* Posts by Peter Quodling

7 posts • joined 18 Feb 2017

PC rebooted every time user flushed the toilet

Peter Quodling

Farm Related - I had a customer that was a vet science research lab.

1 They had a punch car reader, that allowed card decks to be uploaded to a remote mainframe - One, and only one, of the scientists complained about it misreading - so I came out, spent hours, doing a full overhaul, running thousands of test cards through it, watching the signals on oscilloscope, etc. It was perfect - a week later - same problem, same person. I check it out again. Looks great. Sure enough, a week later, same problem (SAME PERSON), so I turn up, and ask the Manager, can I talk to the guy logging the failure reports - sure, he calls on the walkie talkie - I sit gazing out the window, and in rides a guy on a horse, ties up the horse, and comes in. Introduces himself, and I say "so you have been having problems with punch cards not reading - can we try them now" - he reachs around to the back pocket of his jeans, (that have been sitting between him and horse), and pulls out the deck of cards... I explain that they are very intolerant of moisture, bending etc.

Same organization had a remote cattle research facility - they had an old PDP8E that monitored the vitals of cattle. They had a big fibreglass shell, that was remotely lowered (it was in a barn, and the switches were in the computer room), and it would have sensors that worked out temperature, breathing rate, etc of the animal.

Well, they were getting weird readings so blamed the computer. I pulled it apart, tested everything. looked good, they tried again. Same problem - So, I said "can we have a look at the other end" - we go to the barn, someone lowers the shell over a cow, and it seems agitated. So, I ask for it to be raised, look up into the wiring at the top, and there is the answer - a very large snake coiled in the wiring.

Peter Quodling

While I am on a roll. Was installing a system at a new Department of Defense site - it was a SCIF (Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility) - basically a large faraday cage. Being in the initial setup, it was still being wired etc. I was setting up the computers, and in comes an electrician to do some lighting or something. He has a tool bag, and on the top is his transistor radio playing the local FM station. He closes the door behind him, puts his bag down, and notices that his radio isn't working. Thumps it a few times, I am heading out to get something, which coincides with him hitting his radio, and he thinks he has fixed it (nope, the RF shielding around it has a gap in it now. ) I come back, he gets up to do something outside, and closes the door again. Swears at his radio. I explain SCIF's and Faraday cages to this electrician...


Peter Quodling

Electricity Authority - (different to last) - their grid control computers were out in the countryside, and running of a 48V DC line, with a big bank of batteries. . One of their own trucks hit a powerline, that was feeding that facility, and knocked out the grid supply to it. The batteries hadn't been checked for a while, and the 48V Dc, was suddenly 4V DC. This sent the grid management into a tizz, spiking various lines and so on. Interestingly, the only computer to suffer, was the main commercial system at the head office of the computer company. PDP11/70 running RSTS/E with RM03 drives. Well, the System Disk, picked up the power spike, and from the autopsy appeared to do two things, it shorted out the servo head, so didn't know where it's heads were - when that happens it does the safest thing and retract the heads - but it did that which such force that the ferrite rod that was acting as a velocity transducer, shattered. So, it wasn't sure how fast it was moving, so the electronic sent the heads in the opposite direction - until they reached the stop at the far end of the rails (which should never be reached, because the servo would slow before then, but remember it was dead, so it would run right to the end, hit the stop (which had a microswitch, and change directions). Repeat and Rinse... Well, the disk drive started to move itself across the computer room floor.

As I recall, the list price for an RM03 (67MB) was about $23,000 - the immediate suggestion was to trash the drive, and put in a new one. For some reason the IT Manager insisted on getting that one rebuilt - of course, the innards were shot, and I think the rebuild price was about $18,000.

Peter Quodling

Years ago (early 80s) when I was a service tech, one of my customers was the local Electricity Company. They had a system, that worked fine, but a few days a month, it would crash at random - fine for the rest of the month. This was getting annoying, so I got hold of a Dranetz - a very expensive, very accurate line votage analyzer. Sure enough, we could see a mains glitch that was causing the crash. We told their engineers, who insisted that they had a clean line to the computer room from the main switchboard. I doubted that, and insisted that we chase the wires. we did, and lo and behold we found a junction - follow the branch at the junction and it heads into the women's bathroom. What? Those were the days, when only two of the staff (in that building) were women. Keep following the wires, and what do we find - i the Women's bathroom was a Sanitary Napkin Burner - nowadays companies com and take away such things for external disposal, but this place had what was basically a toaster on steroids to burn the items to powder, although these things are still used in India and a few other places.

So, it just so happened that the two women in the building had mentrual cycles that were in close sync, so the power spikes were consistently happening in specific times every month.

Another customer, was the state electricity distribution centre. I was installing a large Minicomputer there, and asked, where I should plug it in. The engineer pointed me at a socket, and being meticulous, I metered it first. Nothing. I told him that there wasn't any power to that outlet - he walked over to a massive switchboard, and threw a switch - and there was a "boomph" from behind the panel, and the place went totally dark.

Ta-ta, security: Bungling Tata devs leaked banks' code on public GitHub repo, says IT bloke

Peter Quodling

I am reminded of a software development group that I worked with the USA - they were shut down and outsourced to India - the indian people assured that they were up to the task (this was O/S level and Device driver stuff). There are a few online forums for that platform - all of a sudden, they start getting new members with Half Indian names (like Charles kutrapali), and are asking the most basic questions, as well as some very specific ones. An Associate had a major bug report outstanding and one of the questions was the same as appeared from the new Indian Forum member - So, his query was responded to in very specific language, and lo-and-behold - that was almost word for word, what my Associate received as information on his bug fix. That group is now back in the hands of a US Team of SW Engineers.

HPE blames solid state drive failure for outages at Australian Tax Office

Peter Quodling

Oh My, I remember discussing the potential flaws of using Solid State Disks in mission critical roles, with a very senior storage engineer, back in.... 1986.

We don't learn, do we...

The irony is the almost parallel discussion in the reg of the potential demise of Storagetek under Oracle's watch. For goodness sake, can someone let the grownups be back in charge...

Did Oracle just sign tape's death warrant? Depends what 'no comment' means

Peter Quodling

Will we never learn

Years ago, I was at a Conference, and one of the speakers was a design engineer for DLT He was pigeon-holed by a DAT Tape fanboi, and asked "What do you think of 'Brand X' DAT?" - The response was brilliant - "Great for Backups - terrible for restores".

I have built Multiple STK (WolfCreek/PowderHorn) configs - still some of the sexist technology hardware on the planet.


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