back to article Attempt to clean up tech area has shocking effect on kit

Hello, Friday, El Reg’s old friend. We’ve come to talk with you again… because the vision that has softly crept in must be the latest instalment of On-Call. This week, our reader’s tale of tech support conundrums solved is a real shocker – so without further ado, let's meet “Gerald”. He takes us back a couple of decades to …

  1. Korev Silver badge
    Joke

    Static

    So if the cleaners' trolleys had been static would they have still had the problem?

    1. Andy 68

      Re: Static

      You're right, maybe it would have been better if they were stationery carts.

      1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

        Re: Static

        I don't know what pens and pencils have to do with it.

    2. LisaJK

      Re: Static

      Obviously the ESD controlled area wasn't!

      The cleaner's carts and all equipment should have been been ESD control compatible to be allowed into an ESD controlled area. Clearly at least one piece of their equipment wasn't.

      I have seen so called anti static dusters, claiming they reduce dust by reducing static buildup. Presumably they are at least partially conductive.

  2. Korev Silver badge
    Coat

    C

    Maybe the cleaners were trying to join in with the science and work out the speed of light in a vacuum...

    Mine's the white coat -->

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: C

      The "What if ... ?" aspect of destructive testing was one of my favorite games for several years. I've measured 115,000V after running a standard vacuum cleaner over the floor of a SillyConValley shipping & receiving department. Lots of very small particles moving quickly through a plastic tube caused the static buildup. The next stop on the cleaner's schedule was the stockroom, with shelves & shelves full of static sensitive parts. Much hilarity ensued.

      I once measured 61,750ish volts on an empty, unused Styrofoam coffee cup set down on an isolated table after a colleague walked across a nylon carpet wearing Nikes ... Was an example, just to prove the point.

      In other news, the average secretary can generate upwards of 85KV walking down the hall to get a cuppa, but myself walking alongside her came up static free. Seems my unmentionables were made of cotton, hers were made of petrochemicals. Her heels were leather, my soles were high-carbon rubber.

      Along the same lines as the above, most gas(petrol) station pump fires seem to be caused by females with man-made fiber underwear getting back into their cars after starting the fuel flow ... and then not grounding themselves before getting close to the fumes surrounding the fuel-flap when completing the scenario. (Yes, in the enlightened state of California, we're actually allowed to fuel our own cars! Don't you wish your government trusted you as much?)

      1. A K Stiles
        Coat

        Re: C

        In Blighty, not filling your own car is really the exception to the standard. What we don't have though, is the clip on the pump handle that allows you to walk away whilst the fuel flows. You have to stand there for the 2 minutes holding that lever up, all nicely grounded through the pump. So we're free to wear as many nylon stockings and polyester underpants as we could wish too...

        Yes, the one with the 20 denier lace-tops in the pocket, thanks!

        1. MJI Silver badge

          Re: C

          My fuel cap fits nicely in the handle to hold it open.

          If you want slow try LPG, have to hold a button in for about 5-10 minutes.

          I do NOT miss that side of it

          1. A K Stiles

            Re: C

            Well I hope your undergarment proclivities don't cause you too much trauma whilst pumping. (Sorry, is this not a Dabbsy article?)

            One vehicle has the cap on a 'string', the other has no cap.

        2. regadpellagru

          Re: C

          "What we don't have though, is the clip on the pump handle that allows you to walk away whilst the fuel flows."

          Same in France. This has been removed in the whole country some 25 years ago, I think. It was available back then, but not any longer, specifically to avoid the issue the OP pointed out.

          1. Andre Carneiro

            Re: C

            Fascinating, I never knew that’s why they were removed!

            Yet again I learn interesting stuff from El Reg commentards.

            You guys rock!

        3. Daedalus Silver badge

          Re: C

          To the best of my knowledge, it's only New Jersey that forbids you from pumping your own gas petrol. Which puts you in the ridiculous situation of waiting for a drone to take your credit card from you and swipe through exactly the same on-pump reader that is used in more enlightened states. Cash? Who uses cash?

          As for the pump trigger lock, that is a rare luxury (except, for obvious reasons, in New Jersey). Most stations remove it because of abuse by drunken idiots etc. resulting in spills. In NJ the lock is retained so the drone can service more than one car at a time.

          1. Stevie Silver badge

            Re: As for the pump trigger lock

            South of the Mason Dixon Line, pump trigger latches are the usual case. Gas is cheap too.

          2. Mark 85 Silver badge

            Re: C

            To the best of my knowledge, it's only New Jersey that forbids you from pumping your own gas petrol.

            Oregon also. The vehicle gets fueled by the attendant.

            1. oldenoughtoknowbetter

              Re: C

              Actually, Oregon joined the real world last year and legalized driver pumping.

              I'm in Washington and when I'd visit it was always a PIA to get gas, although sometimes passing through a more remote local they didn't care and wouldn't stop me from pumping.

              It was funny watching interviews on the news with many Oregonians horrified at the change, thinking it unsafe and some even unsure how to.

              1. ROC

                Re: C

                So most Oregonians never travel through other states where they have to refuel? That explains a lot...

          3. DougS Silver badge

            I don't recall ever NOT seeing the pump trigger lock

            Everywhere I've ever filled up in the US. I don't see how not having them is any advantage. Either you have no lock and are holding it down and the fuel flow stops when it detects the tank is full or the trigger is holding it down and the fuel flow stops when it detects the tank is full.

            While I suppose the "tank is full" sensor can fail either way, the trigger is usually pretty much of a hair trigger which will let go at the slightest provocation. It would be more than a slight provocation if the fuel kept flowing and pushed the handle out of the car to the ground below. So I don't think you'd spill any more fuel with an manned trigger lock than you would with a manned handle. The difference is whether you get fuel all over you as well as the car and ground, or just on the car and ground - I know which I'd prefer!

            1. cd

              Re: I don't recall ever NOT seeing the pump trigger lock

              They do fail occasionally, after the first time it happened to me I made a habit of being nearby. And I listen for the click, if I don't hear it in a reasonable time I stop doing the windshield and check.

              When they fail it makes a puddle very quickly. Busy stations often have pumps taped off, could be lots of things, but I have reported failed shut-offs a few times.

            2. Stevie Silver badge

              Re: I don't recall ever NOT seeing the pump trigger lock

              In NY they are illegal. The little arm in the upper part of the trigger is still there on some pumps, but the strip of ratchet-stuf into which it engages has been prised out, so it no longer works as a hands-free latch.

              It's illegal to improvise a hands-free gas pump too. If you put the gas cap in the pump handle (and it fits so nicely it was obviously designed for the purpose) you can get a spot of jankers if the Peelers catch sight of you doing so.

            3. Glen 1 Bronze badge

              Re: I don't recall ever NOT seeing the pump trigger lock

              What happens if you don't want a full tank, just a few gallons worth? In the UK a full tank can easily cost over $60 (equivalent), so people tend to put multiples of £10 in rather than pay that sum all in one go. If your doing less than 10 miles a day you're paying to carry the extra weight. (See also: British success of managing to get the precise round number on the pump)

              1. MJI Silver badge

                Re: I don't recall ever NOT seeing the pump trigger lock

                Over £100 for a full tank, but much easier than going to filling stations every few days

          4. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: C

            Oregon requires attendants to pump the gas as well. The funny thing is that when I go there, I have far more experience putting gas in a car than the PFY doing it for me.

            1. The Oncoming Scorn
              Coat

              Re: C

              PFY - Petrol Fumes Youth.

          5. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: C

            Oregon also bans you from pumping your own unless you are a commercial driver, or live in a very rural county - which is a lot of Oregon given that most of the population resides on about 5% of the state.

          6. Solo Owl

            Re: C

            Also in Oregon it is illegal to fuel your own car, last time I was there. In my experience the trigger lock is universal in the US and Canada. They want you to wander into the C-store and buy something more profitable than gasoline.

            1. The Oncoming Scorn
              Pint

              Re: C

              It's not universal alas, that's another reason Costco is appreciated.

            2. katrinab Silver badge

              Re: C

              How long does it take to fill up? UK pumps dispense 50 litres per minute. My car has a 35 litre tank, and I usually fill up when there’s about 10 litres remaining, so it takes about 30 seconds of actual pumping. Big cars typically have a 60 litre tank, and the average fuel purchase seems to be about 50 litres, so about a minute to fill up.

              1. DavidRa

                Re: C

                50 litres a minute? Wow. The Australian nanny-state seems to have limited most of the pumps I've used in the last couple of decades to about 20-30 lpm at most. Can't find any supporting requirement (e.g. Wikipedia lists US as limiting to 10Gpm or ~38lpm, but nothing for AU).

                Certainly makes filling a 90L tank in 40C temps a bore.

              2. MJI Silver badge

                Re: C

                Mine holds well over 80l of tractor juice

                Large cars are usually around 70 to 75l (around 15 gallons)

            3. Blank Reg Silver badge

              Re: C

              I can't remember how it is in the rest of Canada as I've not driven outside Ontario or Quebec for quite some time, but trigger locks are rare in Ontario. Costco has them, but hardly anywhere else that I've seen,

              1. NBCanuck

                Re: C

                I live in the province of New Brunswick and have never seen a trigger lock here, or in neighboring Nova Scotia or Prince Edward Island either. Nor have I encountered any of them in the state of Maine.

        4. imanidiot Silver badge

          Re: C

          @A K Stiles

          Only in the pockets? That's not how you wear stockings you know...

          1. The Oncoming Scorn
            Pint

            Re: C

            When it's -31C outside*, that trigger lock is more than appreciated when filling up.

            *That time will be upon us soon

          2. A K Stiles

            Re: C

            @imanidiot

            Only in the pockets? That's not how you wear stockings you know...

            Well, the ones in the coat are obviously in the pocket. Where else would I keep my spares?

        5. CountCadaver

          Re: C

          "In Blighty, not filling your own car is really the exception to the standard. What we don't have though, is the clip on the pump handle that allows you to walk away whilst the fuel flows. You have to stand there for the 2 minutes holding that lever up, all nicely grounded through the pump. So we're free to wear as many nylon stockings and polyester underpants as we could wish too...

          Yes, the one with the 20 denier lace-tops in the pocket, thanks!"

          Many moons ago as a student I worked in a petrol station, a gentleman got on the receiving end of a rather blue tirade from my then boss.....he was using a large plastic clip to hold the pump trigger on while he checked the oil...reason for the tirade would be potential loss of licence had the local authority petroleum officer come around for a random inspection or had someone complained.

          Pumps we had were Schlumberger, seemingly same design as the USA and other countries that allow hands free pump usage, but with the catch mountings removed from the casting, still had the clip in the handle but it wouldn't lock as the catch wasn't there. Watched an American lady for several minutes try and lock it on and then come in to complain the catch wasn't working......she had a very puzzled look when it was explained to her she had to hold the trigger on the whole time....sort of a "this place is backwards look"

          1. tony trolle

            Re: C

            some golf tees fit some UK handles......

        6. 9Rune5
          Flame

          Re: No clip

          A couple of years ago I had a nice long chat with a guy who was SAAB's "fuel guy". His team, among other things, re-did the filler tube when SAAB adopted ethanol (E85).

          One of the stories he told me was that E85 is extra easy to ignite when the fuel temperature is about -8 to -12 degrees Celcius (or thereabouts). So, assuming all the involved components hold that temperature, a static spark near the filler cap could potentially reach all the way down to your fuel tank.

          SAAB, he informed me, chose to mitigate by adding a few extra twists, whereas Ford/Volvo (he politely coughed) chose to not make any design changes at all. (only fair to mention that Sweden switches to E75 during the winter, which does not have this problem)

          The ethanol gas guns lack the clip, but regular gasoline guns usually still have them (here in Sweden).

          YMMV.

          1. Luiz Abdala

            Re: No clip

            In Brazil, we have pure Ethanol cars (would that be E100?) but these never induced static mishaps above their gasoline counterparts... to a significant statistic, that is.

            All the employees handling the fuel pumps use 'grease monkey' cotton overalls and rubber sole boots for some obscure reason... and the extra warm and moist weather precludes static buildup anyway.

            In fact, the only occasion where such things ever happened were those where that same grease monkey was SMOKING, and shoved his face on top of an open tank of a fuel tanker, cigarette butt still lit on one hand...

            I believe the low temperature just precludes MOISTURE in the air, which prevents the dissipation of static charge that would normally occur.

            So yes, E85 is easy to ignite at -8 Celsius only because the dry air is, counter-intuitively, non-conductive.

      2. Paul Kinsler
        Headmaster

        Re: I once measured 61,750ish volts on an empty, unused Styrofoam coffee

        Just to be picky, you do not measure voltages "on" things. Voltages are differences, so you measure them "between" or "across" things.

        1. Phil Endecott Silver badge

          Re: I once measured 61,750ish volts on an empty, unused Styrofoam coffee

          > Voltages are differences, so you measure them "between" or "across" things

          When the answer is 61 thousand volts, it probably doesn’t much matter what your reference is.

      3. phuzz Silver badge

        Re: C

        The diesel pump on the side of the petrol station in the UK might well still have the clip, so that lorry drivers don't have to stand there waiting for a thousand litres to be transferred.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: C

          So in the UK you have to stand there breathing in the carcinogenic fumes from the evaporating petrol generated by the hot British sunshine ?

          1. theblackhand

            Re: C

            "So in the UK you have to stand there breathing in the carcinogenic fumes from the evaporating petrol generated by the hot British sunshine ?"

            If you avoid filling up on that day each year, you can avoid the issue with the fumes.

            Or just enjoy deaths sweet embrace.

            1. Stevie Silver badge
              Pint

              Re: C 4 theblackhand

              Well done. Friday e-pint for you, awarded for drollery above and beyond the call of wossname.

          2. H in The Hague Silver badge

            Re: C

            "So in the UK you have to stand there breathing in the carcinogenic fumes from the evaporating petrol "

            No: vapour recovery system, captures those fumes where the dispensing nozzle meets the vehicle.

            https://www.sepa.org.uk/media/144898/summary_guidance_note_for_service_station_operators_on_petrol_vapour_recovery_requirements_under_ppc.pdf

          3. LisaJK

            Re: C

            Hot British sunshine, when was that, did I blink???

            Most UK petrol pumps have had evaporation control suction thingies for a while. So even if there is evaporation, little of it gets to the person holding the trigger.

            Germany still allows trigger latches.

          4. FuzzyWuzzys Silver badge
            Happy

            Re: C

            "So in the UK you have to stand there breathing in the carcinogenic fumes from the evaporating petrol generated by the hot British sunshine ?"

            Yeah, one of those things happens so very, very rarely that it's statistically a non-issue!!

          5. 10forcash

            So in the UK you have to stand there breathing in the carcinogenic fumes from the evaporating petrol generated by the hot British sunshine ?

            No.

            Most modern (post 2014) petrol vehicles have a capless filler neck and a seal that prevents fuel vapour from leaving the filler neck, this in turn allows the fuel vapour to be recovered to a carbon canister where it is then fed into the engine in a controlled manner.

            This type of ORVR has had various revisions since it was devised in the 1970's.

            TLDR: It's not warm enough in GB to worry about fuel vapour

        2. Nick Ryan Silver badge

          Re: C

          The lorry diesel pumps deliver fuel considerably faster than those intended for cars.

          1. CountCadaver

            Re: C

            "The lorry diesel pumps deliver fuel considerably faster than those intended for cars."

            Local shell has a yellow override button for use by HGVs stuck near the top of the pump display (prob to stop someone inquisitive pushing it, though there have been times I've considered using it...the fuel pumps inside their pumps are glacially slow, worse when both sides are in use...looks like someone cheaped out on the design, though the local ASDA is far far worse....I refuse to go there though after their petrol caused a relative's eurobox to chuck a collection of dashlights on till it was refilled with petrol from somewhere else....shell, tesco, sainsburys, esso, bp....didn't matter, just ASDAs fuel.....

        3. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: C

          "The diesel pump on the side of the petrol station in the UK might well still have the clip, so that lorry drivers don't have to stand there waiting for a thousand litres to be transferred."

          It also allows going to the other side of the lorry and starting the fuel into the tanks on the other side.

      4. Stevie Silver badge

        Re: most gas(petrol) station pump fires seem to be caused

        According to my own YouTube-based research, most gas pump fires are caused by idiots using a naked flame next to the filler cap.

        I'll be needing a citation for your rather dubious claim of "females" causing gas station fires because they wear man made underwear, especially because even here in NY the pumps have vapor reclamation hoses that reduce the chances of what you are imagining dramatically.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: most gas(petrol) station pump fires seem to be caused

          Oh that's Jake. He doesn't do facts, so you can safely ignore it.

          P.S. 3% of gas station fires were caused by static according to the NFPA between 2004 and 2008. The PEI report looks at causes of static but does not conclude the static is mostly caused by women.

        2. NBCanuck

          Re: most gas(petrol) station pump fires seem to be caused

          ...and it's probably not a good idea to use a lighter to see how full your tank is:

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5yGmRx3ymWI

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: most gas(petrol) station pump fires seem to be caused

            "...and it's probably not a good idea to use a lighter to see how full your tank is:"

            Many years go, when the trigger was still in place in France, I had worked as the local drone filling up the car ...

            One of the scariest moment, back in august and a very hot temperature, was this old dude, having a lit cigarette in his mouth and opening his tank, literally the visage on the opening (he was probably not seeing that much anymore).

            I backed off, telling him how dangerous that was, and he lectured me ad nauseam on the fact it was only sparks that can ignite petrol, not cigarettes.

            God, I've really done shit jobs.

  3. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

    That opening paragraph was painful.

    1. big_D Silver badge
      Coat

      It started off good, but ran out of steam. I appreciated the attempt anyway.

      You can't beat the sound of S&G in the morning, well, maybe the sound of silence... Oops, landing in an infinite loop there.

      Mine's the one with the S&G collection in the pocket.

      1. DropBear Silver badge

        By the way, the Disturbed cover of the song is absolutely worth checking out IMHO...

        1. Vinyl-Junkie

          Re: the Disturbed cover of the song is absolutely worth checking out

          I totally agree; I am rather partial to S&G, and although my music tastes mostly cover the rock spectrum I find Disturbed somewhat too heavy. I was therefore horrified when I heard they'd covered The Sound of Silence...

          ...until I actually heard it! I still prefer the S&G original, but The Disturbed's version is one I'll turn up on the radio, rather than down or off.

          1. Stevie Silver badge

            Re: the Disturbed cover of the song is absolutely worth checking out

            I often find covers are better than originals. My faves include:

            Bryan Ferry's take on "Tom Thumb Blues"

            Joe Cocker's version of "First We Take Manhattan"

            Stone Temple Pilots' cover of "Dancin' Days Are Here Again"

            Peter Gabriel's recording of "Susan"

            HIM's retread of "Wicked Game"

            Don Henley's excellent "Everybody Knows"

            Fairport Convention's superb "Gold"

            Fairport Convention again with "Hiring Fair"

            In the "just as good as the original" corner I have:

            Joe Cocker's version of Paul Brady's "Love Made A Promise", The Mutton Birds' version of Blue Oyster Cult's "Don't Fear The Reaper" - the version on the "Flock" compilation, not the one from the end credits of "The Frighteners", and Fairport Convention's tribute to Sandy Denny with "Who Knows Where The Time Goes" from the album of the same name.

            In the "Would have been brilliant if he hadn't overtracked it to death so I couldn't hear the f*cking words" bucket I have:

            Bryan Ferry's remake of Tim Buckley's "Song To The Siren".

            1. The Oncoming Scorn
              Pint

              Re: the Disturbed cover of the song is absolutely worth checking out

              Cum On Feel the Noize- Quiet Riot

            2. WereWoof

              Re: the Disturbed cover of the song is absolutely worth checking out

              Also: Metalium - Smoke on the Water and Turmion Katilot - Stormbringer are great covers.

          2. FuzzyWuzzys Silver badge

            Re: the Disturbed cover of the song is absolutely worth checking out

            Bands get time to refine a song when they cover it at the end of their set every night for years, look at what Metallica did with "Am I Evil?", that got Tatler and co. back together and Diamond Head toured and released more material.

            Personally I liked Disturbed's version of Land of Confusion by Genesis. Dramen, Disturbed's singer is a very well spoken ( watch the video where is berates an audience member for looking at their phone for the whole gig, hilarious! ) and Dramen has very distinctive diction when he sings and this lends so much punch to his vocals.

  4. Jos V

    Ah, cleaning crews

    Sometimes they can actually be helpful, unwittingly.

    We had a team running bit error rate tests on an STM-64 test setup in our labs, only to find out that every morning there were a high number or errors over the line, which is not really acceptable in a 5-nines setup.

    So, a crew was assigned to monitor the equipment over-night, and for a week they sat there, with nothing happening. 0 bits fell over.

    That is, until one of the guys left the DC for a break, and while walking out in a half-zombie mode, switched off the lights, said sorry, and switched them back on. Bang: errors.

    Turned out that every night, the cleaning crew would come in, and then upon leaving switched off the lights. First person in the next morning would turn the lights back on.. and there you go. It was a faulty starter in one of the overhead tube-light pair causing it.... While the guys were monitoring for a week, the light always stayed on.

    (It did demonstrate a bit of a over-sensitivity to EMC in the equipment though.)

    1. Sixtysix
      Joke

      Lights ON, lights OFF - Re: Ah, cleaning crews

      Now, see, THAT story is where the "Hello darkness my old friend" reference might actually work. Or a Horatio Caine/CSi Miami type referfence...

      You can try too hard you know ;p

      1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

        Re: Lights ON, lights OFF - Ah, cleaning crews

        Yeeeeeaaaaahhhh!

        1. onefang Silver badge

          Re: Lights ON, lights OFF - Ah, cleaning crews

          Reminds me of an intermittent fault that was happening in some bit of embedded kit I was softwarely responsible for. Was a bit of a head scratcher, so the client brought it in for me to have a look at. Naturally it worked fine while we stared at it scratching our noggins. Until I went to the kitchen to get a drink, then it fell over when I opened the fridge. On a hunch we tried it again, and each time I opened the fridge door, the device fell over. With that clue and a bit more investigation, we eventually found the lengthy reset line from the front panel to the main computer board was a little bit too long and not properly protected. It was picking up electrical noise from my ancient fridges door switch, and resetting the computer. Out in the field the source of noise could have been anything.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not everybody appreciates the cleaners - especially robot ones !

    Mental note to self:

    Don't use Roombas in the data centres when the alarms are on. Security don't appreciate being called out when these things trigger the intruder alarms, and they'll give the poor little things a swift kicking before flipping them on their backs.

    1. Omgwtfbbqtime Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: Not everybody appreciates the cleaners - especially robot ones !

      Only one thing to say to that.

      Roomba Knife Fight!

      1. Chris King Silver badge

        Re: Not everybody appreciates the cleaners - especially robot ones !

        Maybe they were making ramps out of ceiling tiles and trying to fly through the air like Evel Knievel, but not sticking the landings ?

        (Or more likely not getting up to speed and toppling off the ramps ?)

      2. J. Cook Bronze badge
        Pint

        Re: Not everybody appreciates the cleaners - especially robot ones !

        Paging Admiral Stabby to the port side airlock. Admiral Stabby, please make your way to the port side airlock.

        (Yes, there is an entire set of posts on Tumblr about the adventures of Stabby, who started out as an enlisted robot and worked it's way up to admiral by several heroic (and hilarious) feats.)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not everybody appreciates the cleaners - especially robot ones !

      Indeed, I was curious about that at home.

      So one day when I was just outside in the garden, I tested it by setting the alarm and running the roomba. The alarm duly went off, and I had to dash inside to reset it.

  6. aui
    FAIL

    Why is it always the cleaners?

    Many years ago I worked in a clean room where we had to enter an airlock, suit up, walk onto sticky mats to remove any dirt, then wear overshoes.

    Normally, we'd all have gone home at 5:30, but there was a war on so we were on overtime. At 6 the cleaners came in and the airlock doors were propped open at both ends and then went about their business in their pinnies with Mr Sheen, yellow dusters, mop and bucket!

    1. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: Why is it always the cleaners?

      This, and the original story seem part of a pattern. Why is it always the cleaners? Perhaps because of the way we think about and treat the cleaners. If they are disregarded, disrespected, not considered, treated as an unwanted cost-centre and paid the minimum ( or less with a bit of unpaid overtime to meet targets) they aren't going to be "on message" ( or even understand) about your precious anti-static/clean room/high-security set up. Treat 'em as being of no account and they'll behave accordingly. If you want them to be part of the team bloody well treat them as part of the team.

      In some of the best organisations I've seen the cleaners have even had a chance to move to better paid jobs, in admin usually. One or two ended up in (schools') IT support. Another became a teaching assistant and I gather went on to train as a music teacher. OTOH I've seen what happens when cheaper contracted-out cleaners take over from the locally employed staff. It isn't good.

      1. PM from Hell
        Facepalm

        It's not always the cleaners

        I was a newish Tech Support Manager running an established DC where we were getting unexpected disk failures.

        Its environmental said my mainframe supplier, when were the floor and roof voids last cleaned. The response from the ops team was 'never' I paid about 10K to get that done.Fantastic not only that mainframe but all the other systems but one became more reliable.

        For some reason I had to be in the office at 6:30 one morning so popped into the DC to check everything was OK. leaning against the one system with problems was the ops team leaders bicycle. It turned out when it rained on the way to work he liked to bring it into the DC to let the AC dry it off. Needless to say the AC was also sucking road grit off it and recycling it through £250,000 worth of disk array. One rather shouty conversation later we had another line added of things not to be brought into the data center. Believe it or not the bottom 2 lines above bicycle were Fireworks & Rocket Motors.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: It's not always the cleaners

          "Believe it or not the bottom 2 lines above bicycle were Fireworks & Rocket Motors."

          And ops ex-team leaders?

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Re: It's not always the cleaners

            "Believe it or not the bottom 2 lines above bicycle were Fireworks & Rocket Motors."

            Every Health and Safety rule is the result of at 3 occurrences

            1. MachDiamond Silver badge

              Re: It's not always the cleaners

              "Every Health and Safety rule is the result of at 3 occurrences"

              Ok, now explain why a surveyor working in the middle of a field has to wear a hard hat, hi-vis vest and steel toe boots. The funny bit was that in the background there were several kids playing with a kite in shorts and sandals. Is that ok since they heal faster?

              1. tfewster Silver badge
                Facepalm

                Re: It's not always the cleaners

                "Every Health and Safety rule is the result of at 3 occurrences"

                In that vein: A company had offered me a job, and I was looking over the contract + T&Cs. There were some oddly specific items in there, such as an example of Gross Misconduct: "Hitting a Director".

                1. MonkeyCee Silver badge

                  Re: It's not always the cleaners

                  "There were some oddly specific items in there, such as an example of Gross Misconduct: "Hitting a Director"."

                  Ah, I'd have asked if they meant with a car or a bat :)

                  1. Soruk

                    Re: It's not always the cleaners

                    > Ah, I'd have asked if they meant with a car or a bat :)

                    A car, surely. Bats are protected species, and you really don't want those PETA oddballs after you for mistreating the bat.

              2. Mike Pellatt

                Re: It's not always the cleaners

                "Every Health and Safety rule is the result of at 3 occurrences"

                Ok, now explain why a surveyor working in the middle of a field has to wear a hard hat, hi-vis vest and steel toe boots.

                Because there haven't been 3 occurences of surveyors working in fields being trampled by cows becuase they were attracted by the hi-vis and the surveyor couldn't run away fast enough because of the workboots. Next.

                1. Mike Pellatt

                  Re: It's not always the cleaners

                  Oh, and of course didn't seem them quickly enough because his peripheral vision was restricted by the hard-hat straps.

              3. 2+2=5 Silver badge
                Joke

                Re: It's not always the cleaners

                Ok, now explain why a surveyor working in the middle of a field has to wear a hard hat, hi-vis vest and steel toe boots.

                The surveyor wears those items because he had to wear them when he started out as an assistant surveyor and the habit is now ingrained. The assistant surveyor has to wear steel toecap boots because sooner or later he'll stab himself in the foot with a ranging pole. The hard hat is because the surveyor will hit him over the head for being so stupid as to stab himself in the foot with the ranging pole. Simples.

              4. H in The Hague Silver badge

                Re: It's not always the cleaners

                "Ok, now explain why a surveyor working in the middle of a field has to wear a hard hat, hi-vis vest and steel toe boots. "

                They don't. But to avoid arguing it's easier to get people to wear them all the time. And many folk think they know health and safety law but actually only know fragments of it, and many myths - resulting in them focussing on talismanic, visible stuff like hi-vis, but igonoring real safety.

                My personal bugbear is pointlessly wearing hi-vis vests when working inside buildings on a site where there are no vehicles operating (inside or outside). But that's mostly a UK thing :) (In NL they wear hi-vis too rarely, which also annoys me - guess I'm easily annoyed.)

                Mine's the one with the stack of safety certificates in the pocket.

                1. Strebortrebor
                  Coat

                  Re: It's not always the cleaners

                  I've recently done some site surveys for which I signed papers in which I agreed to wear safety shoes, high-vis, hard hat, and safety glasses, among other things. . . to do a site survey in which I was taking photographs and notes in the network closets of a big-box retail store.

                  The high-vis did seem to be an effective deterrent to customers buttonholing me to ask product questions, which they otherwise tend to do when they see someone wearing a badge.

                  Mine's the high-vis one.

                2. Terry 6 Silver badge

                  Re: It's not always the cleaners

                  The best are the filthy "hi-vis" jackets that are more like camouflage.

              5. onefang Silver badge

                Re: It's not always the cleaners

                "Ok, now explain why a surveyor working in the middle of a field has to wear a hard hat, hi-vis vest and steel toe boots."

                I'm still wondering why people have to wear shoes in offices. Is it those rabid computers that are well known for leaping off desks and attacking people? Probably explains why some computers are chained to their desk. Though shouldn't office workers be wearing thigh high boots and flak jackets as well?

                BTW, I've read through the local Elf'n'safety legislation, it doesn't mention anything about office footwear.

      2. Rich 11 Silver badge

        Re: Why is it always the cleaners?

        OTOH I've seen what happens when cheaper contracted-out cleaners take over from the locally employed staff. It isn't good.

        MRSA and C Diff. One of my mates contracted C Diff during a hospital stay and it came within 12 hours of eating holes in his intestines, before the antibiotic of last resort kicked in. That would not have been a nice way to go.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Why is it always the cleaners?

          MRSA and C Diff. One of my mates contracted C Diff during a hospital stay and it came within 12 hours of eating holes in his intestines, before the antibiotic of last resort kicked in. That would not have been a nice way to go.

          Long ago hospital design was carefully thought about to control infection spread. Brass door handles, brass hand rails on stairs, polished daily? The copper content kills off almost anything, so grubby hands are less likely to spread muck.

          These days Dutch hospitals are designed so that a ward can be pressure washed; a quick easy way of totally decontaminating a ward. Very little MRSA there as a result.

          In the UK the wards are not designed to be cleaned. People in the food industry, who have to take cleanliness very seriously, laugh at hospital design. A state-of-the-art food preparation facility gets pressure washed daily, and everything inside it is designed for that. Hell, even an Army tank and all its kit is designed to be pressure washed inside and out.

          1. Terry 6 Silver badge

            Re: Why is it always the cleaners?

            When my wife went for a caesarean a couple of decades back I expected to walk off the main corridor down another sealed clean corridor and through a sealed door into the theatre. No. Off a main, busy, corridor there was a small anti-room then a pair of swing doors into the theatre. That was it.

          2. H in The Hague Silver badge

            Re: Why is it always the cleaners?

            "These days Dutch hospitals are designed so that a ward can be pressure washed"

            Are you sure about that? Our Elderly Dutch Friend has been been admitted a few times in the last year (now seems to have fully recovered) and although we were impressed by the hospitals (v clear, tidy, efficient and calm) his rooms didn't look suitable for pressure washing. Anyway, pressure washing would probably spread germs everywhere as an aerosol.

      3. Lilolefrostback

        Re: Why is it always the cleaners?

        Typically, you get what you pay for.

        If you hire the cheapest people available to do the cleaning, you will probably get the least capable, least interested people doing the cleaning. If you choose to pay a bit more, you stand the chance of having reliable interested people doing your cleaning.

        1. Paul Cooper

          Re: Why is it always the cleaners?

          Typically, you get what you pay for.

          If you hire the cheapest people available to do the cleaning, you will probably get the least capable, least interested people doing the cleaning. If you choose to pay a bit more, you stand the chance of having reliable interested people doing your cleaning.

          Unfortunately, people who merit higher pay are also likely to get bored with a repetitive job that is the same every day and get creative...

      4. Arctic fox
        Thumb Up

        @Terry 6 Re: "If they are disregarded, disrespected, not considered...."

        Loud applause from this example of the Vulpes lagopus. By way of support I proffer this which describes what happened when Queen Mary College took the the decision some ten years ago to bring their cleaning back inhouse and offered their now permanent cleaning staff a living wage and the same conditions of service as the rest of their employees:

        https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jul/18/cleaners-fair-wages-university-in-house-working-lives

        See icon.

    2. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
      Headmaster

      Re: Why is it always the cleaners?

      Brings to mind a story I heard regarding a new security guard at a semiconductor fab, who thought it would be a good idea to also patrol the cleanroom. Unfortunately no-one had told him of the requirements for bunny suits etc, and so he just casually strolled in wearing his normal uniform and apparently even with a cup of coffee in hand.

      Still at least this cleaner story didn't involve the usual suspect of nylon tights, or indeed other garments worn around the same region...

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Why is it always the cleaners?

        Similar, possibly apocryphal, story about a new Intel fab.

        They were getting terrible yields, blaming the wafer manufacturer who said they fine etc.

        They detailed a guy to follow the wafer from maker to plant.

        All was fine until it arrived at the fab and the brown coat in stores took each one out of their ultra clean package to count them.

        1. PNGuinn Silver badge
          Boffin

          Re: Why is it always the cleaners?

          "All was fine until it arrived at the fab and the brown coat in stores took each one out of their ultra clean package to count them."

          Not static, but reminds me ...

          We made a bit of kit where an input was protected by a, IIRR, a 10 mA 20 mm glass fuse. The entire batch just through manufacturing had all the fuses dud. As were all the replacements out of stores. Goods in were accused of not testing the fuses. Swore black's blue and several other colours that they'd tested every one on receipt.

          Muggins got detailed to investigate. "Now love, we've got a problem with these fuses - can you show me exactly how you test them?"

          Turns out someone had provided a bit of test gear with a meter that drew some 100 mA. Take fuse out of packet, put it across tester, meter needle kicks slightly, fuse good. Put fuse in "Tested and OK" box. Repeat.

          Explaining why that was not a good idea was quite difficult.

      2. imanidiot Silver badge

        Re: Why is it always the cleaners?

        I've heard similar (possibly appocryphal stories about a semicon litho equipment manufacturer. A security guard apparently patrolled the cleanroom with his guarddog. The first clue they had about it was finding dog hair inside the equipment during the install tests at the customer site. That took some talking from the PR/sales/marketing guys to the customer I'm sure.

        For anything done in a cleanroom the cleaners are vital to the whole operation. Anything they screw up can't be easily fixed, so a company should be damn sure they put competent people in those positions and give them all the training and information they need.

    3. The Oncoming Scorn
      Holmes

      Re: Why is it always the cleaners?

      Brief recap....Pharma company, clean room standards as above, nightshift smuggled a home gym workout station & installed it in a disused building on the roof of the sterile building.

      Found during a random sweep by security.

  7. AdamT

    Inadvertent Van de Graff generator

    Similar tale from a couple of decades ago:

    A clean room with ESD conductive flooring, lots of high speed (for the time) opto-electronics components and a very expensive high-speed oscilloscope. On a trolley. With rubber wheels. Bring the 'scope over to investigate circuit board not quite working properly, apply probes, suddenly circuit board is working even less well than it did.

    Eventual realisation that conductive floor + rotating rubber wheels + conductive trolley = Van de Graff generator.

    Solution? Attach a small chain to the trolley frame that drags on the floor....

    Apocryphality rating? Well, this is the story I was told when I asked why all the equipment trolleys had little chains attached to them that dragged along the floor...

    1. Steve K Silver badge

      Re: Inadvertent Van de Graff generator

      had little chains attached to them

      ...or they were nicked from Tesco's for £1 each

      1. defiler Silver badge

        Re: Inadvertent Van de Graff generator

        ...or they were nicked from Tesco's for £1 each

        Nicked for £1 means bought for a bargain!

  8. big_D Silver badge

    Electrifying

    I had a problem at a previous company. I work in Germany and the plugs, like the UK, have the Earth connect before positive and negative. The difference being, the Earth prongs in the plug are exposed, which is also good if you need to earth anything / yourself...

    Anyway, I was standing in my office one day, leaning against the window, looking at my whiteboard and thinking. Running under the window sill was trunking with about 9 power sockets. I leaned forward and lost my balance and reached instinctively behind me and my fingers went into the power sockets and I gripped the window sill and the inside of the socket to hold myself.

    BANG!

    I got an electrical jolt up my right arm and down my back. I let go and staggered forward.

    I then limped down the corridor to the techs and told them. They said, nah, impossible, but I was white as a ghost and was in pain, so they came back with me and tested the sockets. All, but one, were fine. The electrician who had wired them up had somehow managed to swap phase and earth on one socket. The one socket that nobody had used since the buildings renovation 10 years earlier. The one socket I managed to stick my finger in when I lost my balance!

    After about an hour, my arm had recovered enough that I could continue working and the techs had re-wired the socket, properly this time!

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Electrifying

      Bah, the earth prongs in the socket!!!

    2. MJI Silver badge

      Re: Electrifying

      Proves again BS1363 FTW

      1. Will Godfrey Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: Electrifying

        .. or as I was once told...

        L = leave empty

        N = no connection

        E = every wire

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Electrifying

        "Proves again BS1363 FTW"

        All that would have proved is that when someone plugged into that outlet you'd now have a live case on whatever devices was on the end of the cable.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: Electrifying

          That's why the world was a better place when you wired your own plugs = evolution won out

      3. Herby Silver badge

        Re: Electrifying

        "Proves again BS1363 FTW"

        Nah: NEMA 5-15 Even better FTW.

    3. Lee D Silver badge

      Re: Electrifying

      In a school. One of the offices has a fuseboard that kept popping. We had electrical problems all over because we just kept expanding and expanding, but we slowly eliminated all the causes (things like crossed-phases on a two-plug heated canteen trolley, etc.) and got them fixed.

      But one continued to baffle me - when the office woman put her fan on, sometimes the fuse popped. But not immediately. Often some hours after being plugged in. Even when there was nothing else on the circuit. It took months to narrow it down to the fan and I still kept thinking the fan was faulty somehow, but it always checked out and worked fine elsewhere.

      Traced the problem eventually. Someone had re-wired the plug on the extension lead at some point and got it back-to-front and got the brown and blue mixed up - the PCs and printers wired into it didn't care. But the fan somehow did*. I was always amazed that it lasted that long, that such a low-wattage item could take out the whole circuit, and that it would run happily for days at a time without popping.

      Rewired the extension lead properly, and everything has been good since.

      (*maybe because it was a metal guard on the fan if it spun and touched something that was earthed? I don't know, I can't imagine that the fan guards are electrically connected at all, and the earth pins were fine).

      1. Daedalus Silver badge

        Re: Electrifying

        Fan motors: typically they have heavy duty coils that cause current surges when starting up. Not as bad as vacuum cleaners, some of which will make your lights flicker, but in a delicate situation it's easy to see how the breaker might go off.

        It might even be a shutdown surge: as the coil fields decay, they produce current that normally goes to neutral, the live side and its breaker being disconnected at the fan switch. But here fan neutral was going to live....

    4. Stevie Silver badge

      Re: Electrifying

      Take zat, Tommy pigdog!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Electrifying

        > Take zap, Tommy pigdog!

        FTFY

  9. frank ly Silver badge

    Typing Cleaners

    Some years ago, a colleague was developing an application as a user interface to a real time controller/monitor for an industrial process. He ran it overnight (connected to a process simulator box) to make sure it was working and stayed working but it kept throwing up errors the next morning.

    Eventually, he figured it out and disconnected the keyboard for his overnight runs. The cleaner was running her duster or cloth over the keyboard.

    1. ChrisC

      Re: Typing Cleaners

      I now have my keyboard and mouse hooked into the USB hub on one of the monitors for a similar reason - if I need to leave the PC running whilst I'm away, switching off said monitor then disables keyboard and mouse, so that when I return I'm not faced with random things having happened thanks to one or other of our cats deciding to walk over or sleep on the keyboard and mouse pad...

      ...also ended up having to change the setup of my laptop power button after recently discovering that our latest feline addition a) is *really* interested in walking all over it as I'm trying to get some work done and b) can apply just enough pressure from a well-placed paw to depress the button far enough to activate it.

  10. Steve Cooper

    Flickering lights

    In a previous life I installed a dozen TVs up on the walls around the office displaying various monitoring information running via HDMI over Cat5 adapters from a PC 30 metres away in the comms room. I couldn't work out for ages why the TVs would randomly go blank for a few seconds then back on again until I stayed late one evening and found they worked perfectly when the office was empty. Turned out to be interference from the IR motion detectors that kept the lights on in the office was somehow inducing enough noise into the Cat5 to upset the HDMI signal when people moved! Shielded Cat 6 rather expensively fixed the problem.

    1. Chris 239

      Re: Flickering lights / previous life bah!

      You whippersnapper - making me feel old!

      HDMI is not old enough to count as a previous life - VGA maybe, but Composite Video to really qualify.

  11. chivo243 Silver badge
    Facepalm

    She's gone and tidied up...

    and I can't find anything!!

    The office cleaners regularly hit my desk, and everything is in a different position! Mousepad moved onto the wet spot where they cleaned the first half of the desk, and then stuck to the desk when I arrive the next day...

    The cleaners have no access to our sensitive areas, we prefer to do them ourselves when required.

    1. Steve K Silver badge

      Re: She's gone and tidied up...

      The cleaners have no access to our sensitive areas, we prefer to do them ourselves when required.

      Ooh matron! Fnar, Fnar! etc.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: She's gone and tidied up...

      "and I can't find anything!!"

      Most places, the desks are out of bounds to the cleaners. If your desk is messy or dirty, it's your fault, your responsibility. Especially if the cleaners are a 3rd party contract.

  12. Peter Christy

    It happened to colour TVs, too....

    Back in the late 60s, between leaving college and starting a "proper" job, I worked as a salesman / delivery driver for a local shop that supplied TVs, washing machines, Hi-Fis, etc. One of our customers had just bought one of these new-fangled colour TVs - a dual standard 405/625 model, if memory serves correctly. These early sets were very sensitive to stray magnetic fields - even the Earth's - and had to be carefully aligned by a service engineer in situ.

    Our resident alignment expert went out with it on delivery, carefully de-gaussed the screen and carried out all the usual purity and convergence adjustments, leaving the customer with a crystal clear picture.

    A week later, the customer called to complain his TV had gone screwy. The service engineer went out again, and sure enough, the purity and convergence had all gone to pot. He carefully re-aligned it all, and left the customer with a perfect picture again.

    Exactly a week later, the same problem ensued! By now the customer was getting a little irate (these sets were very expensive!), and the service engineer very puzzled!

    Since the problem always seemed to happen on a Thursday, the service engineer convinced the boss to let him go and sit in the room on Thursday - all day if necessary - to see what was going on.

    He arrived at 9 o'clock sharp, and the TV was fine. It stayed that way until around 1130, when the cleaning lady arrived and proceeded to hoover the room containing the TV, pushing the hoover with its heavy and powerful electric motor under the TV! Needless to say, the picture immediately went bananas, and required a careful de-gauss and re-alignment to restore proper operation!

    The cleaning lady was very apologetic, but in truth it wasn't her fault! No-one had anticipated the effect a powerful vacuum cleaner might have on a CRT!

    Later TVs had much better screening and better built in de-gaussing systems, and of course, modern displays aren't affected by stray magnetic fields. But back then, it was all one big learning curve......!

    --

    Pete

    1. Jos V

      Re: It happened to colour TVs, too....

      Truth that. I usually carried a magnet with me from a decommissioned subwoofer. You could "smear" the blot on the screen back out by expertly waving it over the screen. Magic! Usually tv sets that alligned north-south a long time would get that.

      More fun with people putting plant pots on top of the set and watering all the time too heavily. And heavy plants would sometimes even break the circuit boards underneath, requiring a lot of trace resoldering. Extra points for fixing TV's by vacuuming the interior cob-webs and dustballs out.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: It happened to colour TVs, too....

        "Extra points for fixing TV's by vacuuming the interior cob-webs and dustballs out."

        Ugh. TVs. High voltages. the days when people smoked indoors. A lot. Tar and ash coatings on everything, but especially on the HV components, and arc tracks through them.

        Memories of having to use copious amounts of isopropyl to clean them and the colouration of what trickled out. *Shudder*

        1. Lilolefrostback

          Re: It happened to colour TVs, too....

          Just imagine what that did to their lungs.

      2. Rich 11 Silver badge

        Re: It happened to colour TVs, too....

        Extra points for fixing TV's by vacuuming the interior cob-webs and dustballs out.

        And using methanol to remove the worst of the oily nicotine build-up on any surface which had been exposed to the fumes from a chip pan bubbling away for an hour or more every Saturday before the footie.

        Edit: I'm glad to see I'm not alone in remembering that muck, Alan!

        1. Nunyabiznes

          Re: It happened to colour TVs, too....

          *Raises hand*

          I've fixed a lot of CRTs over the years, and I was grateful when indoor smoking became a thing of the past.

          We used to have to clean overhead cable trays in a certain high security area every year. It took a few years before we got all of the bleah out of the crevices after smoking was banned in the area. Ick.

          Isn't it amazing how much has changed since the 60s (specifically in IT/electronic repair/etc)?

    2. Lilolefrostback

      Re: It happened to colour TVs, too....

      Long time ago (> 20 years), our team was being upgraded from dumb terminals connected to the mainframe to UNIX workstations (HP or Sun - don't recall) with lovely hi-res colour monitors. Two of us ran into problems - the colour monitors went crazy. They tried multiple monitors in both cubes - no joy. After about a day's investigation, it was determined that we were sitting directly over the incoming power mains for the entire building. And, oh, by the way, no one should be sitting in those cubes as the magnetic field was too high to be safe.

      Yay!

      It only took them a couple of months to find us new cubes.

      And still no super powers.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Where would you plug a vacuum cleaner in?

    I was investigating some issues with failures on a large Unix server in a major UK bank and was in the computer hall where the said kit was hosted. The issues happened at around the same time each day, so a team convened at the appropriate time in the data hall. Everything on the box checked out ok and much head scratching was going on until the cleaner arrived.

    He wandered into the computer hall with his vacuum cleaner (the floor tiles were carpeted) and we then watched him pull out an extension lead with a 3pin socket on one end and a C13 on the other end. The vacuum plugged into the 3 pin socket, the cleaner then opened the cabinet wher the errant server was, plugged the C14 into a socket on the PDU and started the vacuum cleaner. Exactly on cue the server crashed.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Where would you plug a vacuum cleaner in?

      In hospitals, the apocryphal tradition is it ITU!

      "Why do patients always die at the same time of day in this bed?"

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Where would you plug a vacuum cleaner in?

        The ITU case may be apocryphal but this was in a datacentre between Leeds and Bradford.

        It’s the same place that used different coloured carpet tiles in the computer halls to show you the route to emergency exits and then plonked an IBM ESS ‘Shark’ storage array across one exit route.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: Where would you plug a vacuum cleaner in?

          "plonked an IBM ‘Shark’ storage array across one exit route."

          With laser beams ?

  14. Alien8n Silver badge

    MOSFETs and clean rooms

    During my engineering days it was decided that anew generation of MOSFETs that the company was designing needed to be made in an entirely clean environment. They had a spare building which they converted into a clean room environment with all the process machinery in there. Including the moulding press for encapsulating the device. In case you aren't aware, moulding presses create a hell of a lot of dust.

    Also, the rest of the MOSFETs, IGBTs, and Diodes were made in the main building, the only precautions taken were to give people anti-static slip on shoes, a lab coat, and all paperwork was kept in an anti-static bag. Most failures actually came from a combination of 2 sources.

    1. Accidental swapping of paperwork (usually as part of the curing process in the ovens as multiple batches of devices were cured together in the same ovens).

    2. Outright and utter stupidity. The usual excuse was "well it was in my area so I assumed it was my next job" when encapsulating devices that had actually been put aside waiting for wires to be attached. Some people really couldn't be arsed to take one look at the batch and make sure the wiring section had actually been signed off as complete.

    It was No 2 that persuaded me to design the system at my next company so that you couldn't start the process on the system unless the previous process had been signed off.

    1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      Re: MOSFETs and clean rooms

      Part of that is idiots who use *your* intray as *their* pending tray, and then they wonder why their work has vanished. Ditto morons who *store* things in *rubbish* bags. It's in a *RUBBISH* bag, so it got put in the *RUBBISH* bin! WHAT. DID. YOU. EXPECT?????

      1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

        Re: MOSFETs and clean rooms

        Or electronically... storing emails or calendar items in the "Deleted Items" folder and then wondering why they can't find them later because they've been deleted (usually due to a centrally controlled purge).

        I once had to physically demonstrate to one office manager the stupidity of storing things in a rubbish bin by shoving the contents off her desk into the bin under her desk and asking her if she expected them to still be there in the morning after the cleaners had been.

      2. 2Nick3 Bronze badge

        Re: MOSFETs and clean rooms

        Funny how "TEMP" sometimes translates as "Keep the most critical data you have right here - it will be safe forever!"

        I once had to admit to an IBM VP that I had indeed reformatted the 3995 optical disc that the DBA had stored the copy of the DB2 config file on just prior to his managing to corrupt the production config file.

        When the VP finally stopped for a breath I added, "The disc was both physically and logically labeled TEMP002A/B." He took 2 more breaths and the tirade was redirected to the DBA.

        1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

          Re: MOSFETs and clean rooms

          I once had to recover a DOS/Win system where some bright spark had set TEMP=C:\DOS

        2. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: MOSFETs and clean rooms

          > Funny how "TEMP" sometimes translates as "Keep the most critical data you have right here - it will be safe forever!"

          It still happens - to the point where I send out periodic warnings that files in these areas can and WILL occasionally disappear without warning - and if that happens we _will not_ assist with data recovery.

          1. Terry 6 Silver badge

            Re: MOSFETs and clean rooms

            And being fair.cleaning up the temp files in Windows systems will sometimes mean that a programme suite (particularly Office) will fail to update if you want to make changes; because the msi is demanding a file that it had installed and has only ever existed in the temp folder!!!!!

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: MOSFETs and clean rooms

      > Some people really couldn't be arsed

      'Quality Bru^Hitish workmanship' (and quality british 'designs', both of equipment and manufacturing lines - did you ever hear the one about the Triumph motorcycle where they discovered they couldn't install the engine into the frame on the first day of production line operation? - "But it worked on the prototype" - because they _built_ the engine in the frame)

      It's stuff like this that resulted in "Made in Britain" being regarded as a warning label across the commonwealth for a very long time. When you look at the reliability of Range Rovers and other quintessentially 'british' cars, you can see that fine tradition is still being upheld.

  15. Arachnoid
    Joke

    Clean room?

    So you let cleaners into a clean room......... cant be that clean then

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Clean room?

      You can let clean clean room cleaners in to clean a clean room

      They also run retail distribution of bivalve mollusks in littoral area

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    earthing stories ...

    There are so many. I was working at a global company and we were managing appliances all other the globe.

    They were very reliable and apart from 1-2 issues out of 100 IT appliances, we were doing good.

    Except from the 3 appliances in our indian site: their MTBF was 1-2 months max. All 3. Which was a real issue, because shipping a new one there, once the next one was totally fucked (mobo burnt) would cost us too months (logistics in India, you'd love it).

    It took us a while to remotely figure out what was happening. In fact, there were 2 separate electrical lines, and each appliance had one PSU linked to the first and the second PSU to the second.

    After a dozen of such failures, I asked the local dude, to plug both PSUs from one appliance to the same line. 3 months in, this very appliance was still doing allright, while the 2 other had their usual failure rate.

    Explanation: electricity standards are ... different in India (read: shit job is the norm) and the dude that did the 2 lines of the DC, somehow didn't link the 2 lines' earth properly. There was different voltages between the 2 PSU earths, and it regularly killed the mobos.

    Solution was quick: we put all appliances PSUs onto the same line, and never had any failure ever since !

    1. Jos V

      Re: earthing stories ...

      You can also find out if grounding in your setup is done proper when you try to measure the 80V/16hz ringer circuit output (as in telephone ring voltage), by hooking your 1:1 oscilloscope probe to ground and touch the ouput with the probe. It's very effective, and capacitors give of nasty smoke when they blow. Can be expensive too.. (it wasn't me, ex-boss, I swear)

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: earthing stories ...

      "Solution was quick: we put all appliances PSUs onto the same line, and never had any failure ever since !"

      Which is fine until either

      1: The phase imbalance burns out the supply transformer

      2: The bad earth finally lifts and you find out that 3phase 240V supplies (nominal to earth) can suddenly rise to 480V and ALL your PSUs burn out more or less simultaneouly and spectacularly.

      Working around a problem of shit power without understanding what you're doing can make the hurting much much worse in the long term. Find the problem and deal with it. Fuckwit electricians can be dealt with by making them hold onto the end of the line whilst you megger it.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: earthing stories ...

        "Which is fine until either

        1: The phase imbalance burns out the supply transformer

        2: The bad earth finally lifts and you find out that 3phase 240V supplies (nominal to earth) can suddenly rise to 480V and ALL your PSUs burn out more or less simultaneouly and spectacularly.

        Working around a problem of shit power without understanding what you're doing can make the hurting much much worse in the long term. Find the problem and deal with it. Fuckwit electricians can be dealt with by making them hold onto the end of the line whilst you megger it."

        I understand what you're saying. But there was absolutely no way to have the electricity team even investigate this. Your problem, my problem. Clearly, it was NOT their problem, and VERY clearly, it would only be investigated once something bad happens.

        Probably it did at the end :)

        The AC writing the original story

  17. Rupert Fiennes Bronze badge

    Cleaners again...

    Was working in an electronic factory where spare parts were kept in a trolley...which every night, the cleaners moved outside to a carpeted area while they cleaned the floor :-)

  18. Luiz Abdala

    Grounding the work force... permanently.

    A friend of mine told me about his previous job.

    They were about to move their business into a new building... that the company would build from the ground up, to better suit their demands upon expansion. But, before moving, they had to install everything in it, including all the electrical bits. He was responsible for the IT part so he lets know of the grounding demands: about 75 wrist straps in an assembly line, and means to ground them, nothing complex. Well, let's just say the Sparky in charge wasn't exactly AWARE of a few demands for it.... or building codes for that matter....

    ...like not using the same ground for WRIST STRAPS and LIGHTNING RODS. This friend of mine, on the first inspection visit, quickly noticed this weird line across the ground, before the installation of raised floors... hooked up to the rather thick lightning rod lines running outside. About 75 people would've met their demise in the same manner as anecdotal Benjamin Franklin. The first electrical storm on the brand new facility would be the last for the majority of the workforce, no matter how thick those grounding lines could be. Stranger yet, nobody else noticed it.

    Would you use a wrist strap hooked to a lightning rod? I guess not.

    1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

      Re: Grounding the work force... permanently.

      Did the sparky sign his work as J. Jones?

      1. Stevie Silver badge

        Re: Grounding the work force... permanently.

        J. Jones? More like B.S. Johnson if you ask me.

        I knew Jim Jones. Apart from the fact he smoked twenty Capstan Full Strength a day and spat copiously every three seconds he was a magnificent chap. Leader of St John Backsides' school orchestra's string section and under his leadership the string section nearly always beat the brass section (headed by an equally competitive Fred Cole) to the end of whatever we were playing. They say our rendition of The Valiant Knight brought tears to the eyes of all who heard it on parent's night.

        Ah the music, the bulging eyes and sweat-soaked brow of Mr Cooper as he madly tried to keep up with his conducting, the protesting squeaks from the clarinets, flutes and bassoon lollygagging in the rear as usual.

        1. Soruk

          Re: Grounding the work force... permanently.

          Upvoted as I am familiar with the piece of music that you are referring to.

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Grounding the work force... permanently.

      "This friend of mine, on the first inspection visit, quickly noticed this weird line across the ground, before the installation of raised floors... hooked up to the rather thick lightning rod lines running outside"

      I've had to explain quite recently that you don't tie surge suppressor ground points to those lines for much the same reasons.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The whole area was ESD-controlled, so even to walk down the central aisle you needed heel straps and a smock

    I worked at a company for several weeks thinking the area was ESD controlled. It turned out it wasn't; that is just the way millennials dress.

  20. Dave K Silver badge

    Reminds me of a good one on Computer Stupidities some time ago (note, not my anecdote):

    A customer logged a call that he occasionally finds his VAX 11/725 (one of the few of that model in The Netherlands) powered down when he comes in in the morning. As I was the site responsible engineer for that customer, I went over to investigate the problem. Didn't seem to be one of the usual: of course I'd read about janitors and cleaners unplugging power cords to run their vacuum cleaners or floor mops or what not. But in this case the machine was in a recess, side by side with a printer, and there was a perfectly good, unused wall socket in plain view, in the wall to the left of the recess. They'd have to stoop over the machine and unplug its power cord from the barely visible wall socket behind it to do that trick, and also plug it back in afterwards. Also, the power cord was snug; you couldn't trip the machine just by bumping into it.

    But the machine did just power down occasionally, as evidenced by the console printout. No bug check or machine check, just opcom messages being printed, followed straight by the power up sequence the next morning when the customer came in and powered it up again. Timestamps showed the machine quitting early evening, between 18:00 and 19:00. If it did, that is; it didn't do it every day.

    Ok, it's flaky somehow. But why that particular time? I put in a new power supply, as that'd be the most probable cause. Nope, that's not it. A couple of days later, the customer logged a repeat call, with the exact same symptom. I went on site again, exercised the machine, measured supply voltages. It ran without any sign of any problem. Looking over the possibilities, I wondered if it was an overheating or airflow condition. There's more than one sensor that can trip the machine the way it is tripped, and we hooked up a small logic probe that would show which one it actually was. And sure enough, a few days later it got tripped with an airflow problem. Now, I had already cleaned out the filters and the fans when I replaced the PSU -- pretty standard procedure to do whatever preventive maintenance you can when you go on site for a hardware call. So I couldn't imagine there would be a real airflow condition. But the sensor might have been woky, so I checked it. It was a pair of thermal sensors, one exposed to the airflow, the other not. Pretty simple. No mechanical parts that might have binded or gotten stuck. So no problem there. For good measure I replaced a power harness that showed vague signs of chafing, and I also replaced the monitoring logic.

    Didn't help. The customer called once more, and sure enough the probe showed an airflow condition. Support is still on the case, and they authorize a swap unit to be brought on site, so that I can take the ailing 725 to our product repair center and go over it with a fine-toothed comb. Which I did. Stripped it down to the bare chassis, cleaned every sensor, every connector, every slot, every everything. It was the squeaky-cleanest 11/725 in the Western hemisphere that wasn't fresh out of the factory. I inspected every wire, checked every fan, and replaced anything that wasn't to my liking. It was arranged that it could sit in the PRC for a few weeks, running, with power monitoring probes hooked up. It passed without a hitch. In the meantime the replacement unit is humming along nicely too, without any problems whatsoever. Quite a bit of head-scratching happens. The temporary replacement was an 11/730, basically the same hardware in a different cabinet, so maybe that was a clue. In the meantime, a power logger had been running at the customer site, to check whether the flakiness is coming in from the main power supply. It wasn't. So, we handed back the 11/725 to its rightful owner.

    And sure enough, it tripped a few days later. Yes, early evening yet again.

    Running out of ideas, one of us decided to go on site every day at closing time and just sit there to see it go. And sure enough, he observed the problem right the first evening.

    The cleaning crew came in. The vacuum cleaner was not the problem. The floor mop was not the problem. One of them took the waste bag from the paper shredder, tied it closed, and set it aside -- right in front of the air intake of the 11/725.

    Floooomph. TRIP.

    1. imanidiot Silver badge

      That led exactly to where I thought it would be going. Still got a good chuckle though. Thanks for sharing.

  21. Alan Brown Silver badge

    "One of them took the waste bag from the paper shredder, tied it closed, and set it aside -- right in front of the air intake of the 11/725."

    You can blame the cleaners for this - or you can blame the "designers" for not anticipating something like this might happen and taking steps to ensure that airflow will still work.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Cleaners and lights

    On the topic of cleaners turning the lights:

    Some years back I was troubleshooting some equipment at an electronics manufacturer. To avoid impacting production, I was working on the weekend. Most stuff was shut down, lots of lights were out, etc. I needed to plug in an oscilloscope, but the outlets next to the equipment were dead. I assumed that the outlets were on a circuit that got shut off on nights/weekends, so I began a search for the appropriate breaker.

    After about 40 minutes of searching (and discovering a couple of new breaker panels in the building) were fruitless, I was befuddled. I grabbed a ladder and visually traced the conduit feeding the outlets to see if it could lead me to an undiscovered cabinet. All it seemed to meet with was... the lighting fixtures in the women's bathroom on the other side of the wall.

    I popped open the bathroom door and found the room was dark. A skeptical flip of the light switch brought the test equipment outlets to life. During the normal work day, the bathroom lights were on all day, so nobody had noticed before.

    I've probably told this story on El Reg before, my apologies if my dottering tales are beginning to repeat.

    1. ROC

      Re: Cleaners and lights

      Nah. Missed it last time...

    2. Steve K Silver badge
      Angel

      Re: Cleaners and lights

      ..and that, your honour, is why I was in the ladies' toilets in the dark. I rest my case.

      1. defiler Silver badge

        Re: Cleaners and lights

        why I was in the ladies' toilets in the dark

        ...with a hole drilled through to my work bench...

    3. Luiz Abdala

      Re: Cleaners and lights

      ...Just like my tale of an University lab where all the sockets changed from 110V to 220V when you turned the lights off...

      ...Everything that needed a specific voltage on input would release blue smoke or spit its fuses out, every weekend... which happened for 3 weeks in a row until I visited it myself...

      ...It was my sister's University, so I would usually give her a ride on Saturdays; that day she mentioned her plight with the recent lab expansion, and its fuse-popping, sparkly sockets...

  23. Jeffrey Nonken Silver badge

    Damn it, now I have Simon and Garfunkel running through my brain on repeat.

  24. ganymede io device
    Coat

    unboxing

    I have squandered my resistance for a pocketful of mumbles

    such are promises. All lies and jests,

    still a man hears what he wants to hear...

    and disregards the rest.

    Mine's the one with mumbles in the pocket.

    1. Stevie Silver badge

      Re: unboxing

      "Hello darkness my old friennnnnnnd

      I've walked into that door againnnnnnn"

  25. Florida1920 Silver badge

    Grease

    Once had a contract doing a QA manual for a HD named Aztec. There were process problems, one of which was pretty clear. The person assembling the heads wore latex finger tips to keep oil from places it didn't belong. As she assembled the heads, she'd occasionally scratch the outside of her nose with a gloved fingertip. Then there were the tolerance stack-up errors when machining the base plate....

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Static

    Once heard the entire carpet got torn out and replaced with the "right" sort after 3" sparks started zapping workers .

    1. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: Static

      UGH. Worked in a building for a few years where the cheap and nasty carpet meant that any contact with an earthed object was really painful.

  27. Herby Silver badge

    MOSFETs and fill-up stations

    Mosfets: In my PFY days, when attending university, I had occasion to work with mosfets (RCA 40468's) which were EXTREMELY static sensitive. In one experiment I had the device in a curve tracer and hit the "open base" (in this case gate), and walked back a few steps. With black comb in hand and using it to attack my hair, I could make the curve go from bottom to top of the trace by just moving the comb about 2 feet in front of me. It was very instructive.

    Fill-up (gasoline/petrol) stations: Yes, Oregon makes "attendants" pump fuel. Every time I visit it is weird to have pump droids at Costco. As for the auto shut-off, sometimes they removed the mechanism that engages it (lever that latches from the back). Then I saw the "bug fix". It involved propping up the fuel lever with the filler cap. I subsequently used this "bug fix" and it was wonderful. I could scrub my windshield windscreen while the tank was being filled. Bliss renewed.

    As usual, life goes on.

  28. Tom 7 Silver badge

    Cracking stuff

    I worked as a chip designer for a while and towards the end of that MBAs started imposing their 'business practices' to technology. In order to reduce static damage to chips as MOSFETS are particularly succeptable due to static from uman ands going down the lead to the chip pad onto the teeny weeny gate of a transistor the voltage resulting is inverse to the size of pad so bigger pads mean lower voltages so MBA decides minimum pad size for all chips designed here.

    Now as our group was making ultra fast (for then) ECL the pad size imposed meant that our chips could not work - simply driving them at the speeds we were going at would take more current than the leads could carry! And ECL doesnt normally suffer from static problems.

    It took several meetings and threats of violence before we got an 'exception' so we could make chips that would work.

  29. Tom 7 Silver badge

    Not so much static

    but we had a GEC 4000 (as used to run Prestel) and that used to fall over if there was a lightning strike within 30 miles or so. In the days before the internet people used to be impressed by our weather forecasting abilities as we'd pop out for an early lunch on a sunny day with a seemingly unnecessary coat.

  30. fredj

    Many years ago I worked with a laboratory integrator for analysing HPLC traces.

    Too frequently for financial comfort we used to get a failure of the main PCB. This never happened in the factory, only with customers.

    One day one of the engineers noted that customers were very often ladies. There were no ladies in our instrument production facility. He looked at the matter more closely and eventually deduced the cause was ladies wearing nylon knickers. In practice and with some very discrete questioning we found this to be reliably true. After this discovery we warned new customers about the static problem with nylon clothes and never had the problem again.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I once met a PBX engineer sobbing in to his pint. He had a job that day to make a few minor adjustments at a big flash London ad agency. They had invested in one of the new high tech digital PBXs filled with early CMOS and MOSFETs and it proudly stood in one corner of the office. He had opened the back of the cabinet when a couple of the media types came up behind him. One pointed and said 'look at all those flashing lights'... a spark leapt from the end of his finger and all those lovely flashing lights were no more! Stone dead! The offices may have looked flash, but the carpet was a cheap nylon static generator (they had to water the carpet while waiting for it to be replaced... needless to say the PBX had to be fixed then and there)

  32. Chrisb802

    further earthing mistakes / true stories

    The first dates back to the late 1970s, about the same time as the previous post and again concerns a PBX installation in London, a police station.A some may know older PBXs were 'earth start' meaning that the remote PBX relied on a local earth 'ground' connection to form an electrical path back to the local exchange. Colleagues had installed a 'high tech digital pbx' but found that although the location was not far from the exchange, the earth resistance was too high. Old hands, reminded us the building had been built in the early 1960s on a bomb site. The radius of the crater was established and a spike in the ground cabled back to the building fixed the problem. But one morning the building was struck by lightning. The surge travelled down the building and found its way through the PBX and out to the much better earth connection 30 metres away. A policeman on the phone at the time had the handset blown from his hand, and by all accounts was seen with a blue aura above his head for some time after. Moments before he had bee leaning on a metal pipe and would probably have been killed - we were lucky.

    The second story is less dramatic and dates from the early 1980s, but could have been more serious.

    In the early 2000's, I was commissioned to replace that 1980s PBX. In preparation I did basic checks on the power and earthing. Investigating a significant difference between the PBX earth and the building electrical earth, I discovered the PBX was taking its earth from a cable to the BT Exchange 100 meters away and its DC power was not tied to the building electrical earth. About 1000 people worked in the building.

    The interface on an E1 connection to a PBX (US t1) relies on the screen of the cable to supply an earth connection.(neutral). But where multiple E1s are terminated into the same rack, the level of electrical noise will cause violations in the signalling i.e data errors, as more E1s are connected the PBX will be unable to cope. Latterly, this problem was solved with opto isolators.

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