back to article A basement of broken kit, zero budget – now get the team running

Friday is here again, bringing with it the ferreting for loose change to pay the beer bill – and, of course, On Call, our weekly column in which readers tell us how they dealt with a tech support drama. This week, we meet "Hugh", whose tale of "make do and mend" landed in some rather hot water. Hugh worked at a major non- …

  1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

    Seems like the boss deserved to drink "funny" flavoured coffee.

    1. N2 Silver badge

      Indeed

      "Seems like the boss deserved to drink "funny" flavoured coffee."

      Give the mug a good rimming first.

    2. Korev Silver badge
      Coat

      Yep, seems like she'd relaxative a bit and chill out

  2. James 51 Silver badge

    I know the answer is probably the PHB but if there was no tech support, who was spending the IT budget?

    1. ibmalone Silver badge

      I know the answer is probably the PHB but if there was no tech support, who was spending the IT budget?

      If an alternative is needed: previous year with no budget spent means budget cut to zero?

      1. Chloe Cresswell

        Or was the budget spent on hiring the one person?

        1. Chris King Silver badge
          Coat

          "Or was the budget spent on hiring the one person?"

          Hugh's salary probably WAS the IT budget.

          In a previous job, my salary came out of the furniture budget for several months. I had this recurring nightmare of the auditors coming round and the boss-man having to drape a tablecloth over me - "fine, but don't you dare stick that 20" CRT on my back again !"

          (Yes, it's the one with the emergency antimacassars in the pockets...)

          1. RogerT

            On one occasion we ran out of toilet rolls so issued some travel expenses to Mr B. O. G. Roll.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Hugh's salary probably WAS the IT budget.

            I'll post this as AC for obvious reasons coming up. One of the very few decent things I ever did in IT was one year-end about 10 years ago, my boss gave me a letter saying I was getting an increase. In the same meeting, he went on to say that I was going to have to tell the IT dept that there wasn't any money for any increases that year. "What do you call this?" I asked, holding my increase letter. "Your salary comes from the Executive budget," he said. "Fine," I said. "Then take back my increase."

            A look of panic came over his face when he twigged he would have to go to the CEO to say someone wasn't as greedy as he was, and I relented a little. "At least use the increase I don't really need to fund an increase for the dept," I suggested. "Cant be done. different budget," he said. Eventually we compromised. I'd keep the increase so as not to make waves among the greed-suite, and the team each got a 20% bonus. At least I felt I could look them in the eye later. I know it was only a token bit of resistance, but these things must at least be challenged.

            No wonder I made enemies... But I'm no longer involved with any big corporate.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Reminds me of the time I upset all my colleagues by being vocal and saying that we shouldn't accept our annual pay rise that year. This was during an economic down cycle and I could see what was coming.

              Sure enough, the following year the redundancies started. Who knows how many people we could have kept in a job with that payrise money, at least some who had voted for the raise. The company recovered pretty quickly afterwards.

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Similar Story

              I was a tech support manager for a public sector body. We had had a pay freeze for several years and it looked like the next financial year was a bit stronger. I negotiated promotions for virtually my whole team, clarified with the admin / finance manager that the money was there and had a wonderful week holding one-one meetings to explain why each of them was getting a substantial increase in salary. We then got called in to the IT Directors office to be told that there had been an error in the budgeting and the funds were not available. My other colleagues all claimed that they had not informed their team members that raises were on the way (liars) but I refused to toe the party line and told the boss that not only had I informed each member formally that they were getting a raise but had been explicit in how much each would get. Furthermore team members had already made significant personal spending decisions (one was finally replacing that knackered old banger with a newer model and another had put his house on the market to up-size for space for his new baby). By making it an issue of personal credibility I was able to force through the promotions for my team members. I did find out later that the 'budget crisis' was actually a request by the CEO to make further voluntary savings, if the other managers had stood firm the raises would have been awarded to their teams too.

    2. Mark 85 Silver badge

      I'd agree with you on the PHB. Check for new car, recently remodeled house, or new swimming pool. Maybe a trip out of town regularly. This does have the feel of something not quite right there.

    3. vtcodger Silver badge

      What budget?

      Everyplace I've ever worked, there is an routine that is gone through near the end of the fiscal year wherein any unspent money in better managed accounts is quietly transferred to accounts with pressing needs. But doesn't that largely obviate rational budgeting? Why yes, of course it does. Wherever did you get the idea that budgeting is supposed to be, or is, rational?

      Coming into a situation like that described -- were I crazy enough to put myself in that situation, I wouldn't be at all surprised to find that the budgeted funds had been hijacked.

      1. DougS Silver badge

        Re: What budget?

        Even worse, when I was in a management position at a university if I didn't spend all the money in my budget it would be CUT the following year - since I obviously didn't need that much money! So what I was told to do by my superiors was to make sure I spent all the money in my budget no matter what, then try to push through a PO with two weeks to go that would put me 5-10% over the limit at the end of the fiscal year. It would be rejected, but it would increase my chances of getting a larger budget in the following fiscal year.

        Stupidity.

        What's worse, since IT equipment was going down in price and up in performance so rapidly (this was in the late 90s) the difference between buying something in the first month and last month of the fiscal year was often quite significant. And since the fiscal year started on July 1st, it made sense to buy in May and make changes over the summer breaks since you didn't want to try doing it during the very busy fall/spring semesters (and you didn't want to do it over the holidays for obvious reasons)

        So on more than one occasion I'd have like 20% of my budget spent with two months left, and then spend 80% of it all at once. I got called to the carpet by the finance people for this on more than one occasion, but after the first tongue lashing I made sure to get quotes at the beginning of the fiscal year and end of the fiscal year for my needs - showing them I could upgrade 50% more workstations by waiting shut them up.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: What budget?

          I met the same budget stupidity in Industry.

          But that was in my previous job. In my current job (internal part time IT 'expert' to a small medium business) there is no IT budget, or if there is its a secret.

          Ditto my actual job.

          I really should bring the subject up.

        2. iainr

          Re: What budget?

          BTDT, including the 5-10% overspend in a previous job . I didn't like being peniless in the two moonths in between the "last" order date on the old budget and when the new budgets were approved so I'd generally hold back ~£1k for emergencies, Outside orders took 6 weeks to come off the budget but consumables would cycle in a day or so, so I'd agree with the department admin to hold back 1K for emergecies until the last possible date at chick point an order for $1ks worth of toner and paper would be squrited into the purchasing system.

          Then there was the year that the Uni's coffers were very low and ALL IT purchases had to be countersigned by the HOD, Head of University Information services and a Vice Principal. At which point the CPU fan on our main router died (it was a linux box we were cheapskates). I still have somewhere in my attic a purchase order for a £2.50 CPU fan countersigned by £300k+ salaries which took 3 weeks to be processed, even with me walking it to the relevant offices. At the same time a very similar looking PO for a very similar looking part but marked as "office cooling fan"*, costing £5 and coming from a more generic supplier sailed through the system without a question.

          *it's a cooling fan and the router was in my office....

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Almost certainly the angry boss. Setting the new guy up to fail, angry when he succeeds.

      I'd say the IT budget was going on new shoes and hand bags. Then, under pressure due to the poor state of IT she's ordered to spend some IT budget on an IT person. She needs this person to fail hard. When they don't, she looks bad. Hence the outrage.

  3. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    When you're set up to fail...

    ...but succeed anyway.

    No wonder the boss was upset.

    1. chivo243 Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: When you're set up to fail...

      She had plans to get more budget... waiting for the ultimate clusterFcsk to cry to her superiors. She just couldn't trust the n00b on the team to keep the secret?

      1. ma1010 Silver badge
        Paris Hilton

        Re: When you're set up to fail...

        @chivo243

        "She had plans to get more budget... waiting for the ultimate clusterFcsk to cry to her superiors."

        I think you're really onto something here. In the particular corner of Hell where I'm condemned to work, I've come up with ways to simplify and speed up key tasks. For a while, when we were way behind and had no budget, the PHBs were very happy with me doing this. Then, the budget situation got better or something. When another "big job" came along, I came up with a way to speed it up by at least 4x over the stone-age process they were using - and got a bollocking for "not going through channels" and was told not to use my shortcut methods or give them to anyone.

        WTF? I wondered. Only answer I could come up with (other than total insanity on the part of PHBs - which I can't rule out) is that they wanted the project to be a total time soak to try to get more budget/headcount or something out of their PHBs.

        Paris because she's fully qualified to be a PHB here.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: When you're set up to fail...

          "Only answer I could come up with (other than total insanity on the part of PHBs - which I can't rule out)"

          The administrative mind runs on fixed processes. You have this job, you follow this process. It means they don't have to think. Throwing them out of that mode probably causes them the same pain that you and I suffer when deep in a complex problem and someone comes along looking for a time-sheet or progress report.

          Insanity is probably close enough.

          1. swm

            Re: When you're set up to fail...

            When I was in college the administration wanted all of the students to fill out detailed time cards. The head of the computation center looked at the form and said, "Cant we just fill out one and duplicate it?"

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: When you're set up to fail...

          Several years ago, I was looking after an increasingly decrepit billing system, which was slow and crash-prone enough for there to be a risk of it taking longer than 24 hours to run. Which in turn caused issues, as this would mean that the wrong datestamps would appear in various places.

          (Old system, I didn't write it, etc etc).

          Being a conscientious and industrious little developer, I put together some patches to improve both the robustness and performance of the system.

          Oddly, these patches weren't met with unconstrained joy from the billing team, as by improving things - and hence implicitly extending the functional lifespan of the system - my patches were impacting the business case for a new billing system!

          Just can't win, some days...

        3. art guerrilla

          Re: When you're set up to fail...

          oh my, obvious a number have never worked a typical gummint contract... ESPECIALLY if 'cost-plus', that is the holy grail of billable time ! ! ! the powers that be WANT you to 'waste' as much time as possible parked on these cash cows, logging all of your time as billable to the gummint teat...

          gee, wonder why gummint projects always cost so much... herp derp

        4. pɹɐʍoɔ snoɯʎuouɐ

          Re: When you're set up to fail...

          " I've come up with ways to simplify and speed up key tasks. For a while, when we were way behind and had no budget, the PHBs were very happy with me doing this. "

          I worked at QVC many years ago, and they had the exact same bulshit with the warehouse staff.

          when they had a massive list of orders that all had to be out the door by the next day, they didn't care about rules. I don't know how many times there were two picker trucks in the same isle, while the shit head team leader* was stood at the end of the isle watching, but saying nothing. But the next day, if the rush was not on, the same pickers would be in hr getting a blocking....

          *it was a working theory that this particular team leader had something over his boss. The amount of times he was reported for stuff that should get you sacked but like Teflon, nothing ever stuck. He was definitely protected.

      2. Myvekk

        Re: When you're set up to fail...

        "She had plans to get more budget... waiting for the ultimate clusterFcsk to cry to her superiors. She just couldn't trust the n00b on the team to keep the secret?"

        It's hard to keep a secret when you haven't been told what it is you are not supposed to let people know!

    2. Chris King Silver badge
      Holmes

      Re: When you're set up to fail...

      My last couple of jobs could be summed up like this...

      Me: Why do I get all the "suicide missions" ?

      Boss: Because you usually succeed and manage not to get yourself killed in the process !

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: When you're set up to fail...

        "Me: Why do I get all the "suicide missions" ?

        Boss: Because you usually succeed and manage not to get yourself killed in the process !"

        A bit OT perhaps but my father always said his reward for not getting killed on D-Day was to be sent out East so that the Japanese could try where the Germans failed.

        However, it's rarely possible to abort suicidal IT projects with a couple of A-bombs.

  4. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Go now, go quickly

    Sounds like the sort of 'boss' who was on the fiddle. I wouldn't want to be around when the crunch finally comes, and risk having my reputation tainted by such a poisonous person and situation.

  5. Giovani Tapini

    Some managers

    simply don't like having their favourite moan removed from under their nose. It has the same effect of telling kids, no you cant have the ice cream. it means that they have to find out what else is happening in the rest of their (dis)organisation.

    They'll have a hard time at the next senior managers meeting that will go along the lines of. "Now the laptop crisis has been solved, what are you doing about their end of life, the network performance, the changes in regulations" er er "I didn't know about any of those..."

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    HMSO

    Started as an admin assistant at HMSO back in 1998. Part way through the year, they moved from the VT220 terminals they had to.... Windows 3.1. Still ran VT220 sessions in windows. But, me being the curious type, started playing with Macros. Soon learnt how to finishing my work by 10.30am

    Got hauled into the office one day: Stop doing this. Why? Firstly you're embarrassing the rest of the staff (who somehow managed to make this work last the entire day) and secondly because the IT department don't know what you're doing.

    I lasted a year.

    1. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

      Re: HMSO

      I would've commended you for that... and told the rest of the staff to look at increasing their productivity.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: HMSO

        Ah, the age old conundrum: how much automation can I get away with before I start making other people unemployed? Is there some way to limit that to the jobs of people I don't like? How does one automate a PHB anyway?

        1. TimR

          Re: HMSO

          A random bullsh!t bingo generator would probably do the job quite well...

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: HMSO

          Reminds me of when I worked producing call stats reports at a call centre for a certain UK white and brown goods insurance company. I'd been offered much mula to work Xmas Day and New Years Day plus days off. Got all the reports done in the first hour thanks to not having my boss constantly interrupt me (to sanity check his work) nor any other managers. Ended up spending the rest of both shifts watching TV.

          1. Rich 11 Silver badge

            Re: HMSO

            Ended up spending the rest of both shifts watching TV.

            In other words, exactly like being at home except soberer.

            1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

              Re: HMSO

              "except soberer."

              He didn't say that.

            2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              Re: HMSO

              "In other words, exactly like being at home except soberer."

              Soberer, yes, but much better paid than being at home :-)

          2. MonkeyCee Silver badge

            Re: HMSO

            "Got all the reports done in the first hour thanks to not having my boss constantly interrupt me "

            My experience with out of hours call center coverage was that we could effectivly do nothing all night and still get paid.

            We obviously founds stuff to do, mainly going through the day shifts work queues and finishing off jobs that they had logged but not done.

            Of course every time we actually did the job we were being paid for, and thus didn't have 4-6 hours of slack time, the day shift bitched at us for leaving them work to do :)

            I've also worked shifts, and the 0700 - 1500 that I got 80% of my work done by 10:30, at which point the office was full.

            Take the crappy shifts :) plus if you work at Christmas you meet lots of nice Hindis and Muslims who also have many festivals with delicious food. For the BoFHs, all you can eat onion bajis. Certain Indian grandmothers take it as a personal challange that you can't walk away from the table :)

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: HMSO

              >Take the crappy shifts :) plus if you work at Christmas you meet lots of nice Hindis and Muslims who also have many festivals with delicious food. For the BoFHs, all you can eat onion bajis. Certain Indian grandmothers take it as a personal challange that you can't walk away from the table :)

              When running a 24x7 team, I always tried to have at least one non-Christian on each half of the shift rota who were happy to cover the Christian holidays in return for cover on their festival of choice. Stops everyone fighting to take the same days off.

          3. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: HMSO

            "Ended up spending the rest of both shifts watching TV"

            Which is as it should be. With the grunt work out of the way you're now free to deal with what comes up. IF it comes up.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: HMSO

          How does one automate a PHB anyway?

          One doesn't, that's a quicklime, shovel and a roll of carpet job!

          1. Giovani Tapini

            Re: HMSO

            You are wasting your time with the carpet....

            1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

              Re: HMSO

              Don't want to get the inside of the van dirty.

              1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

                Re: HMSO

                "Don't want to get the inside of the van dirty."

                Correct. It's the quicklime you don't need. But you still to clean out the inside of the van to get rid of any carpet fibres.

                1. kain preacher Silver badge

                  Re: HMSO

                  "Correct. It's the quicklime you don't need. But you still to clean out the inside of the van to get rid of any carpet fibres."

                  caustic soda then ?

                2. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: HMSO

                  Clean the van? Borrow a van from a carpet fitter.

                  Do I have to think of everything around here.

          2. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

            Re: HMSO

            "How does one automate a PHB anyway?"

            Like this?

        4. cd

          Re: HMSO

          Relatively sincere question: Could the automation be made to take all day, but just do it on its own so that it looks like you're working instead of ordering more quicklime and carpet remnants?

          1. Shadow Systems Silver badge

            At CD, re: timing.

            As you write a macro/script to perform a particular action, include a pause/wait state for a random number of seconds/minutes between each step.

            $Action, $Wait, $Action, $Wait, etc.

            This mimics how a Human can get distracted doing something else (sorting documents, answering the phone, talking to a coworker, etc) & makes the boss think a person is hard at work.

            It makes the job of someone else trying to figure out if YOU are doing it or a script is doing it MUCH more difficult, because the pause is never the same length with any logical frequency.

            One day the task may take as little as a minute or two, another day may see it take as long as ten minutes, & the watchers can't figure out the ruse.

            Just be sure to add in a "look for a key press" event to skip any such pauses, that way you can accomplish the scripted action just as fast as you can smack the space bar through the steps. (Or make it so hitting a key skips ALL the pauses & just finishes the whole thing as fast as inhumanly possible.)

            Another good event to include is if you hit the Escape key to terminate the script. If the boss is approaching & you don't want to give away your secret weapon, slap Escape & pretend to be hard at work doing something else.

            Hope that helps, and go have a pint on me. Cheers! =-)

        5. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: HMSO

          how much automation can I get away with before I start making other people unemployed?

          Friend of mine used to glaze over when colleagues talked at him, thinking "I can replace you with a script."

        6. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

          Re: HMSO - How does one automate a PHB anyway?

          Harold Wilson (that Harold Wilson, the PM) had an answer to that. He wrote a paper suggesting that bosses be replaced with a set of traffic lights connected to a random number generator. Red - no; green - yes: amber - resubmit project next month.

          The decision process was likely to be at least as reliable as the typical manager and had the advantage that, being so fast, if something didn't work it could be rectified before it became a problem.

          He also wrote a statistics paper showing that the result of First Division football matches (in a day before all the computers and money) were indistinguishable from randomness.

          1. bobajob12

            Re: HMSO - How does one automate a PHB anyway?

            Obligatory xkcd.

          2. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
            Pirate

            Re: HMSO - How does one automate a PHB anyway?

            I met Harold Wilson (OK he said good morning as I was walking* to the Isles Of Scilly Airport, to look after a Syledis beacon for a cable laying operation).

            *Not a long walk (Second trip out of three & due to admin cockup bosses thought I couldn't get a car from the mainland for the second trip) & pleasant job checking on beacons twice a day, hitting the bars for lunch & evening meals.

            1. onefang Silver badge

              Re: HMSO

              My very first paying job. After having done a weeks work experience at the local government computer centre, they hired three of us during the school holidays. Our task was to work from the short spec handed us, write COBOL routines to validate particular input fields. Not a particular onerous task, and like someone mentioned above, I got curious about the various scripting languages available on the system, and automated it. So I generally had my days work finished in the first hour, and spent the rest of the time writing games on their hardware.

              As for automating PHBs, I think the wrong question is being asked, how do you automate away a PHB? Simply automating their jobs leaves them with more time to cause more damage.

            2. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

              Re: HMSO - How does one automate a PHB anyway?

              "I met Harold Wilson (OK he said good morning as I was walking* to the Isles Of Scilly Airport, to look after a Syledis beacon for a cable laying operation)."

              Another boy at school spent his summer holidays on the Scillies near the Wilsons. He found the islands so boring that he enquired whether they needed a part time gardener. He got a very nice letter back explaining they already had one, thank you, but the upshot was that we started going to the Strangers Gallery after Royal Institution lectures. A high point was in a very boring debate when Wilson walked in, looked around with an expression of utter disgust, and marched right out again.

              I don't think you can do this nowadays, which is an example of how the terrorists have, actually, won.

    2. Tuesday Is Soylent Green Day

      Re: HMSO

      Sounds like a 6 month gig my son had just after leaving school. His job was to set up iPads for use in various schools around the country. Since this was accomplished in bulk by a suitably equipped computer, he managed to get halfway through his 6 month allocation of iPads in about 1 month. His boss told him to slow down or else he would end up finishing long before the end of the contract period and would only get paid for the time he worked. Needless to say he took the advice and stretched the job out to its required maximum.

      1. gnasher729 Silver badge

        Re: HMSO

        When I was young I was told once “work is a scarce resource that should be sparingly use. “

    3. Phil Endecott Silver badge

      Re: HMSO

      You know those graphs showing how economic productivity has not been rising like it should have?

      All these anecdotes are why.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: HMSO

        @Phil Endecott

        or are those anecdotes a symptom of bad management, in many cases, and pay not having kept up with profit or even the cost of living? You'd think that with outsourcing and automation, both of which reduce employee moral, that those still employed could, at least, have decent pay increases.

    4. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

      Re: HMSO

      In my first job programming (in RPG II) in a card-and-batch environment in local government, I got frowned at for working out how to use the JCL to check whether a compile had completed without errors or warnings, so I could have a test run immediately following it in the same card-deck.

      Saved me at least 20 minutes per iteration (and sometimes much more), and normally meant that I had twice the number of decks in the queue than all of the other programmers (you had to work on more than one programme because of the turnaround time in the batch queue).

      Although the powers-that-be were merely disapproving of this, when I spent time trying to work out how to use the archive manager (analogous to SED, IIRC) to patch virtual card decks (rather than having the whole deck re-punched, patched, and then re-added to the archive, I kid you not), I was hauled aside for being 'disruptive'.

      So at the end of the first year, when I was told I didn't merit a pay rise from the stupidly low starting salary, I told the manager exactly what I thought about RPG II (I think I described it as a jumped-up macro assembler - I had previously been programming in PL/1, APL and C on UNIX at university), and said I would be looking around for another job immediately!

      Probably was a good move, actually, because I ended up working at a Polytechnic deep in the guts of UNIX V6 and 7 on a non-standard SYSTIME PDP11, which really set my career.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "an impoverished US state"? If you're looking at public services - is there any other sort?

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Even so, there's a lot of difference between Massachusetts and Mississippi.

      1. Alister Silver badge

        there's a lot of difference between Massachusetts and Mississippi

        Yeah, there's no "i"s or "p"s in Massachusetts.

      2. Johndoe888

        Even so, there's a lot of difference between Massachusetts and Mississippi.

        The lights all went out in Massachusetts, where as there was a burning in mississippi

  8. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    Emnador noticed this heap of objects.

    The map and keys are lost forever.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "His boss, however, seemed incandescent with rage. "She yelled at me for humiliating her in front of her HQ peers," Hugh said, with a shrug. "Ya just can't make some people happy.""

    I'd blame lack of sex, here. And, before I'm being called sexist, that's not because she's a woman, it's been proved to be the same with males !

    1. Tuesday Is Soylent Green Day

      I concur

      I was once accused by an underling of suffering from sperm retention headaches which caused my continuously foul moods. Looking back I think she was right.

      1. irksum

        Re: I concur

        There's a self-administered treatment for that, surprised you hadn't thought of it.

        1. Rich 11 Silver badge

          Re: I concur

          Catheterisation?

      2. DuchessofDukeStreet

        Re: I concur

        That must be one of the few occasions that someone's been accused of *not* being a w.....

      3. John Stirling

        Re: I concur

        I see the 'report abuse' button, but where is the 'report self abuse' button when you need it?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I'd blame lack of sex, here. And, before I'm being called sexist, that's not because she's a woman, it's been proved to be the same with males !

      He could always have asked if she wanted to humiliate him later, in private...

    3. Unicornpiss Silver badge
      Meh

      Lack of sex

      "I'd blame lack of sex, here. And, before I'm being called sexist, that's not because she's a woman, it's been proved to be the same with males !"

      I'd blame lack of self esteem, which of course leads to lack of sex, which leads to lower self esteem. Lather, rinse, repeat. That and using her personality as a form of birth control..

  10. PerlyKing
    Go

    Could do better

    Should've offered to take the surplus laptops for a smaller fee than the usual disposal people ;-)

    1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
      Paris Hilton

      Re: Could do better

      Free is as low as you can go, unless he starts paying them.

      1. VikiAi Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: Could do better

        I think he meant a fee below the going disposal rate, but above zero.

        Even keeping it above-board, at least then he would have ended up with some IT budget!

      2. Mark 110 Silver badge

        Re: Could do better

        We pay them!!!

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The other way round Being yelled at for Lotus Domino

    I was moaned at by my boss because the Lotus Domino Server or the SMTP anti spam gateway had not delivered an important email to their inbox.

    I checked and found it went through the gateway to Lotus Domino fine. I then opened up the mail tracking NSF for Domino 7, the email had been deleted around 10 minutes after being delivered. My backups were daily so no chance I could get it back. Very quiet day that turned out to be after.

    1. TonyJ Silver badge

      Re: The other way round Being yelled at for Lotus Domino

      "...I checked and found it went through the gateway to Lotus Domino fine. I then opened up the mail tracking NSF for Domino 7, the email had been deleted around 10 minutes after being delivered..."

      I've had similar so many times. My favourites being when the managers/directors weren't checking their junk folders and lo' and behold' there they are.

  12. BenDwire
    Pint

    Loose change to pay the beer bill...??

    Rebecca, I know you're new around here but you really should know your target audience a little better.

    Unless you classify a £20 note as 'loose change' I really think that a Friday beer session demands a considerably higher budget ...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Loose change to pay the beer bill...??

      Probably expects to be bought beer, not pay for it. Being a high falutin journo and all with all these people wanting their copy published in such a handsome, respected news outlet... its also a way of being paid to defer publication of unpopular stories in some less reputable places...

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Loose change to pay the beer bill...??

        "some less reputable places"

        Less reputable than el Reg? Just why do you think we all come here?

    2. Giovani Tapini

      Re: Loose change to pay the beer bill...??

      = 3 pints and a pack of crisps to share in London.

      1. EnviableOne Bronze badge

        Re: Loose change to pay the beer bill...??

        or the cost of a three bedroom house in newcastle

        1. lglethal Silver badge
          Trollface

          Re: Loose change to pay the beer bill...??

          "or the cost of a three bedroom house in newcastle"

          Yeah but you'd still be living in Newcastle. Thats not a bargain at any price!

    3. kain preacher Silver badge

      Re: Loose change to pay the beer bill...??

      $2 draft beers. How much are you expecting to drink ?

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I had a sort of similar experience

    I worked at an engineering company where the EEs ran Mentor Graphics on a bunch of Apollo workstations, and newer HP-UX workstations. All the recent designs were done on HP-UX, and when an older design done on Apollo needed rework they'd export it into the HP-UX version. It wasn't feasible to export everything all at once since it wasn't a simple process (sometimes things needed tweaking for the import into HP-UX Mentor to succeed) so they needed to keep the Apollos around. Or more to the point, keep their data around and the ability to export it.

    However, the engineering VP was spending a lot of money for support on a couple dozen Apollos, and wanted to find a way to greatly reduce that number. Which was a problem, since they all had local storage for Mentor files using something older than SCSI so fitting them with larger drives to coalesce storage would be great but we couldn't get larger drives in that archaic format (EDSI?) They had their own built in networking which worked great, NFS not so much for what they were doing so a fileserver was not an option. It would be possible to reduce the number by maybe 15% coalescing files to fill up disks, and more over time, but they wanted a lot more savings, and engineers wanted them off their desks since they had three computers (Apollo, HP-UX, PC for email/office/etc)

    I happened to know someone in the engineering department at the local university who was something of an expert with Apollo workstations who had the necessary know-how to update the hardware and software to get them to work with SCSI drives. He made an offer that if I brought him three of the top end Apollos, he'd modify two for SCSI drives if he could keep the third. I told the VP about his offer, and he approved it, and data was migrated off three Apollos onto others. At the end of the workday one afternoon I pulled my car up to the main entrance, and carried three DN5500s and two brand new 2GB SCSI drives out the door and loaded them in the back of my car, and delivered them to the university expert. A week later they were ready and I drove up the main entrance at the start of the workday and carried two DN5500s with 2GB SCSI drives installed in the door.

    We put them back on the network, copied the data off all the other Apollos onto one, then made a copy of everything onto the other for redundancy, and all but those two Apollos were shut down and the engineering VP would now save over a quarter million a year in support cost. He was very happy.

    A few weeks later I got called into the office of my boss' boss, who was what we now call the CIO. He said he'd been told that I was seen carrying company owned equipment out the door and putting it in my car, and I needed to explain myself or I would be fired on the spot. It wasn't like I was trying to hide this by doing it at 5pm when lots of people could see me, but he wasn't smart enough to wonder why that was. I always wondered who it was that ratted me out, since AFAIK the other people in the department didn't have anything against me, but maybe one of them thought they'd be rewarded for fingering a thief who was apparently really stupid about timing for his thievery.

    I explained the plan and its approval, and called the Engineering VP (who wasn't his boss, but was definitely considered WAY more important in the corporate structure than he was) from the phone on his desk to confirm he'd approved it. He was still upset because neither he nor my boss knew about this, but I told him that engineering owns those assets and pays support on them, so I didn't think his approval was required. Which was true, but I think he was worried about losing face (he'd probably alerted the head of HR that he was about to fire someone or something)

    Fortunately I was already working on getting a new job because I didn't like this one, so a few weeks later I was very happy to hand in my resignation to my very surprised and unhappy boss, and when asked for a reason instead of "no commute, better benefits, better working hours, no on-call" I could simply say the way this situation was handled pissed me off. Which was true, but if I had otherwise liked the job I would have put that incident behind me as a misunderstanding.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: I had a sort of similar experience

      ", and I needed to explain myself or I would be fired on the spot."

      I would have responded with "I can do with the six-figure unjustified dismissal finding and the very public bollocking you'll get in employment court."

      1. DougS Silver badge

        Re: I had a sort of similar experience

        Unless AC is from the US in an "at will" employment state. The only way you can get sue over firing under "at will" is if it is being done for discriminatory reasons against a protected class - i.e. you can't legally fire someone because they're black, but you can legally fire someone because they wear their hair in a ponytail.

        1. onefang Silver badge

          Re: I had a sort of similar experience

          "you can't legally fire someone because they're black, but you can legally fire someone because they wear their hair in a ponytail."

          It's what I have been saying for some time. The bigots can't discriminate based on the old traditional reasons, being the wrong colour, the wrong religion, or the wrong gender. So now they are grasping at the straws they can discriminate against, fashion. Ponytails, not wearing a suit, being barefoot, a male having long fingernails. Though some of those end up being "the wrong gender", coz you are the wrong gender to have a pony tail, long fingernails, or to get away with not wearing a business suit.

          1. DougS Silver badge

            Re: I had a sort of similar experience

            Well regardless of whether there are issues of hidden sex/race discrimination in firings for stuff like ponytails, firing someone for unproven suspicion of theft is 100% legal in an at-will state, even if it was proven not to be theft before the firing.

            Though if AC was black I imagine he could pretty easily find a lawyer willing to take the case, and the business would be willing to settle to avoid the publicity of the accusation even if that had nothing to do with the firing, so it can work both ways....

            1. P. Lee Silver badge

              Re: I had a sort of similar experience

              >Though if AC was black I imagine he could pretty easily find a lawyer willing to take the case, and the business would be willing to settle to avoid the publicity of the accusation even if that had nothing to do with the firing

              I wonder if this leads to employers not hiring black people, in order to avoid the lawsuits which may result if they ever have to let them go? What if anti-bigotry legislation creates a valid business case for not hiring female, black transexuals? That would be ironic.

  14. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

    Not me, but ...

    ... I used to work at an electrical utility. Our division, way out in the boondocks, included a substation manager who was a real pack-rat. Meanwhile, we had an old station which was built in the 1950s as a temporary installation. Transformers and breakers were sitting on wood cribbing, which, 30 years later, was rotting away. And transformers weighing several tons each were threatening to tip over.

    It turns out that this guy had enough spares to build a new station. So he sent the crews out over the course of a few months to pour concrete slabs, move in the 'new' equipment and switch the service over. All pretty much out of the petty cash budget. He got called on the carpet for that little stunt by corporate. And they sent out some people to clean out his parts stash. It turns out that he deprived some VPs of the coke and hookers that go with new equipment purchases and construction contracts.

    1. J. Cook Silver badge

      Re: Not me, but ...

      It turns out that he deprived some VPs of the coke and hookers that go with new equipment purchases and construction contracts.

      That explains why the electric bills keep going up every year. Hookers ain't cheap. :D

      1. Mark 110 Silver badge

        Re: Not me, but ...

        "Hookers ain't cheap"

        Kinda depends . . . Esuite hookers maybe not.

  15. Ian Emery Silver badge

    Went in to a new job at an old council run engineering building and noticed pretty quickly that there was a lot of elderly, power hungry kit around that broke down and was being replaced with equally power hungry, unreliable kit far too often.

    My workload was rather light,. so I drew up a proposal to replace all of it with modern kit that was much more reliable and used so little power, the savings in electricity alone would cover the capital and installation costs in less than a year.

    I spoke to several suppliers, got all the costs and replacement parts lists, average failure rate info, and more importantly, the differences in power usage; got it all typed up and presented it to my line manager.

    He called me a smart arse, ripped the paperwork up and threw it in the bin.

    Seems he had got conned sometime around 1975, signed a spares contract, and had a large store room full of replacements; enough for about another 200 years of this power hungry crap.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      "Seems he had got conned sometime around 1975, signed a spares contract, and had a large store room full of replacements; enough for about another 200 years of this power hungry crap."

      I've run into that kind of shit before.

      The solution is to add up the power costs, demonstrate that it's cheaper to dump the contents of the store room and jettison the numpty manager, then make higher ups aware of the situation.

  16. Milton Silver badge

    Bad managers are like knotweed

    His boss, however, seemed incandescent with rage. "She yelled at me for humiliating her in front of her HQ peers," Hugh said, with a shrug. "Ya just can't make some people happy."

    Whereas, if she were remotely fit for a leadership role, she'd have laughed, stood up publicly with an abashed air, said "I live and learn", apologised for the hassle and then thanked Hugh fulsomely. She'd have won admirers.

    Bad managers and useless "leaders" seem to be one of the commonest weaknesses of UK business (and British politics for that matter, heaven help us). It's easier by far to work with Scandis or Germans; they seem to understand that you cannot just promote somebody and expect them to write "Now I are a manijur" in PowerPoint the next day. British bad management—and I mean, really, hopelessly ignorant, tone-deaf, counterproductive and often arrogant dimwits, the kind of suited oafs who are proud to say stuff like "I don't do detail"—well, it is like knotweed: insidious, destructive, and bloody near impossible to root out.

    What has always puzzled me is that we have arguably the best-led military on the globe (notwithstanding its grotesque underfunding); Sandhurst turns out excellent leadership material and even runs management courses for civvies these days. A society tends to assimilate some of its cultural standards and tics from its armed forces—quite a few Army officers go into IT, especially stuff like project management; I've worked at one 50+ consultancy that was about one-third ex-Forces—so I have never quite grasped why the UK civvy corporate management system is so abjectly crap.

    I'd be interested if anyone has a notion to explain this ....

    A comparison. On the one hand, a besuited corporate prat who thinks he is demonstrating his importance by whooshing a hand over his head when being told key detail, and seems proud of the fact that he cannot use Excel. On the other, the infantry full colonel (OF-5, if you care) who listens hard when told that, this time, the details matter, asks the relevant questions ... and is still able to strip and reassemble his sidearm in the dark. Two entirely different creatures, it seems. It's weird.

    1. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

      Re: Bad managers are like knotweed

      Quote:

      I'd be interested if anyone has a notion to explain this ....

      Its simple really, when you are an officer/NCO in the forces, you are expected to be able to lead as well as manage stuff.

      Whereas in civvie street, so long as you have the right bit of paper and a slimy attitude, you can be a manager.... but unless you can lead... you'll never be a good manager.

    2. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

      Re: Bad managers are like knotweed

      "I'd be interested if anyone has a notion to explain this ...."

      I'd suggest reading a couple of books on management written by one of your fellow Brits, C. Northcote Parkinson.

    3. Stork Bronze badge

      Re: Bad managers are like knotweed

      I heard about Germany (And an older generation) that after the war, if you had talent and ambition you went into business . Others went into politics ( of course there were exceptions), armed forces were a bitter duty.

      Oh, and I don't think they suffer from the equivalents to Eton et al.

      1. Dyspeptic Curmudgeon

        Re: Bad managers are like knotweed

        Germany may not suffer from the equivalents of Eton, but France surely does.

    4. Mark 85 Silver badge

      @Milton -- Re: Bad managers are like knotweed

      What you said applies to the US as well and probably other places.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Bad managers are like knotweed

      "quite a few Army officers go into IT, especially stuff like project management"

      There's good and bad in every group, and I had the misfortune of clashing heads with "The General" - he went round the place pretending to be in charge of IT and generally berated me because I wouldn't run systems to suit him.

      If anyone in the team was annoyed with him, he'd be "demoted" by being referred to as a lower rank.

      One day, he annoyed me so much, I stormed into the office and called him "The Fucking Dishonorable Discharge",

      1. Waseem Alkurdi

        Re: Bad managers are like knotweed

        Sysadmins are like army generals anyhow. But their soldiers are a different kind, always loyal, can't rebel.

    6. Dyspeptic Curmudgeon

      Re: Bad managers are like knotweed

      "I'd be interested if anyone has a notion to explain this ...."

      It's a digression from the usual sort of anecdata... but I'll try.

      One represents the world of feelings and desire, the other the world of the reality of *getting things done*. The prime advantage of military education (and that includes boot camp/basic) is to bash into everyone's head that the team and the result are of a much higher priority than ego, especially ego which gets in the way of dealing with reality as it is, rather than how you would like it to be.

      Sort of BTW, but not really. Earlier this year the USS Fitzgerald collided with a freighter, in Japanese waters. It turns out that the Officer of the Deck on the USS Fitzgerald, and the Officer in charge of the Combat Information Center were engaged in a tiff more appropriate to a pair of 12 year old girls, which they were acting like: they were not speaking to each other. Although CIC was aware of the risk of collision shown by the constant bearing angle between the ships, CIC did not so inform the bridge and trigger some reaction before it was too late. Seven sailors died because of that ego storm.

      "Two entirely different creatures, it seems. It's weird."

      In 2004, Michael Barone wrote a book about this dichotomy, called 'Hard America, Soft America.'

      'A peculiar feature of our country today, says Michael Barone, is that we seem to produce incompetent eighteen-year-olds but remarkably competent thirty-year-olds. Indeed, American students lag behind their peers in other nations, but America remains on the leading edge economically, scientifically, technologically, and militarily.'

      A REALLY REALLY interesting read.

      Also about then, I read an article in some publication, written by a lefty journalist (but I repeat myself (damn! I just typed 'mysql' and had to go back!)) who was embedded with an Army unit in the sand-box. He was astounded by the men he met: "Where do they find people like this?" They were, of course, completely unlike anything he had ever seen at Columbia U, or Brown. The mind-blower for him, was when a Corporal gave up his lottery-gifted planned satellite phone call to his expectant wife back home, so that the Sergeant could use the platoon's only allowed call, to call the parents of their recently killed brother in arms. The journo could neither imagine nor understand this selflessness: Where do they find people like this? To him it was as if they were grown in Montana or Idaho or Kansas. But such people are not found, they can be and are made. And the modern educational system (including Oxbridge etc) *does not teach that*. STEM at least requires that the bridges not fall down, but that is unfortunately not enough on its own.

      Here endeth the digression.

      1. Olivier2553

        Re: Bad managers are like knotweed

        "America remains on the leading edge economically, scientifically, technologically, and militarily"

        What about socially? What good is being the leader in economy science and etc. if it is not to make the society and the people more happy?

        "the platoon's only allowed call, to call the parents of their recently killed brother in arms"

        Ditto. What good is an army that restrict the calls to the parents of a killed soldier?

        1. Killfalcon Bronze badge

          Re: Bad managers are like knotweed

          Sometimes, there just isn't enough bandwidth to go around, depending on when this happened.

          They'd have to rely on other, older, methods to get that call home. I believe the US army has a tradition of sending an officer to the parent's home to break the news in person if possible - getting a call directly from the front lines is probably *still* exceptional.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Bad managers are like knotweed

        Seems to imply that this is a US phenomenon. Of course, the way that "they find people like this" is that they are trained to fight and die as a team. I'm not military but I suspect that if managers the world over had to work to build a successful team or everyone died, we'd have more successful teams. A bit excessive though, rather costly in human lives.

    7. Mark 110 Silver badge

      Re: Bad managers are like knotweed

      "British bad management—and I mean, really, hopelessly ignorant, tone-deaf, counterproductive and often arrogant dimwits"

      I work with one of those but he's the classic techie promoted into a mangtement job and so grinds everything to a standstill as everything has to be approved/designed/implemented by him [cos hes the best techie obv] rather than jiust let his very competent staff just get on with getting shit done [which they really want to and are being demotivated into their graves by his need to be a hero].

      That is much more often the reason for bad management in UK IT than putting competent managers in to give techies their room to excel.

  17. steviebuk Silver badge

    Would of told her...

    ...to fuck off and find some other mug to sort their shit out

  18. StuntMisanthrope Bronze badge

    No, no, no, a presentation is required.

    There's always budget to be found, from the treasurer. An exercise in bait and shiny, usually proffers the good stuff. Standards are slipping, I tell thee. #itarrivedlikethat

    1. StuntMisanthrope Bronze badge

      Re: No, no, no, a presentation is required.

      Yes boss, two but a lightweight spec. #onthedouble

  19. ecofeco Silver badge

    Did we work for the same boss?

    I swear I know that boss!

  20. Unicornpiss Silver badge
    Alert

    This is so familiar

    We have 5 people on a good day (actually 4.5 as one is about half useless) supporting 1,200 people and about 1,400 machines, as well as printers, cell phones, desk phones, and whatever else is hurled our way. Yet there is plenty of money for beautifying the lawn, constant remodeling of areas that were just remodeled the year before, acquisitions of smaller companies, as well as "feel good" stuff like employee activities and clubs. Which makes for an odd schizophrenic environment, kind of like being in hell but with nice lunches.

    While I realize that image and growth are necessary for any company to remain relevant, IT is a foundation of any business these days, and I feel like we're building the Taj Mahal on gravel in a floodplain most days. We are stretched ridiculously thin.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re. Death by a thousand (budget) cuts

    I have heard of poor companies who send their minions on eBay raids.

    Old RAM sticks are actually *more* reliable than new sometimes, depending on what they came out of.

    Also a lot of the time they can run at their rated clock speed whereas newer ones auto-negotiate to whatever the speed of the CPU/BIOS/uEFI default which can result in issues.

    Also relevant: many old laptops have socketed CPUs so can be upgraded if you have enough of them and a little assembly line of PFY's taking them apart with military precision and then running the final soak test en masse with a CPU fan clean/replacement included via drawing lots.

    (note: with mine I needed to reflash the BIOS but this was a 2 minute job)

    Batteries can be reconditioned with the right procedure and I make extensive use of BatteryInfoView (tm) and similar tools for a quick go/no go test.

    The really rubbish one(s) get given away to folks as an alternative to being mains tethered with the advice to be really careful with backups, sometimes they last a few months to a year.

    Used but tested SSDs are normally OK for many applications and everything gets backed up to encrypted SD card with a boot alert if it gets taken out.

    1. tony trolle
      Thumb Up

      Re: Re. Death by a thousand (budget) cuts

      I have a old Dell laptop with a old socketed i7 and new SSD, docking station two 21" monitors, it has a keyboard that I can really use (anyone happy with the new models, all touchscreen BS) so well my "good" USB keyboard is not used.

      Liked it so much bought a i5 version as a spare

  22. WibbleMe

    Let me be very clear, if anyone says there is no budget some one in the chain of command usually more than one is trying to give there boss a blow job (the only exception is when you see bailiffs at the front door). Spend what you need to get the job done and meet compliance, otherwise your not doing a professional job. The trouble is that most IT professional lack training in other areas such as negotiation.

    1. onefang Silver badge

      "Let me be very clear, if anyone says there is no budget some one in the chain of command usually more than one is trying to give there boss a blow job"

      Or charities that run on donations and grants.

  23. Celeste Reinard

    You are always too early, she yelled...

    Belgium, 2011, Friday afternoon, 13:00, midwinter. Telephone: Can you start there and there at 17:00? Till 21:00?, the temp office person asks. Sure, I say. ... The adress was 10km from my place, and there was more than 10 cm snow on the road. Yes we can... So I arrive early, 16:45, no one there but the last of the daystaff - no problem, I start anyway. At 17:25 the person that was supposed to tell me my job finally arrives (shopping, very important). Weekend passes, monday comes, 15 cm of snow, I start at 16:55. At 20:15 there is nothing more to do, I confer with my collegue, sure, go home. Tuesday: Telephone, the temp office: There have been complaints about you starting early... I arrive at the place of work, there is a person that looks as pretty as Iggy Pop - the female version. I start at 17:00, and she starts accusing me of ALWAYS starting early, and leaving early as well. And it was this, and that, and such and such, and you cannot say that. I defend myself by stating that the first time I was about 10 minutes early while the other person was 25 minutes late (YOU CANNOT SAY THAT!) and the next time I was 5 minutes early... which is rather neat being on time, having to start at 17:00, also in regard to the weather and such.... AND YOU MUST NOT START AT 17:00!!! ... Right. Since I had figured out after 5 minutes with the aggravated Iggi Pop-crocodile (lovely skin texture, large mouth, she would make a nice hand bag - with shoes to match), whatever I did was wrong, I told her to go look for somebody else, and Celeste had left the building at 17:05. ... Next day, the temp office calls, there have been complaints... I explain, and the temp office person responds with: What??? They cannot do that...

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