"..for some pointed hair management issues.."
I think that's a Dilbert reference.
Look at the clock: Friday is here and so, therefore, is On-Call, El Reg's weekly wander down memory lane and into readers' recollections of jobs gone awry. This week, we're going to be like one of those Simpsons in which the family visits another nation. But with a better plot and without lazy stereotyping, thanks to reader “ …
I always felt the "lazy stereotyping" in the Simpsons was deliberate and there to poke fun at what they saw as the average Americans view of the world.
As an aside, several Americans told me that while we see Homer as lazy and being almost mentally handicapped, in the US he's seen as "an average guy". That worries me a lot, I can only hope they were exaggerating.
According to George Carlin, a well-recognised top level boffin on the topic of the human condition, at any point in time, 50 % of the people are on the lower side of average on the bell curve, and less intelligent than average. Add that on top of being American, and like Homer, you will only need three fingers to complete the equation...
When I was hired by the company infamously responsible for the bulk of my work place ranting, they had me & a fellow employee working late to cable up the room where the OTHER employees would be working. Power to the desks was there, the cat5 however was not. So my fellow & I are crawling around the floor stringing cables like demented spiders spinning webs of ethernet for hours.
The boss that told us to do this & authorized the OT knowing we'd be working late had been told repeatedly that we would need someone with the keys to let us out once we were done; our ID badges didn't unlock anything after normal business hours & we'd need keys to get out. The PHB swore up & down that someone with the keys would be there "even if I have to do it myself!"
So the fellow & I finish the job, dust off the pants, try to leave & find ourselves locked in. We can't call out because of the Faraday nature of the building, the office phones are shut off after hours, & the security station is at the other end of a building the length of a football pitch. No amount of door pounding, wall hammering, shouts or swears will attract so much as a passing glance from a moth as it heads for it's death in the overhead lights.
We ended up sleeping on the couches in the meeting room & billing the company for the entire time we were locked in; "We never clocked out so we were obviously working. You've already signed off on the OT so tough luck. Now we're going home & taking the day off WITH PAY lest we suddenly get it in our heads to make a Federal Case out of this cluster fuck. *Sir*."
The PHB paled but let us go home because the fellow's wife was a lawyer & would be VERY motivated to fuck the company over with a large & spikey lawsuit. We got paid for the experience as well but it pretty much summed up the conditions we'd be working under for the rest of our time there.
"We ended up sleeping on the couches in the meeting room"
Okay, you win. My lock-in story ends with me getting out:
This was in the mid-1990s. I was working late on the last working day before Christmas, and although I had keys to most of the doors, when it was time to go I discovered that one that wasn't usually locked (and for which I didn't have a key) was locked.
I didn't have anybody's phone numbers, and all address books etc were locked away in people's desks (company policy). Luckily, I remembered a massive bunch of keys in the safe (for which I also had a key), so retrieved them and painstakingly tried those that looked suitable until I found a match.
Not data-centre related, but it does involve being locked in...
I went to visit another organisation for an evening event. Their building had a "glass cube" in front of the reception area, with automatic doors either side controlled by sensors (and push buttons for disabled users).
Unfortunately, nobody bothered to tell the rent-a-guard that there would be people in the building slightly later than usual, so he locked up and buggered off at the usual time.
I pushed the button to open the inner door on the cube, only to find that the outer door was locked. The inner door automatically locked behind me - three other people had followed me through the door, so there were four of us stuck in there.
Fortunately, I had my phone on me, so I googled for the switchboard number (said switchboard being on another site a couple of miles away) and asked them to recall the guard - thankfully, he arrived a few minutes later, it was a cold night and that's not the sort of place you want to get stuck if you need a toilet break - there's nowhere to hide, and Exhibit "A" (possibly "B", "C", "D" etc) would be in plain sight.
The place I used to work in had one of these "air lock" doors which frequently broke down. If someone got stuck in it there was no way to open the door until someone came along and let you out. How it was legal I don't know; I'm sure a H&S case could have been brought.
"Not a lot, mind - all it takes is just a little bit more than your PHB knows."
A. The monitor has an on/off switch, and is not the computer.
B. The big box under it, or under the desk, has an on/off switch, and is not a hard drive.
C. These two need to have a cable connecting them, plus each needs to be plugged into a power outlet, and both need to be switched on for proper operation.
D. If the computer is not connected to the network, either by WiFi or a cable, Facebook and linkedIn will not be available.
E. The wireless mouse and keyboard both need to be on if you want to use the computer.
a.Yes, they both have off/on switches.
b. They both also need batteries.
If the PHB uses a laptop, substitute these for A through C above:
A. It didn't update to Win10 again, did it?
B. Is it on?
Yes, that's different from standby or hibernating.
Yes, it will hibernate by itself if you leave it alone long enough.
C. When was the last time it was plugged in to recharge?
The above covers about 90% of the problems the PHB has encountered.
"Is our internet provider up?, and, "were they paid last month?" handles about another 9.9%
Did I leave anything out? ☺
I work in a small company, so only do IT because nobody else can. What I can't do, I buy in. But even as an amateur I'd say those three are important reading.
Though I remember first coming across Dilbert as a student, and not finding it particularly funny. A couple of years later, and working for a large-ish multi-national - and suddenly I realised it wasn't so much comedy as a training manual.
It's a bit like watching 'The Day Today' in the 90s, and thinking it was comedy, only to see the media become more like the extreme version of it he'd created to send-up. His news jingles seemed ludicrously overblown when that came out, now you probably couldn't distinguish them from real ones...
Dilbert as a training manual? Absolutely.
My (now ex) boss explained we had a new customer visiting for a site tour, and he may have very slightly exaggerated the number of staff... His idea was that we all sit downstairs with jackets on, then when he took the visitors up the main stairs we'd run up the back stairs and be working in the other dept in shirt sleeves - and the visitor wouldn't notice.
Having laughed him into derision, we noticed that the Dilbert on the back page of whichever magazine was http://dilbert.com/strip/2002-08-08.
Never did figure out if it was co-incidence...
Apparently Borland* pulled a couple of stunts like that in their early days.
* Remember them? BTW, Philippe Borland was all set to work for HP, but couldn't because he couldn't get a green card/visum. So instead of becoming an employee he became an entrepreneur and started his own company; for some reason that wasn't a problem under US immigration laws. Yes, this was some time ago.
The story of the W keys is amusing but untrue. The story was created and hyped to damage the democrats by the incoming republican administration.
An investigation by the General Accounting Office found no damage and the republican administration themselves made the rather weasle worded statement: “there is no record of damage that may have been deliberately caused by the employees of the Clinton administration.”
The story was used to fuel completely false media reports of multiple acts of vandalism by the CLinton administration which were damaging although probably not very significant in the grand scheme of things.
I guess the moral is that if a story sounds to good to be true it probably isn't true.
I think a new administration in the White House in America brings in its own computers - I wrote "new" but I suppose that's if you're lucky (and you won't be lucky again if your guy gets a second term). The UK has non-party "Civil Service" staff but the US has political appointees. So the new government can't trust computers that the old government was using.
Evil Overlord rules 50, 57, 83, and for George W. Bush's case Rule 57 may apply.
Dunno about the computers, but from time to time the soft drinks machines at the White House change with the administration.
It's a Coca-Cola machine when the president is a Democrat and a Pepsi Cola machine when the president is a Republican.
Historical fun fact: Nixon was shilling for Pepsi when he was VP, he got Nikita Khrushchev to drink some at the American National Exhibition in Moscow, summer of 1959.
Ah, politics and soft drinks - maybe I'll write a paper on this when I've retired.
The Bush administration *did* however wipe the White House servers on their way out, including emails. They also got caught using @rnc.com email accounts for stuff they wanted to keep off the record.
Yes, this is the party currently insisting that Hillary should be in prison for her email shenanigans.
Had to arrange the installation of a phone line at a building we were using as a regional office. Building was listed so no drilling through walls, PBX in the comms room, should be a simple case of connecting at the exchange right?
Nope, a previous tenant had cut the cables going into the PBX about an inch below the box and then somehow pulled all the cables through. Due to the nature of the building there was no way of knowing where the other end of the pipework was and it took a further 3 calls to BT and arranging for the managing agent of the building to be present to finally get the line installed. To the wrong office in the building.
Some commercial tenancy agreements require those departing to return the building to exactly how it was when they arrived before leaving. That can be quite a shock for the new arrivals when everything has gone - including internal walls.
Reminds me of the time I wrapped up a job in Italy, only to find myself alone after hours on a locked site. The security guard (conforming to Italian stereotyping) was nowhere to be found, so the only way out was over the three-metre wire fence, patrolled by guard dogs. Happily, as well as being badly-fed and flea-ridden (poor things), they were untrained, and treated anybody inside the wire as a friend. It was only after I'd scrambled over and was outside that they started to bark at me …
I was working in a government department's server room on a Friday and found that everyone had buggered off at 4pm and locked me in. Thankfully a chair through a window sorted that problem out. And security didn't even notice the broken window until it was reported to them on Monday morning.
No dogs but when I get locked in at WB Drilling it's two ladders to get out and a walk through mud, bricks and crap on the ground, nettles and big weeds by the side of the fence, it's a razor wired fence too!
Walk around to the main gate unlock it and then the inner gate unlock that as well, it's not a short walk BTW.
Put ladders back and lock everywhere up again, the inner gate is solid steel and can only be unlocked from the other side and a bit daft really.
Winters the worst if I haven't got my head torch with me, twice last winter and twice recently locked in!
My story is almost the reverse. I supervised the moving of a 150 person team into a new building. As the only company employee on site at the time, which was over a holiday weekend, I was responsible for the security of the equipment and data being moved into the building. I had a team of about a dozen professional movers working on the actual moving of the equipment (desks, file cabinets, servers, workstations, etc.). They finished about midnight on the holiday. As I was about to exit the building, I noticed that the security/maintenance team had never installed the cores in the locks on the doors. So, here we had just moved about US$1.5M worth of computer equipment into an unlocked/unlockable building. But, all I could do was drop by the security office and give them an earful about the missing lock cores. I wasn't about to sleep through the rest of the holiday weekend in that building.
Years ago I contracted in a large company.
Going round various departments trying to get updates on stock and buying for the bill of materials on something we were trying to make I couldn't believe my bad luck when every time I tried to use one of the big fancy expensive (leased) photocopiers it was empty.
When I asked someone where they keep the paper - he reached into the bottom draw of his desk and asked how many sheets I needed.
Apparently it was a management money saving policy to keep all the photocopiers empty because it they had paper in them people would use them more.
"Apparently it was a management money saving policy to keep all the photocopiers empty because it they had paper in them people would use them more."
Back in the 1980s I had to spend some time at HQ shortly after the company had been taken over by a very large corporation.
The new owners had instigated a drive to get everything documented. As a result, every single photocopier in the building was running low on toner and the printer ribbons were at the end of their useful life,
Fortunately my girlfriend offered me the use of the printers at her place of work to do some decent looking reports for a large customer.
There was a computer center (over 50 years ago) whose manager made the operating system not slew to a new page when starting a new job on that green and white pin-fed paper. He would also go around and pick up 5081 cards off the floor and put them in the source hopper of the keypunches if they didn't have obvious punches in them.
He was not a great friend of the programmers.
Ok, if you happen to be in a building without "crash bar" exit doors that you can simply walk through, your next options are:
* Press the small "push here for emergency exit" button that gets overlooked in the panic of feeling locked in.
* Climb over walls (option in low-budget environments that only wall up to the ceiling tiles -- only applies if you're stuck within a zone of a building).
* Use your existing IT tools to pop a door open (remove lock mechanism -- you're on the inside, right? typically that's where the screws are, if you have a high security lock fall through to next option)
* Use your existing IT tools to remove door hinge pins (may not be possible on higher security doors).
* Use your IT tools to "hot wire" the door lock (i.e. Disconnect power to mag locks, actuate solenoid of stikers, etc.)
* Disconnect something from the network that will cause remote alarms to be investigated.
* Activate fire alarm pull station.
* Activate smoke detector.
Post-incident, ask serious questions about emergency egress options. These are funny stories if it's an IT guy shitting in a bucket a'la BOFH episodes, but in a fire or medical emergency they could turn a minor event into a major tragedy.
Yeah, my thought was the company in question might be in for a serious, and possibly expensive discussion with building and fire inspectors if there is no emergency egress. Also, I'd think if you were trapped in such a building, you could be justified in doing whatever was necessary to get out, such as a chair through a window or a prybar/hammer/whatever on a door lock.
Not a site, but a hotel I stayed in when on a course in Reading. I finished the course on the Thursday and wanted to get round the M25 and onto the M1 north before the big rush to work started; I had a long drive back to Tyneside and had something booked I wanted to be back for. I arranged to pay my bill on Thursday night and then leave at 5:30 am Friday.
I arrived at the hotel reception at 5:30 am and found the whole place locked up. I pressed the bell for the night porter and nothing. While I considered my options I lit a cigarette (yes it was while smoking was still allowed in hotels). The next thing to happen was the fire alarm went off, I hastily stubbed the cigarette. The night porter arrived in his underpants and string vest looking like he just woke up. He looked at me as if I was from another planet. I explained I had checked out and that I was waiting to leave at which point he opened the doors muttering something about kettles in rooms.
I went out to my car and set off as everyone in the hotel was coming out of the fire exits. As I drove away from the hotel I saw 3 fire engines, the police and an ambulance all heading in the opposite direction and turn into the car park.
I did miss the worst of the traffic that morning.
The bass-baritone singer Ian Wallace told a story in a performance and comedy record, that goes something like - he returned to his hotel or lodging after hours, found reception deserted and dark. He decided he probably could get over the reception desk, put on the light, and find his room key. Instead he found the fire alarm switch... it raised hell but it didn't raise any of the other guests, but after a couple of minutes the night guy arrived with a torch: "Oh, it's you, Mr Wallace! I heard the alarm and I thought I must be crackers - because if there's a fire, I'm the one that turns it on."
I wonder if Ian Wallace slept soundly that night. I'd fret.
I had the same issue, spent an hour trying to find out why a copier "always jams when we add new paper" It worked perfectly for me every time, then I asked the operator to show me the problem. She added a ream of paper - still in it's packet and pressed the copy button. I was tempted to ask if she was allowed out on her own!
My high school job was with a sign writer and he found a cheap house in the expensive part of town. It was a foreclosure sale and the previous owner had taken all the light fixtures, switches and outlets along with the sinks, toilets and taps. For extra value they painted everything black including the carpet. Fortunately the guy could paint very quickly and had large amounts of billboard quality white out paint. The switches were all replaced with X10 home automation stuff and he ended up flipping the house for a nice profit a few years latter.
One of our techs got a call from someone who called to complain that they'd put a CD in the drive, but were still seeing the contents of the last CD they'd used.
Somehow, they'd managed to put the a second CD in the tray on top of the first one, and slam it shut.
"Well, it did take a few attempts to close the tray !"
Mine was a reverse experience. I was called out to do perform a software update at a customer's test setup. This was a 5 hour drive through a cold winter afternoon, and I arrived close to 5pm. We were going to test the next day, so I planned on doing the update in the evening to be ready the next day.
Everybody left the building at 5pm (this was Germany), but they left me with an access badge to the equipment room (no bigger than a broom closet, and it was nicknamed 'the submarine' for the cramped space), and told me to just park all my stuff with me, as the offices would be closed.
Anyways, at around 9pm I decided to go for a coffee and left the room. It was only when I got back when I realised my access badge was only valid until 8pm.
The security guard left in the building didn't have access to this particular room and didn't offer much of any help.
So now I'm outside the room, where inside are my car keys, my wallet, my phones (yeah, stupid), my laptop bag and my warm coat.
I did mention it was winter. It was well below freezing, it was snowing and I was only wearing a polo, and I was far away from my hotel, and taxis require money.
I ended up walking 1km up the hill from the building, to get to a local hotel*, where the owners trusted a talking popsicle with a room, with a promise to pay next day.
Needless to say, I was not very happy when I got back the following morning.
*On the bright side, the hotel turned into my favourite place. It was a refurbished castle with about 12 rooms and a michelin-star restaurant inside, owned by a family, and cost about 35 euro a night.
"It was only when I got back when I realised my access badge was only valid until 8pm."
'Customer shall provide access for contractors to all required areas for the entire duration of the required work. Failure to do so will incur extra charges'
They do tend to understand money, if mentioned _before_ you start.
As per the others, all these "locked in" examples are clear violations of basic H&S law - at least here in the UK, and I very much doubt that the US would be that much different. So I hope they were all reported ?
Which reminds me (hence posting anon) ...
We have a customer who have maglocks on the outside doors - just to stop people wandering in. Staff have fobs to open the doors from the outside, and there are touchpads on the inside. No time schedules or anything like that. I'm told the doors are configured to unlock if the fire alarm goes off.
A while ago they had a notified power outage, and I was sent along with a portable genny to keep all the servers working (at least for the other sites, this site wasn't working as they had no power for the PCs). I didn't have a fob for the front doors, but I was given a key for the side door which is handy, because ... after a few hours, I found the batteries were run down in the maglock system, and they were "power to release" type locks. For some reason I couldn't get through to the postman why I came out of the back door and walked round to take the post from him.
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