back to article A quick cup of coffee leaves production manager in fits and a cleaner in tears

Hilarious mishaps! Get your hilarious mishaps! That's right, it's the delectable Who, Me? come again to tickle your tech error taste buds. This week, we meet "Guillermo", who learned the hard way never to leave doors unlocked and unattended. At the time, about 12 years ago, he was working in a plastics extrusion company, …

  1. TonyJ Silver badge

    So...

    ...what? He just stood there and let her cop all the flack? Or he admitted he'd left the door open?

    And no instructions to the cleaners not to enter the room to vacuum? Or perhaps they did this regularly and this was just a freak occurrence (the fuse going)?

    A very unsatisfying tale, today :-(

    1. GrumpenKraut Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: So...

      > ...just a freak occurrence (the fuse going)?

      Or rather they added machines and never cared upgrading the main power and fuse. So that the fuse had a near 100 percent load. They could have thanked the cleaner for pointing that out.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: So...

        "So that the fuse had a near 100 percent load."

        Fuses don't blow at 100% load. They run indefinitely at 100% load.

        They "blow" almost immediately at _200%_ load and will last about 8-12 hours at 150% load or several weeks at 120% load.

    2. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

      Re: So...

      More still, whatever were production servers doing being plugged into a standard socket?

      At the very least a hard wired spur connection: ideally a proper industrial fitting with padlockable rotary switch. And if the boss really is too mean for that, a filing cabinet in front of the socket outlet.

      1. A.P. Veening

        Re: So...

        whatever were production servers doing being plugged into a standard socket?

        That is the norm for AS/400s, they aren't that big (physically).

        1. Mage Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: So...

          The first AS/400 I saw was about the size of three filing cabinets. The last AS/400 computers I saw looked like an ordinary "desktop" towers, except they were on the floor. Only lucky ones were plugged into a UPS.

          1. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad

            Re: So...

            Some of them did not need any steenking UPSes. Because they had 'em built in.

            https://www.ebay.com/itm/IBM-44H7784-Power-Supply-UPS-620-720/264031739963

            https://www.ebay.com/itm/04N5379-IBM-battery-packs-2-X-44H7785-9406-600-620-720-S10-S20-New-batts/261850394061

            1. werdsmith Silver badge

              Re: So...

              I’m heading to EBay to see if I can bag me an AS400.

              1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

                Re: So...

                I miss my AS/400. It was horribly slow, you needed a giant twinax-connected 5250 terminal to use it, and OS/400 (at least in the early revs) was a horror to develop under. The PDM source editor was like XEDIT or ISPF with approximately 97% of the functionality removed. There was no "make" equivalent; the developer had to tell PDM what sources to build each time, or write a CL program to kick off the compiler (but still no dependency checking). Debugging was primitive, even for us fans of CLI debuggers. EPM C was hilariously limited (System/C was an improvement, and ILE C an improvement on that).

                But there was something curiously endearing about its perverseness. It was entertaining guessing at the names of CL commands, or seeing what unexpected optional parameters they had. And there were things to like about OS/400, like how machine and program checks would log a nice little message for you with an explanation and stack trace with line numbers.

                Writing UNIX software was like a pleasant stroll through the woods: generally easy, and once in a while you'd come across something particularly pleasing. Writing AS/400 software was like hiking up a difficult mountain path in the rain: you felt like you'd really accomplished something.

          2. A.P. Veening

            Re: So...

            The last one I saw, was 19" wide and hung in a rack (and they called it iSeries).

        2. ridley

          Re: So...

          Maybe in your day they were

        3. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Re: So...

          Yes. These were AS/400 B20s. The B-class machines were small. I recently disposed of an empty B-class cabinet (we'd upgraded the machine many years ago, which involved removing all the working bits from the old cabinet; it just had the power supply, card backplane, and front-panel controls), and it was about the size of a two-drawer filing cabinet.

          I'm pretty sure all the AS/400 B-class machines had integrated UPSes. But if memory serves, at loss of mains power, or shortly thereafter, they automatically initiated the shutdown sequence, so it would have stopped production anyway.

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: So...

        "And if the boss really is too mean for that, a filing cabinet in front of the socket outlet."

        I usually add a "DO NOT UNPLUG" label on the plug and "DO NOT TURN OFF" on the socket - it does seem to work.

        Unfortunately that's no protection against other outlets on the same circuit being overloaded.

        If the boss _IS_ too mean to pay for things to be done properly, then document everything and when the shit hits the fan, make sure _HIS_ boss is made aware of the paper trail. You'd be surprised how often a "There's no money for this" becomes "How much do you need to fix this?"

    3. Korev Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: So...

      It seems a bit harsh to blame the cleaner and Guillermo when it's clear that the organisation had a very poor IT setup. If they could afford AS400s and Sun gear then they probably had some budget to spend.

      1. Gene Cash Silver badge

        Re: So...

        > they could afford AS400s and Sun gear then they probably had some budget to spend

        Nope! I've seen people splash on the fancy stuff and not have any left over for the stuff they really need. "Oooh err! A Silicon Graphics Indigo! Whee! What do you mean we need a router and ADSL? We don't have money for that!"

        1. Tom 7 Silver badge

          Re: So...

          The SI Indigo would be on the accountants desk of course.

          1. Criggie

            Re: So...

            ...showing a screensaver 100% of the day and night...

        2. Marshalltown

          Re: So...

          Ah, yes. The computing power distributed by company hierarchy rather than need syndrome. The fellow with the biggest desk has the computer with the most memory, fastest CPU, and largest hard drive.

          1. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: So...

            "The fellow with the biggest desk has the computer with the most memory, fastest CPU, and largest hard drive."

            .... and has the least need for the computer. It rarely tastes the mains unless it's for show.

      2. veti Silver badge

        Re: So...

        Yeah. They could surely have afforded a UPS.

        Honestly, what was their plan for coping with a power outage? It can't have been any worse than that.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: So...

          Nothing in the story says that there wasn't a UPS in front of the outlet that the cleaner used. I know I have had my share of personal experiences with cleaners and other office staff plugging authorized equipment into UPS-backed outlets and overloading them, and not every UPS is a little box that sits under the desk and plugs into the wall. Even of the small units I have lost track of the times I have had to deal with the aftermath of someone plugging a laser printer, heater, or coffee pot into the battery-backed outlets of a small UPS because they think it is just there for convenience.

          Physical security and training, however, are often something of an afterthought for SMB and light manufacturing when it comes to cleaning staff. I have also had to deal with cleaning staff waxing or sealing anti-static flooring, using a wet mop on raised computer room floors, trying to take out the neatly stacked boxes and putting them in the compactor (not realizing that each of those boxes had a rather light but expensive memory board in them), and many other similar experiences that I would rather forget.

    4. }{amis}{ Silver badge
      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: So...

        Life support machine not protected against power failure? Should at least have sirens blaring for 30 minutes whilst someone runs off and gets a genny going.

        1. A.P. Veening

          Re: So...

          Should at least have sirens blaring for 30 minutes

          And killing the patient through an induced heart attack (somewhere in the first second).

          1. TRT Silver badge

            Re: So...

            I do recall some Smith and Jones, I'm pretty sure it was, sketch where after an explanation of how the life support machine was keeping the patient alive, a medical student asks about power failure and breakdown and I think it was the consultant Mel Smith says that in that unlikely event the patent would be dead within 30 seconds, but not to worry as there would be a loud beeping sound to alert staff. At which point there's a loud beeping sound. Griff Rhys Jones (the patient) suddenly gets a very panicked look, then starts flailing around in a panic, grabbing at his chest, before expiring rather dramatically. Mel Smith, meanwhile is busy playing with his watch, eventually silencing the alarm and apologising for still not having got the hang of these digital things.

        2. Jamie Jones Silver badge

          Re: So...

          Fortunately, this "cleaner uplugged the life support" story is a myth.

          https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/polished-off/

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: So...

            "Fortunately, this "cleaner uplugged the life support" story is a myth."

            "Cleaner unplugged the server" is not. I've had it happen on customer sites.

            1. Jamie Jones Silver badge

              Re: So...

              I find that staggering.... I believe you, but I can't get my head around the mindset of someone who would just unplug somthing else because they wanted a plugl

              1. Nick Pettefar

                Re: So...

                Socket.

                1. Jamie Jones Silver badge
                  Happy

                  Re: So...

                  Um... yeah! Need more coffee!

              2. TomPhan

                Re: So...

                Stayed in a quite expensive central London hotel where the fridge was unplugged daily by the cleaners.

                1. MachDiamond Silver badge

                  Re: So...

                  "Stayed in a quite expensive central London hotel where the fridge was unplugged daily by the cleaners."

                  I've stayed in that same hotel. In many places around the world.

              3. Sporkfighter

                Re: You should have been sacked

                I've had people unplug equipment many times.

                "Sorry, I din't know that was important, and anyway, I forgot to charge my laptop, so I needed to plug it in."

                1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

                  Re: You should have been sacked

                  I had a co-worker unplug my laptop so he could plug his in, while we were sitting next to each other in a meeting. And mine didn't have a functional battery.

                  But I didn't see much point in getting upset about it, and I've worked in IT long enough to have adopted the "save early and often" mindset.

                  1. MachDiamond Silver badge
                    Pirate

                    Re: You should have been sacked

                    You forget the part where that co-worder sat in something sticky later that day.

                2. Jamie Jones Silver badge

                  Re: You should have been sacked

                  Damn I must live a sheltered life. That's the height of arrogance. I'd never dream of unplugging a powered on plug without first checking what it was powering, and whether it was in use.

                  You guys are saying the practice is commonplace...

            2. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

              Re: So...

              The place where I used to work, it was a case of "sparky unplugged the server" becasue they'd got the cheapest dodgy electrician / carpenter in to re-wire the server room with a redundant circuit and put int a raised floor whilst the servers were running, and he wanted to plug his drill in...

          2. tinman
            FAIL

            Re: So...

            however... in Trials of an Expert Witness, Harold Klawans, a neurologist, talks about being called in to consult on a case that was somewhat similar.

            A hospital porter had been tasked to taking a patient to theatre for surgery. He didn't notice that she had a respiratory arrest and that she stopped breathing for a time. It was spotted by someone else and she was resuscitated but the respiratory centre of her brain was damaged so she was conscious and unaffected cognitively but couldn't breathe without a ventilator. This meant she ended up staying in ICU for some months. As she was awake and aware she got fed up with crosswords and knitting so she asked for a TV which the hospital were only too happy to supply as they were facing a lawsuit from her for their staff member's negligence.

            The TV was brought by a porter who had recently been taken off patient transport duties due to his lack of clinical awareness and unwillingness to be retrained in CPR. He brought it to her room, and seeing she was asleep thought it would be a nice surprise for her if he plugged it in so it'd be on for her when she awoke. So what medical equipment did he disconnect to plug in the TV? Yes, it was her ventilator and this was back in 1974 so the machine was not designed to alarm if unplugged. And yes, it was the same porter who'd failed to notice her problem in the first place

      2. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        Re: So...

        "... we have sent a strong letter to the cleaner in question"

        W.

        T.

        F.??????

        1. Jamie Jones Silver badge

          Re: So...

          ""... we have sent a strong letter to the cleaner in question"

          Yeah, a key hint that this story is bollocks!

          https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/polished-off/

    5. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

      Re: So...

      theres no way , given the description of the setup , it was either of thems fault, it was just an accident waiting to happen.

    6. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

      Re: So...

      Strange. Room is normally locked & bolted at that time. Cleaner comes round and discovers they can actually get in to somewhere they don't normally go. So they go in and start cleaning.

      I'm not convinced.

      1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

        Re: So...

        Cleaner comes round and discovers they can actually get in to somewhere they don't normally go.

        To be fair, you're assuming it's the same cleaner from one day to the next. As far as I am aware, it is a badly-paid low-skilled job with crappy conditions, and the associated high staff turnover you might expect. The cleaner in question could well have been on their first day at that location.

      2. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: So...

        Good point.

        Wouldn't usually be part of the SLA

      3. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: So...

        Cleaners are usually around after hours as well. it's a bit distracting to have somebody hoovering whilst on an important call or having a meeting.

    7. Radio Wales
      Holmes

      Re: So... What?

      The story went 'Arrived 1.5 hrs early' So the normal situation would have been Sys staff and Cleaners normally never saw each other and the 'Room' would 'normally' be locked.

      The cleaner got in - ergo: He left it unlocked - proven. He had the key the cleaner did not.

      The cleaner was blameless because no one had briefed her on S-room protocols because it was (normally) always locked.

      So, it would have been unlikely that anyone would have thought to tell the cleaner to 'Keep out' if you happen to come across the door unlocked.

      The story revolves around a significant break in the normal routine and a lack of situational awareness shown by responsible staff members.

      Here concludes the Holmes report. £1032,00 by the end of the month, please.

  2. Admiral Grace Hopper

    When Urban Myths Come True

    There seemed to be no reason for one of our mainframes losing network connectivity at the same time every night, but only on weekdays, until we staked it out and found that the most convenient plug socket for the cleaner's vacuum cleaner was the one that powered the HSXC controller.

    1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      Re: When Urban Myths Come True

      There is a similar legend about one intensive care bed having a higher mortality rate than the others.

      As for turning up early, it is an opportunity to get some of my work done before the problems arrive.

      1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: When Urban Myths Come True

        "before the problems arrive."

        You mean - everyone else who works there?

    2. swm Bronze badge

      Re: When Urban Myths Come True

      We had a problem with the cleaners using and unplugging stuff until we discovered what was going on. After being informed, the cleaners used the hall wall sockets ant everyone was happy.

      On another note, a water pipe broke above our offices and hundreds of gallons of water per minute were released over the ceiling tiles. The ceiling tiles immediately turned into mush and started dropping. A mad scramble ensued to cover up the computers as the wave of falling tiles progressed. Can't say that this was the result of human error though but it was an exciting ten minutes.

      1. big_D Silver badge

        Re: When Urban Myths Come True

        We had a datacenter in Addelstone, which was a converted bus deopt, I believe. Anyway, one nicht the IT director was called out, because the roof had caved in during a heavy rainstorm.

        1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge

          Re: When Urban Myths Come True

          We lost the roof of Somerset County Council IT Service Centre (Large wooden hut in the car park) back in 2007/2008 due to a storm.

          Ohh the fun we had making the stock & ensuring the equipment was dried.

        2. Ken Smith

          Re: When Urban Myths Come True

          I remember that site!

          1. big_D Silver badge

            Re: When Urban Myths Come True

            I was working in the old wooden huts in Titchfield during the 1991 hurricane. We were sitting there, watching the walls slam in and out, just waiting for the whole lot to blow away, when out of the window, we just watched in awe as the roof of the data centre lifted up in the air, in one piece, turned over on its back, length ways, and slammed down on the carpark.

            We then quickly ran to the data centre to set about getting the people out. By some miracle, there were no serious injuries.

      2. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

        Re: When Urban Myths Come True

        One place I worked at had an aircon unit over the top of the racks (in an otherwise completely sealed 'room'). No-one had ever bothered to service it, so one weekend the power went off and the built up ice dripped into the racks and blew everything in it.

      3. Nigel Cro

        Re: When Urban Myths Come True

        Is this the SWM I know?

        Alright, silly question which only the OP will be able to answer, I was there for the cleaner incident, but I am pretty sure I wasn't there for the water cascade...

        When we rebuilt the office we had dedicated, red sockets put in for the cleaners - just in case.

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          Re: When Urban Myths Come True

          I have one of these stories but it’s so bizarre that if I tell it here everyone involved will know exactly the incident and won’t forgive.

          1. I Am Spartacus

            Re: When Urban Myths Come True

            TELL TELL TELL

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: When Urban Myths Come True

        Could be worse, could have built your server room underneath a swimming pool, only to have it start leaking after being put into service and need millions spending fixing it.

        Posting anon for comedy value given who it was (gchq at the donut irrc) , extra internets for whomever has time to find the link to the story on elreg or others about it (seems to have disappeared into the sands of time)

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: When Urban Myths Come True

          Another case like this Oz long time ago. Ornamental pool over server rooms emptied eventually so problem stopped until it rained hard. Then servers were OK. Cable pits and runs were a bit icky though. Building re-purposed recently for guys with guns and attitudes so probably justified their data center moves.

        2. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: When Urban Myths Come True

          "could have built your server room underneath a swimming pool,"

          Or under a 500 gallon water tank in the ceiling above.... (BTDT, finally got a new room built, everything out - and then some cretin decided to put a pile of unauthorised computers "in all that spare space in your server room"(*) whilst the door was unlocked. We let him stay there and cackled....)

          (*) A converted cloakroom

      5. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: When Urban Myths Come True

        We had a customer whose local network and server were in a building where another department had an industrial microwave oven (think big and many kilowatts for heating something more than a burrito) that caught fire. The fire was quickly extinguished, but not before it melted a 10 cm water pipe (PVC I guess) that flooded said network and server. Fortunately everything was backed up onto their main server, but was a sad and harried customer having to reassemble things in a new building.

        1. whitepines Silver badge
          Flame

          Re: When Urban Myths Come True

          The fire was quickly extinguished, but not before it melted a 10 cm water pipe

          Can I hazard a guess as to exactly what quickly extinguished the fire?

          The relative positioning of the pipe and oven probably wasn't much of a problem, it's the relative position of the pipe and servers that seems to have been rather rubbish...

      6. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: When Urban Myths Come True

        "a water pipe broke above our offices and hundreds of gallons of water per minute were released over the ceiling tiles." "Can't say that this was the result of human error though"

        I'm still waiting for this to happen in one location. The human error was that although we specifically stated "no water piping is to run through this area _at all_, it was left off the spec by the architect without bothering to consult with us and when the builders needed to run pipework, guess what they did? (We noticed and complained, but the builders didn't give a shit because "you aren't the customer, mate, now fuck off our site!")

    3. heyrick Silver badge

      Re: When Urban Myths Come True

      "most convenient plug socket for the cleaner's vacuum cleaner"

      Strange. At my place of work, the important computer kit is plugged into bright red sockets (they're wired through some sort of UPS). Anybody plugs ANYTHING in there without authorisation, it's a disciplinary offense, even the high ups know that hooking up phone chargers is NOT okay.

      1. Admiral Grace Hopper

        Re: When Urban Myths Come True

        It was strange. The data centre was designed in the 70s then updated in the 80s as new kit came along. The HSXC controllers were mounted on odd vertical risers for cooling and the installers stuck the sockets on the side of the risers. In the middle of the hall, the nearest sockets not attached to any commas kit were many yards away on the walls. Having a socket next to you and two feet in the air must have been very seductive indeed. I’ve never seen anything like it anywhere else.

        After this incident the whole power layout was redesigned and anything delivering service was powered from under the suspended floor. A genuine instance of lessons learned.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: When Urban Myths Come True

        hang on a bit... one of you has red sockets for the important stuff, another has red sockets for the cleaners...

        I see a slight problem (and another potential "Who, me?" story)

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: When Urban Myths Come True

          "one of you has red sockets for the important stuff, another has red sockets for the cleaners..."

          $HINT: I've never seen a vacuum cleaner with a IEC C14, C20 or 60309 plug on the end of the cable

          The easiest way to remove the temptation is to remove the compatibilty entirely - and contrary to popular belief it IS possible to jam a UK mains plug into MK or Walsall sockets - once - so best not to tempt fate.

    4. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: When Urban Myths Come True

      "one of our mainframes losing network connectivity at the same time every night,"

      We were copping abuse from staff in one building for the networking being intermittently dead on friday afternoons.

      It turned out the network cabinet had been rewired into the nonessential power circuit of the workshops in the building and the staff there would knock off early if all jobs were complete, turning off the power as they left.....

      This (and a few other Furphy) are why I insist on paperwork for all proposed electrical jobs - making sure that what's going to happen is what was actually asked for and that what was done actually meets the spec. There are a shitload of cowboy sparkies around and no paperwork == "not me mate" or "I just did what i was told" (even when speciifically told to NOT do something)

  3. chivo243 Silver badge

    Never Turn up Early!?

    I've had some jobs where it payed to be late... However, now a days, I prefer to be early. I hate walking into a shit storm. I'd rather be there early to manage that situation if possible.

    1. Bronek Kozicki Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: Never Turn up Early!?

      ... or even to cause one, if BOFH finds it convenient

    2. imanidiot Silver badge

      Re: Never Turn up Early!?

      Turning up late usually also means leaving later, meaning you are still around when the fixing finally comes in (or at least you are still around when others have left, leaving you to make a good impression for "staying late to help solve the problem"). It can have it's advantages.

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: Never Turn up Early!?

        Be aware, no one ever seems to notice or acknowledge when you turn up early, however early. Everyone will notice if you leave earlier to make up, even a tiny bit earlier.

        1. BrownishMonstr

          Re: Never Turn up Early!?

          OTOH my manager praises me for coming in earlier and says people notice when you are in early but not when you leave.

          1. HAM5ter84

            Re: Never Turn up Early!?

            Weird that isn't it. Like being in early makes so much difference if the hrs are done for the week overall. The place I work seems to push the in early as it's noticed rather than staying late. Even if the same overall time is achieved each week. Best bit is that there is no set times per day. Just the line around hrs to complete company purposes.

        2. RockBurner

          Re: Never Turn up Early!?

          <quote>Be aware, no one ever seems to notice or acknowledge when you turn up early, however early. Everyone will notice if you leave earlier to make up, even a tiny bit earlier.</quote>

          Sometimes, however I used to turn up about an hour early (always first in) and leave after the due 8 hours, which caused a few, only partially hushed, comments behind my back. Until one day I arrived (quite by chance) about 2 hours earlier than usual (I woke up early, it was a beautiful morning and I had a much faster than usual ride in due to far lower traffic levels), only to encounter my boss sitting at his desk. So - at about 7am we both uttered the immortal words : "What the f*** are you doing here?". No more comments after that....

        3. imanidiot Silver badge

          Re: Never Turn up Early!?

          The thing is that if you are already there when people show up they'll assume you only arrived 10 minutes before them at the earliest. Thus if you leave an hour before they can, they'll think you're taking the piss. On the other hand, people DO notice if they've made a long day and you are still there when they leave. They don't usually remember exactly when you came in so they just assume you're putting in some serious time. The only people that MIGHT acknowledge your early arrival are other "early birds" and most of the time they don't care either.

        4. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Never Turn up Early!?

          I used to arrive late and was always the last to leave. I was commended for my dedication by the director. Who always arrived even later than me...

        5. Niall Mac Caughey
          FAIL

          Re: Never Turn up Early!?

          I used to be the IT bottlewasher for a small TV network. I would turn up early and, because I needed caffeination after making it into work before 07:00, I used to clean the very large filter coffee machine in the break room. After all, I needed decent caffeination.

          One morning (early one morning) I set up the machine for a flush with a sachet of chemical descaler/cleaner before retiring to my office to handle the first few hundred emails. About 15 minutes later I strolled back to sort out the machine when I met someone in the corridor carrying a mug of something that looked vaguely like coffee. I'd never seen him before, which was unsurprising as he was a new hire and this was his first day.

          It was almost his last. He greeted me with "This is the worst coffee I have ever tasted!"

          Snatching the mug from his hand I dashed into the kitchen to read the safety warning on the packet of descaler. It seems that, other than a potentially productive gastrointestinal flushing, he would be fine.

          From that moment on I eschewed tiny Post-Its that quickly fell off for a laminated A3 sign: CLEANING IN PROGRESS - DO NOT USE.

    3. veti Silver badge

      Re: Never Turn up Early!?

      The advantage of being early is that you can see the shitstorm brewing, and with any luck you can take yourself out for a while shortly before it breaks. That way you miss out on the headless-chicken phase, and can still earn brownie points by contributing to the cleanup.

  4. big_D Silver badge

    Builders...

    We were to get a new VAX in the server room, which meant more power sockets and more AC...

    So the builders were let in to make preparations, drill holes in the floor, drill holes in the wall etc. Only, what the IT manager didn't think about was that the builders needed power for their drills. So, builders, being builders, just unplugged the nearest power cable to where they were going to be working and got on with it. To screams from ops and the sudden ringing of every phone in the IT department. They had unplugged a couple of MicroVax minis to make way for their drills. The ones that the whole site production was running one.

    1. Robert Sneddon

      Re: Builders...

      I was doing a desk refit in an office that was getting some back-to-the-bricks TLC next door. A builder came along and asked to try his drill in a socket of the desk I was working on, it was "flaking out on me" he said, running for a few seconds then stopping. Being insufficiently caffeinated I told him "go ahead" and sure enough the SDS drill spun up then stopped. I managed to wake up sufficiently after seeing this happen to prevent him trying to plug his 1500W drill into the next 3A-fused socket along the desk's power strip...

      There's a reason I carried a pack of 3A slow-blow 20mm fuses in my toolbag after that incident. I ran into a lot of dead sockets like that in regular desktop visits, usually at desks with a 3kW fan heater tucked underneath where the office manager couldn't see it.

      1. Adrian 4 Silver badge

        Re: Builders...

        Those 3A per-socket strips are a menace. 13A for the whole strip is nominally the same and far more useful.

        1. Robert Sneddon

          Until...

          Someone plugs two 3kW heaters into the same strip...

          Anything on a desk like a monitor, midi-tower desktop, laptop etc. will pull a lot less than 3A each so they won't blow the fuse. A really big workstation machine or an A3 colour laser printer might exceed the 3A limit but that's rare and usually installed as a special rather than a 200-desk call-centre step-and-repeat deployment.

          Someone plugging a kettle or coffee-maker or fan heater into a desk power strip will blow the fuse but that's not what the socket is there for. I would have liked a neon indicator on each socket to show whether the fuse had blown but we didn't get that, instead I had one of those basic mains-socket-testing devices that would show bad wiring and the like (no earth connection, low voltage etc.) when I plugged it in. Once or twice it revealed the root cause of a frequent-flyer helldesk ticket that every tech dreads, well worth the tenner I paid for it.

          1. Christoph Silver badge

            Re: Until...

            Open plan office. Group of secretarys' desks around floor flap with two 13-amp sockets. Each secretary had power to a computer, and to a CRT. And they had a fan heater. No other unused sockets within reach.

            One socket had one computer plugged into it. The other had a power bar.

            The power bar had computers and CRTs plugged in. And another power bar.

            That had computers, CRTs, and a third power bar.

            That had computers, CRTs, and the fan heater.

            Well, I couldn't make it a good setup, but when I'd finished rearranging it the fan heater had one socket, and the other socket had a power bar with both the other bars plugged into it.

            1. molletts

              Re: Until...

              That sounds a lot like the setup I inherited in the school library at one of my former employers: an island of low-view desks (the ones with glass panes in the top and monitors beneath) with 12 ultra-cheap self-build PCs and CRT monitors, plus a mono laser and a colour laser printer on a table at one end, powered via a daisy-chain of 4-way power bars which all went back to a single bar with a very long cable that went under the carpet to a socket on the wall.

              I discovered this arrangement a month or two into the school year when the mornings started to get colder and the big whack of power drawn by the cold PCs & monitors as they started up began to cause the 30A circuit breaker on the ring-main to trip. We used to fire them up by scheduled Wake-on-LAN so that they were ready for use at the start of the school day (they took ages to boot - WinXP in 128MB RAM). Although there was a short delay from waking one PC to the next, it wasn't enough to allow them to finish booting and warm up the monitors so they drew less power.

              On complaining about the arrangement to the management and asking that proper dedicated circuits be installed, I was rebuffed on the basis that the school site team included a qualified electrician who said that it was fine and that therefore the fault must be with the computers. I was told to stick to my area of expertise and do my job which was to "sort out the problem with the computers". (In case you were wondering, I didn't stay there very long.)

              I ended up having to start the power-up sequence at about 4:30am and allow 15 minutes for each machine to get going to (mostly) prevent circuit trips. It was generally fine as long as nobody got in early and woke one of the printers or the photocopier which was on the same ring-main before the computers had all fired up.

              1. A.P. Veening

                Re: Until...

                You should have made sure a couple of fuses were blown each and every morning instead of staggering the start-up. When manglement started complaining, you could truthfully say the computers don't have any problem whatsoever except for a lack of power, which isn't my responsibility. "Do you wish me to call in the workplace safety inspection?"

            2. -tim
              Flame

              Re: Until...

              Power strips often have a cheap 10A circuit breaker in them. One that will get very warm yet never trip if you run 9.9 amps through it for hours. It will get warm enough to melt plastic. Once the load drops, it cools and now the circuit breaker doesn't work anymore so when you dump 14.9 amps into it, the main breaker won't trip until the thing melts enough to properly short out or catches fire.

              1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
                Mushroom

                Re: Until...

                Power strips nowadays are often cheap Chinese crap with forged safety certs and not fit for purpose. Seriously. Do not trust them. Your power strip should handle full rated load without getting even slightly warm.

                Buying name brand or if you don't know any, ones in metal housings, is your best bet. Stay far away from the plastic cased ones on Amazon.

                1. H in The Hague Silver badge

                  Re: Until...

                  "Power strips nowadays are often cheap ..."

                  A year or two ago I went to a refresher course on the management of electrical installations. The trainer mentioned that if you did have to get light duty power strips, etc. you might as well get them from Ikea as that would ensure they would at least have the rated conductor cross-section. Fortunately I've got a large hoard of older, better quality cables I can draw from.

          2. Mr Humbug

            > A really big workstation machine or an A3 colour laser printer might exceed the 3A limit but that's rare

            We have discovered through experimentation that all of our laser printers draw more than 3A on start up. Also, the cleaners have established that vacuum cleaners draw more than 3A.

            Although it usually then takes several months for someone else to report their "laptop won't charge from any socket on that strip (that one on the end worked until last week, but now now none of them do)"

            1. Martin an gof Silver badge

              > A really big workstation machine or an A3 colour laser printer might exceed the 3A limit but that's rare

              We have discovered through experimentation that all of our laser printers draw more than 3A on start up. Also, the cleaners have established that vacuum cleaners draw more than 3A.

              I think a lot of comments are missing a vital bit of info - the country where the poster is based.

              Things are very different in the US, Europe and the UK. Taking the above, 3A in the US on a standard 110V outlet is somewhere around 330W, but on 230V in Europe (including the UK) it's more than double that, so the range of laser printers - or indeed vacuum cleaners - which will work without tripping 3A is somewhat different.

              Likewise in the US and in Europe it is possible - common even (I believe) - to have "power strips" which are unfused. They connect to wall outlets which are protected by the circuit fuse, which is rarely more than 16A. In the UK a wall outlet might be protected at 16A or 20A but in many small offices and certainly domestically it is just as likely to be a 32A fuse in the distribution board*, thus all plugs (and therefore all power strips) will have separate 1" fuses of no more than 13A. In fact a typical UK socket strip might have two fuses - one in the plug which connects to the wall outlet, and a second one in the body of the strip itself.

              M.

              *One standard sockets circuit configuration in the UK is the "ring final" where the supply cable leaves the distribution board, loops through all sockets and then returns to the board. Because each outlet effectively has two bits of cable supplying it you can fuse the circuit at (nearly) twice what a single length of the cable is able to handle. There are advantages and disadvantages to this, and it's worth noting that (as far as I'm aware) it's only the UK that uses rings in this way...

              1. big_D Silver badge

                In Germany it was certainly a culture shock to not have any plugs with fuses in them, after growing up in the UK.

          3. THMONSTER

            Re: Until...

            This reminds me of a monthly LAN party I used to attend in Leicester.

            Power was always interesting there with people just plugging into empty sockets on 4/6 gangs as they arrived. This often lead to the power going out mid-game to howls of anguish from the participants. There were worse incidents though such as the plug melting in the socket at the end of a long line of computers, the smell of melting plastic was our first indication that something was wrong.

            There were plenty of incidents of participants, drunkenly coming in from the pub at which it was hosted, tripping over the cables and again there were howls of anguish from all around the room. After one such incident, one off the guys who was on the row which went down looked more shocked than usual when this regular occurrence happened. It turned out that he thought to protect his cherished hardware with a little UPS for his PC so that he could gracefully shut down instead of the power just dying. What he did not realise is that as people arrived they just plugged into the nearest socket as usual and when the power went down, everyone on his row was relying on his UPS which lasted mere seconds, if that, before it crapped itself and also died.

            There were other incidents too such as guys running in after moving their precious 21" CRTs into the hall from their cars through a rainstorm and having them go bang as soon as they plugged them in due to water in the sockets. Most of these problems were not helped at all with the events being held in the back room of the pub in which we would quaff vast amounts of ale in before deciding it was time to actually set up the PCs in a very drunken state.

            As you can imagine there are lots of other stories of other participants woes, most of which you would have to know the people to see the real humour in the situation but in of themselves are still very amusing.

            I do so miss those types of LAN parties but we will probably never see the likes of that one again.

            1. heyrick Silver badge
              Happy

              Re: Until...

              "everyone on his row was relying on his UPS which lasted mere seconds, if that, before it crapped itself and also died."

              Brilliant. Upvote.

        2. veti Silver badge

          Re: Builders...

          What would be nice would be some kind of indicator, on every socket, of its rated load. Colour coded, maybe.

          Just musing.

          1. Martin an gof Silver badge

            Re: Builders...

            What would be nice would be some kind of indicator, on every socket, of its rated load. Colour coded, maybe.

            In most parts of the world you will get some kind of indication by the type and shape of the plug itself. As usual it seems the US is the most confusing, with half a dozen shapes of plugs available for use in the home, but in other parts of the world it's not so bad.

            The UK is possibly one of the simplest - domestically-speaking every socket is created more-or-less equal. The BS1362 & 3 system (sockets, plugs, 1" cartridge fuses) is designed to deliver up to 13A to a connected appliance. The main complication arises when many sockets are connected to the same breaker in the distribution panel but the system was designed with this in mind - a 16A radial circuit is only supposed to power sockets covering a floor area of less than 50m2, while a 32A ring could cover up to 100m2. The idea - back in the 1950s remember - was that this would be sufficient for people using electric heaters, but installers are required to make load & diversity calculations which may indicate more circuits are needed in a given floor space.

            The exceptions, domestically, are that the "old" system of round-pin plugs is still acceptable for some uses. The larger 15A plugs are confined to things like theatre lamps, but the smaller 5A and smaller-still 3A plugs are finding favour domestically with people who like to have plug-in table or standard lamps and control them with light switches; i.e. they will be connected to the lighting circuit, not the sockets circuit.

            M.

            1. doublelayer Silver badge

              Re: Builders...

              "the US is the most confusing, with half a dozen shapes of plugs available for use in the home"

              Sorry? The U.S. has the one type of socket, with two parallel slots and a lower round earth slot. In very old installations, you might find the old type of socket, which is the same but without the earth slot. I believe those aren't allowed anymore. There may be other standards, but I don't think you find them in American homes. That's the only style of plug I've seen for that region, with the only variable being whether the device to plug in has an earth pin or opted not to include one.

              1. Martin an gof Silver badge

                Re: Builders...

                The U.S. has the one type of socket

                According to Wikipedia while the NEMA 5-15 plug and socket is the most common in the US (15A, grounded, polarised socket), the 1-15 variant (without ground) is still common, though not allowed in new installations, the 5-20 variant (20A) is common for higher current appliances and there are also 30A and 50A variants (see this diagram) which are commonly used for connecting clothes dryers and ovens at 120V or 240V.

                As I said, half a dozen different types used in the home - let alone elsewhere.

                In the UK, almost exclusively one (the BS1362) which is capable of delivering up to 3.3kW(ish). Higher current devices are usually hard-wired.

                M.

    2. Christoph Silver badge

      Re: Builders...

      I managed to avoid a problem with builders. The building right next door to my ground floor computer room was being demolished and redeveloped. The computer room had a raised floor with huge amounts of cabling underneath. I made sure that the bloke from Rentokil did a very thorough job on that underfloor space!

  5. Fabrizio
    Devil

    Toxic waste - Do not enter without protective gear

    I remember an IT Manager who lost the keys to his server room, had the lock drilled out by one of the on-site technicians, went down to the chemistry labs and asked for the largest "Toxic waste" sticker they had, stuck it to the door and never had any problems with anyone trying to enter the room until they moved to new premises 10 years later.

    Except for one audit report that mentioned it totally irresponsible to have the plant's toxic waste stored in an office environment, no one ever thought anything of it. The report didn't mention Novell NetWare being the only toxic waste in there, nor the lock being non-functional...

    1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: Toxic waste - Do not enter without protective gear

      I guess toxic waste stickers and signs are easier to get hold of these days than "Beware of the Leopard" ones?

      1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
        Pirate

        Re: Toxic waste - Do not enter without protective gear

        I recall one of techs stuck a radioactive hazard sticker on one of our unattended inshore microwave positioning beacons (Which caused a bit of a flap when someone reported it to the local council), in response to somebody deciding to unscrew & remove the antenna\microwave guide (Presumably to use as a mooring point on their boat).

        Icon - As it was in Penzance.

  6. big_D Silver badge

    Cleaners...

    I was working on some documentation, around 250 pages, with images, written in Word 4.0 on a Mac Plus. I had finished the document and was going through putting in all the index markers. I was saving every 30 minutes or so, because it took the Mac an age to save such a large document. All was going fine, when the screen suddenly went dark.

    The cleaner had come in behind me and just unplugged the nearest socket, the one with my Mac plugged into it. AAARRGGHH!!

    1. GrumpenKraut Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Cleaners...

      Almost beats the cleaner who unplugged the coax cables to "clean around the computers". Then re-attached them without turning the bajonet close, so it looked connected but wasn't. Cue me crawling around and properly re-attaching every single one... after about an hour of wondering what caused those random network failures.

      Only after that (wasn't the first cleaner induced glitch) there was the order to stay away from all things computer-y.

      In another company the cleaners wet-mopped everything and as last step the computer screens. Screens looked like someone had a spray-poop on them. We had to EXPLAIN that this is not a good thing to do.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Cleaners...

        "In another company the cleaners wet-mopped everything and as last step the computer screens."

        We had a cleaner wipe the projection screen in the training/meeting room. Nobody ever managed to remove the mark.

        Cleaning is just a word for "moving the dirt around".

        1. GrumpenKraut Silver badge
          Coffee/keyboard

          Re: Cleaners...

          > ... "moving the dirt around".

          and breaking shit in the process.

          We had a sort of "complaint book" for the cleaners, it was full of "Avoid putting water into my keyboard", "The ball from my mouse is missing", "Do not unplug the building server", "Don't throw stuff on my desk into the garbage" and similar things.

          In the end it was agreed that nothing shall be moved around on the desks and only free surfaces had to be cleaned. From then on everybody covered the last square centimeter on their desks with paper from then on. We did put weights on the paper so it didn't get accidentally be blown off.

          Did I mention cheapest bidder?

          1. CountCadaver

            Re: Cleaners...

            Sounds like my primary school in the late 80s early 90s where the head had the "genius" idea to carpet the classrooms to "cut down on noise", cue muddy carpets, what were us kids told? "the cleaners aren't here to clean up mud" well what the bloody fuck are they there for then?

            Then again he suddenly "left" and I'm told that the next 4 years of kids were given sheets of paper to write on instead of exercise books as the new guy went for a walk around and discovered cupboards chock full of paper floor to ceiling and something about the school account figures not tallying up......

      2. SImon Hobson Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: Cleaners...

        In another company the cleaners wet-mopped everything and as last step the computer screens.

        Oh yes, I remember back in the 80s we had just got some (Apollo Domain) workstations in - for the day, powerful 68020 systems ! With what was, for the day, huge 19" colour screens. Sure enough, one morning we came in to find a dried on layer of wiped on "mud". By the time the cleaners had gone over a football pitch sized office, the water they had in the bucket was "a bit brown". Yes, we had words with the cleaners and they didn't do it again.

      3. Justin S.

        Re: spray-poop

        That might be more true than you realized.

        We discovered that our cleaners mop the restroom floors first, *then* use the same mop and rinse bucket to mop the lobby and other hard floors.

        1. CountCadaver

          Re: spray-poop

          Most food places use colour coding for cloths / mops - red for toilet areas and other colours for dishes, food prep areas etc

          Idea being catch someone with a red cloth in the kitchens - instant sack, ditto for sny other colour in a toilet.

        2. Terry 6 Silver badge

          Re: spray-poop

          There was the time I visited one of my schools to find that the end of the school by the boys' toilets stunk. Because the cleaner had started that section by mopping the floor and urinals and then moved on to the classrooms.

    2. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge
      Flame

      Re: Cleaners...

      its really hard to belive that "cleaners" can be that stupid , but , given a large enough sample set i guess these things will happen from time to time...

      This problem must be as old as time though , or at least as old as the vacuum cleaner.

      Surely facilities managers , and , hire-a-cleaner firms *must* have that in the training , ideally at the top!

      Here's your mop

      here's your vacuum,

      DONT UNPLUG SHIT!

      1. A.P. Veening

        Re: Cleaners...

        DONT UNPLUG SHIT!

        That requires common sense, something which isn't that common, unfortunately.

        1. DougS Silver badge

          Probably nothing was unplugged

          If you have a small UPS like you'd have with only a couple servers like these guys had, the motor start on a vacuum would overdraw the UPS and cause it to trip. I assume that's what happened.

          If it wasn't a code violation it almost wouldn't be a terrible idea to use non-local plugs for servers, i.e. use PDUs made for the UK in the US and vice versa, and order your servers configured that way. Then no one can plug anything (not just vacuums, but other crap that doesn't belong like unauthorized devices, phone chargers etc.) into the PDUs.

          Yes, I've seen crap like that - I recall once seeing a consumer wireless router plugged into a rack with Sun gear, with an ethernet cable running from it to the management port on one of the servers. Since I was a consultant there I didn't touch anything, I just asked the facilities manager "why" and apparently it caused quite a scene that resulted in an Oracle DBA consultant being dismissed from the project. The story I heard was that the server was crashing and he needed a way to access the management port to get crash info to determine what tweaks were necessary to prevent that. Why he thought plugging a Linksys into the management port was the best way to achieve that I have no idea.

          1. Trygve Henriksen

            Re: Probably nothing was unplugged

            No, just use PDUs with IEC 60320 C13/14 or C15/C16 connectors.

            1. Montreal Sean

              Re: Probably nothing was unplugged

              Or use twist lock plugs in your server/comms room.

          2. J.G.Harston Silver badge

            Re: Probably nothing was unplugged

            You can get BS-compliant plugs and sockets that don't plug into standard BS1363 sockets, they have the pins rotated 90 degrees, often used in medical environments:

            https://www.flameport.com/electric_museum/plugs_13A_non_standard/walsall_gauge_socket_plug_13A.cs4

            Or you can just use fused BS546 plugs and sockets:

            https://www.plugsocketmuseum.nl/OldBritish1.html

        2. Thrudd the Barbarian

          Re: Cleaners...

          Common sense is, well, common.

          Now actual good sense is a rare thing indeed.

          Explains the Darwin Awards always having to raise the bar.

      2. imanidiot Silver badge

        Re: Cleaners...

        The thing is that nobody who's capable of doing any other job stays around doing cleaning work just for the fun of it. That leaves only the people who can't get a "better" job doing it. And those are often not the people generally associated with high intelligence (no offence intended to cleaners, they do an important and sometimes literally shit job). This is compounded by pretty much every company nowadays nickel-and-dime the job by outsourcing to the lowest bidder contractor. That means these people get literally 10 seconds per desk and one minute to vacuum an entire office. I'll leave it to the reader to decide how effective a job a cleaner can do in that time. On top of that because it is outsourced work often done outside work hours there is little to no oversight or management involved in their performance other than the amount of complaints coming in to the contractor and the amount of time they bill.

        1. GrumpenKraut Silver badge

          Re: Cleaners...

          Everything you said. Plus sub-sub-sub contractor trickery making sure that below minimum wage is paid.

          Cleaners know that they should not use already pitch black water to clean a computer screen, they just have no time to change it!

          ...minus very few who actively do damage (and steal stuff).

          1. imanidiot Silver badge

            Re: Cleaners...

            The subgroup that nicks stuff is part of any occupation. Sooner or later anything that isn't actively guarded gets nicked. If it's bolted down it'll just last a little longer.

            1. GrumpenKraut Silver badge
              Pint

              Re: Cleaners...

              > If it's bolted down it'll just last a little longer.

              Ah, THAT is why some cleaners bring angle grinders and jackhammers! Sneaky bastards!

              Beer o'clock here, cheers.

              1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
                Trollface

                Re: Cleaners...

                Or in some cases, just results in stolen items and stolen bolts...

            2. Mark 85 Silver badge

              Re: Cleaners...

              Sooner or later anything that isn't actively guarded gets nicked. If it's bolted down it'll just last a little longer.

              Worked in a place where one of the engineers had CA'd two quarters (US) to his desk. There were there for years. He came in one morning and found them gone and the desk had lots of chisel marks around where the quarters used to be. The engineer and manglement (once they got wind of the damage) were not happy.

        2. gnasher729 Silver badge

          Re: Cleaners...

          There was a survey where they did IQ tests with random people... and found a cleaner with an IQ of 150.

          They interviewed her, and it turned out her dad had taken her out of school at 14 to make money, so she had no education whatsoever, and all her life she had the feeling that people around her couldn’t think properly.

          So thinking you are more clever than the cleaner can be quite wrong.

          1. 2+2=5 Silver badge

            Re: Cleaners...

            > So thinking you are more clever than the cleaner can be quite wrong.

            Obligatory Dilbert

      3. David Nash Silver badge

        Re: Cleaners...

        Yes I do wonder about such stories because builders and yes even cleaners should know that if they remove a plug, then something is going to be turned off, surely?

      4. heyrick Silver badge

        Re: Cleaners...

        "its really hard to belive that "cleaners" can be that stupid"

        My first job (instant start, weekly pay, do that while looking for a real job!) was doing cleaning in a comp in the afternoon. Yes, I can fully believe the horror stories. The people I worked with would have found it a struggle to smoke and walk at the same time.

        1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge

          Re: Cleaners...

          Although the converse is also true.

          During my post-grad days I knew a few professors who, whilst extremely gifted in their particular field, would make you wonder how they actually survived day to day, and if they could manage tasks like boiling water or tying shoe laces unaided.

          The trick of course with all people of whatever level or standing is not to prejudge, knowing that a moron will always prove themselves without any need for such prejudice, as will a guru. You just have to let them do so.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Cleaners...

      I worked in a VAX s/w shop. The VAXen were kept in a properly designed locked room with a pin-pad door lock. No problems for years until the cleaning contract went out to another firm. The next day, I came in to work to find all the terminals blank and no one typing. It seems that the cleaners thought it would help cut power costs by turning off the boxes (although the fireworks from the first disc drive must have convinced someone otherwise). A lot of DEC FEs came in during the next few days and the door pin was no longer given to the cleaners. (Another cleaning firm tried to break into our vault another time. We were renting old bank facilities with a large walk-in vault, where we stored s/w tapes. They never got in -- someone caught them in the act and they bolted -- but they would have been sorely chuffed not to find cash.)

  7. Ben1892

    To keep people out, use a sign that says "Gym" (see latest BOFH for details)

    1. Nick Kew Silver badge

      The BOFH hadn't thought that one through. Gyms are useful resources for all kind of things that want an open space. Such as an impromptu rehearsal of any musical or thespian event, or just overspill from somewhere that got double-booked.

      (Um, just for the record, I'm not your downvote. I can take issue with what you say without wanting to condemn you for saying it!)

  8. Locky Silver badge
    Childcatcher

    AS400's

    And no UPS? Either the SysOpr liked Russian Roulette or there's a little poetic licence in this tale

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Re: AS400's

      It depends, I've worked at sites that had a central UPS/generator setup that powered specific sockets for IT equipment throughout the building. But they were still individually fused, so a single socket could still "blow".

      Once, I worked on a site that had a central UPS that allowed all IT equipment to run for up to 15 minutes without power, allowing them to be safely powered down... We were working hard, but we didn't have any lamps or lights on in our office, suddenly all the PCs in the office went out! It turns out that the power went out 20 minutes earlier and everybody in offices where they had lights, lamps, radios or anything non-IT running had noticed that the power had gone and had powered down.

      Nobody had bothered to inform us.

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: AS400's

        At one point, I had a problem like this, where I had the capability to provide UPS power to some equipment* but no way to determine if it went down from the setup. My method was to add a small network device to the mains but not UPS supply, which would be contacted by a sentinel program running on one of the protected machines. If that device went down, the machines would sync to the disks, I'd get a warning, and some more important machines would run automatic shutdowns. If there are people there, I suggest a power fail buzzer with a similar setup.

        *Not much equipment and a small environment. There was no room and no budget for a proper UPS solution that can be monitored by the equipment; everything had to be built out of things found in the closet.

  9. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

    This is why...

    You have sockets on the floor. Leave them empty and make sure the cleaner knows to only touch that one type of floor socket. Saves on so much hassle.

    1. Tom 38 Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: This is why...

      In our office refurb, we added some handy accessible outlets on the desks, with low amp fuses in them, for people to power simple things like phone chargers etc. The cleaners were under specific instructions to continue using the floor sockets, which were on a different circuit and could handle a much higher draw.

      Guess which sockets they use. Guess how many "desk outlet not working" tickets we had to deal with.

      1. CountCadaver

        Re: This is why...

        Hence why some places don't use BS1363 plugs (aka standard UK 3 pin) for cleaners equipment, to stop them using other sockets, though that wouldn't stop some enterprising cleaner carding in their "pal who knows about that electric stuff "to stick a "proper plug on it"

      2. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

        Re: This is why...

        "we added some handy accessible outlets on the desks, with low amp fuses in them"

        you did what now?

        there is a reason they are called 13 amp plug sockets.

        cant blame the cleaners.

        barely 1% of the population know what an amp is!

  10. lsces

    Do not unplug!

    In the early days of computers in the office serving several processes ... before there was even a thought of a 'server room' in a small office ... the technique was to use red plugs and signs for the power socket saying do not unplug! It was also a time where we were still working out just how things like Windows did work, but one site we were having problems with loosing data. The daily reports were printed after close of play, but by the morning all the data was missing, without any obvious explanation. After a few weeks of this problem we decided to visit the office and monitor the system over night. Around 7PM a hand appeared around the corner, unplugged the red plug and plugged the vacuum in - all without even looking. Mystery Solved? Plugged back in the computer fires up and returns to running state ready for the next morning, but all the days data is missing! Turns out that the 'speed up' to only write data to the disk when the application closed does not work very well when the power is pulled :) One needs to ensure that 'forced write' is enabled even if it does have an impact on performance ... and these boxes also sprouted a newfangled device called a UPS ...

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Do not unplug!

      "a hand appeared around the corner, unplugged the red plug"

      The BOFH solution would include drawing pins epoxyed to the plug.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Do not unplug!

        I would use a little bag with some superglue. Touch the plug, get glued to it.

        Combines making it easier to identify the culprit with a lesson of not touching plugs you have no business touching while someone grinds down the now firmly attached plug back to skin level.

        I'm a pragmatist - no lessons are learned when people can just walk away from it, and I don't mind getting a reputation for being evil because that would (a) be true and (b) ensures that people stay out of my way so I can get some work done.

        1. ROC
          Big Brother

          Re: Do not unplug!

          Well, there are more humane ways to handle these issues such as using surveillance cameras (although the snooping kids on the dark net might post the results to Twitter before you review the footage...)

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Do not unplug!

            Well, there are more humane ways to handle these issues

            That omits the entertainment factor, though.

      2. Simon Harris Silver badge

        Re: Do not unplug!

        The true BOFH solution would have a connection between those drawing pins and the live wire inside the plug.

        1. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

          Re: Do not unplug!

          From a pragmatic perspective it strikes me as a bad idea to zap exactly those people you'd need to clean up the mess afterwards :).

          1. A.P. Veening

            Re: Do not unplug!

            Just get a cleaner who uses rubber gloves ;)

            1. 's water music Silver badge

              Re: Do not unplug!

              The type of cleaner you want will have plenty of plastic sheeting

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Do not unplug!

            Carpet and quicklime. You never outsource disposition of the body unless you're framing the person doing the disposal (otherwise you open yourself up to blackmail).

          3. imanidiot Silver badge

            Re: Do not unplug!

            From a BOFH perspective any janitor that cannot be bothered to appease the powers that be is a problem to be removed. Then you use this as education for the ones that follow.

    2. DJV Silver badge

      "we were still working out just how things like Windows did work"

      Microsoft are still trying to figure that one out...

      1. ROC
        Devil

        Re: "we were still working out just how things like Windows did work"

        Starting from ground zero with each new major update...

  11. ColinPa

    We had the opposite - no one could get in!

    I was a consultant visiting a site to do an installation. They were putting up new partitions, glass walls, doors etc around the machine area. We came in 0700 on Monday to find they had finished - and no one knew the combination of the door. Under the floor was a rats nest of power cables, which looked a bit risky, so we decided to send the smallest person over the wall, through the ceiling void and down the other side. Problem solved.

    Health and safety was not a problem. The guys building the partition blocked open the fire door with a block of wood at head height. Bash the door - bar falls on head. We soon learned not to bash the door.

    1. Baldrickk Silver badge

      Re: We had the opposite - no one could get in!

      That really secure, combination access only machine area?

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Cleaner Clean everything

    ICL produced a range of low level mainframes which were meant to be used in an office environment, they were desk height rather than normal cabinet height with a beautiful bevelled edge which just had to be stroked with a cleaning cloth. Older readers may remember the S39 L30 or the DM1 (Dumb1)

    Within days of the first installations wee started getting automatic errors raised because the machines were swapping disk drive routes several times in a few seconds. Being young and naive we dived down into the error logs looking for O/S errors or microcode errors in the disk controllers. At this stage few of us had seen the physical machine (we were working in a remote diagnostic centre). |going into the main machine hall and actually looking at a machine the issue became immediately apparent. poking out through the beautiful bevel were some gorgeously sculpted aluminium poles, these were the switched for the disk controller route. Each swipe of a cleaners cloth caused a route switch with the associate failed disk read or writes. The very expensive fix was a perspex cover for the whole of the bevelled edge. These were rumoured to cost almost £2000 per cabinet in 1983

    1. Daedalus Silver badge

      Re: Cleaner Clean everything

      Ee mah Dad were a dab hand with Perspex. He coulda made a fortune!

  13. sandman

    Fan Heaters

    Back in the day I worked in an old office with another 5 people. The electrical system was almost as venerable. We started out with just two computers, one running the database and my CAD setup. Then desktops became cheap and the other three got one each. When winter came, the old steam heating couldn't provide enough output to keep us warm, so fan heaters were turned on. One heater was fine, two heaters OK, but a third was just too much and there would be screams of frustration as everything went dark and cold. Being a poor charity, it took a couple of years before we could afford to replace the wiring for the whole building. It looked like a scene from a Dickens' novel as we huddled over the keyboards in winter coats, woolly hats and fingerless gloves.

  14. DJV Silver badge

    Why is it...

    ...that the comments for a "Who me" are always better than the original article?

    1. Killfalcon Silver badge

      Re: Why is it...

      I think it's because we keep putting the best stories in the comments instead of sending them to El Reg!

    2. Nick Kew Silver badge

      Re: Why is it...

      Surely it goes in cycles? We have a period of thin stories, prompting someone to get an arse into gear and contribute a real corker? There were some great stories when Rebecca first took over the column!

    3. imanidiot Silver badge

      Re: Why is it...

      Because the comments are the main attraction. The article is just a thinly veiled prompt to bring us commentards together to swap stories.

      1. Montreal Sean
        Black Helicopters

        Re: Why is it...

        @imanidiot

        It may go further than that...

        I think Rebecca posts weaker "Who me?" articles if the comment board has been too quiet.

        What better way to bring out all the commentards?

  15. tiggity Silver badge

    Colour Coded Sockets

    Isn't it fairly standard practice to have the separate circuit(s) for use by cleaners clearly marked? - typically using sockets of a particular colour to make it obvious (and often something like blue to avoid issues with red green colourblindness) and cleaners know to only use that colour socket.

    .. And corollary fr other staff is that nothing important should be plugged into a cleaner colour coded socket as you cannot guarantee it won't be unpliugged!

    1. Walter Bishop Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: Colour Coded Sockets

      > Isn't it fairly standard practice to have the separate circuit(s) for use by cleaners clearly marked?

      Not useful if the cleaner can't speak or read the Queens English.

      1. A.P. Veening

        Re: Colour Coded Sockets

        Not useful if the cleaner can't speak or read the Queens English.

        Why would you expect the cleaner to speak or read any form whatsoever of English when higher staff including manglement doesn't either?

      2. DJV Silver badge

        Not useful if the cleaner can't speak or read the Queens English.

        Or is colour (or plug) blind!

    2. Peter2 Silver badge

      Re: Colour Coded Sockets

      Mark the sockets? Bah. If your going to that sort of effort go the whole hog and buy a different type of socket entirely.

      This is a list of what's available:-

      https://www.worldstandards.eu/electricity/plugs-and-sockets/

      Pick something rated for your use and stick new sockets around the place spaced appropriately for the cleaners and stick a new plug on the vacuum cleaner.

      It kills two problems stone dead. Nobody can plug anything into the cleaners sockets, so the cleaners never have a problem with that again. The cleaners also know that they can't just unplug something to plug their cleaner into, so won't try.

      1. Marcelo Rodrigues

        Re: Colour Coded Sockets

        "Mark the sockets? Bah. If your going to that sort of effort go the whole hog and buy a different type of socket entirely."

        Say again?

        https://www.turismoindependente.com.br/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/06-gambiarra-tomadas.jpeg

        https://www.purebreak.com.br/midia/-solucao-para-o-novo-padrao-de-33749.html

      2. Mark 85 Silver badge

        Re: Colour Coded Sockets

        Mark the sockets? Bah. If your going to that sort of effort go the whole hog and buy a different type of socket entirely.

        While sensible enough, try getting that through management since "cost" = "less profit" and "less bonuses".

        1. Killfalcon Silver badge

          Re: Colour Coded Sockets

          Definitely one to raise at a refurb, when you can say "we've had X failures that cost Y to have facilities come out and fix. This means we get projected savings post-refurb of Z over 5 years".

          If you're feeling really professional, you can even find out those numbers and not just make them up!

      3. Montreal Sean

        Re: Colour Coded Sockets

        @Peter2

        You have overlooked the probability that the cleaners will unplug whatever is closest to their work zone and try to plug their equipment in, on the chance that the plug is compatible.

        Nothing is foolproof, better fools are made all the time. :)

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Colour Coded Sockets

        Leave the cleaner's gear as it is - change your own sockets and make sure they have a different colour. After a few unpluggings (yes, expect that initial pain) they'll get the point.

        We do this with all critical gear: if it has a red plug, it wants a red socket because that's a UPS fed item. It also prevents idiots jacking in something that they brought from home or shop that draws a lot of current like a kettle. As we control the supply of those plugs (not easily bought anywhere) we also control which gear gets them, and we have jump leads from standard to red for emergencies - the reverse shall never be created.

        An outfit we know simply fitted Swiss plugs for critical gear - that still allows a thin Europlug to be jacked in (read: low current draw), but not the fat earthed Schucko plugs, and that was just what they wanted.

  16. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    red plug with shave earth at 90deg, blue plug with shaved earth at offset 45deg...

    BAH

    just push out the earth pin, rotate it so the shaved offset part will align, then use a blue plug on a red socket, or a red plug on a blue socket...

    1. jfm

      Or skilful application of an angle-grinder to the earth pin of a white plug (allegedly).

  17. goodjudge

    Important: do not unplug the UPS

    Nigh-on 20 years ago I worked for a small hosting company. Our servers were hosted abroad and one day we lost contact and immediately started getting customer calls. For some unfathomable reason a new member of staff in the data centre had unplugged the uninterruptable power supply. We never did find out what happened to him...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Important: do not unplug the UPS

      If he was new, as you say I hope what happened to him was training

  18. Alien8n Silver badge

    Not cleaner, but definitely a squeaky bum moment

    When engineering the QA manager had a tale from when he worked at a previous wafer fab.

    All doors leading outside were alarmed and never to be opened. Sensible precaution given these are cleanroom environments, but for safety reasons you still have to be able to exit through them. Cue one day when the burglar alarm went off as someone exited through one of the doors. About 20 seconds later this was replaced by the gas alarm warning everyone why the door had suddenly been opened in a hurry, rather than exiting through the usual airlock system. Moral of the story is, when working with Boron you don't wait for the alarm, you just run for the nearest exit.

    1. whitepines Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: Not cleaner, but definitely a squeaky bum moment

      Moral of the story is, when working with Boron you don't wait for the alarm, you just run for the nearest exit.

      Boron is mostly harmless to primates, even boron compounds. Surely you meant some of the other, quite nasty, dopants one finds in a typical foundry? Arsenic compounds for starters?

      Yes, I've some semiconductor manufacturing experience...thankfully never had to run for the exits though!

      1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
        Headmaster

        Re: Not cleaner, but definitely a squeaky bum moment

        Arsenic more normally, although always fun when one of the gang supporting them has been out for a decent Italian the night before and the odour of garlic is strong (for those who don't know, Arsine gas smells like garlic).

        One we had in the past was when someone forgot to close off one of the valves on the air supply for the respirator systems used. There was a rather loud popping "BANG" from within the little walled-off compound that contained all of the Arsenic tools.

        Of course no gas alarm as it was just compressed air, but the look of confused panic in the area of the cleanroom nearby was rather memorable as people briefly wondered what had happened and whether they should leg it given what they heard but without any alarms (before sense prevaled and they did so).

        Around those tools (which I have been for over 2 decades) you learn that smells like garlic (Arsine) or rotten fish (Phosphine) should always be respected regardless of alarms. Of course the fact that if you can smell Arsine it's at a strong enough concentration to be a fatal dose anyway, but you try not to think about that.

        1. imanidiot Silver badge

          Re: Not cleaner, but definitely a squeaky bum moment

          I thought arsenic compounds smelled like almonds?

          Edit: confused it with cyanide. Arsine does indeed create a garlic or fishy smell through reacting with stuff in the according to the info I could just find. The gas itself is supposedly odourless (I pitty the guy that found that out).

      2. Baldrickk Silver badge

        Re: Not cleaner, but definitely a squeaky bum moment

        Considering it's a semiconductor fab, I think he might have been talking about Boron trifluoride.

        Seeing "trifloride" in any chemical name is enough to make me hesitate...

        "Boron trichloride gas is also an important chemical in semiconductor industry, however not for doping but rather for plasma etching of metals and their oxides"

        Apparently it is toxic and "undergo[es] rapid halide exchange reactions"

        1. Bent Metal

          Re: Not cleaner, but definitely a squeaky bum moment

          Ahh, "triflouride". The following link describes it more than enough for me, and also has that quote from John Clark on chlorine trifluoride...

          https://blogs.sciencemag.org/pipeline/archives/2008/02/26/sand_wont_save_you_this_time

          Disclosure: I am not a chemist (though I know a few) and I've never, ever messed with this stuff - but I found it an interesting read.

          1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
            Headmaster

            Re: Not cleaner, but definitely a squeaky bum moment

            I work with both BCl3 (where we do use it for doping poly and amorphous silicon layers) and ClF3 - and both are indeed "interesting" compounds (in the ancient Chinese sense).

            The trick is to make sure ClF3 stays gaseous in the supply pipework. If it liquifies, then it's extremely corrosive, and has been known when encountering bends in the pipe to merrily continue straight onward through the wall of the pipework.

            An interesting side-note - due to its behaviour in relation to pressure, one of ClF3's earlier usage cases was in WW2 depth charges...

      3. imanidiot Silver badge

        Re: Not cleaner, but definitely a squeaky bum moment

        Yeah, plenty of compounds that will make you shudder and back away in a hurry, but Boron isn't the main one. Hydrogen Fluoride is one of those big time "Nope" for me in particular. Concentrated HF loves to set fire to things not normally considered flammable. Things like sand, concrete and, in the words of John D. Clark, rocket propellant researchers. For me though especially the health effects of exposure to the dilute stuff makes me nope out. You'd better hope the hospital has plenty of calcium gluconate on standby if you ever get exposed, because HF pulls the calcium from the blood to the point of the muscles like the heart or for breathing stop working. Definitely a shit way to go.

        1. imanidiot Silver badge

          Re: Not cleaner, but definitely a squeaky bum moment

          I should not post late... HF isn't the flammable burn anything stuff, I'm confusing it with a tri-Fluoride compound. It's the "exposure to the dilute acid can poison you from the inside without you even realizing you were exposed" stuff. Alternatively the "Will straight up dissolve glass" stuff. As a gas it's even worse than as the acid.

          Interesting/entertaining read on HF: "Things I won't touch"

          And on the Chlorine Trifluoride I mentioned (also used in semicon fabs) "Sand won't save you this time"

          1. Alien8n Silver badge

            Re: Not cleaner, but definitely a squeaky bum moment

            Not sure, but very possibly the Boron tri-Fluoride. Other fun times in semiconductor history:

            A factory that stored hydrogen in a tank under the factory. Still not sure why they had that, the factory in question received silicon wafers and converted them to finished encapsulated mosfets.

            Same factory was the one where the factory manager was given the task of choosing a green anti-static bag for engineering works. 2 hours later he points out that he's colour blind.

            Moving onto the next job and an optical semiconductor factory. They used a cyanide product but I don't recall any incidents with it (this was where the QA manager told me the story about the burglar alarm). They burned an absolutely ridiculous amount of money "we need a laser tester" "how much? "£750k" "buy 2 of them just in case". From memory they both remained in the lobby unused.

            Same place was where they managed to hire a "Hugh Janus" for the R&D department. And also had the large testing rig with the "do not cross this line if fitted with a pacemaker"

            While I remember, they also had the senior manager who came in just after redundancies were announced complaining about how slow Outlook was. We suspected cat videos that had been sent to him. We were almost right, but it was the feline kind of pussy clogging his inbox. On the grounds that he was gone in 2 months anyway we deleted all his emails and told him to tell the sender (another person who was being laid off) that if they did it again it would be reported to HR. We then took a vow of silence and didn't inform anyone else outside of the office at the time. If the IT manager had known it's a safe bet that they would have been fired on the spot but we weren't going to cost them the tens of thousands of pounds in redundancy they would have lost.

  19. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

    mystery solved?

    no, there is no mystery , if somthing unscheduled reboots once per day ...

    Its the cleaner , no doubt about it , first port of call , guaranteed.

    .apparently.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Could be worse...

    We had our server room chopped over to a nice big room UPS recently; budgeted to provide support for all the systems and ancillary equipment (aircon and so forth). HOWEVER...the guys doing the wiring left the office kitchen on the same distribution board (not feeling this was worth mentioning). Cue 10:30 the next morning when the cleaner put the first load through the dishwasher... *SCREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE* went the UPS; needless to say this *ahem* oversight was rapidly addressed....

    Posting anon for obvious reasons

  21. Andytug

    Those 3A desk sockets are a nightmare

    1000 seat office, 3x sockets in each desk (on a daisy chain), 3A/3A/5A. Staff will insist on plugging heaters into them. Recently an audit found over 20% of them were blown!

  22. Lee D Silver badge

    If you can *blow* a electrical circuit just by plugging a hoover in, it's far, far, far too close to the wire for a server to run on.

    If she'd *unplugged* something, yes, sure, but... again... if you need people not to unplug stuff, lock the plugs away inside a cabinet and/or put a great big sign on them.

    We might all validly blame the cleaners etc. at one point but I can't expect a (probably) minimum wage employee who gets into trouble if things are dusty for not plugging into a perfectly valid outlet that doesn't have any warnings on it (even "NOT EVEN CURRENT TO RUN A HOOVER!") and trying to do her job.

    This is as much on IT as it is on the people responsible for physical access, and the cleaner is pretty blameless. They took reasonable steps to do their job and weren't ignoring any signs, warnings, etc. presumably.

    Honestly - you've got a big-arse server and you let people have open access to plug sockets (e.g. if you had a UPS you would *NOT* expose the UPS-backed plugs!), and those plugs aren't capable of running... what? Another 1600W? What the hell kind of electrical wiring do you have.

    I'd also like to point out that in the last four years I have complained and got a direct feed to IT for exactly such issues... except we weren't within 1600W of killing the circuit, but within 10KW of killing the site (forcing us to upgrade the main transformers out in the road, not just the internals). But I had phase-crossing devices (shouldn't even be possible!), people flipping circuits further up the chain, people kicking out cables under their desks, etc.

    If that thing is important enough that you have to lock the door, it's important enough that you have to stop every Tom, Dick and Harry who does get access (fire alarm engineers, access control engineers, etc.) from plugging their test equipment in. Which means big-ass signs, covering sockets, or simply not having them were people can get in.

    Literally, guys... a pack of baby-proof plug protectors and a label printer... how hard is that? You can even get covers for rocker switches to stop you turning them off. Not to mention, anything of value should be on a UPS, which means that it goes bananas when you turn its feed off, but gives you time to turn it back on, and the UPS-protected sockets should be in a big-ass locked rack away from cleaners and casual "I'll just plug my 220V->110V convertor for the drill in here" workmen.

    1. CountCadaver

      "baby proof socket protectors"

      Virtually all kids can remove them

      See also the fatally flawed campaign for more on why they should be outlawed already (in a nutshell they take our VERY safe sockets and make them unsafe)

      1. ibmalone Silver badge

        For the benefit of other readers... that's "FatallyFlawed" campaign, not a campaign that is fatally flawed.

        And yes, ironically, the kids removing them would be improving safety.

      2. Martin an gof Silver badge

        See also the fatally flawed campaign

        Adding link because I think socket covers are worse than useless, but find it difficult - even having pointed people at information such as that at the link - to convince anyone otherwise. I had my first memorable discussion about this with the Health Visitor who came to check on us after the birth of our first child.

        There is a related problem regarding socket strips. A very large number of them do not meet the specification for sockets, which states that it should be impossible to insert a plug upside-down - this is one of the problems with socket covers, but for a different reason (flexibility, dimensions). Doing so, of course, defeats the shutter mechanism, yet strips often do not have enough "space" above the earth connection to foul the line pins.

        M.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: socket covers are worse than useless

          Having read the website, I can see how that is the case in the UK. I'm in the US, and our outlets typically don't have shutters. The ones that do aren't opened by the ground pin, as we use some plugs that don't HAVE a ground pin. (Perfectly safe - look up "double insulated".) As a result, socket covers are a necessity here.

          1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

            Re: socket covers are worse than useless

            I believe shutter-equipped receptacles are now required in new residential applications in the US. Code calls these "tamper resistant" receptacles, and as AC says, the shutters are opened by the hot and neutral blades being inserted simultaneously (so someone can't stick something into just the hot side), rather than the ground.

            Of course, it will be a long time before all old receptacles are replaced. My main house (built in 1901) still has some Bakelite "Nurpolian" combination-duplex receptacles; those haven't been legal for new applications for over half a century.

    2. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Or just a bit of Duck tape. There are some really nice colours and patterns available..

      https://www.amazon.com/Multi-Colored-Duct-Tape-Variety/dp/B074CNL7WB

  23. Richard 111

    A scientific institute where I used to work had a number of Nuclear Magnetic Resonance or NMR instruments which are basically big magnets with liquid helium and nitrogen cooled core. In the 90’s this would probably have been 400 or 500 MHz instruments with a strength of ~9 or 11 Tesla. Needless to say you don’t want to enter the room with anything metal or anything sensitive to magnetic fields like bank cards. The instrument rooms were kept locked and there were signs on the door forbidding entry to all unauthorized persons. The rooms were never cleaned, and this seemed to distress some of the more dedicated cleaners. One night the door was left unlocked which proved to be too much of a temptation to a cleaner and they entered with a vacuum cleaner. I don’t know if they plugged it in or not, but the cleaner went too close to the magnet and the vacuum was caught in the field and stuck to the side of the instrument. It was stuck so well that it was still there in the morning and probably for some time afterwards. I don’t remember if they had to wait until the magnet was de-engergized before the vacuum cleaner was removed or if the staff were able to pry it away with brute strength. The poor cleaner was reported to have been distressed by the incident but otherwise unharmed. When working around strong magnets you generally don’t want to be between the magnet and the metal item as the metal items can move at high speed once airborne.

    1. Daedalus Silver badge

      Yes, I was at a talk describing one of the early hi-field superconducting NMR machines. The speaker remarked that a metal chair unwisely left in the same room launched itself towards the magnet, hitting it with a loud clang. He then drily noted "of course we lost the frequency lock".

      1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
        Headmaster

        One of the best demonstrations of such things (back at my old Alma Mata - Nottingham) was a metal tea tray and the 6T magnet at the NMR building. The thing was wound up to full strength and the tray carefully set up vertically at the mouth of the magnet (in the hole where they fed the patients in).

        The technician then proceeded to lean his full weight onto it, and it quite happily supported him, even when he leaned on it to an angle of ~45 degrees or so. Quite an impressive sight to see, given he wasn't the smallest of chaps eitjher (think ~6ft 4 and played for the uni rugby team).

    2. JohnFen Silver badge

      "The rooms were never cleaned, and this seemed to distress some of the more dedicated cleaners."

      Probably not. I was a janitor in my younger days, and my duties included a facility that had rooms that were off-limits to janitorial staff. It's hard for me to imagine any cleaner who would be distressed by that. They tend to be overworked as it is and aren't itching to get more.

      1. DougS Silver badge

        Yes but you were a janitor for a short time, and then (presumably) moved on to bigger and better things. The type of people who don't move on probably include some heavily OCD types for whom cleaning is sort of "enjoyable" or at least acts to de-trigger their symptoms (and as such they'd be very good at their job, so that's the type you'd want if you're hiring a janitor)

        Having a room that is never cleaned would probably bug the hell out of such a person, and if they got a crack at it might be unable to stop themselves even if they know they aren't supposed to clean it.

        1. Terry 6 Silver badge

          There are indeed people like that. When volunteer tasks are being divvied up in an organisation/charity there are sometimes volunteers that will opt to do the cleaning - sometimes when that wasn't even on the jobs list.

        2. JohnFen Silver badge

          "Yes but you were a janitor for a short time, and then (presumably) moved on to bigger and better things."

          Depends on how you define short. I worked as a janitor for ~5 years, then moved on to becoming a hotel room attendant for another three.

    3. ibmalone Silver badge

      Nothing to do with me, but a certain MR scanner in London, a few years ago, inhaled a vacuum cleaner rod down its bore. A "mere" 3T, but they are big and ramping it down and back up is slow and very expensive. Some consultation with the manufacturer was necessary, I think in the end it was decided it could be carefully (but forcefully) hauled out. The worry at that stage is that however much force you are putting on the object to get it out is also being exerted on the magnet coils and their supports, which you definitely do not want to damage in any way.

      Much earlier, and with a much more forgiving (and, I'll stress, non-clinical) magnet, I learned that modern copper coins are in fact steel. Just a gentle tug in the pocket (hang on, is it SFTWE already?), but after that I was much less blasé about what metals might or might not be magnetic, better to play it safe instead. (In my defence, we did have a couple of small magnets to test objects, it turns out 'copper' coins are only weakly ferromagnetic.)

    4. Stevie Silver badge

      Bah!

      The NMR spectrometer I worked on in '77 at the University of Climategate required the jamming of a stool in the nearby elevator doors to prevent the elevator moving during the 20 minutes or so it took for a scan and perturbing the magnetic field and ruining the Spectrum.

      Much of that time was used in the arcane Zarkoffian leaping from place to place in the room to tweak the phase or the gain or adjust the airflow of the little spinning wotsit, while the pen drilled a hole in the graph plotter paper. It was all very trying despite the total Frankensteinian Steampunkery of the affair.

      The lab technicians took great delight in waiting for Minute 18 to casually walk into the room and place a drawer full of retort stand clamps on the magnet.

      They didn't stick hard or do any of the stuff non-spectroscopists might imagine, but what they did to the almost-finished spectrum was a thing of whatever-the-opposite-of-beauty-is.

      And yes, one didn't wear one's Timex (or a belt) either on account of the metal causing disturbances in the (magnetic) force during the leaping-and-twiddling phase and buggering up the results.

      Interesting note: The machine I was working on was built the same year I was born, and was one of two. The other was a stain on the floor as the week before I got that lab, the sister machine was sent to the Science Museum as an exhibit.

      Interesting note 2: Someone turned off the magnet a few weeks after my "go", and it took two weeks for the magnetic field to settle down when it was switched on again. Hysteresis on steroids.

      1. Daedalus Silver badge

        Re: Bah!

        An early model indeed. The Varian A60 that I was allowed to use around the same time was quite robust, though I never got the black belt in field tuning that so many of my colleagues did. Of course they never let me near the brand new 100MHz JEOL FT-NMR machine...

        1. Stevie Silver badge

          Re: Bah!

          Yeah, only MSc students and above got to play with the clever spectrometers upstairs. Same deal with the Raman spectrometer, but that was because of the waiting list for the eye exam and laser safety training.

          I'm not saying this NMR spectrometer was old, but it had an orange oscilloscope tube for the spectrum preview.

          The reason the pen drilled holes in the paper was that it wasn't the original pen, was too heavy for the latch that was supposed to hold it off the paper while fiddling with knobs all over the room took place, and the background noise made the pen assembly (a Rotring-style pen if I remember correctly) chatter enough to drop nib to paper while one was busy adjusting the veeblefetzer over by the window or tweaking the deflector array using three different knobs simultaneously on the oscilloscope console, and by the time one had noticed the pen was at work again the damage was done.

          Once everything was reset the spectrum was begun and about halfway through the sample would stop spinning because the little turbine thingy (which resembled one of the keys for dismantling early versions of the Rotring-style pen nibs when they inevitably clogged) wasn't the right one for the glass sample tube* and so had five steady state "bands": Stopped, stopped, spinning at the right speed, spinning too fast and spinning too fast. Band three was very narrow with respect to the little tap on he air hose nozzle inside the magnet, and a slight glitch in the airflow would cause a drift into states four or two before one had noticed that too.

          As I say, it was all very trying. If science needs that much twiddling and fiddling it should go bang occasionally to alleviate the boredom.

          * I'm guessing that the original little turbine thingies suffered the same fate as the spare baddie supplied with the James Bond Aston Martin DB5 or the teenytiny rockets that came with the Batmobile. The Important Little Pieces Gnomes took them.

  24. JohnFen Silver badge

    Bad form

    Yelling at the janitorial staff instead of yelling at the people who made the multiple errors that led to this is supremely bad form.

  25. Nifty

    This puts me in mind of a Marvel comics story I read as a kid. Might have been based on a Ray Bradbury short Sci-Fi story.

    An AI computer takes over the world and it can read minds, sensing the intentions in advance of anyone trying to impede or disable it, so no one was able to turn it off, they'd be zapped just for thinking of the idea.

    Enter the cleaner who one day unplugged it just to plug the vacuum cleaner in, thus saving humanity...

  26. OffBeatMammal

    I spent some time working for a bank in a former part of the Eastern Block where you had to shut down all the computers at 4pm because that's when the cleaners arrived and because of the terrifying power distribution in the building (which also wasn't finished, there was a tarpaulin at the end of our corridor to stop us going into the (never completed) other half of the building) doing something silly like using a photocopier while they were hoovering was enough to trip the building. I asked why the cleaners didn't come in after business hours and was told I was insane, no-one wanted to tell these little old ladies to come later! I kinda miss that gig ;)

  27. Ribfeast

    Here's some fun and games with an MRI magnet, 2000 pounds of force exerted by a 3 Tesla MRI on an office chair!

    https://www.healthimaging.com/topics/practice-management/fun-and-games-and-safety-reminder-decommissioned-mri-magnet

    1. ibmalone Silver badge

      Excellent, had not seen that before!

      Might have to subtitle it with proper units of force though...

      1. Killfalcon Silver badge

        At current rates, 2000 pounds of force equates to about 2600 dollars of force.

  28. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    I once had a job where the 7am ferry got me to work at 8:05, leaving me standing for 55 minutes waiting for the boss to open up, or the 8am ferry got me to work at 9:05, resulting in the boss deciding for himself that I was a slacker who couldn't be bothered to get to work on time.

  29. martinusher Silver badge

    Its an old plot

    One of the earliest examples of a computer caper movie, "Hot Millions" (1968), has the cleaning lady bypassing the storage security of a computer....

  30. old_iron

    Process by the book

    FTSE100 co, DC site1 power fails, the ops team are on it, play book invoked....

    Gotta shut down those systems in an orderly fashion in the next 10mins or so and/or transfer the workloads to site2, as appropriate...

    All executed to perfection before the batteries are exhausted, just like we practised...

    Trouble was, that they shut down site2

  31. herman Silver badge

    Reminds me of the hospital cleaner who was polishing off the patients on respirators, when he plugged his machine in...

  32. itzman
    Unhappy

    I remember similar...

    The new cleaner was cleaning and dusting the console keyboard on the PDP-11 development computer... In the Room We Were Not Allowed In. (We developed code on PCs, uploaded it via serial terminals and compiled it on the PDP using the PCs as consoles).

    One morning, no PDP...when the sysadmin eventually came in and went to the console the cleaner had pressed some sort of break key that halted the enitire computer..

  33. FishCounter

    Outlets NOT For Computer Use

    Was working for the U.S. Coast Guard as a Sys Admin on a now closed facility near NYC; the building I operated from was a horse stable dating from the 1800s that had been converted to office space. We found out many of the outlets weren't wired correctly when a LCDR would move his office around, unplug his computer and plug it back in sending a power surge up the RS422 "daisy chain" to fry other computers.

    We had our electricians label any outlets that had no ground, reverse polarity, etc. as "Not for computer use" since they couldn't easily remedy these in a landmark building. Unfortunately, that didn't stop the LCDR from doing this at least twice more.

    1. Killfalcon Silver badge

      Re: Outlets NOT For Computer Use

      LCDR?

      1. FishCounter

        Re: Outlets NOT For Computer Use

        Lieutenant commander. Considered mid-rank officer and should know better...

        1. Daedalus Silver badge

          Re: Outlets NOT For Computer Use

          Equivalent to a Major in Army, Marines etc. Squadron Leader in RAF.

  34. Goobertee

    And then there are the Girls Scouts

    Some forty plus years ago, my daughter was a Girl Scout. (This is in the US of A.) A large mass of little girls was invited to the Science Center for an overnight "camping" experience. There were little girls in sleeping bags with their own little pillows everywhere. The ones not afraid of snakes (in cages) slept in the "nature" area. Others slept in the halls and various rooms of the building. One group slept in the "Technology" area, which included the data processing area, exposed so they could see it. Unfortunately, the fairly large minicomputer (this was 1979, give or take) had numerous flashing lights and fans, which disturbed some of the girls' sleep.

    So they unplugged it.

    1. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: And then there are the Girls Scouts

      Quite right too. Excellent use of initiative by the girls.

      Less so by the organisers.

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