back to article Please do not scare the pigeons – they'll crash the network

Welcome again to On-Call, The Register's Friday column in which we share readers' recollections of odd jobs in odd places at odd times. This week, meet “Ethan” who tells us that “in the heady days of the 1990s I was employed as an IT engineer at a company providing booking systems to entertainment venues around the UK.” Ethan …

  1. A K Stiles
    Joke

    What a load of sh^H^H (pigeon) poop!

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Pigeon poo, once described by a team of radio astronomers as a 'white dielectric material' on their telescope dishes. After discounting the effects of this shit, they went on to discover cosmic microwave background radiation, thus giving strong evidence to the big bang theory.

      Biologists, I am sure, would have had a different term for it.

      1. jake Silver badge

        This ain't no shit ...

        CBR found. No poop to be seen.

        1. Dave 126 Silver badge

          Re: This ain't no shit ...

          No poop was found *after* they installed a pigeon trap near their apparatus.

          http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smithsonian-institution/how-scientists-confirmed-big-bang-theory-owe-it-all-to-a-pigeon-trap-180949741/

          I made a mistake though, it wasn't a dish but a horn-shaped receiver that they were using.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        So they used cosmic microwaves to explode pigeons making a loud noise in the process? Sounds like a useful discovery.

  2. Tom 7 Silver badge

    Interesting.

    But not as interesting as to why the fuck buying tickets is the only thing in the fucking world that needs a fucking surcharge,

    1. phuzz Silver badge
      Alert

      Re: Interesting.

      Well, you might think that tickets are just printed onto card, but actually they're made of depleted uranium, and hand lettered by monks.

      That's the only way I can explain the prices big ticket sellers charge for postal delivery anyway.

      (Although, can I plug Bristol Ticket Shop for not being money gouging bastards?)

      1. kain preacher Silver badge

        Re: Interesting.

        Ahem ticket masters charged my mom a printing surcharge. She printed the fucking tickets out her self. Ticketmaster makes Ryanair look like armatures when it comes to needless surcharges .

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: Interesting.

          Here they call that a "convenience charge" if you print them yourself, and is strangely equal to the print charge if you have them do it

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Interesting.

          Armatures? No need to go all medieval on them.

          1. kain preacher Silver badge

            Re: Interesting.

            Actually yes there is a need to need to get four or five pipe hitting mother f***s and get medieval on them. Channeling Vhing rhames now.

            Yes I know that's not the exact quote but I don't think el reg will let me say it.

          2. Down not across Silver badge

            Re: Interesting.

            Armatures? No need to go all medieval on them.

            No need? NO NEED? There is all the need. And then some.

    2. TWB

      Re: Interesting.

      And not only that - a booking fee! - it's not as if I cannot buy them without (rarely do they seem to sell them at box offices anymore)

    3. oiseau Silver badge
      Go

      Re: Interesting.

      Hmmm ...

      "But not as interesting as to why the fuck buying fucking tickets is the only fucking thing in the fucking world that needs a fucking surcharge."

      There, fixed it for you.

      Have a good week-end.

  3. malle-herbert Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Had something similar...

    With a WLAN (Wireless-LAN) unit that stopped functioning intermittently...

    Turned out a bunch of pigeons had a nest in a tree nearby and sometimes would sit on the small dish blocking the signal coming from the other building...

    1. theblackhand

      Re: Had something similar...

      Had something similar at a tertiary educational institute.

      We had a microwave link between two sites around 3 miles apart. On lunchtime, the link went down.

      Upon investigation, a student was found sitting on a ledge in front of one of the microwave dishes eating his lunch. We are unsure if the microwaves did any real harm - it wasn't an institution noted for it's academic achievements and usually any pigeons who sat there two long usually just fell over the edge...

      1. Outer mongolian custard monster from outer space (honest)

        Re: Had something similar...

        Sounds familiar about the fell over the edge, a company I worked for had a microwave link between two offices on opposite sides of a busy road when expanding, right by a bus depot, just above the height of passing buses so they didn't disrupt the link waiting at the traffic lights nearby. Once installed we noticed a massive uptick in dead pidgeons on the road, in fact it go so bad the council came round after complaints from the bus company about dead birds splattered all over their vehicles and we had to recruit a runner with a brush and bin bag to move the carcasses a few times a day as it was a health risk to pedestrians apparently.

        We reckoned the birds could see the link and thought it was a handy place to land and watch the traffic pass below, then missed their footing when it suddenly wasn't there and drop a few feet accidentally, right into the path of the upper deck of a oncoming number 10. I think we got a cable based solution put in eventually as it worked out more cost effective than paying mr broom and dealing with upset people...

      2. Nolveys Silver badge

        Re: Had something similar...

        @theblackhand

        a student was found sitting on a ledge in front of one of the microwave dishes eating his lunch

        "Wow, I can't believe this coffee is still warm."

        1. JetSetJim Silver badge
          Paris Hilton

          Re: Had something similar...

          Isn't there some urban legend of some frigid outpost having a microwave dish and a site maintenance man, who was later found dead sitting in the dish as he'd thought it was a nice place to keep warm and it cooked him?

  4. Olivier2553

    10base2 outside of the building you said?

    In June 1997, we hosted our first video conference, but the network access was 500 meters away from the auditorium where the conference would take place. I ended up hanging 50 ohms coaxial cable in the trees, across the streets, between the two buildings. With a couple of repeaters installed at strategic points (10base2 was limited to approximately 200m), it did the trick.

    In our case, it had to last only one afternoon. But at the entrance of the auditorium building, I had used a hole in the wall that let the central air conditioning conduits in, and a length of 50 ohm cable had been abandoned there for years.

    10base2 was known for unstable connections with bad quality or badly installed BNC connectors.

    1. frank ly Silver badge

      Re: 10base2 outside of the building you said?

      If you think coax is 'fun', try making triax connections, they're hilarious.

      1. Neil Barnes Silver badge
        Unhappy

        Re: 10base2 outside of the building you said?

        Triax? Triax is for wimps - TV101 is a connector for men!

        (and yes, you don't make the engineers happy when you lay your camera cable over a stretch of 'unused' railway and they have to make the two hundred and two connections to rejoin the cable together again, only four foot eight and a half shorter...)

        1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: 10base2 outside of the building you said?

          ...a stretch of 'unused' railway...

          Check the rail surface. If it's rusty, you're likely OK. If it's shiny, GTFO!

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: 10base2 outside of the building you said?

            In our small town, we had some people set up their chairs and picnic equipment on the tracks - a main line - because it was a good vantage point to see the 4th of July fireworks.

            They wrote a furious letter to the paper because a train came along and they could have been killed.

            Oddly enough, a couple of people have been killed along that stretch: they were each walking along the tracks with their ear buds in. Family sued the railroad each time.

          2. herman Silver badge

            Re: 10base2 outside of the building you said?

            Well, he could for the same effort have threaded it under the rails.

      2. Alistair Silver badge
        Windows

        Re: 10base2 outside of the building you said?

        Had to run triax connections around the first office I wired up for an System36. *shudders*

    2. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: 10base2 outside of the building you said?

      I had 10BasetT between buildings as a primary network connection in the academic network I ran in those days.

      I had to use some gigantic (15cm in length if memory serves me right) lightning protectors on it. Otherwise both sides of the link ended up with fried network cards after one of out of 3-4 thunderstorms (once a week). We still used throw away 486SX Linux routers at the end - even with the isolators one of them ended up taking lightning damage once in a while ~ once a year. This continued for 2-3 years until the next rounds of academic budget cuts emptied the buildings on both side and the whole thing fell into disrepair.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 10base2 outside of the building you said?

      10base2 was known for unstable connections with bad quality or badly installed BNC connectors.

      We ran ARCnet at some places (with PowerLAN) and had all sorts of weird issues. Once I'd worked out that the problem was a bad batch of terminators (which didn't, basically) I sent the whole lot back to the supplier, bought the parts from RS Component and spent an evening soldering. It made a whole world of difference to our stability.

      Those lessons came in handy when we moved to 10base2, after we had systematically hunted down and removed every last ARCnet terminator in the two office buildings we had (as they have a different impedance and Murphy's Law always applies). We again made our own terminators, and as our users had already worked out on PowerLAN that network cables shall not be f*cked with we had a fairly stable setup.

      A side effect of that sort of networks was that you ended up with all sorts of things made from left over T-pieces :).

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: 10base2 outside of the building you said?

        We ran ARCnet at some places (with PowerLAN) and had all sorts of weird issues. Once I'd worked out that the problem was a bad batch of terminators (which didn't, basically)

        Really? never had any issues with Arcnet. You could even run it on barbed wire.

        Of course, a telegraph system would have been faster, but...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: 10base2 outside of the building you said?

          never had any issues with Arcnet. You could even run it on barbed wire.

          That's probably where I went wrong then, as a networking novice - I used coax.

          :)

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: 10base2 outside of the building you said?

        Ahhh - arcnet - had a similar setup - only issue was that we could only use certain 8-bit cards - anything else wouldn't work due to proprietary network drivers....

        system also used scsi and (in the case of some of the older kit) winchester drives... and tweaking memory in the machines to try to load everything in ( proprietary linux db running under msdos)...

        tellers (yes it was a bank) were equipped with XT's ...

        kept that system running right through to 1999 when they finally converted to a new system and ethernet....

      3. Long John Brass Silver badge
        Gimp

        Re: 10base2 outside of the building you said?

        I loved ARCnet; Was a code monkey/SysAdmin/Network guy running DataPoint kit. Some very fond memories of the 8600's and RMS then later RMS/XA on x86 CPUs.

        I remember making a 4 port hub as the official ones were eye bleedingly expensive

        Just 4 resisters! (Can't remember the values)

        ARCnet was if I remember 2mbit, could run in star and/or bus configurations. It was a virtual token ring; So it's max throughput was very close to the 2mbit limit; Way better than Ethernet was in those days. The only time our net went down was when one of the cards decided to flood the network with "Hey I'm here, whats my token #" requests.

        There was a rumour that DataPoint was to release a 20mbit version, but they were too slow too market. 3com and friends stole the march as DP was being to tight fisted with royalty demands or at least thats was what I was told at the time.

        Ahhh ... Happy days

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: 10base2 outside of the building you said?

          I remember making a 4 port hub as the official ones were eye bleedingly expensive

          Just 4 resisters! (Can't remember the values)

          As far as I recall it was all 50Ω. I recall having some trouble locating resistors of exactly 50Ω as they were not in the usual E-ranges we use. E-range 47Ω fell just outside the 5% margin we normally worked with, and in those days my BOFH skills were not yet developed enough to just wing it anyway, also because my radio experience had made me very wary of reflections..

      4. Arachnoid

        "We ran ARCnet "

        So do you wear a dark coloured suit and glasses for work.Maybe we should simply refer to you as "A"?

    4. Down not across Silver badge

      Re: 10base2 outside of the building you said?

      10base2 was known for unstable connections with bad quality or badly installed BNC connectors.

      And people who decided to relocate the t-connector from back of the machine near the wall so they could run just a single cable to the machine. Sigh.

      Even more fun to be had chasing badly installed vampire taps on 10Base5. I never quite understood how anyone who was installing it would NOT know that the markings in the cable are for a reason and yes it does bloody matter where you put the tap.

  5. Baldrickk Silver badge

    Re-crimp?

    Re-crimping the cable - sounds to me like a temporary solution at best. If that much strain is being put on it, it is likely to fail again. The more robust solution would be to slacken the cable so that the wire support does its job and takes the strain, not the network cable.

    1. Ol' Grumpy

      Re: Re-crimp?

      Or shoot the pigeons! (Although one imagines the contributor doesn't have a firearms license :))

      1. Mark 85 Silver badge

        @Ol' Grumpy -- Re: Re-crimp?

        Or shoot the pigeons! (Although one imagines the contributor doesn't have a firearms license :))

        One would need unlimited ammunition to do that.

      2. Shadow Systems Silver badge

        @Grumpy, re: shooting pigeons...

        I thought we were supposed to be...

        *Takes a deep breath & starts to sing*

        Poisoning pigeons in the park!

        =-)p

        I'll get my coat, it's the one with the white crusted shoulders & hood.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: @Grumpy, re: shooting pigeons...

          "I'll get my coat, it's the one with the white crusted shoulders & hood."

          And a few dead squirrels in the pockets?

          1. DougS Silver badge

            Re: @Grumpy, re: shooting pigeons...

            Whether you want a permanent fix or something that will last for a month or two depends on whether the locale four hours away you were sent to has good nightlife - just make sure you re-fix it late enough that you have to stay the night.

          2. BebopWeBop Silver badge

            Re: @Grumpy, re: shooting pigeons...

            And a few dead squirrels in the pockets?

            squrrels shurely?

            1. DropBear Silver badge
              Devil

              Re: @Grumpy, re: shooting pigeons...

              Awww, whatever happened to "feed* the birds, tuppence a bag"...?

              * laced with something fast-acting, preferably...

    2. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Re-crimp?

      A temporary solution is just that. With luck it'll hold til someone with a different toolkit (hammer drill, anchor points, steel support cable and crimps, zip ties etc) can give it some attention.

      Self-amalgamating tape is commonly used to waterproof cable junctions. And I've just discovered that if it is lightly wiped with a suitable solvent such as Sticky Label Remover, it works a treat for holding items on dashboards when semi-permenant is what you want. You can use it fashion tool handles, and many other things. A really, really handy thing to keep in your toolkit or car. Sometimes sold as 'leak repair tape'.

    3. Allan George Dyer Silver badge
      Holmes

      Re: Re-crimp?

      "so that the wire support does its job "

      You assume there was a wire support.

  6. jake Silver badge

    Something smells ... and it ain't pigeon shit.

    So the birds would contentedly sit on the wire with many patrons milling about underneath, but they would suddenly fly off when our lone, solitary hero entered the picture?

    Pull the other one.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Something smells ... and it ain't pigeon shit.

      I think the story was saying that if disturbed, by either punters or IT heroes, the pigeons flew up and sat on the cable.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Something smells ... and it ain't pigeon shit.

        I think you didn't read the story.

        1. Dabooka Silver badge

          Re: Something smells ... and it ain't pigeon shit.

          My reading leads me to think that birds pecking outside fly up when punters arrive and sit on cable = lost connection. Our tech rocks up, gets near the wire they're perched on and they fly off elsewhere, only to return when all is quiet. Well, after $hitting all over his motor (probably a Montego, and I have absolutely no reason whatsoever for assuming this).

          1. Paul Kinsler

            pigeons

            ah - they are three-state pigeons - on Ground, on Wire, Elsewhere/Car.

            Theatregoers passing by on the ground cause pigeons to transition between Ground and Wire

            IT bloke looking at wire causes them to transition from Wire to Elsewhere/Car

            IT bloke no-longer looking at wire means they return from Elsewhere/Car to sit on Wire

            Presumably if left alone long enough, the pigeons will undergo a spontaneous return to their Ground state; the Wire state being only metastable.

            1. herman Silver badge

              Re: pigeons

              Tri-state Pigeons:

              00: Peck on ground

              01: Sit on Wire

              10: Shit on car

  7. Ian Emery Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Winged Rats? No, but Tree Rats, yeah, had issues with those.

    Little bastards chew the cables, as well as use them as a short cut to the walnut tree.

    Which reminds me of the joke, "What do you call nuts on your wall?"

    According to my Chinese wife, Pigeon and Squirrel taste much the same when barbecued..

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Winged Rats? No, but Tree Rats, yeah, had issues with those.

      Whilst doing a rendering job (of the lime mortar variety) on top of a stable yard wall, we heard what sounded like hail fall around us - strange on a sunny day. Sticking out heads over the edge we saw the groundsman and his mate with shotguns below us, shooting up at squirrels in the trees. "Oi!" we shouted, grinning.

      When we came back to site the next morning, two dead squirrels had been left on top of the cement mixer by way of apology. I thought squirrels were supposed to hide their nuts, but one had balls the size of wallnuts twixt legs.

      My workmate had eaten and enjoyed squirrel before, but said he didn't have the practice to skin them in a sensible timeframe.

    2. EddieD

      Re: Winged Rats? No, but Tree Rats, yeah, had issues with those.

      They sell squirrel (grey only) at my local market.

      It tastes a bit like wild rabbit, but is a tad tougher, and needs slow stewing. Also, there's not much meat on them so you need at least one per person.

      Red squirrels can't be eaten as they taste horrible due to a secretion from a gland near their kidneys.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Back before the days of "modern" computers

    A friend of mine used to work for a company specializing in pneumatic computers - basically lots of bits of pipe arranged in special ways to build integrators, differentiators, adders, etc. (similar to analog computers).

    Anyway, one 24/7 site would work perfectly for two shifts but would always fail at the same time during the night shift. When he turned up to fault-find in the morning everything would be working as expected and no faulty components could be identified.

    He finally got approval for overtime so he could sit in to watch what happened during the night shift to identify what was different. It took two minutes. The operator arrived with a large, hot, steaming cup of coffee which he proceeded to put on the "computer" right next to the air intake used by the small air compressor that was used to drive everything. The steam from the coffee would get sucked in and the moisture would condense with the pipes and mechanics making bits stick. It didn't that too long for everything to dry out and for normal operation to be restored.

    Simple fix - enforce the "no food or drink in this area" policy and add a desiccant filter to the inlet.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Back before the days of "modern" computers

      The steam from the coffee would get sucked in and the moisture would condense with the pipes and mechanics making bits stick.

      Wow.. if it was a digital pneumatic computer, then it literally would be "making bits stick"

  9. /\/\j17

    Reminds me of my days as a desk troll...

    “in the days of 10BASE2 cheapernet cabling that was hung around the office like a string of Christmas lights. For those not old enough to remember, the major disadvantage of this type of cabling is that a single break anywhere would bring down the entire network.”

    Reminds me of my early days as a desk troll, where I seems to spend most of my day hiding under desks with a real of sellotape. Ahh, AppleTalk network connectors...

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Reminds me of my days as a desk troll...

      We had AppleTalk and 10Base2.

      Our biggest problem was people taking their PCs to other sites for meetings/demonstrations. They would unplug the coax of both sides of the T connector and leave the T connector plugged into the PC... Result: no network.

      I awalys had a bunch of spare Ts in my toolkit - in fact, put them together properly, with a bunch of end connectors and you get a pretty good Tie-Fighter.

  10. Alfie

    First desk troll job

    We had 10Base2 cabling between 2 hubs and our router which went down all the time, fortunately we had a fibre link between the main office and the lab next door which never failed, and then AppleTalk RJ11 connections to the office Macs. That network on its own kept me busy for hours on end. I took to carrying a spare 50ohm terminator in my pocket at all times. Then there were the fixed IP addresses and DNS tables to manage. God it was shit!

    1. Vic

      Re: First desk troll job

      Then there were the fixed IP addresses and DNS tables to manage

      At the risk of going all Yorkshire on you - bloody luxury!

      We used to have kit flown in late one evening, and I'd have to have it ready for customer demo the following morning. It all ran RARP, which meant that the first thing was to map MAC to IP address in /etc/ethers, then IP to hostname in /etc/hosts. And all that was so much easier if they'd actually labelled the kit with its MAC address.

      And then I'd have to write the customer demo...

      Vic.

  11. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    fun times with 10base2 networks... especially when some helpful soul unplugged the terminators and plugged the cable back into itself...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I've seen so many unintentional loops in ethernet networks that I wouldn't blame 10base2 for that. It's the users who "helpfully" tidied the place and plugged the hanging extra cable to the the empty socket...

  12. groovyf

    We used to have a known issue with our microwave link for the phone system to the local BT Exchange down the road whereby trees in the line-of-sight would obscure the view if it got too windy or they grew too much (nothing some pruning/trimming couldn't solve). However, one day, we kept losing connection throughout the day for random periods of time before connectivity was restored... we knew it wasn't the trees this time.

    On my way home, I noticed workmen on the roof of the BT exchange... then it dawned on me that with them wandering around up there that they would have been obscuring the receiving dish from our site from time to time.

    Thankfully, we know longer use this system!

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      "I noticed workmen on the roof of the BT exchange... then it dawned on me that with them wandering around up there that they would have been obscuring the receiving dish from our site from time to time."

      Back in the days when I worked for a telco we used to impress on anyone going anywhere near the dishes that they were _NOT_ to stand in front of them for fear of being sterilised.

      One got smart and said that he's already had a vasectomy - at which point a set of _very_ rusty scissors were waved about and pointed to as the part to be afraid of when in the hands of an annoyed tech.

  13. gryff

    Flashback Friday

    "“in the days of 10BASE2 cheapernet cabling that was hung around the office like a string of Christmas lights. For those not old enough to remember, the major disadvantage of this type of cabling is that a single break anywhere would bring down the entire network."

    Suddenly I'm back in my first job working at REA21A, for ICL with cables strung around the wall, hearing the admonition from my colleagues "Don't ever touch anything." The cable lengths were all to hell, too short to one desk, waaay too long elsewhere.

    A peculiarity of that office, I've never seen it anywhere else.

  14. sitta_europea

    More akin to the article's saga of Mysterious Patch Cable Rerouting And Evaporating, for more than fifteen years I've been fairly informally looking after the IT systems at a small local engineering firm. They have a rack with about half a dozen servers in it and I've lost count of the number of times the cables have spontaneously rewired themselves or the whole lot has gone down when somebody decided to put the kettle on using the nearest available (but not rated for the extra 2.7kW) power outlet. In the latest fiasco, earlier this year, somebody in a rage stormed out of a meeting with a director and resigned on the spot. Half a mile away, all I know is that half the Nagios screen has suddenly turned bright red.

    The firm has a /28. There's a switch on the WAN in the server cabinet. I pay a visit to the cabinet to see what's going on. People are huddled in meetings here and there, and generally looking flustered. Imagine my surprise when it turns out that a couple of Ethernet cables have somehow magically swapped themselves from the switch on the LAN to the switch on the WAN and vice-versa. Wired like that, there's no way on Earth the system could ever have worked. Naturally, the local file servers and the mail server had suddenly become inaccessible from the LAN; nobody can browse the Web; and stuff like that. Naturally, nobody had touched anything in the cabinet.

    I put a little USB camera in the rack. I can't show you the pictures, but they're interesting. :)

  15. Kevin Johnston

    *Shudder*

    That 'special tool' to drill into thick ethernet after clamping on a huge block of metal to allow an PC to be connected. And then finding some arse had ignored the 'connect here' markings and because of minimum separation you were not going to be able to connect enough to the carefully planned cable and you have to run a second along exactly the same route

    1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge

      Re: *Shudder*

      Brings back memories...and not the good kind.

      Braid strands were always shorting to the center conductor.

      The stuff DID make fairly good antenna cable, though. Not too lossy at 146 MHz, but unusable at 440.

  16. big_D Silver badge
    Pint

    Telecoms engineers

    almost as bad as pidgeons!

    We had a Kilostream line running from our London computer centre to our offices in Fareham. BT upgraded it to a megastream line. Their record was digging through the old cable 6 times in 1 day as they placed the new cable alongside the old one!

    Recently, I set up a backup system from my brother-in-law. It worked a treat, but they wanted offsite backup, but only had a 1mbps DSL line, so the backup server had to stay on site to start with.

    The telecom engineer came, upgraded their connection from 1mbps to 50mbps... My brother-in-law didn't have time to do the server move, so the backup server was left chugging away.

    Until an employee deleted some files. I came along to help with the restore, only to find that the latest files were from January - it was in April that the files were deleted. I thought I had messed up the configuration of the server, but checking the staging (daily -> weekly -> monthly replicas), they were all at the same level, so the backup HAD worked...

    The telecoms engineer had installed a new router, with a different subnet and nobody had informed me, so I changed the subnet address, still no joy. I then tried pinging random PCs, nothing, also no google... I then traced the cable back to the switch. The telecoms engineer had removed the server cable to plug in his notebook and hadn't replaced it when he was finished and nobody had thought it important enough to inform me, that the server wasn't attached to the network, "oh, it needs to be plugged in?"

    Next time, I'll superglue the f'ing cables into the switch!

    Beer: I needed some after that!

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If I hadn't read it here I would have put it down as a flight of fancy.

    1. Stevie Silver badge

      a flight of fancy.

      Peckerhead.

  18. Tinslave_the_Barelegged Silver badge

    Worked at a place in London in the early 90s, where pigeons lived on the roof space, immediately above a suspended ceiling. This was the days of IBM Type-1 cable and concentrators, which were slung on the suspended ceiling framework. So a standard piece of IT kit was a pigeon poo scraper, literally to clear the blockage when disconnections occurred.

  19. Andytug

    We had a laser link between two nearby buildings

    which would occasionally get interrupted by pigeons landing on the window sill where the laser base station was located. Also used to slow down in heavy rain......

    1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

      Re: We had a laser link between two nearby buildings

      A slightly different issue at our Delhi office: the satellite data downlink used to fail, often but not consistently, around lunchtime. Took me a week to discover a vulture was landing on the LNB arm and pushing it out of the dish focus.

      Never did discover where the vulture used to eat its breakfast and dinner...

      1. P. Lee Silver badge
        Linux

        Re: We had a laser link between two nearby buildings

        >a vulture was landing on the LNB arm and pushing it out of the dish focus

        Ah, microwaving its lunch.

        Smart birds, them Vultures!

        1. JimboSmith Silver badge

          Re: We had a laser link between two nearby buildings

          Sending someone off to a former colony in my broadcasting days we gave one lovely reporter a suitcase satellite kit that would allow her to 'phone' home. Showing her the correct way to use it in the office before she left - with the power off - she remarked on the triangular symbol on the front when the 'doors' were open to transmit/receive. "That's the non ionizing radiation symbol" says a fellow engineer and we then explained that it wasn't too clever to be standing in front of the unit when switched on. "So what's it doing then" the explanation was pumping out microwaves to a satellite and then half jokingly if you get stuck somewhere remote you can use it to cook your food. Always wondered if they understood that it was meant as a joke.

          1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

            Re: We had a laser link between two nearby buildings

            Heh. I had to teach reporters to use those high-speed (64k!) satellite data links - including, of course, how to use the fancy maps on the top to select the appropriate geostationary satellite, set up an approximate aim, and then use the signal strength meters to get the satellite right on line.

            I used to take them on top of Bush House to teach them, and the North Atlantic satellite was the one of choice - nicely lined up over the Houses of Parliament so an easy target even without the maps. I managed to convince some of them that I could see the satellite in daylight, and that there was something wrong with their eyes...

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: We had a laser link between two nearby buildings

        Back in the analogue days when Men were Men and you could watch films with naughty bits in on foreign channels I was at university. I got hold of a very large 1.5 - 2m dish from a local salvage place cheaply and was using that to watch Satellite TV from all over Europe and other bits and pieces. Mounted it on a pole in the back garden of the house which was supposedly for the clothes line but cemented in so worked well. The other pole supported the cable off the ground as it was run into the house through a vent. Then one day when the sun had been out all day the uniden satellite receiver we were using just displayed static snow storm on the TV. No picture or sparklies or anything which was most disconcerting. After checking the set up I spotted that the cable had disconnected from the screw on f-type connector (couldn't get any crimp on ones) going into the LNB. The self amalgamating tape unsurprisingly hadn't saved it and I had a bare wire + insulation + braiding showing.

        Fixed it got the signal back again and it worked fine until the next sunny day when the same thing happened. My housemate was home the next sunny day and she watched in amazement as the damage occurred. Our next door neighbour was vaulting the not very high wall and using the cable as a clothes line . The penny dropped that if it wasn't sunny they were using the dryer and if it was then off we go next door. They were very apologetic but had no idea that it wasn't a washing line and couldn't understand about line of sight. Thankfully the rotary job they eventually put in was next to the house and not buggering up the view of 19.2e etc.

  20. DJ Smiley

    The mystery of the internet that only worked when in the dark.

    I used to work on a service desk where we'd support a large chain of pharmacy stores in the UK, we had many such stories such as keyboards that only started working when you'd first flipped them upside down (The trick being that the cable in the back would come loose, and doing this pushed it back into position).

    However the weirdest call I experienced was a store who told me, their internet only ever worked if they sat in darkness in the back office. The moment they turned the lights on, the internet would break. I have no idea how they originally discovered this fact, but from much testing it turned out to be true - turning the lights on in the back office caused the 56k modem to completely drop the line.

    We swapped out all the equipment, part by part, wondering what on earth was going on, the modem was fine, as was the computer itself, the entire network in fact being faultless other than this very strange behaviour.

    Eventually we had to call out BT to come and look at the phone lines, and for a few weeks they kept coming back after making changes to the phone line but no one could explain what was happening. In the end we had a higher up engineer turn up who had some EE expertise. He suggested they replace the bulbs and ballast in the florescent lamps they had in their back office. Instantly the problem was resolved! I'm not sure of the exact details, but basically the lights coming on was creating a charge on the phone line, large enough that it caused disconnections each time the lights were turned on.

    1. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip Silver badge

      Re: The mystery of the internet that only worked when in the dark.

      This is not rare. CFL and LED lights can put out a whole lot of interference. My projector which has an RF remote will not switch on or off when the lights are on, bacause they interfere with the RF signal.

      1. David Nash Silver badge

        Re: The mystery of the internet that only worked when in the dark.

        Indeed. The DAB radio in my kitchen stopped working when I replaced the multiple MR16 halogen bulbs with cheap LED ones.

        1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

          Re: The mystery of the internet that only worked when in the dark.

          The DAB radio in my kitchen stopped working when I replaced the multiple MR16 halogen bulbs with cheap LED ones.

          Ditto. First I got cheap chinese ones with good light quality but they were complete DAB killers. Changed to AmazonBasics LEDs and the radio worked again.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The mystery of the internet that only worked when in the dark.

        Trying to get an infrared remote control system to work proved to be intermittent. Put a 'scope on the receiver to see the bit train. Then we saw the noise from the overhead fluorescent tube.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The mystery of the internet that only worked when in the dark.

        In the early days of transistors it was found that you could make a Mullard OC71 work like a much more expensive photo-transistor. All you did was to use paint-stripper to remove the plastic case's black paint - the body plastic was translucent.

        Then one day the trick didn't work. Mullard had switched to using a black plastic for the case. People then used the GE GET series transistors by cutting the top off the metal can and "sealing" it with clear tape.

        Doing radio repairs on sunny days it was noticed that with the circuit board out of the case there would be audio noise synchronised with passing clouds. The transistors were metal cased - but had a translucent underside where the leads exited.

    2. Stevie Silver badge

      Re: The mystery of the internet that only worked when in the dark. 4 DJ Smiley

      I once had a job at a machine tool manufacturer. We used an antiquated ICL 1901T connected to terminals via 7502 remote processors each about the size and shape of a large stereo receiver of the time. One of the 7502s was right at the 300 ft limit ICL put on the cabling, which required me to go down to the spares department each morning and sit twiddling a gain control while Dan the Operator attempted time and again to run the teleload of the O/S past the induced noise from radios, street lamps and Azathoth alone knows what else picked up by that cable. It must've been like trying to talk to someone during a Hawkwind concert in full swing. Fun times.

      Anyway.

      We had one terminal which was hooked up via another very long wire (VLW), about 100 feet or so, that ran across the machine shop to another of these 7502s. Should anyone power down the factory (eg during August Bank Hols), when they powered it back up again we'd take two crashes. One for the WWII-era shop lights when they came on, and a few minutes (and a teleload) later one for all the bloody six-spindle machine tools waking up at full speed at the same time.

      We tried all sorts of things but that VLW was acting like an aerial and the lights and machine tools were as EMF noisy as a bleeding quasar.

    3. ma1010 Silver badge

      Re: The mystery of the internet that only worked when in the dark.

      Bad ballasts can really put out a lot of RF. Had a situation in the midwest US where, in about a 2 block area, car key fobs quit working, and even police radios weren't working right. Nobody could lock/unlock their car with their key fob in that area. Nobody could figure out why. Que some local ham radio people who came in and "foxhunted" the problem down to a chinese-made ballast in a nearby warehouse putting out an amazing amount of radio noise.

  21. sjrh72

    You were really 'Winging' I.T there :s

  22. 0laf Silver badge
    Holmes

    I used to work in a school that was based in a building which was ~150yr old. One day there was a break in the network. did the usual stuff and ruled out everything else so had to inspect the cable.

    The cable went into the foundations so I had to go down with a torch and trace it. About 10m in the cable passed under a boulder that had been left from construction. the boulder must have weighed a good few tons and had moved on level ground to roll over and nip the cable. Spooky.

    The only thing we could think of is that we were in a known UK earthquake area. It might have been a tremor which wasn't noticeable to us but which was enough to tip over the rock.

    I also found love poetry from the 1800s in a pigeon shit filled loft and incredibly racist comics from the 1920s in a coom.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Newspaper and other printed materials were often used to insulate rooms, pad old furniture and lag pipes... I can't imagine today's online news text resurfacing in a hundred years in such strange places.

      Whenever the Reg might feel superior to the Daily Mail, remember that you can't use the Reg to light a campfire, wipe your arse or bulk out some drying boots.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "Newspaper and other printed materials were often used to insulate rooms, pad old furniture and lag pipes..."

        In the 1960s my parents put down new lino in one of the bedrooms. Underneath the old lino was a layer of sheets of relatively ancient newspaper to stop it sticking to the floorboards.

    2. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      Incredibly racist comics

      What were you doing in a coom?

      https://lewstringer.blogspot.co.uk/ if I've got that right - search for (Blimey! blog) if not - is interested in antique comics (of the funnies on paper sort) as well as the latest doings of Superman and Beryl the Peril (usually in different books). The older material can be extremely off-colour. For that matter, the acknowledged original comic strip is "The Yellow Kid".

      Racially insensitive humour apparently considered unremarkable runs up to [The Goodies] in the 1970s, as well as BBC radio productions that are currently being repeated, sometimes with trigger warnings from the continuity voice. A 1960s radio sketch in [Play It Cool] that I heard yesterday featured a businessman's neglected wife throwing brown custard at him and then jeering at the "chocolate coloured tycoon". That's not the worst but I expect it comes as a jolt if it's aimed at you.

      1. 0laf Silver badge

        Re: Incredibly racist comics

        I didn't keep them and it was just a few pages but the particular strip was "The naughty little nigs of Toy Town"

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Still using 10Base-2 ?

    When I started with my current employer, only 9 years ago, I was amazed at how many HMG sites still had critical systems that were dependent on Thin Ethernet.

    Most is now gone, but I know that some will still be found in comms room, but fortunately redundant.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A naval air base reported intermittent lost connections for one terminal on a their lan. Only happened occasionally - but often enough to be annoying.

    Then one day someone noticed that the disconnection coincided with a Harrier jump jet landing or taking off on the concrete pad outside that building. Finally diagnosed to a loose connection in the wall box for that terminal.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
      Coat

      "Then one day someone noticed that the disconnection coincided with a Harrier jump jet landing or taking off on the concrete pad outside that building. Finally diagnosed to a loose connection in the wall box for that terminal."

      But there was no budget to fix it due to MoD cut backs. The only remaining solution was to get rid of the Harriers.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Tape drive fun

    Back in the day as a field engineer I had a customer who had issues with a tape storage machine, the large reel-reel type, it wouldn't stop when the tape reached the end or something similar, but it only happened in the afternoon and then not all days.

    To cut a long story short, sunlight through the window, only in the afternoon, was confusing a sensor. Cured by a strategically placed piece of tape on the front cover. Took a while to work that one out.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Tape drive fun

      A countrywide network kept losing one of its nodes on a very irregular basis. It would be ok for weeks - then fail several times. The only common factor was that it was always about the same time in an afternoon. The engineers would be dispatched but could never find a fault with the node computer.

      The problem was that the maintenance engineers would occasionally leave one of the computer's doors open. This opening faced a window. When the sun reached a critical position it warmed up one of the boards in the computer. A cracked chip would then expand enough to break a connection. When the sun was no longer in that position, or the door was closed, everything returned to normal.

      Everyone smiled - the node was in Manchester.

    2. John R. Macdonald

      Re: Tape drive fun

      A couple of similar war stories: Early 1970's the company decides they need a picture of the mainframe computer room for a company publication. Bring in professional photographer, run an all-tape sort job so as turn on all those pretty lights on the tape drives. Photographer takes his picture ... and the flash triggers a sensor somewhere causing an emergency shutdown of the whole mainframe.

      A bank where I was a contractor in the 1970's started suffering an outage every, say Tuesday, morning, at 9:00 on a segment of their network. It took six months to find the root cause which was part of the cabling for that segment was buried next to a railway line. Every Tuesday morning an exceptionally heavy goods train would come rumbling down the line at 9:00 causing vibrations that knocked out that segment.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Network engineer gets woken in the middle of the night. His boss tells him to get to a customer site asap "because they are in the shit". Strange - his boss doesn't normally use language like that.

    Gets to site and goes into the comms room. The modem rack is covered with a foul sludge dripping from the false ceiling tiles.

    The ladies toilet on the floor above had had a blockage. Maintenance had poured caustic solutions into the toilet. When that failed to clear it - they had then pushed in the drain-cleaning rod. They felt a sudden "give" in the obstruction and the toilet flushed ok - job done.

    Unfortunately the "give" was the 100mm (4inch) waste pipe parting at a push-fit joint - in the false ceiling void above the modem racks.

    1. kain preacher Silver badge

      call in the cleaners as my contract does not involve bio waste.

    2. Mark York 3 Silver badge
      Alert

      Many Years Ago

      Not sure where I heard it (might have been on El Reg) about a shit\urine flooded comms\electrical room in a basement.

      Basically......

      The building designer\plumbing contractor had routed all the black water into a straight pipe for the entire building (not sure if a office or tower block) with a 90 degree bend at the very bottom.

      The inertial mass of free-falling turds with gallons of falling water from the top floors, had over time weakened the joint\pipe & the thing finally gave way. So the pipes contents instead of carrying on the journey to the sewers, the cellar comms room had taken on a new role as a septic tank.

      Something not quite similar happened when a "restroom" flooded at a slaughterhouse I used to work at.

  27. nilfs2
    Holmes

    Narcopaloma

    The pigeon on the picture was used in a costarican prison to smuggle drugs inside, slingshots have been used as well for the same purpose, clever bastards.

  28. Stevie Silver badge
    Pint

    Bah!

    Beer for everyone + dog.

    Entirely believable and entertaining mystery SA story.

    How on earth did it get printed in this column?

  29. Alex Wilson

    Once dealt with a broadband install where the cable ran past a pigpen, broadband dropped offline every day between 9am and 7pm and nobody could figure out why... turned out a dodgy sodium lamp ballast in the pigpen was screwing with the signal every time the lights came on...

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    We had something similar, but dumber

    We inherited infrastructure for a two-building site that had fiber run between them. Not underground, like a sane person would do. Not even properly supported through the air like a sane person on a tight budget would implement. No, no, no, they took regular indoor fiber, wrapped it in those cheap plastic cable-disguising covers that you use to bundle / hide cables behind your desk, and just let hit hang between the buildings. Needless to say, the weather took a toll on this eventually, and this is in Southern California where we don't even have much weather to speak of. We eventually switched to WiFi bridging with proper kit, which has been quite stable.

  31. Mark 85 Silver badge

    Token Ring?

    First IT job I had was company running Token Ring with the cabling run up to the cross beams and along them. Their office was a beautiful wood building with cathedral ceilings. Mangelment decided to put in drop ceilings for noise reduction. Yep.. the installers managed to nail every damn cable while installing the ceiling. We spent a solid week of 20 hour days replacing every cable. The up side... the president of the company stayed with us, helped when he could and kept us in great food and beer. And then added a bonus onto the overtime pay.

  32. User McUser
    IT Angle

    evaporation being Ethan's best guess about the cause of problems in situations when users would not admit to having touched a thing.

    Reminds me of an old (possibly part of a joke) technical support form from the mid-90s which read in part:

    "Please note what you were doing at the time the error occurred. (If 'Nothing' please explain why you were wasting our computing resources.)"

  33. DanceMan
    Joke

    Non-IT pigeon story

    In the 1980's Brian McMaster Welsh National Opera time there was a production of Cunning Little Vixen, an animal allegory, that had a small comic interlude of three housewife pigeons, bandana tied around hair, apron over housedress, leaning on brooms, smoking and cackling to each other. Combined with the experience of a rental home with a roof dormer infested with pigeons who shat a huge pile right where they roosted, my image of pigeons ever since has been of an urban rubbie, cigarette dangling out of its beak, rummaging around the sidewalks and panhandling the passersby, "Got any bread crumbs, buddy?"

  34. sitta_europea

    All this talk about fluorescent ballasts reminds me...

    About fifteen years ago, over one weekend we had the sales office refurbished.

    Monday dawns. The reasonably new 400CPM dot-matrix printer that prints multi-part NCR forms won't work. It's doing the strangest things, running past end of line, printing gobbledygook, not responding sanely to queries and setup commands. This is serious -- we can't print invoices!

    We try everything. Factory reset, new cables, firmware update, replace interface cards. We even strip, oil and reassemble it. No joy.

    It's on a maintenance contract with the manufacturer, so we call them and they send out a guy to look at it. He does a load of re-calibration of sensors inside the thing, which fixes it, and says he's only ever seen this sort of thing happen when people change the light fittings -- for example from incandescent to fluorescent.

    But we haven't done that. The light fittings haven't been touched.

    Then the awful truth dawns. We've had the colour of the floor tiles changed from dark blue to light grey.

  35. EmleyMoor

    Pigeons causing trouble

    I worked in a university building in the centre of a fairly large city once, on the 3rd and 4th floors of a building. Not surprisingly, there were lots of pigeons about. On numerous occasions all computer technical staff (there were 5 of us) had to remind people, often Professors, not to leave the windows open when vacating a room AT ANY TIME, no matter how long you intend to be gone.

    We typically said "it only takes a moment for a pigeon to get in here and do no good at all to the computer(s) you have in here" - often after finding a pigeon in an office we'd been called to or asked to visit to carry out an upgrade or something.

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