Chalk one up for the good gals!
Two hot functional tests go pear shaped? And nobody fesses up? Reports vanish? Espionage? Sabotage?
Friday has rolled around once more, bookending a sunny week in the UK and promising a weekend free of actual work. Unless, of course, you are one of the unfortunates cursed to be On Call. Today's story takes us around the world and back to the 1990s in the company of a Register reader that the ever-creative Regorandomiser has …
I once witnessed an inquisition of sorts going on as a visitor somewhere. All the staff of one department were being called into a meeting room one by one. They would walk out after a few minutes and the next person would be asked to come in. The person I was visiting eventually finished in there and we went out for lunch. I innocently enquired what had been going on because it looked like a redundancy set up.
That wasn't it at all. They'd noticed that they were having problems with a particular system. They ran a complex report every night using a very high spec computer at 18:30 and this automatic. Only several reports spanning a period of weeks were missing and had to be re-run when the first person had gotten in in the morning. This delayed the start of day for several people. After a few instances of this happening they'd installed a logging program to see who was doing what on that computer. The logs had told them who had logged in and stopped the program running,
They'd found out it was Employee X but had decided to call everybody in not just him. They revealed that there was a now a monitoring prog on that computer. They asked each employee if if they'd got anything they'd like to mention at this point. None of the rest of the had anything significant just things like burning an copy of a CD etc. But X had sung like a canary. He used the machine to play something like Quake or Half Life etc. on as it had the best graphics card the most memory etc. He'd had to hide the game on the hard drive and was playing it after work. However the reports prog was quite memory and processor intensive when running. So he'd shut it down before playing and if his gameplay went beyond 18:30 no report was run.
Discussions were ongoing as to what punishemnt he'd get.
I worked as an operator on a BULL DPS 7 for a while back in the day. Everyone knew that the system engineers on site had the most powerful computers, but during the night we had the run of the place.
Somebody had put Lode Runner on one of the engineer's PC, and the night crew, while the tapes were turning, would take turns playing.
Somehow, he found out. He wasn't happy, but he didn't bother with an inquisition ; he just activated the BIOS password on his PC.
Night shifts were a lot more boring after that.
I once wrote a full screen trojan that looked just like a bios password prompt. After typing in the ******* it dumped you back to windows leaving a file with the password (muzette). Ten years later I still have it, but I don't have any morons still trying to keep password from their support person.
Basic student prank back in the late 1970s. Write a shell script to emulate the login screen on a UNIX system. to capture the user ID and password of the next user of the terminal.
Second level, write it in C so that it would not display the password when it was typed (the stty program was less advanced on Edition 6, and did not have -echo and echo, and if you used raw mode, it was difficult to process end-of-line correctly in shell).
Was a war of wits. When you walked up to a terminal, you pressed return several times to cycle through to the real login screen, then the programs would notice no username and would loop. Then use EOF to get getty to recycle, and the programs would trap EOF and loop round. Then press break (it was the default interrupt on Edition 6) and the programs started changing the interrupt character.
The best of the login screen key loggers that were written were really sophisticated towards the end of the 'war'.
Eventually, the sysadmins started threatening to ban students engaged in writing these programs, but not before finding the source code and examining how they were doing what they were doing. UNIX was new back then, and everybody was learning from each other!
"Basic student prank back in the late 1970s."
This has popped up every October (or thereabouts) ever since, when Freshmen "discover" the concept. There has always been at least one, usually two or three ... Invariably, they get caught, slapped on the hand, told not to do it again, and then are invited to join the local version of the student hacker's club. I can point to several who now contribute to one or more of the BSDs, and/or GNU, and/or Linux.
"UNIX was new back then, and everybody was learning from each other!"
It's no longer new, but some of us still are anyway :-)
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Back in the 1980s we had a number of items that ran outputs 24/7 going to printers. They were 'interesting' rather than ground shaking reports but their value was increased when the data could be assessed and analysed over a period of time. I captured the output to a number of PCs. A howl of protest resulted suggesting that the 'screens on the PCs would burn out too quickly'. A quick back of the envelope job suggested that the costs of paper ran to a free screen every 5 ~6 weeks and I thought that they might just last a bit longer than that. More to the point the data could at last be machine accessed and analysed revealing many previous missed aspects of the reporting machines' operation. In one case a particular component was failing (due to the loss of vacuum in a particular 'supposed to be sealed device'). The overnight data suggested an exponential failure rate that was in danger of degrading daytime performance. That event that would have far outweighed the costs of any paper, PCs or screens.
I once was hauled over the coals for “allowing” an engineer to go onsite with a piece of defective equipment that effectively lost over €10,000 in billable hours and a potential new customer. I was dragged in front of a “tribunal” of PHBs, the engineer, his boss and assorted other “people of importance”. I handed them each a copy of the email that everyone of them had been sent where I stated that the equipment was defunct and under NO CIRCUMSTANCES was it to be used in the field until it had been repaired, fully recalibrated and passed the rigorous test run.
Reminds me of my story I have mentioned recently about "Netbook gate".
I e-mail the stake holder and people I think should know "Just so you're aware, this Trust is going to put some netbooks on the network because they want to test them. I'm helping so to make sure they are done properly."
3 months later "Anyone know why these Netbooks are on the network". Yes, I told you about them 3 months ago.
All hell breaks loose, I get pulled into a potential disciplinary. If I only I'd been sensible back then and knew they can't just bully you like that. I'd have also then printed off the e-mail where I'd informed them all 3 months earlier only to be ignored.
I had a boss who _really_ had it in for me - to the extent I was put on paid suspension on some made up charges that, unsurprisingly, later fell through (I've written about it previously).
Anyway, one of the things they did was pore over my attendance, hoping to find some form of unauthorised or unexplained absence.
BINGO. They managed to find a date where my sheet said I was on leave, but the HR system had no record of leave on this date. Could I please explain why I'd not correctly recorded my leave for this date?
So, in the meeting - with her boss present too - I produced the email where I'd checked with her about being off that date, and she said *she* would enter it into the HR system. I accompanied that email with a brief comment about how it was my understanding that a subordinate shouldn't need to check his manager had completed their tasks correctly.
Didn't go down very well.... She *really* had it in for me after that
Love paper trails, just had a VIP blow up about a software upgrade. I went back to our meeting minutes and found the section regarding the upgrade and copied it to the colleagues catching the blowback, there are smiles all around!
Yes you knew, you were in the meeting... Soz you weren't paying attention!
Two years ago I was at an automatic gearbox rebuild specialist (two guys and a large floorspace) looking under a Mini bonnet. The new small BMW one, which is crammed in there. I forget what the hours were to pull out and put in, but a lot. They said that the car was left there by a warranty company who wanted these guys not to rebuild the existing automatic gearbox, but instead to swap out the automatic gearbox for a supplied reconditioned unit. They refused, because the "reconditioned unit" was likely shite, and they'd be lumped with labour costs of swapping it out again.
Fag-packet calculation, 100km.sq. water for a sizeable lake (Lake Athabasca, scientifically chosen on the basis that it's near me and I really like the word, is 110), assuming close enough to pure water's approximately 4200J/deg C, at Chernobyl's peak recorded output of 530MW, and no heat loss ... it'd take about 250 years.
No doubt there are financial instruments out there to
exploitreap these benefits
With a resistor.
As an emergency dump load it’s usually a sodding great hunk of bus bar strung up as a loop somewhere. It’s less necessary with gas turbine plants, which can be more or less instant off, but with steam turbines there has to be somewhere to dump the power if the grid connection goes offline, otherwise things start breaking apart.
Didcot A’s was, from distant memory, was a bus bar all around the outside of the turbine hall.
But for a five day test? No idea. Perhaps the bus bars are cooled somehow.
We had one who complained that our software was dropping connections from their system. We checked, and found that their system was sending malformed packets which didn't comply with the standard. That information was delivered to their technical staff.
A few weeks later we got a message from our CEO wanting to know when we were planning to fix the problem, and somewhat irritated that he had learned about the lack of progress from the other company's CEO on the golf course. Clearly their technical staff had not passed the information about it being their own fault to "upstairs".
When this was explained the next step was a message from the other technical group reluctantly admitting that their system was at fault, but that it would be very expensive to fix, so would we please change our software to accept the faulty packets.
Unfortunately for that very large US Telco, not even they could convince us to lose our worldwide standards conformance certification just so they didn't need to roll out a fix across their whole network.
I had a client whose flagship product was made on a system which included a system provided by a third party pulling in files across the LAN by FTP from another server provided by a 3rd party. The FTP server was replaced and it transpired the 3rd party client was more fussy about the exact format of the file listings from the FTP server than FTP server writers were. Fortunately the new server ran SuSE so I got the trivial job of rebuilding the daemon with a change of the fprintf argument.
We were on a customer site testing a system which was made by another company but had my card in it. Nothing worked and we ended up working overnight trying to find out why. Eventually I discovered that the other company hadn't put pull-up resistors on some of their inputs which was causing the problem. We were against the clock and it was physically easier for me to add the resistors to my card than to fix the inputs on their bits. I bodged them in and the test went OK - although it ran very late with customer staff on site overnight. As a result of this my company got the blame for the test delays and additional cost because, as the other company pointed out, I'd had to make mods to my card to make the system work so it was my card that caused the problem. I got a bollocking from my boss for adding the pull-up resistors to my card.
Yup, that's typical. If you can fix it, then it was your fault. It happened to me a couple times. Nowadays, any time I find myself in a similar situation, I won't admit I can implement a workaround until there's an extensive paper trail that proves where the problem originates.
A non-technical boss managing technical people isn't necessarily a disaster. What's crucial, though is a level of trust allowing the manager to defer technical decisions to the technical people. Boss needs to be able to tell boss+1 that Xbox isn't going to happen because of technical reasons that are understood by the people we pay to understand.
The problem, though, is that we do have that breed of pointy haired boss. People who think that saying "make it so" is what they're paid to do. And that they "want to be brought solutions not problems". Except that whoever first thought up that apparently (but not at all) wise concept doesn't seem to have known about budget constraints, time scales and bureaucracy. iow Yes I have a solution. It will require the £30k that was not put into the budget, though it was in the costings, which is why we have this problem. Also buy in from the four departments that are going to be disrupted because this should have been done before installation and also the finance dept. have just announced a five week delay on all additional budget requests until the start of the new financial year.
"A non-technical boss managing technical people isn't necessarily a disaster."
Agreed but they're generally pointless and inhibit a proactive approach.
About 10% of my department are team leaders and don't do actual work but 'manage'. This largely consists of clerical-level checks that could be automated and 'authorising' leave requests, which could also be automated.
My experience with such a situation started with family while in my youth. I was in my mid-teen when I spent a school year and summer with my grandparents. They had cable TV with fancy Scientific Atlanta cable boxes with the two digit LED segment display and six button across the front. With a little playing I learned how to program favorites, unlock channels, and set timer schedules using just buttons on the unit and without the remote. Later I figured out the remote offered easier access to the functions.
When a new drop was placed in the room I had for the summer, I was able to program it to only view my favorite channels, which at the time was USA Network (for Cartoon Express,) Nickelodeon (for Danger Mouse and what-not,) and a few others.
My family bragged on me for being so smart and figuring it out on my own, and had me do things for them. But then when things went awry I was blamed because I know how they work, therefore I must have done something to them to make them not work. These unwarranted accusations infuriated me, and I would ask "how could I break something if I know how it works?" and "if I know how it works, why would I leave it broken?"
Nonetheless, the blame came. To exact my revenge I would program the units to shut off at various times of the day, turn on in the middle of the night, or change to a different channel during one of their favorite programs. I became rather vindictive, or maybe I just became more vindictive. Whichever the case, that vindictiveness has held and to this day I play similar pranks on people who wrong me. Nothing ever critical, only annoyances. I found the little pin-pricks of inconvenience to be far more unsettling to people.
1. The importance of a detailed and comprehensive interface specification cannot be understated.
2. Your boss is an idiot -- YOU made the system work, by exercising initiative and doing whatever it took to make the client happy and keep the project on track.
3. It's unpleasant to work for a non-technical boss
It's unpleasant to work for any boss who doesn't know what it is you do. For a start, they never understand why the job you're on takes so long. Or why it takes two of you to do it. Frequently they don't understand the explanation or don't want to because they've already told their boss that it'll be done by 3:00pm and can't know say it won't be finished till tomorrow lunch time due to some process that they haven't taken into account - whether it's "that's how long it takes for the glue to dry" or "The materials to do a first test run aren't in stock and will arrive in the morning." or whatever.
Even in non-technical jobs. " No we can't do X this week to work round Mrs.Y wanting to change her days because before we do X we need to sort out W......".
"Can't you leave W until afterwards and go back to it"
"Well you'll have to.." etc.
And such bosses never take responsibility when the wheels come off ( possibly literally) for telling you to do it.
There used to be a management consultant that worked with us.
A nice chap, which didn't stop me wondering - if he's so good at management why's he running freelance courses in management rather than being the CEO of megacorp. His view was that management was a profession in its own right, and you didn't need to know about the line you were managing. My late dad, who worked his way up from working on the line to managing a factory, would have hated him. because dad knew that a manager had to understand things like; just because the sprocket wangler could thromble 23 threads a minute in theory, real life said that anything over 20 would cause it to overheat.
The best response I have found to an unreasonable "just do what I say" type order from an unknowing boss, or higher up, is "Can I have that in writing please?" either they suddenly start listening to why that order is a bad idea, or you have a paper trail to point to when it does go wrong.
Never underestimate the power of properly applied bureaucracy.
I have worked for managers who claim they dont need to know what it is they are managing. Fortunately knowing what you are working with means you can keep control of the bits that that can save your arse. If you know something is going to fuck up get it in writing date post the email or whatever where you informed said manager it would fuckup. HR tend to get on your side with that kind of evidence. Any manager who thinks they can manage something they haven't got a clue about is almost certainly an utter twat and you can normally run rings round them but its important to have evidence.
One senior boss was reviewing all staff job types that we had after a merger. He asked one of the managers a rung down on the ladder who I was. I had a unique job title (IT related) and based on just that I should have been in another department. Technology manager said he has no idea but whatever he does he does it very well. His is the one team who don't cause IT and engineering any problems. Do not consider doing anything to his job please.
My boss mentioned that at my annual appraisal and that I couldn't get much higher praise than that.
My reply to the PHB who claims to know how to do the job is to humbly ask "Could you show me your improved approach to the job, please?". This has resulted in the replacement of several PHBs in the big organisation I used to work for.
When asked by HR to "justify the job you do as if you're applying for the position", I tell them that they won't understand the answer, so it's a waste of time asking. This usually ties them up in knots and gets me marked down as "difficult but very competent". That suits me, because the PHBs stay away from my department!
"Just because the sprocket wangler could thromble 23 threads a minute in theory, real life said that anything over 20 would cause it to overheat."
I wish I could upvote you another hundred times for that statement given how... oddly & naughtily... it sounds through my screen reader.
*Hands you an extra tall tankard & goes back to LMAO*
My grandfather was a railway signalman before he retired in 1954. He once told me that a fellow signalman had rung him to tell him that a special train carrying a newly appointed railway bigwig (fresh out of university) had just gone by the large group of freight sidings a few miles away and the new boss had not spotted that there were unsorted wagons in the up reception yard – and this was a sure sign that the railways as he knew them were finished! I think he regarded senior managers who were not railwaymen as pariahs
A few years ago the powers that be had another bee i their bonet about "Silos" or some nonsense like that and they decided to put me with a new boss in the technical ops dept (never mind that I'm a systems programmer...). The "getting to know you" interview with new boss and director went as follows "Whatever you have been doing the past 20 years.... keep on doing that" (And I mean that was LITERALLY what they told me).
I called my almost ex boss and pleaded to remain with him and he managed to convince them that he actually had a vague idea of what I do every day.....
A lot of standards are very strict about that. You get sections like "This value must be 0 or 1. If any other value is sent, the process must fail." or "Attempts to pass data that does not follow the above format must be rejected with the following error code".
What's more, this is often a good thing. It prevents certain types of malformed data from being processed in such a way as to create unpredictable results or security problems. If it says ten bytes, and they give you twelve, that could be a buffer overflow if you don't check, meaning a security problem and a likely cause of really broken code. Even a thing that's less obvious can be problematic. If I support 0, 1, or 2 while the spec only supports 0 or 1, then if they change the spec to have a 2 but it's not the same as my 2, I've got a broken nightmare, my users are using it, the standard's been violated, and one or likely all three of us has a problem on our hands.
Exactly - no point having a standard, then letting people arbitrarily choose how to handle non-standard data, else you'll find that passing 'acceptable' data to different 'compliant' processors and getting different results. At that point, you don't have a working standard.
This is why I like technologies like ASN.1, and well thought out JSON and XML. In all of these its easy to be very comprehensive in their schema languages as to exactly what forms a valid message / PDU, and therefore what does not. All of those schema languages allow you to define valid value ranges for PDU members, and valid array sizes. With the right tooling PDUs can be trivially validated before sending and whilst receiving. Makes it very very easy to spot when someone is breaking the agreed specification! XML is often let down by the tooling, JSON validators AFAIK work properly and good ASN1 tools that generally do everything properly can be found.
Anyone using GPB for a standardised interface is likely missing out on some tricks...
I have never really liked this "rule." One could interpret that to mean something like "if the password is just one character off, accept it," or in any case spending time trying to interpret what the sender meant rather than what was sent. This idea may sound good in principle, look good on paper, and may make everyone experience good feels, but it cannot and does not work in the real world.
I've always taken that to mean "No matter what input you are fed, you MUST be able to deal with it"
Input coming from other systems could be folded, spindled or mutilated in any number of ways.
"Toss it out with an error" is a perfectly valid way of dealing with it.
It's also good to couple that requirement with "fail as fast as possible".
"What is spindled anyway? One of these: https://www.google.com/search?source=univ&tbm=isch&q=picture+of+an+invoice+spindle&client=firefox-b-1-d&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjDqv26peHpAhXTVs0KHUnhCYMQsAR6BAgJEAE&biw=1536&bih=722#imgrc=d_HEzshBEntoBM
Applied to a Holerith card, it could cause some interesting effects. Applied to the sender of corrupt data, could be instructive.
I'm not exactly sure who you replied to, but if it's the person immediately above you, I seriously hope their attitude is used during the development of flight control systems. If you respond to malformed data by throwing an error and skipping it, then you can handle the loss or damage of some of your equipment. You know it failed, you know it's not available, so you fall back to something else or alert the pilot. If you handle it in some way, you don't know what it necessarily means. This is similar but not identical to what took down the 737-max--their data was wrong, the computer didn't control for it, and it crashed the aircraft. It wasn't a format error as much as an unreliable piece of tech, but by failing to identify when it was going wrong and take appropriate action, including crashing the autopilot and making the pilots control manually, they smashed up two airplanes, a few hundred people, and their company. You cannot be liberal* with possibly damaged data if it means people die.
*Liberal: In the sense of accepting it. Liberal reading with frequent rejection is fine.
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That's the thing. We do have this. But it works by denial and impunity. "No we didn't hit an iceberg. No one is to blame because we hit an iceberg and that large chunk of frozen water that you can see isn't technically an iceberg. And I'm not going to abandon this ship because it isn't sinking."
In my case, it was "Why did you drag politics into the comments of a decidedly non-political article?" Especially when the OP was intended to be quite biased. Note, I'm not British and don't care about the PM at all, but just dislike folks putting politics into everything.
Politics might be everything, but national-level politicians don't need to be brought in every discussion, especially those which weren't about them.
And the expression politics are everything is usually with politics in the sense of the struggle to allocate limited ressources to nearly-unlimited needs, not necessarily the cock wombles sitting at the top of the pyramid
I'm from Germany and just checked on the map: What is the challenge to commute between Durham and Barnard Castle? The way is not straight, but looks pretty normal. Can you light me up?
They should test in Germany from "Löchgau" to "Gschwend, Ostalbkreis" which is pretty much village-hopping with a lot of "turn left" and "turn right", annoying to drive.
The problem is that if you are the top adviser to the prime minister (some suspect there is more to it) who told the nation to stay at home under all circumstances than it’s not good if you are caught on this kind of trip. And then have the brass to say it was all fine and laws are only for little people.
I once stood back and allowed a senior manager to roast my staff without standing up for them. It was our Christmas party in the early-90's and he was one of those people who saves up a whole year of personal pain just so that he can release it at the Christmas do - I think we have all met/employed/been employed by someone like that.
He stood up at the end of the meal and proceeded to start by praising us and gradually progressed to seriously insulting everyone. Apart from the incredible "I do not comprehend why we employ women in IT" and "I might be your superior but I still fail to understand what you all do for a living" some of his diatribe was directed against very junior individuals. I was expected afterwards to "thank" him for his speech but declined to do so - to my eternal shame I should have responded.
Lesson learned: do not allow sexist, racist or *ist bigots into senior positions. He lasted about another 3 months and during his entire remaining time we just could not get his computer to work properly - everytime he saved a document the computer would unexpectedly reboot while he seethed but remained quiet.
Don't confuse the job title "Manager" with people who actually manage people and/or aspects of the business and have the authority to do so. These days, for example, bank mangers are little more than office supervisors and have almost no ability or authority to deal with your account issues. Likewise, most of the 20-somethings who seem to "manage" retail shops. And there's the "building manager" in many places who is basically a handyman/woman/person or caretaker. In IT you'll often get job titles which include "manager" and they are nothing of the sort in the traditional sense. Systems Manager, Server Manager, Apps Manager, Network Manager; all in the same team with no one directly below them or answering to them, but they do actually "manage" some hardware or software.
It's going to be interesting when the NHS "Managers" return to "work". Their 12-week absence hasn't affected the operation of the NHS at all. Every last one of them should have to re-apply for their job, and explain exactly why they weren't needed during the coronavirus debacle
Just go and have a trawl through any discrimination story comments,
You can have a look at this thread although the original misogyny post got taken down:
But a few choice quotes are still up:
"I've worked with men and women and I have nothing against women. They're generally competent software developers. But they rarely push themselves at it."
It's rife so I don't get why the downvotes for a flippant remark.
A company I worked for once had to deal with that from a client that shall remain nameless. It seems the client had hired a number of contract engineers for the project, engineers that knew their paychecks would stop coming as soon as it was complete. They did everything they could to drag it out at our expense. The construction contractor we were working with was actually forced in to bankruptcy.
That sort of thing happens all the time, and particularly post-construction. You will often find that the intention is to make money on the maintenance and it ranges all the way from razor blades and printer ink upwards. It is particularly prevalent when the client has to rely on the expertise of the vendor.
I know a place where a particular item of equipment was specified by the vendor with the promise of a 28,000 hour MTBF (implying "mean") but where anyone who knew that type of equipment would tell you that 6,000 - 8,000 hours was about as much as you could expect as a "maximum" time before failure. The client therefore didn't have any kind of capital budget in place for replacement units at the two to three year point where the originals started failing.
It was compounded by the specific units installed being badge-engineered versions of cheaper OEM units, and even the OEM units were expensive for the type of product in question. Of course, the original installers were happy to repair the units but this coincided with me starting at the company and I'd met this kind of thing before. The parts cost to fix the immediate problem (and in theory add another 6,000 hours or so of life) was about the same as buying a whole new unit from a different manufacturer made to a slightly different design that had a proven track record of lasting upwards of 20,000 hours, and that didn't take account of the fact that some of the units had developed two unrelated faults, the second Capacitor Plague related, so chances were that even fixing the original problem wouldn't be enough.
A second vendor at the same place had supplied a lot of "fit and forget" computers. In some ways having them all identical specification was a good idea, but it meant that the specification was for the heaviest-duty and involved 3GHz Pentiums, fast-wide SCSI cards with 10k rpm striped data HDDs and expensive Matrox dual-head video cards, where most of the applications didn't need anything like that oomph. Their maintenance contract charged something like £300 just to take a poorly computer away and look at it, with parts and some labour costing extra. My predecessor had left to go work for this vendor and I think they were more than surprised when they were told "nope, we've just bought in the expertise and will fix everything on-site".
A rare case (in those days) of in-sourcing.
People are expensive, so when you replace a contract with a person, that has to come with a strong admission that the contract was far from fit for purpose. It does happen frequently enough that a supplier's dedicated engineer to a company gets hired into the company, which comes with a measure of certainty. Also happens that companies carry on paying overthe odds even when staff are annoyed that their budget is being wasted on a contract they could be doing themselves for substantially less, but the highers up don't want to admit they were wrong, or be reliant on their own staff rather than a contact - which if they need to rely on, ends up costing them a lawyer anyway.
People are expensive, but in many cases of outsourcing you are expecting to replace like-for-like. For example, a school replacing its own cleaning staff with outsourced cleaning staff will need (near enough) the same number of cleaners working for approximately the same number of hours, and the outsourced company will use the same quantities of cleaning products and have the same vacuum cleaner maintenance issues.
The only way you can save money by outsourcing this sort of thing is if the people are paid less per hour. You might find a very small further saving if the company can obtain cleaning products at a cheaper rate, but you will not be saving money on anything else - not even HR costs, because you still have to do the HR stuff for the staff that remain directly employed.
On top of that, traditionally some cleaning staff at a school might do double duty as dinner staff or playground supervision staff or even classroom assistants, so you effectively have a permanent cleaning staff on site to deal with unexpected issues. The same isn't the case with contract staff who will be whisked off to the next school, office or factory as soon as the allocated hours are up.
Regarding the £300 per look-at computer contract there are occasions where that isn't the only number to consider. Yes, in-sourcing that kind of maintenance is unlikely to save a lot of money if sending a computer off is a once-a-month or so occurrence, but if it is away for three, four, five days or more and while it is away some aspect of the business is operating at reduced capacity, there will be plenty of "hidden" costs to think about too.
You're right - it's often the people "at the coal face" who can see these things, and the people sat in leather chairs behind Teak desks who either can't see the problems, or won't admit to them.
Also, the school cleaning staff; do extra bits of work that need to be done as and when needed without there being an additional set of charges ( time, admin etc), can be flexible about working times and routines, know the vagaries of the school and its staff - so can be more efficient, don't have to provide a profit over and above the cost of their wages- have no internal company structure to finance or share holders to feed or management bonus schemes to accrue, and are far more likely to remain for a longer period reducing recruitment costs. They almost certainly also do a better job, too. Because they're part of the school community, including helping with events and stuff.
"The only way you can save money by outsourcing this sort of thing is if the people are paid less per hour."
There are a few other ways, unfortunately. From *current* personal experience (hence the AC), giving much worse benefits, not paying the HR folks enough to do their job properly, and not giving any kind of bonus or reward are also ways that a contractor can be less expensive. Some contractors (not my employer, thankfully) also find creative ways to decrease the (for instance) cleaning products used... with predictable results.
Also, for operations that are moveable overseas, like tech "support", hiring people who are just bright enough to read a script but not actually know what they're talking about is often considered to be a money saver. The real costs of this are only seen later.
telling a CEO "I told you so!"
Unfortunately, the CxOs are impervious to critique. It can never be their error. They have done everything right. Even when they are informed, it cannot be the CxO's fault. Some underling must have been sleeping because the CxO cannot fail.
(lesson learned through experience)
"being provably right can be crucial"
Something something Politics Covid-19 Brexit.
"Unfortunately, the CxOs are impervious to critique. It can never be their error. They have done everything right. Even when they are informed, it cannot be the CxO's fault. Some underling must have been sleeping because the CxO cannot fail."
We get the government we vote for (electoral systems notwithstanding), The tyranny of the majority and all that.
That's on us (in the general sense). Especially when the problems can be seen from a mile away. Like Nissan Sunderland being "unsustainable" in the event of no-deal Brexit. ("We knew what we voted for - to safeguard British jobs") Like Trumps grasp of basic concepts being sub par (Make Mexico pay for that wall... by imposing import tariffs).
It works the other way too. Diane Abbot's grasp of numbers. Joe Biden's opinion that black Trump voters "ain't Black".
We mark our X and make our choice
Remember, they work for you
I don't know about the US, but in the UK, MPs have surgeries
"I don't know about the US, but in the UK, MPs have surgeries"
For my fellow Yanks, a British MP's surgery is roughly equivalent to what our representatives would call "office hours". It doesn't represent just the place you go to meet them, but also the hours that they are willing to talk to their constituents.
Here in the US, I maintain a list of my reps office hours. When I feel a need to talk to them face to face, I go do just that. When they are in town, the wait is usually minimal, surprisingly, on the order of a few minutes. They are usually willing to give me five or ten minutes, sometimes more. Try it. It's a good reminder that they are only human. Dense sometimes, but human.
Hint: Call in advance. Makes everybody's life a little easier.
Hint 2: Get all your ducks in a row, and keep the conversation to your issue ... unless the rep steers it into more day-to-day stuff.
Remember British Satellite Broadcasting (BSB) and their Squarerial (The square shaped satellite dish), a long since merged/defuncted UK corporation was using a VAX 11/785 in the development of this failed product (This is a whole story by itself in marketing pushing bizarre requirements to an engineering team) - The VAX 11/785 had been taken off contract as they had a lot of bright engineers and they would self maintain to save some money. So all seems quiet/good for about 8 months and we get the call, can we come to site the VAX 11/785 is borked and they need assistance (Which we will charge on a T&M basis). I arrive on site ask for some background as to what has happened, get basically a story that everything was good they had a problem but this problem quickly moved to a complete system failure. They had done some diagnostics but not touched the VAX physically.
The VAX 11/785 was switched off (Weird, not normally switched off, even when a fault is present) - Asked why it was switched off - They said they could not start the machine - The VAX 11/785 had a cutdown PDP that was the boot controller, so you would normally have this active even when the main machine had major issues.
So, my first action is to open the main cabinet door to look at the logic boards (The VAX 11/785 CPU was basically a set of logic boards connected to a backplane) - Opening the cover to the logic boards I asked again if they had done any "hands-on" troubleshooting - They said no, no-one had touched the machine at all.
So I said that was strange as one of the Logic Boards was inserted the wrong way round (Top was on the bottom rail) - This would have taken a lot of effort to do as the boards were keyed to go in easily one way only (i.e. with top of logic board aligned to the top).
Cue a lot of people suddenly looking guilty - They fessed up that they had taken the cards out to reseat them as they thought that may resolve the problem, they had a problem with one card being difficult to get back in, which in fairness was an issue with this enclosure - They thought the card was in the wrong way so flipped it an re-inserted and with what I can only assume was superhuman strength managed to get it all the way in.
It took some effort to prise the card out and peering at the backplane revealed crushed pins on the backplane.
So 2 days later, new backplane, assorted new logic boards and north of £35,000 they were back in business (let alone the business cost of not having the system up and running). They basically they had to spent about 8 years worth of the maintenance contract that they had cancelled in one go.
Their management did try to say that it was easy to make the mistake and it was our fault that this was possible (Negating what I can only assume was obvious visible guides not to do what they did, but the sheer brute force needed to do it). But sanity did prevail and they paid the bill and even put the system back on maintenance contract.
Alas th Squareial did not help the company make the expected millions (Especially as told to me by one of the lead engineers the spec they were instructed to build it to did not factor in cloud cover .... So in testing/demo phase all was good until it got cloudy - so expense re-design required) - And BSB got bought by Sky to become British Sky Broadcasting and the Squareial was consigned to the dustbin of "what were they thinking".
"... the Squareial was consigned to the dustbin of "what were they thinking". "
Well, there's still something similar on the market:
We've got one and it gives us good Freesat reception in NL (except during heavy rain) and it's rather less unsightly than a conventional satellite dish.
Icon as it's almost that time of the week again. Wishing all Commentards a good weekend.
Both BSB and Sky were losing money by the bucketload and it was obvious a merger was needed. BSB did waste quite a bit of money on marketing etc. One of the biggest costs however was the IBA forcing them to broadcast in D-MAC as opposed to PAL. They were the licensed broadcaster and had to do what the IBA said. They also had to have their own two bloody expensive satellites in space with one as a backup. Again that was an IBA requirement. Then they were "invited" to show their encryption set up to GCHQ who made some suggestions. Chief amongst them was that the worry that they couldn't crack it. The system had the potential to send messages to individual subscribers like Happy Birthday etc. The bods in Cheltenham were worried they wouldn't be able to read these messages.
Murdoch at Sky went with the cheaper and easier PAL for their transmission system. He wasn't the licensed satellite broadcaster just decided to do it. He was using Astra (SES) and therefore avoided the huge cost of his own satellites. He also ran it as a tight ship and wasted as little money as possible. So that meant no "hospitality"* in the green room for guests on sky news etc. I met somebody who worked there back then. He said one guest stated they wouldn't come back after finding out there was no booze* in the green room just copies of Murdoch's papers.
Never heard of E-PAL, but I've always been interested in that sort of thing. PAL has quite a lot of variants, do you have a simple reference you can point me to?
The nearest thing I have heard of is PAL Plus which attempted to make a "compatible" signal that normal PAL receivers could use, but which would be "better" (in various optional ways) on a PAL Plus-aware receiver. On a technical level though, much like the squarial was "better" (in some ways) than an ordinary dish aerial, D(2)-MAC was better than either PAL or PAL Plus. It was just expensive and late to the party, and Murdoch cashed in with cheap, existing technology.
The VAX 11/785 had a cutdown PDP that was the boot controller
"Happy" memories of applying a VMS upgrade on an 11/780 that for some reason had been supplied on 8" floppies, the drive for which was part of the PDP in the bottom of the cabinet. I can't remember exactly how many disks I had to insert and remove but I think it was around 75.
That week the Beeb's computer programme was about storage, they showed an 8" disk with the comment, "Nobody uses these any more!" I was not amused.
A couple of weekends ago I cleaned & adjusted a couple of 8" floppy drives that have been in near daily use since the late 1970s. They are attached to a couple pieces of equipment at a machine shop located in SillyConValley. I've replaced the read/write heads & the motors a couple times each with NOS parts that I squirreled away in the '90s .... sometimes being a packrat pays the bills!
Those Squareial antennas are fine. But the way they work make them limited to a very small frequency range, so they are fixed to this one satellite you have to receive. A dish works with all ranges. and you just swap the LNB. But the real reason for them not to sell very well is the price, dishes are a lot cheaper.
the Squareial was consigned to the dustbin of "what were they thinking"
The thing was actually quite a neat theoretical solution, but took a lot of engineering to make it work. Now that the hard slog has been done (and the computing power to make the calculations is trivially available), similar products are plentiful if you just look around. The Squarial may have contributed to BSB's woes, but I don't think it was the only, nor even the major, contributor to them failing.
I earned a few quid pocket money in those days fixing failed PSUs in the built-to-a-price Amstrad receivers used by Murdoch's Sky for friends and friends-of-friends. CPC used to sell kits of parts - ring them up with the model number of the receiver and a couple of days later a little bag of resistors, capacitors, maybe an inductor or a semiconductor part would turn up. Wave the magic soldering iron about for 10 minutes (the simpler ones) or 30 (particularly if there was a multi-leg IC involved) and everything was back to normal.
logbook of shame.
Mainly because thats what I say to errent operators who've fubar'ed the machines.
"Tell me exactly what you did"
"Dint do nuffing.. machine did it"
"The logbook will tell me if you've f***ed with the settings....."
At which point the truth comes out, or I resort to calling up the logbook and letting the managers deal with the fall out...
Hey ho.. never hide anything from the IT mob... we will find the evidence, and then use it against you at a time of our choosing...
PS has the BOFH been furloughed?
According to the About bit he is still working here but there again this was last updated in 2019....
"About The Register
The Register is a leading global online tech publication, with more than nine million monthly unique browsers worldwide. The core audiences are the UK and US, accounting for more than six million. The bulk of the remaining readership are located in Canada, Australia and northern Europe.
Starting out in London in 1994 as an occasional email newsletter, The Register began publishing online daily in 1998. Today The Register is headquartered in London, San Francisco and Sydney and the sun never sets on its reporting team around the world.
Many Register readers are technology professionals but we're also read by technology enthusiasts, shed boffins, policy wonks and science fans around the globe. We cover hardware, software, AI, tech services and more, but The Register is also known for its "off-duty" articles, on science, tech culture, planes, trains, bridges and other feats of engineering. We also carry cult columnists such as the fiendish sysadmin BOFH, programming goddess Verity Stob and Something for the Weekend's Alistair Dabbs.
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I used to work as a systems administartor who, among other things, provisioned Linux virtual machines. As these were development systems, the users all needed root. One user was persistently and increasingly noisily complaining that the systems I supplied were very unstable and kept needing to be rebuilt.
After the third time for one particular system in a couple of days, with management now involved, I decided to mount the offending broken system from another one. It had managed to perserve the bash history before it killed itself: yup, rm -r from the root directory.
The complaints from that user about unstable systems stopped. No apology was offered of course.
I had this very same thing!
user calls to tell me the system stopped working. We recover it. It happens again a few weeks later. We recover it again. I go to see the guy and ask him what he was doing.....
Oh, I just run my clean-up script. Here it is.
Proceeds to run it (non-root user) before I can stop him as I see a typo (rm -rf /" $HOME/whateveritwas")
Queue recovering the system a 3rd time....
This is similar to how some manager complained that he couldn't login to his domain account and had no idea why, as he claimed to have typed in the password, correctly. Problem is, I easily proved, with the Domain Management utility, that we use, to not only prove THAT he could not login, because he typed in the wrong password, I was able to prove how many times he typed it in, misspelled it, and locked his own Domain account, which made him look like a fool, for complaining and lying about it. later on, he was fired, for being unable to properly configure his own work phone, with written instructions, provided, by technical support (US). This could also be proven, because I always provide written instructions to prove whatever I tell someone to do, as written proof, is hard to lie or fight against.
Hmm... I probably should change the password on the work machine just delivered to me, before I even hint what the password was that I set originally, what I was told the password was when I got tired of trying mine, and what I eventually was told the password ACTUALLY was. Never mind, cautionary tale.
Personally, for typing, I favour: rando mlett ersin fives
(with actual random letters, from a random provider, plus muddled by me before use)
but since password systems claim to know better than I, in practice I use (if I have to) variations:
ihave asong tosing O.
whati syour songe 0
dontm akeme angry O!
At the moment though, I’m finding it is pretty hard to remember rando mlett ersin fives after a long break, or even a short one. And to read some of the little writing in my little secret book, even though it’s my writing.
...there really is nothing like proving beyond a shadow of doubt to a local boss that his staff are a bunch of lying little shits.
Bonus revenge points for Germany or France as they're culturally only too ready to cast aspersions elsewhere at the drop of a hat. -ve points for Italy as that'd be like kicking kittens for fun.
I had a manager at a gambling company that was a little bit of a douche (actually a hell of a douche)
He accused me In front of the entire dept of promoting code live that wasn’t fit and had not been properly QA’d.
I had to point out that it was HIS job to QA the code and it had been my job to prepare the packaged code for deployment only after he had ok’d it
He then tried to blame me for the poor code, I had to point out that because I had promoted the code from pre to prod it had my name associated with the final touch on the source.
He fell silent and walked away, no apology just anger in his face that he hadn’t got me.
I quit a couple of weeks later as I couldn’t stand the guy any longer.