back to article You can always rely on the Ancient Ones to cock things up

We have installed a water feature in Dabbs Mansions. It’s an impressive vertical fountain with a splash radius of two metres. In hindsight, it was probably a mistake to install it in the utility room. To be honest, I don’t even remember ordering it. The first I knew about the whole thing was returning home after an hour and a …

  1. Alister

    You do seem to be suffering from a lot of orphaned child processes, maybe the system really cares about them...

    1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      Leave no child behind!

      And have your pipes checked from time to time. Roots are not the only thing that can block them or even crack them.

      1. Blofeld's Cat

        "... Roots are not the only thing that can block them ..."

        When some of the drains at our hollowed out volcano backed up during a thunderstorm and flooded part of the offices, the boss called in a drain clearing company.

        They traced the problem to a particular manhole under the stockroom floor. On removing the (approximately 240) bolts that secured the access cover, it was discovered that the chamber contained a donkey-jacket with the builder's name on the back.

        1. Mpeler
          Paris Hilton

          donkey jacket

          Was the builder still in it?

          (Paris will help look)...

      2. Peter Simpson 1

        At the office -- repairs being made to the concrete parking garage to reduce leakage and improve drainage. Crumbling concrete being jackhammered and replaced.

        Fast forward 6-8 months. The heavens open, a deluge of Biblical severity occurs. The folks in the downstairs offices begin crying out for help due to 3-4 inches of water on the floor and a healthy flow.

        A soggy wall seems to be the source.

        The plumbers arrive. The cast iron drain pipe from the flat roof runs through the soggy wall. At floor level is a cleanout plug, welded in place by rust. Around the cleanout plug, more rust, but not as strong as that holding the cleanout plug in place. The drain pipe has failed, allowing the runoff from the roof to enter the building.

        Further detective work ensues to discover why the pipe failed. After all, there should be no back pressure, the water should have just kept going to the storm drain, right? Well, the investigation reveals that the drainage pipe is blocked. Where? A long way away, seems to be under the garage somewhere. A very solid blockage....

        Measurements are made, jackhammers produced, and excavation begins.

        A 10 foot section of drainpipe under the garage floor is found to have been filled with concrete during the "repairs" half a year ago. It is replaced. The rusty section of drainpipe in the wall is replaced and a shiny new cleanout plug is installed. The soggy wall is replaced. Runoff from the roof again flows unimpeded to the storm drain. All is well again.

        At a rummage sale that summer, a recycled life ring is purchased and presented to the building manager, who accepts it with good humor. All repair to the pub.

        1. Mpeler

          Repair to the pub whether or not it's beer o'clock

          Repairs at/to the pub are always the best. Especially if repeated on a frequent, regular basis...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      going there sorry

      > orphaned child processes

      One of the few things PID 1 should be worried about. Nah on second thought it should do everything, what's the worst that can happen?

      1. GrumpenKraut

        Re: going there sorry

        > Nah on second thought it should do everything, what's the worst that can happen?

        system de merde? (YOU mentioned it!)

  2. Franco

    Cars and computers have that inherent ability to fail at the very moment you discuss replacing them in my experience. Or once, when I was doing an SBS 2003 to 2011 migration, the RAID controller on the old server died during the one reboot I had to do to get the server in migration mode.

    1. nichomach


      Exchange 2003 -2010; Dell PERC H800 started freezing. Very uncomfortable.

    2. Andrew 6

      Also if a piece of tech (in this case a smartphone) is playing up and being pretty much useless, then it will start working again if you start discussing replacement options .... once you've stopped talking about the replacements because its magically fixed itself, it will keep working for an hour or two just to lull you into a false sense of security

      Tech is sentient! Been saying it for years.

      1. Mayhem

        Oh god yes.

        Had four weekends in a row on a bloody SBS migration.

        First weekend new server PSU died. Next weekend hard disks on temp NAS died. Finally with all going smooth the entire installation of VMWare died and I didn't trust the recovered VMs.

        I think SBS gets a special kind of ancient curse all to itself.

      2. Fihart

        not only sentient but sentimental

        Friend's Quad 405 power and pre-amp system. Blown fuse -- mysterious until I learned that her rent included electricity so she never turned the amp off. Plus in a west-facing room with the heat sink bathed in sunshine and sitting over a hot-running cassette deck also left on permanently.

        More puzzled when it seemed to fail again a few months later. Relocated away from heat sources, fuse okay -- connections all in place. Decided it was dead and I would risk cost of repair against giving her my spare Marantz amp.

        Took the Quad home and it has worked flawlessly since. Amp and two B&W DM2 speakers found abandoned in the street separately six months apart seem very happy together.

        Can only assume that they all detected that I would be a sympatico owner and arranged to be adopted.

        My old cat -- and my neighbour's cat -- turned up in the area and moved into our respective households uninvited. Who is to say tech isn't smarter than cats.

        1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          Re: not only sentient but sentimental

          Who is to say tech isn't smarter than cats.

          Lies around all the time in warm places, constantly demands to be fed, completely unreliable as to whether it will follow instructions or not, never sure whether you in fact own it - or it just tolerates you...

          Are you sure they're not actually the same thing?

          1. Darryl

            Re: not only sentient but sentimental

            You may be onto something there. Maybe cats are reincarnated as tech goods after they shuffle off this mortal coil?

        2. Mystic Megabyte

          Re: not only sentient but sentimental

          I drove my Quad system up to Cambridge and they re-valved it, fixed a pre-amp problem and re-built the electrostatic speakers and then posted the lot back. Cost? £180!! That has to be a bargain, even in 1983.

          To my eternal shame, living in Germany in 1987 I flogged the lot for £500 :( Why? That was to buy my first PC, I should have kept the stereo. <exit stage left, gnashing teeth>

          1. Fihart

            Re: Quads @Mystic Megabyte

            Hmmm Quad valve. Have one of those but last time I powered it up a valve (tube to our US readers) burned out, lighting up the whole room. A lucky junk shop find, loved the sound but its 15 (maybe 30) watts is not up to driving anything but the most efficient speakers -- and it needs a better pre-amp than the Quad 22 (I used a Meridian).

            The last time I heard Electrostatics they were wonderful but driven by a much more powerful Radford valve amp.

            The 405 (and 34 pre-amp) with maybe 120 watts is the first I've owned that will excavate the deepest bass from large speakers. Way ahead of the intervening 33/303 combination and, allegedly, later Quads. Certainly better than a 75 Watt NAD receiver I used before.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Used to deal with Autodesk 3D Studio years ago. I'm convinced that the progress bar when rendering would only move when the computer realised that I was watching it and decided that it better do some work.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Concurred, although I'd add that discussing financial windfalls of any sort seems to awaken the sheer perversity of the universe. [I believe in a personally malignant universe. Truth.]

  3. RIBrsiq

    I could go on about one system's failure stressing another to failure and cascades and so on. But fuck it: you have a point. It does indeed sometimes uncannily seem that the World -- specifically various supposedly non-sentient bits of it -- is Out to Get Us.

    1. JetSetJim

      My home DNS is stubbornly responding to a query for one particular server to an address that is not the originator of the request (and doesn't have a device attached to it either). No idea why, as it seems to work for everything else. If not "Out To Get Me", at least "Out To Vex Me"

      1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        > My home DNS is stubbornly responding to a query for one particular server

        Mine randomly returns the external IP address of my mail server (something that it shouldn't know about since I've never actually configured it to do that) instead of the internal address.

        Thus causing all my mail lookups to fail because the firewall blocks the traffic due to it thinking that it's spoofed.

    2. Mark 85

      I somehow think this is all related to the Rise Of The Machjines. Maybe El Reg should resurrect that bit.

      The IoT stuff, it's only going to get worse as the machines gain more control.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hey so I've been sitting on this hot IoT 0-day for weeks, when I lucked out. Some luser plugged in his new smart washing machine, and I was able to gain full access right away. And I mean full access, pumps, motors, everything.

    If that wasn't bad enough, he was using the same brand smart fridge, and even bulbs! I flickered those suckers to mess with him.

    If only the guy had had IoT cameras. Would love to have seen his dumb face.

  5. AndrueC Silver badge

    They are simply doing it on purpose to piss us off.

    I defy any reader to tell me they don’t experience this on a regular basis at work

    Oh, yes. A month ago I needed to communicate with HMRC. So right from the off you can guess that I wasn't starting from a 'happy place'. So I follow my normal procedure of grabbing my credentials from the fire safe (I can't remember the random numbers and letters they gave me for my password and user name). Click login and..whut?..passport number? FFS. Is this really the HMRC site? Yes. Bah. Go back to fire safe. Get passport. Type bloody number. Click.

    Bloody mobile bloody phone bloody number?

    Typitty type. Click.

    <five minutes later>. This is pathetic. HMRC can't even send a 2FA SMS. Pick mobile phone up to share a whinge with friend.

    'Not registered on network'.

    Eh? Bloody worked half an hour ago. Reboot phone 'cos sometimes it does this.

    'No signal'.

    Stomp over to Vodafone Sure Signal. Note slow paced disco simulation from second LED.

    Stomp out into garden then do the 'how high can I hold the phone' dance. Text arrives from HMRC. Go back inside expecting round of applause from neighbours.

    Turns out the important message from HMRC was that they hadn't managed to progress my query yet. Vodafone eventually fixed the problem with Sure Signal five days later.

  6. Blofeld's Cat


    "To add to the Twilight Zone feel to the day, the fridge blew a fuse and a lightbulb in the shower chose that moment to begin flickering."

    Sounds like Murphy's Law in action ... or possibly O' Toole's corollary ...

    "Murphy was such an optimist"

    1. Andy A

      Re: Hmm...

      Murphy, of course, had TWO laws.

      1. If anything can go wrong, it will.

      2. If anything can't go wrong, it will.

      O'Toole was still right.

      1. Mystic Megabyte

        Re: Hmm...

        A Spaniard asks an Irishman if they had a word similar to mañana. The Irishman replies, "Yes, but it doesn't have the same sense of urgency".

        1. Bob Rocket

          Re: Hmm...

          The Irish equivalent of 'manana' is 'there are seven days next week'

          1. Adrian 4 Silver badge

            Re: Hmm...

            Manana gets all the attention. But we have one closer to home - the Cornish word 'dreckly'.

            1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              Re: Hmm...

              "Manana gets all the attention. But we have one closer to home - the Cornish word 'dreckly'."

              Yeah, but Spanish is spoken over significant parts of the world. Cornish is barely spoken in Cornwall.

              1. Mpeler

                Re: Hmm... dreckly

                Ahh, but in the deep south we have the word (at least pronunciation) toreckly...

                As in SPT (Southern People's Time) (formerly CPT)...

                Mañana doesn't even come close.

                "Hey, can y'all have those joists here day after tomorra?"

                "Um, we was thinking 'bout week after n-ext. Will thet do?"...

                [This really did happen. And I got them to hurry. Still almost two weeks, though].

                Have a beer (or a mint julep. It's gonna be awhile...

        2. badgames

          Re: Hmm...

          I went to college in New Mexico and was exposed to mañana there and used to give friends static about it. At a later stage in my career, I worked for 3 years in Saudi Arabia (before coming back to New Mexico, 10 years in Arizona and 3 in Saudi, and I still like the desert, but it doesn't have to be quite so hot), and learned a new word there. In'shallah, which as I explained as I was apologizing to my Spanish (well, Spanglish really) speaking friends, had the same meaning as mañana, but without the sense of urgency that mañana conveyed, because God may never be willing.

          This usually provoked gales of laughter...

  7. Nezumi

    There will be blood...

    They are simply doing it on purpose to piss us off.


    Many years ago (when my liver still worked) I used to work on a tech' bench for a computer retail company.

    This is so long ago that you could still make money building PC's.

    I would occasionally come across PCs that just wouldn't play nice whilst I was trying to upgrade hardware. Once they had done me the courtesy of skinning my knuckles, cutting my fingers or otherwise drawing blood they would then suddenly behave and start working correctly.

    They were usually Packard Bell BTW

    1. Rich 11

      Re: There will be blood...

      It is a truism that no hardware component upgrade will ever work without the case or frame first extracting tribute in blood.

      1. Bob Wheeler

        Re: There will be blood...

        Even worse, when you try to decdommission servers.

        When I get home with my hands. fingers and arms sliced and cut my wife says "Oh, have you been trying to throw out old computers again?"

        1. Fixing IT

          Re: There will be blood...

          Data cabinets demand their blood sacrifice.

          My wife knows when I've been working in one, my hands and arms look like I lost a fight with a cat.

          Whoever cuts a cable tie and leaves a few mm of jagged tail is pure evil. Or maybe they're cut to leave a smooth edge and the gods of cable management decide to tighten them a little more "just to be sure.."

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: There will be blood...

            "Whoever cuts a cable tie and leaves a few mm of jagged tail is pure evil. "

            Or uses sidecutters when the correct tool actually exists:

            *The same people who use sidecutters invariably pull the ties too tight and mess up cat5/6 cable impedances. This is why I've banned ties and provide copious quantities of velcro wraps.

            1. Elf

              Re: There will be blood...

              Velcro is King for Ethernet. My personal pet peeve is finding a nice bundle of (say) 64 lines and we gotta add one more run. Like so many of us here, people suffer from my OCD. Cut them all loose, make the new run, and here's a 50 meter roll of double sided Velcro and my Griptilian, please leave extra for the next chumps.

      2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: There will be blood...

        > frame first extracting tribute in blood.

        Except my old IBM server (2 x P2 - weighed the same as yer average small car and sounded like a Vulcan in take-off mode). Nice smooth metalwork, clip-fastened cards.

        Of course, being an IBM it extracted blood in other ways - "*how* much for a RAM expansion? You could buy a small mainframe for that!".

      3. jcitron

        Re: There will be blood...

        You do know that's part of the kit.

        Every time I replace a power supply, I end up with ripped fingers and a blood blister.

      4. Montreal Sean

        Re: There will be blood...

        True for automotive repairs too.

        I've given pints of blood to my cars over the years, but no repair would hold if blood wasn't shed.

    2. TheTor

      Re: There will be blood...

      You really need to try violence. Threats sometimes work, but for those really stubborn ones, actual violence is needed.

      Came home one night after a long day at work recently, and went to switch on the media PC hooked up to my TV. PC came on, but nothing appeared on the screen.

      Spend the next hour checking connections, reseating video cards, swapping out cables, verifying the TV still works, ad nauseum. Finally got to the end of my tether, swore loudly, and kicked it as hard as I could.

      Immediately afterwards, I hit the power on button, and BOOM. Working as intended. Hasn't played up once since. They CAN be coerced :)

      1. Alister

        Re: There will be blood...

        You really need to try violence. Threats sometimes work, but for those really stubborn ones, actual violence is needed.

        I'm sure I've posted this tale before, but it bears repeating:

        A colleague of mine was working on a desktop machine which steadfastly refused to boot cleanly.

        All the component parts, (motherboard, CPU, Fan, RAM, PSU, Video card, network card, etc) had been tested in other machines and were known to work, but put them all together in one case and it wouldn't work.

        Finally, in exasperation, my colleague picked the whole thing up and threw it out of an (open) second-floor window.

        When he had trudged downstairs and retrieved it from the flowerbed it was occupying, he emptied out the soil and plugged it in, and it worked first time.


        On the workbench in the comms room here we have the skeletal remains of a Dell PE860 with a large screwdriver embedded in its mainboard. It is left there as a salutary lesson to all the servers in the racks...

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: There will be blood...

          "All the component parts, (motherboard, CPU, Fan, RAM, PSU, Video card, network card, etc) had been tested in other machines and were known to work, but put them all together in one case and it wouldn't work."

          Had exactly the same. My solution was a little less percussive. I eventually noticed the tray the motherboard was on was bending slightly after the motherboard was attached and screwed into place and shorting it. I just bent it a bit in the opposite direction. Job done.

        2. jcitron

          Re: There will be blood...

          I have threatened to toss a machine out the window and have it work. I wonder if it knew I meant business. ;-)

          1. Laura Kerr

            Re: There will be blood...

            I've had something similar. Years ago, I was trying to extract data from a Mac-based Omnis 7 application. The only way to do this was to create a report that would dump the data to a delimited text file. There was plenty of disc space, so no worries about it filling up.

            Tedious, but what the hell. So I built the reports and tested them to hell and breakfast until they were good to go. Kicked 'em off.

            "Sorry, a system error occurred."

            Uh? Maybe I'd tried to extract too much data at once. So I changed it to extract only half the data. No problem with running it twice.

            "Sorry, a system error occurred."

            Oh, ha-bloody-ha. Changed it to extract a quarter of the data at a time and resigned myself to coming in over the weekend to restart it. Three bloody times. Who needs a social life, anyway? Friday drinkies, Saturday morning hangover, get to the office by Saturday lunchtime.

            "Sorry, a system error occurred."

            Deep breaths. Lots of deep breaths. Convince myself that I'd cocked something up. Run reports on the test system.

            "Report completed."

            OK, so I now needed to extract the data in twenty separate chunks. Lovely. Just keep your distance Apple, I know how to use a flensing knife. Kick off the first of the twenty report interations, wait for a little while and then decide I can save some of my weekend. Off I go to the pub, Saturday drinkies, Sunday morning hangover, get to the office by Sunday lunchtime.

            "Sorry, a system error occurred."

            Cue the RED MIST. Walk up to machine. I'm so angry that I've gone beyond shouting. Talk to Mac nicely. "Right, you little fuckpig. Think you're funny, do you? This is your last fucking chance. Run that report or YOU! ARE! FUCKING! DEAD!"

            Just to emphasise the point I slammed my fist onto the keyboard as hard as I could on each of the last four words. If that bloody crApple wanted a fight, it could have one. I kicked the full report off and stormed out of the office.

            Get in on Monday morning, ready to dismantle the sack of shit without tools and throw the remains into the canal if it so much as dared to hint at system errors. Punch the monitor power switch, just to let it know that I hadn't forgotten what I'd said to it.

            "Report completed."

            Sometimes, you just have to speak their language.

      2. Captain DaFt

        Re: There will be blood...

        "They CAN be coerced :)"

        Relevant Fizz

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: There will be blood...

      "I would occasionally come across PCs that just wouldn't play nice whilst I was trying to upgrade hardware."

      Maybe you didn't have a shelf with a big hammer just above the bench.

  8. Fraggle850

    Reference to Thoth coupled with a previous reference to Aleister Crowley

    Dabbsy, are you a rosicrucian? Is it possible that your dabbling in occultism is opening a channel for the Old Gods? You've only yourself to blame. Now concerned that I might take hits to sanity from repeated exposure to your columns.

    1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Re: Reference to Thoth coupled with a previous reference to Aleister Crowley

      > I might take hits to sanity from repeated exposure to your columns.

      Are you implying that Dabbsy is a Cthulu cultist? Actually - you may be onto something..

      Repeated failed SAN rolls follow.

    2. Alistair Dabbs

      Re: Reference to Thoth coupled with a previous reference to Aleister Crowley

      Not the sort of thing I'd admt to or deny.

  9. Long John Brass

    Blood Sacrifice

    Back on the day when building PCs for myself or for $company

    I found that the razor sharp, nay these things put cut throat razors to shame

    would exact a not insignificant amount of blood as payment; these machines would always work fine. On the odd occasion where tired from the blood loss and looking like I'd lost a fight with a possessed helicopter made of razor wire, those machines would always have issues until the appropriate blood sacrifice was made.

    The old gods always require payment and will not be satisfied until the bill is settled

    1. Doctor_Wibble
      Thumb Up

      Re: Blood Sacrifice

      "Amen!" => Upvote!

      Same goes for servers, there have in the past been entire racks which over time became dependent on the presence of my blood - being replenished at regular intervals meant that they even survived for a while after my departure.

      Also, don't ever let CSI into a server room or it will be buried in that police tape while they try and count the victims and you will never see it again!

    2. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: Blood Sacrifice

      I got my start in IT by building computers, and for the entire time I worked there I always had at least one cut or scrape on my hands that was healing. By the time it was healed over I'd have cut myself somewhere else, it was actually worse than when I worked in a kitchen.

      Of course the absolute worst injury wasn't the time a server fan cut my finger to the bone, or the deep cuts in exactly the same spot on my thumb that a particular model of harddrrive cage would cause. No, it was managing to jam a pin on the motherboard under one of my fingernails. Excruciating, but no real wound to show for it :(

      1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: Blood Sacrifice

        > I worked there I always had at least one cut or scrape on my hands that was healing

        Trust me - it's even worse when you do that for a living and then come home to 4-legged fuzzballs with a fondness for playing Venus Handtrap[1]..

        [1] Which proceeds thusly - cat lies in a conveniently-exposed position as if asking for its stomach to be rubbed. Anyone foolish enough to not realise the dastardly plan and *actually* attempting to fuss said stomach will then have their hand enthusiastically grabbed by the Gripping Claws(tm) and then disembowled by the Claws that Rend. It hurts.

        1. Alistair Dabbs

          Re: Blood Sacrifice

          I have a cousin who, when he was a designer at The Times, would come home each day with an ink smear across his forehead. He couldn't explain where it came from as he generally didn't visit the presses.

          1. jcitron

            Re: Blood Sacrifice

            The stuff magically floats about or has wings.

            I too worked as a typesetter in a pre-press department located 2 floors from the press room and I would have ink on my clothes.

  10. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

    Oh so true (the water feature)

    I found a puddle of water in my Utility room this morning. When I got a drip on my thinning hair, I knew what the problem was. The radiator in my home office (there's the IT angle ok!) was leaking or rather one of the pipes connecting it up was leaking.

    Said radiator is under my desk (gotta keep the toes warm in winter) so I'm faced with dismanling the desk in order to get at the errant pipework. This does not fill me with fun. I have three pedastal servers underneath it as well as a laptop plus three 27in 4K screens on top.

    Add to that, I'm in the middle of a pre-UAT test (did I write the original post?) that is bulk loading data and won't end for 2-3 days, I'm caught between the rock and a hard place. Do I abort the test that has been running for 15 days now or do I let the leak stay put until it is done? It is was lunchtime, I'd ponder over the problem down the pub but it ain't...

    Yes there is a lot of data, around 20TB loaded so far.

    Oh, decisions, decisions. What to do?

    1. Known Hero

      Re: Oh so true (the water feature)

      How much pressure is the pipe under ?

      If there is a catastrophic failure, how high will the water jet up ?

      Can you not just turn off the radiators ? weather has warmed up a bit.

      1. Dabooka

        Re: Oh so true (the water feature)

        As Known Hero says, it's warm enough now to survive a few days. Turn off CH and drain system to at least the ground floor level.

        Finish test, dismantle eveything, fix and rebuild it all again whilst asking how the heck the cable got so tangled when you installed the setup all so neatly last time.

        1. TeeCee Gold badge

          Re: Oh so true (the water feature)

          Jesus, you guys are so overthinking this one!

          Stick a bloody bucket under the drip and ignore it until it's convenient to do something about it.

          1. herman Silver badge

            Re: Oh so true (the water feature)

            Bucket to catch a drip? Put a funnel and garden hose, then it will work at least till the pipe freezes in winter.

            1. StudeJeff

              Re: Oh so true (the water feature)

              Then once the pipe freezes it won't leak anymore (at least until it thaws).

        2. AndrueC Silver badge

          Re: Oh so true (the water feature)

          whilst asking how the heck the cable got so tangled when you installed the setup all so neatly last time.

          It's cos of Entropy, apparently.

          Disclaimer: I am not a scientist.

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: Oh so true (the water feature)

            "It's cos of Entropy, apparently."

            That paper's not an adequate explanation. They jiggled the string. As we all know cables can knot themselves without any external source of motion.

            1. TonyJ Silver badge

              Re: Oh so true (the water feature)

              "...That paper's not an adequate explanation. They jiggled the string. As we all know cables can knot themselves without any external source of motion..."


              Plug TV into the mains.

              Plug various other cables into the TV.

              Note with pleasure how neat and tidy said cables are laid.

              Watch TV.

              Go to bed.

              Wake up.

              Check cables - knotted. Despite the fact that one end is attached to an effin' wall and the other to something bolted to the wall or laid neatly, untouched below it.

              Cable gremlins.

    2. Mystic Megabyte

      Re: Oh so true (the water feature)

      What you have to do is this;

      Roughly determine where the leak is.

      Get a bucket and a screwdriver.

      Position the bucket and using the screwdriver make a small hole in the ceiling.

      This will allow any water to drip into the bucket.

      If you don't do this your ceiling will collapse.

      That would be expensive, whereas filling a small hole would be cheap.

      You owe me £50!

    3. John Crisp

      Re: Oh so true (the water feature)

      As I am in charge of Stating the Obvious I recommend a trip to the pub.

      Keep drinking until the job is done.

      The amount of alcohol consumed vs the amount of time remaining prior to test completion plus added 3rd party disasters is maths well beyond my pay grade.

      Either way, the closer to failure the less you will care if (read when) it fails.

      All naturally IMHO.

  11. Putters

    Artificial Intelligence is Difficult

    Artificial Intelligence is difficult ... but Artificial Bloody Mindedness has been perfected and is in action every day.

  12. Andrew Commons

    Ah yes....

    Far too many years ago I was writing some commercial security software for DEC VMS systems. They had a built in account for Field Service, we had some examples in the product where this was referred to as 'Field Circus'... it was suggested by some distributors that this was not a good idea. We agreed and removed it, and then it came back, and then we removed it, and then.... It took a significant search and destroy effort covering every possible library and input to libraries across our development environments to nail it.

    So situation normal really :-)

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Ah yes....

      Do I know you, Andrew?

      I was one of Ken Olsen's "black sheep", and some-time member of DEC's flying squad ...

      1. Andrew Commons

        Re: Ah yes....

        Well, if you were part of the flying squad you may have been there when the 'first in the country' VAX 8600 fell over ... physically.

        It's not often you get to see the underside of one of those things. :-D

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Ah yes....

          "fell over ... physically."

          I was not on that trip ... but I heard that her bottom wasn't really worth looking at ;-)

          1. Andrew Commons

            Re: Ah yes....

            "but I heard that her bottom wasn't really worth looking at"

            You are obviously far more discriminating than I am. It took four burly wharfies to get her back up again, it was quite some bottom :-)

            1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

              Re: Ah yes....

              "It took four burly wharfies to get her back up again"

              I'm reminded of the day, years before the VAX had even been though of, when we took delivery of a large wooden crate containing a Phillips scintillation counter - big piece of kit about half as wide again as your normal rack. Although the electronics were packed in separate boxes it wasn't empty - it was filled with the paternoster mechanism for changing samples and the housing and screening for the PMs.

              The transport firm had neglected to send in in a van that included a tail lift. The driver's idea was that we simply drop it off the back. Eventually someone found a long scaffolding plank. We let it down on its side, slid it down the plank & then stood it upright. I don't think anyone had checked in advance whether it would fit down the narrow passage into the lab; we had to get it out of its crate before we could move it further. Once he'd seen the innards the driver went very quiet.

              1. Andrew Commons

                Re: Ah yes....

                "we had to get it out of its crate before we could move it further"

                Yup...and then you get to the goods lift. Remove all packaging before it stands any chance of getting into it. Press the button for the desired floor, squeeze the bugger into the empty lift ignoring all the alarms and then pray that the doors open on the right floor :-)

                Miniaturisation has taken a lot of the excitement out technology.

              2. PhilBuk

                Re: Ah yes....

                The lead shielding didn't help either.


  13. jake Silver badge


    The roots were already there. However, the new evacuation pump was more powerful than the old evacuation pump.

    Suggestion: Ask Half-Life to turn off and/or unplug appliances that are misbehaving.

    The machines are not actually doing it on purpose ... they don't have anything resembling cognitive processes. Rather, the human(s) at the controls haven't thought the scenario through.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Simples.

      "The roots were already there. However, the new evacuation pump was more powerful than the old evacuation pump."

      Our drainage system had a habit of becoming suddenly blocked. There's apparently an underground bend that likes to accumulate fat on the far side (like a meander). There seems also to be a crucial tipping point at which stuff accumulates very suddenly and blocks it.

      The preventive answer is to pour a few litres of hot dilute sodium hydroxide down it at intervals of a few months. This probably works on roots too. company for which I worked had a silver plating plant. It had been in action for years until one day there was a H&S inspection and it was found that a lot of cyanide was being flushed down the drain. Hefty fine, cyanide removal plant installed.

      Six months later, the people living downstream reported a plague of rats from the sewers.

      1. jake Silver badge

        "likes to accumulate fat" (was: Re: Simples.)

        Don't put fat down the drain.


        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "likes to accumulate fat" (was: Simples.)

          You obviously (a) have no women in the household and (b) do not know what goes into all those viscous cleaning products. Personally I'd ban the lot. As would the trade waste officer of the local water company.

          And what moron allowed people to put plastic balls into cleaning products in the first place?

        2. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

          Re: "likes to accumulate fat" (was: Simples.)

          If you prepare food and do the dishes there is no way you can't put fat (oil, grease, blood, tissue, milk, whatever) down the drain. You can reduce it to a tiny amount, but you can't get rid of all of it.

          You can add a grease separator to your plumbing - they are really fun to clean! Obligatory in a lot of places when you operate a restaurant kitchen etc. If possible, install a model that can be accessed from the outside of the buliding and emptied using a big hose and pump.

          1. glen waverley

            Re: "likes to accumulate fat" (was: Simples.)

            allthecoolshortnamesweretaken "You can add a grease separator to your plumbing - they are really fun to clean! "

            When I were a lad in what were then the outer suburbs of an Australian metropolis, we had one of those. Called grease traps. Had to have them as suburb hadn't yet been sewered and it was a Bad Idea to let grease and fat into the septic tank*.

            Never had to clean it, but looked inside it on a few occasions. Not nice.

            * That is an actual septic tank for breaking down sewage and grey water, in case there are speakers of rhyming slang reading this.

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Simples.

        "a lot of cyanide was being flushed down the drain."

        We had a Belfast sink* (we were in Belfast) in the lab that persistently leaked. I had a few goes at trying to tighten up the fittings over the years. Eventually I realized that the hydrofluoric acid that had been tipped down it had eaten its way through the glaze.

        *Note for colonials: made out of white glazed earthenware.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Simples.

          "Eventually I realized that the hydrofluoric acid that had been tipped down it"

          Aargh. Just aargh. Somebody tipped hydrofluoric acid down a sink.

          That's the worst I've heard since the story from the days when people were allowed to smoke in laboratories. Someone poured some waste ether down a sink which had previously been used to dispose of several litres of near boiling water. While smoking.

          The resulting fireball was too short lived to do more than remove his eyebrows and cause what looked like a bad attack of sunburn. Had he not recently washed his hair, which was still damp, it could have been much more serious.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Simples.

            Replying to myself in case anyone wants clarification, I was taught that if you were going to use HF - and only in the fume cupboard - a plentiful supply of calcium hydroxide slurry was needed for disposal, and to wipe down anywhere it had been used.

            Hydrofluoric acid literally causes the flesh to fall from your bones. It's even nastier than hydrogen cyanide. Calcium hydroxide is dirt cheap and converts it to nice, safe calcium fluoride.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Simples.

              Yep, HF is just this side of a mixture of Sarin and Alien circulatory liquid.

              Had he not recently washed his hair, which was still damp, it could have been much more serious.

              If you are at a french uni, I have it on good authority to absolutely fucking check (every morning) that the emergency showers are actually working. A poor girl got the HCl treatment with nary a shower in sight.

              Because sticking all the tax money up the arse of overnumerous/overpaid civil servants and striking because of mythical "austerity" and "bad working conditions" and a "lack of jobs", these guys actually make damn sure Murphy stays in the unmaintained house.

    2. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      Re: Simples.

      We had a drainpipe in the basement of a kindergarden that would leak every now and then, but never when anybody went to look. Everything looked just fine, even on close inspection. Weeks later we found out that leakage only occurred when the dishwasher was running. One of the pipe couplings was just a little out of whack. Not a problem when someone was using the sink for washing their hands or doing the dishes or whatever. But the water from the dishwasher was just a little hotter than from the sink - causing the pipe coupling to expand just a little bit, resulting in a little gap between the pipe and the (botched) sealing. (Metal pipe, good heat conductor.) Well, you live and learn.

      1. Darryl

        Re: Simples.

        The dishwasher story reminded me of our bathtub. The previous owners had done a shoddy update on the main bathroom. Every now and then, I'd go into the bathroom in the basement (directly below) to find the counter was all wet. I could never catch it happening. Until months later when I was walking by and heard splashing. Walked in and finally found the problem. When they'd "installed" the new plumbing upstairs, the drain fitting on the bathtub was a little bit smaller than the original pipe and trap, so they'd just shoved it into the pipe and called it good. The drain could handle the shower running full blast, but draining the tub was just a little too much flow, causing it to back up a tiny amount - just enough to squirt out around the "connection" from the new to old.

  14. DropBear

    Well, some will definitely attribute concerted breakdowns to the Ancient Ones or maybe proto-Skynet - the others may have heard of the clumpiness of chance... :)

  15. Efros

    You gotta watch

    for the full moon on the second Friday of the month, especially if it's the thirteenth. On those days not only will the sky fall in but your PSU will fritz and proceed to fry everything on the +5 and +12V rail. A true confluence of shitstorms.

  16. Efros


    Nothing to do with Kunta Kinte. 3 days after moving into our new house our sewer backed up. It seems the previous occupant had lived there for 20 years on their own. We moved in as a household of 4 adults and the maple roots in the sewer pipes obstructed more crap in those three days than they had probably ever seen. Cost about $1000 to get the pipe replaced and the offending maple removed. Took weeks to lose the stench in the basement.

  17. TheProf


    While we're on the subject of theme tunes to television programmes....

    Why don't TV programmes have theme tunes any more? Or films for that matter.

    The Champions, Minder, Starsky and Hutch et al all had recognisable tunes.

    Now, try and recall the theme music for, say, Lost. Battlestar Galactica? Heros? Fringe?

    Or is it that the kind of TV I watch just doesn't deserve a memorable tune?

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Music

      What about the Big Bang Theory or Longmire or Game of Thrones?

      1. Alistair Dabbs

        Re: Music

        And Penny Dreadful. Come to think of it, I've been watching the 1970s comedy series Porridge and there's no theme tune.

        1. Alister

          Re: Music

          I've been watching the 1970s comedy series Porridge and there's no theme tune.

          Yes there is, it goes:

          "Norman Stanley Fletcher, you have pleaded guilty to the charges brought by this court and it is now my duty to pass sentence. You are an habitual criminal who accepts arrest as an occupational hazard and presumably accepts imprisonment in the same casual manner. We therefore feel constrained to commit you to the maximum term allowed for these offences — you will go to prison for five years."(SLAM)

    2. jake Silver badge

      Re: Music

      What is this thing you call TV?

      If even you can't remember it, is it really worth you watching it?

      Just asking ...

    3. Charles 9

      Re: Music

      Most TV shows only provide 30 seconds for an open, so no it usually isn't worth it, though some shows manage to come up with catchy stuff even with the tight time limit.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A long time ago ...

    "Two weeks later, an update to the system was rolled out and the UAT process recommenced. Shortly after, I stumbled across the following pop-up information message window:

    Please ensure the child element is linked to it’s parent.

    How the hell did that get back in there? I logged the typo again, which as before was traced to a language file and nixed."

    Many moons ago, we were the biggest corporate customer of a mail appliance vendor. Good products they were, with occasional bugs (who doesn't have any ?).

    For a solid 5 years, EVERY, I mean, like in every single one of them, updates, would revert all patches they'd send us. They simply were running an OS branch for us, and every stock release would never contain them. Every time, we had to log new issues. Of course, they never told us and always acted as surprised.

    And of course, those were real bugs, not tantrum changes requests. I suppose other customers wouldn't see the bugs as they were not corporate.

    1. druck Silver badge

      Re: A long time ago ...

      It's far more likely that while Please ensure the child element is linked to it’s parent. was corrected in the language file, the actual text displayed was hard coded in the application, and never changed. They should have tried switching language and seeing if that pop-up was still in English.

  19. TheOtherHobbes

    And you thought "Log in as root" was just a metaphor?

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Tech can bite you in unusual ways

    I know someone who worked for a small delivery company in the early 80s, they were contracted to urgently deliver some "stuff" by the MOD in April-June 1982.

    He had delivered what turned out to be a new control rack for a radar system to a RAF base, got the signature for proof of delivery and let the forklift driver get on their job to unload.

    The driver must have been new to the job, as they swung around with the load elevated and neatly dropped it from about a meter onto concrete.

    It rattled when they picked it up.

    1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Re: Tech can bite you in unusual ways

      > It rattled when they picked it up.

      I had a Catalyst 6509 chassis sent to me by the US office of the company I worked for at the time (as a spare - we were moving offices and "old kit might not come back up again" was a valid cause for concern).

      Depite being made of pure unobtainium and constructed solidly enough to survive a nuclear war, when it arrived it was a definate lozenge shape (noticable even by my non-IT colleague who said words to the effect of "should it be that shape?").

      Courier company tried to claim:

      1) It should be that shape

      2) It was that shape when shipped (no - my US colleague had taken a photo of it pre-ship..)

      3) It wasn't their fault and I had to sign for it anyway.

      Not only was the chassis utterly broken, but all the switch cards and controller cards were also splintered down the middle and completely dead.

      It takes a special kind of UnCare to do that much damage!

    2. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      Re: Tech can bite you in unusual ways

      "The driver must have been new to the job, ..."

      From my experience - no. Just a forklift operator. A pack of forklift drivers can do more damage than a squad of military demolition experts.

      1. BugabooSue

        Re: Tech can bite you in unusual ways

        ""The driver must have been new to the job, ..."

        From my experience - no. Just a forklift operator. A pack of forklift drivers can do more damage than a squad of military demolition experts."

        True. Too True! I worked on 'Night Security' a few years ago for Costco. While the forklift drivers were all fantastic folks, and of whom I will not have a bad thing said as people, had a singular "let's see how much I can get off in one go" when it came to unloading the trucks. They would try to pull of multi-stacked pallets from trailers on the loading docks.

        All would go well until the trailer was about half-load, then the ride-height of the trailer would no longer match the dock's bay. Onto the trailer goes several tonnes of forklift, picks up load, backs out, several tonnes of forklift leaves trailer along with added wait of load. Trailer shifts more as forklift travels up ramp; top load catches roof of dock port, both pallets topple off forks onto floor as packing-wrap can only handle so much stress; TWELVE 60-inch £2500 LCD TV's hit the floor. :)

      2. BugabooSue

        Re: Tech can bite you in unusual ways

        Sorry, one more forklift story. Not really tech-related unless you say that the dropped load was a new computer-controlled (CNC) lathe/mill.

        Anyone who knows workshop metal lathes, knows that most of the weight tends to be at the top..?

        When you move a lathe, or any top-heavy load, it's a good idea to chain/strap it to the moving vehicle. The guy with the forklift didn't. The heaviest part was soon at the bottom (on the concrete road), and the bed of the £12,000 lathe (late 1980's prices), broke in two. Not a bad morning's work, eh? :D

      3. FeRDNYC

        Re: Tech can bite you in unusual ways

        >> "The driver must have been new to the job, ..."

        > From my experience - no. Just a forklift operator. A pack of forklift drivers can do more damage than a squad of military demolition experts.

        See Also: Backhoe operators, the bane of network engineers the world over. Nothing can send a backbone provider's day spiraling into Tums®-dependent hell faster than the phrases "backhoe" and "fibre cut" being employed in close proximity.

  21. Adam Hartfield

    Of course tech is sentient

    When was the last time your smoke alarm had a low battery beep at 3 p.m. on a nice warm Saturday afternoon? NEVER. It is always at 2 a.m. on a work night in winter.




    1. swampdog

      Re: Of course tech is sentient

      Try one of those "commercial" fire alarms - the sort with lock & keypad. It would trigger an alarm if the mains failed. Now add into the mix a landlord who is unavailable at the weekend plus a new tenant who refuses to understand the concept of a tripswitch.





      ..and no way to cancel until Monday morning (needs key to unlock the pad).

      Got so I had to make a choice between staying over with my GF or teaching this rogue device a lesson. The latter was surprisingly easy to achieve. I undid all the screws at the front and the facia came off. Quick jumper across the back of the lock. Tada - keypad now active.

      It had a stonking battery in it. Even if the power had remained off it would have run for hours.


      The upper floors had sirens but the ground floor had one of those old fashioned "red school bell with clapper inside"(**) jobbies.


      Never undo the bolt and take the bell off while one of those is running.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Of course tech is sentient - smoke alarm batteries

      Battery voltage and capacity drops with temperature, which is why the beep always starts when the alarm is cold, and why cars are harder to start in winter. I am sorry to rain on your hypothesis.

  22. Stevie


    The anti-handiman demons. They hover over a home improvement or repair job in swarms, waiting for just the right comedic moment to infest the equipment and, for actual example, make the chain on a chainsaw come off the bar at maximum wellie even though it was in perfect adjustment and had plenty of oil. Anti-handiman demons are what cause everyone on the planet to sever the cord of their own hedge trimmer (which has driven everyone to replace corded tools with battery-powered equivalents, allowing the prospect of a simple recharge burning down one's house).

    I known them well. Google The Occasional Stevie and feel my pain.

    1. Sherrie Ludwig

      Re: Bah!

      @ The Occasional Stevie: fie upon thee! I have wasted much time reading this blog, which is hilarious with the pain of truth.

  23. smartypants

    Washing machine anecdote

    We once hired a holiday cottage and it had a washing machine by the sink. I rarely use a washing machine on holiday, but on this occasion we thought we'd stick some towels in.

    On opening the door, I amost fainted from the 'Breath of Satan' that hit me as an entire washing-machine's worth of foetid brown water poured over my feet and into the room.

    Some plumber from mars had managed to join up the sink plughole and the washing machine exit pipe in such a way that when you emptied the sink, quite a bit of that water would leak into the drum. After a few weeks of guests using the sink but not using the machine, the build-up had developed into a powerful and voluminous brew.

    I suspect that new forms of disease evolved during their time in the drum and now that they are released into the wild, it is only a matter of time before we all die! (Well I suppose that's true anyway...)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Washing machine anecdote

      Some plumber from mars had managed to join up the sink plughole and the washing machine exit pipe in such a way that when you emptied the sink, quite a bit of that water would leak into the drum.

      When our office was built the ladies & gents toilet blocks were aligned back-to-back, with a service corridor between them. The sewer pipe ran down the middle of the corridor. When the plumbers were connecting the toilet bowls someone had the idea of simplifying the connections, just put a T-piece between the cubicles, a bowl on each side, and the vertical downpipe connected to the sewer.

      All was well during clean-water tests, but when we moved in it was soon discovered that flushing a loo on one side would result in some of the contents of the bowl crossing the T-piece and appearing in the opposite bowl, often much to the distress of any lady seated there at the time. All the T-pieces were soon replaced with Y connectors...

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge

        Re: Washing machine anecdote

        Building regulations might se onerous and excessively prescriptive, but in most cases there are really good reasons.

        (Except Part P, which is what happens when a politician's family suffers a tragedy.)

  24. Rol

    Lap of the God

    I am a kindly God. One that has your best interests at heart. If left in the hands of my evil twin, Devious Maximus, then all those little irritating mishaps would never have come about, and you would now be happily entrusting your entire existence to your "infallible" technology, and thus be on the cusp of extinction.

    No. It is good that I regularly remind you of how fickle your technology can be, and how misguided your trust in what you know. After all, you have only recently grasped the concept of electricity and have yet to experience the Universal Charge Cycle, where electrons and protons reverse their charge every thousand years.

    Oh and there's more, lots more, that you have little concept of, so, yes, in the interests of keeping my long running experiment alive, I will from time to time keep butting in and right royally screwing with your gizmos.

    Oh and your subscription fees for Sol are overdue. Late payment fees of ten virgin sacrifices will be applied to your account if full remittance is not forthcoming. All major blood types accepted.

  25. Toltec

    It's all connected

    You are connected with all of the objects in your life via an underlying realm not perceptible to humans, even knowing about it can damage your sanity so it has to be approached in the same way as the Game, damn. As noticing linked failures can lead to considering the possibility of this underlying medium, this is becoming a serious public health risk as before the internet it was just one of those things and never widely discussed so rarely a problem.

    Fortunately those in the know, that are still sufficiently sane, have come up with a solution. It is called the Internet of Things, going forward all objects in your life will indeed be connected in an equally inexplicable, but easily blameworthy way, therefore any failure clusters can be atributed to this technology.

    I just need to go and lie down in a dark, no not the dark, blibble...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It's all connected

      "You are connected with all of the objects in your life via an underlying realm not perceptible to humans"

      On the contrary, the realm of stupidity is extremely perceptible to humans, but only as it affects other people.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It's all connected

        It's all an illusion anyway. The Matrix has you!

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    It's a funny quirk the possessive apostrophe, if we knew it was Bob then it would be right to say:

    "Please ensure the child element is linked to Bob’s parent."

    To avoid confusion where you have many Bobs:

    "Please ensure the child element is linked to it’s parent."

    So arguably the possessive on "it" is not only acceptable, but would really make a better rule.

    (Of course I regularly do this just to wind people up).

    1. swampdog

      Re: Apostrophes....

      I'm much against this trend to get rid of the apostrophe entirely. I had to learn it so I'm buggered if our descendants are going to get away that easily!

      "Do you know what an apostropologist once said to me? She said "Will you let go!". "Nooo!"

      1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

        Re: Apostrophes....

        You're quotation marks aren't nested properly, but I don't want to come over all "tedious pedant" on you so I've left in a mistake of my own.

        1. Anonymous Coward

          Re: Apostrophes....

          You're[You Are] quotation marks aren't nested properly, but I don't want to come over all "tedious pedant" on you so I've left in a mistake of my own.

          My brain is hitting the you are quotation marks bit and throwing a Grammar error.

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: Apostrophes....

            Remember, the crux of the biscuit is the Apostrophe ...

            RIP Frank ... you done good, my friend.

      2. jake Silver badge

        @swampdog (was:Re: Apostrophes....)

        Nice riff on a Vivian Stanshall quote ... I heartily approve! :-)

  27. thx1138v2

    Portals to the Gods

    Computers are portals to the realm of the gods. Some gods are good and send you unrequested photos of laughing babies. Some others, well, not so much. They can do much worse than bad punctuation.

    Do you REALLY want a portal to the gods inside your car? That water feature could have come directly from a radiator at 100C while you're tooling down the highway above the speed limit. Of course such a disaster would then stick the accelerator to the floor and disable the brakes at the same time. Some lessons from the gods are tough.

    1. swampdog

      Re: Portals to the Gods

      To piggyback on Frankie Boyle and the title "If I Could Reach Out Through Your TV and Strangle You I Would"..

      I think we need computers to be portals to the gods because then I could repeatedly punch them in the head, all the time asking "why did you let/do reverse/destroy car over my JCB Tonka toy?"

      Methinks if we all adopt this mindset there will be no more brake failures:

      mortal: presses pedal (nothing)

      brakegod: (snigger)

      mortal: I'm coming to get you

      brakegod: pressure restored.

      1. Charles 9

        Re: Portals to the Gods

        No, what would really happen is that all four of your tires would blow out at once and the portal in question would catch flame. Brakegod will snigger again and coyly say, "Feel free to TRY."

        That's the thing about Gods. They tend to hold the trump cards.

  28. laird cummings
    Big Brother

    They know when you're watching, they know when you're awake...

    Long ago, and far away... A 400hz Motor-Generator set had a nasty habit of tripping off. We'd go down into the hole and pull the case, only to find no fault. So we'd dutifully close it up, report the lack of defect, and go about our day. Until it tripped again. After several cycles (heh) of this, the Chief finally tapped a picture of himself to the inside of the case. Never again did that particular unit trip offline. Because clearly, the machines know when you are watching them.

    (No joke. True story.)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: They know when you're watching, they know when you're awake...

      Quantum Coherence Through Imaginary Watching!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: They know when you're watching, they know when you're awake...

      What was probably really happening was that the generator was earthing against the case itself, meaning it ONLY tripped when it was closed. Taping the picture probably blocked whatever it was that contacted the case when it was closed, preventing the short.

  29. Herby

    If you smell smoke...

    The fire is out...

    This is a famous saying in my family, as my nephew first upper this phrase to my older sister when he accidentally "fired up" a telephone book late at night. My incident was when I (again late at night) heard the (grumble) smoke detector outside my home office start bleeping. Since the battery had not been changed recently, I (stopped me) assumed that that might be the problem and got up to start sharing at the nasty device. Then upon further reflection, and exercising my "acute" sense of smell, I detected an odor of SOMETHING BURNING, and proceeded to walk towards the ever so stronger smell. Yes, my nice wonderful wife had put some dishtowels on the top of the gas fireplace in an adjacent room, and THEY WERE ON FIRE. Thankfully the wall behind and above the fireplace was nicely tiled with an wonderful ceramic pattern, and a quick application of DHMO solved the problem.

    As for wastewater backups, just be careful about the lowest toilet in the house. When the sewer lateral line (from the house to the street) gets clogged, it is the place that has the largest opening. In my case a couple of showers and flushes worth. After a call to the drain guy and his expending the entire 75 feet of snake, the problem was resolved. It turned out to be a sewer rat that assisted in clogging up the pipe. It was an interesting cleanup. Thankfully the half bath containing the toilet in question had a direct door to the outside that in combination with a garden hose assisted in the cleanup. It was an adventure!

    1. Herby

      Re: If you smell smoke...




      Thankfully the needs for sewer rats aren't needed any more as that problem has gone away. Unfortunately the solution required an operation a few years ago, but all turned out OK.

      Life goes on

    2. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      Re: If you smell smoke...

      Interesting - I never knew they were called sewer rats. Despite living in the city where the bulk of them (for the european market) are made.

      On a side note: never, ever even try to use DHMO for putting out a fat fire. It would be slightly safer trying to blow it out using a handgrenade (without the shrapnel). Theoretically a copious amount of washing-up liquid would do the trick, but unless you've been trained by Red Adair, don't.

      1. Charles 9

        Re: If you smell smoke...

        That's why you never use a Class A (water-based) fire extinguisher on a fat fire: because oil (fat) and water don't mix, so the water has no effect on the fat and in fact can allow it to spread. Theoretically, adding a surfactant like soap will allow the water to interact with the fat, but the surfactant could itself be flammable or otherwise bad news in a fire. You have to smother a fat fire to get it out safely, which is why you either put a lid on it (asphyxiating it) or use Class B (foam) or Class C (chamical) extinguishers.

  30. Wommit

    Went into work one fine morning.

    Boss, "The server rooms flooded."

    Me "We're on the 34th floor! How the &^%^&*(&%$£ could it get flooded?"

    I looked into the server room, and sure enough water was dripping from the ceiling.

  31. Triggerfish

    Tech has timing.

    How many times have you had a problem and as soon as someone else comes across to see, they work perfectly?

  32. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    So, a couple of months into a bureau refit in Paris

    We arrive one Monday morning to discover the place three inches deep in that which is normally all over the Parisian streets when the dogs have been by... Turns out a cast iron pipe had a right angle bend before running across our hung ceiling, and sometime over the weekend, the pipe had cracked and the poo had failed to make the bend.

    The icing on the cake, so to speak, was the discovery, during rectification of the issue, of a couple of square feet of asbestos sheeting - which required another fifty or sixty thousand quid to dispose of in the approved manner.

  33. J 3

    Wait, what!?

    "Discovering without any surprise that my nine-year-old username and password were still valid, still granting me admin rights that I had no rights to any more"

    You remember your password from nine years ago!? I believe that was the most (the only?) amazing, unbelievable even, part of this story... I can barely remember passwords I had to create last week!

    1. Alistair Dabbs

      Re: Wait, what!?

      It was an easy password to remember since there was no minimum character number requirement on that system. It had three letters.

      1. Colonel Mad

        Re: Wait, what!?

        No right to, surely?

  34. Fr. Ted Crilly Bronze badge

    Less than 24 hours later, we decided to try it out with a full wash – at which point the new washing machine, with all its BLINKEN LICHTEN and computerised controls,

    trouble at t'mill one of the arm flay rods has gone out of sken on't treadle!

  35. John F***ing Stepp

    For the IT angle

    Real world version of 'dead zombie children in the pipe'.

    And, they are chanting; drains, drains. . .

  36. circusmole

    So-called security.

    <Discovering without any surprise that my nine-year-old username and password were still valid, still granting me admin rights that I had no rights to any more,...>

    Reminds me of a few years ago when I want back to a well-known bank which I had last done some work for about 4 years previously. Logged straight in with my old username and password, admin rights... The thing that surprised me was that the 3 or 4 IT admin guys watching me didn't say a word!

    1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      Re: So-called security.

      Well, one possible explanation would be that they knew you would be in that day and restored your old account (which of course they had disabled those 4 years previously at the very minute you left the buliding) for your convenience. And you never even thanked them!

      Like I said, that's one possible explanation.

    2. jake Silver badge

      Re: So-called security.

      I still have a Quantum Link username & password that works (on AOL). I also still have an AOL username and password that works[0]. I don't use the Qlink account for anything ... but I do use the AOL account as my contact info here on ElReg, just to irritate people.

      [0] I tried to nuke that entire chapter of my life for a couple decades, but the brain-trust at AOL refused to delete the accounts. Thankfully, they haven't tried to access my credit card for over 25 years ;-)

  37. Tom Melly

    When sorrows come, they come not single spies, but in battalions

    To add a counter-argument, my general experience is that, yes, trouble is never a single, logical point,but in general there is a single, logical narrative.

    Recently, a customer (health service) was infected with one of the encryption scams. No irreparable harm was done, but it did throw up a few security issues they needed to address, and it caused our application a minor wobble, but that was it.

    Jump forward a month, and a letter generator suddenly starts crawling and then we start getting reports that saved letters (files) are missing. The entries/links to them are still in the database, but the letters themselves are AWOL. Not only that, but the logs confirm that the letters were created and initially saved.

    I said to my boss, "it's related to the virus". He declares (rightly) that that's impossible - the virus is gone. I stick to my guns and keep digging in the system logs, before finally understanding what's happened.

    In response to the virus, shadowing had been set up by the customer for the server. And just to be extra safe, they shadowed the server that was doing the initial shadowing. A shame that they had to run different shadowing software on each server due to some AV conflict, and it was probably not a good idea to shadow the second server back to the first server (and to the same directory).

    Bottom line, the shadowing software applications got in a fight with each other, and we eventually found the missing letters in a hidden folder for conflicted files.

  38. jcitron

    They do conspire and are like spoiled brats looking for attention.

    I swear these devices must talk to each other and wait, and wait until you're broke and can't afford to fix things. Last year a hard drive died on my PC. Okay, I spent the $100 for new SSD and I was happy...

    Within an hour of replacing the hard disk, I get a call from my brother to go downstairs to the kitchen. The refrigerator decided to become a warming box instead of an icebox.

    We get the new fridge and it couldn't be more than a few days later, when his car needed some brake work due to a stuck caliper and then a few days later, the motherboard died on the my PC - the one I had upgraded with an SSD.

    This went on for month as we ended up replacing all the appliances including the washer and dryer, and the stove too.

  39. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

    Re: Tech can bite you in unusual ways or Forklift Drivers Revisited

    Everything you never wanted to know about about operating a forklift and couldn't be bothered to ask.

    It starts like the usual work instruction/safety regulations training video... and turns into something very much like the "Salad Days" sketch from Monty Python's Flying Circus. Don't mind that it's in German, you'll get it without the dialogue.

    1. GrumpenKraut
      Thumb Up

      Re: Tech can bite you in unusual ways or Forklift Drivers Revisited

      Yup, highly recommended! I even bought the DVD.

      1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

        Re: Tech can bite you in unusual ways or Forklift Drivers Revisited

        Me too - last year we watched it at the office as part as our yearly safety indoctrination. This year I'll try to make it "Was nicht paßt, wird passend gemacht!" Also highly recommended. Especially if you have anything to do with builders.

        1. GrumpenKraut
          Thumb Up

          Re: Tech can bite you in unusual ways or Forklift Drivers Revisited

          > "Was nicht paßt, wird passend gemacht!"

          Nice one as well. Sadly no English version available it seems.

          Thus I have to recommend Lesbian Vampire Killers. Seriously awesome.

  40. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

    As the original article

    is about "white goods going bad", here is how to microwave a Microwave.

    Yes. Yes, I'm home alone and bored.

    1. GrumpenKraut

      Re: As the original article

      Go outside, the weather is nice! Sun =------>

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: As the original article

        No it's not. It's pouring rain. Plus Sun = Sunburn + Skin Cancer...

  41. DerekCurrie

    Corrected Spelling: Cthulhu

    “Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn."

    In his house at R'lyeh dead Cthulhu waits dreaming.

  42. Peter Brooks 1

    Confirmation bias

    Usually the feeling that the gods and the forces of nature habitually conspire against us is a product of confirmation bias - we forget all the times that woes come as single spies, because the times they come in battalions are so much more memorable.

    It's important to be aware that this is not always the case. You are not paranoid when the bastards really are out to get you.

    In particular, in many circumstances, maybe even the case of a washing machine, the underlying problem can be one of capacity - capacity problems are difficult to detect because they are intermittent at first, and then, finally, and spectacularly, catastrophic.

  43. a well wisher

    But you said they did a drainage check ....

    And presumably ignored the results, since even killer roots don't grow that fast

  44. ralphh

    First Corollary of Taber's Second Law

    Saved this from somewhere a decade ago... "First Corollary of Taber's Second Law: Machines that piss people off get murdered." - Pat Taber.

  45. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

    " Discovering without any surprise that my nine-year-old username and password were still valid"


  46. FeRDNYC

    Well, see, there's your problem...

    It is of course well known that careless talk costs lives, but the full scale of the problem is not always appreciated.

    For instance, at the very moment that Alistair said "Please ensure the child element is linked to it’s parent," a freak wormhole opened up in the fabric of the space-time continuum and carried his words far far back in time across almost infinite reaches of space to a distant Galaxy where strange and warlike beings were poised on the brink of frightful interstellar battle.

    The two opposing leaders were meeting for the last time.

    A dreadful silence fell across the conference table as the commander of the Vl'hurgs, resplendent in his black jewelled battle shorts, gazed levelly at the G'Gugvuntt leader squatting opposite him in a cloud of green sweet-smelling steam, and, with a million sleek and horribly beweaponed star cruisers poised to unleash electric death at his single word of command, challenged the vile creature to take back what it had said about his mother.

    The creature stirred in his sickly broiling vapour, and at that very moment the words please ensure the child element is linked to it’s parent drifted across the conference table.

    Unfortunately, in the Vl'hurg tongue this was the most dreadful insult imaginable, and there was nothing for it but to wage terrible war for centuries.

    Eventually of course, after their Galaxy had been decimated over a few thousand years, it was realized that the whole thing had been a ghastly mistake, and so the two opposing battle fleets settled their few remaining differences in order to launch a joint attack on our own Galaxy - now positively identified as the source of the offending remark.

    For thousands more years the mighty ships tore across the empty wastes of space and finally dived screaming on to the first planet they came across - which happened to be the Earth - where due to a terrible miscalculation of scale the entire battle fleet was accidentally swallowed by a small dog.

    (With apologies to the great Douglas Adams)

  47. Chris Hunt

    Brush up your Shakespeare

    When sorrows come, they come not single spies

    But in battalions.

    Hamlet Act 4, Scene 5

    Not much has changed since 1602.

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