back to article You *bang* will never *smash* humiliate me *whack* in front of *clang* the teen computer whizz *crunch* EVER AGAIN

Friday signals the end of the week, a well-deserved adult beverage or eight, and The Register's On Call visit to those who must suffer the slings and arrows of user incompetence. Our story takes us back to the previous century and a village in Italy courtesy of a reader we shall call "Piero". It was to be Piero's first …

  1. Admiral Grace Hopper Silver badge

    With great power comes great incompatibility

    The are few things more frustrating than being in possession of the right kit but being unable to string it together due to mismatched pinouts, interface versions and/or the necessary adapter. This can work to your advantage though. I enjoyed the confused look on the cleaner's face when he realised that there was no longer any point in unplugging our office file and print server to feed his vacuum cleaner as we had got sick of the nightly reboot and fitted Walsall plugs and sockets.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: With great power comes great incompatibility

      No reason to change the wall sockets. You label the existing ones, and explain to the cleaner very clearly which sockets he can use.

      If it happens again, you change the cleaner.

      1. VicMortimer
        IT Angle

        Re: With great power comes great incompatibility

        At what company does IT have hire/fire authority over the janitorial staff?

        Because I've never seen that anywhere.

        1. Dave K Silver badge

          Re: With great power comes great incompatibility

          Label everything up very clearly, and make sure that HR policies have "causing an intentional site-outage" as a disciplinary offence.

      2. JJKing
        Facepalm

        Re: With great power comes great incompatibility

        No reason to change the wall sockets. You label the existing ones, and explain to the cleaner very clearly which sockets he can use.

        If it happens again, you change the cleaner.

        And then you play a version of the never ending game of Cleaner Musical Chairs.

    2. jake Silver badge

      Re: With great power comes great incompatibility

      No need to replace plugs, just separate the cleaner from the keys ...

      Don't get me wrong, I appreciate the cleaning staff. It's their job to clean the place, floor to ceiling, board room to bog, watering plants, replacing dead light bulbs & emptying the trash in their wake. The modern world wouldn't run without janitorial staff. Extending this to include the labs that evolved into computer centers in the 1950s wasn't even thought about, it just happened. Janitorial staff having the keys to the entire kingdom (as it were) was the norm.

      But computers are fickle. And jealous. They don't appreciate sharing power with vacuums.

      So we in the glass room started putting our collective foot down in the late 1970s/early 1980s. It wasn't until the late 1980s that it started becomming uncommon. By the late 1990s it was as rare as hen's teeth. The last time I witnessed a janitor coming unannounced into a data center "in the wee hours" was 2005 ...

      1. Admiral Grace Hopper Silver badge

        Re: With great power comes great incompatibility

        A good plan, but this was the start of desktop computing in our organisation and we had our little skunkworks built in the office. The data centre was for the big iron and our puny little servers weren't allowed to pollute the scrubbed and cooled air which they breathed.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: With great power comes great incompatibility

          For future reference, they make locking outlet covers that fit over an inserted plug or plugs, preventing the removal of same. The locks are trash, easier to pick than a file cabinet, but they work for this kind of thing. Under twenty bucks, and usually in stock at your favorite purveyor of sparky stuff.

          1. Captain Scarlet Silver badge

            Re: With great power comes great incompatibility

            Ah yes, Extreme had a screw in cover to ensure cables were snug.

            Just don't round out the screws by using the wrong size screw driver.

            1. quxinot Silver badge

              Re: With great power comes great incompatibility

              >Just don't round out the screws by using the wrong size screw driver.

              That's very hard on the driver tips.

              Just use a drill to create a threaded rivet.

          2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: With great power comes great incompatibility

            "For future reference, they make locking outlet covers that fit over an inserted plug or plugs, preventing the removal of same."

            Just bear ion mind, and plan for, those moments when an emergency power removal must be performed at great speed. eg make sure the cover doesn't prevent access to the switch or that the end going into the device is easily removable.

      2. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

        Re: With great power comes great incompatibility

        The server in one secondary school was losing power in the early evening. I think we noticed because the log of backups was checked and we didn't have theirs. There was a UPS connected, enough for a short run and graceful shutdown, and the UPS log showed that indeed a loss of external power occurred. Did you think it was going to BE the UPS? It happens.

        Inquiries were made in the school, and as far as I remember, it turned out that the janitor had had a bright idea to save the bother of going around turning off lights at night, he just turned off the mains supply.

        Normal service was resumed.

        Being locked out of a room with stuff left switched on might inspire your night time staff to the same "solution".

        1. Olivier2553 Silver badge

          Re: With great power comes great incompatibility

          I had something similar happening in my condominium (apartment building) few years ago: the network ans Internet access was a mess: tunneling all the traffic to some company providing the service (I think they were supposed to keep logs of the traffic) instead of simply routing the service to the ISP. What once had been a decent system (Linksys WiFi running DD-WRT, a WiFi point to point link to the other building, so apparently people who designed the solution had some idea) but with no maintenance, the main router running on some Windows, no upgrade, the service was failing and needed to be rebooted several times a week.

          The solution to reboot? The building technician would shut the power of the entire building, count to five and restore the power. You better not be in the lift when this happened.

    3. David Robinson 1

      Re: With great power comes great incompatibility

      There are many IT tales regarding random reboots due to cleaning staff or tradespeople unplugging kit. One would think they would have been told upfront not to unplug anything they did not plug in and if they do, it's instant dismissal.

      Having different socket/plug configurations doesn't stop someone unplugging to only realise their plug won't fit.

      1. Symon Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: With great power comes great incompatibility

        Our problem wasn't that she unplugged our kit, but that she plugged the hoover into a UPS socket. Turns out the UPS couldn't supply enough juice. Totally our fault, how was she to know? We had to buy some those little plastic covers that stop kids poking stuff in the plug holes, and fit them to the unused UPS sockets.

        1. Trygve Henriksen

          Re: With great power comes great incompatibility

          Never buy an UPS with a 'regular' outlet. Get one with C14 outlets, then connect servers or whatever with C13 to C14 cables.

          If you have any 'regular' outlets in the server room, they should NOT be connected to the UPS. And they should be as far from the racks as possible.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: With great power comes great incompatibility

            That works fine until Cisco start supplying routers with C5 (Mickey Mouse) power connectors

            (I did try to point this out when we received the first batch... did anyone listen?... "the UPS (C13-C14) cables don't fit")

            1. pakraticus

              Re: With great power comes great incompatibility

              They make C14 to C5 cables... Now whether or not there are any in your inventory.

              I can't wait for cleaning crews to discover the US NEMA 5-15R to C14 adapters.

      2. Why Not?

        Re: With great power comes great incompatibility

        Even if you tell Facilities they don't pass the message on to the company they hire, even if they do there is such a turnover of NMW staff actually doing the work who aren't told that eventually it happens.

        1. logicalextreme Silver badge

          Re: With great power comes great incompatibility

          Aye. Expecting people not to do something because $reason is not an acceptable HA/DR plan.

        2. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: With great power comes great incompatibility

          Which is why every critical outlet needs to be labelled "do not switch off"/"do not unplug"

          At least that way the cleaner has no excuse. Even one who can't read the language is going to hesitate when they see a yellow or red warning label on a switch or plug

          1. Emir Al Weeq

            Re: With great power comes great incompatibility

            ...and label suitable sockets as "Cleaning staff" or similar. Nobody is in doubt and the newbie tech isn't going to plug a server into a dirty power source.

        3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: With great power comes great incompatibility

          "Facilities they don't pass the message on to the company they hire"

          Facilities will once they're told to either find the consequent costs from their own budget or pass it on the company.

      3. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: With great power comes great incompatibility

        I remember the joy of managing to ease a two pin plug into a socket in a very posh French hotel though there was an ominous click as it got fully seated. After a pleasant weeks work and some serious food we packed up to leave on the Friday morning and the boss popped in to jolly me along and saw the lead hanging out of the socket. I'd packed the laptop and PS and decided the lead wouldnt be coming with me without some serious problems having realised it was the wrong plug and the ominous click was the metal end dislocating. I'd even unscrewed it to check and decided to pretend I'd forgotten the lead. The boss looked at it and just grabbed and pulled yanking the socket and ten foot of ducting all the way up wall and some rather nice plaster architrave where it disappeared into the ceiling void. I was heading out through the door at the time and I might have escaped to the lobby if I hadn't stupidly pissed myself laughing which meant I had to stand their looking stupid while he blamed it all on me!

      4. Mike 16 Silver badge

        No unplugging required

        A friend was flown to a customer site to troubleshoot a problem (circa 1974, no "just telnet in" option). He was chosen because he had written the software, running on a PDP-11, that logged various sensors once an hour. The 2300 report came in fine, but the midnight one did not, every night.

        So he sat up with the system, ready to jump into the debugger to figure out what the obvious software problem was, because tests with a clone and messing with the RTC had not uncovered the issue. Right about 2345, cleaner comes in, plugs in the vacuum, and the system hangs, _before_ the vacuum is turned on. But it was plugged into the same duplex outlet as the PDP-11.

        If I mention that the customer was in Las Vegas, would it surprise fewer readers that the glitch was due to static electricity?

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: No unplugging required

          "circa 1974, no "just telnet in" option"

          I'm fairly certain I had telnet on a PDP-11 in 1974 ... See <a href="https://www.ietf.org/rfc/rfc206.pdf</a> ... However, for that particular problem, I'd have probably used dial-up. Regardless, I would have completely missed the cleaner. For some things, absolutely nothing beats boots on the ground :-)

    4. cantankerous swineherd Silver badge

      Re: With great power comes great incompatibility

      [makes a quick visit to the museum]

      http://plugsocketmuseum.nl/British2.html

      1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: With great power comes great incompatibility

        Electrak 17 - 23 EPOS, I remember these on Tomorrows World & encountering in the flesh at a Skill Centre in Plymouth sometime before Live Aid.

        Been trying to explain\reference to those plugs for years.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge
          Mushroom

          Re: With great power comes great incompatibility

          They still don't have the universal plug I had at one time. It had all the historic round pins and the now-standard square pins which retracted into the plug body and a selector to mask all the holes except those for the pins you wanted. A work of genius except that it didn't have a captive cable clamp. There was a sort of floating clamp inside held together by a self-tapper what could quite easily float between line and neutral. After --->

          I abandoned it.

          1. DJV Silver badge

            Re: With great power comes great incompatibility

            Something like these?

            http://plugsocketmuseum.nl/Crater-plug1.html

            http://plugsocketmuseum.nl/Fitall1.html

            1. MCPicoli

              Re: With great power comes great incompatibility

              Nice museum...

              ...and my productivity goes down the drain...

              1. swm Silver badge

                Re: With great power comes great incompatibility

                There was a Beatles movie where a mad scientist could never get his death ray working because of plug incompatibility.

      2. John Sager

        Re: With great power comes great incompatibility

        Nice site. He's even got Wylex plugs, which my parents' first house had. According to my dad I re-wired one of those accurately when I was 3. A good start to a tech life.

      3. logicalextreme Silver badge

        Re: With great power comes great incompatibility

        24 looks like someone got me to design a mains plug when I was a kid. I had an insistence on incorporating every shape and possibility into any single thing I created.

        Of course some people never grow out of that, which is why you get those posters and flyers created using WordArt with each word in a different font and colour.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: With great power comes great incompatibility

        Wow, that's quite a niche hobby that someone has.

        But then, it's people having niche hobbies that we often have to thank for collating certain types of information, serving on standards bodies, etc, so, chapeau!

    5. cheb
      Meh

      Re: With great power comes great incompatibility

      Thanks. I searched for Walsall plugs and ended up here: https://www.plugsocketmuseum.nl/Overview.html

      It's not like I've more important things to do.

      1. logicalextreme Silver badge

        Re: With great power comes great incompatibility

        I'm disappointed it's not a physical museum in Walsall.

      2. l8gravely

        Re: With great power comes great incompatibility

        What a great site for information, but it's horribly laid out. Ugh!

    6. RedCatRockets

      Re: With great power comes great incompatibility

      I had never heard of Walsall plugs before. Perhaps not that unusual, but I was born in Walsall... so thanks very much for the learning experience!

      We also make Wheelbarrows and Saddles.

      1. AndyMTB

        Re: With great power comes great incompatibility

        Must admit I too have been "busy" googling Walsall, the plugs and switches they made took me back to my childhood growing up in Willenhall - our house was fitted exclusively with Crabtree products. I'm guessing I must have had an uncle who worked there. I definitely had an uncle who worked at Yale as a master locksmith. Even as a kid I could get back into the house without a key by applying what Uncle Les had taught me!

    7. Trollslayer Silver badge
      Flame

      Re: With great power comes

      Great sparks and a cooked meat smell

    8. Hubert Cumberdale Silver badge

      Re: With great power comes great incompatibility

      With great power comes great current-squared-times-resistance.

  2. IHateWearingATie
    Mushroom

    Good plan, but should have smashed it directly in front of the rest of the tech (TV, computer etc) in the house.

    Pour encourager les autres.....

    1. David 132 Silver badge
      Devil

      Ah, the Crowley approach.

      "Say goodbye to your friend. He just couldn't cut it..."

      Appropriate icon -->

      1. John G Imrie

        Re Crowley

        I've just finished re watching Good Oman's, I think it's time to re read the book

      2. Loyal Commenter Silver badge
        Gimp

        For a moment there, I thought your reference was to Aleister Crowley. He would probably have tried to have sex with it before smashing it up though...

        Gimp icon, because we don't seem to have a Great Beast one...

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          considering who you're referencing, the gimp icon is more appropriate

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          The name Aleister Crowley always makes me think of Alistair Cookie.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            If you're gonna misread it, you should interpret it as Ali Dabbsy!

  3. chivo243 Silver badge
    Go

    Terry O'Quinn?

    took his hammer and smashed it to very tiny pieces

    "The Stepfather" Anyone?

  4. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    took his hammer and smashed it to very tiny pieces

    A true engineer, even though it wasn't him who fixed the computer. Every engineer, irrespective of his field, owns multiple hammers.

    (mine range from one weighing less than an ounce (for initial threats to clocks and watches) to a fourteen pound lump hammer (for threatening walls and/or car parts)).

    1. drand

      Re: took his hammer and smashed it to very tiny pieces

      The latter one being the Precision Alignment Device often required when installing kit. I like to leave mine on display when the grown-ups do a walkaround in the hope they'll ask what it's for. I can picture the horrified looks on their faces...

      1. ricardian

        Re: took his hammer and smashed it to very tiny pieces

        The English Electric Lightning was a fine fighter aeroplane but it had one annoying habit. After landing on a wet runway the spray and mud built up in the nose-wheel bay and eventually prevented actuation of the microswitch which indicated that the wheel had retracted. The time-honoured method of fixing this problem was to take a six foot length of scaffold tubing and lump hammer, place the end of the scaffold tubing next to the microswitch and give the tubing a hefty wallop thus dislodging all the accumulated mud & rubbish. My friend was performing this remedial action one day when the station commander was paying an unannounced visit. When he asked my friend what he was doing with the lump hammer and scaffold tubing my friend replied "Adjusting a microswitch, sir!"

        The station commander was not amused!

        1. PerlyKing Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Re: landing gear microswitches

          I do like a Lightning story! :-)

          F16s have similar microswitches, one of the functions of which is to prevent accidentally retracting the landing gear while the aircraft is on the ground. I heard a story of a Norwegian F16 pilot who decided to do a flashy takeoff on leaving an RAF base: the idea was to select "gear up" while still on the ground, so that when he took off the gear would retract as soon as the wheels left the ground. What actually happened was that he didn't maintain a little downward pressure to keep the wheels firmly on the ground until he was ready to rotate, and instead of the front wheel bouncing lightly over the tarmac as the speed built up it retracted and left him sliding along the runway!

          The only silver lining to this cloud of ignominy was that he had drop tanks fitted, so the damage to the aircraft itself was minimal.

    2. Giles C Bronze badge

      Re: took his hammer and smashed it to very tiny pieces

      Ah yes in the world of kitcar builders you need some tools.

      Tool 1: A Hammer

      Tool 1a: A large hammer

      These are essential for light persuasion when a bolt doesn’t go through a hole due to a burr, up to full force when loosening rusted bolts.

      But they are also useful when fitting things to racks (the strange ones which aren’t quite 19” wide. And for creating a larger hole to get a cable through a wall, although building maintenance doesn’t like that.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: took his hammer and smashed it to very tiny pieces

        "the strange ones which aren’t quite 19” wide"

        You must be deploying it a lot then - the gap is 17" (or 20 inches on a 22" rach)

        FWIW I find a better tool for such situations is a hydraulic rack and a couple of lumps of wood to "de-bow" the rack

        1. Giles C Bronze badge

          Re: took his hammer and smashed it to very tiny pieces

          Oops, I meant to mean the devices that won’t fit between the uprights. There used to be a trait where I once worked someone used to fit switches and not use the countersunk screws but used the pan head ones. Try and get them out of the rack, where it requires a screwdriver and a hammer.

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: took his hammer and smashed it to very tiny pieces

        "These are essential for light persuasion when a bolt doesn’t go through a hole due to a burr, up to full force when loosening rusted bolts."

        A long time ago I worked with a technician who used to work at Shorts (the plane makers). One of his stories was being given a design which required him to make a square hole in a timber component to take fitting a square-shafted fitting. Once he was left to get on with it he drilled an ordinary round hole, then got the fitting and a suitable hammer...

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: took his hammer and smashed it to very tiny pieces

          "One of his stories was being given a design which required him to make a square hole in a timber component to take fitting a square-shafted fitting. Once he was left to get on with it he drilled an ordinary round hole, then got the fitting and a suitable hammer..."

          The square hole is called a mortise. For smaller versions, most people drill out the bulk of the hole, and then finish it with a chisel. For timberframing, I use a couple of different chain mortisers ... and often still wind up finishing it with a chisel for a perfect fit. Hammering the proverbial square peg into a round hole is just asking for the joint to fail at an inopportune time.

          If you are handy and have never done any timberframing, I recommend giving it a try. It's a sturdy, long-lasting method for building almost anything out of wood ... the first project I made was a figure-four mailbox stand, the second was a coldframe. Both are nearly fifty years old and show no signs of failure.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: took his hammer and smashed it to very tiny pieces

            "Hammering the proverbial square peg into a round hole is just asking for the joint to fail at an inopportune time."

            I remember woodwork lessons at school 50+ years ago and we had square drill bits :-)

            It was essentially a square box/tube with a drill bit down the inside and the four sides of the business end sharpened to chisel through as the inner round bit drilled. It's probably got a proper name, but i've not seen or used one since school/

            1. jake Silver badge

              Re: took his hammer and smashed it to very tiny pieces

              They are called "mortisers" or "mortising machines", depending on where you are on the planet. I have an ancient one that is foot powered (inherited from my grandfather), but you can purchase mains powered versions for your home woodshop if you do a lot of that kind of work. As usual, beware of the cheap ones made of chinesium, unless you want to spend your money again.Consult a local woodworking group for the best deals in your area. (Be careful here, too ... woodworkers are almost as religious as audiofules. Do your homework. Caveat emptor.)

              Note: Learn the mortising process with chisels before trying the powered tools ... Electricity allows you to make bad mistakes a lot faster than doing it by hand. Mortises are three dimensional. Measure eight times, cut once.

    3. jake Silver badge

      Re: took his hammer and smashed it to very tiny pieces

      Mine range from the 10x10x24 inch Douglas Fir mallet that I use when assembling timber frame bents to a small brass one that I use to tap pins back into clockworks and the like.

      Horses for course & all that.

    4. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: took his hammer and smashed it to very tiny pieces

      Quote

      "A true engineer, even though it wasn't him who fixed the computer. Every engineer, irrespective of his field, owns multiple hammers.

      (mine range from one weighing less than an ounce (for initial threats to clocks and watches) to a fourteen pound lump hammer (for threatening walls and/or car parts))"

      Speaking as a professional engineer, the one hammer you should not be without is the thor number 2 copper/hide mallet.

      Partly because its small enough to be easily handled and large enough to give stuff a good wack, but mostly because its just the right size to throw at the rapidly departing operator who just f***ed up 6 hours of hard work ......

      "Mr manager.. the engineering superviser just tried to kill me with a mallet!"

      "He must like you then"

      "Hows that?"

      "You're still alive....."

      1. Nunyabiznes Silver badge

        Re: took his hammer and smashed it to very tiny pieces

        The BFH should be one of a set of hammers to include the GBFH, the TBFH and the RBFH.

        Big F'ing Hammer

        Great BFH

        Truly BFH

        Ridiculously BFH.

    5. 9Rune5 Silver badge

      Re: took his hammer and smashed it to very tiny pieces

      https://www.pinterest.com/pin/541417186425156447/

      Thor's hammer, screwdriver and crescent wrench.

    6. Precordial thump

      Re: took his hammer and smashed it to very tiny pieces

      Chemical Engineers start at the smallest sizes, though

  5. Uk_Gadget

    Never Lose Your Hammer

    Had hammers on my IT support trolly for over 20 years. If the Newton Test fails, the hammer is next.

    1. Trollslayer Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Never Lose Your Hammer

      Or your sense of hammer.

  6. Dave K Silver badge

    Embarrassing?

    The only thing that makes it embarrassing is when the user insists "Oh no, it can't be that" before being proved wrong.

    Morel of the story, never dismiss a possible cause unless you've tested it and are absolutely 100% certain. Otherwise you risk making yourself look like a plonker!

    1. PM from Hell
      Facepalm

      Re: Embarrassing?

      Which of us has never ended up calling the service desk to log a fault after returning to find a 'dead' laptop, getting irate because the 1st line engineer was insisting you checked the power supply was plugged in and then having to apologise profusely when you find out someone had unplugged the power supply and you had been running on battery all morning.

    2. EagleZ28

      Re: Embarrassing?

      Back in the late 90's, I was working tech support...

      A customer called in and said his monochrome monitor, a CRT, had died on him... no output

      to the screen.

      The power LED was on... the cables were plugged into the correct places... and snugly.

      All was to no avail, until I had him swap out the monitor with a known-good one... which

      continued to work.

      BINGO!

      The monitor WAS bad!

      Great... ship a new replacement monitor to the customer, have him return the bad one so

      that WE can send it to OUR supplier for a replacement... all is well.

      The next morning, courtesy of express overnight shipping, he's got a new monitor, plugged

      it in... and WORKING.

      A few days go by... we get the old monitor back via snail mail...

      Just in case... we try it... to confirm it IS bad...

      The monitor was an old-style amber monochrome CRT... if you turned the brightness down...

      the screen would go *completely* blank... not even a faint hint of an image.

      Yes... the brightness and contrast were turned all the way down. We turned them up... and yes,

      it worked just fine.

      A week or so later, the SAME customer called in again... with a bad CRT...

      TURN THE BRIGHTNESS UP!

      Yep, solved it again.

      1. Nematode

        Re: Embarrassing?

        No, I was not your PEBKAC, but someone else's, see new post

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Embarrassing?

        "TURN THE BRIGHTNESS UP!"

        Had a call for a dim screen, full brightness, barely visible display. I get sent out to take a look and maybe adjust the HT voltage up as an interim fix. It's on the factory floor. Clean the glass, turn the brightness down to normal levels, users all happy. Sometimes, it's not a technical fault :-)

        1. Andy A

          Re: Embarrassing?

          Was doing an upgrade of a PC at a Government Department. The kit was filthy

          I asked the users whether they ever considered actually cleaning the stuff.

          "We're waiting for the stationery department to get the cleaning kits in". Perhaps they meant "stationary department"?

          I spat on a paper tissue from my pocket and wiped the screen.

          Then turned the brightness all down to avoid the glare.

          You can do a decent job of making a PC more hygienic with the consumables found in any office washroom. Damp paper towels and the stuff from the soap dispensers made cleaned one side of that PC in a couple of minutes. Completion of the task was left as an exercise for the user.

  7. Roger Kynaston Bronze badge
    Thumb Up

    Decommission of kit

    Not quite my teenage self but a few years ago I was involved in a Data Centre migration. Part of the reason for the migration was to get rid of the, sometimes very, old kit. One of my dinosaurs was an old Ultra 1 running the Council's waste management system. They had finally been cajoled into migrating to a newer application but only at the last minute. There wasn't time to run my regular script to write multiple passes of /dev/urandom onto the very slow disks. So, they day before we vacated the Computer room I brought my hammer in and had a lot of fun.

  8. Kevin Johnston Silver badge

    mea culpa - always check compatibility

    Not 'long long ago and far far away' but in fact in the last few days, I have a very old 7" tablet I use as an ebook reader. It was very cheap and I keep using it because if it ever breaks it is not the end of the world and I can grab something newer to replace it. But I am in IT so...

    I couldn't connect it to the PC to upload any more books and nor could I connect over Wi-fi, Hmmm... Tried everything but eventually went for Factory reset

    Went through startup config but failed activation phase - waited a couple of hours and 'as if by magic' now OK

    Plug it back into PC - Still no joy. About to bin it but then had a flash of inspiration, grab the Win7 laptop which is in the cupboard because I had dropped it and fractured the display (but it still works so why throw it away?). Connect external monitor, connect the tablet and Bingo...Tablet doesn't like Win10 (mark of quality I would say)

    So, upload all those books then....except the tablet has been out of support for a while and the App I used is no longer available although some similar ones are there and are Free

    New Apps only take .epub version and my books are mostly .mobi - That-s OK, I have the books on a linux laptop which also has a format converter - and also has a dodgy power connector (yes, I dropped that one too...so sue me, at least I had a few replacement power blocks). Begin the process and leave it to it's stuff

    Come back to linux laptop to find the battery flat and the power connector has gone from iffy to dead, it was both the power brick connector and the laptop power connector that had been damaged when it fell - Grab the Port replicator to charge it that way, Ah no key but I can disassemble the port replicator to remove the lock so I can dock the laptop - battery charging but even after 2 hours laptop will not start either docked or undocked

    Remove disc and connect using SATA to USB adaptor and discover Windows does not like disc format

    Go back to original store of files, download converter, run conversion, upload files and discover that the Apps are actually not worth the money paid as once you start reading a book you can only select a new book by closing the App

    Work out how much time I have spent and tech I have used/killed in the process of trying to keep a 8 year old £20 refurbed tablet going instead of accepting it had reached EOL and bought something from this decade

    1. drand

      Re: mea culpa - always check compatibility

      Good on you for having a go though!

    2. RedRichie

      Re: mea culpa - always check compatibility

      These things become a battle of wits, don't they? You get to the point where failure is not an option - spend hours banging your head against the problem; finally get it working, then realise it's a bag of crap and chuck it away a couple of days later.

      This is the reason I have drawers stuffed with iPaq's and the like. I'm secretly hoping the wife bins it all when I'm not paying attention.

      1. PM from Hell

        Re: mea culpa - always check compatibility

        I'm actually looking at a I bought my wife 10 years ago at the moment. earlier this year I wanted a network monitor so rebuilt the thing spend an eon patching it, downloading utilities etc. over about a week in my rare spare time. By the time it was ready to use Open Reach had finally acknowledged that every house in the village having sub 10mbps connections and losing them at least once an hour actually was a fault and they repaired the cable.

        But maybe the fact I now have a functional network monitor is a form of insurance? I must power it up again at some point and let it update itself.

    3. Neil Barnes Silver badge

      Re: mea culpa - always check compatibility

      Consider Lithium as an Android ebook reader. So far the only issue I have found is that it doesn't do sort by author/series/whatever as Kobo does. But no adverts, no helpful selections, lovely.

      1. keith_w Bronze badge

        Re: mea culpa - always check compatibility

        I use Kobo on multiple platforms but don't get any advertising. And the Android Kobo's series sorts are the best part of that. That's not available on the Windows versions.

      2. Justin S.

        Re: mea culpa - always check compatibility

        FBReader for Android. I've used it for years and love it.

    4. Blitheringeejit
      Pint

      Re: mea culpa - always check compatibility

      It's the stubborn refusal to be beaten, while engaging in an illogical degree of endeavour, which marks the human species out from its more sensible competitors. I have done this kind of thing more times than I can count, and although my life might have been largely wasted (ahem), I have learned a great deal along the way - some of which I can occasionally remember.

      And more importantly, on good days I have experienced that sweet moment of triumph when something finally works against all expectation (and common sense) - a feeling which makes it worth getting up in the morning.

      And which is all the sweeter for providing an excuse for liquid reward---------^

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Work out how much time I have spent ...

      A year or so ago, unhappy with my usb joystick, despite it being festooned with exotic triggers and buttons, I dug out my old analog one and tried to use it (since my pc is old enough and sufficiently workstationish to have the right 15 pin D socket). Spent a few days on it, and despite the claim that the linux kernel understood analog joysticks, never got it to even half work :-(

      Shame, really. Would have been totally worth it for the nostalgia value alone.

      1. the hatter

        Re: Work out how much time I have spent ...

        So you've ordered an arduino clone, a handful of shields and a fistful of components, and soon you'll be writing the code to read analogue then output joystick HID actions ?

    6. EagleZ28

      Re: mea culpa - always check compatibility

      When not reading my e-books on my desktop or laptop, i read them on my...

      PalmOne Tungsten E2

      which still works, and has no problem letting me read my new .mobi format ebooks,

      and which also fits comfortably in my shirt pocket.

      I can't recall exactly when it was new... mid 90's, at best guess.

      I'm also still using my AT-style 101-key Keytronics keyboard on my desktop.

      I bought that keyboard in the early 90's... circa 92-93, when I bought my first PC, a 386SX.

      1. juice Silver badge

        Re: mea culpa - always check compatibility

        > When not reading my e-books on my desktop or laptop, i read them on my... PalmOne Tungsten E2

        For me, after several iterations of the original monochrome models, it was all about the T3, not least because of the genius "slide down" mechanism, which made it much easier to fit into a pocket.

        I had that thing for years, even if the lil watchmaker screws had a tendency to fall out. I've got amused memories of highly confusing the staff at an opticians, from when I wandered in one day and asked if they had any screws which could be used to repair my T3.

        (They did. And they didn't charge, which was nice)

        I'm not entirely sure what my oldest "active use" tech is. The case for my main PC is probably getting into it's twenties, but OTOH, the old saying about the axe and the axe-handle come to mind.

        Might be the Xbox 360, since that's pushing around 14 years and still gets fired up for Netflix and occasional pixel blasting. On the 10-year old TV which it's plugged into :D

        And all RROD jokes aside, that's a fair credit to Microsoft, not least for the fact that it's still usefully functional for internet-based activities so many years later.

        (Or a pointed reminder on how Moore's law has pretty much come to a halt. Take yer picks...)

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: mea culpa - always check compatibility

          "I'm not entirely sure what my oldest "active use" tech is."

          This would make an interesting ElReg column ... and probably the longest comments section ever. For the record, the oldest bits of computer kit I use regularly are printers ... an IBM 1403 from 1963 (plus a parts machine from 1960), and a Xerox Daisywheel from 1976.

          1. EagleZ28

            Re: mea culpa - always check compatibility

            Damn! That IBM1403 is older than *I* am!

            (Although, not by much...)

    7. the hatter
      Go

      Re: mea culpa - always check compatibility

      But look all that maybe-useful kit you've now soundly reassigned as 'trash'. Clear it out. Makes a nice space for the more recently unloved bits you've never quite found a home for.

  9. pavel.petrman

    Blinkenlights

    The family clearly had their own blinkenlights before they had a computer! Cheers to forward thinking...

  10. DS999

    I never heard of such an adapter

    Must not have made such a thing in the US.

    All the blinky Xmas light strings when I was a kid (i.e. long before they were LED) had the blinky bits built into the strings. Some strings flashed all lights on and off at once, others (a bit more expensive I guess?) blinked them at different times, in patterns, randomly, or whatever.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I never heard of such an adapter

      Yep. The ones I'm familiar with have a single bulb that's clear with a red tip. It has a bimetallic element (or something similar) that breaks contact when it heats up, then cools until it makes contact again, producing a nice, fairly steady on-off pattern. Never seen an adapter to do the whole tree.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I never heard of such an adapter

      They do exist even if the US: I've seen them with different names, blinker, winker, flasher etc. and were used mostly with the old style light bulbs strings, the ones where you had to hunt for the burned bulbs one by one to have all the string work.

      And they still exists: on a quick search on amazon, for example, I've found an "Eagle 11040" that should be something like that.

      1. Dan 55 Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: I never heard of such an adapter

        Thanks for that, for some reason I came away from the article thinking the family had a christmas lights power supply with a square DIN DP-215 plug (aka Commodore power supply plug) on the end of the wire.

    3. Nematode

      Re: I never heard of such an adapter

      No, but this was ITALY. I used to work there a while and carried a complete separate set of adaptors, mains and modem and everything, and even learned how and when to use them!

  11. Kubla Cant Silver badge

    Type L and Type F

    What is it with power outlets in mainland Europe? There seems to be some kind of continent-wide standard, but the basis of that standard is "whatever kind of plug you have won't fit". I've spent a fortune on travel adaptors and hours crawling round hotel rooms looking for an outlet that fits my adaptor. And they seem to run high-power appliances off things that you'd be reluctant to connect a night-light to.

    1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

      Re: Type L and Type F

      Every country used to have its own standards, but the Netherlands adopted the German standard (earth on the sides), Belgium adopted the French standard (earth pin near the middle) and by now the plugs for those two standards are interchangeable.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Type L and Type F

        "Every country used to have its own standards"

        They still do - and one way to tell a fake power connector (plug or socket) is the presence of a CE mark - as they're national standards, power plugs explicitly MUST NOT carry that logo

        1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

          Re: Type L and Type F

          Nope, they all carry the other CE logo, meaning China Export, which closely resembles it.

          1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
            Mushroom

            Re: Type L and Type F

            Ah, yes. The infamous "China Export" logo, which is most definitely not an attempt on the part of Chinese manufacturers to try to convince you that the poorly engineered and likely hazardous piece of tat you hold in your hand meets the rigorous safety requirements of the CE mark.

      2. Andy A
        Pint

        Re: Type L and Type F

        Laptop manufacturers normally provide a single mains lead, often the one that fits the local power sockets.

        HP's docking stations though, for a while at least, included a whole world's worth of power leads. There were about 8 in the box. I had to look some of them up - I'd never seen the Israeli one before or since.

        Being able to supply an appropriate lead to someone being sent to some unusual part of the world gained many brownie points, and sometimes unusual bottles containing alcoholic beverages.

    2. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Type L and Type F

      That's generally fixed now thanks to Schuko plugs/sockets/both and Europlugs.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Type L and Type F

      How long ago was this? What sort of devices were you attempting to power? I've had the opposite experience when traveling from North America to Europe since the early '00s.

      I purchased a $25 travel kit back then that included a transformer and four ungrounded plug adapters: continental Europe (type C), Ireland and the UK (type G), Italy and Switzerland (type J/L), and Australia and NZ (type I). Never encountered a single situation in Europe where I couldn't power a device I traveled with.

      If I ever pick up a laptop with a grounded 3-prong plug, that kit won't work. But Amazon sells a $15 travel adapter kit that includes ten grounded and two ungrounded plug adapters that covers nearly every standard receptacle in the world. And since so many devices you travel with these days are dual-voltage, you might not even need a transformer if you're coming from a 110V country.

  12. LDS Silver badge

    Actually in Italy the stamdard is still a Type L plug

    But Germany being Germany, many products sold here ignore the standard and come with a schuko plug so Italians adapted and started to install multi-standard sockets that can accept both Type L plugs (10A and 16A) and schuko ones. Actually installing only schuko sockets would not allow to use many devices with Type L earthed plugs without an adapter.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      WTF?

      Re: Actually in Italy the stamdard is still a Type L plug

      I always found it odd that the Italian type L and Swiss type J receptacles use the same spacing and diameter pin for hot and neutral lines, but that they went with different spacing for the earth ground. For as much cross-border travel and trade that they engage in, you'd think they would have ironed out a single standard.

      1. Olivier2553 Silver badge

        Re: Actually in Italy the stamdard is still a Type L plug

        But the, any pair of countries do some cross border trading and should unite their types of plugs, so you would end-up with a single standard all across the world. I don't mean that would be a bad thing, but that is not how the world works.

  13. Bonz
    Thumb Up

    Best headline ever

    1. Hero Protagonist
      Thumb Down

      Nope, not even the best one this week:

      https://www.theregister.com/2020/08/19/new_blackberry_qwerty_phones/

      1. Excellentsword (Written by Reg staff)

        Since I wrote both of them, I can tell you that you're both wrong.

      2. Bonz

        That's a good 'un too, but this one is genius. Kept me reading till the end to find out who or what was going to get thwunked. Makes it even more poetic than the rhyming blackberry one

  14. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Meds Without Hats

    I had a similar power supply experience at a Medical practice in Calgary, once again* the the switches & small Cisco\Fortinet boxes etc were just stuffed in in a highly placed cabinet, & fishing around for the device to replace\investigate, standing on tiptoe on the best thing to reach it, I had a sudden shower of small network devices flying around my head leaving power cables suddenly disconnected at least they only bounced on the floor except for the one that bounced off my head first (See icon).

    Recovering somewhat I hooked everything back together, tidied up the cabling & remarried the divorced power supplies to their devices, but one device wasn't talking to the network, so I called in for a colleague to take a peek & bring a replacement as well.

    Short story long, there were two near identical same brand devices a (older & newer version) & same branded power supplies, the one that wasn't communicating wanted the power supply with slightly higher current rating.

    *The installers for Tel** liked putting things up high & in unlikely places like 10 foot over a lavatory & another case on a shelf supported by the weakest smallest bracket the Dollarstore could provide & the top of the door frame & then for good measure stuck a mid sized APC battery backup UPS with the rest of the kit up there.

    https://www.flickr.com/photos/97431818@N02/36787509051/in/album-72157685947025053/

    1. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Bronze badge

      Re: Meds Without Hats

      Oh, that is a "I don't touch that" installation...

    2. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      Re: Meds Without Hats

      That's where the outlet is...?

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How you really fix an Amiga 500

    The Amiga 500 was generally pretty reliable, except that the bigger chips were PLCC socketed and used to slightly unseat themselves over time (thermal cycling?) So if you switched it on and it didn't boot, the best thing to do was pick it up 6 inches and drop it, which would reseat the chips.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: How you really fix an Amiga 500

      (thermal cycling?)

      We called it thermal creep. But it applies to most mechanical friction joints unless extra measures are taken.

      So if you switched it on and it didn't boot, the best thing to do was pick it up 6 inches and drop it, which would reseat the chips.

      That might work short term, but not advised if there is an internal HDD (Could that be done with an A500? I had an A1200 ) Anyway, when I first started out as a field engineer, pushing the DIL RAM chips and others back into IBM PCs and clones was probably about half of the jobs I went to.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: How you really fix an Amiga 500

        "pushing the DIL RAM chips and others back into IBM PCs"

        That feeling under your thumb, almost like you had just busted a very thin sheet of glass as the pins individually snapped back into place, each according to how much friction it took to shift 'em ...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How you really fix an Amiga 500

      The plastic button on the internal floppy drive was another weak point. When I brought my broken A500 to a repair tech, he grumbled that mine was the fourth one he had to fix that month.

      I picked up a second floppy drive that month to avoid the disk swapping that likely contributed to the issue. What a difference.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    One place I worked the office trouble maker had one of those blinky boxes, he liked to install it on random IBM Selectric typewriters.

    It was great fun to watch, although we did make him do it only a couple times a year.

    The best was the time he "got" the IBM repairman, not on purpose, he just happened to be in the office that day.

  17. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    Or explained correct functioning to a recalcitrant bit of kit with the aid of a hammer?

    Oh yes, just a couple of weeks ago.

    Why oh Why oh Why oh Why does every generation have to be retaught that the absolute immediate first priority of any user interactive system is to immediately AT ONCE respond AT ONCE to indicate that the user has done something. Think about what to do later, give feedback RIGHT NOW THIS INSTANCE. Why oh Why oh Why does this even have to be taught in the first place, how do these people have such little sense of the universe around them that they haven't learned this lesson within the first few milliseconds of programming their first code?

    With normal mechanical user interfaces you get feedback from the mechanics of the mechanism, you feel the button move, you hear the button hitting the end of the travel mechanism. The lightswitch goes 'click'. The car door goes 'clunk'. With touch screens there is no mechanical feedback which means the software must give feedback.

    But all too many systems only give feedback when they get around it. But no feedback is an explicit signal to the user that the user hasn't pressed the button correctly, it is an explicit instruction to the user to try again.

    You reach for the light switch, you don't feel it move, you try again. You push the door latch on the washing machine, you don't hear it click into place, you push it again.

    You press a button on your tablet. The tablet doesn't respond. You press it again. It doesn't respond. Clearly, you aren't pressing the button correctly. You try to carefully aim your non-transparent finger that is larger than the target, there is still no response. You press harder. Still no response. Press again even harder. And harder. And harder, until your finger pops through the display. You then administer percussive punishment across the steering wheel of your car.

  18. Nematode

    Talkign about whacking things (not no that sort of whacking)...

    In the days when Lever Arch files existed and were even used (!) they usually got very full and very heavy to lug about. The PC on my desk at work was the old style (well, it would be, wouldn't it) desktop monster horizontal box with screen on top, Many Controls on the front, etc etc. I was looking up something in the lever arch file, and having found what I wanted, went to move it out of the way so I could input Stuff to the computer. As I swung the lever arch file across the desk to the left, the back right corner of if struck the monitor with a bang and the screen went blank. Convinced I had broken it I thought I had better call the help desk. Man arrives, turns up brightness again, all sorted. Face. Red.

  19. Alan W. Rateliff, II

    "hideous groaning noise"

    Beauty is in the ear of the beholder.

  20. kirk_augustin@yahoo.com

    Too bad the Amiga is no more and no one has ever built a computer as good.

    1. jake Silver badge

      "no one has ever built a computer as good."

      True enough. There have been many computers built since that are far, far better though.

    2. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Bronze badge

      > Too bad the Amiga is no more

      Oh no, that is just glorified past. Read this, especially the comments, to know why: https://www.theregister.com/2020/04/10/on_call/

  21. JPeasmould

    Qlock

    The only bit of "computer" controlled kit I ever really wanted to smash to pieces was a Qlock synchroniser.

    If you've ever had to go through the manuals making up cables for different tape machines and then spend ages tweeking pots, locating, noting the time taken to get the machines in synch and then repeating the process until it was acceptable to fussy clients, you'd understand.

    Of course after the session had started they would decide they had to slave the audio machines to a Umatic, demanding frame synch and wanting two video monitors.

    Then some confused tape-op or balance engineer (I might be showing my age here) would turn the audio master reel over to record a backward guitar on track 1.

    Thinking about it, maybe the clients would have benefited from a hammering too.

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