* Posts by ColinPa

15 posts • joined 23 Jul 2018

Never let something so flimsy as a locked door to the computer room stand in the way of an auditor on the warpath


Why kick the door down when you can get in behind a cleaner.

I was at a so called secure site. Visitors badges were paper so could not get through badge locked doors.

Someone was having deliveries and so the outside door was open - in we went and could roam around the building.

We got to the ops room, which was being cleaned, the usual way. Use a bin to block the door open while the room was being cleaned. The cleaners were not allowed to use a power socket in the ops room, and so needed to get the cable for the vacuum cleaner into the room.

In we went, sat down and started writing our presentation.

Half hour later in walked the IT manager who asked how we got in!

This was a different site to a colleague in the US who was at a secret secure site. He was permanently escorted by a marine with an automatic rifle. When he went to the bathroom, the cubicle had no door, and the marine watched him do his business.

A real head-scratcher: Tech support called in because emails 'aren't showing timestamps'


Manager who wanted to do email.

20 years ago I worked at a large multi national IT company which was going through a rough patch, as a result we got a new CEO. I heard the conversation the first day went

New CEO: Where's my computer to do emails?

Suave PA (in a nice suit): Yes sir, that's ok sir, we print them off for you, filter them and bring in the ones you need to read.

CEO: I want to do emails. Get me a computer.

PA: Yes sir

After lunch PA comes in with a big folder of printed emails.

PA: Yes sir, Here we are sir, (big grin) here is your mail

CEO: Where's my computer?

PA: Yes sir, I'll organise it later

CEO: Your fired. Tell your replacement to get me a computer.

One hour later the new PA brought in a computer.

How did the previous CEO manage to work like this! This attitude explains why the company was going down the tubes.

Take your pick: 0/1/* ... but beware – your click could tank an entire edition of a century-old newspaper


Talking of paper...

30 years ago I was in "build" on the mainframe which involved compiling source, and printing the listings of those which failed to compile.Typically I used to get a box of listings about 2 feet high each morning. Just before I went on a weeks holiday, I tweaked the process to "improve it". I came back to find a new wall in my office 6ft high and 8ft wide. I had to demolish it to get into my office and get to my desk.

Strong-willed field support op holds it together during painful customer call


Help thy neighbour

I visited a VSE customer in the US running a 4331 (shows how long ago) for a City's IT department.

We were not allowed to make any changes to the software around a weekend, as they ran the payroll on Saturday. No payroll, no Police, teachers, etc, simple as that.

The sysprogs were telling me of these new tape drives they had got in to replace the IBM ones. (These new tape drives appeared at the same week the IT manager got a new car, pure coincidence of course).

Come the running of the payroll - and the tape drives did not work. They phoned the support desk, but there was a problem with the maintenance agreement, so they could not send an engineer till the paper work was fixed on Monday. After an hour of us standing around looking at the tape drive willing it to work, the IBM engineer quietly came over, opened the cover, fixed it, and went back to his proper work. He didn't say a word, but was rewarded later by a crate of beers from the sysprogs.

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


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.

Hello, tech support? Yes, I've run out of desk... Yes, DESK... space


A modern twist

We got an amazon fire stick; it looked idiot proof. The first step is to put the batteries in. You obviously press here, and the back should come off. No it didnt. We looked at the instructions - they didn't help, they told us to do what we had already done. So we looked on U-Tube where it had lots of videos of people pressing here, and the back coming off. After about 15 minutes we found it you used the other hand to press here the back comes off really easily - and worked every time. Hold it the original way - and it didnt come off!.

We have no idea why!

Are you sure you've got a floppy disk stuck in the drive? Or is it 100 lodged in the chassis?


Topping up the fish tank

I got my aged mother a laptop about 10-15 years ago. She didnt do much with it, but she liked the fish tank screensaver with the fish moving around. I came in one day to find her with a watering can in hand, and carefully closing the lid. She was going to pour water in the back "to top up the water in the fish tank because it had not been done in a few months".

Techies take turns at shut-down top trumps


Moving disks caused outage

I arrived at a customer to help with a mainframe problem to be told it was down, because someone had moved some disks. The physical disk unit needed to be moved 6 inches to the left to make space for some newer disks. They decided to do it while the disks were in use, so a couple of them put their backs against it, and carefully moved it backwards (using their legs, for good health and safety). This was fine, until one of them moved away, and found his belt was caught in the Emergency Power Off button, which you had to pull to activate. I was told "the sounds went from the hum of the disks happily spinning to the deafening silence of someone filling their pants"

This was the same company who had two machines close to each other. They were joined by a cable which had to be no more than 4 meters long. Instead of running it down to the floor, under the floor and up to the socket; The machines were too far away, so had the cable coming out at waist height, over the back of a chair, some disks and into the other machine. When someone complained, they wrapped it in black and yellow tape.

Chap joins elite support team, solves what no one else can. Is he invited back? Is he f**k


It is too embarrassing... please do not help us any more

I had to go out to an Asian country to work on an "Performance problem" on the mainframe a week before a huge application was due to go live.

Strobe showed that the highest used module in the CICS region was "printf". Applications still had the debug code in it, so this shows how production ready it was.

Strobe also showed a DB2 problem 90% of elapsed time spent in one line of SQL.

In the far east you do not lose your temper, every thing is normally calm, you do not lose face.

In the status meeting the next day the CIO totally lost it, red faced and spitting, with the comments aimed at the implementers. I could hear blah blah blah printf, blah blah blah SQL blah blah

The translation was you have worked on this performance problem for 6 months and you said nothing could be done. This foreigner comes in and in half a day finds two major problems. What have you been doing?

After the meeting every one was deeply embarrassed (except me). I brightly said I could identify more performance problems once they had fixed the first two, but no, it was suggested I take the rest of the week off and see the sights. They would call me if needed. I never heard from them again even emails got returned. Perhaps the team was taken out and shot.

All good, leave it with you...? Chap is roped into tech support role for clueless customer


Went for a coffee - stayed two weeks

After a big conference in a US city, I had an hour to spare, so I popped into see some guys I had had a lot of dealings with over the phone, put faces to names etc. We went for coffee, when one of the guy's pagers went off. They had an abend in my product, please could I have a quick look before I go...

We went back to the office, met their manager who said "that was quick". "What was quick?" I asked. "We've just raised a problem, and asked for on site support for a performance problem". After two weeks the performance problem "magically went away" (we were not told why) and I managed to escape. We suspect they cleared out 10 years of unwanted "temporary" records in a database. We called this a hostage situation because you have to exchange your passport for a badge to get access to the building, and so they had your passport!

Blue Monday: Efforts to inspire teamwork with swears back-fires for n00b team manager


Managers looking good!

In a large multi national we had a development team manager, lets call him Andrew who would report. "yes, on target, my team will be on time with the deliverables", when every other manager in the bear pit status meeting was saying they were having problems with the tight schedule.

When Andrew went on vacation, the team leader came in with the true picture - they were at least 6 weeks late etc. Needless to say Andrew went on to become a senior manager.

As a senior manager he did not like being told bad news. So people did not tell him and his projects were late and had poor quality. What the techie reported as "a pile of horse manure", became "it makes the roses grow"

Home Office seeks Brexit tech boss – but doesn't splash the cash


Under current EU regulations ...

Under EU regulations - does this job need to be advertised Europe wide ? If so people from mainland Europe could apply for this job, and really put a spanner in the works ( or a Schlüssel/clé)

Early experiment in mass email ends with mad dash across office to unplug mail gateway


Mail filters need to be clever

I was involved in a sporting event which provided email - and software to filter threats.

A skater known as "le bombe" got no mail.

We also found the that the software could not handle subtle threats like "We have your children" which could mean that the child has been kidnapped, or that Granny has collect the kids from school as usual.

Sysadmin trained his offshore replacements, sat back, watched ex-employer's world burn


Team building

The comments about team building reminded me when we had 2 day team building at a nice hotel. Lots of games etc. My department were there, including John a team leader. Cross project teams had to do a 5 minute presentation on a given topic.

The "team working" group gave two presentations. One from John on his own, and one from the rest of the team.

He didn't see the irony of this.

Sysadmin sank IBM mainframe by going one VM too deep


Powerful vm commands you never ever issue

Going back 40 years ago, one of my jobs was "build" on CMS on VM/370 where I had to print off the assembly listings and put them in alphabetical order in the racks. I got to know the ops very well, and they were a great help to me.

One of them, showing off, said this was one command you never, ever, use ... and typed "#cp purge prt * all". The phone rang, and when he finished the call he pressed the enter key. Whoops! This purged all of the spool files for every one!

As the command was audited it was clear who had typed the command. He owned up, and management treated this like a disaster recovery test.

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