back to article Support team discovers 'official' vendor paper doesn't rob you blind

Hello, Friday. And hello, therefore, another instalment of On-Call, The Register's week-ending reader-contributed tales of support jobs that occasionally work out for the best. This week, meet “Ben”, who told us that “In the early 'noughts I worked for a large tape/disk vendor.” In his early training some of the tape support …

  1. DJ Smiley

    I find this story very odd.

    So the tapes either weren't reading at all, or were reading as different tapes to the ones in the drive - fine.

    Now if they weren't reading at all, and to robot thought there was no tape, then surely it would of become very obvious once the robot went to retrieve the tape from the drive, and failed because 'I can't find the tape!'

    Terrible debugging and reporting is what caused this problem, exasperated by a customer using unsupported hardware.

    1. Lee D Silver badge

      Coupled with the usual "Oh, no, we haven't changed anything" syndrome from the customer, most likely.

      Yeah, it's odd that in a device costing quite a lot of money, nobody bothered to put in a routine that said "Hold on, I can't read that barcode, better alert the user in an obvious and sensible fashion".

      1. Olivier2553 Silver badge

        Probably because unreadable barcode was resolved into no tape in the slot.

        1. Lee D Silver badge

          What a stupid failure mode and assumption that is, then.

          Hell, put a barcode at the BACK of the empty slot and if you read that barcode - yeah, it's fair to assume it's empty. Or a 20p micro-switch testing for physical presence per slot to distinguish "no tape / physical obstruction" from "tape has a slightly smudged barcode".

          But tapes get handled and modified, and it must have read it once to put it in that location. It's bad design to not distinguish between a bad barcode, and one that doesn't even exist.

          1. Stevie Silver badge

            4 Lee D

            "Hell, put a barcode at the BACK of the empty slot and if you read that barcode - yeah, it's fair to assume it's empty. "

            So if I understand this suggestion correctly we need to print new labels (on the right sort of paper though we don't know that yet), somehow stick them in the back of each hopper in just the right place for the laser to see it - assuming we don't need to re-engineer the laser assembly to fulfill this new use-case, then rewrite the firmware so the new decision tree is implemented.

            How is this easier than buying the right labels? I mean, we work with what we have, right? We can make suggestions to hardware vendors but how many have you ever seen implemented? Post-sales?

            As for the tapes already loaded: The issue as I read it wasn't that the arm couldn't find the silo hopper, it was that the firmware couldn't read the barcode of a tape loaded in a hopper. I dunno, but I'm not prepared to call the author a big fat liar on the strength of the tapes already in the silo because been there, seen that. Tapes might have been labelled with old, non-shiny label stock. Might have been loaded the hard way. The article speaks of doing just that.

            Sorry. Respectfully disagree with your analysis of the story.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: 4 Lee D

              I have had exactly the same error..

              You go to the place you expect to have a tape, stop, read, no read, repeat 3 times, "no tape there, WTF".

              From there, your decisions may change, but on a large tape library, probably somebody stopped the machine a took it manually, so you assume "nothing there".

              Now, the logical thing would be to take a picture and figure out if there is something there, but in the 90s that was VERY expensive in processing power, etc, way beyond what a micro controller could do.

          2. Martin an gof Silver badge

            Or a 20p micro-switch testing for physical presence

            But a microswitch per slot isn't just n times 20p, it's also all the associated wiring and the connected logic to read each slot individually.

            M.

            1. Aitor 1 Silver badge

              plus

              plus the switch consumes one pin on a microcontroller, unless you start playing with diodes, and use multicircuit switches (ala keyboard).

              Now, the switches are relatively unreliable, as anyone who has had to work with them can tell you... so you will put at least two of them and expect the same read.

              Nah, the scanner is more reliable.

          3. Alan Brown Silver badge

            "Or a 20p micro-switch testing for physical presence per slot"

            Overcomplicated, unreliable and unnecessary

            Some robots check for tapes in slots where they can't see a barcode by poking them with the same arm used to slide in tapes. If they encounter resistance to the poke, there's a tape in that slot. Other robots use an Infrared proximity sensor on the front of the picker.

            Both methods work well. I have 2 robots beside me using these methods.

            The really fun part is when you have a robotic barcode reader which can only read barcodes along the bottom third of the label and your barcodes were printed with the human-readable numbers on that side (I'm looking at you, Quantum!)

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      surely it would of become very obvious once the robot went to retrieve the tape from the drive, and failed because 'I can't find the tape!'

      The article describes exactly this except that the tapes were missed on the shelves and didn't get as far as the drives.

      Even tapes that the team put on shelves by hand weren't being detected.

      “The robot sometimes even tried to place other tapes in those 'empty' slots,”

    3. Stevie Silver badge

      4 DJ Smiley

      "Now if they weren't reading at all, and to robot thought there was no tape, then surely it would of become very obvious once the robot went to retrieve the tape from the drive, and failed because 'I can't find the tape!'

      Yes, that is pretty much the article's text. But it also talks about the chaos when a new tape needs to go into a slot already occupied.

      Been there, seen the carnage.

      "Terrible debugging and reporting is what caused this problem, exasperated by a customer using unsupported hardware."

      Nope, wrong in every way possible, including the word exasperated.

      What caused this problem was cheap, unfit for purpose labels bought to cut costs.

      A situation cannot be exasperated because it does not have emotions. I can be exacerbated though. I imagine you bought the word "exasperated" cheap to save costs and now are ruing the day, much like the boob who bought the shiny label stock that were the same size and orientation and fitted the printer so what's the diff?

      8oD

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: 4 DJ Smiley

        "What caused this problem was cheap, unfit for purpose labels bought to cut costs."

        The interesting part is that when it comes to tape labels, the sticky ones are only available from 2 makers in 3 types, none of them are shiny and they're all marked as OK for laser or inkjet use (inkjets get better results)

        You can use only sticky labels on LTO/SDLT/SAIT. Older ones could use paper/card inserts - which resulted in a lot of outfits making their own on too flimsy paper and having trouble cutting them out properly

    4. l8gravely

      Of course it's odd, they did crap trouble shooting

      Of course it's odd, the engineer did crap troubleshooting onsite. When we had problems, they always brought their own tape(s) and standard labels to check the robotics with known good stuff. Once they saw that their combo worked, they would berate you if they found out you had gone with sub-standard (theirs!) labels.

      Who else remembers printing out DLT barcodes on plain paper with a laser printer since the vendor supplied ones were pure robbery. And of course the hardware at the time wasn't nearly as good and reliable.

      The old exabyte EXB-120 libraries we're amazingly finicky about labels too.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's a bar code reader, why or how would you program or set it to read glossy labels? Frosted tape obscuring what it is reading?

    I'm not understanding this one.

    1. jake Silver badge

      The story is ...

      ... the laser light back-scatter off the glossy tape confused the barcode reader.

      Consider the reflectivity range of the materials that the barcode scanner at your local supermarket has no trouble reading. It ranges from from printing on silver Mylar to printing on dark brown cardboard (blue, purple, whathaveyou). The guts of the tape robot's scanner are exactly the same as your supermarket's scanner. It doesn't take a passing grade in Critical Thinking 101 to doubt the anecdote.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The story is ...

        "It doesn't take a passing grade in Critical Thinking 101 to doubt the anecdote."

        It is not unusual for bar codes on products to take several swipes before they register. The assistant knows there is a bar code - so persists by presenting it repeatedly. The story's tape machine apparently does not have the benefit of some other way of sensing that there is a tape available.

        My local supermarket prints "last day" reduced prices on yellow sticky labels. Quite often the checkout scanner cannot read them. They appear crisp and legible - and the assistant has no problem reading the printed number below the bar code when they then manually transcribe them.

        1. Mike Dimmick

          Re: The story is ...

          My local supermarket prints "last day" reduced prices on yellow sticky labels. Quite often the checkout scanner cannot read them. They appear crisp and legible - and the assistant has no problem reading the printed number below the bar code when they then manually transcribe them.

          One major UK supermarket had a problem in the past. They decided to encode the product price in the reduction barcode as well as the product code. Unfortunately they chose a symbology - a method of encoding the data - that their till system did not actually support. So the assistants at the tills had to peel off the new label stuck over the old label, scan the regular product code, hit the reduction button and type in the price.

          The new till software was sufficiently delayed that the reduction labels were optimised - the centre horizontal strip of the label, carrying the reduction barcode, was deliberately made less sticky and gained perforations, so that the operator could more easily tear it off to get to the product code underneath!

          They did eventually get tills able to read the reduction barcode directly, but it took several years, as I recall.

          1. usbac

            Re: The story is ...

            @ Mike Dimmick

            "They decided to encode the product price in the reduction barcode as well as the product code."

            Not a good idea for another reason. It would have taken me about 30 seconds to figure out how to get big discounts on stuff from that store. Print my own bar-code labels!

            I write code for printing bar-codes as part of my job. I can actually read several symbologies just by looking at them (sad isn't it).

            1. Alan Brown Silver badge

              Re: The story is ...

              "It would have taken me about 30 seconds to figure out how to get big discounts on stuff from that store. Print my own bar-code labels!"

              Which is exactly what happened and resulted in a number of prosecutions for fraud.

              1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

                Re: The story is ...

                <e."It would have taken me about 30 seconds to figure out how to get big discounts on stuff from that store. Print my own bar-code labels!"

                Which is exactly what happened and resulted in a number of prosecutions for fraud.</em>

                I can vaguely remember, back in the days when price labels were human readable and the checkout operator had to key them in, being presented with a case of alleged attempted fraud. IIRC it was alleged a store detective had observed a customer trying to pick the top label off a can with multiple labels, presumably on the basis that the price had been marked up and the first label would have been cheaper. Carefully peeling off the top label I found the original price was higher. I never got called to court on that one.

              2. irrelevant

                Re: The story is ...

                Certain supermarket round here still does it to this day. Last few digits (excluding the final checksum) of the barcode are the new price in pence.

                Of course, EAN checksums being as they are, will treat 0100 the same as 0001... Now, when you can just key in the barcode at the self-scan, it's easy to be a little dyslexic, and no need to print your own labels at all.

        2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: The story is ...

          "The assistant knows there is a bar code - so persists by presenting it repeatedly. "

          And is utterly convinced that a barcode has to be in motion in order to be read, just like a mag stripe.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: convinced that a barcode has to be in motion

            Surely all they are doing is moving it across the approximate field of view so as to give the reader a good change of spotting it..?

          2. TechnicalBen Silver badge

            Re: "Has to be in motion"...

            Well, it improves your odds. Chance you put it in EXACTLY the right place, angle and unfold all those creases and sit there for 60 seconds thinking it will read?

            No thanks, I'll swipe and give it a MASSIVE scanning area to hopefully succeed in. :D

            (I play a lot of computer games, sweeping motion gives you a better chance of a successful attempt in many things, as you then only have to get timing/angle correct, instead of trying to hit a bulls eye with a shaky cam from 50 feet away)

            1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
              Joke

              Re: "Has to be in motion"...

              "sweeping motion gives you a better chance of a successful attempt in many things, as you then only have to get timing/angle correct, instead of trying to hit a bulls eye"

              You're not married, are you.

          3. phuzz Silver badge

            Re: The story is ...

            "And is utterly convinced that a barcode has to be in motion in order to be read, just like a mag stripe."

            These days it's unlikely, but not that long ago barcode readers used a photo-diode to pick up the stripes, so the reader had to be moved relative to the barcode in a steady motion.

            Not to mention that not many people understand how a modern barcode reader works, and those people that do understand probably don't work on a checkout.

          4. Uffish

            Re: barcode in motion

            I use the self-scan gadgets in our local supermarket. I have found that shiny bar code labels should be read at an angle, so that the specular reflection doesn't blind the scanner to the diffuse reflection from the bar code.

            I have also found that some bar codes can only be read in motion. It shouldn't be true but it is a repeatable observation.

        3. Stoneshop Silver badge

          Re: The story is ...

          It is not unusual for bar codes on products to take several swipes before they register. The assistant knows there is a bar code - so persists by presenting it repeatedly.

          And at different angles, usually. The robot doesn't have that option.

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: The story is ...

            The robot doesn't need that option; in fact the option isn't actually an option. The items (tapes in this case) are always presented in exactly the same way.

            The human doesn't need the option, either. In fact, if they'd just stop the bloody item from moving for a split second, the machine would read it on the first pass.

        4. collinsl

          Re: The story is ...

          I remember printing lots of them when I worked in a supermarket - the label printers often have worn or damaged heating heads (the barcodes are actually "burned" into the label coating, the same as receipts) and feed rollers, which make the lines the incorrect width.

          The problem of course is that the width of the lines is what determines what number they are, so by having these minute errors the barcode can easily be unreadable yet still look OK.

      2. Malcolm 1

        Re: The story is ...

        ..or possibly that barcode scanning tech has improved in the last twenty years?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: The story is ...

          No much.

          The 2D was fine, and a modern 2D one is just a tad better, mainly faster

          the new fangled thing is 3d ones... or should I say cameras?

          1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

            Re: The story is ...

            I suspect you mean 1D and 2D barcodes. 1D barcodes are the more traditional types that are a series of stripes and you'd find on books and supermarket products. 2D barcodes are often square (but don't have to be), for example QR codes and are often rotationally symetical but don't have to be. While technically there are 3D barcode scanners these are often just video cameras because they are usually 2D barcodes with the additional "dimension" of colour or, occasionally, relative shading, as well.

      3. bigiain

        Re: The story is ...

        I think you'll find the scanner in the supermarket is way bulkier and more expensive than the scanner in the tape library.

        The supermarket scanners have multiple beams coming in from multiple angles, with both a horizontal and vertical scanner.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: The story is ...

          I take it you've never seen a hand-held barcode scanner, bigiain. Are you old enough to remember the CueCat?

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: The story is ...

            Older barcode readers in libraries used a scanned laser to pick up the light/dark areas.

            Newer readers effectively use a camera and OCR technology because it's much cheaper and eliminates the 'unreliable' mechanical deflection bits.

            Guess which one works better?

        2. Stoneshop Silver badge

          Re: The story is ...

          I think you'll find the scanner in the supermarket is way bulkier and more expensive than the scanner in the tape library.

          Bulkier? Yes, but only because the handheld ones need a grip and a battery, and the till-mounted ones contain both rotating and stationary mirrors to move a laser beam over the area where a barcode might show up. More expensive? See previous remark. The library reader needs to deal with only one size of label in one position (respective to the orientation of the tape cartridge), so can be much simpler mechanically/optically. The optoelectronics and the software are not that different.

          One customer I visited occasionally had a large StorageTek carousel installed that read the tape barcodes using video cameras (this was the second half of the 1980's), and for shits and giggles they had a set of monitors hooked up in parallel with the decoding units. Fascinating, especially when the robot arms had to pass tapes between them (they had two storage carousels but only one had drives installed, the other was just for shelf space expansion).

      4. Stevie Silver badge

        Re: The story is ...

        "Consider the reflectivity range of the materials that the barcode scanner at your local supermarket has no trouble reading."

        I see barcode read failures due to media problems every time I'm on line to buy, whether at a supermarket, my local hobby shop or Home Despot.

        Sorry Jake, judging by my own real-world everyday experience your initial premise is flawed.

        "The guts of the tape robot's scanner are exactly the same as your supermarket's scanner. It doesn't take a passing grade in Critical Thinking 101 to doubt the anecdote."

        Guts: not so much really. I think what's needed is more actual engineering knowledge of supermarket scanner works and robot scanner works. Critical thinking needs to be based on hard facts, not "I guess this is true". The robot arm could never support the mass of a supermarket scanner, nor does it need to.

        As I see it, this is a case of two very different machines that happen to use the same scientific principle to get their very different jobs done.Comparisons should be done with care.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The laser was being confused by the reflection off the glossy labels - so the difference between "black" and "white" was not always clear.

      The "frosted" tape was a matt surface so that it reflected light in a different way to the glossy labels. That allowed the laser to differentiate the "black" and "white" areas of the underlying label reliably.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Ahh, not had my coffee yet, read it as being the other way round. Thanks

        But you do have to ask why would a third party vendor supply labels that don't work and if they were then this would have to be the first time the company had found the problem. Also, the third party vendor must have had access to create the labels so surely they tested them. Finally how much were these pieces of sticky label for someone to pirate them in the first place? If I was getting a robotic tape solution I wouldn't be paying extra for labels, I would expect them to be included in the purchase price.

        1. Lilolefrostback

          You're assuming that the third party vendor was selling the labels for the specific purpose of labelling tapes for the specified machine. Much more likely they were generic labels that happened to be the correct dimension and compatible with the customer's printer. The third-party vendor is unlikely to have the least inkling about the tape library, much less tested its labels on it.

        2. Stevie Silver badge

          4 coffee-less AC

          "But you do have to ask why would a third party vendor supply labels that don't work and if they were then this would have to be the first time the company had found the problem. "

          I've seen the third party vendor thing first hand, and for me it is easier to believe that a purchaser would buy generic label stock that just happens to be incompatible with the reader than that a vendor would manufacture paper tape that was so shiny the tape-reader's pinch-roller couldn't grip it, yet I saw that very thing happen in 1979 to the embarrassment of the ops manager still fresh from his back-patting for cost-cutting. Cost a pretty penny to rush the Right Stuff to the plant so the unionised and militant workforce could be paid on time.

          And why couldn't this be the first recorded incident for that robot vendor? There has to be a first time for each problem.

    3. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Glossy labels vs matt labels - and the "frosted tape" is 3M's magic mending tape - it has a matt top surface.

      I've resorted to this fix when dealing with optical problems and overly reflective surfaces in the past, along with using Tippex (liquid paper) to narrow the viewing window on an optical sensor so that the chopper wheel it was shining through could work - the manufacturer one had a narrow window compared to the replacement unit, slots in the chopper were wide enough to allow light pulses through that were long/smeary enough to screw up a centrifuge as it hit 15,000 RPM on the way up to 45,000 - resulting in emergency shutdown being invoked. You really _don't_ want that to happen often. Closing up the optical viewing window solved the problem and got nice clean pulses at silly high speeds

  3. jake Silver badge

    I first heard this story back in the early 1990s.

    It's always "I heard it from a friend", or a friend of a friend, never first-hand.

    I'm not saying it never happened. I am saying it's anecdotal at best.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I first heard this story back in the early 1990s.

      So it could be an urban myth created by vendors to ensure customers always buy official stock.

      That ties in with the cdr disks that could kill your writer urban myth as well back in the days of 2x writing.

      I think you may be onto something.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I first heard this story back in the early 1990s.

        Could be true even if it is now lore and sung by a technobard.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I first heard this story back in the early 1990s.

      There are always constraints in technology that might not be apparent to the uninitiated observer.

      After the Iraq War some enterprising local metal workers started to make satellite dishes. As they didn't understand the need for a mathematically precise shape - their products looked right but didn't work.

      There are many different types of glue. They all usually feel sticky to the touch. However each type is formulated for a limited set of materials and conditions. Use the wrong one and it may not stick the pieces together at all. Worse still - it may appear to work then fails unexpectedly under some force or environmental stress. IIRC one glue worked by creating a vacuum. It was useless for spacecraft applications.

      Different types of manufactured iron have different strength and flexibility properties. You trust your supplier and engineers to know which is which.

      My sculpture tutor put a house brick in the pottery kiln to support a student's clay model while it had its second firing. The brick melted into a glassy mess over everything at that temperature. Josiah Wedgwood invented a system of clay cones that deformed at different temperatures so that the temperature in coal-fired bottle kilns could be more accurately judged.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I first heard this story back in the early 1990s.

        "Worse still - it may appear to work then fails unexpectedly under some force or environmental stress."

        My friend's father bought an old farmhouse to renovate as the family home. In the middle of nowhere, he decided to have a large swimming pool - partly justified as a fire precaution water reservoir.

        The large fibreglass pool was delivered and positioned into the large hole. He then connected up the large diameter grey plastic pipes to circulate the water through a small pump house. Great fun when it was first filled - until someone blocked the bottom outlet for a few seconds with their foot. At which point there was a dull thud and water exploded from the pump house. Two pipes had disconnected themselves. This happened a few times before the penny dropped.

        The grey plastic pipes had been glued together - but it wasn't the specific Osma-weld glue that dissolved the plastic to make a strong "welded" joint

        1. Martin an gof Silver badge

          Re: I first heard this story back in the early 1990s.

          The grey plastic pipes had been glued together

          In the days when I was a self-employed electrician I once did a job at a house where the tradesman before me had been a plumber, installing an en-suite into the master bedroom. Said bedroom was at the front of the house while the plumbing was at the back, so he installed a Saniflo macerator / pump. (note to readers, if there's any way at all that you can avoid a Saniflo, please, please, please do so, the things are nothing but trouble. Horrid, messy, smelly trouble).

          Anyway, the twit had presumably not read the instructions and instead of using solvent-weld pipe, he used push-fit. A couple of flushes later and the elbow where the horizontal pipe turned vertical, fortunately outside the house, popped right off and the contents of the Saniflo were sprayed all over the rear yard.

          M.

          1. Niall Mac Caughey

            Re: I first heard this story back in the early 1990s.

            Yeah, I can go along with that.

            Back when I was a self-employed plumber, a customer asked me to fix an overflowing close-coupled Saniflo behind the toilet in a tiny bathroom. Having removed the toilet and disconnected several pipes for access, I dragged the offensive article outdoors and removed the top. Joy oh joy.

            For those who are not acquainted with these gems, the Saniflo has a fast motor with a stainless blade just like the one in a blender. It chops up the poo into bite-sized chunks and pumps it -with some pressure - up a 3/4" pipe. The theory being that you can install a toilet (and/or shower, bath washbasin, sink, etc) in an awkward spot, such as below the level of the main sewer. It's an excellent idea....in theory.

            In this case I connected up some power and observed that the impeller wasn't rotating, although it didn't seem to be blocked and the thermal cut-out hadn't tripped. Using a screwdriver I gave the impeller a gentle nudge and it instantly spun up to high speed. This meant that the pump immediately discharged the contents of the tank straight up into the air above. Unfortunately that particular space was occupied by me.

            Let's just say that it was an educational experience.

            1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

              Re: I first heard this story back in the early 1990s.

              Saniflo - the original "when the shit hits the fan" contraption...

              As Martin said: avoid whenever possible.

              1. Martin an gof Silver badge

                Re: I first heard this story back in the early 1990s.

                As Martin said: avoid whenever possible.

                Just to add context, a few years before my story I was working at Magna Science Adventure Centre in Rotherham. Pretty much all of the sewage has to be pumped off that site and the place was replete with Saniflos (which were always going wrong - they are not designed for use in public loos) and also had a large "industrial" macerator / pump set in the basement underneath the main public loos.

                The day the place opened (fortunately I started there a couple of weeks later) this unit failed, and with thousands upon thousands of visitors thronging the place suddenly there was "stuff" coming out of the loos that should have been disappearing down the pipe.

                One of my colleagues was tasked - by the company which installed the whole system - with climbing a ladder to access an elbow in the 4" that they suspected was blocked.

                A couple of turns of a screwdriver later, and suddenly every radio in the building erupted with (I am told) a scream like something out of a cheap 1970s horror flick, as the whole vertical stack emptied its contents over my colleague.

                Could have been predicted, I suppose, but for that and other reasons I (and my traumatised colleague - hello Matt if you're out there) have a severe mistrust of the things.

                Oh, and Saniflo itself is a French company I believe. French plus electrics plus water. Enough said.

                M.

      2. collinsl

        Re: I first heard this story back in the early 1990s.

        In a similar vein to Wedgewood to fit (metal) tyres on train wheels (for they do have them) they heat the tyres to a set temperature to expand them relative to the actual wheel. In the old days the foreman used to spit on the tyre to see if his spit balled up - if it did it was hot enough, if not it needed more heat.

        These days, they have wax pens which melt and ball up at different temperatures - they merely mark the tyre and watch the wax.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: I first heard this story back in the early 1990s.

          "These days, they have wax pens which melt and ball up at different temperatures - they merely mark the tyre and watch the wax."

          I suspect that they'd use IR thermometers these days or FLIR cameras.

          Anyway, tyres on train wheels are a bad idea. Ask Deutsche Bahn about how that large ICE crash at Eschede in 1998 got started.

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: I first heard this story back in the early 1990s.

            We still use wax pens on outboard motors. It's an easy indicator for a thermostat that is either stuck open, stuck closed or working properly. No moving parts, and no batteries.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Common English words with very different meanings.....

    Many moons ago, when I lived in trendy Chelsea, as was my won't many an evening was spent trying to convince the local females to partake of a viewing of my etchings.

    On one particular occasion an antipodean young lady, who was a little the worse for imbibing ended up back at my flat.

    After an appropriate amount of dimmed lighting and soft music produced the desired mood we retired to my boudoir to continue our international discourse.

    When I told her I had some Durex somewhere she looked at me askew and asked "What kind of guy are you?", I responded, somewhat confused "I assumed you'd want to take precautions?". Her response of "What kind of precautions can you take with Durex?" caused me even more confusion, somewhat dampening the mood I had worked so hard to achieve.

    Eventually when I found the Durex she explained that Durex in Australia meant sticky tape and she thought maybe I was some kind of pervey.

    The things you learn about a foreign tongue.

    1. hplasm Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Common English words with very different meanings.....

      "The things you learn about a foreign tongue."

      Ooo- matron!

      It's innuendoes all the way down. Well done!

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Common English words with very different meanings.....

        I was aghast on my first day of primary school in Blighty. One of my new classmates asked to borrow a rubber[0] ... This Californian knew about prophylactics at the ripe old age of 9ish, but had never actually seen one, much less been in possession of one. Fortunately, the teacher had a few cross-pond clues and translated for me. I think she was more embarrassed than I was ...

        [0] Note to my fellow Yanks: That's an eraser, not a condom.

        1. hplasm Silver badge
          Coat

          Re:One of my new classmates asked to borrow a rubber[0] ...

          Child: Miss! I don't have an eraser...

          New tracher: Just use that little girl's behind.

        2. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Common English words with very different meanings.....

          "[0] Note to my fellow Yanks: That's an eraser, not a condom."

          One of my friends became a teacher and moved to the USA. He made the mistake of telling the kids in his class that he liked to grow pot plants.

    2. Chunky Munky
      Joke

      Re: Common English words with very different meanings.....

      Jasper Carrott has a lot to answer for

      1. Little Mouse

        Re: Common English words with very different meanings.....

        "A roll? A roll of Durex? I'd like to see his Christmas presents..."

        1. Paul Woodhouse

          Re: Common English words with very different meanings.....

          His stockings are most likely large enough to jingle a few balls in....

    3. Chris King Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Common English words with very different meanings.....

      Jasper Carrott commented on that in one of his sketches, and if I remember rightly he said something about a sign in his hotel room... "DMo not stick Durex to the walls".

      Yes, mine's the one with the unbranded adhesive tape in the left pocket.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Common English words with very different meanings.....

      "Eventually when I found the Durex she explained that Durex in Australia meant sticky tape and she thought maybe I was some kind of pervey."

      On kibbutz in Israel there was much amusement that the site shop stocked a product unexpectedly branded "Durex". The British volunteers were rolling on the floor with laughter. The Australians in the group couldn't see why it was quite so funny. They then added to the Brits' hilarity by explaining Australia's use of the brand for sticky tape.

      The Israeli "Durex" brand name was for a kitchen scouring pad.

      1. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

        Re: Common English words with very different meanings.....

        On misunderstandings in Kibbutzim; a mate was there but his hebrew was terrible, and couldn't understand the hilarity when he asked how many carrots he should peel. Turns out the word for 'virgins" is very close to the word for carrots...

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Common English words with very different meanings.....

        >The Israeli "Durex" brand name was for a kitchen scouring pad.

        Ouch. Do not confuse..

      3. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: Common English words with very different meanings.....

        A scouring pad? Which bright cunt thought of that?

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Common English words with very different meanings.....

      giving this an IT bent, router has a rude meaning in Oz so they pronounce it rowter

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Common English words with very different meanings.....

        It is correctly pronounced "rowter". Trust me on this, I was there. It was always rowter, never rooter, until I was shipped over to Blighty with some of the first Cisco boxes to be seen on those shores[0]. Even back then I tried to convince you lot of the error of your ways, but no, you know better than the people who invented the product. Bless.

        Conversely, most Yanks don't pronounce Jaguar-the-auto properly ...

        Two peoples separated by a common language, indeed.

        [0] Beta-build, massive, loud AGS+ boxen, if I remember correctly ... Late 1986ish.

        1. GlenP Silver badge

          Re: Common English words with very different meanings.....

          It is correctly pronounced "rowter".

          I've had American colleagues disagreeing on the correct pronunciation so what chance have we Brits got?

          1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

            Re: Common English words with very different meanings.....

            Router? I barely know her!

        2. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

          Re: Common English words with very different meanings.....

          It is correctly pronounced "rowter". Trust me on this

          If you can tell me which rowt the B56 bus takes I might :)

          It seems perfectly obvious to me that something which routes packets between ports should be called a router, "rooter"

          Maybe we should ask someone who hangs around on that infamous US road; "Rowt 66"

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: Common English words with very different meanings.....

            Has nothing to do with freeways or road traffic. It was a new tool, with a new name.

            Frankly, I have no idea WHY the pronunciation was always rowter ... but that's how it is pronounced, and has been right from the year dot. Except in Blighty.

            1. David Nash Silver badge

              Re: Common English words with very different meanings.....

              It's exactly the same as freeways and road traffic. A route between two places, be they on the network or on a physical road - presumably pronounced differently in the UK and US/OZ.

              Like many other things. Tomatoes anyone?

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Common English words with very different meanings.....

            yes its job is to ROUTE traffic hence its a router. I take a particular route to work I don't take a rowt

          3. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

            Re: Common English words with very different meanings.....

            If you can tell me which rowt the B56 bus takes I might :)

            Depends how frightened[1] the driver is..

            [1] To be fair, an enemy unit routing is a little different from the process of making sure that packets end up in all the right places.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Common English words with very different meanings.....

          if you want to get picky WE INVENTED THE LANGUAGE! ;o)

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: Common English words with very different meanings.....

            English wasn't invented. It evolved.

          2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

            Re: Common English words with very different meanings.....

            WE INVENTED THE LANGUAGE

            ObPedant: Strictly speaking, a bunch of hairy semi-barbarians about a thousand years ago wrote^W spoke the original language spec. It's been substantially upgraded, enhanced[1] and forked[2] since..

            [1] Excuse me Mr OldFrench - can I steal some of your vocabulary please? ktnxbai.

            [2] Sometimes forked up beyond all recognition. CF ValleySpeak.

            1. OzBob

              Re: Common English words with very different meanings.....

              The english language was forked? It's a brave soul who would draw up the git branch tree for the english language.

              1. jake Silver badge

                Re: Common English words with very different meanings.....

                OzBob, would this qualify for a start?

                http://www.danshort.com/ie/timeline.htm

                And of course, this series of pages should give all y'all a nice headache:

                https://www.britannica.com/topic/English-language

          3. anothercynic Silver badge

            Re: Common English words with very different meanings.....

            Correction. We stole it. From the Normans. And then adulterated it into something entirely else...

            Just what we accuse our former colonialists of doing with English (to American). ;-)

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Common English words with very different meanings.....

              "We stole it. From the Normans. "

              The Norman immigrants insisted on calling their food by French names - which were different from the English ones. So the English peasants tended swine - and the Norman lords ate the finished product as pork. A calf was raised to be veal on the table. The English didn't need to adopt "chien" though - as the Dibbler object in a bun apparently hadn't yet been invented.

              The English have developed a pragmatic approach to language. If someone in another country had a novel idea then their word for it was adopted. Spelling hardly mattered as English is definitely no longer phonetic. Some countries' officialdom insist on inventing their own word for everything new they import - and complain when their own plebs still call it a "computer".

              1. Johan-Kristian Wold 1

                Re: Common English words with very different meanings.....

                The english language has evolved by assaulting other languages in dark alleys, and going through their pockets (pocketses?) for loose vocabulary and spare grammar...

          4. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Common English words with very different meanings.....

            "....WE INVENTED THE LANGUAGE..."

            I think the Greeks, Romans, Celts and Saxons may have had a hand in it.

            Anyhoo...talk to anyone under twenty and they now longer talk English as I know it, they seem to all just talk what I call FACETXTTERGRAMOJI.

            Slainte.

        4. katrinab Silver badge

          Re: Common English words with very different meanings.....

          https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/rout

          Rout - A disorderly retreat of defeated troops, An assembly of people who have made a move towards committing an illegal act which would constitute an offence of riot, A large evening party or reception, A pack of wolves

          If your Cisco box does that to your network packets, then there is something very wrong.

          If it directs them on the correct route to their intended destination, then it is pronounced rooter.

        5. collinsl

          Re: Common English words with very different meanings.....

          We say roote not rowte for the path someone should take, so it's only natural we say rooter not rowter.

        6. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Common English words with very different meanings.....

          "It is correctly pronounced "rowter"."

          How do you pronounce "route". If you pronounce it "rowt" I can see how you got to your rowter pronunciation but we've had routes in the UK way before the router was invented to allocate them.

        7. Uffish

          Re: You say .. I say ..

          I tried root,rout,route,router on Google Ngram. Over the last 200 years the words root (as in carrots) and route (as in 66) have been consistently and widely used, the word rout (as in disorderly retreat) less widely used and with a steady but slow decline in usage. The word router only starts to get going after about 1975, and I guess that was due to Cisco & Co.

          But where does the IT version of router come from, the carpentry tool, the disorderly retreat or route (as in 66)? I would bet on the route (66) derivation.

          So I checked YouTube for examples of Route 66 sung by Americans. In my sample 'root' was the American way to pronounce route.

          English is a great language isn't it.

          1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

            Re: You say .. I say ..

            English, as a language, is messed up enough without Americans (and Australians/similar) habitually misappropriating words and pronounciations.

            Apart from having two words for almost every traditional/physical object, i.e. Cow+Beef, Pig+Ham and so on, we have a vast array of words that are not pronounced anything like they can be sounded out. For example "put" (opp. of take), "friend" (seriously, what is the "i" doing there?), arbitrarily deciding that a "y" (why) is actually either pronounced "ee" or "eye", never "why" of course... and it goes on.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: You say .. I say ..

              "and it goes on."

              That's a rough cough you have from standing under a bough in the rain holding the reins of the reigning monarch's horse. You bought that upon yourself.

              1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

                Re: You say .. I say ..

                "You bought that upon yourself."

                Brought?

                Missed one out: lough.

                1. jake Silver badge

                  Re: You say .. I say ..

                  Ugh. Make's me feel rough & tough. Suppose I ought to quit? I don't make enough dough for this, I feel like I've been houghed, Hugh.

                  1. Anonymous Coward
                    Anonymous Coward

                    Re: You say .. I say ..

                    "I feel like I've been houghed, "

                    Now that is a new word for me "to cut hamstrings of an animal". Apparently pronounced "hocked".

                2. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: You say .. I say ..

                  "Brought?"

                  Mea culpa - typo that the spell checker couldn't catch. Saw it the next day - by which time I assumed everyone had moved on.

                  What pronunciation for "lough" - same as "tough" and "rough"?

                  Edit: "lough" is pronounced "lox" - effectively an Irish loch. Presumably a loan word.

      2. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

        Re: Common English words with very different meanings.....

        giving this an IT bent, router has a rude meaning in Oz so they pronounce it rowter

        Router (pronouncer rowter) is a power tool that routs.

        Router (pronounced rooter) is a piece of network hardware that routes.

        The joys of the English language, eh?

        1. J. Cook Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: Common English words with very different meanings.....

          "giving this an IT bent, router has a rude meaning in Oz so they pronounce it rowter

          Router (pronouncer rowter) is a power tool that routs.

          Router (pronounced rooter) is a piece of network hardware that routes."

          And here in the USA, a rooter is a device that cleans out sewer pipes that have gotten clogged because some muppet kept pouring grease down the sink.

          There's also a business called "roto-rooter" which had a catchy advertisement jingle back in the day as well; When I worked for [ISP] some years ago, we had a version of it that went "Get a cisco rooter, that's the name! And away go your packets, down the drain."

          It's not quite beer o'clock over here, but I need one.

    6. IHateWearingATie

      Re: Common English words with very different meanings.....

      Telling an american about rugby can be a little fraught when describing a certain position in the front row as my Dad discovered talking to a stranger at DIsney World....

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Common English words with very different meanings.....

        Yes. Us Yanks get all woozy at the thought of tighthead ... loosehead maybe not so much. I don't think it would be prop-er to bring hookers into the conversation.

        (We play Rugby over here. Just not as much as we ought to.)

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Common English words with very different meanings.....

          Yes. Us Yanks get all woozy at the thought of tighthead ... loosehead maybe not so much. I don't think it would be prop-er to bring hookers into the conversation.

          (We play Rugby over here. Just not as much as we ought to.)

          Must make it difficult for girls playing Rugby over there?

        2. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

          Re: Common English words with very different meanings.....

          You aren't allowed to play rugby union until you can master drinking properly.

          First you need to upgrade your pint measure to 568ml, secondly you need to be able to drink 15 of them ( at 4% ABV ) and call that a quiet night in the pub.

          Only then can you even think about playing the game, otherwise you won't know what your doing with yourselves in the third half.

    7. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Common English words with very different meanings.....

      My two fun examples come from my brother the electrician. He was at google changing and over head light when he told his tool partner I need some dykes and a whip. Most of the folks in the office gave him a dirty look, one lady smiled at him.

      Second example. Still at google. He was talking about grow. cosmic purple and purple haze.

      }

      Carrots get your mind out of the gutter. He had to explain that one.

    8. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

    9. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Common English words with very different meanings.....

      " Durex in Australia meant sticky tape"

      And "Sierra" was made by Suzuki, not Ford. That can make for some interesting misunderstandings.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Common English words with very different meanings.....

        Many moons ago, Sarah Bee proposed an ElReg cross-pond translator. I volunteered to be one of the editors. Nothing ever came of it.

      2. jake Silver badge

        Re: Common English words with very different meanings.....

        Automotive names are a marketing exercise. No true gear-head pays much attention to the name on the bonnet.

  5. wolfetone Silver badge

    Customer opting for cheaper 3rd party labels?

    Sign O' The Times that.

    :)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "opting for cheaper 3rd party labels"

      I can understand opting for some 3rd party options though.

      I went to "upgrade" a projector from VGA to HDMI, which simply required the cable to be changed. Manufacturer wanted to charge £185 + VAT for a 1.8m cable (it has an "M1" plug on one end, so not that easy to find).

      3rd party solution was less than a tenth of the cost.

      1. TechnicalBen Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: "opting for cheaper 3rd party labels"

        Red Cameras provide cables for $250+ each. Though arguably many say it is worth it for the quality/guarantee... though if you ask those on Youtube, some have had 3 in a row fail.

        1. Pascal

          Re: "opting for cheaper 3rd party labels"

          I had a very nasty argument with one of those high end audiophile shops when digital stuff started showing up - he was trying really hard to prove to me that his ~$300 gold-plated, HDMI cable was so badass that colors would be brighter, blacks would be darker and general contrast/sharpness would be better.

          Complete with 2 TV sets showing the same movies, with "exactly the same things except for good vs cheap hdmi cable", to prove how shitty it was to watch a movie with a cheap $50 HDMI cable vs his expensive one.

          1. irrelevant

            Re: "opting for cheaper 3rd party labels"

            Spotted a "Gold Plated" OPTICAL cable the other day ...

  6. Chris King Silver badge

    As the old, old saying goes...

    Even Duct Tape can't fix stupid. But it can muffle the sound.

    And I'll have to re-post this.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: As the old, old saying goes...

      "Even Duct Tape can't fix stupid. But it can muffle the sound."

      The large metal ducting for the air conditioning needed soundproofing with pieces of plastic foam. Whoever had done the job had glued them to the inside surfaces of the ducts - obstructing the airflow They had to come back and crawl inside the ducts to remove the material before fitting new foam on the outside.

    2. Inspector71

      Re: As the old, old saying goes...

      Sorry but I have to disagree, there is literally no problem that Duct Tape cannot fix. It can mend the very fabric of space/time if necessary.

      1. GlenP Silver badge

        Re: As the old, old saying goes...

        I have to disagree, there are some things Duct Tape can't fix, that's when you need cable ties!

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: As the old, old saying goes...

          All the duct tape and cable ties in the world won't fix a small leak in a gas(petrol) tank. For that you need chewing gum. Bailing wire comes in handy, too. As does the twine variation.

      2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: As the old, old saying goes...

        literally no problem that Duct Tape cannot fix.

        Except for holding the rear indicator covers on on a Morris Minor.. (it worked for a short while but pretty soon got brittle and broke off).

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: As the old, old saying goes...

        then what do you use for a PHB that is rapidly killing the company ? Cricket bat, base ball bat, rubber paddle to the balls ?

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: As the old, old saying goes...

          "then what do you use for a PHB that is rapidly killing the company ?"

          Duct tape would be fine. It just takes more work than carpet.

          1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

            Re: As the old, old saying goes...

            If it moves and it shouldn't, use gaffer tape.

            If it doesn't move and it should, use WD40.

          2. kain preacher Silver badge

            Re: As the old, old saying goes...

            But but, I want to roll the PHB in carpet tacks.

        2. J. Cook Silver badge
          Go

          Re: As the old, old saying goes...

          "then what do you use for a PHB that is rapidly killing the company ? Cricket bat, base ball bat, rubber paddle to the balls ?"

          All three, starting with the one that delivers the least amount of pain, ending with the lethal one.

  7. Tinslave_the_Barelegged Silver badge
    Pint

    Million to one chances occur nine times out of ten*

    It's a little bemusing to note the recent trend to pour scorn on OnCall articles. The longer folk are in the IT game, the more chance there is of seeing real oddities, and although we, especially those of us in IT, are bred to spot trends, and mistrust things that do not conform to trend, OnCall really is just an interesting repository of anecdotes, not a manual of best practice. It is doubtful, though possible, that readers may submit anecdotes they have completely made up, and it is possible that the inevitable mistrusting responses amount to mere regrettable forum arrogance, but still, can we not just enjoy the Friday shared experiences? If a commenter is up tight after a tough week, see icon, no need to prove superiority by pronouncing on a short, and by necessity, incomplete little story.

    Just a thought...

    -

    * - thank you, St.Terry

    1. defiler Silver badge

      Re: Million to one chances occur nine times out of ten*

      You noticed that too?

      I can confidently put my hand up and say that we have a tape library that didn't read a batch of labels. Some it would read inconsistently, and others not at all. Got hold of a label vendor and gave them the make/model of the library. "Yes, we'll provide labels that work." And they did.

      Another On-Call that I've lived and breathed...

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Million to one chances occur nine times out of ten*

      "OnCall really is just an interesting repository of anecdotes, not a manual of best practice"

      It's a pretty good manual of worst practice.

      1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: Million to one chances occur nine times out of ten*

        It's a pretty good manual of worst practice.

        Like working at Motorola ECIG in IT. It taught me a hell of a lot about IT - sadly, most of it was how *not* to do IT..

    3. Little Mouse

      Re: Million to one chances occur nine times out of ten*

      Agreed - A lot of apocryphal stories have a grounding in truth. "shared experiences" is a pretty good label for many of them.

      I have personally dealt with a user who genuinely couldn't find the "any" key, seen multiplugs plugged into themselves, and removed all manner of foreign objects from assorted hardware. All true, even though you've heard them all before.

      (Although I've never had to deal with the fabled "cup holder"...)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Million to one chances occur nine times out of ten*

        Likewise, only being a simple observer, I've seen schools/offices cheap out to save money on things "not IT" that break IT... such as not bothering fitting air con = all the PCs overcooking every summer and needing parts replaced. It's one of those "myths" that it happens, until you see it.

        That and security. Most places have nothing of it.

      2. Fading Silver badge
        Paris Hilton

        Re: Million to one chances occur nine times out of ten*

        "seen multiplugs plugged into themselves" - you have to do that to stop the electricity from leaking away.......

        1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          Re: Million to one chances occur nine times out of ten*

          to stop the electricity from leaking away

          Is that like making sure all the token-ring cables are fastened securely so that the token doesn't fall out the end?

      3. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

        Re: Million to one chances occur nine times out of ten*

        Customer called me to site once. Their cd-rom drive did not want to eject the CD that was inside.

        Upon powering the PC down and using the emergency eject feature with Binky the grumpy papperclip, it soon became apparent why - thr CD-Rom was upside down...

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Million to one chances occur nine times out of ten*

          "thr CD-Rom was upside down..."

          This is a genuine device maker "fail". Even the very first commercial CD players could handle this without refusing to eject (I had a CD350 and people would regularly drop CDs in the wrong way up.)

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: Million to one chances occur nine times out of ten*

            Alan, I suspect the "CD-Rom" in question was the drive, not the disc.

      4. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Million to one chances occur nine times out of ten*

        "and removed all manner of foreign objects from assorted hardware. "

        As an electronics apprentice long before I got into IT, I can assure everyone that the stories about what 3 year olds will post into video recorder tape slots are _all_ true.... :)

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Million to one chances occur nine times out of ten*

          I pulled a partially eaten PB&J sandwich out of a Betamax player once. Years later, the abuser of said Beta machine called me to own up, and to tell me ... rather than re-typeing it, read here:

          https://forums.theregister.co.uk/forum/containing/1649281

        2. Kiwi Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: Million to one chances occur nine times out of ten*

          As an electronics apprentice long before I got into IT, I can assure everyone that the stories about what 3 year olds will post into video recorder tape slots are _all_ true.... :)

          From the same background, I disagree - I think some of them are.. what's the opposite of exaggerated? I know there's things I've seen come out of VCR's, supposedly put there by kids, that most people won't believe. Hell, I sometimes wonder if the boss slipped something funny in my drink a few times, or if I "observed" a little more voltage than was healthy...

          There's stuff you just wonder how a toddler had the strength to force it into the damned machine. And then there's the stuff you hope never to smell again, and wonder how it spent days inside the machine before the owner found it!

          --> Some bad memories need suppressing again....

    4. handleoclast Silver badge

      Re: Million to one chances occur nine times out of ten*

      Sometimes the On Call articles remind me a little of the letters that appeared in nudie mags (perhaps they still do, but these days pornhub beats Penthouse as far as I'm concerned). It might be invention, but as long as it is well done and has the desired effect (laughter, for On Call) then I'm happy.

  8. AbelSoul

    Re: What have you fixed with sticky tape?

    Tape.

    I used to fix tape with tape.

    More specifically, back in the mists of time when home taping was killing music, I was an enthusiastic home taper.

    Some of these cassettes became quite precious.

    Occasionally such a cassette would suffer from snapped tape.

    A little scalpel blade and a few well-placed millimetres of (possibly the same frosted type of) Scotch tape could resurrect them with only a split second of distorted wobble to belie the repair job.

    Ahh, nostalgia. Even after all these years it still aint what it used to be.

    1. David Nash Silver badge

      Re: What have you fixed with sticky tape?

      Fixing Tape with Tape.

      Yes, I used to do the same. I even had a special little plastic block that you could put the ends onto to cut them properly with a razor blade.

      1. handleoclast Silver badge

        Re: What have you fixed with sticky tape?

        You had a special little plastic block? Mine was made of aluminium. Manufactured (or at least marketed) by Bib. Which had a sister company Ersin (familiar to anyone who used their multicore solder).

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: What have you fixed with sticky tape?

          "Mine was made of aluminium. "

          Tape decks made an advance in the 1960s when the end of the tape on a reel had a "male" end that attached to a "female" counterpart on the take-up reel. You soon became an expert at replacing damaged couplings using a splice guide.

          Repairing a damaged paper tape was more tricky as you had to re-punch any covered holes.

  9. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
    Boffin

    Lash-up

    Not sure about fixed with tape, but I can certainly say that my PhD lab equipment back in the day (over 20 years ago now) was held together with GE varnish, duct tape and dental floss.

    Especially the latter, amazingly good stuff to secure wiring etc out of the way even at liquid helium temperatures.

    1. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: Lash-up

      Ahh - thanks for mentioning dental floss - I've been trying to find some low stretch string for ages fora world saving project!

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Lash-up

        arrgh, don't remind me of waxed string lacing. That stuff would seriously mess up your fingers in the days when telcos insisted on using it. I left significant amounts of blood on various cabling whilst lacing up and was very happy to move to cable ties.

  10. Ivan Headache

    Back in the 60s

    I went to Le Mans to watch the 24 hour race.

    I remember one of the Ford GT40s having a large section of of its bodywork held on with (what we in the RAF at the time called) bodge tape.

    It was the year Dan Gurney & AJ Foyt wond - I've pictures somewhere - but where?

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Back in the 60s

      Gurney & Foyt probably called it 200 MPH tape back then. We did.

      I've since heard it called 300 MPH tape in drag racing circles.

      1. collinsl

        Re: Back in the 60s

        "Speed tape" is indeed tape designed for aircraft to secure non-essential broken things for flight, and will hold at up to the sound barrier.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Speed_tape

        1. Stevie Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: "Speed tape"

          Oooh, thanks for the steer collinsl. This is relevant to my interests.

          eBeer for you.

        2. anothercynic Silver badge

          Re: Back in the 60s

          @collinsl, and that is same tape that causes articles like this one:

          Engineer pictured fixing plane's engine with 'duct tape' by concerned EasyJet passenger.

          ;-)

        3. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Back in the 60s

          Yup, there's speed tape, duct tape, book tape, carpet tape and 101 other kinds of meshed tapes all with their own adhesives and material properties.

          Don't get them mixed up. (example: real duct tape, used to hold ducts together, doesn't lose its stick over time and start leaking air, on the other hand you don't want "sticks like shit to a blanket" long term adhesion in parcel tape, nor should you use parcel tape on stuff that's going into long term storage.)

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: Back in the 60s

            Proper duct tape is adhesive backed metal foil. There is a roll on the corner of my desk as I type. The stuff commonly called duct tape should not be used for sealing ducts[0]. It is not built to hold up to that kind of work environment.

            [0] Neither should proper duct tape, there are better alternatives these days.

    2. Stevie Silver badge

      Re: Back in the 60s

      Forget the sixties. Race teams to this day carry purpose-made colored duct tape for quick body repairs.

  11. Martin an gof Silver badge

    Fixed with tape

    What have you fixed with sticky tape?

    Not IT related, but when I worked at a radio station, one year management decided that we all deserved a night off, and so they would organise the Christmas bash by hiring in everything - in the past we'd supplied our own PA gear and often on-air talent would do DJ duties.

    Everyone gathered at the local golf club, only to find that the hired-in DJ had non-working kit, so muggins 'ere, the "station engineer", was asked to investigate (so much for an evening off). The only tool at my disposal was a Victorinox (I've carried a basic one since I was about 15).

    Long story short, the problem turned out to be a dodgy audio lead between the mixer and the amplifier but of course while our portable kit came complete with a selection of spare cables, the cheap DJ had nothing. And we were miles away from base so it was a bit pointless to nip back to the office for a spare cable, or even a soldering iron.

    Ended up fixing it with the foil from a packet of fags(*) and some good old-fashioned Sellotape that the barman happened to have. Lasted all evening :-)

    M.

    (*)Said fags happened to belong to our only vaguely famous on-air talent, a bloke known as Bobby McVay

  12. benderama

    The story was an anecdote from some trainers... It may not have even been real.

  13. ricardian

    Throw away those cheap mains leads...

    2 metre mains leads, a snip at just £90 - and for just £91 more you can add these 3 "must have" features.

    Only £15 extra for Burn In "Burn-in refers to the process which takes place as a cable is used over time. As a signal or current is passed through the cable, its performance gets better and better. So, although you’ll find that there are some immediate improvements as soon as you plug in the cable, it will get even better over the burn-in period. As the cables burn-in you will find that they start to reveal their true potential with deep, more extended bass, a more natural midrange and a sweeter treble. This means that when you first get the cable it can tend to sound brighter and lacking in bass. That’s one of the reasons we sell them with a 60 day trail – to give you time for the cables to settle down so you can judge how they will sound long term in your system. The burn in process takes up to 500 hours - that's about three weeks of constant use, and it can sometimes longer with silver cables. To burn-in mains cables, they simply need to be powered up; interconnects and speaker cables need to have a signal passing through them (use a tuner or CD player on repeat). To burn-in interconnects you can have the sound turned down; to burn-in speaker cables you should play sound through your speakers, though it can be at low volume. We are, however, able to apply a process to the cables which burns them in over a 3 day intensive cycle. From our own tests we think that this process is actually better than the natural method and allows you to get the full benefits much quicker (though we still advise you to allow the cable to settle into your system for a couple of weeks)."

    Plus £51 for Deep Cryo Treatment (DCT) which "involves the cooling of a material of -190°C and is said to de-stress various materials and alter or re-align their structure. We highly recommend the treatment - comparing one cable or power extension that has been 'Cryo'd with one that hasn't is a revelation."

    Plus £25 for a 13A SuperFuse "our very best mains plug fuses, which feature a specially-developed version of our Super Burn In process."

    That's £181 for a two metre long mains lead!

    (See http://www.russandrews.com/yello-power-uk-to-iec)

    1. J. Cook Silver badge
      Go

      Re: Throw away those cheap mains leads...

      While that is a bit over the top, the lead position is still taken by the $1100+ 1.5 meter Audioquest Diamond Ethernet cable. (or the $10,000 12 meter one that this very site mentioned two years ago.)

      1. Ivan Headache

        Re: Throw away those cheap mains leads...

        And those gold-plated tos-link connectors - you know those that give you better digits.

  14. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

    it could also be..

    A more technical problem of the tape printer being a different dpi to the original mandated barcode but the printing software not being able to correctly switch (sub pixels on a bar code will kill it. Been there done that. Wrote the direct to printer code to get round this)

  15. Louis Schreurs BEng

    had a stint as a service engineer for CD/DVD replication lines (= CD/DVD manufacturing)

    those things where more handling robot (=pick&place) than enything else

    story is totally in line with my experiences

  16. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

    As this particular product has been already above and as this thread is mostly about barcode scanners: You can now buy CueCats on Amazon Prime. I understand they can be modded and used in various projects.

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