What were they doing with an expensive photo capable printer in 1989?
With the gateway to the weekend upon us, it is time to crack open the On Call files once again to enjoy a tale from one of those brave engineers at the front line of the tech world. Today's story is from a reader we'll call "Sven" and, for a change, is almost an anti-on call since it concerns what can happen when the all- …
Yeah, us too.
We found that it was necessary to bugger the printer a bit and smear Vaseline on the digicam lens to get 'em to look like real African IDs but, once you get it right, there's a shitload of cash to be made ensuring the right person gets elected in that part of the world.
Yes, but it may depend on the business, remember how much expensive was a color printer in 1989, plus the hardware/software to use it. Maybe they were also developing other kind of software, that would also justify the digital camera, another expensive device for the times.
Yet coupled with tracking cash deliveries, and a missing base station, makes you think... <G>
This company wouldn't have been based in Swindon somewhere to the North near the Moonrakers pub would it?
Perhaps even sharing a building with another branch of the same company that did offshore surveys (Positioning equipment being the common thread here) & the staff car park opposite Marconi.
Most of that year was spent on board ships & rigs, enjoying Cornwall & the Isles of Scilly & its pub's, so I have no knowledge of what went on in their half of the building during my frequent absences or indeed when I was there, but it wouldn't surprise me to learn this was the same place.
There are legitimate uses for high quality printers in business other than printing "holiday pics".
Lots. But printing holiday pics only gets expensive if your on some particularly stupid maintenance contract where the person signing up agreed to take a copier worth £2k in it's box from the manufacturer in exchange for paying 10p per sheet, making a single box of paper cost 10p * 2500 sheets = £250 per box of paper printed. Print 8 boxes of paper, and the copier has paid for itself for the maintenance company!
Companies with this sort of negotiating skill and financial acumen (usually only found in government or really big companies) then do either metaphorically or literally hire armed guards (at additional cost) to keep the usage on their colour printers down.
Meanwhile, in companies with working calculators you just go and buy your own copier outright or on lease and run it on compatible cartridges (usually around £20ish, unless your particularly bad at just saying "i'm buying that elseware" and doing it if the supplier tries to screw you.)
Most copiers do 20-30k sheets per cartridge. Let's assume the low end of the cartridge size for sake of argument, shall we?
£20 = 2000 pence 2000p/20,000 sheets = ~0.1p per sheet. Even if you assume that your printing equal amounts from 4 cartridges (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, BlacK) that takes us up to the heady heights of 0.4p for the toner. Paper is more expensive; at £2.90 per ream of 500 sheets that's 0.58p per page. So a colour sheet costs at max £0.098 per sheet. Yes, that's almost, but not quite one penny per sheet.
As a result, our company policy on using work equipment for personal use can be summed up as "not in work time please, otherwise we don't care unless your doing large print runs; in which case please ask first". The "please ask first" thing because if somebody wants to print 500 multi page stapled leaflets using the finisher unit for their school's sports day or whatever then we'll happily do it if we can get away with adding our company logo and "$companyname supports $event in our local community" somewhere as prominent as we can get away with. Like the frontpage, and footer of every page.
We get free brand advertising, (ok, costs <£20; meh? 2 people discussing it for half an hour would cost more than that!) and the event get free leaflets.
Users happy. IT Happy. Marketing happy. Beancounters happy. Management happy. Local community happy. The entire thing pays for itself as soon as a single customer gets influenced by it.
Win win for everybody concerned with a minor modicum of sense in purchasing as it's obvious that the cost (both financial, management time and good will from staff) of trying to prevent the users from occasionally costing the firm a tiny, derisory sum would be so disproportionate as to be outright absurd. It also encourages staff to work with each other, rather than around each other as in the article where the boss figure ends up spending hours of work time that he is getting paid for to find a way of circumventing security measures to get a few pictures printed!
It's unbelievable how much time is diverted from doing something useful into pointless, petty authoritarianism by people who then seem to have no idea why their work environment ends up a toxic mess.
When I worked for Xerox they had a Hell color scanner (not profanity but a German company) and a complete manual dye transfer color printing system. I did Christmas cards on it (25 copies), about 20 minutes a copy. Everything was timed for the various dyes (Cyan, Magenta, and Yellow) so you were kept really busy cycling the negatives through the various dyes and printing them on the final product.
Produced some better than photographic quality pictures though.
Instead of using logic, just make it even more illogical and make it so each time that you print, you have to add the project id that you are charging the printing to and the password, so all gets logged and those overpriced prints are attributed to your project.. and at that point as a project manager you wonder if it would be cheaper to buy a printer and pay it with your project funds.. (yes, it is, and no, you are not allowed to do it).
I don't know where you got your numbers; when I was in college in the late 1990s, the late 1980s vintage Color LaserWriter they still had tooling away in there, the cost was probably close to 25 cents per page for color. The color toner was not cheap, and the printer was not particularly efficient with toner usage. I guarantee you were not going to print color for 1 cent (or 1 pence) per page on something of that vintage.
Not having to deal with the printer mafia (those maintenance companies that do nothing except send bills) is also a big advantage.
But don't forget to only get a printer that has toner in a plastic tube, not the lexmark replace-it-all multifunctional, for instance.
Most copiers do 20-30k sheets per cartridge
Love to know what copiers you are talking about. I've worked with lasers from SOHO to huge corporate, since the very first LaserJet - HP, both KMs, Canon, Gestetner, and others I've forgotten about, and never seen a machine that got more than 2,000 pages from a cartridge.
Love to know what copiers you are talking about.
Pretty much any floor standing photocopier since the nineties? random example pulled from a hat:-
The bigger the machine, the bigger the cartridge. The bigger the cartridge, the cheaper it gets. Counter intuitive, but a photocopier is cheaper to run than a desktop laser. The bigger the rollers, the larger surface area they have. The larger the surface area, the longer the rollers last in service. Twice the size in diameter is much more than that in surface area.
As to which lasers print as many as 2k sheets per cartridge: I just checked what HP's standard desktop laser at the moment is and it's this:-
HP Color LaserJet Pro MFP M281fdw
With this "high capacity", eg "not half filled" cartridge:-
Says it does 2500 sheets. And I wouldn't touch a desktop laser with a bargepole precisely because they are so pathetic with print yields, and expensive maintenance hogs When it comes to printing, bigger is better.
And buying cartridges in bulk can lead to surprising price reductions; suppliers will go well below the RRP for the business if you order a quarters worth of cartridges at a time. (and when I say well below the RRP, I have seen suppliers go under half the RRP without squealing particularly loudly, leading me to think that they were still making a comfortable profit on the trade price)
Just to add, a second hand office colour copier of eBay cost me less than buying a new desktop laser. It came with a couple of spare toner cartridges, but enough left on the installed ones that I've not yet needed to use them.
For our usage pattern, maybe half a dozen sheets a week, with the occasional several hundred pages leaflet run, it costs us effectively nothing. Plus it does A3! It probably costs more in electric keeping it on standby than it does in paper/toner. Whereas an inkjet would dry up between uses and need a new set of inks every time due to repeated cleaning cycles..
If you've got the floor space, yes, bigger the better!
Not quite as bad, but in an office I used to work in, which dealt with some sensitive stuff, every door throughout the building had an electronic lock activated by a proximity card, and all movement was logged and checked regularly, and only certain staff were allowed in certain parts of the building. At the side of each door on the inside, were safety release buttons which disabled the lock, so that should the computer controlling the locks ever fail, people would not become trapped. Use of these release buttons other than in an emergency was a disciplinary offence.
The Chairman of the company had a nice plush office in the building, and the door to the office also had the same locks, but he wasn't in the office every day, just made occasional visits. EVERY BLOODY TIME he came into the office, he used to use the safety release buttons as he walked round the building, unlocking all the doors so that he didn't have to bother with his proximity card.
...were safety release buttons which disabled the lock...
The company I worked for leased a newly built building (actually, built to their spec) that had similar electronic door locks that you opened with proximity cards. All good and well, except for the fact that it had no override/safety release buttons, nor battery back-up for the locks, with the result that in the case of a power failure, no-one could go through any door. It just so happened that we were in the midst of two-hour rolling black-outs (or load-shedding schedules, as it was called at the time) that could strike at any moment (they later implemented scheduled times for load-shedding, so one could prepare).
The first time I was caught behind a door (luckily for me on the opening side), I saw that a thin piece of sturdy material (like a credit card or a thin piece of metal) could open the lock by sliding it behind the bolt and then just moving it downwards. So I permanently kept one of those metal covers that one found on the backs of computers that covers the expansion card slots in my pocket. It also helped that all the doors on the floor I worked on opened inward, so it was a cinch to get out.
Cue the uproar when I in all innocence mentioned (in a meeting) that the building was not secure, since one of the back doors could be opened from the outside in a similar way (this was before it became general knowledge that I was the go-to guy to open locked doors). No-one would believe me, as the installers/suppliers had assured them that this system was ultra-secure and that there was no way anyone could go through a door without using a card and that all movements through doors were logged. The logging system, however, could only log card presentation events, not actual opening of locked doors without using a card.
They only believed me after I gave a live demonstration that it took all of five seconds to open any of those super-secure doors.
AC for obvious reasons (even though this took place more than twenty years ago).
Two obvious issues with that one :
1) no manual release would have dreadful consequences if a fire broke out and shorted the power before everyone could get out
2) they forgot to consider all possibilities of manually opening the doors, such as something to prevent the bolt from being moved outside of an order from the proper process
Thankfully, the company that made those doors only end up being ridiculous. They could have ended up being charged with manslaughter and someone would have gone to jail for a long, long time. Which would have done nothing for the people who had died.
and someone would have gone to jail for a long, long time
Perhaps in the UK. Unlikely in the USA. After all, both Ford and Chevrolet have made vehicles that their manglers demonstrably KNEW were unsafe. (This was proven by "smoking gun" memos produced in court that showed it was cheaper to pay off the family members of their victims than fix the problem). People were killed by these unsafe vehicles.
The corporations ended up paying some cash out in the lawsuits, but I don't recall anyone getting banged up for it. I strongly agree that those managers should have been imprisoned, and not for manslaughter, but for first degree murder because they knew in advance people would die due to their malfeasance. They just didn't know who. I see little difference in the "ethics" of those managers and someone who plants a bomb in a public place. Bombers usually don't know exactly who their victims will be, either. The manglers could perhaps be even worse from an ethical standpoint, since they're murdering innocent killing people for their own profit, rather than some misguided political cause.
Of course, any county district attorney who brought such charges could expect to face a "dream team" of top gun lawyers from all over the nation. The defendant would almost certainly be granted (high) bail, but the corporation would likely foot the bill, so they'd be free until the trial was over and they were found guilty.
Meanwhile, the trial would be delayed for years by one pre-trial motion after another. The district attorney who brought the charges would likely have to run for re-election before the trial started. His opponent in that election would likely receive some VERY sizable campaign contributions from many hard-to-trace sources. After the election, the new district attorney would probably determine there was insufficient evidence and drop all criminal charges.
We had something similar and when it was pointed out TPTB had all the doors fitted with thick metal plates around the lock so you couldn't slip anything past the bolt.
We recently had a audit by a security team ahead of a government contract and, in passing, I happened to mention we had a couple of cupboards with combination locks that were unusable because no one knew the combination... it took them 10 mins to open the first and another 5 for the second!... only thing found inside was a roll of preprinted labels
(we still don't use them because of the faffing about getting them open... what with the dodgy eyesight and DTs from years of debauchery)
We used to have PIN locks on the doors here until one night when the boss came back for something and 2 ne'er do wells walked straight in afterwards. They then walked straight into the main showroom where they proceeded to steal absolutely nothing until one of the girls who was working late came in via the other door to see them in there.
Anyway, instructions went round to change the codes on all the doors because clearly they must have known the code or worked it out, until I pointed out that you could open all the doors just by sliding a thin screwdriver down the back of the locks from the outside to pop them open. Now we have a proper proximity system on all doors, that also lock the main doors in case someone comes back at night and leaves it unlocked behind them.
@AC "electronic door locks that you opened with proximity cards. All good and well, except for the fact that it had no override/safety release buttons, nor battery back-up for the locks, with the result that in the case of a power failure, no-one could go through any door."
Not sure if you're in the UK, but if you are/were I'd draw your attention to The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, paragraph 14.2.(f)
(f)emergency doors must not be so locked or fastened that they cannot be easily and immediately opened by any person who may require to use them in an emergency;
The doors you mention don't meet the legislative requirement (even if you could get them open with your handy tool). I know you were talking 6 years before this legislation came into force, but it's worth knowing. At the current "paulf & co" the fire alarm and evacuation provision is, to use the technical term, a Shit show, so I've been doing some necessary digging to check what the law says. In the UK the emergency release for access controlled locks looks like a "Fire Break Glass" point but is green instead of red.
If you were in The Land of the Free(tm) then all good, carry on.
I used to work for a security consulting company, where government work required quite a bit of physical security. This meant things like proximity cards everywhere, with a man-trap at the main entrance, and cameras covering all but the washrooms. There was also this eerie background mumbling noise from speakers, to make it harder for other building tenants to listen to conversations.
We had a couple fun incidents that come to mind, with being located in the inner city. Once, a couple of inebriated glue-sniffing gents managed to tailgate as far as the man-trap, where they got stuck. No way in or out, no windows, and just enough room for the two of them. Eventually they noticed and used the blue fire-style pull station that was used for emergency egress, while also setting off the alarm. Needless to say, our people had a great time checking out the camera footage later.
A couple others got into a basement break room, since the windows turned out to be not built to spec. The outer glass could be broken of course, but the plastic sheet on the inside could also be pushed in at the bottom to get in and drop down. They proceeded to ransack the place, leaving blood everywhere due to the broken glass on the way in. One was hanging on to the ceiling projector and trying to yank it off, when he saw the camera. They did manage to get out, but it took a while because that plastic sheet had again flexed back into place, not leaving anything to grab it by.
A few years ago I stepped outside our front door and closed the door behind me and realised I was wearing the Wrong Trousers, the ones without my house keys in there. The door had a key operated dead bolt and a Yale lock. The Yale had engaged.
Fortunately I had access to my garage workshop. There was of course a strip of wood protecting the lock but a chisel pried that out far enough to insert a metal card scraper. I had to tap it with a hammer to move the bolt of the Yale but it worked. I tapped the strip of wood back into place and learned my lesson.
Now we have a modern metal framed mutli-point locking door with one key and you have to actively lock it when going out. Wrong trousers? Nae Bother, just pinch the key from inside the door. The one with the old French Franc drilled as key fob.
Oh and the garage workshop has a working lock on it now. Thinking of hiring an SDS drill and installing one of those bollard stops to prevent the garage door opening. Need to drill the concrete pad to install it.
I presume your door doesn't have a hole through which letters are delivered. You're advised not to keep a key next to the door anyway. For instance, an unwisely allowed visitor could swipe it. But the letterbox and a long twisty wire can be used to find and extract your keys.
I suppose that by now they also could post a flying drone into the house to fly around doing such things, and more.
I think I got mice because I left the door open in hot weather, although authorities say they're good at finding or making gaps for their entry. They don't need much at all.
When I was working in Site Services Department of a large electrical manufacturing company, we shared the site with four other companies. I was in charge of the locks and keys for our quarter of the site, so if anyone wanted to change offices, they had to come to me to issue them the key to their new office and take their old key back in exchange. This became rather monotonous, as offices were always being changed. One day, I had a faulty padlock to deal with, so I went to visit Site Security, who had the master keys for all four companies, and borrowed their barrel removing key. While I had it in my possession, I took a photocopy of it before returning it. Later that day, I sorted through all my spare keys until I found the closest match, and, after silver soldering a blob on the end where the actual barrel removal wards were, filed it to an exact replica of the original. Then, if someone wanted their office moved, all I had to do was swap the two barrels over, which took moments, and then straighten the paperwork, which took longer. I still have that barrel key, but unfortunately, the buildings are no longer standing, the whole site had been flattened and turned into a housing estate and an out of town shopping experience. A/C for obvious reasons, even after all these years.
One of the most stupid things I did as a child in the University (yes, I was amazingly straight), was to once open a lock using some photo film and a piece of wire to help the team access some equipment. Yes, they were grateful, but from then on I was marked, and not in any good way.
We had an alarm system and the boss decided he wanted a card entry system as well... And it should be connected to the alarm system.
The first person to arrive in the morning would present their card, the alarm would be automatically disabled and the door opened. It then kept a count of how many people came and went. The system then automatically set the alarm when the last card was logged out and the count was reduced to 0. If somebody forgot to log out, the system would automatically turn the alarm on at 9 in the evening - which meant, if you were working late, you'd have to log out just before 9 and wait until after 9 to re-enter the building.
Staff were told that they had to log in themselves and log out, they couldn't hold the door for anyone else. Amazingly, the system worked well, until the boss forgot his card one day, but he came later and left after everyone else...
At the building I work in, alarm is armed as of 6pm on weekdays, and all weekend.
Card access to the building during normal hours, augmented by an additional code entry on a pinpad during the alarm hours.
The alarm auto-arms 60 minutes after being disarmed, and the 60 second spoken warning over the loudspeakers scared the crap out of me the first time I had to be in the office in the middle of the night.
Fortunately all you had to do was tap you card to any door reader.
Back in the 90s I was working security at Northern Telecom.
Back then they were a big MOD contractor making all sorts of highly sensitive military comms equipment some of which found its way to the first Gulf War.
Now to enter the office building out of hours you needed a swipe card and key code.
Pretty good for the day you would think however when we did our rounds one of our jobs was to check peoples desk for documents marked SECRET or above and put them into the safe.
We often found TOP SECRET documents left on peoples desks, often open and the muppets even left their windows open even on the ground floor.
Times and tech may have changed but the idiots remain the same.
"We often found TOP SECRET documents left on peoples desks, often open and the muppets even left their windows open even on the ground floor."
90s as well, secret/TS stuff as well.
Instructions were different: last dude in the offices would gather all documents off the offices and shred them (it was a secure shredder, not the office stuff you usually find). We were a tad lazy on the instructions until some high ranked kicked our balls hard.
The next evening, me and my mate applied the instructions by the book. Some idiotic conscript had forgotten his identity card with the whole set of usual documents lying on the office. We nonetheless followed the orders.
Funny was his face the day after. Good times.
At certain places where I have worked (hint: armed guards at the entrance), clearing the desk before evening departure was mandatory, it's called the Last Man Out process. Everything had to go into those nice cabinets with Mark IV dial locks (that's enough hints) at the end of the day, and the lock codes were changed every four weeks or so (no, no, really, no more hints).
Only, our team of rogues had one guy who spend many lonely nights at sea so bored out of his skull that he worked out how to open those locks*, and he was usually our first man in. Thus, come Monday-after-a-change, our cupboards were already open for work, annoying the chap who went round delivering the new codes (he didn't arrive until 10am in our section, and we didn't have that sort of time to waste).
That said, he was a good sport about once he got over the initial shock and it turned into a bit of a running joke.
* There's also a Matt Blaze tutorial on it somewhere.
Anyone remember the new fancy "white elephant" building in Paignton?
I was visiting and working late one night with my laptop.
Then - all the lights went out and I was left in the dark!!!
So after that every 20 minutes I had to swivel around in my chair with outstretched arms so the building didn't think I was dead and turn the lights off again.
Well isn't today a blast down memory lane...
I still have the Nortel mug from their recruitment event in the Rougemont Hotel (I lost, threw or gave away the perspex pyramid paperweight recently) that I found myself in (Having left the positioning company - Wimpol, for Racal in Seaton, quitting there when the writing was on the wall, taking another job (& let go after Y2K)) rubbing shoulders with colleagues who had stayed to the bitter end.
I stuck with IT rather than electronics & didn't pursue that avenue of of employment as that Paignton branch of Nortel was always going through repeated cycles of hire & fire to the best of my recall from BBC Spotlight\Today South West.
For those still wondering what the name of Sven's employer was - I think you will find it's in all probability to be Datatrak, whose name & logo were on all Securicor vans & indeed used to deliver our cash wages to Racal.
I remember the beautiful Art Deco frontage hiding the massive factory behind. I visited quite a few times and talked on the phone too.
I worked as an Engineer/Sales Engineer/Trainer/Liaison/Manager for a Japanese Fibre Optic supplier.
They bought LOTS of our FO sub-assemblies and equipment to build their products.
(possibly £1-2 million over 2 years?)
I grew up in Devon, and it was great to get a panic call or other request to go down there, from SW London, to sort out some problem, shoot the shit and see if they were in the market for some new stuff.
I knew 3 managers, on different lines/products and gave a little training and basically bent over backwards to give them Top Service (actually we did that for all our customers)
I got on well with them, nice guys, and blow me down, all 3 suggested I hand in my notice and come and work there.
I was sorely tempted. Never had an attempt at poaching quite like that before.
It would have been ideal. But my existing job was also good. I decided not, thankfully.
Nortel worldwide almost completely shut down soon after.
Over expansion and recruitment of anyone? (maybe why they were interested in me lol)
And the Telecoms Crash.
We bought some of our equipment back, when they nicely asked (all part of customer relations).
(Value £100k). I think Alcatel or Pirelli bought that at a reduced price.
The boxes weren't even opened from our original delivery months before.
Did I go and collect it? I have a vague memory of some storeroom.
Funnily enough, one of my colleagues spotted some of our/their stuff on eBay a few months later at ridiculous knock-off price.
We tipped off the surviving manager.
Sadly, I have no memory of the locks or general security arrangements.
I suspect it wasn't great with the Boom Town Business and many new employees.
5000 at peak, in Paignton?
From memory Paignton peaked at 4000. That site also caused the biggest headache for our IT manager when the company I was working for bought the plant from Nortel, about the same time they bought the old Marconi plant up near Northampton (Caswell, where they used to build Spitfires during WW2, and a mobile phone deadspot in part due to it's location, in part due to all the buildings being made from ironstone and being rather effective Faraday cages). Anyway, back to the IT manager. Paignton's document control system ran on Linux, and to say he despised anything that wasn't made by Microsoft would be an understatement.
That's not a vulnerability, tape monkey, it is a facility.
And it's still very much the same sort of scenario in VAIOSystems ...... TOP SECRETS shared freely with No Earthly Access to Future Commanding Control Assets ..... Core Virgin Sourced Suppliers.
With Ship Loads of Fabulously Wealthy Tales to Tell to All About SMARTR IntelAIgent Systems Service Full Disclosure Non Agreements, very popular in Intelligence Immunity and Impunity cases requiring at best, all necessary virtual savvy.
What's not to like. IT and AI are a Live Operational Virtual Environment in Future Command with Present Control.
And now you all too know what is no longer TOP SECRET. Enjoy and Ponder on Real Strange News which one might reasonably expect to pretty much see nearly everywhere, where Tomorrow is Phormed by Breaking Monumental News ......... Unbelievably True Fact.
Some say that is Holy Hallowed Ground Zero ..... altho most all know just to think it is more than enough too. Amen/Allahu Akbar to that.
Yup had swipe cards installed on doors here yonks ago, 2 hours after going live the MD said they were to be disabled during office hours.
Our door releases (The green "Breakglass") have those annoying alarms on, although someone did work out how to get around that. Take the plate off the back of the maglock and pull the cable out (Queue every Mag lock being changed location and now knocking out anyone tall).
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