit numeric moniker, I am all in favour of passenger trains and won't mind the 90 minute delays waiting for 3 kilometer freight trains to get out of the way either.

      3. SomeoneInDelaware

        Re: Huh?

        I would must rather ride the Metroliner into Washington DC and use the subway than drive into DC and then try to find a parking spot! And the same into New York City (although I'm not too fond of their subways).

      4. DrD'eath

        Re: Huh?

        I have. When I was in Denver I bailed on a conference and caught a train up through the mountains to a small town called Grimsby. A brilliant day out. Generally i have found Trains in the US to be really good, but maybe my expectations were based on the old 1980's BR

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Huh?

          "...a small town called Grimsby. A brilliant day out."

          As a Brit, I don't think I ever thought I'd see those two sentences next to each other.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Huh?

            Somehow I don't think the new version of Grimsby in the mountains of land-locked Colorado will have that same aromatic fried fish smell of ours!

            For USAians, the original Grimsby is a UK fishing port, one of it not actually the largest in the UK. On arriving anywhere within about 10 miles of the place, you are greeted by the cold smell of fried food as it's also surrounded by frozen food processing factories and cold stores.

          2. roger 8

            Re: Huh?

            Im from Grimsby and its shite here

      5. Elf
        Coat

        Re: Huh?

        I've taken the train across the US few times now. Sure, if I have to be there in a few hours I'll fly but if I hVe a few days to kill, train it is. Silicon Valley driving is out as there is light rail, BART, CalTrain and Amtrak. Up here in the Seattle area where I live these days a great deal is to be desired reguarding rail transit. Theres a tourist monorail thing (that's worthless as an actual mode of transportation, the SLUT (South Lake Union Transit ... and yes you can get "I rode the SLUT" T-Shirts).

        What I would consider Commuter Quality™ rail here sucks. It's On The Board and ground is broken. Naturally the rails will start serving the likes of Amazon and Microsoft campuses first, but hey, whatever gets the blighters off their asses to actually make useful things.

        As an American, I'd like to say:

        1. You may want to sit down for this...I haven't owned a car in more than a decade. (And two of that in Los Angeles yet somehow I'm the only person able to make meetings on time). Don't feel the need to get one anytime soon, either. I get around just fine, thanks.

        2. If there were more/better mass transit here I'd happily use it. Boston, San Francisco, Chicago are great for rail... other than that though, mostly shite.

        [Coat : Because it just dawned that it's Beer:30]

    3. Jonathan 27 Bronze badge

      Yeah...

      Try to reduce the amount you care about how incompetent your boss/bosses are. I find that to be my biggest issue with my job and the less I care about it and work around there instead of with them the better I feel.

      1. ShadowDragon8685
        Angel

        Re: Yeah...

        Simon, issat you? What're you doing over here and not writing another BOfH/committing acts of Bastardry?

  2. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

    Wonderous story

    should be filed away by every support person. Then it can be wheled out to shouw the beancounters and the PHB's why you need that new bit of kit as a backup to the old 'new server'.

    Just wondering... Does the company that Earl tried to do this work for still exist?

    1. Sandtitz Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Wonderous story @Steve 3

      "Just wondering... Does the company that Earl tried to do this work for still exist?"

      According to the article it happened earlier this year. If the company can live without accounting software for months they sure can still do it... :-)

      A couple years ago I was asked to replace a network card at a local pharmacy. I strolled in equipped with a couple different PCI cards (just in case) but I honestly told them to seek help elsewhere when I saw the PS/2 machine with MCA slots and OS/2 1.3.

      1. Darryl

        Re: Wonderous story @Steve 3

        "If the company can live without accounting software for months they sure can still do it... :-)"

        Yeah, they're probably happily doing it manually in their single copy of Excel 2.0

      2. Glenn 6

        Re: Wonderous story @Steve 3

        You didn't tell them that their gear was extremely out of date, unfixable, and offer to provide them new equipment? Make money on the new hardware as well!

  3. Chris King Silver badge

    Alarm bells were ringing from the start of the article...

    "Just wondering... Does the company that Earl tried to do this work for still exist?"

    I'm guessing not - if they were in such a bad state for so long and needed help with their accounting system, I'd be wondering if their accounts bore any resemblance to reality.

    Maybe they were trying to get the system fixed because the tax man wanted a cosy chat ?

    Maybe that ad was on Craigslist for so long because Earl wasn't the first person they stiffed that way ?

    As for sharing monitors - if the client is THAT cheap, that's all you need to know about your chances of getting paid.

    1. DougS Silver badge

      Re: Alarm bells were ringing from the start of the article...

      I would think you'd know everything you needed to know about your chances of getting paid when you learned what they referred to as the "new server". That probably would have been a good time to ask for some money up front.

      1. rcx141

        Re: Alarm bells were ringing from the start of the article...

        I never feel guilty about asking for a payment up front. Business has to be about trust after all. I have found legitimate companies have no problem making a partial payment before I begin work, and it really weeds out the dross.

    2. Timo

      Re: Alarm bells were ringing from the start of the article...

      I'd add that another red flag would be in the Craigslist posting.

      Aren't the people that use it some of the tightest around? Willing to slog through endless postings to find the few that are useful?

      Or it could just be me - we attempted to sell a few furniture pieces via Craigslist, and everyone wanted to turn it into an opportunity to haggle and nitpick and chisel down on the price. Finding stuff was an exercise in frustration for me.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Alarm bells were ringing from the start of the article...

        "I'd add that another red flag would be in the Craigslist posting."

        I was a bit concerned over that Craigslist thing too. They'd had the advert up for months and our intrepid correspondent was the first to reply and he told them up front he was expensive? If they were that desperate and money was less important than the fix, WTF were they doing advertising on Craigslist for IT skills likely to be hard to find instead of looking for a more relevant place to advertise for help.

      2. tommy_qwerty

        Re: Alarm bells were ringing from the start of the article...

        > I'd add that another red flag would be in the Craigslist posting.

        My experience with Craigslist job postings has been pretty good (selling my junk, not so much). If they're posting on Craigslist, it's a good indication they are actually looking to fill the position with a new local and not posting it either for some legal reason while looking to hire internally or bring in some H-1B gomeril. I'm convinced half the companies posting on Dice, Monster, Indeed and the like have no intention of actually hiring anyone through their job ads.

  4. Phil W

    Limits

    I am by nature helpful, and enjoy problem solving, so if presented with a challenging problem that requires certain quirky things to be fixed before you can get down to the main issue that's fine.

    But there are limits, and frankly this guy spent far more time on the work than I would of done.

    At the point where it turned out that both the old and new servers were all fried, and that even the "new" server was ancient I would have been declaring the situation 99% likely unrecoverable and telling the company to find a plan B.

    Sure it may have been possible (as indeed it was) to get a new server and configure Netware on it.

    It may even have been possible to type in all 2000 pages of source code by hand, to recompile the software. But even then there is no guarantee the data is still intact.

    Sometimes, regardless of the money on offer, it simply isn't worth the time or psychological trauma to put that kind of work in for people who have no concept of how to run a business properly.

    1. Skoorb

      Re: Limits

      Yeah. If it's something ridiculous like this it can be best to point them at the "official" support channel, even if it is hideously expensive.

      Attachmate do offer on-site consulting, including custom software development and support if you are desperate. It's then up to the client to decide if it's reasonable just to buy a new cloud accounting service rather than pay the vendor's consulting fees.

    2. Cpt Blue Bear

      Re: Limits

      Been there, done that, got the T-shirt, etc. I used to do this sort of BS consulting work between, or even alongside, real jobs.

      A decade or so ago I got a call from a friend of a friend who's brother in law (yeah, referrals can be weird like this) ran a manufacturing business employing a dozen or so who's accounting / ordering / process control (HA!) system had shat and could I go have a look. I found an aging HP running SCO and an ancient version of Pronto. Or rather, not running it 'cause a power surge had killed it along with the lunchroom fridge and a small industrial CNC cutter. It hadn't killed the backup tape because that had been dead for years due to ingested saw dust.

      I thought about how to resurrect the beast for about thirty seconds before deciding that a better course of action was a meeting with the owners to tell them it was fucked beyond recovery and they should be looking for another solution. I got a bad cup of coffee, a "thanks for being honest with us" and $100 cash for my trouble. I have no idea if they survived that set back, but one of the owners used to call me every now and again when he thought someone was trying to screw him over (about a third of the time they were).

      The important lesson was: even if you can fix something, fixing may not be the best solution for the customer.

  5. wyatt

    Company I'm currently working for refuses to support you unless you've 1) a paid for support contract or 2) a valid PO and good credit, other wise it's cash up front.

    Manufacturer we resell for doesn't do this and most lose so much money. How they're still going is a mystery to most.

    1. HmmmYes Silver badge

      Thats fine, no problems with that. Support is expensive.

    2. Hollerithevo Silver badge

      Cash up front: so YES

      Having been stiffed twice in my early freelance career, my policy of getting half up-front was written in stone. And I never regretted it because, yes, stiffed again, until I realised a freelancer was always seen as somehow trying to put one over on the client. So I went the contractor route and that was comparatively better. Then the HMRC drive to get all with limited companies to pay as employees while getting no employee benefits, and I went full-time. I consider it simply a three-month rolling contract.

    3. Roq D. Kasba

      Be wary of that PO

      It's worth offering a discount for prepayment. Maybe you've not had someone dicking you around for post-payment yet, but when you meet that special customer, you'll wish you'd just discounted for prepayment :,-(

  6. Haku

    Portrayal of computer tech guys in films/tv.

    I do wonder how much damage the image of the tech help guy has had through films & tv shows, because all too often some 'super hacker' is shown to be doing stuff with a keyboard (why do they never ever use the mouse/trackpad?) that gets impossible things done in super quick time.

    Also, those little file transfer bars zip by so quickly when the USB stick gets plugged into the computer, yet in the real world even USB 3.0 sticks can't transfer tens of gigabytes of data in a few seconds, and the film would be over long before they tried to transfer terrabytes.

    1. Efros

      Re: Portrayal of computer tech guys in films/tv.

      Indeed an 8TB backup, actually closer to 6TB but it was an 8TB disk, took 70 hours to complete.

    2. AdamT

      Re: Portrayal of computer tech guys in films/tv.

      Allegedly there was a similar problem in the legal system with juries having watched too much CSI and asking why they couldn't have the grainy CCTV footage "enhanced", etc.

      1. J. R. Hartley Silver badge

        Re: Portrayal of computer tech guys in films/tv.

        https://youtu.be/KiqkclCJsZs

      2. Jamie Jones Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: Portrayal of computer tech guys in films/tv.

        "Enhance" :-)

        https://youtu.be/gF_qQYrCcns

        1. VinceH Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Re: Portrayal of computer tech guys in films/tv. @Jamie Jones

          ' "Enhance" :-)

          https://youtu.be/gF_qQYrCcns '

          That is priceless - especially because I was becoming increasingly appalled at how ludicrous what they were doing was, until the penny finally dropped.

          1. mtp
            Facepalm

            Re: Portrayal of computer tech guys in films/tv. @Jamie Jones

            Don't forget the Red Dwarf "Enhance" scene

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2aINa6tg3fo

    3. chris 17 Bronze badge

      Re: Portrayal of computer tech guys in films/tv.

      like Mr Robot,

      trying to get into it on SciFi but cringing every time they mention or do something techie and get it wrong. Like the opening episode when they get into a Jet and fly to the DC to stop someone remote hacking into a server, even though there where remote hands at the DC who could have unplugged or worked at a CLI? or constant mentioning of FTP's or other acronyms that might sound exotic to those that have no clue.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Portrayal of computer tech guys in films/tv.

        ....or the way almost any database search displays all the data they're not interested in before finally leaving just the data they want!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

        1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

          Re: Mr Robot

          All mistakes/flim-flammery aside, they do at least make an effort (more than most).

          I do recall seeing him sat on the floor of a DC with a laptop perched on his <gasp> lap and cabled in to the server. I tried to ignore the monitor with the amazing GUI showing all the servers and their current state, you can't have everything :)

          1. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

            Re: Mr Robot

            For me, the most unrealistic techie-related thing in movies is when you see people in DC doing whatever they're doing, while wearing t-shirts but not seeming to feel the cold. Every time I go into a DC I wear a fleece because the A/C just makes the place far too cold (and I'm a hardy northerner, not some soft southern jessie).

            1. Ben Tasker Silver badge

              Re: Mr Robot

              >  when you see people in DC doing whatever they're doing, while wearing t-shirts but not seeming to feel the cold.

              I don't think I've ever felt the need to layer up in the DC. I have occassionally had to leave the hot aisle because I was getting too warm though. A tshirt is otherwise normally fine, but its possible Ive built a tolerance since the smoking ban exposed me to the elements more frequently

              Oh, and Ill usually have something in/over my ears if Im going to be in there for too long. Not so much the volume as the constant exposure that gives me a headache.

            2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

              Re: Mr Robot

              > while wearing t-shirts but not seeming to feel the cold

              You've not met my nephew or his dad. Both wear shorts and t-shirts in weather that would make a polar bear think twice about going out. And he was born and brought up in Kent (not renowned for being terribly Northern. Mind you, he lives in the cold and frozen north wilds of Yorkshire now so I suspect he'll fit right in. As soon as he gets the mandatory flat cap and whippet anyway..)

              His dad is a tree surgeon so he's probably fallen out of a few trees onto his head too many times :-)

              1. Jamie Jones Silver badge

                Re: Mr Robot

                *shrug* The machine rooms at work were the only places where the temperature was sane, unlike the supposedly air-conditioned offices that were inhabited by 'soft southern Jessies' like you. :-)

                Incidently, I always wear shorts - I last wore long trousers about 6 years ago.. I guess it must be the South Wales climate...

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Mr Robot

            @Sir Runcible Spoon

            & whens the last time anyone consoled into a server using a laptop via a serial cable?

            Maybe remotely access the rack mount kvm or server ilo but not serialed in.

            Consoled into a network device yes, but not a server.

            Stuff like that really grinds my gears.

            1. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad

              Re: Mr Robot

              "whens the last time anyone consoled into a server using a laptop via a serial cable?"

              Last month. Network interfaces were down, no graphics card in the server, no lights-out management. Serial port saved the day.

              Didn't notice flashy GUI though, only a command prompt with 10pt font. Very un-Hollywood.

        2. Haku

          Re: Portrayal of computer tech guys in films/tv.

          "....or the way almost any database search displays all the data they're not interested in before finally leaving just the data they want!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

          But when you're searching for something, it's always in the last place you look.

          Think about it. Logic is wonderful.

          1. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad

            Re: Portrayal of computer tech guys in films/tv.

            "But when you're searching for something, it's always in the last place you look."

            Boob's Law had a nice rebuttal by Bloch.

            You'll find it in the first place you look, but not on the first attempt.

        3. Code For Broke

          Re: Portrayal of computer tech guys in films/tv.

          Need a dusting of graphite on that "1" key methinks.

      2. Robin

        Re: Portrayal of computer tech guys in films/tv.

        like Mr Robot

        I find Mr. Robot one of the more reasonable representations of 'computery stuff' in TV and films, to be honest. Especially when compared to this kind of stuff which almost makes me want to puke and laugh at the same time.

        The makers of these things have to strike a balance between accuracy and fitting in with the flow of the plot. Viewers don't particularly want to sit and wait while he solves various missing dependencies and compiler errors.

        When I watch medical things, I've no idea what they're talking about most of the time, but it sounds 'about right' and fits in with the flow of things. Maybe doctors watch that kind of thing and say "there's no WAY they'd use 50ml of X there! What idiots! You'd use 30 max, then step it up in increments of 5ml per hour whilst monitoring vitals."

        1. VinceH Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Re: Portrayal of computer tech guys in films/tv.

          "Especially when compared to this kind of stuff which almost makes me want to puke and laugh at the same time."

          "I'll create a GUI interface using VisualBasic... see if I can track an IP address."

          I'm so glad I wasn't drinking anything when I watched that! Prime example of clueless writers throwing in random 'tech' words in the hope that the majority of their audience won't understand anyway, so won't know how ludicrous it sounds.

          Sadly, the program/film isn't identified, so I don't know what to avoid. (I don't fancy reading YouTube comments to see if it's mentioned there).

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Portrayal of computer tech guys in films/tv.

            @VinceH welcome to the wonderful world of CSI New York (judging by the Gary Sinise) - though none of the variants manage much better, especially of note CSI:Cyber which is just one constant cringefest (insomuch as the one episode I sat through because the girl I was dating said "you're techie, you'll like this", thankfully she was also into bdsm and so I got to vent my frustrations later...)

            1. VinceH Silver badge

              Re: Portrayal of computer tech guys in films/tv.

              "welcome to the wonderful world of CSI New York (judging by the Gary Sinise)"

              Ah, Sinise, yes. I was trying to remember his name so I could hopefully work out what the show could be, but I completely blanked - so thanks for identifying it.

              I thought I'd seen an episode of one of the CSI variants and concluded it was rubbish - but I've just checked, and it was NCIS: Los Angeles; a cross-over episode with Hawaii 5 0. It was a two parter, where part one was a Hawaii 5 0 episode, and part two was NCIS:LA.

              Despite the excessive Microsoft product placement, I quite enjoyed Hawaii 5 0 - but the second part of that two parter was just too awful!

            2. Kiwi Silver badge
              Mushroom

              Re: Portrayal of computer tech guys in films/tv.

              thankfully she was also into bdsm and so I got to vent my frustrations later

              I'm not into BDSM, nor is anyone I know (thought a friend of my brother did have some interesting "help me with my exercising" rings fitted into his lounge room walls, and ceiling...) But anyone who tries to get me to watch CSI:anything (and perhaps NCIS:anything and any other xLA:CrimeCrap) would wish they were.. Or at least would wish I didn't enthusiastically make good use of a live power lead and whatever sharp bits I could get stuffed into it before I started on them....

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Portrayal of computer tech guys in films/tv.

            Sadly, the program/film isn't identified, so I don't know what to avoid. (I don't fancy reading YouTube comments to see if it's mentioned there).

            CSI:New York

            anon for obvious reasons ;)

        2. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

          Re: Robin / medical stuff on TV

          Well, I used to know a couple of docs who would meet every few weeks, get drunk and watch medical shows like ER etc for a giggle / shouting drunk abuse at the TV...

        3. J.G.Harston Silver badge

          Re: Portrayal of computer tech guys in films/tv.

          In the 1980s in the early days of Casualty, that is exactly the sort of stuff my Dad (medical physics engineer) and step-Mum (senior staff nurse) would shout at the TV, along with the unrealistic management structures (what the hell's he doing in there? What's his job supposed to be? Why's he in the theatre?).

          I used to work in local government so I do the same thing with unrealistic council-related stuff (why the hell is the Town Mayor getting involved in this, that's a one-year ceremonial postion, it should be the Cabinet Member for Environmental Services!, etc)

        4. Anonymous Prime

          Re: Portrayal of computer tech guys in films/tv.

          >>When I watch medical things, I've no idea what they're talking about most of the time, but it sounds 'about right' and fits in with the flow of things...

          My sister works for a medical test collection company-- they take the test tubes from the hospitals and clinics, process them and send them out to the appropriate labs. She loved 'House MD', but would scream stuff like "No, you can't do that test in 15 minutes! There's exactly one lab that does that test and they're in Minnesota! You'd be lucky to get it back in 15 DAYS!"

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Portrayal of computer tech guys in films/tv.

        Yeah. For what it's worth, I thought the first season was pretty good.

        The 2nd season though, ugh. Didn't even make it 1/2 way through the first episode. Haven't bothered to try since, and likely won't.

    4. Andy Miller

      Re: Portrayal of computer tech guys in films/tv.

      Have you tried turning it off and on again?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Portrayal of computer tech guys in films/tv.

        What. The TV?

      2. Adam 1 Silver badge

        Re: Portrayal of computer tech guys in films/tv.

        > Have you tried turning it off and on again

        Possibly the best researched piece of tech portrail we have seen in years. Pretty much every techo has at some point heard that line from a telephone *ahem* support attendant only moments after telling them how you have just reimaged the drive.

    5. Efros

      Re: Portrayal of computer tech guys in films/tv.

      Not confined to tech, remember Highlander? The scene where the woman specialist in ancient swords carbon dates the samurai sword? Couple of issues with this, the amount of carbon required for this is not insignificant when compared to the amount of carbon in the steel making up the sword and the size of the sliver removed from the concrete support. There may be other issues as to what the origin of the carbon used in the manufacture of the sword. However, the major issue was that the shiny shiny instrument that was used to carbon date the sword was in fact a Perkin Elmer 3030 Atomic Spectrometry setup. Really good for determining the concentration of trace elements in the steel on an element by element basis but fucking useless for carbon dating. Sorry if this is too specific but stuff like that ruins otherwise entertaining movies.

      1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: Portrayal of computer tech guys in films/tv.

        "was in fact a Perkin Elmer 3030 Atomic Spectrometry setup."

        I prefer the Bambleweeny 57 Sub-Meson Brain myself.

      2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: Portrayal of computer tech guys in films/tv.

        > Sorry if this is too specific but stuff like that ruins otherwise entertaining movies.

        My wife now refuses to watch 'historical' movies with me because of me moaning about anacronisms. (Civil war era people wearing 14th century armour? Really? Or, even worse, 8th century people wearing armour from the 1400's?).

        1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

          Re: Portrayal of computer tech guys in films/tv.

          Arrghh!!!! And American """Renaissance"""" fairs where everybody is dressed up in character from the medieval period 300 years before!!!!! THAT'S NOT THE ****ING RENAISSANCE, THAT'S THE F****G MIDDLE AGES YOU F*****G IGNORANT MORONS!!!!!

          etc.

          sigh. puts kettle on.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Portrayal of computer tech guys in films/tv.

            Arrghh!!!! And American """Renaissance"""" fairs where everybody is dressed up in character from the medieval period 300 years before!!!!! THAT'S NOT THE ****ING RENAISSANCE, THAT'S THE F****G MIDDLE AGES YOU F*****G IGNORANT MORONS!!!!!

            Really? Who said they were trying to depict The Renaissance? In this case, they are using the noun form of the word. Here's a clue smart guy ;)

            British Dictionary definitions for Renaissance

            renaissance

            /rəˈneɪsəns; US ˈrɛnəˌsɒns/

            noun

            1. a revival or rebirth, esp of culture and learning

            Word Origin

            C19: from French, from Latin re- + nascī to be born

      3. Elf

        Re: Portrayal of computer tech guys in films/tv.

        @efros Ha! My Female Parental Unit™ is/was an MLT so I remember her ripping a Standard Rack sized GCMS apart to replace a board (circa 1980±). Now of course the same machine is the size of a breadbox. That being said, watching a Crime Thriller with any Laboratory Work in it must be like what {users} experience watching anything Computer-y with the likes of us. Something like:

        "Bullshit! I call BULLSHIT! No WAY THEY didn't {process1} before {process2} and then {process3} for the {vendor} {machine}." Sound familiar to this crowd?

        However, my favorite expression of her suspension of disbelief imploding is *specifically* when a DNA test is run. She doesn't throw a rod at the test taking like an hour, no. She yells at the printer that kicked results out in color, scant seconds after the LabTech clicks Print and walks five paces to the device's conveniently timed document presentation. I get a laugh at that rant, never gets old listening to a 60+ lady threaten grevious harm to a computer peripheral.

      4. Bruce Ordway

        Re: Portrayal of computer tech guys in films/tv.

        >>...Perkin Elmer

        Wow, I haven't thought of that company for a while.

        I was working in engineering before switching to IT..... what a cool place in the late 80's!

        CAD hadn't quite taken off yet so I was making pencil drawings for one of their machines... "high vacuum vaporized metal coating". It was a Perkin Elmer site in Minneapolis and I believe they were working on the mirrors for Hubble at that time too.Unfortunately I've heard the 2015 version of the company is not quite the same.

        >>remember Highlander

        Also cool.. at that time.

      5. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Portrayal of computer tech guys in films/tv.

        I remember watching a TV program(me) where a viewer had written to complain that the programme makers had used a train carriage that was first used in 1943*, when the programme was set in 1942....

        *Or similiar - can't remember the exact date, but was set during the war

    6. Kubla Cant Silver badge
      Holmes

      Re: Portrayal of computer tech guys in films/tv.

      The very best USB device was in a preposterous TV series called London Spy.

      When the gay spy was murdered in the attic, his boyfriend found a USB stick hidden inside a laptop*. But the USB stick was locked! You could tell it was locked because it was contained inside a shiny combination lock barrel**. He took it to a locksmith, who told him he couldn't open it without the combination***. Eventually he guessed that it was 0001 because of something the late spy had said.

      * Laptop computers always have plenty of empty space inside.

      ** I remember those locks from my schooldays. Kids used to secure their bikes with them, but anyone could open them by feeling for the notches in the mechanism.

      *** See icon.

      1. salamamba too

        Re: Portrayal of computer tech guys in films/tv.

        I cant remember the title, but in one film they broke into the baddy's home to make a image of his computer, this was supposed to take 6 seconds using a USB stick (only USB2 32MB around at time). The tense moment was due to the copying taking 8 seconds! I always wanted THEIR USB drive.

    7. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Portrayal of computer tech guys in films/tv.

      And the faster you type the better you are at hacking!

  7. David Roberts Silver badge

    Posdibly one of the first questions would have been..

    ...which version of the source code?

    Not much point in banging the whole thing in (after having solved all the other major problems) only to find that this was V1 and the patches needed to make it work were on the failed hard drive.

  8. PassiveSmoking

    Time to lawyer up, it sounds like you went above and beyond to even get their system as far as you did. To be given that kind of treatment in return is simply unacceptable.

    1. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

      Assuming the small claims court in the US is similar to the UK claims court, there's no need to layer up.

      I claimed ~£500 for a small job I did for a former friend and colleague. He tried to stiff me after I changed jobs and figured he'd get away with it.

      1. JimRoyal

        Small claims worked for me as well, but I would not bother with anything less than £500 because it takes quite a while to put all the paperwork together. And beware, if you are the claimant you will have to travel to the nearest Small Claims Court to the defendant. But you will be able to claim the travel costs back, if you win. I won and got expenses, but had to take a whole day out from work to travel the 150 milers for the ten minute hearing.

        I would not have taken on this job in the first place, even though I used to work a lot with Novell. Just like I would not take the job I saw advertised two days ago. Project manager wanted for Windows 7 rollout. Seriously! Windows 7! in 2016!

        1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge
          Joke

          "Windows 7! in 2016!"

          Probably a downgrade exercise.

          1. hplasm Silver badge
            Coat

            Re: "Windows 7! in 2016!"

            Probably an upgrade exercise.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          > And beware, if you are the claimant you will have to travel to the nearest Small Claims Court to the defendant.

          As a very extreme example, I had a customer in UAE stiff me on the final third of his bill. It was thousands, but the cost of pursuing it (you have to be there in person, and have to have a UAE based lawyer) was just too prohibitive. I'd have got the costs back in the end, but as the process could take months it'd have been a huge amount of cost and disruption up front.

          Sometimes, as much as it rankles, it's better not to pursue and just to look at how you can reasonably mitigate in future.

          1. Roq D. Kasba

            Getting fucked over by a client

            Yes indeed - I can totally believe it with a UAE client, having dealt with projects in UAE before. If something is for the Royal Court, it's not impossible, for instance, for it to take 2-3 years to get paid.

            Mind you I've dealt with some gold-plated shits in the UK, too. Credible threats help, but you have to pick your battles. And take comfort in any petty revenge you can take and spreading the word quietly with your contacts. I just forked a £1.5M investment deal an arsehole ex-client had lined up by letting the backer know just how how crappily I'd been treated in case it had any bearing on their idea how they'd be treated (people are consistent)

          2. Scott Pedigo
            Boffin

            > As a very extreme example, I had a customer in UAE stiff me on the final third of his bill.

            Maybe leave some licensing check in the code which activates three months later, and only give them the license key if they'd paid in full?

        3. anothercynic Silver badge

          @JimRoyal

          Believe me, even for £200 the SCC is great. I've sent a debt collection agency after a client before too... their snippy 'well, we never signed a contract with you' response quickly went out the window when details were presented to them about the verbal agreement with one of their staff who had been made redundant soon after.

        4. J.G.Harston Silver badge

          I'm still in the middle of a Win7 rollout. Due to be completed by the end of September.

        5. h4rm0ny

          There's a logic to what you say, but I would take someone to small claims even if the money they were fined was given to a charity for lonely nazis. If someone tries to get away with cheating you, there's a pleasure to be had in watching them pay that goes beyond money.

    2. Hollerithevo Silver badge

      Small claims court: it works

      I have done this. I had a written agreement in place and always had monthly 'work to date' checklists signed by the client, so the last time I was stiffed I hauled his ass into Small Claims Court and five minutes later came out with him ordered to pay every penny plus costs. A very happy day. I also found that a solicitor's letter following my third-and-last reminder was well worth the money with other recalcitrant clients. The joys of freelance.

  9. HmmmYes Silver badge

    A cheap good VGA monitor can be had for £60.

    If a company is balking at paying than then there's no way they are going to pay ~800/day fees.

    Explain the situation. Explain theyve been failing to maintain their systems and they have pushed their luck too far and there's no 100% guarantee of success. Get them to pay after everyday.

    1. HmmmYes Silver badge

      How do you know if a suge protector has failed after a lightening strike?

      There's normally burned out bits on it usually.

      Lightening is wierd. After one electrical storm I had a single computer where the LCD and graphic card were fcked. Everything else was OK.

      Id guess monitors are prone to some sort of surge/inductive charge.

      1. handle

        "Lightening"

        Lightning is weird, but calling it lightening is more weird.

        1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: "Lightening"

          Yeah, scorch marks definitely don't make the object lighter (unless some of the material was detachedin the explosion)

          1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

            Re: "Lightening"

            > Yeah, scorch marks definitely don't make the object lighter

            The Magic Smoke(tm) is massless? Cool - can we make spaceships out of it? Or at the very least, an E.E.Doc Smith[1]-stylee reactionless drive?

            [1] I read all his books as a 10-year old and thought they were wonderful. I tried reading them again a few years ago and realised what utter dreck they were..

            1. Ian Emery Silver badge

              E.E. "Doc" Smith

              You were slow on the update, I read his books age 8, decided they were dreck aged 12, and settled down to read "The Silmarillion" again.

              Still, he wasnt as bad as J.K.R.

              1. Kubla Cant Silver badge

                Re: E.E. "Doc" Smith

                settled down to read "The Silmarillion" again

                Impressive. Most people (including LOTR enthusiasts) can't get through it once.

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: "Lightening"

              '[1] I read all his books as a 10-year old and thought they were wonderful. I tried reading them again a few years ago and realised what utter dreck they were..'

              Aye, and Mr Harrison royally put the nail in that coffin for me back in '75 when I first read 'Star Smashers of the Galaxy Rangers' (11-years old at the time, I was a somewhat precocious bugger when it came to books). I've re-read the Lensmen books quite recently, they are, as you put it, dreck, but entertaining (admittedly now mostly for their camp and cheesy value) dreck...though I have to admit I've some sympathy with the Doc's fetish about Redheads being the master race..

            3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
              Childcatcher

              Re: "Lightening"

              "E.E.Doc Smith[1]-stylee reactionless drive?

              [1] I read all his books as a 10-year old and thought they were wonderful. I tried reading them again a few years ago and realised what utter dreck they were."

              No, you just grew up. That's a shame. Growing old may be compulsory, but growing up isn't.

        2. Bloakey1

          Re: "Lightening"

          "Lightning is weird, but calling it lightening is more weird."

          It is also not very bright.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: "Lightening"

            "It is also not very bright."

            Indeed a drop in the level of the womb in the last weeks of pregnancy is quite difficult to notice unless you know the person concerned quite intimately (or are the person concerned.)

          2. Adam 1 Silver badge

            Re: "Lightening"

            >> "Lightning is weird, but calling it lightening is more weird."

            > It is also not very bright.

            Actually I would say that lightening is quite a bright way to spell it.

        3. HmmmYes Silver badge

          Re: "Lightening"

          Fuckers!

          Im very special, like my spelleng.

      2. Kiwi Silver badge
        Boffin

        Lightening is wierd. After one electrical storm I had a single computer where the LCD and graphic card were fcked. Everything else was OK.

        Back in the days when 14k4 modems were extremely fast I saved for some months to be able to get one for my BBS which until then had been stuck at 2400(excuse if I have the rate wrong, been a year or few!). Very early the next morning we had an electrical storm, and I remember one massive bang of thunder, the light in the room flicking on (yes the spike was enough to jump the switch, the light was off at the time!), and everything else going off. Power was restored some time later, I started up the BBS machine (which had a surge protector), but try as it might when a call came in it could not answer the phone.

        The power had protectors on it but the phone line didn't, and when the power pole outside the house was hit (that's where it came in, not the closest I've been to lightening either!) the relay that picks up the line got fused. No visible damage though. Took it back to the shop I got it from the next day and they insisted on replacing it under warranty.

        I have seen lightening do some nasty stuff to electronics when the strike has been much further away, but never anything quite so selective.

        The machine in question was a Compaq Desqpro(sp) 386 with a power supply that had some very chunky capacitors in it - turn the power switch off (the old style mains switch that kills the power cold, not the modern ones that send a signal to the mobo) and the machine would stay running for at least 5 seconds more. Not sure if it was just the caps but there were two of them larger than the PSU's transformer. Also had one security feature I quite liked, in that you could have the mouse and keyboard locked from boot but have the machine actually boot up, quite good for having a machine fully start but needing a password before the kb could be used at all. I ran it for at least another couple of years before upgrading, the lightening strike didn't phase it one bit.

    2. phuzz Silver badge

      £60?! I think we've got two or three old LCD's sat in our basement, never mind old CRTs. I'd expect something brand new for sixty flipping quid.

  10. chris 17 Bronze badge

    Doesn't add up

    So

    "just this year he responded to “a Craigslist ad"

    then

    Earl quickly found the problem, namely an ancient surge protector more than a decade beyond its warranty. The lightning had zorched through that device and the resulting surge had damaged the IDE chip on the Dell PowerEdge 1300 so it would randomly delete information from the hard drive.

    how on earth do you know it was the surge protector that was at fault for damaging the 18 or 19 year old IDE chip? i would have guessed the chip had failed due to age more than anything else, or just the drive was worn out or had bad sectors.

    what is a "PCI network" is it meant to be a "PCI network card"?

    if it where me i would have purchased a new or recently used server, downloaded and installed a copy of netware 4.1 on a vm then used an ide to usb converter to read in from floppy or the HDD, unless of course i wanted to milk them for as much cash as possible by insisting they buy a bunch of over priced ancient kit of no use to anyone.

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: Doesn't add up

      Well, we've all been there. Taking a look at something because it piques your interest, and then you open up a whole big can of worms. I've been in a similar position recently with "taking a look at" an electric gate motor, which revealed a faulty door intercom, which revealed a ground fault with the external lighting system, which revealed an almost overloaded lighting design, which revealed a whole pile of defective outdoor SELV transformers, which revealed a rodent with a liking for PVC... and so on. Until you end up doing 13 hour days for a couple of hundred quid, which you've blown buying the esoteric tool you needed to fix one of the faults.

    2. Warm Braw Silver badge

      Re: Doesn't add up

      I'd be suspicious of a job advert on Cragislist at the best of times - certainly in this part of the world they're for what one might politely call niche positions...

      However, since there are utilities/bootable environments that purport to read Netware File System volumes attached to regular PCs, it would have been possible to attempt to inspect the available data without incurring any significant expense. SCSI cables are readily obtained - the old ones are the easiest to find - so that's hardly an impediment.

      So going out and buying a new/old server was folly from the start. but folly is what you get from a "casual encounter" with a bloke from Craigslist.

      Of course the whole enterprise was futile, but I suspect the company concerned had already heard that from someone with rather more sense and experience who had simply walked away. Which was the smart thing to do.

    3. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Re: Doesn't add up

      > know it was the surge protector that was at fault for damaging the 18 or 19 year old IDE chip

      I've had mobo IDE chips fail in interesting ways without lightning being present. One worked fine but killed every IDE drive attached to it over the course of two days or so. One randomly dropped the 8th bit of some bytes - not enough to be noticed straight away and it went on long enough to seriously trash quite a lot of music..

      Not quite as bad as an operator attaching an untested DASD string to a live mainframe without testing it though - to all initial indications it was working OK. Turns out after a day or so that it had been acting as a write-only memory and, once stuff had been flushed from cache, your information was a Norwegian Blue..

      Operator was invited to find alternative employment.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Alien

        Re: Doesn't add up

        > One worked fine but killed every IDE drive attached to it over the course of two days or so.

        I've had that too!.. everything worked perfectly for a few days then the drive baked. Presumed bearing/motor fault, replaced and same again... third drive of different make did the same. Never got to the bottom of it.

        Voltage regulation??

        Anyone?

        1. TRT Silver badge

          Re: Doesn't add up

          You can bake a HDD by spinning it constantly. Those suckers get real hot.They need ventilation, and a rest. And heatsinking into the chassis helps - rubber anti-vibration mounts are a good idea, and a bad idea at the same time.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Doesn't add up

      if it where me i would have purchased a new or recently used server, downloaded and installed a copy of netware 4.1 on a vm then used an ide to usb converter to read in from floppy or the HDD, unless of course i wanted to milk them for as much cash as possible by insisting they buy a bunch of over priced ancient kit of no use to anyone.

      Ya done good up to the floppy on the IDE converter part. Floppy drives were not IDE. There are USB floppy connectors, yes, but they are not IDE inside. I still gave ya a +1 :)

  11. gannett
    Go

    Data is the life blood

    If you have the data that's the key. You can at least move forward on a new system if you can import the old account data. No backups /live copies except ancient CDs - stuffed.

    I recently replaced a 10+ year old small biz mailing list + mini CRM with a single Excel sheet. Once the data was extracted all 7500 records, a new system can handle that on a page. Finding a data extractor for Paradox.db was the value add provided.

    Bad payers - sue/small claims court em - it's good for all of us in the long run.

  12. dajames Silver badge

    Is that all?

    If "Earl" was owed only $5,000 when he was shown the door he had either already received payment for the work done earlier or he's not nearly as expensive as he seems to think he is!

    1. Naselus

      Re: Is that all?

      Considering that what he actually did, according to the article, was show up, make a list of demands, piss off for two weeks, and then plug in a server and install DOS and Netware, I'd say the client was well within their rights to tell him to sod off when he billed 5 grand for what amounts to about 2 hours work.

      Honestly, 'Earl' doesn't sound like he knew what he was doing at all really. No attempt to use drive recovery tools. He didn't even bother sourcing $30 worth of SCSI cables for a drive swap, instead insisting the client go and buy a new server at $2-3 grand. No attempt to run up a VM to sim it (which, let's be honest, could've been knocked up in 20 minutes on a laptop on day 1). No external drive connecting tools, no serious attempt to salvage the dead box (it had a bad PSU and fans. Like that's a show stopper), nothing. In total, he showed about as much knowledge of IT as you'd expect from a desktop support engineer, yet wanted to charge about 30 times as much.

      To his credit, he openly admitted he wouldn't be much use for the job before they gave it him, but really if this was his approach then his honest answer should have been 'I'm not remotely capable of doing this for you'. So yeah, if I were the client I'd feel a lot like Earl was a random cowboy trying his luck rather than a professional - and reading the story I'm not hugely convinced that isn't what happened either.

      1. Darryl

        Re: Is that all?

        In Earl's defence, weren't those old Compaqs the ones that refused to power on if you installed a fan with an improper serial number or some nonsense? I thought that was where HP got those great ideas for their servers...

      2. jockmcthingiemibobb

        Re: Is that all?

        >In total, he showed about as much knowledge of IT as you'd expect from a desktop support engineer,

        I can honestly say being a desktop support engineer was the hardest job I've ever done requiring a ridiculously diverse knowledge of IT.

        Just sayin........

        1. Naselus

          Re: Is that all?

          "I can honestly say being a desktop support engineer was the hardest job I've ever done requiring a ridiculously diverse knowledge of IT."

          Did they pay you $2,500 an hour to do it? Or did you have to work for 2 weeks to earn that? :P

          No disrespect to DTS guys. They need to have a shallow knowledge of thousands of different things, which is a skillset in itself and extremely valuable. But that's the thing - a shallow knowledge. They're not experts in any one thing, because if they were they wouldn't be DTS engineers anymore.

          A Desktop engineer could've managed at least as much as 'Earl' achieved here, probably more. And would've done so for a couple of hundred dollars a day rather than trying to charge 5k for, at most, a day's work, and probably would've done so by replacing a couple of hundred dollar's worth of parts rather than insisting they source a replica server from 1998.

          This story isn't an example of an unreasonable client throwing their toys out of the pram. This is an example of a guy who has some tangentially-IT-related job assuming that he can do a job that he clearly can't, making an expensive mess in the process, and then (after spending a fortune of the client's money) declaring he can't actually do the job after all, but he'd still like to be paid in full thanks.

          Seriously, the guy literally just installed Netware and achieved nothing else. He even got them to sort out the replacement server for him. Ask yourself, would YOU pay out $10k+ for that?

  13. Olivier2553 Silver badge

    I would have

    Assessed that the old machine is fried.

    Checked that the old disk is unreadable.

    Tried to extract data from the backup.

    Suggested a new system should be developed, that would reuse the old data from the backup.I see no points in trying to re-create a system as old as the one that died, especially when the software is no more than a pile of pages.

  14. LDS Silver badge

    This remind me of an insurance company...

    ... which was using an application to manage its fleet of insurances selling drones which the company then I was working for wrote. The users of said application kept on complaining it was "slow". In my tests it was blazing fast. I even managed to obtain a backup of their database, restored it, tested it, and it was still blazing fast. Eventually, an on-site check was scheduled. Once there, I saw that the application was really slow. Even from a DB console. I asked to be shown the database server. They called their IT, but being an insurance company access to the server room was highly controlled (but they sent me a backup of their agents data <G>). I had to wait until the very head boss of IT brought me there. He started to look for the server. He couldn't find it anywhere. Then he called someone, who told him to look under a table. Eventually we found it. It was a suspiciously old dusty box. Once a monitor and a keyboard was connected, I discovered it was an old 486 server with very few MBs of RAM and old disks as well, running Netware (IIRC, this happened around 2001). Of course I was testing the application using a much newer server with Pentium III processors and some hundred megabytes of RAM and much larger and faster disks. They were still using the same old server installed for some application testing before rollout a couple of years earlier, and forgot it there. As soon as they moved the DB to a decent box, the slowness disappeared...

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    An IT services company that I will not name acquired another company and moved its systems to their "Secure Data Centre" which was then destroyed by a well-reported disaster.

    Apparently, the data had not been backed up for over 10 years!

    ---

    Another another employer, another incident. We acquired a competitor and responsibility for their products fell in our laps. We, of course made sure we had the source code for all currently supported systems.

    Along comes a major multi-national client with the control system for some rather expensive test equipment. The hard disk had packed up. We had never heard of the system and did have any source code or installation media. Luckily for us the data (never backed up) was worth £millions to them so they funded data recovery, which was 100% successful (the voice-coil had failed). So we re-build Windows on a new HDD and copied the software, configuration and data back on and everything worked fine.

    However, when we suggested installing a CR writer or tape drive to archive the data from future tests they were not interested!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      ""Secure Data Centre" which was then destroyed by a well-reported disaster."

      I know of a company where the aircon engineer turned up on site out of hours because an automatic alarm had reported a problem with the aircon in the data centre. Nobody from IT could be arsed to come out, so he was told to go away again. The aircon duly failed, over the weekend everything fried.

      When they had their new data centre we were originally asked to put our application on a couple of VMs, but then someone not on the IT side of the project decided he wanted it hosted on this Azure thing, for some reason.

    2. Nolveys Silver badge

      We acquired a competitor and responsibility for their products fell in our laps.

      I've never seen it done like that before. It's always "We acquired a competitor and responsibility for their clients fell under the bus".

  16. adam payne Silver badge

    A signed written agreement with the client is a must for any freelancer.

    I would tell the potential client that the agreement would need to be signed and returned to me before I did anything. Any client that refused I thanked for their time and then walked away.

    For larger jobs I used to do time sheets as well and made sure that they were signed by the clients everyday.

    Anything you can do to protect yourself is a good thing.

  17. casaloco

    How?

    How did he expect them to pay him the $5000 when their accounting system was down?

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: How?

      Easy... someone has the company checkbook.

    2. waldo kitty
      Facepalm

      Re: How?

      "How did he expect them to pay him the $5000 when their accounting system was down?"

      How did they buy the new (old) server machine that Earl installed Novell on? They could have paid him the same way unless the seller of that machine also got ripped off.

      As for a check? No thanks. You take that check to the bank and get the cash to pay me with. Here, I'll go to the bank with you.

  18. Nifty

    Halt and Catch Fire

    Slightly off topic but don't miss Halt and Catch Fire on Amazon Prime TV, it's a fictional potted history of the birth of the cheap personal/portable PC. A lot of silicon valley nostalgia to see.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Halt and Catch Fire

      I am now addicted great show!! Realistic too. The techie bits appear to be accurate, properly in context and believable.

  19. CJatCTi
    Holmes

    Helping People Out of a hole never pay

    I my experience the people who find themselves in this mess - lots of broken old kit and nobody to help them are there because they don't want to spend any money. Once you have fixed it there is no need for them to pay you & they know this before they asked for help.

    The bigger the hole the more money you need from them in your bank account before you do anything.

    If we don't know you, and you came to us for help you can pay up now, or no help.

    Now 80% of the time the pay and the work is done, the 20% were never going to pay.

  20. CookieMonster999

    linux, samba

    My accountant had a very similar system, netware3 and dos clients.

    I replaced the netware with linux+samba, ipx/spx with netbios over ip for dos and it still runs

  21. Linker3000
    Mushroom

    Call me!

    I am waiting for your call - I'm cheap too!

    --------

    pasneta.pas

    this file contains the function and procedure declarations

    for the TurboPascal/Advanced NetWare interface}

    type

    Strvar = String[52];

    function xtndopn(var Mode, Handle: Integer;var Filename: Strvar): Integer; external 'PASNETA.COM';

    function setattr(var Func, Attribute: Integer; var Filename: Strvar): Integer; external xtndopn[3];

    function eojstat(var Flag: Integer):integer; external xtndopn[6];

    function PRLH_Log(var FileHandle,HiByteOffset,LoByteOffset,HiLockLen,

    LoLockLen,Flags,TimeOut: Integer): Integer; external xtndopn[9];

    function PRLH_Rel(var FileHandle,HiByteOffset,LoByteOffset,HiLockLen,

    LoLockLen: Integer): Integer; external xtndopn[12];

    function PRLH_Clr(var FileHandle,HiByteOffset,LoByteOffset,HiLockLen,

    LoLockLen: Integer): Integer; external xtndopn[15];

    function PRLF_Log(var fcb,HiByteOffset,LoByteOffset,HiLockLen,LoLockLen,

    Flags,TimeOut: Integer): Integer; external xtndopn[18];

    function PRLF_Rel(var fcb,HiByteOffset,LoByteOffset: Integer): Integer; external xtndopn[21];

    function PRLF_Clr(var fcb,HiByteOffset,LoByteOffset: Integer): Integer; external xtndopn[24];

    function PRLS_Lck(var Flags,TimeOut: Integer): Integer; external xtndopn[27];

    function PRLS_Rel: Integer; external xtndopn[30];

    function PRLS_Clr: Integer; external xtndopn[33];

    function OpenSem(var Sema4: Strvar; var SemaValu,HiHandle,LoHandle,OpenCnt: Integer): Integer; external xtndopn[36];

    function ExamSem(var HiHandle,LoHandle,SemaValu,OpenCnt: Integer): Integer; external xtndopn[39];

    function WaitSem(var HiHandle,LoHandle,TimeOut: Integer): Integer; external xtndopn[42];

    function SigSem(var HiHandle,LoHandle: Integer): Integer; external xtndopn[45];

    function ClosSem(var HiHandle,LoHandle: Integer): Integer; external xtndopn[48];

    [SNIP]

  22. ecofeco Silver badge

    Still owed 5K?

    I never let a client owe more than $50 for more than one week. They will ALWAYS try to stiff you.

    They don't like it? A sure sign they will stiff you. Especially clients with outdated hardware. That's the first sign they are skin flint bastards.

  23. Terry 6 Silver badge

    It's not just IT, it's not new, it's not going to end.

    My late father spent too much of his factory manager time keeping ageing machinery going, rather than doing his proper job, because the owners refused to replace any kit that was capable of being used, even if it was only working 50% of the time.

    I can remember seeing offices years after word-processing was the norm, that had staff using big heavy manual typewriters that had already been out-of-date and obsolete even when people still did use typewriters. The owners had been refusing to replace these for decades.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Feel the pain, and do it anyway

    Am I a deviant if I admit that I actually *like* jobs like this (assuming I get paid)? Old computer stuff is predictable. The hardware is simple, the OS deterministic. By contrast debugging the spouse's Win10 install is an exercise in futility. No dear, I have no frickin' idea why your PC is stuck in that configuring mode all day. And I can give you no guarantee that my poking at it for an hour is going to make it any better.

    By contrast, we pretty much know where all the bodies are buried in DOS 6.22, SCO UNIX and Windows 95.

  25. Ilgaz

    It isn't crazy

    I feel sorry for having to remind it on The Register, not a new hipster site that companies in real life run old code as long as it keeps running. MS keeps winning with their operating systems since they can give insane amount of backwards compatibility. Your bank may run 40 year old unmodified assembly code on their 64 bit IBM mainframe and it is expected, not even impressive.

    That code hardcopy on paper? Scanner/feeder/high quality OCR.

  26. David_42

    Run away!

    The closest I ever got to a situation like this was a company that had a system built around a S100 box running a customized version of MPM. There were 7 IBM PC1s connected via serial cables, all running another customized version of CPM. The main application was a database designed and built by someone who "died in a knife fight in jail". I spent a couple hours looking things over and then told the owner that I would not be able to help them, so there was no charge for the consultation.

  27. Florida1920

    Said server was a Dell PowerEdge 1300 with 64MB of RAM and a 10GB IDE hard drive.

    Sorry, but that's when I would have gone to catch the next train home. With hardware that old, you just have to know you're walking into a minefield.

    1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Florida1920 Re: Said server was a Dell PowerEdge 1300.......

      "....With hardware that old....." Ah, you must have missed the fun of Y2K? The following would be a quite typical conversation about a "problem" system in the lead up to December 31st 1999, usually in the swanky offices of some major City financial firm:

      ME: "So, how long has this bit of code been in operation?"

      CLIENT: "Oh, we think it was placed in production around 1983. We're not sure because we can't find the original PO or any of the original project documentation."

      ME: "How about the product's documentation?"

      CLIENT: "No, not sure if there ever was any."

      ME: "How much code and are there any comments in the code?"

      CLIENT: "There's just over six-hundred-thousand lines of code but no comments."

      ME: "OK, how about the original project team?"

      CLIENT: "Well, the CIO from the day retired to Spain about ten years ago; the IT manager is dead; and we have no idea who wrote the COBOL code."

      ME: "So, if you don't have any documentation, how do you run it?"

      CLIENT: "Well, we have a few bits written down by the sysadmins over the years...."

      ME: "And the server itself?"

      CLIENT: "That's the original VAX we bought for it in 1983."

      ME: "And this system is core to your business, you have no manual backup process to replace it, and no idea if it will survive the date change at midnight on the 31st December? And you waited until three months before Y2K to call us?"

      CLIENT: "Er, yes."

      1. kain preacher Silver badge

        Re: Florida1920 Said server was a Dell PowerEdge 1300.......

        Reminds me of a one line of a rap song.

        Now you're fucked.

  28. imanidiot Silver badge

    observe clusterfuck

    Demand payment of doubled fees up front. No? Find some other Schmuck to take the job.

  29. Glenn 6

    Cheapskate Alarm should have been sounding

    If this happened recently, "Earl"'s cheapskate alarm should have been going off in his head, and should have seen the writing on the wall that he would likely get stiffed one way or another.

    The fact that they have invested so little in their critical IT systems shows how much they value those systems, and how little they care to spend. The fact that they agreed to pay his expensive rate seemingly without question, then walking in and seeing how little they spend on IT - I would have asked for half my estimate up front. And when those hours get used, the remaining half up front.

  30. ian 22

    ¿Y que?

    Some of the most obsolete code (40 years old) continues to run- originally written in Cobol. I hate Cobol.

  31. kain preacher Silver badge

    The Developer is not dead he is in hiding. First clue should of been the fact that they said they could not get any one to do it. Either they are not paying enough or people have walked in and pronounced it dead and say there is nothing to be done. making me share monitor tells me every thing I need to know. You should of left after 30 minutes.

  32. ShadowDragon8685

    Wow! For a moment, I thought I was on El Reg, clearly I've taken a warpshift to The Daily WTF.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The company I am currently working for as a contractor has an application that runs DOS 6.22 . They also have windows 95 running for this. It can only authenticate to a win nt4 domain. That authenticates to a win 2003 DC and then a win 2012 DC that understand is in dumb mode?? There is a threat that they will have to go to server 2016 and then also run server 2008 to bridge the gap! The original developer is long gone and word has it that if it breaks (it's on 1990's computers that would be eligible for an earlier competition) everyone had better go home!

  34. Terry 6 Silver badge

    Sort of made the point a few days back, but

    I needed to be clearer.

    A (probably small) non-techie organisation that thinks you can run a typewriter until the keys wear out or a sewing machine until the motor grinds to a halt will also not give a moment's thought to updating that ridiculously expensive bottom of the range computer that they only just bought in the late 1990s.

    The fact that their workers are tearing out bunches of hair while trying to keep the thing working just reinforces their view that it can and should be kept working.

  35. ggray

    Portrayal of computer tech guys in films/tv

    I used to watch Numb3rs and I remember reading at the time that the show called upon some experts for their advice. The show reruns some on ION tv and I still enjoy the strong interplay of science,logic and the occasional bit of necessary violence.

    Don't know if anyone else remembers the show, I'd be interested to know what people thought of it.

    And here's the article:

    http://blog.wolfram.com/2007/05/24/the-mathematica-behind-televisions-crime-drama-numb3rs/

    Now I'm going to go back to the blog and see what they're up to now.

    I'm strictly a basic home computer user but I do benefit from reading the news on the Register and

    enjoy this section very much.

    My own experiences from work (I'm now retired) had more to do with upper management thinking they

    knew what they were doing and not knowing enough about what the actual business (import-export ocean shipping) involved. I worked for an agency (small profit margin so didn't like to spend money) but I saw programs from a major Korean shipping line that had a major flaw in it (cargo moved from load port A to destination port B in the system...in theory but there was nothing in the program to link up the pre-shipment from the feeder vessel origin port to the load port. Fortunately I had handled cargo from an Australian line which had an excellent program and I was able to apply how they manifested it to look for the information in the Korean system...it was there but there was no connection between the two. The people in the Long Beach Hanjin office had been trained but it was all rote learning. I did a copy screen/paste explanation as well as reminding the senior IT person at the agency about the US Customs fines for improper declaration of cargo ($50,000 each, to start). I was later told that I should continue to look up the info my way and advise our customer's other agent in the foreign loadport so they could handle it.

    This was around 2000 and we had been running something, don't know what.. The powers that be decided they needed their own system and so created one. The company was based in Mobile AL and they had shut down a couple times because of hurricanes so they decided they needed something safe...so they located the system in Peru. Not that they have earthquakes there or anything. And all phone calls were a primate form of Skype so that raised the frustration level considerably. Turns out they based their program on

    a trucking program and just 'expanded' it to handle ocean shipping. Well with that kind of logic what could go wrong?

    Fortunately I was offered a job at another agency. They had AS400 and while it didn't have bells and whistles I explored it and found reports I could run that no one else knew about (people who had been

    using it for years). The company I left had so many problems from the 'new' computer system they lost

    customers and ultimately were bought out. The 'genius' computer system was then marketed to trucking companies.

    Hanjin continued to have problems with their transship cargo. ANL (the Australian company) will always have my respect for how they handled everything. Occasionally, just occasionally, you see people who do things right and will share the knowledge with you.

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