Re: Well if the US ships want the Chinese to keep out of the way
Really? This really happened? Because these are two of the oldest urban myth/FOAF stories in tech mythology...
Another week over, another On Call – and this one is going to provide you with a real belly-laugh. Every week, we pore through our mail bag, seeking out the best tales from readers at the coal face of tech support. This time we bring you "Isabelle's" experience, which was back in the days when computers were not just new, but …
I've certainly seen floppies stored near/under/stuck to metal with magnets over the years.
And floppies stapled to things, yes. Original software stapled to the invoice and license number certificate for safe keeping at one place!
It is like the myth of the laptop that got run over. I've experienced that a couple of times. One was a project manager taking their kids to school. They put their laptop bag down behind the car, because the kids were causing havoc and they had to spend extra time belting them up. They then got in the car, reversed down the drive and... crunch.
At least the disk drive was unharmed and we could recover the data.
On the other hand, the field engineers had Husky portable PCs and one used his Husky to get his Mecedes G-Wagon out of a swamps field by sticking it under the rear wheel, getting traction. He then went back, collected the Husky, washed it in a nearby stream and carried on working with it.
They were great, really rugged. Ahead of their time, in some respects.
But they had one fatal weakness. The battery could be put in either way round, but putting it in the wrong way round blew an internal fuse!
When we got them back from the repair centre, they were always packed in a big mound of bubble-wrap. My boss used to cut the tape off at the end, then flip the wrap violently, causing it to accelerate down the table, spewing the Husky out of the end, where it crashed against the wall. If it booted, the repair had been successful...
I am reminded of the old CORE hard drive demos, and advertisements.
"First, our QA teams do a seek test. Then, they do another seek test, to the sure. Finally, they run a third seek test, during which, they pick up the computer to a height of five inches off the desk, and drop it, while the disk is spinning, just to be sure.
Reminds me of working on a trade show. Customer asked how much action a hard drive could survive. I had read the manual just the day before, and told him it said "drop from one inch height in operation". He said "that's not much". I lifted my empty mug one inch, let it drop, and it made him jump :-)
Many moons ago, I worked for Ireland's state electricity company who used Husky handhelds for their network technicians to patrol the distribution network looking for faults. As these were the days before widespread use of GPS, this involved starting at a substation and following the lines out from it, regardless of any rivers, boggy terrain, angry livestock, etc. you might encounter on the way. My job was to keep the network technicians supplied with spares like batteries, charging cradles and replacement units for when they finally succumbed to the Irish climate (one of the features of the software running on the things was to do moment-of-inertia calculations on a pole to determine whether it had rotted to a depth where it was at risk of collapse which tells you all you need to know about that) as well as the occasional feature enhancement, all in Turbo Pascal for DOS. They were extremely robust though their LCD screens were something of an Achilles heel-- if anything was likely to go, it was usually that, sometimes even an overnight in a cold truck cab would do for them. IIRC, Husky ended up being bought up by a US outfit (Itronix?) I was given an evaluation unit of one of their Win CE devices to play with (which will tell you how long ago this was) but it was crap.
ISTR Husky doing a publicity stunt where they buried one of their devices in the riverbed of the Thames for a month and when they dug it out, it still worked!
A decade ago we were testing some equipment for the army. One of the contractors put his laptop down in a seemingly safe place where it was out of the way and sheltered from the weather. Unfortunately, it was under a vertically sliding garage door. After the inevitable, the laptop still worked except for the interesting custom pattern on the display.
Not so very long ago (post-millennium!) I attended a meeting with MOD and various subcontractors. One of the subcontractors took the meeting minutes on a laptop, which he then took back to his office on the back of his motorcycle; he would then email them out to the other participants. At least, that was the intention.
The subcontractor came off his motorcycle on the M3. Fortunately he wasn't badly hurt, but the largest piece of the laptop recovered by the police was approximately half of the keyboard.
Absolutely true. Happened to my colleague who was going round our local offices (staffed by female administrators).
And you can't blame them. They knew exactly how to 'make a copy' - they'd been doing it for years, on the photocopier, obvs. If the men at head office don't give clear and precise instructions about something new, what do you expect?
My colleagur had fun a couple of years later, when we upgraded to machines with 3.5in floppies. He convinced the ladies the technical term was now 'stiify'. So they were phoning head office asking for another ten stiffies please, asap.
Yeah, I remember getting a floppy through the post stapled to the accompanying letter. IIRC it was a replacement for a faulty disc accompanying an IT textbook. Luckily the staple only went through the corner of the sleeve and the disc was still usable
Given the implied time period, women, generally being secretaries, were more likely to interact with computers in uninformed ways than men because men in office professions (as opposed to IT-specific professions) were less likely to interact with technology in general.
As an inverse that kind of proves the trend:
My mother likes to tell a story, from when she was a journalist for the Express in the late 70s, of the day the Daily Star was launched. She was just senior enough to be at the launch event, which was going to start with a video presentation. All of the execs were crowded around an expensive new video player, trying to work out how to get it to play the presentation tape. They hadn't a clue how to do it, as they hadn't interacted with anything more compolicated than a file-o-fax and left all the hard work up to their secretaries. So mum, as she tells it, waited for them to leave, wandered up to the machine, poked it a few times and got it playing.
The guys were naturally condescending in their praise of her success with the infernal machine, so she made sure to hide a few bottles of champagne to take home later as a suitable retribution.
And so my mother is part of the reason the Daily Star had a successful launch. I'm still not sure how to feel about this.
@Graham - timely tale on the day that the Daily Star has decided to cover up its girls.
My first work experience was in the post room at a large corporation one of them had worked at. My parents were expecting me to come home knackered given the amount of mail the company sent and received. Very surprised when I bounded through the door after the first day. Asked what my day had consisted of I said drinking hot beverages and reading the Sun/Star. Isn't there lots of post to deal with I'm asked? No everyone's on holiday for this and next week. They were unimpressed especially with the newspaper choices. Back then circa 1990 almost all the PA/Secretarial staff were women.
women, generally being secretaries, were more likely to interact with computers
One much-hated director at Motorola was proud that he never actually had to use a computer - his PA would print off any emails/documents that needed his input, he would annotate and then she send the replies/updates out.
And when he was forced to have a computer, he managed to bork it thoroughly by install the AOL dialler (which nuked our carefully-crafted dialup process) and then had the temerity to blame us for it. And nearly went postal when we rebuilt the laptop and lost all his Microsoft Money files (which he hadn't told us about - we specifically told him that the rebuild would nuke any files he had created and he assured us that there were not any. And we had that in writing :-) )
 Corporate rules forbade employees to install anything on the laptops without explicit consent from IT - something he hadn't requested. If he hadn't been a director it could have been a sackable offence. Since he was a director, all that it lead to was a long and tense meeting with our site lead director during which all those nearby could hear the shouting. He was gone about a year later - one of the few exceptions to the Motorola rules of "we don't sack managers".
I'm reminded of a couple of notorious managerial types I worked with. One of whom refused to do any typing on the basis that it was "women's work", so even though we were absolutely committed to the "electronic office" (as it was then) that we were selling, he was a rather odd and annoying anachronism. The rest of the men at all levels had no such insecurities and were much more interested in finding out what the new technology could do for them.
Another used to habitually print everything off. Everything. Even if it was yet another reminder about a meeting or reception saying someone had parked and left their lights on, it got printed. And if the departmental laser printer was out of paper, do you think he would deign to refill it? Or ask his secretary to do so? No, he would just resumbit it. Again. And again. And again. Sigh.
As much as I mostly really enjoyed my time at those places, there were certain people who seemed determined to demonstrate that "hell is other people", albeit usually by the thousand-cuts method, just to confuse my metaphors. If I'm confused I don't see why everybody else shouldn't be too. Okay, yeah, I probably brought my own particular speciality to the overall mix of irritants.
" And if the departmental laser printer was out of paper, do you think he would deign to refill it? Or ask his secretary to do so? No, he would just resumbit it. Again. And again. And again"
Don't worry. That mentality is still alive and well - to the point that I've got a filter in the print servers to block such things.
It's one thing when the user resubmits a 1 page job and another when he does it for a 200 page one. 5 times (Then there's the user who sent a 75 page report to the A0 poster printer and refused responsibility for having done so. When she left some months later we couriered the print job to her a few weeks afterwards. I'd be less forgiving if she hadn't made such a song and dance about being an electrical engineer, then promptly building an unauthorised PC that caught fire.)
Back in the day, the first consumer-grade (small office) sheet-fed printers would often jam if fed more than a couple sheets of the low-grade, cheap paper so much loved by the Boss as a "cost savings" ... ESPECIALLY if the paper was put in upside down and un-fanned. This has lead to the racial memory that printers only work with a couple sheets in the tray. I think it's embedded in office workers DNA, to the point where printer manufacturers don't actually test printers with a full tray, so it's a crap-shoot if any given printer can handle it in the first place.
My solution? Tractor feed! ;-)
 Paper is cut from larger sheets, in stacks of 500. Quality paper is "back cut", where all sides of the finished stack see the back side of the cutter blade, at the expense of a gutter of waste all around each ream, typically 1/4 inch or more. This produces a smoother edge, better suited for feeding into a printer than "butt cut" paper, where there is no waste, each cut is the final separation between reams. The edges that see the front side of the blade tend to stick together, and contain a lot more lint than the back cut edges. I'm sure you can see why orientation and fanning the stack can help. See:
 Actually, 510 sheets (or so), for quality paper ... the bottom 2-3 sheets, and the top 4-6 sheets are discarded (recycled ... never throw away good quality rag!) before packaging.
In my experience, general office folks were no better at loading tractor feed paper correctly.
I still check the wrapping of the paper reams for the arrow indicating print side, though I haven't seen one for 20+ years.
You can really ruin my productivity with videos like that!
No need for the arrow ... you can feel the lip of the curl. Open a ream of paper, split the ream in two and run your thumb over the edge of both halves, center of the sheet out. The "curl up" side will feel rough, the "curl down" side will feel smooth. This is kind of important to know when operating sheet-fed anything. Almost everything prefers to be fed curl down, but there are exceptions.
In a similar vein, I habitually check the grain of business cards ... If the card is printed grain wrong, the owner gets a tick on the "probably clueless" side of the balance sheet. Once a printer, always a printer.
I heard of a German company, where any new consumer device before release had to be taken to the board of directors in an unopened box, as it was sold to customers, and if the board of directors wasn't capable of opening the box and setting up and use the device, then it went back to the drawing board.
No idea if they had unusually clever directors, or if they went bankrupt :-)
"Handy how it's always a woman who's doing the stupid thing as well in the story."
A lot of these stories come from teh 80s and 90s. Back then, computers in offices (and homes) were new. Typically they first wound up on desks of secretaries, most of whom were women and had never seen the silly things before. It's entirely reasonable that silly stories like this from that era feature women. That said, my best stories from that era feature men.
"Handy how it's always a woman who's doing the stupid thing as well in the story."
That person has obviously not seen the movie (or read the book it was based on), Hidden Figures. Might just chance their view on supposedly inept women.
... 89s and 90s ...
Precisely when all these weird calls came in that later ignoramii designated as "urban myths." I replaced the CD drive for a customer who had mistakenly assumed it was a "cup holder." He called us in a snit when the CD cradle broke when he put an oversized, heavy, stonware mug in the cradle and it broke. He was not thrilled about the cost of the new CD drive either.
Handy how it's always a woman who's doing the stupid thing as well
Back in the 90s I ran thousands of Unix admin classes, since the Unix box came with a terminal and the terminal came with a keyboard it was incredibly common for it to be given to the (female) secretary to look after, so they'd come and take a bunch of Unix classes. I never had any problems teaching them to use vi. These days though! Good grief trying to get people to learn vi ARGH too hard can't be arsed.
The worst single day I've ever had with teaching computer (I was the only computer-literate in the place) to a secretary. She had thoroughly absorbed the lesson of the typewriter: hit return at the end of the line. No amount of demonstrating, explaining, pleading, or exhorting did any good. I gave up in despair, and went away.
An hour or two later, I was called before the Director. I had made that secretary cry. I was later told by the other people in the office that she'd asked me because she was afraid to ask the director.
Yes, the not pressing return at the end of a line was a hard lesson to learn for long-time typists (of both sexes). It is muscle memory, you get towards the end of the line and you either throw the carriage or you press return.
Unlearning that takes a lot of practice.
At that point in time it would almost always have been a secretary doing that kind of job, and secretaries were almost invariably female. It's not the OP's fault if historical real life proves to be inconveniently insensitive to gender issues..
Plus I note that, as reported by the OP, the techie describing the incident was also female - both which you fail to note and which rather destroys the picture of gender stereotyping that you'd clearly like to paint.
That was me, in the comments afterwards, two weeks ago. See:
In the same post there are a couple others (pinned the the cube wall and stapled to the paperwork) that I've also seen with my own eyes.
Pretend to be a lighthouse?
I never found Tippex on a monitor but I did get a complaint from a customer that his new hard disk was not working. After a couple of minutes of talking at cross purposes I discovered the customer expected plugging in the hard disk would cause the floppy disk to work faster. The entire concept of copying files to the hard disk and using them from there had never been mentioned to my refreshingly calm and polite customer.
I wish I could find the link to what happened when modern children were let loose with computers from that era. They had difficulty understanding what a floppy disk was, where to put it and the computer would not do anything without one. Instead here is one for the few surviving Tuttle/CentOS transcripts.
archive.org has been aware of it for at least a decade:
ElReg knew about it even earlier:
And a follow-up:
@Dick Kennedy - "Really? This really happened?"
Yes, of course it did, many, many times. It's trick number 17 in the Luddite Conspiracy Manual, which is secretly delivered to believers fighting the encroachment of evil technology. Each copy is painstakingly illuminated by a secret order of monks. You haven't heard of them? That's how secret they are.
Sometimes the lawn mowing career does work out, though.
A friend got accepted to Berkeley, but had no clue what he wanted to do. He idled along, taking a minimal class load until he figured it out. Being poor, he paid his way mowing lawns and other general garden upkeep. He finally decided he wanted to become a lawyer, so transferred to Stanford. His lawn mowing business employed three other students at that time, so he decided to maintain control of it, and started another branch in Palo Alto. After another two years, he moved on to Davis to complete his JD. Lather, rinse repeat on the lawn care business.
After graduation, he got a job as a flunky at a big law firm in Sacramento while he studied to pass his State Boards. It didn't pay much, and the hours weren't exactly regular ... but he still had his three gardening branches. So he opened a fourth. After he passed his Boards, he was offered a job at a firm in San Francisco ... but they wouldn't pay him what he was earning gardening. So he said screw it, turned his back on Law and now runs a large gardening company here in the SF Bay Area.
He is earning three or four times what he would probably be earning as a lawyer.
His lawn mowing business employed three other students at that time, so he decided to maintain control of it, and started another branch in Palo Alto.
This sounds like the origin of Mitel Networks, currently doing about $1.3B of business a year.
Not bad for a company that started as" Mike and Terry's Lawnmower".
The Monastery is still out there, but now averages only a few posts a month :(
As a non sysadmin I never posted (although the chicken was quite simple to work out, why would I try to annoy them?)
But love the place for recovery purposes even tho not qualified :)
People really were that innocent back in the day. I was a trainee sysadmin when we started rolling out desktop systems so as it wasn't mainframe stuff it got thrown at me.
In the course of a single investigation I had a user send me the photocopy of a disk through the post. After a long phone call it was impossible to get her to make a copy of the disk so I asked her to send me the original, it arrived safe and sound with a compliments slip stapled to it.
We used to send out 3 boot disks with new dual floppy machines to reduce the time required before we had to visit to supply new ones. Whilst I never came across the magnet issue I've tracked down kettle, microwaves, and an electric stapler which all caused disk corruptions, desktop computers had virtually no power filtering back then and UPS's and external; power filters were unknown. Even now you can still visit offices where there are separate circuits for thew pc's with marked 'cleaner' and 'kettle' sockets. Remember also that this kit was completely unknown to tech staff. I didn't have a desktop pc Initially myself even though I was supporting about 200. I had a hard wired mainframe terminal like all the 'real IT' staff did
Our office server room (most kit is in a data centre or 'the cloud' now), still has a "Clean" power circuit, despite everything getting power via a UPS these days.
(Of course, being an old server room there's about five different UPSs, ranging from a big 8kVA unit, to a tiny four socket one. All are of varying ages and manufactures, but of course much of the equipment it powers is old and only has one PSU, so none of it can be swapped onto the newer, larger models for fear of it never powering up again.
But that's a rant for another day.)
"Even now you can still visit offices where there are separate circuits for thew pc's with marked 'cleaner' and 'kettle' sockets."
We still do this.
The alternative was people unplugging things to insert their variety of equipment in said receptacle. Cleaners are informed that plugging into any outlet not marked for their use is a sacking offence.
It's compounded by shitty consumer equipment that breaks down or otherwise shorts out and takes out circuit breakers, You don't want them on the same spur as your computers or comms equipment - not because of filtering, but because you don't want the power going off without a good reason.
Same in almost every office I've worked in.
Lucky we have it here. The IT manager was in the kitchen and managed to swamp the 2 ring electric hob on the worktop... It blew the breakers on the normal circuit. It took us about an hour to notice the phones weren't ringing and the lights weren't working...
South Africa uses a plug with the same pin pattern as a UK plug but with cylindrical pins. A plug for a protected circuit is red and has the top of the earth pin ground flat. The socket fitting is also red and the earth hole has the same flat-topped part-circular shape so that a standard white plug won't go in. I've even seen installations with two protected circuits, red and blue, with the plane at different angles.
I've never experienced people mistreating floppies with magnets in that way, though when I was a tech support bloke in the late 90's, we had one user that had reported a HDD failure. The HDD was duly swapped out, and we thought nothing of it.
A couple of months later, and the same problem occurs again. Another HDD, and subsequent re-image, and again, we're thinking that's the end of the issue.
Fast forward another few weeks, and that HDD also failed. So now we're suspecting a problem with the PC motherboard. We paid a visit to their desk, made out a further swap of the HDD anyway, while we then plan to go and place an order for a new base unit, but this time we happened to hang around longer than usual, and spot them replacing all their collection of tat around the PC (ornaments, figurines, photos etc), along with a "motivational plaque" that has a large magnet on the back. They stick it on the PC case, right in the area that the HDD was mounted!
. . . . in my younger days, I got REALLY pissed at a particularly stupid user. One who would, for example, complain that the system wasn't working, when they hadn't powered up the box . . .
. . . . so I mounted a inch-long piece of self-adhesive magnet tape just under the slot on the 5 1/4 floppy slot. . . (evil grin)
happened to me in support for DWP in the 90's
I'll believe anything of DWP in any of its incarnations at any time. I spent several days (I think it was only days) with one of their suppliers trying to sort out scads of data from their (DWP's) self-billing system which they (ditto) clearly didn't understand.
The classic was back in the days when, in Harold Wilson's self-exculpatory term, I'd been redeployed from one of my first jobs* and I had a job interview miles at the other end of the country on the day I was due to sign on. The erk in the Labour Exchange couldn't get his head round that going for a job interview was a more effective way of making oneself "available for employment" that turning up at his useless office. He finally conceded when asked to explain the steps by which he arrived at that conclusion.
*OK, probably one of the few that wasn't HW's fault at that time. Putting a big investment into new premises for one of your least profitable and maybe loss-making product lines isn't a good idea whoever's running the economy.
Before I worked in tech support, I had a bit of a reputation as a tech geek in the hospital where I worked, so when the PA to my boss's boss had a problem accessing her files, I was dispatched to deal with it.
Even though she had a relatively powerful (for the time) machine with HDD, and, IIRC had access to a networked shared area, she stored all her documents on floppy, because that was the way she had always done it.
Not only that, but to get past the DOS filename limitation (this was before Windows 95 and long file names), she numbered each disk and file, then had a separate floppy with an index on it. Obviously, that failed one day, and she had no backup. Cue me spending hours trying to recover the index file for several hours using data recovery software. All to no avail.
In the 90s, I saw this sort of thing so can believe this is true. Once CDs became established, I also had someone write on the silver side of a CD with a ball point, ripping the surface and making the CD unusable. Working a materials science lab, they'd sputter coated the CD but couldn't understand why the data hadn't been restored.
You must be a young'un. Just about everyone who was around in the Good Old Days (TM) has seen this. I have personally seen it.
People using early PCs had to boot them from floppies, so the floppies were used every day. The users were told to keep them safe, so they did that by putting them in metal filing cabinets. As they needed them handy, the logical solution was to put them on the inside of the door, so they're handy for the next morning. No one explained to them that these are magnetism-sensitive, and they had no other way of knowing that the many-time-mentioned way of storing these is actually a bad idea. Likewise with the staples - if nobody had explained that the interior of these things needed to turn, then you wouldn't see why stapes might be a bad idea.
The reason the "victims" are usually women is that early PCs were mostly used as word processors, and therefore went to the people doing the word processing - which meant that they were overwhelmingly women in those days. My early jobs were in organisations with typing pools, personal secretaries etc - all female. Ah, the joys of going for a dip in the typing pool....ahem, I digress.
Anyway, laughing at this kind of behavior is both futile and puerile. Nobody but us geeks understood all this back then.
Really? This really happened?
I can't speak to the veracity of photocopying disks, but I have personally seen the "floppy disk stuck to a filing cabinet with a magnet" in person, back in 1984.
I was on contract at $BIGCOMPANY, and it had a the usual Dilbert-isms you'd expect. Software developers were given 8088 PCs with 64K of memory, a single 360KB floppy, and a 25x80 monochrome CRT, while the department secretary had top of the line, just-released IBM AT, with a 80286, dual 1.2MB floppy drives, a 20MB hard disk, and, of course, a 43x80 colour EGA monitor.
And when I say just released, I mean the serial number was under 100.
Of course, despite (or because of) having ten times the computing power of any developer, the secretary didn't really have much to do on it. Type up the occasional memo and print it off on the line printer, but that was about it, really. And despite having a 20MB hard disk to boot off, they'd screwed up the hard drive so it didn't boot, and the user had to boot off of floppy. So, sure enough, there was a boot floppy stuck to the filing cabinet next to the computer.
That wasn't actually so bad, since it was only the boot media, not actual corporate data. However, I still remember cringing when she was asked to type up labels for a release. In those days, 5.25" disks had sticky labels, inkjets were in their infancy, and laser printers were still a year away. So, when a release went out, you had to put a disk label in a typewriter, and type up the label, then apply it to the floppy. If you were doing a release of 8 floppies to 20 customers, that meant manually typing up 160 labels.
The secretary did this on the Friday. On Monday, we saw the output, and we were quite surprised. Our process had been to place label in the printer, type up the label, remove it from the typewriter, stick it on the floppy, and then go on to the next. Her approach was much more efficient. First, she applied all 30 blank labels to the 30 floppies. She then put the 5.25" floppy, with label, through the typewriter, and typed out the label. If any floppy survived being run through the typewriter (unlikely), the high impact of the typewriter keys would probably finish it off. And if that didn't do it, stapling it to the release notes surely would have.
The really scary case was my next job, however.
In 1985, I went to another $BIGCORP. And like the secretary above, one of the developers also had an AT, which required a boot floppy. In fact, every month or so, he asked me to format him a new one. After the third time, I jokingly asked him if he was using a magnet to stick his boot floppy to a filing cabinet. He said no, of course not, and showed me where he kept it.
In order not to lose it, he'd taped the floppy envelope sleeve to the side of his colour EGA monitor.
Oddly enough, every few weeks, the floppies seemed to become demagnetized. This electrical engineer just couldn't understand why IBM had such poor quality control in their floppy disks.
The secretary, I could sympathize with. This was new tech, she wasn't familiar with it, and she'd received no training on it. So although we laughed at her abuse of the floppies, we could underestand why (and after it was explained to her, she never repeated the problem). But an electrical engineer who doesn't understand that colour CRTs have magnetic fields?
Working at a university in my training days, I can believe it. Electrical engineering professor who couldn't work out the new light switches? Check.
Chemistry professors who didn't understand why we wore full PPE when changing fume cupboard fans? Check.
Many hundreds of academics who didn't understand that a 'high voltage network shutdown' meant the power would go off, because 'we don't use high voltage'... check.
Yes, I often saw users end up with corrupt floppies due to them being laid on the top of their monitors.
I remember some of our early 21" color monitors even had a degauss button.
When working in the engineering department it was nice to have a lot of real estate but by the end of day...I'd often feel irradiated.
" But an electrical engineer who doesn't understand that colour CRTs have magnetic fields?"
The magnetic fiield around a CRT isn't enough to affect a floppy.
The magnetic field around the DEGAUSSING COIL is another matter.
How often was this monitor powered down/up?
Oh, I believe it. I used to work on computer support for a large high-street retailer. I knew the guy who took the coffee-cup holder (CD tray) call. In most instances, it's portrayed that the customer sheepishly accepted that they'd suffered an ID-10T error. Au contraire!! the customer was ranting and raving at how his PC was not fit for purpose and threatened to sue all of us. Good times. That was just one story of customer idiocy - including users who couldn't tell me if the PC was plugged in and people wanting Apple-talk networks rebuilt over the phone.
Much anger and knashing of teeth occured one day when one of the big PC mags published a story that assured their readers that all these stories are just nasty inventions made-up by techies to enliven parties. We read that, seethed, then went back to talking to morons who should never be allowed near a computer. Sigh.
I was amused to have some one tell me about an "urban myth" which was actually a call I personally took. Given the nature of the problem, the year it happened and the expanding base of inexperienced computer users, I can easily think that the same "issue" occurred repeatedly. A little research reveals that the "urban myth" designation is often made by people with little or no experience at the "Hell desk."
My first job in the late 80's was as an Analyst/Programmer/Tech support person. I'd had a call out to one of the users of my bespoke invoicing system (vertical market for Road Hauliers). The hard drive had a parity error (a common fault among the Epson PCs the company had been installing at that time). I installed a replacement drive, re-installed DOS and the menu system we used, then the accounts software and my invoicing system. I then asked the woman who ran the office for her backup disks. She'd been told to back up the system (via an option in our menu system) and file the disks somewhere safe. She presented me with a set of A5 ring binders with the holes neatly punched through the 5 1/4" disks....
I've seen disks attached to the fridge via fridge magnets, seen holes punched in them to put them in a ring binder, left sitting next to heaters and on windowsills in full sun.
You probably won't believe what I've seen when a user has been told they need to "use a clean disk".
I can personally assure you that the CD tray / Cup holder myth is no myth. An acquaintance of mine while I was at university requested that I come around to her house to fix her computer. The CD drive refused to properly close. After some poking, I asked her what had happened to break the mechanism. She admitted airily that she used it to hold her nice big mug of tea.
She -knew- what the bloody thing was for, but still managed to break it.
Fortunately, the tray had just jumped it's track, so with a bit of fiddling I managed to get it back to where it should be.
Working in Support, we get this soooo often and it makes my blood boil.
Especially when they take a screenshot of terminal output, embed the image in a Word doc and email that when they've been specifcally asked to copy the text from the terminal (Putty) to a simple text file.
I'd copy and paste the text of the error messages into an email (along with steps to reproduce) and send that to support, only to get a request back for a screenshot instead.
Auditors tend to do that. I suppose it is their misguided idea that the screenshot couldn't have been doctored (as if it made any difference).
Yep, auditors. **** then ten times sideways for their stupid requests. I had one ask me for "a screenshot" of the firewall rules. I tried to explain that it was a headless system but they would not listen. So I printed out all of the (text based) config files (Shorewall) and they seemed OK with that. A week later they wanted a printout of a screenshot of "all share, directory and file permissions". So, let's do the "obey to the letter even if it's stupid" thing...
We ran a Samba NT domain, so again no GUI to shoot. So I go to the root of the shares on the fileserver and do a "getfacl -R | nc <IP of my desktop:port>" and on my desktop piped the "nc -l <port>" stream via lpr straight to the little printer we'd set up on their desk. After page 1000 they begged us to stop (little desktop HP laser, 50 page paper capacity) as she couldn't print out any of her interim reports. Amazingly they stopped bothering us and accepted somewhat more concise reports the next day.
What the hell do they do going into a big bank with a mainframe?
NB total output would have been 75,000 pages in the Courier font that HP Laserjets use when printing plain text...
Especially when they take a screenshot of terminal output, embed the image in a Word doc and email that when they've been specifcally asked to copy the text from the terminal (Putty) to a simple text file.
We had ***programmers and IT techs*** at a certain three-lettered tech company who would do much the same thing, pasting text snippets as images pasted into Sametime messages. Sometimes they might even be commands they were asking you to run on some system you were working with. (and you wonder why they've felt it necessary to acquire some crimson-coloured headgear).
You might not want to laugh too hard --- if you want to *absolutely guarantee* that there's no unexpected surprises in the resulting file (redacted content, miscellaneous macros, incriminating labels which someone has drawn a black box over the top of, etc) --- then airgapping the file like that is a perfectly reasonable way to do it.
This type of thing was still happening when I did support 10 years ago - users would print out emails and then scan the printout into the CRM rather than using the “save to CRM” button on their email.
We just accepted this. What did confuse us though was when we discovered that the same office staff were emailing their letters to the department secretary so that she could type them up for them... in Word...
And the old "Can you send me a screenshot of your desktop?" where the user puts their screen upside down on a scanner and sends you a JPEG.
Or worse, they take a picture of their desk with the computer sitting on it using one of the old Polaroid cameras and send you the photo. Ah, those were the days.
Ah, those were the days.
In my case, three months ago.
When asked for a screenshot from site, we got one, all right. And because the screen background was black, you can actually make out the reflection of the bloke taking the photograph of the screen with his phone camera.
To be fair, there was a time when you could fax storage media.
When I was fresh PFY, the first place I worked operated two mainframes a few thousand kilometers apart and we needed to replicate data between the two sites. The mainframes had no way of communicating with each other directly, so we would take punch cards from one machine, stick some into a plastic sleeve, then run the sleeve through the fax machine to fax to the other site where someone would take the resulting copy and punch a series of matching cards.
I had a data-loss incident a few years back which beggared belief IMO. The user's laptop no longer booted properly, it looked as if Windows had become corrupted. So, one of my engineers told the user the system would need a re-image. He booted the thing from a flash drive, unlocked the drive's encryption, then took a full copy of the user profile before rebooting from an imaging stick and setting the re-image going.
Once the system was re-imaged, the engineer copied the user's profile back across and handed the laptop back. 5 minutes later, "Where are all my files"? Turned out that the user had decided not to bother using the profile folders, but had created an anonymous-sounding folder on the root of drive C (called "System" if I recall, because "that's where I keep the files on my system"). As we hadn't captured that folder and the user hadn't seen fit to mention it originally, we asked the user what backups they had. "None" was the answer.
The sinking feeling quickly turned to disbelief though when the user suggested a local data recovery firm, saying "When the hard drive failed on my previous laptop, this is the firm we used to recover the data". So, he experienced a drive failure on his previous laptop and he *still* hadn't started making backups? That's right.
Some people are beyond saving...
So, he experienced a drive failure on his previous laptop and he *still* hadn't started making backups? That's right.
Obviously, he did not need back-up as there was an efficient data recovery firm!
I would never trust a user to tell me where their files are, always re-image on a second disk and keep the original.
we have just reimaged 8000 computers , in order to get w10 on them,
I made i tool that remotely grabs every profile used in the last 30 days.
Not the whole profile , that would be waste of space, just desktop & faves & the bit where msword stores custom.dic (mydocs is redirected to home drive share)
No Complaints! result!
well , a few , but the whole it works....
We did adopt Oliver's strategy of using new disk and keeping the old ones carefully catalogued. now they all have SSD's , the speed of which buys a lot of goodwill from the customers.
To be honest, this is the process we did use for senior management/executives, but we simply didn't have the time and the spare kit around to do this for absolutely everyone. As it is, the engineer did check the root of drive C in case he saw a "Documents" or "Files" folder or something, he missed this particular one due to the especially anonymous sounding name.
We did change things going forwards and started explicitly asking users to confirm where they kept data on their system. At least that way if a folder still disappears, we can state more explicitly that it isn't our fault. Plus the users are strongly encouraged to use server shares and cloud storage for all their work...
" this is the process we did use for senior management/executives,"
So, let me get this right. For the people who have admins to do the donkey work you took care to see that all their files were transferred. But for the frontline staff who are doing the actual work of the organisation, you didn't.
Correct, because if you wipe an execs machine and lose some of their files, you'll probably lose your own job as well. Plus with about 1,000 users and 20-30 execs, it wasn't a problem to do it for the senior staff, and the company paid for a dedicated support engineer for the execs anyway.
However, for normal users, you often don't have the time/spare parts to swap several hard drives a week, or to add an extra couple of hours to each re-image by duplicating their Windows, Program Files folders etc. Hence you duplicate the profile, check the root of drive C for any user folders you see there, and leave it at that. Like I say, we quickly changed to ask users explicitly, however the fact of the matter is that you should *never* keep business critical data on a single laptop with no backup. Especially when you've already had pay £1,000 for data recovery two years earlier...
Cloud: Someone else's server you are renting with unknown security, unknown backups, unknown privacy from the Cloud operator and needs a massively fast & reliable broadband connection?
No, Cloud is for temporary collaboration and customer facing web sites (but not the databases). If you are big and distributed, then use co-location of your own servers in the "Cloud" operator datacentre. The Cloud isn't suitable for core systems and internal information. That's retro, going back to 1960s timesharing and an big obnoxious company having control/management of your data.
See "No Silver Lining" as to one future Cloud scenario.
Well, that depends on the provider. When a large company signs a deal with a provider for cloud storage, you'd expect that security, backups, encryption etc. are part of the contract you sign. If you're a small company just using DropBox, that's a different story of course.
sounds like he thought recovery firms were an acceptable backup strategy
a bit like a customer of mine who thought a good way to save a document would be to print out the 100 pages of text and technical drawings , and when he wanted to change it we could scan it in again using the newfangled OCR .... and .... i still dont know wtf he was thinking actually .. how could that ever be a useful way to do anything ....
Files do sometimes go astray from a user's profile directory - often the user, sometines due to software. Is it normal for *technicians* to only copy that folder as opposed to the entire drive before wiping said drive? For sure, I can see that it would save a quarter hour, but is that time saving worth the risk that files might be elsewhere?
in this day and age , yeah its normal, all the user specific app's data will be in the \appdata dir* within the user's profile. Normal w7/10 procedure , and/or additional AD polices should make it impossible for the user to create c:\mystuff
*although you should avoid backing up the gigabytes of shit that chrome stores in there ....
in this day and age , yeah its normal
I must say that you folks have a hell of a lot more faith in users, Windows software, and Windows applications than I do. And unix isn't that much better except that users tend to be more sophisticated and therefore more likely to have at least attempted to back up their data in some sensible manner.
Files do go astray, but bear in mind that you can (if you have time) lock down windows quite effectively so users can only store stuff in their profiles.
Of course, in Linux, mac OS and every Unix I know of, this is set up by default, I suspect it's not in Windows because there are too many applications that rely on being able to write pretty much wherever they want on the file system, and would break if they suddenly lost the ability to do that.
"This is why sensible OSes save all your files in /home (or equivalent) instead."
Microsoft technology isn't always bad. You can split up the user profile (default save location for everything) to use network shares, roaming profiles (network stored), offline storage and all sorts of combinations. Data, of course, should reside on a robust network share or in an offline folder (backed up) waiting for reconnection.
You can use group policy or a local policy to define a default save location. You can use policies or application settings to override the global location. Most importantly, you can split up the stuff that really matters (data) from the stuff the user cares about (application settings which are cheaper to re-create than data).
It is hard work. Some of the combinations aren't the ways that Microsoft and partners work internally, so you may find that your scenarios are not the ones tested by them. You'll have some ridiculous conversations with Microsoft tech support. But there is a happy spot which you have to find for yourself.
That still underestimates users. I've seen them be creative on saving files by totally working around all our best efforts. The best one was a user who saved their file to the desktop, put it an email to themselves and then deleted the desktop file. They soon ran out of room in their email storage and so the IT people dealing with the email program cleaned out the old emails. I'll leave what happened next from the user as an exercise for the reader.
For the second time* in my career in IT support this week a female user kicks out the power cable during a fairly critical write operation, computer reboots, but nobody cannot log in nor is all the data accessible (Sideline business of one of our directors so not officially under our control) so it got sent off to a data recovery company.
The first time was 20 years ago when the user casually flicked the 220 - 110V switch to see what it would do, trashed the HDD MBR so badly you couldn't reinstall Windows on it (At least his data etc was recoverable).
Pre-NTFS Windows boot media came with a rather Christian FDISK implementation, that would simply barf if a drive had anything but FAT partitions in its partition table. If you had been experimenting with Linux, you needed to use the Linux fdisk from its own boot media to repartition the HDD so Windows would recognise it.
Some people are beyond saving...
And some IT guys are incompetent. Why the heck should anyone who is about to reinstall an OS for their client assume that the client has stored their data in directories that Microsoft has deemed they should be stored?
I always create my own directory structure that is suitable for storing the data that I need to store and makes more sense to me than using "My Documents" to store schematics and "My Pictures" to store PCB layouts.
You can do that in your Windows profile, just like you can do that inside a home folder on Linux or Mac OS. Nobody says that you have to use only My Documents, but creating random folders outside the user directory breaks the paradigm of a multi-user system and means it's harder to ensure the data is found again. It's fine on a personal machine where you can control more, but it's not good policy on a business one for exactly these reasons. Just put your directory structure in your home folder.
You're welcome to do that, I often do it as well on home machines to be honest. However, I keep backups, and if I was told by my IT people that my machine needed wiping and re-imaging, I'd make sure they transferred that folder. I'd also probably give it a more obvious name as well.
If it is your data, you need to show some responsibility for protecting it. Users that show blatant disregard for the safety of their data are a danger to themselves and their companies.
Once the system was re-imaged, the engineer copied the user's profile back across and handed the laptop back. 5 minutes later, "Where are all my files"? Turned out that the user had decided not to bother using the profile folders, but had created an anonymous-sounding folder on the root of drive C (called "System" if I recall, because "that's where I keep the files on my system"). As we hadn't captured that folder and the user hadn't seen fit to mention it originally, we asked the user what backups they had. "None" was the answer.
Well, you really don't want to be poking around oddball and non-standard locations on the computer to find their other document locations. You might accidentally find their stash of "Grandma Pr0n".
In the last week we have had two users surrender their machines for audit, thanks to Malware alerts & discovering porn on them.
The first guy had movies & pictures dating back 4+ years, 2000+ items, covering everything under the sun from mothers & daughters (Of legal age), bestiality (Sex acts with animals are legal in Canada, so long as there is no penetration involved), according to a ruling by the Supreme Court.) It took our security guy 5+ hours to go through it & log each item's content.
The second guys machine may or may not be in our possession, as I had yesterday off.
Amazingly both employees have managed to keep their jobs, one even asked for his "Family" pictures back.
Things I dont want to see in future "on-call" :
... and it turned out there was a power cut the whole time
... what foot pedal? turns out the user had the mouse on the floor
.... I thought the reported reboot was too fast - user was just switching the monitor off and on.
... fax me over some blank pages, we're running low!
.... wheres the any key?
A sky hook is a climbimg tool used by american climbers to extend reach into a dofficult crack. A rubber hammer is an essential tool for anyone who works on cars / anything mechanical, I actually have two one for hitting dirty / oily bits and one for persuading clean bits/ trim back into place.
Rubber hammer? It's called a mallet. If you've only got a hammer and you wish to tap a cask of beer, use a piece of wood between the hammer and the tap. A piece of material between a hammer ( or 'persuader' if you're talking to a former army man) and an object to be persuaded is called a 'drift'.
And, after you've sent the noobie to get half a dozen non-existent things, you send him to get the rubber hammer. That is the joke.
By then they have had enough and will probably tell you to go to hell, at which point you pull out a rubber hammer...
Really did manage to do the "ask the guy in stores for a long weight" (for balancing a line printer's flywheel).
I (almost) felt sorry for the lad too. He fell for it hook, line, sinker, rod, fisherman chair, tackle box and bit of bank.
What made it even worse for him was that he was a ginger nut and blushed bright enough to be an aircraft warning light.
I also recall having to replace a dirty great ferroresonant power supply. Put the old one in the skip, went back in and realised I'd forgotten to dump the cardboard box. It was too good an opportunity to miss: I taped the empty box shut and made a spectacle of "staggering" back to stored, "straining" to lug the "heavy" box back. Went into stores, yelled to the store man "no good, all aortwd, don't need it, stick it back on the shelf" and tossed the box at him. Poor bloke nearly went through a wall trying to dodge it.
Happy days ^2
Around 2k, I was doing onsite support at a manufacturing company north of Glasgow and was asked to nip up to the on site engineers office to see why his CD drive wasn't working.
I get there and he shows me it's not working with his new copy of the RS Components catalogue on CD.
I eject the drive and there it is... he has scored his name into the top printed surface, so that he knows it's his copy in case someone nicks it.
Hold it up to the light and I can look clear through.
Asked him how he expected a laser to reflect off a transparent surface and he went a bright red as his colleagues laughed.
We very quickly learned that 5.25 disks all came double sided (even if they only came in a single sided case). All you needed to do was cut the case in the right places (once on the side and a slot for where the read hold should be in the centre). Makes you wonder why they went to the expense of making single and double sided cases for them, apart from the obvious charging more for a couple of extra slots.
why they went to the expense of making single and double sided cases
Single-sided disks were often just double-sided ones where one side had failed verification. If they left both access holes on those the manufacturers would run the risk of getting sued if the disk failed.
 Much like Intel used to (still does?) with CPUs - one they roll of the line they get tested. Any that have an issue with one of the cores get the dodgy core(s) disabled and sold as a lower-spec CPU.
"Single-sided disks were often just double-sided ones where one side had failed verification. If they left both access holes on those the manufacturers would run the risk of getting sued if the disk failed."
The 8" floppies moved the index hole for the double-sided floppies, so that wouldn't happen. Unless you knew the secret and had a hole punch and a pen handy. And a write-protect sticker.
I've never seen floppies with only one access hole. Doesn't make sense to me, because if you put such a disc into a double-sided drive, you'd end up dragging one of the heads across the surface of the sleeve.
Not sure why the manufacture would get sued when the floppies were clearly marked with the number of sides and the density.
At the time, I and lots of friends had been using single sided disks as double sided for ages. Then the manufacturer changed single sided disks from "one side only tested" (and the other usually worked) to "one side works, one side fails".
Everyone switched very quickly to another manufacturer.
As a teacher in the late 90's (before I escaped into IT training), I once failed to prevent a pupil doing on screen spelling correction with Typpex.
In Scotland, there is a group of 16-year-old pupils known as "Christmas Leavers", who are too young to leave in summer and must endure (and make the staff suffer) until Christmas. You can guess the motivation levels of these children. I had a large class, most of whom wanted to take Cooking, but it was full and Computing was next to it on the choice form, taking basic Word Processing (Win 3.x / Word 6 days).
One child, who I would say was thick as two short planks except that I am being totally unfair... to timber... had obviously been told (by an English teacher) that spelling mistakes should be typpexed out and the correction written in neatly and separately (by me) that a squiggly red underline on screen meant a spelling mistake. The rest, as they say, is history.
Thankfully this was in the days of CRT monitors, so a razor blade removed the evidence.
I watched a school teacher highlight the salient point on a commodore PET screen using yellow highlighter. The screen had a laminated antiglare film attached, that yellow mark was there forever.
Later in life a company called hi-tec used similar principles on their PC's I had to write of 6 screens after an over zealous cleaner used a scouring pad to try and 'clean' the screen protector.
so he took out his red biro and underlined them neatly on the screen.
I used to do that often. Red (or any colour) felt-tip worked better though. Easily removed with a damp rag. Used to do all sorts of marking and other work back in the early days when getting an overlay on screen took more CPU power than the machine had. Last done a few years back for getting a screenshot of something exactly where/how I wanted it. Temporary alignment marks on screen to be sure I got orientation and size correct :)
(I never bothered with a screen protector, straight onto the glass - easy to clean if done right as well)
 Dampened with your choice of fluid
These were told to me in the Eighties by a PC supplier, and I have no cause to doubt them.
The first was one told earlier, where a user had sent a floppy through the post with evidence on, and a compliments slip stapled to it.
The other was where a new PC was supplied, and the dealer gave the user two floppy discs to start them off as backups. Let's call them A and B. Things worked well at first - as the data on the machine grew, floppy A no longer had enough space on , and floppy B was inserted when asked for. The problems started when the amount of data grew further. Floppy A was inserted - when full, floppy B was inserted, and then, when full, floppy A was inserted again....
There is an NHS outpost in wales (Artificial eye division) that sends data , to this day , as a "live" procedure - an actual, genuine, production environment, bona fide , best practice methodology ....
... on a floppy disk. through the post.
I shit you not.
I think they stop short of stapling stuff to it though.
as a consequence some of us have to make sure hardware is available to read said communique when it arrives..
Back in the late '90s I was minding a system which needed to receive data from bits of the NHS. Initially all this was on floppy although we got an address on NHS Net so eventually it moved over to email. I guess that office still had the kit from those days.
As the disks weren't returned I built up a nice supply of floppies.
as for a true story...
During the Win '95 beta [as I recall], I had an application that would format diskettes using a low level format. However, I noticed that using the disk format command only did a VERIFY format, and that my application wasn't low-level formatting through windows (I'm trying to recall details from >20 years ago here), I think the problem was that Win '9x was intercepting the calls and translating them. If the disk had NEVER been formatted, the problem showed up as an inability to format the disk (because it wouldn't low-level format, even when you told it to), and I was trying to work with MS engineers to replicate it so they could fix it. This program worked perfectly with windows 3.1 . (see I _USED_ to _LIKE_ Microsoft and windows!)
I was told that at Microsoft, they were using a large magnet to erase diskettes, essentially drop them into a box between the poles, and they used such 'erased' disks in their tests. But that really wasn't good enough. What I did to erase a diskette was more direct: use the smooth-faced magnet on the back-end of a geek-tweeker screwdriver and carefully rub it against both sides of the exposed oxide surface on a diskette. As it turns out, my erase method was the ONLY way they could successfully replicate (and solve) the problem. Buying "truly blank" diskettes was difficult - they were ALL pre-formatted.
This says a lot about diskettes though... (at least the 3.5" version)
a) a strong magnet isn't enough to erase them unless it's in physcal contact with the disk
b) even then, you have to deliberately move it around to successfully erase the entire thing
c) read errors may still crop up with strong magnetic field exposure, but it's not enough to fully erase the thing.
So all of those old diskettes, if you want them properly erased, you'll probably have to SHRED them, because a format that is NOT a low level format will leave old data behind, and using a magnet may not actually erase the thing.
actually degausing coils (being AC) are like rubbing the magnet around. But they have to be strong enough to do the job...
it's all about hysteresis of the particles in the oxide layer. Must overcome that, and then the AC (or moving magnet) will scramble them. static field, not so much.
My niece worked for a steel fabrication company. They replaced a bunch of office PCs and wanted to clean the old disks of any company data. The laid the drives (about 50 of them) out in the "yard" and brought over a crane with a 50 ton capacity magnetic "hook". Lowered the hook over the drives and turned it on. According to those that saw it...the drives all stood up on end and waived back and for as the field varied.
Checking a sample of drives afterwards, they couldn't get anything off them.
They are called "fire doors" and are required in certain places by the building code. For example, between the garage and the rest of your house. Or any other door that you store flammables behind. The doors in Glass Rooms were often metal ... to protect the computer kit while the rest of the building burned. (I'm in the US.)
Had the same problem with glorified accounting machines that used tape cassettes as storage medium. A cassette written by machine A was not always readable by machine B even if both machines were in the same office. The read/write heads were not always calibrated identically on different machines.
"The read/write heads were not always calibrated identically on different machines."
That was a common problem - the fact that you can _buy_ audio calibration cassettes escaped most people's notice. The fact they're about $100 apiece and you need at least two - 1kHz and 10kHz - is offputting for many more. (you need to calibrate both cassette spindle/drive motor speed AND head alignment - with the speed being surprisingly out of whack on a lot of mechanisms)
For floppy drives it was a bit trickier but calibration disks did (and do) exist if you're willing to stump up for them AND can read an oscilloscope. The demise of stepper motors driving linear positioning strips and uncontrolled spindle motors(*) made absolute track calibration less of an issue anyway
(*) These had a rudimentary trimpot speed control in the end of the motor just like cassette mechanism but no feedback mechanism telling the drive what speed the disk was rotating at. That coupled with "rubber band drive" between the spindle motor and spindle (the motors didn't have enough torque for direct drive) meant "wow and flutter" caused by varying friction between the floppy disk and its case was a serious issue. The original head stepper motors had no positional feedback to locate the first track and would just seek N times until they "should be" at the end of travel. Newer drives use a worm gear to slide the head, have an optical sensor for the end of travel (not just the hole in the floppy) and can hunt more precisely to locate the index track in the case of misaligned tracks.
This event happened in the 1990s when floppy drive mechanisms and the media were pretty reliable when treated properly. A colleague copied data to a 3.5" disk (I watched her), ejected disk, tripped on carpet and dropped disk. A one metre (three foot) flight was sufficient to make the disk unreadable.
At that period of time, I visited hundreds of Mac and PC users each year with my collection of 3.5" floppies and I can recall only a few occasions when a drive screwed a disk. My experience with 5.25" floppies in the 1980s was a bit more problematic. Ignoring the difficulties caused by different disk formats and related compatibility problems, there were an awful lot of dodgy drives.
Windows 95 installation repeatedly failing at the "Enter the number on the back of the CD case" (or words to that effect). The number the user was trying to use bore no resemblance whatsoever to the activation code on the back of the jewel case, but they had it written out on a piece of paper. Where did it come from? The user had carefully taken the PC apart to gain access to the serial number stuck on the back of the interal CD drive.
My then boss, ginger - not blonde, male - not female; and married - not single
Wandered into the accounts department to chat up one of the girls he fancied.
Casually leant against the big 1960s tape drive and wiped the months accounts with the rather large and powerful magnet in his top pocket.
Dont ask why he was carrying a giant magnet; the loon also collected glass eyes and Texas Ranger badges.
industrial magnet currently in the office to "scramble" the backup tapes
Past employer had an indusrial-strength crumbler machine (think very heavy rotating metal blades moving very fast, mounted in a cylinder with a slot at the top) that we used to chop up all sorts of things - including old hard drives.
They made a lovely noise while being cut up into fairly large crumbs. Ain't no-one getting data off those!
I posted earlier about how using a magnet on magnetic media might cause read errors, but it does not properly erase it unless the magnet actually contacts the medium and is moved around...
(so you'd have to slide the entire length of tape along the magnet, basically)
To properly erase something you'd need a bulk tape eraser or similar which would use an AC magnetic field to scramble things up, basically a degaussing coil.
"We have an industrial magnet currently in the office to "scramble" the backup tapes from 2005!"
Very few data tape formats from 2005 will even notice a "large industrial magnet" - which is causing me headaches disposing of a store of LTO2 tapes that a user has dredged up from that era just after I'd dumped the LTO2 drives.
"gluten free air" i like it! make a note darling, as i wish to use it in future conversation.
anyway, 5.25" full height scsi disk in an external box hanging by it's Centronics connected scsi1 lead off the end of a desk,
yes to obligitory 5.25 and 3.5 floppys with hole punch damage. some working still, some not so lucky.
more recent, 30inch screens mounted on their vesa plates mounts with only two short screws. probably half a turn of thread on each actually biting.
and rack mount kit held in with two bolts finger tight and a lot of luck.
and the "classic" live server still running on UPS power, it and the UPS being hand carried by three blokes in the back of a cab across london. the UPS "A/C disconnected" alarm bleeping and still managing to get it racked and stacked at it's destination with 100% uptime.
Getting a tip off from someone about a mate of a mate's firm gone under and they'd just bought a shed load of new kit - and the loss adjusters are on their way. Three (funnily enough, the same), blokes, large bags, cash machine, pull as much cash as possible, cab across town, tell the cabbie to sit and wait, run in, "Hi, I know so and so, apparently you need to loose some hardware, and we have pockets full of notes"
I think we managed to strip mine the place of all 27" screens (£40 each), all 4TB drives (£40 each), all SSD's out of the servers (£20 each) all the new radeon 6850's (£20 each)... in cab and gone.
If you do anything or just generally live long enough, you'll see and do all kinds of things.
"with an amazing 128K RAM, 8086 16 bit processor and twin 2.4Mb 5.25-inch variable speed floppy disk drives".
... would place it in the early 1980s. Except, the size of those floppies has surely been overstated? My recollection is that the later 3.5" discs were, at 800kb (or 720k formatted for msdos), quite a lot bigger than the 5.25-inch ones had been.
2.4MB total for two 1.2MB high density disks? That would place it in the mid to late 1980s. Our IT support colleagues in Japan at the time worked with a 1.4MB 5.25" floppy disk standard, for which they deserve our sympathy and respect.
Sirius PC? Maybe an Apricot Sirius PC with 3.5" disk drives but not 2.4MB capacity per disk.
" Except, the size of those floppies has surely been overstated?"
2.44MB 5.25" floppy drives did exist - they were rare and eyewateringly expensive - mostly punted by IBM as an improvement on 1.2MB 5.25inch ones. I think I've handled two such disks in my entire life.
3.5 inch were available in 720kb, then 1.44MB, then (rarely) in 2.88Mb (there were also 120MB 3.5" floppies but that's a story for another day and a ATAPI interface - they were blisteringly fast to read and write 1.44MB floppies. I timed mine at about 7 seconds for an entire disk)
Back in the day (80s), IT convinced manglement to implement proper document control. So, all document master copies were provided to IT (on floppy). Unless documents were being updated, no electronic copies were to be kept elsewhere (paper copies were fine as needed). The floppies were locked in a nice cabinet in IT. Okay, rinky-dink by today's standard, but a decent start for that time.
A few months later, we needed to update documentation for a multi-year project, so we asked for floppies. After a week, no response. Another request, another week, more silence. This is getting to be an issue as we have customer deadlines to meet.
Turns out that the cabinet was sitting directly over the incoming mains for the entire plant. After months of bathing in the lovely field generated by the mains, the floppies were blank. We had to bring in temps to retype the documents (thank God for paper copies) so we could make updates.
back in the 80s I was providing IT support for a military establishment, more than one shiny orifice with their own office (I know, I know!) decided that it was a good idea to keep their religiously taken 3.5" floppy backups in a lockable disc box that they then stored on the radiator behind the desk.
Never mind magnets - heat is a pretty good destroyer of floppies as we found out the hard way....
Urban Myths don't happen?
Someone should have told a colleague of mine back in the cutting edge days of the 286 c/w hard drive (!) when he wanted to format a floppy for his home machine but was at work, and so asked to use the secretary's workstation (of the same type because the colleague worked for the vendor who had sold the enterprise its new all DOS all the time "micro computers").
She was reluctant because the machine had a hard drive and she'd heard tales of accidental hard drive erasure.
Colleague was dismissive of the danger, hand waving and snorting with laughter. He was a professional and had years of experience with proper computers.
One Urban Legend Event later, the secretary was demonstrating that her own legendary good mood wasn't, in fact, indestructible - as believed by all and sundry up until then - and Mr Computer Scientist spent a day and a half with the state of the art low-level editors manually trying to undelete the hard drive's filesystems.
And so, the next time you clever young things are thinking about having a jolly good sneer, remember two salient points:
a) Urban Legends often have their birth in actual events, albeit events with less shiny stuff bolted on
2) There's a reason Microsoft-sourced software says "are you sure?" when you are about to do something destructive, born out of the experience of those who cut their teeth on more politically acceptable operating systems that don't
I didn't even have to be AT the machine to mess up the HDD.
I was comfortably sitting in my living room, archiving off data and configuration so that I could wipe the disk and reinstall. In order to save the data off I was SSH'ed into my regular desktop machine in the other room, setting up a directory tree to copy the data into.
So once I was done saving off whatever I needed off the laptop, I did a quick 10MB "dd" to wipe the partition table on the lappy's HDD...
Except that wasn't the terminal window I was in. Luckily I had already installed the "molly-guard" package, which prompted me for the hostname when I typed in "reboot". Only *THEN* did I look at the hostname in the prompt.
Spent the next few days making sure my backup was up to date , as well as making an extra backup. Fortunately did some research and found out where in the running Linux filesystem I could find the partition information, and re-constructed it.
Computers that is. Things were so much easier and more efficient pre computer days. After all, we didn't have to put up with being apologised to because I.T are so useless that the computer is running slow or is down etc. And we did not have to put up lectures from overpaid, patronising clever bastards, sorry, I.T. support people when the machine doesn't do what it should do. Maybe if "it" people could actually get proactive and make the damned machines do what people expected them to do in the first place, their lives would be much easier? But them again, that would rob them of their martyr rights wouldn't it.
Why imagine that. I just invented this mind reading technology and I didn't know what to do with it, but your comment has enlightened me. I'm going to build a system where the mind reader finds out what the user wants and makes the machine do that. If you want it, I'll be selling the technology later this week. If you don't want to buy my device, you could always use the machine the way it was built. The same way you use every machine--for the purpose that it was built to do. It is not the fault of support when a user messes up. A proper support person will fix the problem, but that doesn't mean the problem was the fault of the person who fixed it.
The 3.5 inchers were more robust, though. Once I got my hands on a rare earth magnet (forget the specific type), and decided to test the urban legends.
It turns out that I couldn't wipe a 3.5 by sticking it on the file cabinet with a magnet. And I let it sit for a full hour before testing.
In the 1980s, I was writing software for Alpha Micro computers. These were inexpensive multi-user systems designed for small offices, with hard drives and multiple RS-232 ports. Because standard computer tape drives would have been prohibitively expensive, you could buy an adapter card that would allow you to use an ordinary consumer-grade VCR as backup storage.
These video recorders had a pretty high error rate: if you're watching a movie, you'll never notice a few dropped bits in a video frame. The software got around all the errors by massive redundancy. Each block was recorded 16 or 32 times. You could take a hole puncher and punch half a dozen holes in a backup tape, and it wouldn't care. If the tape broke, just trim it back an inch and use a splice kit. The missing data would be repeated later on the tape, so it didn't matter.
I used to write accounting and inventory control software for those systems. One of our customers had a massive 60Meg hard drive and trying to fit 60Megs onto a VHS tape was "tricky". Oh yeah, the customer that bought the HUGE 60Meg drive paid around $6500 (CDN) for it in the early to mid 80's.
Do you remember that you had to boot with a VHS tape if you ran into trouble since there wasn't a floppy drive? That never worked on the first try.
Partitioning those suckers was a pain in the arse. The hard drive(s) had to be partitioned into equal size partitions and you needed to build a new device driver each time you partitioned a drive.
Got a call from the assistant supervisor for a section the Fed agency I was contracted to. "My PC is not working, I need it come fix it". Ok, went to the section, badged in. She showed me the machine and excused herself to go back to her section workers. I sat, and dutifully pressed the little Dell button that turns blue when it's powered on. PC booted up, I logged on, checked it, logged out and reported to this ASSISTANT SUPERVISOR, that her PC was fixed. She didn't know how to turn on a PC, and she's the ASSISTANT SUPERVISOR. Now you know why the US Fed government get's so little done.
"and dutifully pressed the little Dell button that turns blue when it's powered on."
Since she didn't know this, then no one told her. How was she expected to know that the Dell badge is also the power button? Maybe it was the first time she'd seen a Dell PC,or at least the first time she'd ever had to switch one on.
Four years ago at a +£1bn turnover company I witnessed a month end sales report printed on piano paper and ended up being about 12 inches thick (green and white lines) put in a folder and passed to a team who would take a section of pages each and manually type the data in to Excel for analysis, totalling up by depot, customer etc.
Some spread sheets in the accounts department were over 100mb in size. I refused to check them for errors - it would be impossible to spot an incorrect formula.
Funnily enough the company didn't survive.
I saw someone adding up figures in a spreadsheet using a 4-function calculator.
I shew him how to create a formula, and he was very happy for the rest of the day. I even told him a slight fib, that it was an OpenOffice.org improvement over the old Microsoft Excel he must have been used to .....
My first posting in the RAF after basic & trade training in 1961 was RAF Driffield (Yorkshire) which was a Thor missile base. The stores section, run by RAF & USAF personnel, had IBM 80 column card punches, verifiers and data transceivers. One day the data transceiver received a batch of cards which punched OK but the print at the top of the card was missing. The procedure for faults was to contact RAF Alconbury who then sent out an IBM technician. The chap drove all the way up to Driffield, walked into the office, flipped the "print" switch from "off" to "on" then got back into his car and drove back to Alconbury.
Same sort things happened to a friend of mine working at a computer dealer in London. He had the note stapled to a floppy, the photocopy of a floppy AND the floppy folded in half and stuffed in an envelope.
In a similar vein of totally not comprehending the point of technology, I knew someone who would format all his floppies, restore the (DOS) system back to “factory settings” and erase all files on the hard disk. Every single night. So that the next day it was like new. He didn’t even realise that he could keep stuff he’d been working on (like Wordstar Documents), because he wiped absolutely everything and because he had never done this in the past (pre-computer), he never realised a need for it after starting to use a computer.
There was a time I had a meeting with a senior member of a school staff. She kept me waiting outside her room because she was trying to finish a confidential document and explained that she didn't want to lose all the work. She then told me that every time she got called away for an emergency somewhere in the school* she had to switch off her PC and lose the documents she was working on. Naturally I asked why she didn't save them first and she explained that she didn't know how. She apparently lost long complex documents several times a week - wasting hours when she ought to have been helping the kids!
I didn't offer to show her how because a) I was there in my main ( not IT) role b) there were plenty of people in the school who could have shown her ( as in all the other teachers, most of the TAs, the kids and the three admins) if she'd asked c) she was not the most co-operative, or d ) knowledgeable about the substantive job or prepared to take advice from outside experts such as myself and frankly I didn't have the time to go through offering and being turned down. There was also the strong suspicion that retyping documents kept her from doing worse stuff.
*Which shouldn't have been happening BTW.
I suffered the consequences of failure to engage brain, once. For about 6 months, to be precise.
On the site where I worked, a removable IBM disk pack (this is around 1980, so we're talking a 3330 or 3350, I guess) stubbornly refused to read when mounted on the drive. Standard procedure was to try either a different pack in the drive, or the pack on a different drive, to see where the problem was. The keen folk on the floor that night decided to do both. They tried more packs. No luck. They tried other drives. No luck. Unfortunately - they followed the book and kept going.
Finally they thought to check one of the "fresh" packs they'd been using on one of the "clean" drives they'd been using. And that didn't work either. At which point it began to dawn on them that one of the two original components had had a catastrophic mechanical failure, wrecking both the disk pack and the drive. And every time they'd move a pack around, it had wrecked the drive they put it on. And every pack they'd put on THAT drive had been similarly wrecked. And so on, like a plague.
I seem to remember that they'd accounted for about half the drives in the machine room by that point, and a significant portion of the primary copies of our operational business data. And we spent weeks in disaster recovery mode afterwards, trying to rebuild the data we'd lost from tape back, running forward recoveries on fewer drives than usual, and generally suffering. Oh, and we couldn't just phone IBM and ask them to ship us more drives urgently, because this all happened on an IBM internal site. And senior management took the perfectly understandable view that it was an internal problem to be sorted, and they weren't going to divert new hardware that was already committed to (paying) customers.
When training up on ICL 1900 systems way back in the day we visited a local authority site to chat to them and gain experience,
They told a similar tale where an operator had dropped an EDS disc pack and was scared to own up.
They worked their way through several disc packs and disc drives before the penny finally dropped.
I owned a computer store in the pre-IBM-PC era. I sold a very expensive full-up system to a customer. 8" dual floppies, 64 k of RAM, multiple programming languages, zippy Z-80 processor - the whole works. Upgradeable to hard disk if you were independently wealthy.
A few days after buying it, the guy comes in and says it won't boot. Sure enough, the boot floppy is horribly corrupted. I burn him a few more boot floppies and send him home.
Next week he's back. Same problem and he now has 4 different corrupted boot floppies. CP/M is crying out for help.
He leaves the computer. I try for a week to make it fail. I do lots of compiles. I run diagnostics (it was a really good computer, there actually was a disk full of diagnostics). Runs like a champ.
I finally decide he MUST be doing something horrible to the floppies. When he comes back in I start questioning him about how he stores them, and he tells me "It can't be anything I am doing. I was afraid the computer might damage the disks if I leave them in so every night I take them out and stick them to my filing cabinet with a big magnet I took out of a loudspeaker".
First I pick my jaw up off the floor. Then I try (not totally successfully) to suppress laughter. He was a good customer otherwise. Then I spent a week or so suppressing anger over how much time I spent trying to diagnose his "hardware problem".
Retail is hard.
Pardon my ignorance, but weren't 2.4Mb 5.25" floppies only used on the 3174 (IBM, I think?)?
I'd have thought the Sirius would have had 600k proprietery format floppies, with 1.2Mb on later machines.
Of course, my beloved Cato Cat 'minicomputer' had to manage with twin 180k 8" floppies.
Yes, some 3174 controllers came with 2.4 meg 4.25" drives. The disks were IBM P/N72X6086, but manufactured by Maxell, specifically MD2-ED disks, with ED standing for "Extra-High Density" (good luck finding either; I've tried). The unformatted capacity was 3.2Megs. The drive hardware was either the Y-E Data YD-802 or the Hitachi HFD532EIU, 34 pin edge connector, standard Molex power connectors ... The Hitachi in mine still works, not certain if my spare, a Y-E, is functional or not. Why haven't I tested it? Because there is no need for the 2.4, a "normal" 1.2 will work in all cases that I am aware of. Other than the 3174, I know of no other off-the-shelf hardware that can read/write these things. Mid 1980s.
You are absolutely right. The Sirius had 2 x 1.2Gb double sided drives. It had variable speed RW which was used by Chuck Peddle in the design. The drives were made by Jugi Tandon. 2.4Mb was the total system capacity, maybe this was a mistake when the story was submitted. How do I know? Well I am "Isabelle".
Back in the early nineties when the Office of Corrections embraced IT and decided that every Prison Governor would get their own laptop, DOS 6.2, WordPerfect and Quattro Pro* on a basic Compaq with a trackball attached to the side I was often called into the boss's office to explain the finer points of computers eg, how to turn it on. One day he was complaining that he couldn't read files from the "things Spock is always walking around with in Star Trek." Sure enough the disks, a whole 10 pack, proved to be unreadable. While tapping one on my had while trying to think what Moby had done I noticed a slightly roughness on the back of the disk, looking I discovered a hole with a raised edge, turning it over I found a smooth hole on the front. Checking all the disks they had the same hole. I had a sinking feeling at that point, so I asked him a question, Sure enough, El Supremo had been pinning his disks to his cork board at home.
*Moby, why is there a golf sim on your official not to have any unauthorised software government issued laptop? A golf sim? I have no idea how that got on there
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