* Posts by Shred

17 posts • joined 7 May 2014

Haunted disk-drive? This story will give you the chills...


Re: Put a heater in the safe then ?

Ah yes... Apple ][ 5 1/4in drives.

Woz had the genius idea of saving 5c on the cost of each drive by deleting the track zero sensor. To ensure that the heads were positioned at track 0 prior to boot up, the computer would smash the heads against the track 0 stop 39 times. That is the source of the awful “brraaaack!” sound characteristic of these drives at power on.

This feature / abuse provided Apple service centres with a regular income stream; customers had to present their drives to have radial alignments performed at regular intervals.

Oz retro computer collection in dire straits, bulldozers on horizon


There’s a video walk through of the collection over at the EEVBlog:


Boss helped sysadmin take down horrible client with swift kick to the nether regions


Have also caught a dodgy air conditioner mechanic trying to “fix” a problem by applying the placebo effect.

Our office was hot and stuffy all the time. Middle of Winter, -3deg outside - hot and stuffy. Hot Summer day - it’s hot and stuffy. Many complaints were made to the building management, multiple visits by air conditioner mechanics, who hung anemometers from air vents and pronounced the system to be working correctly. It was still hot and stuffy.

One day, with much fanfare, an adjustable thermostat was installed in a prominent location, to fix the problem once and for all. We were warned that it would only adjust the temperature +/- 3 degrees and that any change would take some time to be felt.

It was still hit and stuffy. We turned the control as far down as it would go... a day later, still hot and stuffy. Turned it all the way up. Didn’t get any hotter.

Our boss said: “this *$&*ing thing isn’t connected”. He grabbed the cable to the thermostat and started gently pulling on it. There no resistance and soon he had 10 metres of cable piled at his feet. The end was cut off cleanly, proving that it was a dummy control that had never been wired up.

The actual problem, diagnosed and rectified by our junior tech, was that every air outlet had a butterfly valve in the back of it and every one was turned off. I’ve never trusted air conditioner mechanics since!


A former colleague had a user complaining that he didn’t have permission to defragment the drive in his locked-down Windows XP laptop. It didn’t need defragmenting, but the user was convinced it had to be done regularly and kept logging Hell Desk tickets requesting a defrag.

Some would have simply granted him the rights to do it, but no...where is the fun in that! An application was written that displayed a progress bar showing “Defragmentation Progress”, while performing random seeks on the hard drive. Never had another complaint from the user!

Sysadmin cracked military PC’s security by reading the manual


> tied together with serious steel cables, attached to the machines with some quite

> serious adhesive on a plate secured direct to the metal chassis of the machines.

I remember those well. You didn't even need a screwdriver. Just grab a computer and drag it across the desk, while letting the cable holding the plate back. A nice steady lateral force would slide the plate off the computer. It seems the makers assumed that thieves would only ever try to pull the plate away from the box. Uni students used to remove the plates this way purely for fun.

Office junior had one job: Tearing perforated bits off tractor-feed dot matrix printer paper


Back in the late 80s or early 90s, a customer logged a fault with an Apple LaserWriter II printer (Canon LBP-SX engine).

"Printer has a paper jam, but there's no paper stuck in it... and please bring a replacement cleaning brush"

The printers came with a tiny little green plastic brush clipped inside for cleaning the corona wire. The brush had somehow passed through the hot fuser rollers and was now 20cm wide and about 0.1mm thick. It had concertinad up behind the little lever that detected a paper jam in the fuser exit area.

'My dream job at Oracle left me homeless!' – A techie's relocation horror tale


Don't people have savings any more? A little bit of planning and some money in the bank to pay a deposit on a home would have saved all this grief... yet apparently it's all someone else's fault.

Stop asking people for their passwords, rights warriors yell at US Homeland Security


Note to self: If traveling to the US, first set up fake / disposable social media accounts with throw away passwords.

Why do GUIs jump around like a demented terrier while starting up? Am I on my own?


Re: Progress bar lies

"doing an application install on a Mac (probably OS 7.5) where the progress bar got up to 100 percent and then kept going towards the edge of the dialog box."

When Macintosh System 7.0 was released, the first boot after doing an upgrade from System 6 would trigger a "desktop rebuild". The desktop rebuild took ages, particularly on a disk with a large number of files - and the progress bar not only went towards the edge of the dialogue box, but would continue to the edge of the screen.

I recall doing an upgrade after-hours on a Macintosh II with a then gigantic 140MB Rodime SCSI hard drive and waiting an eternity as the progress bar stretched out beyond 100%. It's only been 27 years, but I still want to strangle the developer who created that bug.

Australia's Dick finally drops off


Re: I think I know where they went wrong...

That's the problem, isn't it. DSE didn't have anything worth buying before the big closing down sale. Junk that's not worth buying is still junk that's not worth buying when discounted by 80%.

I ventured in to the local DSE last week and found that I was the only customer. There were three staff standing around looking bored, lots of signs saying "SALE!" and big bins full of rubbish quality HDMI cables, mobile phone cases (for ancient phones) and stuff that even with an 80% discount was still over-priced for what it was.


My first computer was a Dick Smith kit called a "Super 80" (not to be confused with the "System 80"). In high school, I used to regularly visit the local Dick Smith reseller to check out the latest electronic kits and computers.

I remember the zany marketing - towing a fake iceberg in to Sydney Harbour for April Fools Day in the late 70s. The truck with sign writing: "The Electronic Dick". Some of his enterprises seemed a bit dodgy to me though - like selling 27MHz CBs by the truckload at a time when it was illegal to use them in Australia.

I agree with the earlier poster that Jaycar is going down the well trodden path that Tandy and DSE have both gone down. Every time I visit the local Jaycar store, there seems to be more space taken up by electronic gadgets and toys, while the electronic components are gradually getting pushed further to the back of the shop.

For sale: One 236-bed nuclear bunker


Re: Interesting

I just had a vision of a world populated by the Golgafrinchams from Douglas Adams' "Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy".


The slow strangulation of telework in Australia


It is appropriate that the photograph shows vans with Tasmanian registration plates. The island state of Tasmania has always fared worse than other Australian states, due to the high cost of shipping 1s and 0s across Bass Strait.

When Telstra was the only provider of this service, the costs were extortionate, but we were told they couldn't possibly be lowered. Strangely, once the Basslink cable gave Telstra a little competition, prices dropped to merely being "very expensive". Many ISPs over commit their bandwidth across Bass Strait to offset the cost, so even those with shiny new 50/20Mb/sec NBN connections may only be giving 1Mb/sec actual throughput in peak times.

20 years ago this week, Microsoft just about killed Australian PC manufacturing


Re: The missing bit

I remember that when Osborne hit the wall, I met someone who had paid in advance for a computer. They had been told that for each week the system was late, some amount ($100?) would be taken off the price. The customer thought this was wonderful, because it had been six weeks and counting. The penny hadn't dropped, that they probably wouldn't get a computer and would never see the money again.

In the end, I think most people who had paid in advance at the time that Osborne went under did eventually get a computer - a Gateway branded system. Unfortunately, by the time the machines arrived, they were outdated technology and many would-be Osborne owners had given up and bought a new computer elsewhere.


Only assembled in Australia, not 'made in Australia'

The Australian market in the 90s was dominated by "box shifters", trying to dominate the market by discounting heavily. Every year, there was a new number one selling computer brand. The following year, that brand would be lucky to be in the top five as they ran out of money.

In Osborne's case, the big killer was the five year on site warranty: unremarkable now, but at a time when warranties were all 12 months back to base, it was a massive cost for Osborne to shoulder - and an increasing burden as the installed fleet of computers aged.

Osborne also liked to market their product as being manufactured in Australia. IBM actually manufactured machines like the PS/2 Model 30-2086 at Wangaratta. The IBM machines carried the coveted "Australian Made" logo - a logo that Osborne computers could not display, because they were only assembled from imported parts. If I recall correctly, the Osborne branded displays were re-badged Philips units and the motherboards were made by Micronics, although I stand to be corrected.

Microsoft's MCSE and MCSD will become HARDER to win


I started down the MS certification path with the Windows NT Advanced Server 3.5 exam. It had some value, since it forced me to learn about obscure features that were occasionally useful.

Unfortunately, when the MCSE* really started to become popular, brain dumps completely eroded the value of the certification. I remember a former computer salesman with practically no technical ability bragging about having simply bought the various MCSE exam questions and their answers online. He claimed that the testing centre had never seen anyone breeze through the tests as fast as he had. Of course he was quick completing the exam: he was cheating! That was the point at which I decided there was no point studying for any Microsoft certs.

* MCSE = Mine Sweeper Consultant and Solitare Expert

Cold War spy aircraft CRASHED Los Angeles' air traffic control


The (fascinating) book "SR-71 Blackbird: Stories, Tales, and Legends" by Rich Graham documents an exchange similar to the one you describe. The air traffic controller was reported to have replied by saying something like: "How exactly do you intend to get to 60,000 feet?", to which the pilot responded: "Actually, I wish to descend".


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