back to article DBA drifts into legend after inventive server convo leaves colleagues fearing for their lives

Welcome to the latest instalment of Who, Me?, our weekly confessional column in which Reg readers share their tales of historic face-palms. This week, "Fred" has written in to tell us about an incident while he was working as a DBA at a Knightsbridge-based shop's IT offices, which were a bit further away. These offices had …

  1. OzBob

    My boss was demonstrating the instrusion sensors on our building

    he was telling how both light beams need to be tripped to trigger the alarm, and promptly leant over the parapet and blocked both light beams. Alarm goes off, team suitably impressed, then Ops Supervisor comes out and says "nice one [boss's name], I hope you know the reset code because we certainly don't".

    Four hours later, we manage to track down the company which brought the company which installed the alarm system and get them to come onsite and turn the damn alarm off.

    1. Lee D Silver badge

      Re: My boss was demonstrating the instrusion sensors on our building

      Question: Are your workplace aware that it's both pointless, nuisance-creating, council-enforceable (noise nuisance) and quite possibly illegal for a burglar alarm to sound for more than 20 minutes continuously (fire alarms, maybe, but even so if it's sounding unnecessarily)?

      Seriously, what possible purpose could it ever serve to sound for longer than that (you can have some indicator that the alarm has sounded, if you like, but there's no need for it to sound continuously unless lives are at risk)?

      1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

        Re: My boss was demonstrating the instrusion sensors on our building

        even if his workplace dosent know, the bigger question is - how come alarm manufacturers dont know? after all they are the ones in the business.

        1. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

          Re: My boss was demonstrating the instrusion sensors on our building

          even if his workplace doesnt know, the bigger question is - how come alarm manufacturers dont know? after all they are the ones in the business.

          Not all alarm companies sell the same type and make of alarms.

          Some sell Terminators, which is vastly different from your humble Yale IoT alarm.

          Yale IoT crapstuff is different than your plain, dumb phone-the-cops/alarm company when triggered.

          And not everybody want to stock the full range of diverse alarms, sensors, Terminators, weapons and the such. Too expensive.

          1. Giovani Tapini

            Re: My boss was demonstrating the instrusion sensors on our building

            @Anonymous South African Coward... A Terminator as a burglar alarm. That's not really using the T1000 to its cost effective extent...

            Apart from being an IoT system due to the need to connect to Skynet, surely it can eliminate the need to sound the alarm, by simply er, terminating the intruders.

            I would not be happy with the risk of the spherical elimination of material and subsequent fires that its deployment creates. I am not convinced that this solution is better than the problem.

            I do like the idea of having my own Terminator though, "Hasta La Vista Baby..."

          2. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
            Terminator

            Re: My boss was demonstrating the instrusion sensors on our building

            Some sell Terminators, Cyberdyne Systems I presume (See Icon - Nuff Said)

      2. Anonymous IV

        Re: My boss was demonstrating the instrusion sensors on our building

        Somehow I feel that, if a burglar alarm was sounding for more than about half-an-hour to the detriment of the even flow of work, an amount of percussive maintenance would have been applied to the bell(s)...

        1. Wayneh_nz

          Re: My boss was demonstrating the instrusion sensors on our building

          Expanding foam in the sirens dulls the sound a bit. Spraying a little cooking oil into the sirens stops the expanding foam from sticking, as demonstrated by the burglars that broke into my neighbors house and got expanding foam all over themselves, trying to quieten down the siren.

      3. chivo243 Silver badge
        Headmaster

        Re: My boss was demonstrating the instrusion sensors on our building

        Fire alarm went off during an exam at rented venue, took the minions that manage the venue over an hour to stop it.... sheeesh

      4. Gene Cash Silver badge

        Re: My boss was demonstrating the instrusion sensors on our building

        Yup, in the US not only would be be a fine, but it'd bring OSHA (the elfin sarfty folks) on-site to poke about to see what other convenient nooses they could hang us with. There's pretty much always something OSHA can smack you for.

      5. This post has been deleted by its author

      6. Adam 1 Silver badge

        Re: My boss was demonstrating the instrusion sensors on our building

        Re: percussive maintenance

        A large number of years ago, our former office space was turned into an unworkable wall of noise due to an alarm in the neighbouring suite. It was triggered by who knows what, blasted for 15 minutes, then turned off .... for maybe 5 before repeating the process.

        After the fourth or fifth cycle of this, and with no tenant in sight for the adjacent suite, a former colleague pushed his chair away from the desk with resolve, stood up, grabbed a screwdriver of the workbench and disappeared into the service corridor. He must have found the tenant because the alarm went quiet a minute or two later. And the tenant must have got that issue fixed because I don't recall it happening again after that. I can imagine no other method by which the peace we experienced after that time could have occurred.

      7. Mr Sceptical
        Mushroom

        Re: My boss was demonstrating the instrusion sensors on our building

        In the UK it's actually 15 minutes max an external sounder should be set for (BS EN50131).

        The local authority are allowed to disable someones sounder after that under noise pollution regulations. Doesn't specify how many pieces they're allowed to leave it in though...

    2. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge
      Headmaster

      Re: My boss was demonstrating the instrusion sensors on our building

      the company which brought the company

      Bought!

      1. MiguelC Silver badge

        Re: My boss was demonstrating the instrusion sensors on our building

        I think he really meant 'brought' as in 'sub-contracted them to do the actual job'

        1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge
          Headmaster

          Re: My boss was demonstrating the instrusion sensors on our building

          I think he really meant 'brought' as in 'sub-contracted them to do the actual job'

          In that case it was still bad English so the icon stands :)

      2. OzBob

        Re: My boss was demonstrating the instrusion sensors on our building

        Yeah, dropped the ball on that one. A good friend who was full-time doctor and part-time english tutor used to pull me up on that all the time so I gave up and used "purchased" instead.

        1. Trixr Bronze badge

          Re: My boss was demonstrating the instrusion sensors on our building

          Well, there is a pretty easy way to remember the difference between "brought" and "bought".

          "Brought" is the past tense of "bring". "Bought" is the past tense of "buy".

          Both BRought and BRing both start with a BR. If you've had to BRing it, it's something you've BRought (or, er, BRung).

          If it's something you had to BUy, its past tense doesn't have a BR either, therefore "BOUght".

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: My boss was demonstrating the instrusion sensors on our building

      "I hope you know the reset code because we certainly don't"

      So who signed off on the installation without making sure they had the reset code? And why did the installers not make sure they left the reset code with someone?

      1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: My boss was demonstrating the instrusion sensors on our building

        If it's like my company...

        Someone, at one time, knew the reset code, or who to call. Fast forward five years, and all those who know are gone, having carefully handed over everything to the new person, who was transferred, so their replacement will have the binder of all knowledge...which seems to be missing the alarm code page (or there is one, but it's the old code, which was changed when the first person left, but the new person, instead of updating the page, simply stuck a yellow Post-It with the new code on...

        ...which fell off.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Fire is no laughing matter but back in the day I used to love using net send.

    "Warning: Your machine is over heating and about to set on fire, please move away immediately"

    I'm also the git that stuck post it notes under mice and flipped monitors with the arrow keys. I work from home these days which is probably a good thing.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I'm also the git that stuck post it notes under mice and flipped monitors with the arrow keys. I work from home these days which is probably a good thing.

      Ah so it was you who flipped my screen. Kindly come back and revert it.

      Or else I'll set the Bossly Unit on your case.

      Kthanxbai

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        You can fix it with Alt+F4, you may have to press it a few times though.

        1. ratfox Silver badge

          Ctrl+Alt+Del works immediately

          1. matjaggard

            Clearly not a Windows user.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I took a screenshot of my bosses desktop and set it as the background image, then locked his machine before moving the login window offscreen into a corner. He saw the funny side eventually.

    3. hopkinse
      Coat

      That's amost as much fun as using a binary editor to change system messages by modifying command.com back in the good old days days of DOS. This was in the days when viruses were just starting to appear, so a couple of carefully re-crafted messages caused much panic and head-scratching :-)

  3. I Am Spartacus

    But can I get F1 on my BT account

    Long ago, in a country far far away, well Durham University to be precise, they shared a mainframe with Newcastle Uni. The mainframe was a old IBM 360, and ran a system called MTS. Now MTS, fun as it was, had a few holes in it. Once of these meant that if you attempted to mount a disk pack that didn't belong to you, but do it in a certain way that has invalid syntax, your console was left god like privileges.

    Friend and I then figured out the way to write to the operators consoles. These were in the bowels of the Newcastle Uni computing centre and run by quite serious operators who had undergone a humour bypass, as we found out. What we did was write in large, bold letters the following to four adjacent terminals:

    "BIG" "BROTHER" "IS" "WATCHING".

    Cue the operators calling their union rep over, who announced this was a gross intrusion on the privacy of the operators, who then walked out.

    The prank was quickly traced to the Durham terminal room, and the Durham head of Operations rushed in along with the Prof of the department. So, yes, I too know "that stare".

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: But can I get F1 on my BT account

      "quite serious operators who had undergone a humour bypass"

      I suppose it's what comes from being exposed to generations of students.

      1. JoshOvki

        Re: But can I get F1 on my BT account

        Find a different job then

      2. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

        Re: But can I get F1 on my BT account

        "I suppose it's what comes from being exposed to generations of students."

        It's a side effect of Newcastle Brown Ale.

      3. swm Bronze badge

        Re: But can I get F1 on my BT account

        "quite serious operators who had undergone a humour bypass"

        At Dartmouth College we had an ex marine gunnery sergeant as a computer operator. The business manager of the center would sneak in and deposit a large cardboard box labelled "bomb" on all sides on the console typewriter. His reaction was to drop kick it out of the room.

        Another story I heard was at MIT they had a "fire hose" drum used for swapping. One day a plasterer caused the filters to clog up. "No problem," said the field engineer, pulled out the clogged filters and before he could replace them the drum inhaled enough plaster to totally crash every head on the device.

    2. bobajob12

      Re: But can I get F1 on my BT account

      Good Lord. Michigan Terminal System. There's a system I haven't thought about in a long time. I remember as a puny undergrad having to use the hideous terminals Programming Simula/67 and Fortran. The horror.

      1. Anonymous IV

        Re: But can I get F1 on my BT account

        > I remember as a puny undergrad having to use the hideous terminals Programming Simula/67 and Fortran

        They were perfectly decent terminals - for the time. I'm surprised that you didn't program in Algol W and 360 Assembler rather than Fortran and Simula. But I suppose things were made easy for the undergrads of that time... <evil grin!>

      2. A-nonCoward

        Michigan Re: But can I get F1 on my BT account

        Ha! memories... My wife tells on how when she was 13 years old she helped her mom (a professor in Ann Arbor) navigate that. Eventually became quite adept, except for her tolerance for Windows.

  4. Nick Kew Silver badge

    Delayed action alarm

    As a developer, I've been known to alarm people in the future with a log event.

    Example: do_something() returns a status which could be OK, ERROR1, or ERROR2. So we handle errors with something like:

    switch(rv = do_something()) {

    case OK: // all's well

    case ERROR1: // handle it

    case ERROR2: // handle it

    default:

    log_error(rv, "Bug! This can't happen");

    }

    Sometime down the line, do_something() gets updated and returns ERROR3 for some new situation. Then comes the alarmed note in the bug report when someone excitable reads their log.

    1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

      Re: Delayed action alarm

      I authored an error message in a system for retrieving info from remoter PCs that went:

      "Cannot proceed because the machine we have connected to is not XXXXXXXX , its YYYYYYYY , this is because of a DNS error AGAIN!!!, please get zzzzzz to fix it".

      and that was rev2 , with the swearing taken out.

  5. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    Can we have a regex (or maybe an el-regex ahahahahaha) set up to automagically reject any post talking about flipped monitors?

    In a world where the in-jokes are defined as not funny in the general sense to start with, the flipped monitor story is old, boring and done to death.

    Either that or have the post replaced to a link to the better examples from the archives. One or two elaborately dressed monitor flips were technically interesting.

    But not funny.

    Oh and the same for cup-holder CD-ROM trays too.

    1. vtcodger Silver badge

      Re: Bah!

      "Oh and the same for cup-holder CD-ROM trays too."

      After I retired, I worked part time maintaining computers for a K-8 school. One of the kids -- 6 or 7 years old -- put a chocolate chip cookie on the CDROM tray of one of the library PCs and pushed load. I thought it was kind of funny and indicated a certain amount of creativeness. The kid's teacher apparently had more than enough of childish creativity. The kid did NOT do that again.

      1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

        Re: CD cookies

        Presumably someone had to clean out the CD drive. Therefore, the appropriate punishment for the child would be to have to sit quietly watching whilst the adult painstakingly cleaned the drive. Not a word needs to be spoken. By the end of the exercise the child (particularly with a 6-7yo attention span) will fully appreciate *why* this isn't something to do ever again.

        See, adults can be creative, too.

      2. Anonymous C0ward

        Re: Bah!

        Was mostly 2p coins and chewing gum when I worked as a tech at my old school for a while.

    2. Olivier2553 Silver badge

      Re: Bah!

      "Oh and the same for cup-holder CD-ROM trays too."

      Until you witness it in person...

      Kid not used to modern cars and they soda can holders, thought it was a CD-ROM tray...

  6. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Honest Gospel Truths For Future Advanced IntelAIgent Builders

    I Kid U Not, here on El Reg in these New Fangled Entangled Virtual Land Spaces. There are Almighty Core Source Ore Forces at their Work, Rest and Play there. ..... and would Welcome All Stellar Heavenly Input/Output for Future AIdDriver Systems in Master Piloted Operations. ...... Augmented Virtual Realisation of a Present Future Condition with Almighty Imaginative Control in Command.

    Would that be Alien, and Realised with Exposure and Disclosure, an Existential Treat for Earth Bound Systems, or Mistreated and Misused and Consider AIdDriver Systems a Phenomenally Unknown Threat of Estranging Existence?

    And you surely don't need to be an Einstein to realise the Former is a Better AI Beta than the Latter.

    And Most Commendable and Recommendable too.

    Guy Fawkers used Gunpowder to Try Blow Up the Houses of Parliament, didn't they. Today, would it be different.

    1. tony trolle

      Re: Honest Gospel Truths For Future Advanced IntelAIgent Builders

      why does the early stuff sound better ?

      selective memory ?

    2. Cliff Thorburn

      Re: Honest Gospel Truths For Future Advanced IntelAIgent Builders

      ‘Guy Fawkers used Gunpowder to Try Blow Up the Houses of Parliament, didn't they. Today, would it be different.’

      True amfM, however this modern day Guidoh Fawkes actually prevented said financial nuclear disaster, and the thanks?, consistent and persistent detriment.

  7. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

    Indeed

    Shouting "Fire" in a crowded server room.

    No, stick to "The engines canna take it, captain" and "I'm a doctor, not a web server."

  8. bobajob12

    I think I know the shop under discussion

    Let's say - they had their data processing operations in Osterly and were known for a shop building in Knightsbridge that was bedecked in lights?

    Frankly, it's a miracle that they were running anything at all. I remember a summer working in their credit department where the workers had the thrilling task of microfilming credit card applications. One page at a time. It was like the sheet feeder had never existed.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why? Just why?

    I have for more than 30 years worked in several different types of jobs, from the military to defence contractors, from chip design to radar systems, from electronics design and manufacturing to, well, software. And in all these years to only line of work where people "played" with fire on the way these stories show us, is in software and system maintenance. Why??

    I guess that in the military you prefer not to start WWIII, in electronics manufacturing you want to avoid spillage that would kill all life downstream of the river etc. Yet in this particular line of work people have zero inhibitions to play with others. And there were plenty of consequences ... for us. Such as day fines for late delivery after having spent time rebuilding our systems. Oh, and the backups that we had paid for, you think those actually worked??

    The other mystery to me is how rarely this has any consequences. The only exception from my experience was when the company maintaining our computers violated all protocols and plugged a laptop into our network promptly let lose a worm inside of all our firewalled net. In this case their contract was supposed to be renegotiated the very next day. The negotiations were rather quickly done that day.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Why? Just why?

      Are you literally claiming no one in the military has ever played a prank on a cow-orker?

      Can you go to the QM and ask for a long weight?

      1. Anonymous IV
        Thumb Down

        Re: Why? Just why?

        > Are you literally claiming no one in the military has ever played a prank on a cow-orker?

        Orking a cow sounds like an offence under the Welfare of Animals Act 2006.

        Military persons should be more careful...

      2. Black Betty

        Re: Why? Just why?

        My brother's boss tried that on him at the ordnance factory where he was apprenticed. Several legit customers came and went before the stores clerk thought to ask the kid with his heels up reading a book what he wanted. Bro carefully marked his place, looked at his watch, said "I guess I've waited long enough" and returned to his station.

        1. DuchessofDukeStreet
          Pint

          Re: Why? Just why?

          Not IT related in any way but, like many people, I spent some of my early adult life working behind a bar. A good number of the other staff were students taking their first job to supplement their university grant, and therefore deemed ripe for practical jokes by the regular clientele. Added to the usual funnies about telephone calls for Mike Hunt (pre-mobile era....), the local speciality on a first shift was asking for a pint of Guinness shandy. Ignoring the fact of this being a criminal waste of the black stuff, the first introduction of Guinness to a glass half full of lemonade resulting in a volcanic explosion of froth, embarrassed barman, next attempt, more waste, more embarrassment, another attempt, etc until another member of staff intervened and the customers placed their real order.

          All fine until they tried it on a young home counties lad, not realising that he'd spent his entire life living in a pub and been pulling pints since he was in primary school. One "perfect" pint of Guinness shandy and an out-stretched hand for the payment later, and that particular joke was permanently retired...

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Why? Just why?

          The one time I was sent for a long weight, I simply went home for the day!

    2. timhowarduk

      Re: Why? Just why?

      Aha, let me enlighten you. Firstly, the military too get bored, and do daft things.

      If you take 18 young men who are confined to barracks due to the amount of snow, they soon get very bored so decide to light a fire and build a huge snowman. The next morning they also get highly pissed off to find it knocked down with tyre marks through, so build it again, even bigger. They are positively seething when the following night it gets knocked down again, with more tyre marks, and a note saying "DO NOT REBUILD - I'll BE BACK"

      So, after discussion, they build it again but this time they build it around a concrete post.

      The next morning, they awoke to find a military police vehicle completely written off wrapped around the concrete post. To improve things further, all snow had melted making it look like the car had deliberately aimed at the only obstacle for quite some distance.

      And to tackle your other point, there were consequences. The MP driver couldn't possibly admit that the accident happened while trying to knock down a giant snowman. He tried to say he lost control due to the icy conditions, and got confined to foot patrols for the rest of the winter.

      1. ICPurvis47
        Pint

        Re: Why? Just why?

        When I was a student at a midland College of Engineering Technology, we had an "understanding" with the Teachers Training College in a nearby village. Whenever we had a disco or similar function, we used to invite the girls over to share in the fun. One very snowy night, some of the lads built a huge snow "man" in the driveway, so the coach could not leave. Coach driver became very annoyed and called the police. Two young coppers arrived in their Moggy panda car, and were absolutely wetting themselves laughing as they supervised the (male) students removing the obstacle. "Right ho lads, lets just roll this bollock over onto the grass". "Now the other one". Eventually the central shaft was pushed over and cleared away, so the girls could be chaperoned back to their dormitory. I still have the photographs if anyone wants a good laugh. Icon because a goodly amount of that had been consumed during the evening.

    3. DuchessofDukeStreet

      Re: Why? Just why?

      Every industry has its own jokers; I'd argue that the military is probably the most humour-ridden. And probably the best at knowing where the line is - which is usually several battlefields beyond where a civilian thinks it is.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Why? Just why?

        >Every industry has its own jokers; I'd argue that the military is probably the most humour-ridden.

        I have served in the military and in a spectacularly hilarious group. And that included the officers. Yet we certainly knew where the line was drawn.

  10. vincent himpe

    Late 1990's. keyboards with a power , sleep and reboot key made by compaq...

    Buttons sit between insert/page down/end keys and arrow keys. what moron designed those ?

    Working frantically on fixing a bug and not looking what the keycaps say if reach for the end button and pieuuuwww ( the sound of drives spinning down ... ) Wha ?

    I yanked the keyboard cable ,grabbed the end of the keyboard ,and firmly planted it into the side of the lab table. keyboard , meet sharp bench edge ... The keyboard exploded into a rainfall of keycaps all over the place ... Cracked in half, and missing many keys, i tossed it on the IT guys desk stating that, if he ever ordered that type again his head would meet the same fate !

    Fast forward a few years ... it is decided to move the lab area and some cabinets are moved.. behind which lay a few keycaps .... raising questions where those came from .. queue the stories...

    1. timhowarduk

      Nice to hear someone else did this too. My first action at a client site once was pressing "scroll lock" twice to activate the Belkin KVM switch. Except this was one of those keyboards and I'd pressed "Sleep" on their server that was logged on. Fantastic first impression created.

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