back to article Hell desk to user: 'I know you're wrong. I wrote the software. And the protocol it runs on'

Another weekend beckons, which means another edition of On-Call, The Register's weekly reader-contributed story of dirty jobs, done dirt cheap. This week, meet “Bob” who in the early days of the Internet staffed a help desk that among other things took calls from users of the Gopher distributed file system. Bob framed his …

  1. Anonymous Coward

    Did you ever hear of the Seattle seven?

    That was me.

    1. Pascal

      Re: Did you ever hear of the Seattle seven?

      The dude abides.

    2. vir

      Re: Did you ever hear of the Seattle seven?

      ...and six other guys.

  2. This post has been deleted by its author

  3. GlenP Silver badge

    HR Fail

    A while back I did have the HR department say they didn't need me to tell them about Data Protection when I tried to point out that the way they were using some software would result in a potential breach.

    As I'd written the software (and have a lot more experience of DP than they do) I understandably got a little bit annoyed, which upset them. I suppose I could have let them carry on and then sued afterwards but I'd prefer to keep the job.

    1. fran 2

      Re: HR Fail

      HR, better know as Human Remains

      1. TonyJ Silver badge

        Re: HR Fail

        I'm in that age bracket that started working when we had personnel departments but saw the change over to HR departments.

        I have fond memories of those personnel peeps - they usually had the best interests of the staff at the company at their hearts.

        Whereas HR departments seem to solely exist to ensure that a company can get away with the absolute bare minimum and treat their staff like cattle.

        1. Felonmarmer

          Re: HR Fail

          At a former company in the 90's. the Personnel Manager was forced to change his title to HR Manager after an external audit when it was pointed out his duties were to represent the company and not the employees.

          One memorable incident was during one of tbe first round of redundancies when we pointed out several breaches of legislation in terms of information required to be made available to people under threat of redundancy. He asked how did we know all this and we told him we had got a booklet on redundancy procedure from the Citizens Advice Bureau. He the asked if he could borrow a copy. I think he was quite surprised by our response that we wern't going to help him make us redundant, expressed quite succinctly by some.

        2. paulf

          Re: HR Fail

          @TonyJ: "Whereas HR departments seem to solely exist to ensure that a company can get away with the absolute bare minimum and treat their staff like cattle."

          Better summarised as: "The HR department exists only to protect the company from its employees."

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            'The HR department exists only to protect'

            In my company, to protect themselves. They look to be the company, and their own interests preempt anything else. We lost people with badly needed skills because HR decided those roles could be fulfilled by retraining others which have no clues nor interest to learn those difficult skills. And all the managers bowed to HR because it became too powerful to fight with.

        3. TheProf

          Re: HR Fail

          "I'm in that age bracket that started working when we had personnel departments but saw the change over to HR departments."

          I remember them too.

          The nice chappess in personnel told me I had 8 days holiday and I had to take them in the next few months or I'd lose them. This happened on my first day at the company during the initial report to the personnel department for initial briefing. I also remember them handing over a brown envelope with 2 weeks wages in it. In advance. Before I'd even put pen to paper working for them. It was all downhill from then on of course.

          1. JBowler

            Re: HR Fail

            Oh how I wish I'd lived in the days of Brown Envelopes, but I'm interstitial; in my days in the UK you just got ****ed, there was no opportunity to take it and leave (this was Thatcher).

            Now I'm in the US but I'd got(ten) conditioned to be honest; well, it doesn't help being an immigrant and feeling obliged.

            On the original topic. Sorry, I just get an incredible buzz when someone talks about software I wrote. I really don't care what they say about it, but then I've given up trying to support it so maybe that's my bad (as we say in the US.)

            John Bowler

        4. Mog_X

          Re: HR Fail

          I've always referred to them as 'the anti personnel department'

          1. Alien8n

            Re: HR Fail

            Reminds me of my first engineering job. Company decided to relocate it's manufacturing to Mexico. I'd had a meeting where I was told if I didn't take on a new role my position would be made redundant. The role I was to take on? Someone who was being made redundant. I was cheaper. Eventually they moved me into the new role, at which point I was offered a position at another company. I hand my notice in and then ask for a meeting with HR where I point out that under ACAS rules as I'd declined the new role within 4 weeks of starting it I was still entitled to redundancy. They tried everything to get out of paying it until the factory manager was overheard talking to the HR manager on the shop floor.

            "Ignore him, he'll never take it to tribunal"

            Followed by my friend who overheard them stating "You don't know him very well then do you."

            2 weeks later I'm handed my redundancy payout (half of what it should have been, but more than legal minimum, I took it as a win. There was a bonus to all other employees for staying past a certain date, they claimed it wasn't offered to engineers, despite knowing it was, and the engineers had gag clauses attached to their bonuses)

            What they didn't know was I was being given free legal advice from a lawyer that specialised in company law and an Old Bailey judge (who later became rather famous for sending down a mafia boss).

          2. P. Lee

            Re: HR Fail

            HR will reflect the values of those further up the chain.

            If your HR is bad, it is probably because *they* have been managed to act in that way.

        5. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

          Re: HR Fail

          Well, an early Terry Pratchett character is described as "the sort of man who could use the word ‘personnel’ and mean it." He had a liking for organisation charts. So 'personnel' was already impersonal. I'm not sure what the difference with Human Resources is, maybe they deal with "people we don't actually own" (contractors)?

          1. Robert Helpmann??

            Re: HR Fail

            I'm not sure what the difference with Human Resources is...

            It's in the names: with Personnel, you are a person whereas with Human Resources, you are a resource. You work with one and use the other.

            1. Wayland
              Big Brother

              Re: HR Fail

              "It's in the names: with Personnel, you are a person whereas with Human Resources, you are a resource. You work with one and use the other."

              Robert, that's not a very funny joke, it's more like newspeak. Using words to affect a change in people's thinking. They changed the name because the corporation sees humans as a resource rather like money or paperclips rather than an asset or a person.

          2. barbara.hudson

            Re: HR Fail

            "I'm not sure what the difference with Human Resources is, maybe they deal with "people we don't actually own"

            Make no mistake, they really do believe they own you, in the "pOwned" sense of the word.

            (in Dr McCoy voice) : "I'm a sentient human being, dammit, not a "personnel".

        6. This post has been deleted by its author

        7. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: HR Fail

          "I'm in that age bracket that started working when we had personnel departments but saw the change over to HR departments."

          I am not a number resource! I am a human being!

        8. I3N

          Re: HR Fail

          Forever snarky ... HR motto

          Of this newer generation, little do they know of the five or so HR hides tacked to the wall ...

        9. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: HR Fail

          I work for a firm (a rather large and well known one hence the anon) where we don't have an HR dept we have an HC dept (I kid you not) Most of my colleagues and I refer to it as the Human Cattel dept.

        10. kiwimuso

          Re: HR Fail @TonyJ

          Ditto - for the age.

          Many years ago when I started work with a largish company in my neck of the woods, I was interviewed by the head of Personnel which then had a staff of 9, who not only did the formal employment procedures, but were also responsible for Payroll.

          When I left several years later, it had now become Human Resources with a staff of over 200. WTF!!!

          What do they do!! Admittedly they now have to formulate procedures for Health & Safety, but I would have thought that would have taken a couple of people no more than 6 months to formulate.

          Oh, they did an "exit interview" with me as well.

          Wow! 200+ people to do that - oh, and they had also outsourced payroll by then as well.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: HR Fail

        HR was a failure right from the point when they renamed it from "Personnel".

      3. Arthur the cat Silver badge

        Re: HR Fail

        HR, better know as Human Remains

        In one company I worked in, they were known as "Animal Husbandry".

        1. wsm

          Re: HR Fail

          I worked for a large organization that actually had an Animal Husbandry department which fed and otherwise maintained a livestock feed testing farm. They thought they would sound more modern when they changed its name to Animal Resources for a few years. It was eventually pointed out that the name seemed to be demeaning to their animals and they changed the name to Animal Care.

          Within weeks, the larger organization changed the name of Personnel to Human Resources. The irony was lost on one and all.

    2. GingerOne

      Re: HR Fail

      I caught the tail end of those days. As well as Personnel department there was the shift from SUPPORT departments, there to provide support to the business to BUSINESS RESOURCES, there to be used and abused as the business sees fit - such as the IT Helpdesk there to provide help, now rebadged as the Service Desk - they are now longer allowed to offer help, they are expected to provide a specific, stats managed 'service'.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: HR Fail

        I definitely never worked as long term sickness cover for a high end retail chain and none of what you are about to read actually happened. I was supposed to travel to branches and train new staff on the use of the company systems including the till and DPA compliant Customer Management Tool. To assist staff the CMT had been developed which was basically a database of customer details for each store. However not only did you need to be connected by VPN to the company system you also had to have the correct password for the server. That was before you got to the log in stage where you needed your personal security password to be able to access the database. All the data was stored on the server to prevent unauthorised access and it worked quite well. Every store had to have access to the full data in case someone came in with a query and hadn't purchased from that showroom. Access was logged though so you could be traced for looking at customer files etc. What I wasn't prepared for was that the sales staff were all on commission and therefore a bunch of backstabbing bastards. Each showroom got a pooled commission and therefore if you could steal a customer from some other store that was fine by them. The only slight snake in the grass was that the system logged what you did. Therefore if you got a customer on to the system first as having visited your showroom that was supposed to indicate that they were your customer and everyone else could piss off. Every entry was time stamped and so if it was on the system that was taken as gospel. Before going out anywhere I made sure I knew everything about the system and one of the things I discovered was a small screw up the developer had made.

        Instead of using the server time and date or indeed some external time and date source they'd used the local PC clock for the info. The upshot of this was that you could set your local clock to the day before and the timestamp indicated this. So at the first showroom I visited which was the furthest away from head office there was one member of staff and the manager waiting for the training. I did the training and checked that the new starter understood the importance of good data security etc. Then at the end as a sort of caveat I mentioned that the date shown was based on the PC clock. The manager suddenly became very interested and asked me more about this, I explained the feature fully. Then he calls in various different members of the sales team to learn about this "feature". I was asked if I wanted lunch by the manager which I accepted and I found us heading to the local pub. I said I thought going to the pub for lunch was a big no no with the firm, but heard "We're a long way from head office and we treat that as more of a request rather than a rule". Over lunch I realised that they were looking to poach other showrooms customers by claiming them first by changing the clock time. I realised rather quickly when I was asked not to mention this in certain other showrooms when training. I had a few nice lunches out of that feature, my waistline suffered a bit though.

        1. keithpeter Silver badge

          Re: HR Fail

          "I realised rather quickly when I was asked not to mention this in certain other showrooms when training. I had a few nice lunches out of that feature, my waistline suffered a bit though."

          Just wondering how many days early the clocks got and if any customer accounts 'time shifted' into a previous month...

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: HR Fail

            All it had to be was one day before and they could claim the customer as their own. Just writing "Customer called the showroom to discuss possible purchase" in the time stamped notes was enough.

      2. Chris Jasper

        Re: HR Fail

        I was working at a smaller company a few years back and we got bought out by a bigger one who had outsourced support via IBM, one of our regular helpdesk guys was going through a bunch of things on a call to help out a user when he felt a prod in his back, which he at first ignored, followed by more vigorous prodding.

        Turned out to be the new Service Desk manager poking him and telling him to stop the call as he was helping too much and taking too long.

        Service indeed.....

    3. handlex2

      Re: HR Fail

      I worked for a municipality in the midwest, when I found a better job (amongst other reasons I was leaving), I beat feet to the door. Upon my exit, there seemed to be a problem with vacation and how it accrued, seems a person who would have started on Friday June 7 would get one one more week of vacation versus the person who started on Monday June 10, I stared on June 1; when I point out to HR the issue of working 8 hours more and getting an entire weeks worth of vacation it seemed to irk the director of the department who demanded I see him in his office.

      So for about and hour, he lectures me of the privilege to work for such a wonderful organization and how me pointing out these issues can cause a morale issue for the workers of the municipality. At this point, I know I am not getting my vacation I earned.. so, I respond to the director that his recent changes in policy to force the workers of this municipality to reside within the confines of the city was demoralizing the workers and not my pointing out the obvious on vacation. He took great offense to me calling out his forced residency program, so I gave him this... "The days of forcing people to live where you want them to live, are long gone in this country; if you want to force people to move where you want them to live, pick up a rifle, defend the constitution of the United States and then see if you have a different perspective."

      I got up and walked out of the meeting and left for my new job. I didn't look back as they were chasing me asking for clarification.

      I found out from some buddies who worked at the municipality they changed the residency requirement a few months later.

      So, yeah, a

    4. Oh Homer
      Big Brother

      The cynical term: "Human Resources..."

      Always reminds me of Soylent Green, for some reason.

      An image comes to mind of people liquefied in barrels, the current value of which is then published daily on the Nasdaq.

      If I Ruled the World had my own business, I think I'd be a rebel and ignore that particular convention by reverting to "Personnel Department" instead.

      Unless there's some equally sinister law that compels me to designate people as purely material assets, which in today's neoliberal dystopian nightmare is entirely possible.

      1. JBowler

        Re: The cynical term: "Human Resources..."

        "Soylent Green"? Like the Woody Allen look-alike in the video; will Harry Harrison post a comment and do a Marshal McLuhan on you?

        Although What Allen thought he was referring to escapes me; McLuhan just kept repeating himself until people understood.

        Aiming for the maximum downvote here; please support: out of work Troll with no Bridge.

        John Bowler

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: HR Fail

      It does get worse when you have no HR at all.

      I work for an international engineering company which is headquartered in France. Our division has no HR staff at all, that function has been centralised and all you get s an anonymous email role address.

      Being HR, they're barely technically literate, and have multiple intranet websites each one partially complete, because they'd start a new one which would be super and amazing and solve all the problems of the past, but it would remain unfinished and incomplete, necessitating keeping the old ones around anyway.

      Even if you have a problem that they should be competent at solving, like processing job candidate CVs or making job offers, they'll screw that up and the candidate is lost.

      Fortunately I rarely need to deal with our HR, if I did I'd probably go postal.

  4. Lee D

    Several times now I have used the phrase "I will stake my reputation on it".

    And it can be over the simplest of things. "Enabling STP on a network and then introducing redundant routes won't bring it down". Or even "I will take all the iPads, supervise them PROPERLY without the pirate apps forcibly pushed via the profile, and I guarantee they will work as they're supposed to rather than constantly request sign-in on accounts that are nothing to do with our workplace".

    I've several times gone to lengths to have people stopped from interfering, expressly stating that *I* will do it, and it will work, and then doing exactly that. The conditions are sometimes harsh (i.e. I don't want that person touching a single machine, you have to leave me alone for a week, etc.) but I get it done.

    It's really fun when it pays off. I can't help thinking of Kryten. "Ah.... Smug mode."

    I have to say, though, that it's most annoying that a project that I was involved in 20 years ago still ends up on search results for all kinds of things. It's more embarrassing that often - when I go looking for something that I know exists - Google often ends up directing me to MY OWN WEBSITE rather than the things actually I'm looking for. It's happened at least three times when I've been searching for things entirely unrelated. I've actually been trying to solve something completely unrelated, and ended up pointing at someone's screen and saying "No, it's know it's not that link there" - how do I know? Because that was MY WEBSITE you ended up with in the top 10 results. I've even stumbled across my own Register comments when I've been trying to tell people about things I read years ago, and where I commented something useful, and it pops up in the search results.

    Once I even ended up going to a website and got half-way down my own article before I realised I'd written it. I wouldn't mind, but I'm hardly a genius, and I don't publish very much in the way of useful information at all.

    1. 45RPM Silver badge

      Have you every considered citing yourself - just to see if anyone notices?

      1. Lee D

        I leave that to the academics publishing their research papers.

        (Seriously, it's not unusual to have a little cabal of academics who write papers that all cite each other's work, just for the reputation increase).

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The Opposite

      So I used to work for a firm where we used a bit of software from a small firm and the developer (who also owned the firm) was coming in to see if there was any features he could add or minor bugs that needed fixing based on our usage. I sat with a group of fellow tech staff and went over the properties of a function that he thought we wanted including and at the end of this said that shouldn't be a problem to add that. Slightly stunned we said the feature is already there and went on to explain what we wanted to be able to do is modify it to include parameter X when running. That as it turned out was no problem and then we turned to something else a feature that we wanted including but was at the moment sadly lacking. "Ah" he says "You just don't know how to do that I'll show you" and then spent 15 mins trying to get his software to do something it wouldn't.

      Nice bloke but he had completely forgotten that they hadn't released the next version that did a lot of what we wanted. It apparently was in alpha testing and he was sure we'd been sent a copy which we hadn't.

      1. JimboSmith Silver badge

        I usually get called out by family and friends to fix or work on something technical for their homes. I got a call from a relative one day who had just moved into a new house which a developer had done up. They'd put Cat 5 and a tv point in every room and a patch bay and cabinet in a room on the ground floor. I was asked round to wire up "the internet" into every room this despite having very good wifi. Whilst there I suggested that they could network their satellite receiver (used for foreign tv) and have the output in every room (wasn't sky so no multiroom). I said it should even be possible with another receiver or two to have a different channel on in each room if you wanted. That would be lovely, but it's not possible comes the reply from my relative and even if it was you can't do it you wouldn't know how to.

        I explained that it was indeed possible I was the one with engineer in my job title, said I'd prove it and went home to collect a few bits and pieces. Came back armed with a couple of RF modulators, two FTA satellite receivers, a QED remote extender (used Cat 5), a cable tester and various connectors/convertors. I demonstrated the ability to have a receiver in each room or to have the same tv signal pumped around the building with the ability to change channel from each room. Their response oh that's rather clever isn't it, can you just wire up the living room for the satellite and we'll not bother in the other rooms just have to use Freeview I suppose!

        1. Dabooka

          That's fine as long as you feed off the same sat

          I assume a non-motorised system?

          1. JimboSmith Silver badge

            Re: That's fine as long as you feed off the same sat

            Yep dish just pointed at 5°W Atlantic Bird, someone was learning French.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The "leave me alone and I'll fix it" scenario

      I've done this a few times, where I knew that explaining what I figured out would 1) take too long and 2) have people wanting me to prove some logical leaps I made.

      The most memorable was back in 2000 when I was consulting on a SAP migration for a Fortune 500 company most everyone will have heard of. It was being migrated from Texas to Toronto, and it had just been brought live over Labor Day weekend - getting downtime for this was almost impossible so it had to succeed. It was as super complicated process that involved among other things a courier on a private jet taking the past week's redo logs from Texas to Toronto. I wasn't involved in this part of the process, so I was taking some much needed vacation.

      So on Labor Day I was doing some boating/drinking with some friends but had brought my laptop on the trip (to the condo, not the boat) 'just in case'. In the middle of the afternoon I get a call from the guy in charge of the project, but cell service on the lake isn't that great so I just ignored it at the time, figuring it was probably some question that could wait or someone else could answer. When we got back that evening and I was walking up from the dock he called again and was in a panic - apparently all hell had broken loose and SAP was down and the DB corrupted.

      Once I called into the bridge and dialed in my laptop (good thing my friend's condo had a phone line) I learned none of the filesystems containing the DB could be mounted (this was before Oracle commonly used raw volumes) and everyone was running around like chickens with their heads cut off because thousands of users were going to come in tomorrow morning and expect to use the system. While my friends went out to the bars and had a good time I stayed behind and began trying to troubleshoot with the others.

      After some back and forth for a while I eventually got an idea and did a little digging, and figured out what had happened. Its been so long I actually don't remember the details of what the problem was, something to do with the pairing relationships between the primary copies BCV copies (there were like 4 copies of each volume) on the Symmetrix scrambled the Veritas disk group information so none of the volumes could be imported. The upshot was that the data was still there, nothing had been lost.

      I told everyone on the call (there were probably at least 50 by this point) that I knew what happened and I could fix it, I just needed some time to concentrate. Cue a half dozen people wanting me to explain it, and me insisting that it would be easier for me to just try to fix it, and promising that what I did wouldn't change any data on the drives so if it didn't work we'd be no worse off I just had to make sure no one else was going to touch the storage in the meantime. There were like 500 primary volumes, so it would take forever to fix by hand, but luckily I was able to determine exactly how it got messed, and I able to write a script to reverse the process. Once I ran that I was able to import all the disk groups and mount the filesystems, and shared the good news. The Basis lead then checked things out, verified all was good, started it up and everything worked. All those users were able to login the next day, none the wiser.

      They wanted me to explain further but it was like 2am by this point and my friends were back so it was too noisy, so I just told them I'd explain it in a couple days but told them what NOT to do that created the situation in the first place so there wouldn't be a repeat! I wrote about five pages to include in the RCA as to what happened and how I fixed it, spent countless hours in meetings explaining it, and but I think only about three people really understood it...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The "leave me alone and I'll fix it" scenario

        I hope you were compensated for your time. I had once booked a holiday well before a project I would be involved with was announced. The completion date was about a week after I got back and I didn't want my holiday ruined by people calling all the time asking questions. So I gave my boss a sealed envelope with the number of where I would be staying in the US. I explained that there was no mobile signal in that area and the landline in the envelope was the only way to reach me. Written on the envelope were instructions that my boss was authorising an extra days holiday for each call they made to me. The first day I was on holiday the team were told under no circumstance should the envelope be opened and on no account was anyone to call me. I had a blissful two weeks.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: The "leave me alone and I'll fix it" scenario

          Oh yes, I billed for every hour plus threw in a few more for the annoyance of missing a night out with my friends!

          Because of the go live that weekend I knew there was a chance they'd call me, or I wouldn't have brought the laptop along. At least they waited until the third day of the three day weekend to break something :)

  5. TRT Silver badge

    I've had something similar...

    with an electrophysiology amplifier that was giving someone some gyp. They'd come to me on a computer issue and seen all the electronics gear on my workbench. "Do you know anything about electronics then? Because we're getting some chronic noise on a pre-amp."

    I said I'd take a look and lo, they'd mismatched the impedance on the headstage to the pre-amp and subsequently had the gain right up. I pointed it out and they said they couldn't change the input impedance. "Yes you can", I replied. "No, you can't", they said. "Look... no switch."

    I pulled the module and showed them the jumper on the board.

    "Yes, you can." And pointed out my initials which were worked into the tracks on part of the PCB.

    I had done some improvement work to the company's original pre-amp about 20 years ago, and gave a copy of the design to the company rep next time I saw them. No charge. It was low volume, quite specialised equipment, and what I had done was only a fairly obvious improvement to the common-mode noise rejection circuit which let the user fine-tune the pre-amp to match a particular headstage and correct for notoriously variable experimental set ups, but they incorporated it into the Rev B boards for the next 5-10 years or so. Out of vanity I had arranged the components in the shape of my initials and that found its way into the production model.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    My example of this was far simpler

    When testing out a new banking system urgent call comes in.

    The name and address for customer &^%&%& is always printing out wrong! - urgent.

    The evidence appears to be there in front of me, it is indeed wrong... Everyone else appears to be working perfectly.

    A really good rummage around in the underlying database follows.

    The name and address were input incorrectly in the first place (slaps forehead).

    Took 3 days to convince the customer with evidence that this was not a candidate for the "reasons we will try to cut the bill" list and indeed had the opposite effect of wasting several days at quite a high rate simply to diagnose a data input issue.

    1. Anonymous Coward Silver badge

      Re: My example of this was far simpler

      I've had similar... "look, their address is in the database but it doesn't appear on the invoice - we just get their name"

      "Ma'am, you've put their name in the 'billing address' field"

  7. Pete 2 Silver badge

    Possible or easy?

    I have no doubt that Bob was correct, what he suggested was possible.

    However the woman who called seems to have asked the wrong question(s). Instead of saying "Gopher can't do that", her real issue was that she did not know that Gopher could do what she wanted.

    That isn't a failure of the software wot Bob wrote. But it could easily be a failure of the accompanying documentation. Without having the specifics it is impossible to say.

    And this seems to be an early example of what fuels so many "support" forums and websites now. While lots of people write software and freely give it to the community, it is clearly the case that authors provide precious little information on what it can do and how you can do it. We all know that writing software is "fun" but writing documentation is a chore and fixing bugs is an absolute PITA. As for testing? so tedious that few ever do any: to compile is to run!

    1. Phil W

      Re: Possible or easy?

      While that can be true, in many cases it can simply be that although the software can do something, it wasn't part of the original intended use when it was written, and consequently isn't in the documentation.

      It would be ridiculous to expect developers to document every technically possible use case for something, especially one's they'd never envisioned.

      1. Pete 2 Silver badge

        Re: Possible or easy?

        > It would be ridiculous to expect developers to document every technically possible use case for something, especially one's they'd never envisioned.

        I think we all understand that is clearly not needed. But two things that ARE needed, depending on where the person wishing to use an application is coming from, are functional documentation - what the available functions of a piece of code actually do, and application documentation - why you would want to use any given function.

        One without the other is useless: what is the point of telling someone how to use a keyhole if there is nothing to tell them why they would want to open the door? What is the point of telling them which door to open if you haven't told them how to unlock it?

        Without telling users what they can do and how they can do it, writing a piece of software that is intended for other people is a waste of your time, an exercise in futility.

        1. barbara.hudson

          Re: Possible or easy?

          "But two things that ARE needed, depending on where the person wishing to use an application is coming from, are functional documentation - what the available functions of a piece of code actually do, and application documentation - why you would want to use any given function."

          If you have all the functional documentation, then you should be able to determine what functions you need to use to do what YOU want to do - not expect the function's authors to predict how you would use it. If that were the case, you wouldn't need the functional documentation.

          Which is just another way of saying that there are different needs for different users. End users don't need functional documentation, they just need to know how to achieve what they want. Developers don't need application documentation, because they're the ones developing the application.

          (And while writing the documentation before writing the application sounds good in theory, you'll usually find that what seems good in theory is too inflexible in practice. And who has the time to change the documentation? Certainly not the dweeb who wrote it and then says "I've done the hard part, now you just write the code."

      2. Michael Thibault

        Re: Possible or easy?

        "While that can be ... and consequently isn't in the documentation."

        An easter egg, IOW.

        "It would be ridiculous to expect developers to document every technically possible use case for something, even some they had envisioned."

        Sounds different.

        Video documentation could help here, as the developer's focus, scope, affinity for metaphor, etc. can more readily be surfaced via an interaction that is a social interaction -- an interview via AI, perhaps. Draw the information out. Put a face to the tech.

      3. kitekrazy

        Re: Possible or easy?

        Developers are usually terrible at documentation. That's why some pay to have others do it. Instead of debating what could or couldn't be done, a walk through might have worked. In a highly competitive industry you want to make more friends instead of winning debates.

    2. DropBear

      Re: Possible or easy?

      Let's be fair, that is not at all necessarily the case. There could well be a full-featured 3D CAD - potentially fully documented - in systemd, and you might just not know...

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Possible or easy?

        "There could well be a full-featured 3D CAD - potentially fully documented - in systemd, and you might just not know."

        Hey, how did you find it? It was supposed to be secret.

      2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: Possible or easy?

        There could well be a full-featured 3D CAD - potentially fully documented - in systemd

        Don't give them ideas. And besides, "full-featured" doesn't seem to be within the gamut of their abilities..

        Unless "full-featured" means "only for our use-cases and any errors, omissions or failures will be marked as DontFix in the bug reports".

        1. Michael Thibault

          Re: Possible or easy?

          "DontFix" needs a makeover, a repositioning on the shelves of the marketplace of ideas. It's negative. It's a bit of a downer. And it doesn't even have an apostrophe. How pathetic! We need something more positive, more definitive. Something that holds authority. Let's call it "JobDone".

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Possible or easy?

      "But it could easily be a failure of the accompanying documentation."

      Documentation? Who reads that?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Documentation? Who reads that?

        I wasn't in the group, but I liked the story from my co-workers who wrote software to support the mainframe software distribution department in our plant. They suspected that the distribution people never read the documentation because the could just call the people upstairs who wrote it. So one time they added a line to the documents saying the first person to find this gets a free beer. No one claimed the free beer.

        1. Pompous Git Silver badge

          Re: Documentation? Who reads that?

          "So one time they added a line to the documents saying the first person to find this gets a free beer. No one claimed the free beer."
          A couple of decades ago I led some job clubs for the unemployed. One of the first exercises was to fill in a questionnaire. At the top of the questionnaire in large, bold letters were the words: "Please Read All Items In This Questionnaire Before Answering Them". The final item read: "Do not answer any of the questions. Just write your name at the top of the first page." Despite my reading out the instruction at the top of the first page, most participants answered all of the questions.

    4. Dave K

      Re: Possible or easy?

      The problem here though is the user seemed unwilling to listen and to try what Bob was suggesting. There's nothing wrong with not knowing about a particular function of some software, but there is something wrong with a user who is belligerently ignorant and who insists they are correct and refuses to listen and to try what is being suggested by the support person.

      In order to expand your knowledge of a product, you have to be willing to listen and learn...

      1. Kevin Johnston

        Re: Possible or easy?

        Oh I so agree with this. What is the point in contacting a Support line if you will not allow them to support you by explaining how to achieve what you are trying to do?

      2. armyknife

        Re: Possible or easy?

        Enough about Trumps understanding of the US constitution and government.

      3. Barry Rueger

        Re: Possible or easy?

        there is something wrong with a user who is belligerently ignorant and who insists they are correct and refuses to listen and to try what is being suggested by the support person.

        To be fair, sometimes the support drone on the phone, or worse "live chat," genuinely doesn't know what they're talking about, or can do nothing but read through a script. Remember the bad old days when step one was always"Reinstall Windows?"

        Many "support" people have no technical knowledge, just a seat in a random call centre. Last week they were selling steak knives.

      4. Cynic_999

        Re: Possible or easy?


        ... refuses to listen and to try what is being suggested by the support person.


        Depends what's being suggested. I've lost count of the number of times I have been forced to do several time-consuming tasks that could not possibly have had anything to do with the problem, because the support-drone would not budge from the script.

        1. Michael Thibault

          Re: Possible or easy?

          "I've lost count of the number of times I have been forced to do ..."

          I, unfortunately, understand. But I only let it happen once, and that occurred on the very first resort to product service -- on the first go. One nightmare to end them all.

    5. Nick Kew

      Re: Possible or easy?

      In the days of Gopher, any documentation might have been elusive. You couldn't just google it. Paper docs had invariably gone walkies any time I needed them, while Unix manpages (before man -k or apropos) relied on knowing the exact and often non-obvious command you were trying to find ...

      Did the gopher client in question offer anything so accessible as "gopher -?" or "gopher --help"? And did that then tell you anything? I don't recollect the early web browsers that supported gopher telling you anything: they were point-and-click.

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: Possible or easy?

        >In the days of Gopher, any documentation might have been elusive.

        That's why it was always a good idea to get developers to spend time on the support desk - that way they got to hear directly how good/bad their software and documentation really was and just how 'dim' many highly intelligent, but non-IT users can be when it comes to computers.

        Thus as you illustrate, back in the day, in my opinion, only a totally daft developer and manager would release a completed piece of end user software eg. a gopher client, which did not give a meaningful response to: gopher -? , gopher --help , man gopher

      2. herman Silver badge

        Re: Possible or easy?

        In the days of gopher, there were already Archie and Veronica search engines and later WAIS.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Possible or easy?

          Don't forget jughead (& later jugtail) ... there was a rather useful HOWTO explaining how to set it all up back in the early 1990s, using a Sun workstation for examples. I have a copy archived somewhere that I translated into the Slackware world a couple years later. I can't remember if I released it or not.

          So yes, it was possible, and fairly easy, even early on. IF you had access to that kind of equipment and a decent connection. Remember, most of the "online" world was dial-up Usenet, BBS, Fido or CIS, with a few brave souls on BIX or Delphi ... Q-link (became AOL) had very few users comparatively.

    6. oiseau Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Possible or easy?


      "While lots of people write software and freely give it to the community, it is clearly the case that authors provide precious little information on what it can do and how you can do it."



      I am and have always been very (very) grateful to those who write and then freely share their efforts with the rest of us and it is quite unfortunate that what you say is (in quite a few cases that I have encountered) true.

      I guess that it's part of the deal, so to speak.

      Ideally, it shouldn't be like that as I believe there's what I refer to as 'intellectual responsability' on behalf of the developer.

      But then it is also true with quite a bit of non-free software, software that more often than not I have paid through the nose for and one of the most notorious examples has been MS software.

      In these cases, there is not only 'intellectual' but also 'commercial' and 'ethical' responsability which most of the time went/has gone unaccounted for.

      And for *that* there's no excuse whatsoever.

      Do have a good week-end.

    7. barbara.hudson

      Re: Possible or easy?

      "That isn't a failure of the software wot Bob wrote. But it could easily be a failure of the accompanying documentation."

      Since when do users bother to RTFM? It's just SO much easier to whine and bitch and moan. Heck, they don't even bother to press F1 to read the context-specific help, or the prompts on the status line. "It's too hard!" THOSE are the snowflakes, and they're not just millennials. Plenty of boomers.

      Or they read it but still don't understand. Like one place I worked where everyone else (including the boss) thought that merging code was handled automatically by svn every commit, so they would make a commit to fix a bug, and someone else (or even they themselves if they had the same file open in multiple sessions) would then commit the same file that they had pulled before the bug was fixed and "hey, how come the bug is back?"

    8. Michael Thibault

      Re: Possible or easy?

      "software is 'fun' but writing documentation is a chore and fixing bugs is an absolute PITA."

      Why not then encourage the use of video? Tie it in closely with sites frequented already by tech-leaning people. Move to the medium that flows, grows, and shows. Make it easy, make it comfortable, but make it happen.

    9. Catfitz

      Re: Possible or easy?

      Thank you. Always an everywhere, especially on open source software but it can be on commercial software, the coder has zero interest in the user, even the power user, even the user who is his cohort and also a programmer. And so he cares not about documentation or customer requirements, they don't exist in his universe.

      A good example is the way that Windows can't delete your photos after you check the box to delete your photos when downloading them from your iphone. Zillions of forums and help desks tackle this all different ways, some with wildly complicated solutions, but Microsoft can't be bothered to make this happen normally.

      1. Aus Tech

        Re: Re: Possible or easy?

        Are you sure that is a Windows bug, and not an iPhone feature?

  8. andy 28

    Lotus cc:Mail

    Some (many) years ago in the DOS days there was a problem with cc:Mail and printing. After some investigation (thanks Norton utilities disk editor!) it came down to their print driver using US letter and the printers supporting A4. Obviously their support wasn't any support. But strangely when the story made the weekly comics of the time with the question of what exactly we were getting in the European version at near 1:1 exchange rate (vs probably 2:1 commercial rates) they changed the hardcoded 'LETTER' papersize into something more appropriate for us Europeans...

    1. Jos V

      Re: Lotus cc:Mail

      Andy 28, similar maybe to me having to find out that the new piece of hardware from the US marked the transmission headers as SDH, but kept the rest of the payload as SONET? :-)

    2. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      Re: Lotus cc:Mail

      "something more appropriate for us Europeans"

      FRENCH LETTER perhaps? (I promise this was funny when radio comedian Kenneth Horne did it in "Beyond Our Ken" in 1958 probably)

      No doubt there is a joke possible in "hard coded", but not necessarily a good one. Better to say "The producer noticed the next line in the script, so he whipped it out at once."

    3. Wensleydale Cheese

      Re: Lotus cc:Mail

      "After some investigation (thanks Norton utilities disk editor!) it came down to their print driver using US letter and the printers supporting A4. "

      In the early 90s a colleague wasted the many hours trying to get various DOS programs to print properly on A4, and each one had a slightly different quirk.

      In the end he said "Sod it" and managed to find a source for US Letter sized paper.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    > Have you ever been in a position to definitively tell a user they're wrong?

    Long ago we learned that when dealing with the average user one logs absolutely everything.

    The shocked silence when you tell the user when, to the millisecond, that they actually did do the thing they've just spent ten minutes vehemently denying is priceless...

    1. foxyshadis

      This has long since evolved

      Now, if you don't have screenshots or better yet video recording, with some kind of cryptographic watermark from the system, they'll just accuse you of faking it all, because saving their own pride is far more important than your job or reputation.

    2. GlenP Silver badge

      That extra accuracy in time is usually the critical factor!

    3. wyatt

      Ah yes, I remember telling a small police force that one of their users had rebooted a server and caused a 6 hour outage. They refused to admit this and pay the bill (due to being caused by them, not the equipment failing) until they received screen shots of the event logs showing the reboot- before they'd raised the support call with ourselves.

      They did have the grace to apologise.

    4. phuzz Silver badge

      Had that recently, I configured a modem in a particular way, checked it looked ok and sent it out.

      The kit arrives on site, and I get a phone call asking why I'd set it up for PPPoE rather than DSL. "Oops says I, I must have done that on autopilot, let me just look up the correct details".

      I look in the ticket and see that the very person who rang me up had left a comment instructing me to use PPPoE.

      They were suitably apologetic when I pointed out that I'd done exactly what they'd asked (turns out they forgot to update the ticket when the requirements changed).

    5. EVMonster

      Have you ever been in a position to definitively tell an employer they're wrong?

      About a thousand years ago when I was 18 I had a series of jobs while waiting to join the Police Force. Back then I seemed to be able to stroll from one job to another all unskilled but at 18 who gives a fig.

      So I am screwing wheels on 3' x 2' X 2'6"" document containers, four of, one in each corner really skilled job.

      When the wheels were attached I had to put the lid on and push it toward another PFY who ensured the top fitted OK, removed the top and stacked the wheeled base, loading a stack on a lorry when it was 15 containers high. I could not help noticing the logo emblazoned on the lid 'UK Stationary Wharehouses'.

      The next suit that went past was the company owner so I stopped him and said 'I think some fool has made a spelling mistake', yes it was him. After several people came out of the office checked the spelling and then shuffled back to the office the boss reappeared and I was sacked. These days I would have kicked up a fuss but back then Nah...

      Now when my companies screw up I keep schtum!

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Bob's story

    I could not resist ang googled him.. and the chap has a very interesting past.

    He reminds me a bit of myself.. I also dropped and had my own company, etc, only to finish later..

  11. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

    "Have you ever been in a position to definitively tell a user they're wrong? "

    Sure , all the time , from lies about have you turned it on and off again? to yes it will work that way , no its not broken , its you etc etc . Thing is , they are the customer and the customer is always right , especially if they are a paying customer. So a little sublty is required , in fact a lot is required to avoid the customer feeling stupid or guilty afterwards.

    So much as we'd like to think we are "Put your PC back in the box , take it the shop and tell them you're too F****** stupid to own a pc." types , you probably wouldn't last long in the job if you really did that.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      "It suddenly stopped working".

      That TV remote. "We did nothing to it".

      OH, we got it working, but we could certainly tell they kept a dog... YUCK!

  12. Reader2435

    Piggy in the middle

    I once had the pleasure of being one of the first to use a UK mobile operator's location API for locating handsets. They assured me that they had several other customers happily using the API and I set to work coding against the interface; it was SOAP with a WSDL interface definition. When I ran my client it retrieved the WSDL but always failed to connect to the SOAP server and after a little debugging I found that the server location embedded in the WSDL wasn't valid - it looked like a token rather than a fully-qualified hostname or IP address. I called the operator and they assured me that their other users hadn't had a problem using the API. But it made no sense - how was my SOAP client meant to access a server it didn't have an address for? So I phoned them again, explained again and again they insisted that it was a problem at my end. I knew it wasn't and refused to give up. Eventually they advised me to talk to their supplier in Canada which I did - the supplier said "Yeah, that token is there to allow their system to do load-balancing - it should get replaced with a server address as it's being served out to you. I've been telling them for weeks that it's not set up right but they wont fix it."

    I called the operator again and asked them for the address of the SOAP server. I then wrote a proxy that mediated between my client and their system and when it saw the token come back it swapped in the proper address - all good.

    I understand their new location API service wasn't very successful... I wonder why...

  13. Sam Liddicott

    some people have annoyed experts without knowing it

    Over 15 years ago, a colleague and I worked on the plugin Orange custom home-screen for the SPV1 and early MS Smartphones.

    One the modaco forums there was a lot of custom homescreen layouts making use of all the cool features, the main one of which was embedding other plugins into smaller areas.

    As I can best recall, one prominent designer seemed to enjoy pontificating the extent and limits of customisation and was in our view quite harsh on another designer whose work was good.

    As a consequence my colleague suggested that we provide information on some extra customisation features to the oppressed designer directly so that he could do better designs which were also "impossible" according to the wisdom of the self declared expert. As his work was dissected those features would become widely known, but he was our nominated prophet, so to speak.

    I don't know how the expert reconciled this "lowly" designer finding such cool features, but us two and our prophet had a private joke playing out.

    I believe that most of the parties are represented here:

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: some people have annoyed experts without knowing it

      I see this in gaming circles all the time. Even from some of the Devs. People claiming something is "impossible", then the game gets ported (when gets good porting team) or refactored (say into C etc) and the impossible is suddenly there in clear day being done.

      What they really mean, is "difficult/expensive". But if enough money comes in, it gets done (Best example is Minecraft or Kerbal Space Program).

      No idea if the same happens in industrial/commercial software, as not often people wish to push boundaries or functions (though I guess some may want to extend renders to multiple servers, or change CAD memory limits or some other magic art?).

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: some people have annoyed experts without knowing it

      I once worked a long time ago as freelance tech support for a small firm the most challenging thing was normally dealing with the staff who refused to listen to common sense. Anyway one day I discovered that they had some software they used for producing bills which the MD thought was brilliant. They had been licensing this for ages and then one day someone called me and asked if I knew why the ability to produce invoices for an entire project had disappeared. I waded through the manuals and found out that it had never had that functionality. What it did have was the ability to produce an invoice something I thought was easily replicable in Excel with a bit of thought. I told them that sadly this feature had never existed you could only do one invoice at a time and couldn't link them to produce an overall bill. To do this would mean doing the calculations yourself and then producing a new invoice. Unimpressed I'm told that the feature was there previously and that I was wrong.

      I spoke to the MD and explained that this software was only doing something that could be done in Excel quite easily and would save them the expense of multiple software licences. No it does clever things like working out a total price based on the quantities required, and "Prints our logo at the top of the page". I explained that the software lacked the ability to link invoices so that you could cost a project/client with ease seeing what was left of the budget etc. I told them that if this was required functionality I could write an excel workbook template that would do just that and could produce a running total of client/project spend as well as individual invoices. Don't bother I'm told - the [overworked] accountant looks after that side of things. Which I checked and they did along with paying for everything and doing tax/VAT returns and easily the hardest working member of the company.

  14. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

    OTOH there is the case

    of getting a device (in this case a re-branded XXXXXXX Router) to do something that was not described in the manual. We found it by accident and saved us a shed load of money in doing do.

    Somehow, XXXXXX found out (probably by the customer who wanted to repeat it on the cheap) and told us in no uncertain terms that

    1) To stop doing it as the function was not in the license/manual

    2) The next firmware release have the 'hole' patched. I huge license uptick was needed to allow it.

    you can't win can you eh?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: OTOH there is the case

      Everyone was hoping the extra dies in Threadripper were deactivated chips, so they could get free CPUs. But it is a case of "impossible" here, as they are empty silicone.

      But the good old days, I did get a free core from a Phenny II x3, and there was a free bit or two to add to the pixel shaders for the ATI cards if you had a pencil. :)

      1. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

        Re: OTOH there is the case

        Or even 2 free cores as the case with my old x2 550.

      2. Fat_Tony

        Re: OTOH there is the case

        Just like punching an extra hole in a 1.44 disk to change it from DD to HD

        1. WonkoTheSane
          Thumb Up

          Re: OTOH there is the case

          Or using a 2B pencil to "colour in" a laser-severed link on an Athlon or Duron CPU to unlock the multiplier.

        2. dajames Silver badge

          Re: OTOH there is the case

          Just like punching an extra hole in a 1.44 disk to change it from DD to HD

          ... or cutting a notch in the sleeve of a 5.25" disk so that you could use both sides in a single-sided drive (a 'flippy disk').

          1. Pompous Git Silver badge

            Re: OTOH there is the case

            ... or soldering a connection between two pads on an inexpensive 72 pin SIMM to turn it in to "expensive" printer memory.

  15. Andy Non

    Apparently there was a fault with our software

    as it would no longer load the client's data file without giving an error message saying it was corrupt. Such was the message relayed to me anyway by my boss. The client was very annoyed and pointing the finger directly at our software, demanding we fix the problem. As the developer of the software, a copy of the miscreant data file was sent to me. It should be a binary data file, partly-encrypted and readable only by our software. On examining the contents of the file, it had mysteriously gained some header data from a word processor and carriage return line feeds had been introduced throughout the file at approximately 80 character spacings. It was immediately apparent that the client had forced a word processor to open the binary data file, for reasons unknown, then proceeded to re-save the file, reformatting and completely wrecking it in the process. When I gave my diagnosis, the client admitted his error and pleaded with me to "fix" the file, as he didn't have a backup copy and it contained six months work. Oops, sorry pal, you've wrecked it.

    1. Stevie

      Re: Apparently there was a fault with our software

      Seriously? You didn't just run off a one-line regex to put it all back, test, and then either submit a bill for a Saturn V or go with "you broke it" depending on the result?


      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Andy Non

        Re: Apparently there was a fault with our software

        Not that simple to fix. This was a large, custom, partly encrypted binary. Not only had the word processor added characters it had stripped certain ascii values from the file (e.g. 0 to 8 if memory serves correct). In principle it may have been possible to pull a very small amount of data out of it, but it would have likely taken several weeks work with no guarantee of success. In short the file was FUBAR.

        1. Stevie

          Re: Apparently there was a fault with our software

          Yep, that would do it. All you could do after that would be to print it and frame it for the customer.

  16. arrrrr

    Reverse situation (almost)

    Many years ago I was one of two testers on a project. We found a bug, but the developer responsible for that part of the project came back with the classic 'it works on my machine'. At which point the other tester walked up to his machine and proved to him that it didn't work on his machine either. Needless to say we got far fewer 'it works on my machine' responses after that.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Apologetic thankyou

    My job was nth line support, the last stop, the buck stopped here after all other support teams had failed and things were still broken.

    One morning the phone rang and it was the head of a development team I'd spoken to a few weeks before, as I helped many people he had to remind me of the problem. They'd built an application that worked find in testing but took minutes to run in production.

    I'd suggested a fix which he admitted he didn't think would work to his distributed SQL queries. Naturally I'd actually tested it at the time having had to analyse why it didn't work on production volume data. Anyway they'd begrudgingly implemented the fix that morning and the application was now responding near instantaneously, happy traders, happy developers and for once a small pat on the back for yours truly.

    This wasn't often the case, I remember stating an application wouldn't work in production and needed some changes, was ignored as the developers bonus depended on it and of course 'IT' got the blame, as it happens the problem I'd highlighted then exposed an issue with the database software which took some finding, a patch from Borland brought some relief but if they'd just made the tiny change I'd suggested at the start the application would have worked from day 1 and we'd never have hit the database issue.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I am Steve Ballmer

    I am Steve Ballmer. Yeah, i don't have anything to do these days...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I am Steve Ballmer

      I'm Steve Ballmer, and so's my wife.

      1. Pompous Git Silver badge

        Re: I am Steve Ballmer

        "I'm Steve Ballmer, and so's my wife."
        So it's not just one of you that's a pain in the arse...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I am Steve Ballmer

      I keep waiting for Steve to show up on "So You Think You Can Dance".

      If you've ever seen him do a presentation, you probably know why.

  19. Vic

    I've done much the same...

    I had to go and support a user running an automated test system.

    Looking at the parameters he'd given to the test in question, he'd just given the name of the parameter file - no extension, nothing.

    "That needs to be a path spec", I told him.

    So then we have a few minutes of him adopting his best patronising tone, telling me all about how that wasn't right, and this was just the body part of the parameter file name.

    I let this run for a little while before mentioning that I had written not just this test, but most of the test tool he was using, and I was confident that this was indeed a path spec. I changed his parameter to a path spec and - shock horror - it all burst into life...


  20. Chris King

    We got this far talking about HR without a link to Catbert ?

    Maybe the head of Human Resources should be a human.

    1. kain preacher

      Re: We got this far talking about HR without a link to Catbert ?

      Perish the thought. Head of HR should always be a demon in cat form.

    2. Michael Thibault

      Re: We got this far talking about HR without a link to Catbert ?

      The last frame is stand-alone. T-shirt stuff.

  21. hammarbtyp

    Not exactly IT, but I did have a friend who worked for a carpet retailer.

    They had customer complaint of stains on their brand new carpet and wanted compensation.

    So he went out there to look at the light brown stains on the carpet. As he was inspecting it the customers dog worked in, laid a 6 inch dog sausage in the middle of the rug and trotted out.

    He just shrugged at the customer and walked out....

    1. phils

      Not exactly IT but a pretty good analogy to a lot of IT jobs.

  22. hammarbtyp

    At a USENIX Windows NT conference , Microsoft was presenting their future directions for NT. One of their speakers said that they would release a UNIX integration package for NT that would contain the Korn Shell.

    A delegate stood up and said that this was not the "real" Korn Shell and was not compatible

    The presenter insisted that he was wrong and that Microsoft had indeed chosen a "real" Korn Shell. After a couple of exchanges, the delegate walked out.

    Another delegate then stood up and said "you do know you've just been arguing with David Korn don't you?"


    1. kain preacher

      Did he feel stupid

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        "Did he feel stupid"

        Probably asked "Who's David Korn?".

    2. IvyKing
      Thumb Up

      The story I read about an interview with David Korn was that was more amused than annoyed and was letting the MS keep digging a deeper hole. Someone else in the audience apparently was anxious to rub it in by telling the MS guy that the person he was arguing with was David Korn.

  23. Jason Bloomberg

    The arrogance of certainty

    I've sat on the other side of the desk - "I know what it does; I wrote it".

    And a little while later - "And I have no idea why I then commented that functionality out".

    1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      Re: The arrogance of certainty

      I can remember going on a course (there were some once) and we looked at some code deep in the Unix Kernel.

      The comment said something along the lines

      "If we get here we are bacially F*****d.

      followed by a Halt instruction.

      The next exercise was to find a path to that bit of code.

      Those were the days.

  24. Flakk

    Any time I encounter an "Annie Hall" reference, I'm reminded of one of the best lines from the LucasArts masterpiece "Sam and Max Hit the Road". Sam, addressing a character obviously patterned after Woody Allen, remarks, "I love all of your movies, especially the early, funny ones."

  25. Mike Sallman

    Gopher Protocol

    Because someone had to say it...

    Ski-U-Mah !

  26. Clod

    The Fail Was Strong

    This reminded me of my last job. I had made rather strong recommendations that we get some true power redundancy on our core switch stack, since if any single component had a power failure, our entire network (13 branches) would go down. I received enough resistance that I stopped talking about it.

    About 2 weeks later, it was time for our routine generator test. Of course, the switchover to generator power caused a blip in the mains supply, and the single UPS holding everything together promptly passed out. I felt a great disturbance in the Force as dozens of employees screamed in terror and went offline.

    I spent the next 15 minutes in a state of calm, and recommended the power redundancy again afterward. It was swiftly implemented.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The Fail Was Strong

      "I felt a great disturbance in the Force as dozens of employees screamed in terror and went offline."

      You are a poet, Clod.

  27. Westie70

    Stalk the stalk

    Years ago I took a help desk call from a secretary to rectify a problem with a monitor - the system was turned on but there was nothing being displayed on the VDU.

    I asked all of the usual questions:

    Q: Is you PC turned on; can you see any disc and/or power lights on the front of the box?

    A: Yes

    Q: Can you see any active lights on the front of the monitor

    A: No.

    Q: Can you take a look at the cables for me. Is there a power cable from the wall plugged into the rear of the monitor?

    A: Yes.

    Q: Is there a cable from the back of your PC to the monitor?

    A: Yes.

    Q: Are all of the cables plugged in correctly and turned on?

    A: Yes.

    I then said I'd come over and take a look. It took me a while to get to the other side of the hospital. Upon arrival at the secretary's office I noticed the problem, instantly, and pushed the power cable home in the back of the monitor. I said: "I asked you if you'd checked this cable and you said you had!"

    I got the reply: "Oh! Yes! I couldn't be bothered, really. I wanted you to come over and fix it for me!"

    "Fine!" I replied, and stalked out of the office muttering under my breath.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Stalk the stalk

      > "Fine!" I replied, and stalked out of the office muttering under my breath.

      Ticket closed with "plugged in unplugged monitor", etc?

      Our ticketing system allows us to summarise users, it's clear there are a few with "issues" that lie between the keyboard and the chair.

    2. Nick Ryan Silver badge

      Re: Stalk the stalk

      The "correct" response in this situation is "Well, you owe me a drink then."

  28. Chris Jasper

    Over the last couple of years, every bloody working day............

  29. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    The other side of this is spending an afternoon working through the vendor's source code (they'd supplied most of it) to discover why their invoicing program was causing the RDBMS engine to eat memory until it had crashed two weeks running.

  30. Roger Greenwood


  31. Tweets

    I used to work for an ISP

    Back in the 1990's, before the Internet was particularly wide spread, I used to work for one of the bigger ISP's.

    I'd been there so long, I was asked to literally 'write the book' on how the DNS systems worked, with instructions on how the data was propagated, how each server talked to each other, and the types of resource record that could be created.

    Sadly, the dotcom bust happened and I was out of a job.

    Some six months later, to make it easier to do things, I needed a new TXT RR created in the DNS zone file.

    So I called up the new Tech Support team.

    And told them precisely what to write in the file, down to the last full stop.

    "Ma'am, we can't do that, it would be an illegal entry in the DNS Zone file."

    "Oh, but you can do this. I know you can."

    "Ma'am, I'm sorry, but it's not possible."

    "I see. May I speak to your manager, John Smith?" (I knew he still worked there!)

    "Yes, may I take your name so that I can pass the message on correctly?"

    Don't know why he hadn't asked this so far, but eh... it happens.

    "Lisa Lyons"

    You could hear the silence, as if gears were slowly grinding....

    "Where do I know that name from?"

    "Take a look at the bottom of your DNS training document!"


    "And if you read page 12, paragraph 8, you will find that it IS possible to add the record I need you do add."

    "Errrmmm.... I'm sorry."

    1. kain preacher

      Re: I used to work for an ISP

      Oh man I hope he went to the ER for that burn

  32. Dabooka

    Several popular home electronics outlets

    A while back I had two zones in my house for A/V, configured via a cheapo Chinese HDMI switcher that allowed two zones to have any one of four inputs. This allowed me to watch my sat / PS4 in the kitchen whilst the missus could have BAke Off etc in the main room. Worked a treat, domestic bliss ensued.

    Queue my amp blowing up and me thinking my shiny replacement needs these two independent zones built in. A bit research online was more difficult than it should have been so leather was trod and I hit the high streets. An all too common interaction went along the lines of;

    Them - 'Can't be done mate'

    Me - 'Why's that then?'

    Them - 'You need a distribution amp as HDMI can't work over those distances'

    Me - 'But I'm doing it now. With a cheap 10 quid box and a 12m HDMI cable'

    Them - 'Nope it won't work. Besides those amps don't exist, both zones have to use the same input'

    Suitable amp eventually tracked down and installed, all worked a treat (and continues to do so today over a longer run again in the new house).

    Honestly, so many places and not department stores but so-called specialist AV showrooms, the names of which would be well known by those on here.

  33. anothercynic Silver badge


    I see this regularly on a mailing list where people argue with (who they often describe as rude and cantankerous) the main developer of a certain piece of Internet software. But, what many fail to understand is that the man has 9 RFCs and 2 drafts to his name, and knows the protocol in question pretty much inside out. You. Do. Not. Argue. with him about how things work. His software complies with the protocol RFCs *exactly*. Yet they try... and try... and try again.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Hilarious!

      Oh, what if the arguer happens to be the guy who wrote the RFC that REVISED the original RFC? IOW, the v1.0 man trying to talk to the v1.1 man.

      1. William Towle

        Re: Hilarious!

        > Oh, what if the arguer happens to be the guy who wrote the RFC that REVISED the original RFC? IOW, the v1.0 man trying to talk to the v1.1 man.

        Been there. I had a request to give help on an old-system problem at a previous job; another engineer, hovering over our shoulders, takes great pleasure in stating "your explanation is wrong".

        "Not according to the specification document we wrote to get the work approved"

        "It hasn't worked like that since I've been on the project"

        *stifles anger at evident lack of prior communication* "in which case, this question was clearly meant for you" *exits hastily*

    2. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Hilarious!

      But, what many fail to understand is that the man has 9 RFCs and 2 drafts to his name, and knows the protocol in question pretty much inside out.

      However, you do assume that the said person actually understands just what exactly has been specified...

      Back in the late 1980's I had cause to investigate the potential for using IEEE802.4 over a couple of new media types, operating at speeds other than 1, 5 & 10Mbps.

      What was surprising was the sheer number of interdependent magic numbers contained in the specification, which naturally worked (well sort of depending upon your point of view) with the physical media types and speeds contained in the specification, but would fail when used with different media types and speeds. Naturally, the standard didn't contain the rationale behind these magic numbers and conversations with committee members seemed to indicate they also didn't know how or why these numbers were arrived at - but they were in the final standard and so they would have been agreed upon...

      Conversations with colleagues building protocol test systems confirmed my experiences, with 802.4 and it's authors, weren't unique...

    3. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Hilarious!

      > His software complies with the protocol RFCs *exactly*.

      Not always.

      As one example, the RFC for DNS states that IP(v4) addresses are 4 decimal addresses separated by dots. Many people have been caught out after reading that and writing PTR records with 0-padding to make it easier to read/sort - and promptly found out that the software (written by the same person) interprets that as octal.

      It turned out that resolvers also took 0xNN as hex and you could even feed them a single decimal number. Spammers had a field day with that for a while.

      My suggestion that either the RFC and program documentation should be changed, or the software should be altered to conform with the RFC didn't go down well (several years before spammers started abusing resolvers).

    4. Dan McIntyre

      Re: Hilarious!

      His software complies with the protocol RFCs *exactly*.

      So does Volvo's software for their DAB receivers, but because it complies with the standards exactly and no other manufacturer's does, it also tags a continuous stream of the letter K onto the end of every station name in DAB, which is annoying. And which other manufacturers manage not to do.

      My point is that just because something is compliant, doesn't make it ideal.

  34. Charles 9 Silver badge

    I wonder if anything like this has happened.

    Someone calls support, claiming something is working. Now, we have your Bob scenario:

    "I know for a fact what you say is wrong. You see, I WROTE the specs."

    But then:

    "Funny that. You see, I REVISED the specs."

    Now what?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Now what?

      That why phones are designed so that you can hang up.

      I wrote that spec.

    2. Stevie

      Re: I wonder if anything like this has happened.

      "I know for a fact what you say is wrong. You see, I WROTE the specs."

      But then:

      "Funny that. You see, I REVISED the specs."

      And then:

      And I have to wear the bloody things! You're BOTH fired you useless spare parts!

  35. ma1010

    My mother

    My dear mother only believed what she saw on TV. Anything I (or most anyone else) told her in person was suspect unless verified by TV.

    A few years back, a local TV station did a "test" relating to the TV broadcast frequencies in the US being changed and told you if your screen turned red during the test, you wouldn't be able to receive TV without a converter. My mother got her TV via cable, so the change in broadcast frequencies had NO effect at all on her, of course. However, the test was defective, and her screen turned red. She was all a-twitter about what did she have to do so she would still get TV after the change. I told her, no, you don't need to do anything because your signal is over cable. I'm no engineer, but I have enough technical background (and she knew it) that I thought I would have at least some respect from her. Nope. The TV said she had a problem, and therefore, she had a problem. She argued with me for hours, getting more and more desperate as she feared she would no longer be able to get TV. She just refused to believe I knew what I was talking about.

    A couple of weeks later, they came on the TV and said the test was defective and did a new test, and this time her screen went green instead of red, which was supposed to indicate she had no problem, as she didn't, of course. So now, since the all-knowing talking heads had weighed in on the matter, she accepted that her TV would continue working.

    1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

      Re: My mother

      My mother-in-law has a very similar attitude towards TV and, also once a thought gets lodged, no matter how wrong or irrational, no arguing, demonstrations, patience, practical rebuttals or anything else works to change or remove it.

      She also talks about plot lines in soap operas as if the bloody things were real... i.e. "I can't believe they let him get away with that", "They shouldn't be allowed to show that on TV" or "I really feel sorry for her, she's had such a rough life and then he comes in treating her like that, it's not right and he should be ashamed of himself".

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

  36. ma1010

    Supposedly a true story

    At an electronics seminar, the lecturer was talking about impedance. A man in the audience interrupted and said, "You just said you can't have negative impedance, but it is possible."

    The lecturer said, "Sir, apparently you don't understand how to use a Smith chart."

    The man replied "I'm Phillip Smith" (the inventor of the Smith chart).

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Supposedly a true story

      Then, of course, "That can't be right. I'M Phillip Smith!"

      1. Stevie

        Re: Supposedly a true story

        My dad was fond of the one about how one of Steinmetz's PhD students left a "No Smoking" sign on his desk before a lecture (Steinmetz was invariably to be found smoking a cigar).

        The students arrived to find the desk adorned with a sign reading "No Steinmetz".

        Apocryphal, but believable, which the best of such stories are.

    2. Wensleydale Cheese

      Re: Supposedly a true story

      The man replied "I'm Phillip Smith" (the inventor of the Smith chart).

      I heard of a medical doctor who emigrated and had to redo his qualifications to conform with his new country's standards.

      At some point he disagreed with the lecturer, and when the lecturer said "But it's in this reference book", the guy said "I'm the author of that book, and have changed my mind in the light of more recent research".

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    An important customer had been sold a networking processor deal which would need custom software modifications to handle the number of terminals they required.

    The project manager asked me to look at the proposal - at which point it was obvious that there was a problem. Due to a quirk of the cpu instruction set - the code would not be able to handle the size of the data structures.

    Most instruction modes simply addressed 0-64k - but one mode allowed an offset of -32k to +32k in calculating a final address. If the offset went above +32k there was an exception interrupt. This mode was unfortunately the one used to address the terminal data structures in this system - and there was no way anyone was going to redesign the system software.

    I told the hardware design engineers that if they inhibited the exception interrupt then the existing software would still work - and the size of the terminal data structure could be increased. The only possible penalty was a missed exception - but on inspection no one had used the negative offset capability in the system software

    It then came as a surprise to me that the hardware design engineer didn't recognise that binary negative numbers are also positive numbers. So I set up a little demonstration to show the basic principles of twos complement arithmetic. That convinced him. In those days many hardware engineers regarded cpu design as a specialised field - most of them just did logic.

    It was still a relief to me several months later when the modified software worked perfectly ahead of the customer's "must do" schedule. It had a cpu board which contained the mod of a switch to disable that exception interrupt.

    The project was make or break for retaining that important mainframe customer - who was then a very happy bunny. The company suggestion scheme gave me £50 for "a good idea of limited use".

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A central heating plumber was installing a new gas boiler. When he commented on the pipework - I explained that my heating system was controlled by two different rooms' thermostats plus the hot cylinder one - but only used two three-port electromechanical valves. The effect was achieved by daisy-chaining the valves' "call" signals.

    He then told me it couldn't work as three-port valves can only open one of the A or B positions at a time. He had never heard of Honeywell three-port vales that can open A or B, or also open both simultaneously.

    The control box with lots of pretty indicator lights contains a schematic diagram - and an explanation of how it works. It still seems likely that some future occupant will hire a plumber who installs a replacement of a cheaper simple A-B valve.

  39. TheElder

    Past events

    There is a lot I could say here. I will not though because I do not wish to reveal my true identity. I wish I could post little online pictures from other sites so I could edit my copyright notices for my off time graphics work. I have thousands of those pictures that are no longer online anywhere, not even my server. No way do I want to overload my server. I was getting over a million hits per year for my pages. I still get very many for other sites that run on it.

    It has to do with me working for a very big company where the bottom level management was normally one work assisting manager per ten or so workers. Back in the 1990s they gradually reduced that to 1 per 100, slowly increasing everybody's work load. It was to the point I was working an average of nearly double the usual work hours on a regular basis.

    I finally gave up and had a meeting with H R assholes. I put my voice recorder in the middle of the table to make sure any threats would be recorded. I still have that record. Shame I cannot post audio.

    It did not turn out well. I gave them six weeks notice that I was quitting. I sent my resignation letter by registered mail, Fax and e-mail to six top level managers.

    I heard nothing. No reply at all. One month later I attended a major computer show in Vancouver. I dropped into the office to see see some people and ask why they did not reply. Everyone I spoke to was very surprised that I was QUITTING???

    They had no clue. I showed them the receipts for the registered mail. Apparently they thought I was just joking or something. Maybe everyone thought that someone else would deal with it. Zero corporate communication happening.

    Then after I quit I had to fight them to the point of nearly hiring a lawyer to make them pay my fully vested pension. They also tried to ignore all my banked vacation time. I had to threaten them legally. They finally gave up just in time. I beat the dot com bust by just one week since I took the money and put all of it in the dollar only.

  40. anthonyhegedus Silver badge

    About 20 years ago I worked for an American company in London, and we were prone to getting equipment sent to us from the US. We received a PC from them one day and as IT manager I was tasked with testing the software setup as it was specially configured. So I plugged it in and as you’ve probably guessed by now, yes, it went bang. So I had a look at the PSU and noticed it was set to 120V (this was obviously in the days before switching power supplies could work at any voltage).

    So I called the guy who sent it and asked him “before you sent the PC, and after you set it up, what did you do?” And he replied “umm.. I put it in the box” so I asked “...and before you put it in the box?”

    “No, just turned it off and put it in the box” he replied. So I then asked “let me ask you a totally different question: when you plug things in, do you generally check the voltage label?”. His said he didn’t. So I replied “well guess what? Neither do I!”.

    And then he twigged. “Ah” he said, as he realised what happened.

    I’m still friends with him.

    1. Trixr

      Sounds like the experience we had with the EMEA support branch of a well-known US computer manufacturer shortly after our boss signed us up for a "fully managed" hardware support service for our machines.

      PSU blew in one workstation about a week after this arrangement came into play, we called, a package with the replacement PSU was couriered to us, and the tech followed to install it the day after. We were keen to experience the delights of this fully-managed service, so we were STRICTLY hands-off.

      The package was festooned with obvious US-origin courier labels and in what was obviously the factory packaging. All three of us systems admins were gathered around the bench waiting for the MANUFACTURER tech to work his magic - poor dude.

      So he opened the packaging, removed the nice, shiny, factory-new PSU, flipped it over without even glancing at the voltage selector switch, installed it, plugged in the box, powered on and BANG!

      So yeah we got a new motherboard, new RAM and new CPU out of that little number. And a good laugh once the tech departed. We managed to restrain ourselves to a polite "whoops" when it blew up almost in his face.

      I do not understand any tech anywhere in the world (maybe not the US itself, since they seemed to assume they were the default) not double-checking a PSU voltage selector in the late-90s - a very basic routine check.

      I won't bother relating the story of the "hot-swappable" server SCSI hard drive on the student registration system that most certainly was not. Thank christ it wasn't just before (or DURING) enrolment time.

      1. anthonyhegedus Silver badge

        I'm pretty sure that if the computer in question had been sent by someone I didn't know so well, I'd have checked!

      2. foxyshadis

        Not just the late 90's; I did that in 2013 or so with relatively recent HP gear. Brought a desktop into the datacenter to act as a network capture device, plugged it in, and POW. No auto input switching. Fortunately, it wasn't hard to scrounge a power supply, but you certainly learn your lesson after that.

  41. itzman

    Reminds me of teh first time...

    I tried to get a Cisco going on UK ISDN

    In desperation I phone Cisco in the States and was put through to...

    ...a pleasant sounding dude who asked a few questions before reciting the magic spell which I think was 'set switch type=3' or something.

    That he assured me, would work.

    Are you SURE I insisted.

    Well yes, he said, since he had just returned from a 3 week tour of all the European countries to test his Cisco ISDN driver software the field...

  42. Stuart Castle Silver badge

    Nowhere near as impressive, but at work a few years ago, we needed an equipment management and booking system. None of the systems available at the time fitted all our requirements (namely that any bookings made had a risk assessment uploaded, and were only allowed to proceed *if* the risk assessment was approved). It also needed to integrate with our existing inventory system.

    So, we built the system in house.

    Students actually used the booking system directly (hence the need to enforce the risk assessment requirement). One day, a student complained that the booking site wasn't working properly. I asked him what he was doing, and he went through the procedure he was following. I said he wasn't using it correctly. He said he was, as he had always used the site that way, and I was wrong. I said I wasn't wrong. I designed and built the site, so knew *exactly* how it should operate.

  43. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    Signing on at the job centre. "My phone number is 0114 2xx...." JC advisor types in 01142 ... "No, 0114 not 01142" Advisor claims: "no, it can't do that, I have to type in 01142".

    My reply: "My last job was installing these systems, testing them, and training you people. It *DOES* take correctly formatted telephone numbers, just type the damn thing in and see."

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Then you HEAR the beeping as the space gets rejected, and you then find out someone ELSE changed the software in your absence.

  44. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    Though I've also been on the other end.

    Developer: Specify the filter you need, go to 'export data' and select 'plain CSV export' from the list.

    Me: 'plain CSV export' does not exist.

    Developer: Yes it does, I wrote this system, it does so exist.

    Me: I'm sitting here at the export menu, IT DOES NOT EXIST.

    I'm not sure what the resolution is, but I've a feeling he's logged on as GOD, but I'm logged on as 'user'.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Offered to send him a screenshot to PROVE it's not there?

  45. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    User: It would be great if your product did FOO.

    Me: It does do FOO.

    U: No it doesn't.

    M: Try pressing the frickimg great button marked FOO.

    U: I don't have a FOO button.

    M: Send me a screenshot.

    U: >Screenshot<

    M: That's not my product.

    U: Yes it is!

    M: Look at the screenshots on my product's website. Yours is nothing like that. And mine doesn't even run on your platform.

    U: This absolutely is your product and I can't believe how rude you are being.

    M: Errrr... WTF? Are you someone I know having a laugh?

    U: Right now I am going to write bad things about your product on my blog which has lots of readers.

    M: Please do, and don't forget to post the screenshot showing that it's not my product, then maybe some of your many readers will point out your mistake.

    (Never heard from again.)

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      What would've happened if you got the screenshot and it says it IS your product?

  46. Paul

    Microsoft staffer once tried to tell David Korn about his shell

  47. wjake

    I think this fits reight inhere...

  48. BlackKnight(markb)

    I was able to definitively inform a client that there computer did in fact have a power button, despite there insistance it did not, and best attempt to hide it under post-it notes.

  49. bobajob12

    Just imagine the Emacs helpdesk

    User: "It can't do that"

    Helpdesk: "Yes it can"

    Must be blissful.

    1. Myvekk

      Re: Just imagine the Emacs helpdesk

      Emacs was written by Bob The Builder?

  50. Catfitz

    Ugh. I saw what you did there. The point of this story is to reinforce the idea that women programmers are lesser beings than males, and reinforce the Google guy's memo. Fail.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "The point of this story is to reinforce the idea that women programmers are lesser beings than males"

      No, it's to reinforce the idea fact that managers are lesser beings than programmers.

  51. andygrace

    Oooh yeah you bet!

    Back in the early 90s when I was about 20 I wanted to get a job a radio presenter, because frankly being a developer/engineer bored the crap out of me and radio jocks seemed to get all the women. Remember this is way before the dot.bomb and the cash for coding while OK was nothing compared with being on air presenter in broadcast media.

    Anyway, as part of one of my first gigs in a regional market, we'd been selected to be the bunnies to test a new digital automation system. It was DOS based and very beta at that stage, so there were massive problems getting it stable, and consequently we had many "AirGaps" - rather long embarrassing silences while the system rebooted and rebuilt a cache of every single audio file on the drives!!

    So to help the techs who were young and cool there, I wrote a suite of audio monitoring tools, and some vastly better database reconciliation code to log issues and help with DB reconciliation. I just did it for free and released it to whoever wanted to use it, and made it didn't have my name on screen anywhere so I wasn't associated with it. Not 'cool' in the eyes of the young ladies for a 21 year old DJ to be connected to any dorky computer code.

    A couple of years later I'd risen through the ranks to become a prime-time presenter on one of Australia's biggest media networks. They were in the process of installing the same system. I was told NOT TO TOUCH the system - "Don't treat it like a computer - it's not. It's an audio storage device", and anyone who does will be fired immediately. So I immediately checked out the system and yes, somehow my code had magically been incorporated into the install. Unlike the regional guys, the big city engineers were rather precious about computers because they were all "analogue" guys.

    Of course I was immediately in trouble for logging into the backend. And blamed for the system screwing up so many times according to their logger. When I pointed out that the logging system that logged me was also written by me all of a sudden I was the worst enemy. I had to use a hex dump utility to show them the ASCII string of my own name I'd buried in there before they accepted it. BTW I had to teach them what a hex editor was before doing so.

    Shortly after they spent many tens of thousands with the vendor getting all my code rewritten. Of course I didn't care less from then on. They more or less left me alone and while they were spending long nights trying to get the system stable, I was out clubbing with two incredibly hot chicks! hahahah

    1. Pompous Git Silver badge

      "when I was about 20 I wanted to get a job a radio presenter, because frankly being a developer/engineer bored the crap out of me and radio jocks seemed to get all the women."
      Back in the 1980s I had the midnight to dawn timeslot on Sunday at 92 FM. Never got me any women though I was told that night nurses at Hobart's hospitals were fans of my show. I introduced Hobart to reggae and ethnic/world music in general. The station managed to push Adam and the Ants to number one locally even though the commercial stations refused to play their music. Great days...

    2. bobajob12

      [...] I was out clubbing with two incredibly hot chicks!

      Apart from it's rather breathless written-by-a-hormonal-14-year-old style, I did learn something from this.

      Australia has chickens. Who knew. I thought sheep was the thing down there. Though I can understand why chicks would get hot. I'm told the antipodes have the kind of weather no sane Englishman would countenance.

      1. Pompous Git Silver badge

        "Apart from it's rather breathless written-by-a-hormonal-14-year-old style, I did learn something..."
        I think you will find the term "hot chicks" is from the Merkin vernacular and not uniquely Australian.

        Sheep are a New Zealand preference and Australia is a separate country.

        "Sane Englishman" would appear to be a contradiction in terms.

        [Thinks! Who else can I offend?]

  52. ICPurvis47 Bronze badge

    Job descriptions.

    Back in the early 90s I was employed as a Technical Author and Editor at a small publishing company in a suburb of Birmingham (UK). After I had been there a couple of years, I became friends with the IT Manager (let's call him George) as I was interested in home computing and networking. One day he mentioned that he was having problems extending the office network, so I spent some time at home researching the problem, and came up with a solution, of which I duly appraised him. He thought that this would have to be done over the weekend, as it entailed a complete rewire of the offices' IT cabling, and would I like to come in on Sunday (for double pay!) to help him carry it out. We ripped out the thin Ethernet cables and reconfigured them to take a shorter route, and split the network into two halves with a bridge between them. Come Monday, no-one noticed the difference as everything was working perfectly. About a year later, we (the company) bought our main rivals and merged the two businesses. George was now the IT Manager for all eight offices, and each office had a Deputy IT Manager with George on a roving basis in charge of all eight. He offered me the position of Deputy IT Manager at the original office, which was now Head Office. As part of the re-organisation, we had a new Office Manager assigned from one of the other offices. Everything went along smoothly for a couple of months, and I was then summoned to the new Office Manager's cubicle, where he proceeded to berate me on the fact that my Technical Writing output was down, I hadn't done any editing, and that I was spending too much time "interfering with other Authors' computers", and if I didn't buckle down and improve my productivity he would have to "let me go". I asked him if he had actually read my job description, which he admitted (eventually) that he hadn't. I left the cubicle and printed off a copy, which I returned to him and left him to read it. About ten minutes later, my phone rang, and a very apologetic Office Manager said that he had phoned George, who had scorched his ears for him, and would I accept his apologies, together with a 20% pay rise. We are still good friends, even though I was head-hunted away from there many years ago.

  53. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    When I worked for the DWP

    as just a low grade administration assistant, I was asked to log details on to two servers. I was told by the higher ups that I could not log stuff onto the wrong servers as it wasn't possible to do so. When I told them I had finished the 20 odd pension efforts, I was then told by the same high ups that I had logged all of them on to the wrong servers. It took them all afternoon to sort out this "impossible" mess.

  54. TG2.2

    I'd rather know what she was trying to do, that he said could be done, and she said couldn't.

    If someone's misunderstood it to that level, then its possible for many more of us to do so, and thus not have just a laugh, but a learning moment too.

  55. PhilCoder

    How to stop an IT argument

    If I ever get into one of those yes-it-can-no-it-can't style of endless argument, I put an end to it by offering a wager. Saying "I'll bet you $20 it can" usually brings the conversation to a sudden and complete stop.

    Doesnt work on your boss, though.

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