back to article Boss made dirt list of minions' mistakes, kept his own rampage off it

Welcome again to On-Call, The Register's Friday column in which we share readers' tech support morality tales. This week, meet “Omar”, who in the early 1990s worked as a developer for an engineering company powered by a pair of ageing Digital Equipment Corporation mainframes. The workplace had another odd feature: an IT …

  1. jake Silver badge

    Fragile. Very fragile.

    An IT manager who is cluefull enough to know not only which cabinet(s) contains the RAM, but also which card(s) to pull, actually going through with removing said RAM from a running machine? On the word/whim of a vendor?

    Most of these stories are iffy at best, but this? Pull the other one.

    1. Admiral Grace Hopper

      Re: Fragile. Very fragile.

      Yes, I'm with you all the way, right up to the point where I compile my personal list of people for whom I have worked who still retain a little of the technical nous that got them to where they are now, but have had all the common sense removed by a few years of management. Much as I want to live in a world where this could not happen, I have done too often and for too long.

      1. wolfetone Silver badge

        Re: Fragile. Very fragile.

        To be honest the UK have some idiot as health minister who has absolutely no clue in how to manage the NHS or background in healthcare, yet he finds himself able to dictate what the needs and how much it costs.

        So I'm not at all surprised at this story.

        1. MrRimmerSIR!
          Facepalm

          Re: Fragile. Very fragile.

          I'm sure his replacement will have an iPad to do the difficult stuff.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Fragile. Very fragile.

      When I was a total noob, an IT manager decided to prank me by claiming a machine had the new type of ram that you could hot-swap while booted. He didn't actually let me go through with it.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Fragile. Very fragile.

        Scarily, there _ARE_ some systems with hotswap ram. :(

        1. Prof. William Waterman Sherman

          Re: Fragile. Very fragile.

          We run a load of VMware machines and the RAM is mostly hot-swappable.

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: Fragile. Very fragile.

            That's nice, guys. Perhaps you failed to notice we were talking about a sensible computer company called "DEC", which ceased to exist before VMWare came into being?

    3. Mage Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Fragile. Very fragile.

      Sadly it's possible.

      Noooo... I cried as the CEO pulled out a hot swap SCSI HDD on a RAID5 system running NT4.0. He wanted to demonstrate the ability of the system to cope with failures to a customer.

      Except (1) The SW doesn't expect that sort of failure. (2) Even then rebuilding RAID5 took hours.

      Pulling out the mains on one PC making up an NT4.0 Enterprise cluster is less disastrous time and data wise. (3) He didn't check to see if there was already any issues with the array, he could have lost all the data.

      Or the "technician" from the IT support company that was asked to move the server, and did so without shutting it down. One of the internal HDD wasn't well mounted so touched off PCB of neighbours. Two HDDs failed, whatever the reason.

      A little knowledge is dangerous.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Fragile. Very fragile.

        "Even then rebuilding RAID5 took hours."

        Hours being long enough for another drive to fail due to the added load.

      2. JimboSmith Silver badge

        Re: Fragile. Very fragile.

        We had someone who was not versed in technology (at all) but still made an acting manager whilst a proper replacement was yet to arrive. The idea was that they just signed off on things like bills and assigning people projects doing nothing technical. This was only a week long posting although legend has it though that this person wasn't averse to having a go at attempting to fix things. They would observe what others were doing and then work on the assumption that they knew how to fix it. So one day someone came down with their laptop that was expecting to get a memory upgrade. Bloke who was assigned to do it was out looking at a faulty monitor and the rest of the office was empty. He wanted to speed things up, so knowing where the RAM to be used was and how to get into the laptop at the bottom to install it decides to have a go.

        He'd been told that this was an electrostatic sensitive piece of kit and had watched people wrapping a tethered wrist strap on before working. He located a strap but was unsure what it attached to (there was a dedicated earth point) and looked for something suitable to connect to. He knew it was needed to be earthed and some of you will have already guessed...................but for those who haven't he went for the nearest mains socket. This obviously has an earth on it and he knew that, so he was trying to figure out which one was earth to be able to use that. Someone came in at that point and stopped him before he fried himself. Certainly would have sped things up if by things you mean his entry to A&E or the undertakers.

        A little knowledge can be fatal.

        1. Richard 126

          Re: Fragile. Very fragile.

          Maybe I have a personality disorder but if I saw my boss doing that I would have just turned around and gone to the tea room to make a cup of tea and let him get on with it.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Fragile. Very fragile.

            --->Maybe I have a personality disorder but if I saw my boss doing that I would have just turned around and gone to the tea room to make a cup of tea and let him get on with it.

            @Richard 126

            Mate you're obviously still a learner.

            The CORRECT thing to do is find your phone, proceed to video it while at the same time saying things like "...thanks for the opportunity to learn from you and allowing me to video it to review later...."

            If you're going to play the game remember to be vindictive.

          2. rmason Silver badge

            Re: Fragile. Very fragile.

            @Richard 126

            My response would have been similar, with a side of "texting a colleague to get here QUICK".

        2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Fragile. Very fragile.

          "Someone came in at that point and stopped him before he fried himself."

          There's always a spoilsport.

          1. JimboSmith Silver badge

            Re: Fragile. Very fragile.

            There's always a spoilsport.

            He was a really nice bloke and I still got on well with him when he reached his permanent posting in another department. Besides the paperwork is horrendous when someone got injured requiring A&E. We'd never had anyone actually killed at work so I don't know if there was more or less for that but I would lean towards more.

      3. big_D Silver badge
        Paris Hilton

        Re: Fragile. Very fragile.

        @Mage I've had a manager order site services to move a workstation/server (an old Burroughs running BTOS) from one table to another, because he needed the table for a new employee. Because I was working off-site at a customer and I was the only one capable of supporting the kit, he didn't know how to turn it off, so he just had them pick up all 6 modules in one go, whilst running and dump it on the "new" desk.

        At one site, we had a memory upgrade on a VAX 11/780. The Digital technician turned up. The admins had moved all of the jobs and users from the machine to the next one in the row. The technician was told that the machine was now shut down and he could power it off... He threw the power on the wrong machine and the machine with the extra load suddenly found itself doing a Wyle Coyote, hanging in mid air over a tall cliff with no power...

        Needless to say, one of the drives crapped out.

        A while back the technical department needed to pull new network cables into the server room. The NAS standing behind the rack was in the way, so they just slid it across the floor until they could do their work, instead of contacting IT and getting it moved properly.

        Likewise, one of the apprentices was told to turn off the electricity in the electrical engineering production hall, he turned off the power for the entire premises! Luckily the UPS cut in and the servers were fine, but the Quantum Superloader didn't like the transfer from mains to UPS and back and hung.

        As much as these things should never happen, there is always somebody who should know better who just needs to quickly do something and doesn't thing about the consequences, whether it be a manager, a qualified technician or a trainee.

        Paris: because even a qualified technician can leave her looking intelligent at times.

    4. DonM.
      Facepalm

      Re: Fragile. Very fragile.

      Back in the previous century our shop was running a VAX 11/780. We had a real DEC field service fellow come out for some minor fault - this guy reached in the main cabinet to remove one of the logic boards from a powered up and running system. We were able to intervene before he got the board out. Needless to say, this fellow was blacklisted and his manager reamed ....

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Fragile. Very fragile.

        To be fair, some DEC kit (NOT memory!) was hot-swappable, but this fact was mostly undocumented. We weren't supposed to do it in front of customers, even when it was safe.

  2. Mark 85 Silver badge

    The first place I worked in IT had 4 VAX's and a large HP box in the computer room along with a strict rule that no food, or beverages were to be brought in there. I should mentioned that the building was "smoke-free". Except for the IT manager and CIO, who after lunch most days would bring their coffee and cigars to the computer room and use the VAX's for tables.

    Same company also had a strict "no alcohol" rule during working hours. But the wine cellar was next to the computer room in the basement and the board room had a wet bar with two taps for the barrels. Yes, they were always cold and ready for use.

  3. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Coat

    "Has your boss ever exempted themselves from rules imposed on others?"

    You'll get a much more manageable response if you turn that question on it's head.

    Another good one is "Has there ever been a good idea in your department that you boss did not have first?*"

    *And by definition only the boss can have good ideas. If it was that good he would have thought of it already.

    1. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

      Re: "Has your boss ever exempted themselves from rules imposed on others?"

      I had a great idea at an old job. We ran our software for clients on our own kit. One potential client didn't want to switch to us because they'd spent a shit-ton of money on their own (single) server and paid a firm to write a basic service. Our software was by far the best in the (niche) industry but the clients software did work, it just didn't help them make as much money ( without going into detail, in that industry, better software = much more profit ).

      I suggest that we offer to buy the server from them - it would pay itself back in the long run, and we'd get another server to add to our pool that we'd end up buying at a few months down the line anyway. "That's a good idea." I was told.

      A few days later my boss returned from a trip to the pub/bookies/wherever he always disappeared to and proclaimed "I've had a great idea....".

      ( it was a tiny firm, boss was the owner, I don't believe he nicked it on purpose, but still.... )

    2. Arthur the cat Silver badge

      Re: "Has your boss ever exempted themselves from rules imposed on others?"

      In one company I worked for the best way to get something radical past management was to have a conversation with the MD down the pub along the lines of "I've had an idea but I'm not sure whether it's workable, so what do you think about ...". 2-3 days later the MD would announce this brand new initiative that he'd come up with, and the techies would all grin at whoever's turn it had been to speak to the MD.

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: "Has your boss ever exempted themselves from rules imposed on others?"

      I and my small team had adjacent desks. The conversation between us was fairly continuous - there may have been complaints from surrounding teams. One year I got a bad report for not holding meetings with my team. This was written by my line manager who never held such meetings with me and countersigned by his manager who also never held such meetings with me. Do as I say!

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "Has your boss ever exempted themselves from rules imposed on others?"

      Yah, worked at a place run by a guy like that when my employer was acquired. Got the hell out before it killed me. Best move I ever made.

      Anon because the Internet has a long memory.

  4. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Happy

    We turned it on its head

    At one electronics place place I worked we had a long sheet of fanfold headed with:

    "Cockups we're prepared to admit".

    There were all the usual things and most people initialed their entries, including one of the bosses with "Plugged 110V kit into 240V supply".

    What was revealing was the people who never made a single entry.

    1. Mark York 3 Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: We turned it on its head

      Spent a entire morning rebuilding a PSU (not a PC one) for use on ships & on-shore positioning systems.

      Went for Friday Lunchtime liquid lunch with my colleagues, returned & powered it on with a bang, yes I had forgotten to switch it from 110V back to 240V for testing (See icon choice).

      On the plus side later that day I was told I was going to Nantes for two weeks on a training course, departing Sunday, so fixing it again wasn't my problem. :D

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: We turned it on its head

        "[...] yes I had forgotten to switch it from 110V back to 240V for testing"

        A UK customer had a new mainframe delivered. Owing to very long production delays the supplier had upgraded it from the range's smallest UK model to its largest model. That model had to be imported from the USA. The customer was very pleased with their bargain after the long wait.

        The supplier's engineers commissioned it successfully with the UK to lower USA voltage autotransformer jury rigged.

        Overnight the customer's electricians commissioned the autotransformer into a permanent arrangement. On power up it was instantly clear that they had connected it backwards. Presumably giving the mainframe 4 times its expected voltage. Not sure how long they had to wait for another one to be shipped from the USA.

      2. Mark York 3 Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: We turned it on its head

        I hasten to add (Some 12 hours later admittedly) the training course was unrelated to electronics & setting voltage switches correctly, but the operation & setup of Syledis off shore position systems.

        There was a lot of wine & beer involved that first lunchtime with upper management of Sercel (We had to take the tram back to town & again to return to site the next day).

    2. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: We turned it on its head

      That sounds like a good place to work.*

      *Unless it's a fantasy. I've never heard of anywhere like that.

    3. Alistair Dabbs

      Re: We turned it on its head

      I think what makes the "Plugged 110V kit into a 240V supply" cock-up such a memorable lesson is the loud bang and, if you are in a darkened room, accompanying flash.

      It's something you don't do a second time. Of course, if you do, you're probably better off working on a farm.

      1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

        Re: We turned it on its head

        is the loud bang

        Not always, we had a DEC VT240 terminal (yes, it was along time ago) that worked fine like that for a month before quietly blowing a fuse. Even worked for a few more days after that when the user just replaced the fuse...

        Cue chorus of "they don't make 'em like they used to"...

        1. defiler Silver badge

          Ah - the loud bang

          Back in in the days when "multimedia" was the cool new kid, I worked for PC World. We had a consignment of monitors delivered set to 110V. Many customers called in with shaky voices from that episode.

          We ended up cutting a hole in the side of the boxes and flipping them across without opening them, but we did test one to see how big a bang it made.

          Big. That's accurate enough! :)

          1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

            Re: Ah - the loud bang

            I worked for PC World

            And are prepared to admit it? You are braver then me..

            1. Spacedinvader
              Trollface

              Re: Ah - the loud bang

              So you also worked there?

            2. defiler Silver badge

              Re: Ah - the loud bang

              And are prepared to admit it? You are braver then me..

              I was young. Foolish. I needed the money.

              Also, I got to see when the videogames were going cheap. Got System Shock CD for half price, and then a staff discount. :)

      2. This post has been deleted by its author

      3. PPK
        Pint

        Re: We turned it on its head

        Second time? (raises hand sheepishly) I did...

        Annual trade show in Las Vegas, mid 90s. Shipped my dev PC to use on the booth - wouldn't power up - oh yes, 110V (flips switch). Shipped it home, got it back to the lab, pop...

        Next year - rinse and repeat. The second time I was familiar with the fix - luckily it didn't go full magic smoke, but just fried a fuse mounted to the PSU PCB. Still, lesson finally learned, no Farmer Giles smock for me! (in my defence, shipment arrived back 2 weeks after the show by which time I'd forgotten about it. Yes, I could have changed it before shipping it home, but the amount of alcohol imbibed during said show made it difficult to remember...see icon).

      4. Kiwi Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: We turned it on its head

        It's something you don't do a second time. Of course, if you do, you're probably better off working on a farm.

        Ahem.. large animals that can do lots and lots of damage if annoyed/scared. Large powerful (if somewhat slow) machinery that can do lots and lots and lots and lots of damage if misused (I had so much fun in my youth!), lots of stuff that burns, lots of stuff that goes bang in rather pretty and rather noisy ways.

        Oh, and commonly several lots of 3-phase mains...

        Wanna rethink that? :)

    4. JimboSmith Silver badge

      Re: We turned it on its head

      What was revealing was the people who never made a single entry.

      Hah we had a small team and the name of everyone went into a jiffy bag (we didn't have a suitable hat). Then when a cock-up occurred and blame wasn't easy to attribute a name was pulled out of the hat and if it was your name it was your fault. It didn't matter if you were having the day off when it happened still your fault and you fixed it. It worked well because it made everyone potentially responsible and other people knew it probably wasn't actually your fault despite the fact that you were fixing it. Not sure HR approved though.

      1. NateGee

        Re: We turned it on its head

        I've had a franchisee of a unnamed but well known franchise who once who claimed that he never touched the voltage switch on the POS's PSU but upon a site visit could clearly see that he had. He then claimed that the switch was too easy to switch over (it definately wasn't and I demonstrated as such with both the unplugged knackered PC and the replacement) and refused to cough up the cost of replacing the PC. Once quick call to his Area Manager changed that.

        1. Mark York 3 Silver badge
          Mushroom

          Re: We turned it on its head

          Told the story of the small business owner that flipped the voltage selector switch to see what would happen many a time now (See icon again).

          The bill for reinstalling & recovering his business accounts & data from a very very shell shocked hard drive & file allocation table was in the order of 10 times the bill & labour for replacing the PSU.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: We turned it on its head

      A meager dev with no DC visits experience I was sent to replace a HDD in an already failing array, I pulled one of the last good disks out... He wasn't happy but considering he'd lose his shit to colleagues AND customers and have a reputation for it across the sector around here, I was genuinely spared. It was lying on its side and I just didn't count the right "2nd from the top".. 50/50. or 30/70 with noise, heat and one hand on the phone to the boss (excuses excuses)

    6. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Re: We turned it on its head

      Plugged 110V kit into 240V supply

      We had a whole shipment of Trigem 386 (or maybe 486 - it was a fair while ago and some bottles of wine have been had since..) machines delivered to us with the power supply switch set to 110v (this was the days before autosensing PSUs).

      We used to build the machines in tranches of 20 (unbox, cable up, flick bench power supply on). 20 almost simultaneous pops as 20 PSU units emitted the magic smoke. And 20 motherboards fried be oivervoltage leakage.

      At least the supplier admitted their mistake and replaced the machines at their expense. We did add a "check power supply settings" to the workflow though.

    7. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      Re: Plugged 110V kit into 240V supply

      Sort of. I was using a "portable" PC, a knockoff of the Compac cooler box, 486, plasma VGA display, you know the one I mean. I was using it at three different sites. One day during packing/transport/unpacking the switch on the PSU must have slided from the "230V" setting to the "110V" setting. Loud bang & magic smoke... Only I was using that machine for my engineering thesis at the time. Took a couple of allnighters to get back on schedule... Been checking the settings of switches ever since.

  5. eJ2095

    The GFX Card removed

    Did not take place at work, was for me friends brothers back in 2000s he was 15 at the time.

    Was explaining over MSN messagner how to remove gfx card to put another one in

    Then all of a sudden he vanished off line.

    then got a phone call saying his computer had gone off..

    Yup you can guess what happened there.. Did make me laugh, luckily it all still worked afterwards

    1. Olivier2553 Silver badge

      Re: The GFX Card removed

      Removing a card from a life PC, I have done it at least once.

      During a debugging repair phase, where you swap cards until you find one that works: insert a card turn on the machine, it does not work, turn off the machine, remove the card rinse and repeat. At some stage, I forgot to turn off the machine. I am not sure what the result was, but if I removed it, the card must have been bad already.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The GFX Card removed

        Did something similar with a new PC model. Powered it off and left the mains lead connected as a static ground. Plugging the new card in - the PC burst into life. Fortunately with no ill effects.

        It was the first time we had met a chassis with "standby" power and a "soft" mains switch. Later models had a "case open" microswitch to guard against that. Unfortunately it proved difficult to jam when you needed to observe the internals of a powered up machine.

  6. Oengus Silver badge
    Pint

    IBM PS/2

    I had a manager who received one of the first PS/2 PCs in our office. We had an agreement with IBM that they would send out someone to install all equipment (including PCs as they were very new to us). The manager the PS/2 was destined for decided that he could install the new box himself. He assembled the system (forgetting to plug in the mouse), fired up the PS/2 and was rewarded with the Windows desktop. When he went to do something he realised he had forgotten the mouse. This was one of the "new" PS/2 bus mice (previously all we had were serial mice). He went to the back of the running PS/2 and plugged the mouse into the appropriate PS/2 port. The PC immediately shut down. All efforts to revive the box failed.

    He rapidly re-boxed the PS/2 taking great care to put everything back where it should be and waited for the IBM tech to turn up to install the PS/2.

    When the IBM tech removed everything and set it up it failed to startup. The IBM tech declared the PS/2 DOA and arranged a new one. He later told us that it was a defective motherboard.

    By all accounts plugging a mouse or keyboard into a running PS/2 could cause a spike that would destroy the motherboard because of the way the PS/2 bus was connected to the system.

    To this day I still give that manager a hard time whenever he gets something new and decides to set it up himself (he is a friend of mine long retired)...

    1. Gene Cash Silver badge

      Re: IBM PS/2

      We had a problem in our uni lab of PS/2 motherboards dying. All at the same seat, which wasn't used by the same person, so this time it didn't seem to be user error.

      Turns out someone had run a chair or something over the mouse cord and it was internally shorted. After a day or so, it would kill the motherboard.

      I noticed there was a 90 degree kink in the cable and replaced the mouse, and then a week later noticed our semi-daily run of dead motherboards had ceased.

      Remember the damned Model 80s that were so heavy they had a "two-man lift" warning sticker on them?

  7. Joe Werner

    Hot-plug

    While we were studying, one of my friends had one of his PCs run on the desk (decomposed, no chassis, just the components...). The Linux kernel had hot-plugging for cards (started probably with networking, don't remember, too much alcohol at that time). He proceeded to demonstrate this by just pulling out one of the cards while it was running - and then dropped it. Onto the mainboard. Luckily only one of the NICs was fried, and it was "only a broadcom card", not one of the expensive 3com (yes, multiple NICs, had his own network, and this was the gateway / firewall to the internet).

    We were sober at that time...

    1. Gene Cash Silver badge

      Re: Hot-plug

      I was putting together a PC AT for a friend back when such things were $3500, and hard drives were full-height and multiple GB were rare. I think it might have been even pre-486.

      We put the powered-on drive on top of the case, at which point there was a pop and it was an ex-drive.

      Turned out a big old 1/2w resistor on the drive was destroyed, as evidenced by the smoke mark. Just for the hell of it, we replaced the resistor (this was long before surface-mount components) and the damn thing worked. It kept going for at least 3 or 4 years.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Hot-plug

        Gene, you're getting old enough for your mind to concatenate time. Back when ATs were still at the $3,500 price point (call it 1987ish), multi-GB drives didn't exist. In fact, most folks couldn't afford a 45 Meg drive back then, at about $1200 ...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      We were sober at that time

      Nah, I'm not buying that. Rookie mistake of making a denial when there was no accusation.

  8. Robert D Bank

    the big red button

    I worked at a place which had two main processing centres and a number of satellite mini-centres around the country. One of the mini-centres at the time actually shared the building of one of the main centres, albeit on another floor, but was being decommissioned. It finally reached the point where decommissioning was complete, and all the dayshift operations staff were standing in the main centres machine room talking about it with our manager 'Terrydactyl' (he was a bit old fashioned in management style). He took it upon himself to push the 'big red button' on the pillar next to him to officially power the satellite centre down. Everyone around him shuffled nervously in their shoes. The whole main processing centre went down immediately. Funniest thing to see his face when the lights came back on!

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: the big red button

      Ah, the big red button. I worked as an operator for a year in a place that had a Bull DPS 7 when I was still that young. I was suitably warned about its function by one of the three engineer programmers. These guys were the divas of the joint - a bit aloof and superior to us mere operators.

      Now you see, the Big Red Button was situated pretty much next to the entry of the mainframe room, more or less at shoulder height.

      One day I was on the afternoon shift when, after lunch, two of the three devs came into the mainframe room to check I don't know what. They headed back to the exit, but of them had obviously started telling a joke (those mainframe rooms were big, back then, and the operator console was at the other end from the entrance). The guy stopped, turned around and, reaching the obvious climax of his story, spread his arms wide - right onto the Big Red Button.

      The only thing more impressive than the sudden, total silence of the room was the look on his face.

      1. smudge Silver badge

        Re: the big red button

        The guy stopped, turned around and, reaching the obvious climax of his story, spread his arms wide - right onto the Big Red Button.

        I saw something very similar. The manager was showing a couple of visitors around the place. He entered the computer room, and then, to let them in, stepped to one side of the door.

        With an expansive arm gesture he said "This is the computer suite", and then, to let them see the length of it, he leaned back....

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: the big red button

          I was just putting the finishing touches on a small cluster of vaxen at SLAC one fine Friday afternoon. The annual Big Game between Stanford & Berkeley was to be the following day. A couple of grad students started passing a football (American version) between themselves. In the glass room. Just as I was threatening mayhem if they didn't knock it off, the ball hit the Big Red Button, Needless to say, a bunch of pissed off people couldn't attend the game the following day. The grad students computer privileges were suspended for the rest of the academic year. Personally, I'd have hung them by the thumbs in the Quad as a warning ...

          (As an alum in good standing of both schools, all I can add to the above is "Go Bears!")

          1. kain preacher Silver badge

            Re: the big red button

            Boo Boo. Go cardinals.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: the big red button

              On kibbutz it was the volunteer group's first shift on their own running the dining room. At 5:30am the lights were off. For several minutes we scoured the room looking for the light switch. All we could find was a Big Red Button. Mindful of the emergency drill warnings about what to do if the attack sirens sounded - we debated whether to "try it and see".

              In the end we pressed it - and breathed again when all the lights came on.

            2. jake Silver badge

              Re: the big red button

              Cardinals? That's baseball. You mean "Go Trees!", Shirley?

        2. Candy

          Re: the big red button

          "With an expansive arm gesture he said "This is the computer suite", and then, to let them see the length of it, he leaned back...."

          Did we work together in the '80s or is this more common than I thought?

          In our case, the reason the Kill Switch wasn't covered over was that we had just moved the "datacentre" into one end of a Portakabin while our office was demolished/rebuilt.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: the big red button

            "In our case, the reason the Kill Switch wasn't covered over [..]"

            Evening shift - all the cabinet surfaces piled high with card boxes for the overnight runs. A system programmer is waiting for his dedicated hands-on slot. He leans back against the cabinets - and that pushes the boxes back against the unprotected Red Button.

            The next week he is there again. This time he avoids that previous mistake. He finds a nice body-sized gap in the row of cabinets and leans against the solid wall.

            The gap hadn't been there the previous week - it was created to prevent the card trays piling up in front of the Red Button....

            After that a plastic core from a papertape reel was taped over the switch - so it could only be pressed by a finger.

    2. Admiral Grace Hopper

      Re: the big red button

      There's something irresistible about a Big Red Button.

      One afternoon, while happily programming away, the office was filled with the sound of silence as all the fans on all the desktops and servers wound done and the LaserJet II printers fell silent. A graduate trainee stood next to a Big Red Button looking aghast. Someone at a desk near him told us later that he'd seen the grad staring transfixed at the Big Red Button for a good minute or so before reaching out and pressing it. His Father Dougal moment cost the best part of half a days work as it took that long to power up the whole building without tripping the breakers every time the master switch was thrown.

      Two days later, all the Big Red Buttons had Big Yellow Covers on them.

      1. wyatt

        Re: the big red button

        Reminds me of when Cormorant first started its trials in the Army. Red Button was right by the door where you put your hand to get in and out. Soon a pringles tin became an unofficial mod..

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: the big red button

          Anyone remember the upright cabinet-style magtape drives beloved of SF and spy films, the high-speed ones with a vacuum-tensioned tape path? We got a new one that was running at full speed when I decided to open the front door to have a closer look. My only excuse is that no-one told me not to, and there was apparently no interlock. Door opened, vacuum vanished with a bang, and I had much of a 10" tape reel deposited in a pile of curls at my feet. Luckily we were just doing a backup at the time, which could be restarted with a fresh reel...

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: the big red button

            "My only excuse is that no-one told me not to, and there was apparently no interlock."

            The 1970s prototype mainframe and peripherals took a fair amount of power - so you couldn't use a single master switch.

            To start up from cold you pressed a button on the console. A little box on the wall then came into play. It had a rotating cam shaft that switched everything on in a controlled sequence.

            One day someone decided to open the door of the sequencer box - which had its key in the lock. The door had a safety microswitch - and the whole system crashed down instantly. It took three days to get everything working again.

        2. collinsl

          Re: the big red button

          You mean the AW101 Merlin? Or is this some sort of APC?

      2. J. Cook Silver badge

        Re: the big red button

        "Two days later, all the Big Red Buttons had Big Yellow Covers on them."

        Apparently, when one builds a brand new data center equipped with EPO buttons in this day and age, molly-guards are standard equipment. Ours even have a little circuit in them that squeals when you lift the cover. (Although I think that's battery powered, and we've never swapped the batteries on them, so the squealer might be dead by now...)

        Our manual extinguisher release buttons are actually a fire alarm pull stations; the hold-off buttons are yellow, and collared. (Also, everything is labeled with large-ish letters. The company we used specializes in data centers, so those were nice touches.)

    3. Prosthetic Conscience
      Mushroom

      Re: the big red button

      Oh yes, DC provider of ours doing routine UPS maintenance... Everything running on the diesel generators, one of the engineers apparently leans and buttocks said button "by accident" shutting down the generators the whole DC went off. Had some old servers there luckily everything came back no locked drivers or other nightmare stories I started reading about.

    4. JimboSmith Silver badge

      Re: the big red button

      A retail site where I was doing the fit out had a couple of momentary power drop outs. I was the only person there and the computer a mini tower I was using hadn't enjoyed the last one and had shut down. That prompted me to investigate which was a good thing because the power went out completely second later. Armed with a torch venturing into the basement I found the breakers for the building in the room next door to the comms cupboard. There was a smell of burning so I killed the power but sadly it wasn't a Big Red Button. I then called National Power Networks to come out and take a look as I needed the power back and the burning smell worried me. When the one bloke they sent turned up he said they weren't supposed to work on boxed in units so I said I'd take an ax to the boxing in if that would get him working faster. I removed the boxing and he looked at the situation for a minute before saying he'd call it in and a work crew would be there shortly.

      Two hours later a two man team turned up and told me that it wasn't really surprising as the installation was decades old. I said we'd only just moved in and the power was supposed to be fine. They said the main fuses had welded themselves to the board hence the burning smell. "It's our kit so we have to replace it" I then had to sit there whilst they ripped out the old set up and replaced it. As this was the basement there was no natural light and their million lumen lead acid battery torch was blinding. After much work with jointing gloves, screwdrivers, a crowbar, a chisel, some shiny new equipment and a lump hammer they were done. It was 2:15pm when the power went out and 10:30pm when I was able to finally make them a coffee. I said it was odd that it had gone when there was only me and one computer/monitor plus some lights using power. They said it could have gone at anytime it was that old. Thank goodness it happened when only I was there not when it was full of customers and equipment.

    5. JohnBoyNC

      Re: the big red button

      Contracted to a US National bank for IT work. Nature of work required frequent trips into the Datacenter from my cube farm desk. All went well until one morning arrived and my cipher lock combo didn't work. Tried several times thinking I'd fat fingered it, nope. Buzzed for someone to come let me in. A Bank Full Time Employee (FTE) came. Asked for a picture ID (even though we worked at adjacent desks). Thought he was pulling my leg, but he was dead serious. Produced said ID. Allowed into the cube farm. Asked WTF's going on. Apparently the evening prior a disgruntled contractor (different firm) had hit the BRB on his way out of the DC. Brought the bank's entire national system to a halt. New rules: ALL contractors to be escorted at ALL times when in the DC. So for the duration of the contract, I was escorted. FTE's were pissed because it pulled them away from their desk/work in progress. Contractors were pissed at the FOOL who'd started this whole mess. Fallout: Bank sued Contracting company for damages; 6 months later said Contracting company was in bankruptcy.

  9. chivo243 Silver badge
    Headmaster

    aren't all bosses exempt?

    Just remember, do as I say, not as I do, damn it...

  10. Gareth Perch

    Some of the kids at the school I worked at delighted in switching the 240/110v switch at the back - while it was off of course. They didn’t even have the satisfaction of witnessing the BANG when it was next switched on, because it usually happened next lesson. We had to glue plates over the switches in the end.

    In my first week in my first job, I blindly poked around the back of a brand new, freshly unboxed Amstrad PPC with the (live) power cable, looking for the power socket and found a serial port instead. Fortunately I was alone in the room, so I plugged it in properly and innocently announced it DOA.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      A friend received a police "fishing" raid on the basis of his name being in an acquaintance's address book. After several months it was returned when nothing was found.

      A few weeks later there was a blue flash from the power supply - which had somehow been switched to 110v. It is possible the police used 110v for safety in their inspection rooms....

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Back in the days of dial-up, I worked on a PC helpdesk for a UK computer and electronics retailer. The one that rhymes with "Pricksons".

    It was quite common to have one brand of computer in particular to just decide it wasn't going to work that day, and the slightly iffy "fix" was to remove all the cables, hold the power button for 30 seconds, and it would work when reconnected. Something something CMOS reset something power discharge something. It worked, though.

    The quick start instruction sheet for this brand also had customers plug the PC into the phone socket, and their phone into the back of the PC, to save buying a splitter.

    So upon taking all the cables out, the customer would instantly disconnect themselves - but wouldn't have remembered all the instructions so would have to phone back after plugging it all back in just to be told to turn it back on.

    Obvs we "weren't" under any sort of targets to do with number of calls / time on call, and thus we "never" used this sequence of events to turn one long call into two shorter ones.

    Anonymous because they probably still do similar things....

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      crapard fell, whiney or time to start working?

    2. rmason Silver badge

      During my teens an ISP helpdesk was one of my first jobs.

      You'd be amazed at the amount of times calls were shortened because we mentioned changing the filter for a spare.

      "ok, hang on!"

      "No not right NOW!"

      "bzzzzzzzzzttttt"

      Followed by an angry call back about support staff "hanging up on me!".

  12. Chris 125

    I used to work in an engineering lab that had a big red shutdown button on the wall near the door.

    It also had a big green "mushroom" to open the secure doors from the inside.

    Those buttons were better labelled after we employed someone who was colourblind.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      A customer had a similar arrangement. After the Deathly Silence descended - one of the operators was unable to explain why he had pressed that tempting Red Button.

      1. BebopWeBop Silver badge
        Mushroom

        Big red buttons are sooo tempting (see HHGTG)

        1. Mark York 3 Silver badge
          Coat

          About 6 months ago I posted this here, so I'll C&P it.....

          At one facility I worked at & I don't have the full story of why the offshore support insisted on the former plant Sysadmin hitting the plants BRB, pictures were sent to the remote guy via email, he confirmed that was the button he wanted to be pushed & goodness gracious me it was going to be pushed. He was advised again of what it was that would be pushed & the consequences, the plant manager dutifully informed of what was required, what the offshore wanted & what would be the fallout.

          & so it came to pass that the BRB was pushed on the word of the Technically Competent Support representative.

          (Paraphrasing here........)

          "Goodness gracious me, Why your plant disappearing from network?"

          "Because the BRB you insisted that was the button you wanted pushing, despite my telling you that it was never to be pushed under pain of death has just shut down the entire plant."

          I think it took until about 15 minutes before production was due to commence the following day to get everything back up & running.

  13. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

    Not IT-related

    But the 110v/240v stories reminded me of a time at Uni. We were learning power engineering in the basement lab with big motors and generators. No desktop stuff here, these were 200v DC systems fed from hefty battery banks and exposed terminals (we all had the lecture about removing rings & metal watchbands).

    Like all large motors the voltage has to be applied gently, in stages, as they pick up speed (think of that familiar stepped acceleration on older tube trains). This was done via a simple switched rheostat, which had a magnetic lock to hold it on at the max position. That way when the power was cut it safely returned to the minimum position. Usually.

    One of my fellow students hadn't noticed that the rheostat was stuck at max when he powered on his motor. 200vDC applied to a sub-1 Ω coil resistance, the effect was memorable. Despite being securely bolted to the floor (fortunately) the whole motor assembly twitched, and the cables sagged as they overheated. Best of all was the incredible noise of maybe 100 kg of rotor going from a standstill to full speed in about 2 seconds, just a tortured scream that I can still remember. Half the lab ducked under the tables, the rest turned to watch. To our considerable surprise fuses didn't blow, and the motor settled down at speed. No-one ever had the nerve to try it again deliberately, though.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not IT-related

      A lecturer at Bangor university related what happened when someone misread the three phase lights when synchronising a small generator to the mains. The national grid won the head to head - and apparently the generator just froze and disintegrated.

    2. joewilliamsebs

      Re: Not IT-related

      Ooh, I remember similar deep in the bowls of the Electrical Engineering department. Things that made satisfying bangs when sliding into place, making the unwary jump several feet.

      We had one group project which was using a Z80 board to control a motor. We had to design & build interface circuitry and write the control code in assembler.

      Our design had a 12v supply going through some beefy MOSFET transistors, controlled by some digital logic which had a separate 5v supply.

      One of our group's contribution to the project was uncovering the small flaw in our design. If you switched off the 5v supply first, it ceased it's function of controlling the MOSFETs and allowed the 12v supply to flow freely, causing an unintended excess temperature event and making the magic smoke escape.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Not IT-related

        Our line printers had a large array of 2N3055 power transistors. The circuit was such that if one failed - then its neighbour absorbed its load. Unfortunately one going was enough to overload the rest which died in a quick chain reaction.

      2. Niall Mac Caughey

        Re: Not IT-related

        I had a certain moment at college in the heavy machinery electrical lab. I suppose I just wan't paying attention, but it could be a deeper issue!

        The task was to alter the load on a motor-generator combination and measure the parameters. To do this we used a load box, which is basically a very large panel covered in knobs to allow heavy wire resistors to be shunted across the generator. The knobs had ascending numbers which - according to a very small label at bottom right - represented the load in Watts at 110V DC. For some reason I decided the numbers represented ohms.

        I gradually adjusted the machine down to zero ohms - as I thought - but naturally failed to raise the current as I wished. After scratching my head for a while I decided there was an issue with the circuit and I should short out the load box to check this. Holding a heavy cable with a brass spade lug on the end, I tapped it across the terminals.

        It was very impressive. There was a huge explosion and the large brass lug disappeared in a blinding flash of green light, the very large room full of students were stunned into silence and immobility while the big motor was thrown out of sync with the grid and began to oscillate violently on its mounting skid, making a very alarming noise. It seemed like an age before the lecturer manged to leap to the nearest Big Red Button. It was a lot longer before I was able to see properly.

        That was more than 30 years ago and I'm told that it is still used in that laboratory as an example of What Not To Do

    3. david bates

      Re: Not IT-related

      Thank you for that. I always wondered what that was on Arriva Wales trains. I'd vaguely decided it was the train going through some sort of gearbox, but hadn't worked out quite why it needed so many gears....

      That makes much more sense and I can die happy.

      1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

        Re: Not IT-related

        and I can die happy.

        Steady on, I didn't think Arriva was that bad...

      2. Martin an gof Silver badge

        Re: Not IT-related

        Arriva Wales trains

        What, the class 150, 142 and similar that are still in use and aren't electric at all, being Diesel hydraulic I believe. I believe some early ones had mechanical gearboxes.

        They are horrid, noisy dirty, slow, inaccessible and can't carry enough passengers at peak times. But they won't be replaced (even though Arriva has pulled out of the race for the next contract) because there are still plans to update the valleys lines as part of the South Wales Metro plan, which may involve turning some lines from "heavy" to "light" rail, and may - or may not - involve electrification. Nobody can actually work out what sort of replacement to buy!

        M.

      3. collinsl

        Re: Not IT-related

        OK - the vast majority of diesel "Multiple Unit" trains on the UK network are direct drive, where they have lorry-style propshafts and automatic gearboxes.

        Older electric trains on the other hand are of course powered by electic motors, which step like this. Newer trains with AC motors and digital power controls are more likely to increase power gradually by cutting power off and reapplying it at high frequencies.

        1. Martin an gof Silver badge

          Re: Not IT-related

          the vast majority of diesel "Multiple Unit" trains on the UK network are direct drive

          Yup. The point I was making is that the OP had attributed the stepped acceleration he experienced on "Arriva Trains Wales" to the stepped electric motor effect, but none of the networks ATW run on are electrified, and all the DMUs they run are (AFAIAA) mechanical or hydraulic rather than Diesel-electric.

          :-)

          M.

    4. jake Silver badge

      Re: Not IT-related

      A friend of mine reached behind a large bank of relay racks and managed to get his Rolex watchband across the 48V@300A supply ... The resulting loud "CRACK!" and fans spinning down, coupled with the smell of roasting/burning pork, were rather disturbing. To say nothing of the screaming. I managed to calm him down & get him to the ER ... Xrays showed little balls of gold melted into his wrist behind the 3rd degree charring. The surgeons later told him he was lucky to still have full use of his hand. Today, nearly 33 years later, the scarring is still impressive, despite skin grafts. He got a new band for the watch, and now wears it on his other wrist. It still works.

      And people wonder why I always take off my wedding ring when working on electrical stuff. Yes, that includes the cars, trucks, boats etc.

      1. Mark York 3 Silver badge
        Holmes

        Re: Not IT-related

        I did a HNC in electronics along with others who wanted to upgrade our C&G\ONC qualifications.

        A friend of mine was a ex-TV repair guy & told the story about setting up the pots on a replacement board with his hand adjacent to the HT & how his watch strap delivered the full experience to his person when it made contact.

        The amount of skin he tore off his bare arm from the solder joints as he extracted his arm hurriedly was quite impressive as he stood there shaking & dripping blood on the customers carpet.

        An ex-employer decided it was a good idea to mess around with three phase (he wasn't a electrician, but a salesman), the scars formation around his eyes would tell you how lucky he was to be wearing glasses at that moment.

        1. Tom 7 Silver badge

          Re: Not IT-related

          I had a Cossard twin beam oscilloscope and gym accessory that someone donated to me. One day a screw leapt of my work bench, clattered across the scope and disappeared down a ventilation whole smaller than it and one of the beams disappeared. Power off, lid off, spot screw, reach for screw, throw scope 15' across the room tearing a couple of dozen intercostals.

          They dont make capacitors like they used to.

          Or scopes - after a few weeks I could drag it back to where it should live and all was well!

  14. Tinslave_the_Barelegged

    Hot swap wheels

    In the late 90s, we were completing the rollout of some new client-server systems. I had bought a big new server, with redundant everythings, including 4 hotswap power supplies, two of which were needed. he server wa s a huge beast and was on wheels. One day, fortunately just before going-live date, but the machine in full use by the developers, I decided to check something at the back, and wheeled the server forward. And all four power cables popped out.

    After that, I bought locking power cables.

    Yes, I was IT Manager at the time.

    To complete my mea culpa, I did have a routine at that company, when having monthly one-to-ones with staff, of encouraging them to comment on me and my style, but it always felt a somewhat trite invitation, given the authoritarian nature of corporate workplace hierarchy. I meant it, though, and learnt plenty.

  15. Andy Taylor

    110V power supplies

    I'm sure that there can't be a single PC tech of a certain age who hasn't managed to destroy a power supply by not checking the voltage setting switch before powering on.

    Thankfully this is pretty much a thing of the past, although I discovered the hard way that TVs produced for the USA market are shipped with single voltage power supplies.

    Back when I worked at the fruit store, I was engaged in helping with a new store opening in Germany. One of the window displays was a giant iPad mockup which consisted of a flat screen TV (mounted vertically) with the bottom part of the screen obscured. (Similar to this: http://www.phoenixstudios.co.uk.gridhosted.co.uk/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/giant-ipad.jpg)

    The complete display had been shipped from Cupertino and the kit included a step-down transformer.

    The kit was assembled, placed in the window of the store and powered on, with the transformer still in its box.

    I was impressed that the TV lasted most of the day (>8 hours) before expiring. A replacement TV was shipped overnight from another store (at great expense) so that the opening could go ahead as planned.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 110V power supplies

      we had a user who did it. Sitting at her new Gateway PC she wondered what the little indented red switch was around the back, click, BANG, blue smoke. That'll be the voltage selector then.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    BRS

    I have to admit I had a Big Red Switch incident of my own whilst studying electrical engineering at college.

    We were tasked with going around the college making drawings of the main electrical panels, anyway me and about 3 or 4 fellow students went in to the colleges main intake room to sketch what we saw. So I determined where the main college campus breaker was, it was this chuffing great leaver a bit like a one armed bandit type thing. Ok, now on the side of box with chuffing great big handle sticking out was a very small flapper switch type thing, and for some reason I decided to push it. CLUNK! One arm bandit handle moves all the power goes out! It was only the fecking breaker test switch that I’d pushed! Much oh shits latter and lecturers appearing from classrooms wondering what the hell had happened, we concocted a story that my A4 binder had accidentally knocked the test switch as it wasn’t covered. For the rest of the term the college bell was out by about 5mins as that’s how long everything took to sort out

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: BRS

      "For the rest of the term the college bell was out by about 5mins [..]"

      One of our school clocks - mounted high on a wall - went backwards after a power failure. Presumably the manufacturer had provided some sort of manually activated "reverse kick" for the synchronous motor - rather than incorporating an automatic one.

      Microwave oven turntables can be seen to turn in either direction. Presumably they don't have a need for something to correct the synchronous motor's starting direction?

      1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

        Re: BRS

        Microwaves - just guessing that the idea is, if the stuff on the turntable bumps into a wall or something and stops turning, then it should auto reverse. So it always reverses. That will also allow the reversing action to be tested.

        Microwaves also shouldn't be run with nothing inside to be heated, but AIUI this isn't prevented?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: BRS

        Microwave oven turntables can be seen to turn in either direction. Presumably they don't have a need for something to correct the synchronous motor's starting direction?

        I have an orange juicer which works like that, but the user manual manages to make it a feature, for "more effective juice extraction". Marketing...

      3. JulieM Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: BRS

        That will be a single phase synchronous motor with a permanent magnet armature. Starts in a random direction, attempts to auto-reverse if stalled.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Omar?

    The last I heard he was making tents. Must be another mid-life career change, like my own.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    AFAICR the only DEC mainframes were the DEC-10, DEC-20, and the VAX 9000 ( and possibly other numbers > 9000 ). All other VAXen were mini-computers .

    For younger members of the audience the DEC-xx mainframes dated back to the 1970s / early 80s and were 36-bit word machines ( 9-bit bytes IIRC ). I think by then their PDP-8 (12-bit word ) minis had mostly been replaced by the ( 16-bit word, eventually up to 22-bit addressing ) PDP-11s. Then there was the Philips telecomms system with 36-bit words / 32-bit addressing ( other bits reserved for access protection etc ).

    I don't know about the "good old days" but they were effing confusing sometimes,

    1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      I don't know about the "good old days" but they were effing confusing sometimes,

      At least they didn't use EBCDIC.

  19. Spacedinvader
    Happy

    Do not press?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vsF0K3Ou1v0

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A major bank

    I've done some field work for a major bank on both open and mainframe systems.

    One day I was called to site after a massive outage only to discover that several of our supported system's had mysteriously panicked and shut down just around 9:00am.

    Unfortunately local IT staff where now no longer available and most of the IT heavy lifting was outsourced to another continent so getting clues as to why multiple systems had shut down was difficult. However the biggest clue came from the building contractors who were loitering around the DC waiting on the IT manager. I managed to establish that the contractors had been directed to remove a DC partition wall earlier that morning and all was going well until after 9:00 when a senior manager rushed in and asked them to stop what they were doing and leave the DC. It wasn't until about 1 hour later that they were l sent back in to quickly unwrap the dust sheets they had draped over every single rack in the DC. I never did see the IT manager on that site and I believe he was fired over this along with.

    1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: A major bank

      ...local IT staff where now no longer available and most of the IT heavy lifting was outsourced...

      It would be interesting, I think, to compare the amount saved in salary to the value of the time spent "futzing around" while the outsourced staff get their act together, over the years.

      Our local IT staff, a manager and two specialists, support an office of 100+ at a level which I find amazing. And they do it always with a smile on their faces and with excellent response times. Mostly, because they know how things are set up (because they set them up) and they talk to each other and to us. I would argue strongly that they are worth a good deal more than they cost and replacing them with an off-site "support team" would be a huge mistake.

      Many thanks to Heather, Kyp and Greg for all the good work they do for us.

  21. Walter Bishop Silver badge
    Facepalm

    What shall I unplug?

    The very expensive 'consultant' comes in to give a talk and unplugs the router to plug-in his laptop this despite their being at least twenty free sockets in the room. He managed to pick the one-and-only vital piece of equipment to unplug. Of course leaving the router plugged in to a free standing socket under the stairs at the back of the room wasn't too clever in the first place. but then again, what do I know, I'm not a consultant.

  22. Herby Silver badge

    Don't touch switch

    A friend of mine had his "shop" setup with one like that. He had gotten a load of flash bulbs with edison (screw( bases, and decided to wire all of them up to the "do not touch" switch. On many occasions we had left the room only to return with the person he had left behind in a somewhat blind and dazed look. He mentioned that it was "priceless".

    Yes, I have plugged 120 volt kit (my case it was a tape recorder in the 60's) into 240 volt outlet. In my defense, I didn't know the outlet was 240 volts. I confirmed that it was by looking at the light bulb in a lamp socket. Of course I did "return to shelf" the item and didn't say many words about the incident. Oh, and yes, it was in the USA, and I was in the third form.

  23. Chairman of the Bored Silver badge

    Has your boss ever exempted himself?

    When working for the gov't I had to suffer through innumerable mandatory trainings, to include sexual harassment and whatnot. One week after completing my backlog I had to talk to a program manager

    Upon entering his domain I found he had a contractor sitting at a PC doing his ethics training while unmistakable sounds emanated from his office suggesting that he and the (rather blonde and leggy) branch head were doing ... head ... things. That qualify?

    Is this IT? Yeah, they were experimenting with hot plug technology I guess

  24. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

    The 'Computer Sanity System' as so it's called is a big red emergency button that attaches to your computer that can run various tasks when pressed. USD 10.95.

  25. DougS Silver badge

    Keeping track of mistakes

    When I was running a small department years ago before I decided consulting was more to my taste, I instituted a rule that if you screwed up you bought lunch for the team. The rule was it had to be end user visible, big enough it would interrupt the workflow of at least one person, and had to be your fault (i.e. fat finger type screwup or not thinking through what you were doing, not something that was really the fault of an application or OS vendor like a patch that broke something)

    I held myself the same rule, of course.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Keeping track of mistakes

      In my experience, the "screw up, get in the lunch/pizza/beer/whatever for those affected" thing is pretty much universal, outside of formulaic big business. It's a sign of contriteness. Likewise, if one individual gets kudos that would have never happened without the support of others, the one does the honors as a thank-you.

  26. JulieM Silver badge

    Big Red Buttons

    I wrote a text adventure game with a big red "emergency reset button" in one of the rooms.

    If you did not type IGNORE BUTTON every other move, your character pressed it anyway -- and the game restarted from the beginning .....

    1. Kiwi Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Big Red Buttons

      I wrote a text adventure game with a big red "emergency reset button" in one of the rooms.

      If you did not type IGNORE BUTTON every other move, your character pressed it anyway -- and the game restarted from the beginning .....

      Not sure whether to downvote you for the nasty evilness of that idea, or to upvote you for the nasty evilness of that idea - and that I probably would've done the same had I written something like that :)

      Have one of these while I decide :)

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