back to article The power of Bill compels you: A server room possessed by a Microsoft-hating, Linux-loving Demon

Those of a religious bent might want to look away now, or be regaled by the story of a server room seemingly haunted by a demon that really didn't like Windows in this week's On Call column. The mystery takes place in the early years of this century, when "David" (which is not his name) was toiling away as a hardware engineer …

  1. Hubert Cumberdale Silver badge

    This is why...

    ...hardware engineers should always be well grounded.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: This is why...

      What a shocking thing to say!

      1. Tim99 Silver badge

        Re: This is why...

        That’s a (wire-)wrap.

      2. ClockworkOwl
        Alert

        Re: This is why...

        Indeed, that's why I sometimes prefer to be in equipotential with my work environment.

        Just like climbing, sometimes the ground is a long way away...

      3. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: This is why...

        I laughed until my sides Hertz

        1. JJKing
          Facepalm

          Re: This is why...

          Watt did you say? Never mind it's beer o'clock so I'm going ohm.

    2. red floyd

      Re: This is why...

      Every time I try to avoid puns, I encounter resistance like this.

      1. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: This is why...

        Resistance is useless!

        1. JimboSmith Silver badge

          Re: This is why...

          Resistance Is Futile

          1. Martin an gof Silver badge

            Re: This is why...

            No, Resistance is useless.

            M.

    3. I Am Spartacus

      Re: This is why...

      I try meditating. Zen Buddhism helps, chanting a specific word. And the word is

      Ohm.

    4. Stevie Silver badge

      Re: This is why...

      A very down-to-earth solution.

      1. Chris J

        Re: This is why...

        I don't have capacity for much more of this.

        1. Will Godfrey Silver badge

          Re: This is why...

          Indeed! Quite shocking.

    5. llaryllama

      Re: This is why...

      I'm just glad el Reg keeps us current with all this stuff.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I once destroyed the internet.

    It's ok though, I had a backup on a floppy disk stuck to the side of the case by a magnet.

    -Me.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: I once destroyed the internet.

      Manny moons ago, I witnessed a field engineer open the back of a piece of equipment, pull the diagnostic floppy (8", just to date myself) off the inside of the door where it was affixed with a magnet ... and the fucking thing still worked! Observing my surprise, he just shrugged and said "I know. I don't get it either. They did it this way for years before I got here. I don't ask questions, I just go by their playbook and collect my pay." He claimed to have seen several tens of these things, and the disk was only dead once.

      1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: I once destroyed the internet.

        It could be that in order to re-magnetise the disk surface, the magnet needs to be moved tangentially to the disk's surface. Moving a magnet perpendicular to the disk surface, as you would do when sticking the disk to a metal surface may have a lot less of an effect than expected.

        From my dim and distant memory of A-level physics, it's the change in a magnetic field that will induce the electric current, and thus the magnetic field in the disk surface. That's why putting magnetic tapes anywhere near hi-fi speakers is a bad idea.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: I once destroyed the internet.

          It could be that the disks were such low density that the magnet didn't splat the entire domain

          I recall waving magnets over Commodore PET floppies (60kB or so) in the early 1980s and finding them remarkably resiliant (whereas the things would simply go spontaneously bad sitting after in a drawer for a while)

      2. HammerOn1024

        Re: I once destroyed the internet.

        Those floppies were designed to survive an EMP from a ground strike thermonuclear weapon. They were specified by the U.S. Air Force for use in the ICBM launch bunkers.

        IBM/Ampex then sold them and the drives to anyone who wanted them.

        1. Tom 7 Silver badge

          Re: I once destroyed the internet.

          Not much EMP from a ground strike. Now 400 miles up...

          1. JimboSmith Silver badge

            Re: I once destroyed the internet.

            I once had to explain many things about nuclear weapons to somebody after watching Olympus Has Fallen. They couldn't understand why the film was such complete bollocks until I enlightened them. I explained that the accidental launch of a US ICBM is highly unlikely. Firstly to initiate a launch you need more than one Missile Combat Crew (so two launch control centres) to agree and follow launch procedures. Therefore you don't really need a system like the one in the film.

            Secondly such a system would be open to hacking by your enemies. That in turn would allow them to use your weapons against you if somebody could detonate them in or just outside your silos (as suggested in the film).

            Thirdly even if you did have a daft system like Cerberus why would you have it detonate the warhead? At altitude it would create EMP which is undesirable and on the ground fallout which is probably even less desirable. Much easier to destroy the detonation system and render the device as relatively harmless as it can be. You can also destroy the rocket and have the warheads fall to earth which as they won't be armed in earth's atmosphere will again be relatively harmless (unless you're underneath it obviously).

            Lastly if you really do have a system as suggested in the movie and it's based somewhere like the PEOC then it has to be able to transmit to the missiles. This could be over dedicated landlines, via RF etc. To use RF you need a transmitter which if it isn't located in the same place it needs a connection to it. The lines to the transmitter can be cut and the RF can be blocked.

            That was before we got on to the distance between the White House fence and the White House, Combat Air Patrol procedures not being followed etc.

            I said if you can ignore all that* then it's a standard action film. She said "Now you've told me all that I just can't."

            *And the fact that yet again one bloke is able to defeat a group of well trained well armed terrorists on his own

            1. Stuart Castle Silver badge

              Re: I once destroyed the internet.

              Re “ *And the fact that yet again one bloke is able to defeat a group of well trained well armed terrorists on his own”

              That’s the thing with action shows/films. You can have something accurate or something exciting. You can sometimes have something that is both, but this is rare.

              I remember reading that a real life spy said that if any spy become as famous as James Bond (he is famous, even within the story as the villain always seems to know him), no matter how good he was, he would be dead within a week..

              1. Alan Brown Silver badge

                Re: I once destroyed the internet.

                > [james bond] no matter how good he was, he would be dead within a week..

                The original Fleming stories read like random individual scenes where "James Bond" was just a pseudoname for whoever was agent of the day

                Definitely not novels, just a collection of (very) short stories

                1. Martin
                  FAIL

                  Re: I once destroyed the internet.

                  Have you actually read any James Bond books? By any standards, they are perfectly good novels. They are not great literature, but they are certainly not just a series of unconnected set pieces.

                  1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

                    Re: I once destroyed the internet.

                    They also have very little in common with the films that are given the same names. I'm thinking of Moonraker here, as the one which I can remember reading. The only thing the book and the film have in common is that they have a bloke in them called James Bond.

        2. This post has been deleted by its author

      3. Stevie Silver badge

        Re: I once destroyed the internet.

        I once noted on a forum of people I respected that any time I did *not* prevent the CompUSA salesdrone wiping my Wndows-95 era software purchases over their "security device desensitizer" the 3.5 inch diskettes would not work and I would have to truck back to Columbus Circle in my lunch hour again.

        I was informed that the demagnetizing wotsit used in pre-rfid times did not have the magnetic whoozy-wotsits to damage the disks.

        But the effect was absolutely predictable and absolutely repeatable.

        So to those respected forumers I say: THRRRRRRRRRP! 8op 8ob 8op

        1. 9Rune5 Silver badge

          Re: I once destroyed the internet.

          "You don't want to put your credit card there..." the guy behind the counter told me.

          I chose not to ignore that piece of advice. Others apparently weren't as lucky.

        2. Arbuthnot the Magnificent

          Re: I once destroyed the internet.

          As a callow youth I worked as a technician at a certain awful UK PC chain, and occasionally had to deal with customers at the till. The obnoxious ones would get their card surreptitiously swiped over the magnetic detagger as I returned it.

  3. Roger Kynaston Bronze badge

    Not met a demon

    But I used to have an IT Boss who had a pathological hatred of all things made by the beast of Redmond. This was before Red Hat and Ubuntu so he ran an Ultra 5 with CDE. Email - pine was what he used. I do still miss my Sun boxes though.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Not met a demon

      I'm fairly certain your Sun boxen were absolutely chock full of miscellaneous daemons, of varying degrees of power.

    2. John Riddoch

      Re: Not met a demon

      I used an Ultra 1 with Solaris for many years as my desktop at my first IT job (university department). Ran like a dream. I had some horrible Frankenstein windowing environment using CDE and Window Maker, but it was stable and by the time I left, I'd been logged in from October to March (just locking the screen at night) without any issues. Getting Windows to stay up that long without a reboot (let alone logged in) was pretty much impossible...

      1. John Sager

        Re: Not met a demon

        I ran a SPARC 2 as a desktop for several years. Lovely machine for the time, stayed with SunOS 4 though. Eventually though I persuaded the boss's boss to spring for a PC, that then ran Linux.

      2. JassMan
        Holmes

        Re: Not met a demon

        Getting Windows to stay up that long without a reboot (let alone logged in) was pretty much impossible...

        Of course it was impossible, there was the same bit of code, that ran a 16 bit centi-second timer, in all versions of windows. It rolled over at 37.9259259 days and BlueScreened all desktops and servers. It took over 3 years of emails to Microsoft from various engineers at the BBC, who explained the problem before Microsoft even acknowledged that this was a serious bug. I'm sure hundreds of other corporate users with more than 50 copies of windows would have noticed the same problem and reported it. BorkZillas's response was always make "sure you have regular downtime planned". The trouble is that many users have 24/7 operations and can't afford to keep rebooting servers just for the fun of it, especially since most servers couldn't even make it to 31 days of use because of lack of garbage cleaning in other areas of the OS.

        I haven't used Windows for more than 1 session every 4 months to update my Garmin, in over 20 years. Do you still have to run defrag every few months of continuous use?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Not met a demon

          Not sure why this was downvoted - I found it an interesting and quite believable story. Certainly my 486DX100 Redhat server - in 2000! - had more continuous uptime than every Windows machine in the house combined. My 9 months record was only stopped due to a power outage.

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: Not met a demon

            I had a 4MB slackware 386sx25 doing routing+mail duty in a local museum on the end of a leased line with analogue 28k8 modems (the usual story in the mid-90s: installed as an experiment, then became critical equipment inside 6 months)

            After it hit 2 years uptime the staff and I were very interested to see how long it would stay up - 3 days shy of 3 years uptime a cleaner unplugged the bloody thing.

            1. keithpeter
              Windows

              Re: Not met a demon

              Did it reboot OK after power was restored?

              1. Alan Brown Silver badge

                Re: Not met a demon

                Yup

                At another site (a high school), quota checks would take quite a while after reboot and the "technical experts" (ie: the IT teachers) there would reset it if it seemed to be taking too long to get going - resulting in them badmouthing it for being unreliable

                I ended up disconnecting the reset switch AND moving the AT power switch inside the case to prevent them fritzing with it, then had a chat with management and the secretaries (who were in front of the server room) were instructed to prevent them gaining access to the area - using force if necessary

                The entire school IT system ran reliably for years after the policy change and the guys contracting to maintain the windows systems in the office areas noted their callout rate to failures had dropped by 90%, so they were happy too

          2. Imhotep Silver badge

            Re: Not met a demon

            Not to mention that airlines need to 'reboot' some of their jets for the exacy same reason.

          3. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Not met a demon

            Redhat server under my dining room table on a headless cast off workstation in about 2005 running a prototype webservice for a client. I imagine it would still be there still if SWMBO hadn't demanded it be moved.

            1. A Yank for YES

              Re: Not met a demon

              I was contracting for Digital Equipment for Y2K updates when I came across a DEC VAX running VMS that had been running for over 6 years. The engineer in charge of the site, Environment Agency Thames Barrier, almost cried when I told him I had to shut it down to do the update.

          4. Tom 7 Silver badge

            Re: Not met a demon

            I had a 4meg 386 that I set running self tests - disk R/W and memchecks if various mixes and forgot about it. it was getting on for a year before I stumbled into that part of the attic and turned on the monitor to find it still running and error less!

        2. baud Bronze badge

          Re: Not met a demon

          defrag isn't very useful with SSD now. But I think once SSD arrived in the market, you had to manually ask Windows to not defrag this disk, because otherwise Windows would defrag automatically, reducing the lifespan of the drive for no benefits

          1. 9Rune5 Silver badge

            Re: Not met a demon

            defrag isn't very useful with SSD now

            YMMV. https://www.hanselman.com/blog/TheRealAndCompleteStoryDoesWindowsDefragmentYourSSD.aspx

            1. baud Bronze badge

              Re: Not met a demon

              That was interesting, thank you. So for this case it seems we can trust Microsoft's default configuration

        3. newspuppy

          Re: Not met a demon

          We had a major financial client that actually had someone resetting their windows server boxes, to ensure that they did not just 'hang' at inopportune moments...

          Our hardware guys had a board made that would have a one shot timer that would pull the reset line after a certain amount of time. The timer was only enabled after boot up (and our own little demon/service would run). Our service would reset the timer, and our service was called at a magnitude less of the 'certain amount of time' .

          If the system was running properly, and NOT hanging... no reset.. but.. if hanging.. then ... reset.....

          We sold a small fortune's worth of these boards to our client....

          Every situation is either a disaster... or an incredible opportunity for improvement..... :)

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: Not met a demon

            "We sold a small fortune's worth of these boards to our client...."

            It was _really_ common to have a service which "ticked" the speaker line, attached to a 555 nonostable timer which would hit the reset button if it stopped ticking for more than 5 minutes (long enough for reboots)

            cost? about $1.50 - extremely useful on machines used as routers (tick on packets, 286 router code booting off a floppy, then later used on 386es running linrouter)

            1. newspuppy

              Re: Not met a demon

              I do not think our board (pcb, artwork, assembly and test) cost more then $10.00...

              But it sure was nice and heavy and impressive enough to sell for £1500.00

              As mentioned... or client was a VERY BIG PLAYER in the finance space.. and no wire wrapped solution was going to work for all their server boxes..... and... after spending so much / board... they KNEW it was worth it.....

              We were taught in the old days that IBM = Incredibly Better Marketing, and unfortunately, the packaging matters, sometime so much more then the product that a consultant with an odd haircut, rare bathing habits, (but a genius able to do the work of a great team of 10), was looked down on, compared to the imbecile who's technical knowledge consisted of terms that s/he haphazardly put together... yet was easy on the eyes and fun to be around....

              :(

          2. RichardBarrell
            Thumb Up

            Re: Not met a demon

            Oh cool, you made and sold watchdog timers for PCs.

            This is a fairly common thing in embedded devices: if the software hangs for a while, the watch timer doesn't get reset and power cycles the device.

        4. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Not met a demon

          We used our home Windows 7 machine running Media Center to be a DVR. I remember at least once having a problem with daylight savings time The recordings were off by an hour after the time change. I think that got fixed. So mostly we left it on with no regular rebooting.

          Mostly left it on so we didn't have to remember or know which nights a recording was happening.

          But I guess there would be the monthly Windows updates that usually cause a reboot. So maybe it never ran more than 31 days.

        5. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Not met a demon

          That 16 bit timer STILL shows up all over the bloody place - even in modern network switches and occasionally in SSDs

        6. Negative Charlie

          Re: Not met a demon

          > 16 bit centi-second timer ... rolled over at 37.9259259 days

          Your bits may be bigger than mine, but a 16-bit centisecond timer would roll over at 655.36 seconds. Most people would notice if their computer blue-screened every eleven minutes.

          1. Bill Gray

            Re: Not met a demon

            Wondered about that myself.

            echo "37.9259259*86400" | bc -l

            3276799.9977600

            A timer running with 100-second units would overflow a signed 16-bit int in the specified time. Dunno why you'd have a timer doing that?

            I vaguely recall some other Micros~1 timer that stored (I think) milliseconds since boot time in a 32-bit unsigned integer, rolling over after 2^32/(24*60*60*1000)=49.71 days. Apparently, our friends in Redmond assumed there was no way the system would stay up that long, and one must concede they had a point.

        7. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

          Re: Not met a demon

          WinServer2016 is absolute bollocks. I have a scheduled task set to reboot after 30 days of uptime, the sweet spot.

          Longer than that and it start to slow down and is more prone to wibbly wobblies.

        8. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Bronze badge

          Re: Not met a demon

          Honestly, I know a lot of Windows Servers from 2008 R2 on up to 2019 with uptimes of more than two years, until I forced Windows Update run(s) after 800+ days. It is not the OS per se, but those unstable services on top of it. Run it as Domain controller, DHCP, Hyper-V host (or Cluster) or Fileserver -> no problem reaching 800+ days with no one noticing, cause it just works.

          IIS ? Well, the best known uptime killer. SQL? Depends... you can imagine the rest of the long uptime killer list.

        9. Soruk
          Pint

          Re: Not met a demon

          Upvote for "BorkZilla".

      3. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

        Re: Not met a demon

        "Getting Windows to stay up that long without a reboot (let alone logged in) was pretty much impossible..."

        Why would you wanna? thats just cruel

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Up time

        Well, if we are willy waving...

        VxWorks, everything currently orbiting or crawling on Mars!

      5. DS999

        Uptime

        In my first IT job I worked at a midsize engineering company that had a variety of HP-UX and Apollo workstations for MEs and EEs. The Apollo workstations had an EE who acted as part time sysadmin and were fairly well maintained. The ME network had HP-UX boxes of varying OS versions that were never patched, which was starting to cause problems for the ME who acted as part time sysadmin but only cared about maintaining the ME software and not the OS. There was a new version out but he'd run into problems installing it on some of them because they needed a newer version, so they'd been after the IT department to take over support of them (hence my hiring)

        So my first task was to evaluate the HP-UX network and see what versions they were currently on and make plans to get them all upgraded to the latest version and fully patched. I found one running a particularly dated version that had an update of 2 years 8 months! Pretty impressive considering the heavyweight software it ran all the time, and the fact that the base OS was all that was installed - it had never received a single patch!

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not met a demon

      sun were Ok until Oracle got their grubby hands on it, everything went downhill from then on, apart from the cost of support and licensing which went UP hill!

  4. Chris G Silver badge

    Trumpet

    Did David hear any trumpets?

    Because I am sure I remember something about trumpets and demons walking the Earth.

    1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

      Re: Trumpet

      Isn't a Trumpet the spawn of Trump?

      1. BebopWeBop Silver badge

        Re: Trumpet

        A Trumpette certainly is.

        1. Alister Silver badge

          Re: Trumpet

          I thought a Trumpette was one of his cheerleaders.

          1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

            Re: Trumpet

            What is a better cheerleader than a spawn?

          2. WolfFan Silver badge

            Re: Trumpet

            Trumpy cheerleaders are Trumpanzees.

          3. Deimos

            Re: Trumpet

            No, you’re thinking of a Strumpet.

            1. Charlie van Becelaere

              Re: Trumpet

              No, you’re thinking of a Strumpet.

              As I recall, the collective noun for strumpets is a flourish. Yes, a flourish of strumpets.

              You're welcome.

              1. jake Silver badge

                Re: Trumpet

                I always thought it was a wriggle of strumpets ...

    2. Woza
      Coat

      Re: Trumpet

      If we're talking Windows, does trumpet winsock count?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Trumpet

      I didn't know trumpets could walk. I learn so much here.

    4. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Trumpet

      I'm sure that's "Trump and Pence", not "trumpets"

  5. chivo243 Silver badge
    Windows

    Power!

    Once had a similar issue. Desktop wouldn't boot up properly, worked at the location for a while, and finally told the user I needed to take it to my office for deeper inspection. Damn thing booted while sitting on our workbench. Moved it back, and no booty! Back to the workbench, boots fine! Turned out to be either a power cable, or a dodgy power strip, because I took the power cable from the work bench, and went straight to the mains and bypassed the other cables. I took the cable and powerstrip and chopped the plugs off and binned them. You don't know how many times we've binned cables, only to have the cleaners and facilities guys bring them back and ask why? Now we destroy them.

    1. Caver_Dave
      Thumb Up

      Re: Power!

      Cables of any sort!

      Dodgy RJ45 cables are my pet hate and I always cut them in half, otherwise someone will always drag them out of the bin!

      1. MatthewSt Bronze badge

        Re: Power!

        And depending on where it's broken and where it's chopped, you may even have a chance of one of them working if someone still decides to resurrect them and put ends on your two halves!

        1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

          Re: Power!

          I used to do that !

          why throw 60m of cable away when you could lose only 30?

          ..might even get a useable 15 out of it too

          1. David Robinson 1

            Re: Power!

            So a binary search to find the break in the cable?

            1. Justin S.

              Re: Power!

              A TDR (Time-Domain Reflectometer) will tell you exactly where the break is.

              1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge
                Childcatcher

                Re: Power!

                witchcraft!

              2. H in The Hague Silver badge

                Re: Power!

                "A TDR (Time-Domain Reflectometer) will tell you exactly where the break is."

                Any suggestions for an affordable one?

                Though your definition of "affordable" may be different from mine. Been lusting after one of those since I was a young lad.

        2. Robert Grant Silver badge

          Re: Power!

          Binary search for cable failure? Efficient!

      2. Paul Shirley
        Happy

        Re: Power!

        Cat5e cable turns out to be just right for snaking out limescale deposits in the water channel in the rim of my toilet bowl. With the useful side effect from association with toilets that I no longer feel any temptation to try resurrecting the other 19m from the unreliable cable I butchered!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Power!

          I (like most commenters here, I expect) have a hefty box of used Cat5e lying around. I'll have to try this. Thanks for the tip!

          Anyone else have unusual uses for Cat5e?

          1. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
            Gimp

            Re: Power!

            Quote

            "Anyone else have unusual uses for Cat5e?"

            Yes... but in adult only situations...... see icon ...

            "I'm a bad server.. yes I am... You must punish me and then insert the reboot disk....."

            1. Justin S.

              Re: Power!

              Cat5-o-nine tails. Mmm, you naughty boy!

          2. Andy A
            Pint

            Re: Power!

            Not PARTICULARLY unusual, but unexpected, considering the type of site.

            I was INSTRUCTED to tidy up the mass of cables in the vicinity of the computer room at one place. I had been clearing out redundant stuff from under the false floor, and that in the "old" computer room next door, being converted to office space. A large amount of Cat3 to Cat5, serial, co-ax, old power cords, the lot.

            "Get rid of it. Don't care where it goes as long as it's not there when the Top Brass get here in a couple of weeks."

            So I was forced to load up the car - twice - and make trips to a scrap merchant who knew that copper in data cables is higher grade than that in plumbing.

            It filled the car up for the month and paid for several of these ======^

      3. JeffB
        Coffee/keyboard

        Re: Power!

        Faulty keyboards and mice, where the fault is not immediately obvious (e.g. missing/broken keys) get the same treatment SNIP!!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Power!

          "Faulty keyboards and mice, where the fault is not immediately obvious"

          it's very obvious, it can usually be found sitting in the chair.

          1. Stoneshop Silver badge

            SNIP!!

            it can usually be found sitting in the chair.

            Would stop any further child processes being created, but quite often they're around already.

      4. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Power!

        Yup.

        Standard practice whereever I've worked has always been to tie a _hard_ knot in the ends to signify they're borked if you can't cut them and break the retaining tabs off (the idea being that a knot ruins the cables anyway, so why would you try?)

        I gave up on that when I caught several twats untying the knots and attempting to reuse the things despite the plugs falling out if you breathed on them.

        Now if I can't cut them immediately, I take them away and deal with the things later.

        1. Stoneshop Silver badge

          Re: Power!

          Now if I can't cut them immediately,

          That's one of the reasons I carry a multitool. Feels naked if I don't.

    2. jake Silver badge

      Re: Power!

      I don't destroy them, I have them scrapped out of inventory and marked accordingly, then keep them locked up where the proles can't access them. One never knows when one might need to fabricobble something non-standard ... and it's always easier to grab a scrapped cable or six than it is to request stuff from stores.

      1. Shadow Systems Silver badge

        Re: Power!

        Jake, your post is MUCH more amusing if you replace "cables" with "cleaners". The thought of you dismembering them, locking the bits in a cabinet, & pulling out random body parts to make a "FrankenWidget" just made me LMAO.

        *Hands you a pint*

        Drink up, it's Friday!

      2. GrumpenKraut Silver badge
        Pirate

        Re: Power!

        > I don't destroy them, ...

        Arrrrgh! Absolutely DO destroy them, unless you like hardware Heisenbugs. I nearly had a fist fight with some idiot coworker about this. From then on I chopped those cables into very short pieces.

        1. GrumpenKraut Silver badge

          Re: Power!

          Rationale: cables that have obvious failures (a sharp bent or a loose end) tend to have non-obvious problems as well. I learned that the hard way, wasting enough time I could have bought twenty replacement cables and still save money.

          If you have a proper cable tester (and the time), repair and re-use as you like.

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: Power!

            "If you have a proper cable tester (and the time), repair and re-use as you like."

            Ahem: mode=serious

            "proper" cable testers look at RF characteristics and do Time domain reflectometry checks to identify discontinuities (and how far away they are)

            Everything under about $100 simply tests DC and at best does a simple pulse test to determine overall length. REMEMBER: Ethernet is a RF transmission line - 1GB/s is 300MHz

            The basic testers are good for many uses but if you can feel issues (like straightened out kinks under the sheath) when running your hands along the cable, chop it up and dump it because those testers will never find them even after that issue is biting you on the arse

            1. GrumpenKraut Silver badge

              Re: Power!

              Yes, "proper" was meant to be read as "not just dumb DC".

              Also agree with running your hand along and discarding when the thing feels uneven. I have seen cables that must have been twisted into oblivion for some reason, then straightened out by just pulling like an idiot. Prone to develop funny faults.

        2. Stoneshop Silver badge

          From then on I chopped those cables into very short pieces.

          With a length of 2.1045 linguine, of course

      3. dak

        Re: Power!

        Thank you for "fabricobble", I knew there had to be a word somewhere for that important activity.

        1. Missing Semicolon

          Re: Power! (fabricobble)

          Ave is the source.

          1. Johndoe888

            Re: Power! (fabricobble)

            I thought it originated with ChuckE2009.

            1. Deimos

              Re: Power! (fabricobble)

              For any BOFH spare/old cables are a must.

              They make excellent “top of the stairs” tripwires.

              Field expedient garrotte.

              Temporary wrist and ankle ties while you fetch the roll of carpet and quicklime.

              These are a few of my favourite things.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Broken devices are not spares

        I was Tech Support Manager at a County Council many years ago and took over a desktop team who serviced the local Fire Brigade. When I moved offices I was looking for a filing cabinet and found that the one behind my new desk was filled with broken Epson dot matrix printers.

        I also found out I had inherited a nightmare of complaints from Senior Fire officers about how unreliable the station printers were. It turned out the printers were obsolete and the engineers were sourcing parts from the broken stock to keep them limping along. In reality it meant that most days there was a fire station who couldn't print call tickets. This has a real impact on response times as they either have to hand right the details, print them in the office or try and get the details over the radio on a blue light call I'm afraid I stamped my feet and got a bit shouty and made them skip the broken gear and order a dozen new printers. There was a bit of bitching about the charge for the new printers when the first few calls came in but lo and behold they didn't break and I soon go the go-ahead to replace all the obsolete printers with new, faster, quieter, non jamming ones. I don't remember hearing another complaint during the 2 years I was there and the terrible worry I had about a call going bad because of our dodgy gear was put to rest.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Broken devices are not spares

          " I'm afraid I stamped my feet and got a bit shouty and made them skip the broken gear and order a dozen new printers. "

          If they were that resistant I'd have been having a quiet word to those Senior Fire Officers about arranging for printers to have "wee accidents" involving very heavy objects falling onto them in frame-bending manners.

          I'd have also cleaned out the junk BEFORE asking permission

    3. GlenP Silver badge

      Re: Power!

      I always make sure cables are cut before scrapping.

      Back in the days before WEEE when you could still chuck PCs in the general rubbish skip we used to remove the HDs first and dispose of them more securely (as in meet with a big hammer). We couldn't believe it when somebody not only removed a couple of machines from the skip but put in a complaint that, "They don't work, will you fix them?"

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Power!

        > We couldn't believe it when somebody not only removed a couple of machines from the skip but put in a complaint that, "They don't work, will you fix them?"

        I could. That's why I remove the drives.

        For added fun and giggles, these days I occasionally secure-erase them and _then_ set a security password, then leave them where I've seen a couple of dumpster divers go after drives. I'm sure they've had weeks of fun trying ti make them go....

        Anecdote: late 1990s

        The local university finally realised they had a SHITLOAD of old and obsolete crap in stores and dumped off to a local auction house (who put up breathless adverts hyping the sales)

        Hundreds of people tunred up for the first couple of auctions. People were paying more than current retail proces (start of the art at the time was low end pentium systems) for 286 and XT systems

        for months afterwards there was a steady stream of people showing up at local computer stores with VT100 terminals - complaining they wouldn't boot and asking for quotes to repair them.

    4. Shadow Systems Silver badge

      Re: Power!

      "...You don't know how many times we've binned cables, only to have the cleaners and facilities guys bring them back and ask why? Now we destroy them."

      Do you mean the cables or the cleaners? The first is just good sense. The second is cathartic. =-)p

      1. chivo243 Silver badge

        Re: Power!

        Cables, the cleaners in our joint are good people, just doing a job.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Power!

          After I explained to our cleaners that anything with a knot tied in it is dead and it might even be _dangerous_ to try and resurrect power cables they find like that, they were happy

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Power!

      happens all the time people diving in to the electrical waste skip! Best one or worst depending on how you see it, I've seen was a boffin at the lab I used to work at decided to use a vacuum pump that had failed its PAT test but was still on the bench with a FAILED PAT TEST DO NOT USE sign on it (really should have been chucked in electrical waste but hey ho). He was a bit of a menace and always buggering around with stuff he shouldn't and not following correct procedures etc, a total lose canon. Anyway bloody thing caught fire, its the only actual proper incident that I witnessed at the lab in 20 years! Had a few false alarms but because its a lab anything that trips the house alarm automatically calls out the fire brigade. The same feckwit was also caught disposing of the contents of his bio reactors down the storm drain in the front yard of the lab!

      1. MCMLXV

        Re: lose canon

        An incompetent cleric?

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Power!

        "The same feckwit was also caught disposing of the contents of his bio reactors down the storm drain in the front yard of the lab!"

        $50k/£50k fine in most parts of the world for pulling that stunt. I hope someone reported him

    6. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Power!

      I learned early in my EE career to be suspicious of connectors (of any kind); they are one of the most likely failure points. Minimize them in your designs and suspect them first during debug.

      I'm not sure I would have spotted the problem as quickly as "Dave" did. Well done, have a [virtual] pint!

      1. Man inna barrel

        Re: Power!

        My Dad worked in radio astronomy. He always soldered his own connectors. But he never fixed the problem of the bloody rabbits eating the insulation on the cables.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Power!

          "But he never fixed the problem of the bloody rabbits eating the insulation on the cables."

          One word: Hasenpfeffer.

          Worked at The Dish at Stanford ...

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: Power!

            "But he never fixed the problem of the bloody rabbits eating the insulation on the cables."

            He should have chatted to some telco external plant guys. They've been dealing with that problem since time immemorial

    7. Ozan

      Re: Power!

      I had similar problem years ago. I was working in office on Sunday. Sunday had low rate of workers and when electricity went out they run it he generator in low power. Turns out it can’t power my computer as well. Funny day.

  6. amacater

    No FreeBSD daemon?

    Amazed you didn't reference https://rmitz.org/freebsd.daemon.html

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: No FreeBSD daemon?

      I'm waiting for the curtain-twitching hand-wringers & namby-pambys to notice the near 45 year old Beastie[0] and raise a stink ... It's going to happen, it's only a matter of time.

      [0] Where do the years go ...

      1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

        Re: No FreeBSD daemon?

        It's already happened, starting long ago. Here's a very old story about Texans objecting to a Beastie T-shirt (in 4.3 BSD days), and here's one of the many threads on the FreeBSD forums.

        Generally it's evangelical Christians, not SJWs, who have problems with Beastie.

        1. Will Godfrey Silver badge
          Unhappy

          Re: No FreeBSD daemon?

          Personally I have no problem with Beastie either.

          Evangelical Christians however...

          Oh, and Jehovah's Witnesses GRRR.

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: No FreeBSD daemon?

            JWs are easy: offer to sit down and discuss it over a cup of coffee with them, then explain that your religious beliefs mean that you will be mortally offended if they don't DRINK the coffee, insisting that they must drink some before starting their conversation

            It usually works on Mormons too.

            1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

              Re: No FreeBSD daemon?

              It usually works on Mormons too.

              My in-laws from my first marriage lived on a rather interesting(¹) housing estate which was about 45% Jewish and 45% Mormon(²). If the doorbell went when they weren't expecting anyone it was a 50/50 chance whether it would be a little old lady asking if they would knit socks for the Israeli army(³) or a pair of clean cut young american chaps in smart suits asking if they'd heard the word of Jesus. My FiL found the quickest way to get rid of the latter was to say he was a communist(⁴) - this made them back off like he'd just asked them to help sacrifice a baby to Satan.

              (¹) i.e peculiar.

              (²) There was an LDS church/temple/whatever by the estate entrance.

              (³) I'm not joking.

              (⁴) He was actually chairman of the local Labour Party, back in the days of Harold Wilson.

            2. ICPurvis47 Bronze badge
              Angel

              Re: No FreeBSD daemon?

              I once had two very well dressed young gentlemen of the Mormon persuasion visit me at my Rugby (UK) home. They were flabbergasted that I had, during my sojourn in Louisville KY, visited Nauvoo, Illinois, the original home of their religion, whilst they had not.

              1. jake Silver badge

                Re: No FreeBSD daemon?

                "visited Nauvoo, Illinois"

                Presumably to see Baxter’s Vineyards. Nowt much else there, and it's hardly a place that you drive through on the way to somewhere else ...

                1. ICPurvis47 Bronze badge

                  Re: No FreeBSD daemon?

                  Joseph Smith's house was there then, it may not be now, but that was in 1964.

                  1. jake Silver badge

                    Re: No FreeBSD daemon?

                    I'm pretty sure the Joseph Smith House has been in Providence, Rhode Island since around 1705.

                    Oh. You must mean the latter day[0] Joseph Smith. I stand by my original assessment.

                    [0] Intended. This is still ElReg, even if we are waxing historical ...

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: No FreeBSD daemon?

        "Where do the years go"

        Dunno but if you find a few send some my way. I could do with a few.

    2. Evil Auditor Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: No FreeBSD daemon?

      That reminded me of a time, yonks ago, when I ended up having supper with three guys, who, at that time unbeknown to me, were some Evangelical Christians. The discussion arrived at music and, inevitably, at my favoured hard rock and metal. Oh lord!

      They came up with satanic backwards messages in rock songs and I, still, thought it was all fun and stuff. Until I started to realise they were all serious and moments before lynching me. Obviously, they didn't. But I made a rather quick escape.

      1. james_smith Silver badge

        Re: No FreeBSD daemon?

        Reminds me of my time in Silicon Valley. I described a bunch of code as "evil" (thousands of lines of spaghetti C) only to be lectured by an angry American colleague that Satan is evil and to call code evil was "offensive" to his beliefs.

        1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

          Re: No FreeBSD daemon?

          To which I reply: "Your beliefs are offensive to me and since you started this discussion ... ".

          Most beat a very hasty retreat after that.

      2. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: No FreeBSD daemon?

        Lynching you?

        Crucifixion, more likely!

        "Always look on the bright side of life..."

      3. Mystic Megabyte
        Joke

        Re: No FreeBSD daemon? @Evil Auditor

        Do what happens if you play Country music backward?

        You get your house back, your wife back and your chickens start laying :)

        1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

          Re: No FreeBSD daemon? @Evil Auditor

          I am not completely sure all three are good ideas.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: No FreeBSD daemon? @Evil Auditor

            I really would like the house back

        2. JJKing
          Facepalm

          Re: No FreeBSD daemon? @Evil Auditor

          Do what happens if you play Country music backward?

          You get your house back, your wife back and your chickens start laying :)

          DOH! You forgot to include that your dog leaves you too.

          1. keith_w Bronze badge

            Re: No FreeBSD daemon? @Evil Auditor

            And your pickup truck. Probably with the dog in it.

      4. Vometia Munro

        Re: No FreeBSD daemon?

        Ugh, that was a strange era in... well, whatever tf it was.

        I remember hearing some of that stuff. It started out kinda sorta like there might be something: it didn't require too much suspension of disbelief to hear "turn me on, dead man" in The Beatles' Revolution № 9, which tbf probably made more sense being played backwards than it did forwards anyway.

        But as it went on, it progressed through "actually, the disbelief is now tired of levitating" to the contrived, the downright silly and the actually so-bizarre-it's-slightly-disturbing, as in worse than the thing they were supposedly complaining about.

        I don't even recall the particular song that caused my wtf moment, something pretty innocuous by the Eagles or ELO or someone, but this increasingly insane ranting US preacher type played some except from it that went kinda:

        "mmmphmmgrpMM mmnnanngmFFM"

        as they do. And our ranty Archevangelist of the Batshit Insane said, "didja hear that? He said he wants to put Our Lawwwd Jeebus... inna paaht!" and I'm just left thinking, seriously daddio, the only pot around here is what you should be smoking to calm down a bit.

        He had a lot of fans, though. I don't know if they were True Believers™ or just there for the entertainment value. Sadly we'd parted company by the time I'd been introduced to Beastie. That would've had lots of potential to be quite interesting.

      5. shedied
        Coat

        Re: No FreeBSD daemon?

        My dad used to say No wonder they fed you to the lions!

      6. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: No FreeBSD daemon?

        "They came up with satanic backwards messages in rock songs"

        I've never found any in rock songs (there's one deliberately inserted in a Toto song, which is "E pluribus Unum") and the infamous backwards part of a certain Cure track is a BBC weather forecast

        Evangelical music is a different matter

        If you want to REALLY scare Evangelicals, ask one to say "mm, yes. Special we are" into a recorder and then reverse it. There are a huge number of apparently innoculous phrases which can result in things like that... (by the same token there are phrases in other languages which sound like things in other languages. See HHGTTG and Arthur Dent's "enormous trouble with my lifestyle" comment - just don't get eaten by any small dogs)

        1. Tomato Krill

          Re: No FreeBSD daemon?

          Give us a clue?

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: No FreeBSD daemon?

            Reverse Talk should be all you need

            https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=de.teamfunk.android.reversetalk&hl=en_GB

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Devil

      Re: No FreeBSD daemon?

      No FreeBSD daemonette?

  7. A____B
    Facepalm

    The frisson of Y2K

    Not earth loop related but similar....

    Back in 1999 (remember then? heady days, full of optimism..) we ran multiple tests on a duplicate rig to test everything prior to the 'big day' -- some interesting effects on licence servers winding dates back and forth but no problem.

    So, on the last working day before Christmas we started our regular annual shutdown (only real time the server room could be cleaned thoroughly and other maintenance done).

    Come the first working day of 2000, the IT team were in early to turn everything back on ready to welcome the joyous hordes back to their labours. Everything started up apart from the Windows NT file & print server. It refused to boot. No system found.

    Start of controlled panic. Several retries - yes the disc lamp flashed, yes there was a comforting sound if you put your ear to the case. Get the backups from the safe. Get the recovery boot CD. Start the preparations to do a controlled restore when, about 45 minutes into the story, in walked the youngest member of the team who popped out a floppy from the drive saying "I was looking for that!". Two things happened then: one - the system booted OK :-) and two - he was persuaded that he was on tea & coffee making duties for the whole week to calm down his colleagues.

    After that, a scheduled downtime was set to disable boot from floppy in the BIOS of all Windows servers -- especially as our boot images were all on CD anyway.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The frisson of Y2K

      I find it hard to believe that a whole team of experienced technical experts could have lot more than an hour or two before checking the floppy drive

      1. Nunyabiznes Silver badge

        Re: The frisson of Y2K

        "I find it hard to believe that a whole team of experienced technical experts could have lot more than an hour or two before checking the floppy drive"

        I don't. Sometimes the blindingly obvious has to hit you in the face for you to see it.

        There seems to be a point in experience level that you have seen enough to be very confident, but not enough to realize Murphy is your personal enemy. That's when this kind of stuff bites you and makes you an even better tech.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: The frisson of Y2K

          "I don't. Sometimes the blindingly obvious has to hit you in the face for you to see it."

          Yup. I have a story about an intermittent telco fault which plagued a site for 20 years until I showed up out of hours and found the devices in question had been wired into the non-essential power feeds

          More recently I was getting abuse about networking issues at the site I currently work at, to find that the affected areas were fed from a network switch in a building where the mains power got turned off by an overzealous manager at the end of each day.

      2. TWB

        Re: The frisson of Y2K

        @AC - in some ways I agree, but my experience has been that the 'obvious' and 'simple' will often be overlooked or just not considered in some situations.

        (sorry Nunyabiznes beat me to it)

        1. Will Godfrey Silver badge

          Re: The frisson of Y2K

          Absolutely! And people still get caught out by a failing CMOS RAM battery - myself included!

      3. Paul Shirley

        Re: The frisson of Y2K

        I struggle to believe they couldn't hear a floppy drive failing to boot...

        1. Adrian 4 Silver badge

          Re: The frisson of Y2K

          In a server room ?

          They'd have been wearing ear defenders. Or be deaf.

  8. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
    Flame

    Sparky

    HP (IIRC) laptop power supplies had an issue a few (probably 8-10) years ago... the clover-leaf plug that came with them had a manufacturing defect which left an air bubble between live and ground. eventually the plastic deteriorated and it sparked across. Left quite a good flash burn in the socket, along with a very surprised customer!

    Thankfully replacing the lead was all that was required, but it made quite an interesting root-cause investigation. Affected a sizeable batch too, but took a while to emerge.

  9. phy445

    Windows boot power draw?

    So Windows takes more power to boot than Linux? Why is this?

    Genuine question.

    1. jonathan keith Silver badge
      Windows

      Re: Windows boot power draw?

      It's partly due to the required Nyarlathotep invocation.

    2. coconuthead

      Re: Windows boot power draw?

      It does initialisation stuff in parallel, whereas before systemd Linux didn't as much.

      1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

        There's also the fact that Windows loads about 1000 drivers and services whether you need them or not, whereas Linux will only load what it needs to do the job it was configured for.

    3. jake Silver badge

      Re: Windows boot power draw?

      Not more power, different timing when bringing up the various hardware subsystems..

      1. Hubert Cumberdale Silver badge

        Re: Windows boot power draw?

        I once worked at a place with a machine that had an underpowered PSU and five hard drives (don't ask why...). It would only boot if the drives were connected to particular SATA ports on the motherboard. Theory was that this made them initialise in such a way that it staggered the peak power draw. Funnily enough, the PSU in that one eventually blew completely...

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Windows boot power draw?

          Back in the days of 5.25inch full height drives things like 80MB MFM _voicecoil_(not stepper motor) drives (yes, they really existed - @ about $50k apiece when new) would draw 200W. You had to be very careful about powering them on systems as the startup surge would crash a running system.

          1. Down not across Silver badge

            Re: Windows boot power draw?

            I had some lovely Imprimis Wren ESDI drives (yes, 5.25 FH) with voicecoil actuators. I remember testing with drives just sitting on the desk and they really wanted to wander around.

            Most drives had jumpers to select whether it spins up at power on or requires command to spin up. Been a while since I last looked at drive docs (good few years for some SCSI drives) but the jumper for that is probably still present.

          2. Stevie Silver badge

            Re: Windows boot power draw?

            I have a TAB book from the late 70's titled something like "build your own microcomputer" that bemoans the scarcity of stepper motors, that would have to be dumpster-dived for if you wanted to make a plotter since stepper motors were now considered a dead-end technology with no practical applications.

            Heh.

            The book also talks about how to "hack" a Mk7 teletype into a console by swapping two keycaps. Scan code differences meant the teletype couldn't simply be used as is.

            Not the daffiest DIY computer device I ever read about in those heady Zilog Z80 days.

  10. analyzer

    Visions of foriegn nightmares

    Twice in the 80s for some poor Vaxen where a stake in the ground was the building earth and it needed watering. First time took a week to hunt down, second was deja vu.

  11. regadpellagru

    the demon earth

    Many years ago, in India, we had mail appliances fail every 2 months.

    Yep, mobo burned, replacement was painful, because of customs, and it happened so many times, vs. many other sites where the same *never* happened once.

    At one point, I asked the dudes where they plugged the double PSUs setup. Of course, to 2 different power sources like is best practices.

    After asking them to plug both PSUs to the same power source, the issue never re-occurred.

    Yep, the 2 earth from the 2 power source were very different and it repeatedly killed the mobos *every* single time.

    In the same way, I had great flashes when working at one building, years ago, between my hand and the coffee machine, even after touching the other coffee machine 2 meters away. Yep, 2 connected buildings, and the earth was not connected properly, and have 100 V give or take voltage difference.

    Earth is a bitch.

    1. JassMan

      Re: the demon earth @regadpellagru

      Because India didn't used to be (and maybe still aren't) very hot on regulation of electrical systems most installations ran earth free even if the sockets had 3 pins. Why spend money on a 3rd wire(*) which never did anything, and if anyone died as a result of either leg connecting to chassis in a piece of equipment, then it was just the will of your preferred deity. Only when the cost of replacing expensive equipment is a factor, does earth get connected. Human life is cheap in many developing countries.

      *Anecdote from my father after a business trip to India. He visited a mine where not only did they not have canaries in cages (nor the electronic equivalent) they did all the lighting at 240V using uninsulated wires hung from plastic hooks hammered into the tunnel roofs, with branch cabling just twisted round the main feed. If you needed extra light at a work face you just dropped a light socket fitted with stiff wire across the 2 cables. No RCDs, no Isolators, no gas proof fittings. All in an effort to avoid capital outlay. If a few miners died when their picks and shovels touched a wire while they were standing in the omnipresent water, the others soon learned not to carry them on their shoulders.

      1. Hubert Cumberdale Silver badge

        Re: the demon earth @regadpellagru

        Yeah, it's true. Indian wiring so crazy.

        1. Strahd Ivarius Bronze badge

          Re: the demon earth @regadpellagru

          The swedish one was more organized...

          1. Hubert Cumberdale Silver badge

            Re: the demon earth @regadpellagru

            That's insane.

          2. Claverhouse Silver badge

            Re: the demon earth @regadpellagru

            The Telefontornet structure itself however, appears to be a magnificent example of Northern Gothic...

          3. Stevie Silver badge

            Re: the demon earth @regadpellagru

            That Swedish image is hauntingly beautiful in a Bas Lag/City and ytiC sort of way.

            The Indian one looks like the typical rear of a switch cabinet in my neck o' the machine room.

            Some of which have signs saying "Do not tidy this wiring" on them because of neatnik-induced network chaos.

        2. Olivier2553 Silver badge

          Re: the demon earth @regadpellagru

          You realise that the picture show mainly phone and fiber lines. power lines are in the bus, neatly arranged on the higher section of the poles.

    2. G.Y.

      Vonada Re: the demon earth

      Vonada's 1st axiom (in the big DEC book): "There is no such thing as ground" .

      See http://gunkies.org/wiki/Vonada's_Engineering_Maxims

  12. GlenP Silver badge

    Wiring Issues

    We did have a fairly critical wiring issue back at a former employer around the time of the new millennium. First thing in the morning a user turned their 3270 terminal on only for it to start smoking (it was probably underage but not by much!) This was only one terminal in a large office so obviously it's a failed device you'd think.

    No problem, we had plenty of spares as we were gradually moving over to PCs with terminal emulators so hauled another one out and tried that with the same result. OK, so not a device issue. Having found the maintenance man he put a meter on the socket, somewhat more than 240v coming through. It appears that one socket in the office was connected to a circuit in the factory that had developed an overnight wiring fault resulting in two phases getting crossed or some such. He then had the fun of finding a single isolator in amongst a lot of dodgy wiring to fix it without killing himself or shutting everybody down.

    On a much simpler level I once had a PC that wouldn't turn off. It was one of the earliest ones with a "soft" power switch and it turned out the 12v rail on the PSU had failed. Everything was running quite happily on 5v and it would power on OK but without the 12v it wouldn't turn off. Very odd and never did get fixed.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Wiring Issues

      "I once had a PC that wouldn't turn off"

      I bought a used riding lawnmower with the same problem. (Several other stories involved with that mower, too.) Only way to turn it off was to pull the spark plug wire. After a good couple jolts, I finally tracked down a wiring diagram, figured out what it was supposed to do to turn off (key in off position grounded a wire attached to the magneto), traced the wiring, and discovered that the magneto wire had a disconnectable plug in the middle of it - and it wasn't connected.

      1. ben kendim

        Re: Wiring Issues

        That's exactly why you test both magnetos during your run-up before taking off in a piston airplane.

        1. JJKing

          Re: Wiring Issues

          Actually the run up check is to make sure you don't get excessive RPM drop when you change from right to left. Missed a multi flight one day when there was a 150rpm drop between mags. Max was 50rpm IIRC. You do however do a dead cut check on shutdown to make sure the magnetos are not still live when you pull the mixture to shut the engine down.

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Wiring Issues

        "Only way to turn it off was to pull the spark plug wire. After a good couple jolts, "

        I'm surprised you didn't rig a ground wire you could simply drop on the plug.

        I had a lawnmower like that and a spanner from crankcase to sparkplug top was the preferred solution (a lot of Briggs and Tecumseh engines had a setup where the throttle arm grounded the magneto wire at the extreme end of travel. The wire inevitably popped loose or the contact would slip. The other trick was a screwdriver to bridge the gap but beware the reverse emf kick - and was usually fiddlier than the spanner)

  13. Dwarf Silver badge
    Joke

    Given that the article states that Linux was stable but Windows wasn't then it must surely follow that the earth loop device driver is more stable in Linux than Windows.

  14. Eric Kimminau TREG
    Devil

    Anyone around since the birth of Linux...

    Subscribes to the standard dietary fare of potato chips, ramen noodles, cheetos, Jolt Cola (or alternatively, Mountain Dew) and pr0n in order to survive. Anyone with sufficient experience in IT knows these are the standard offerings to gremlins and daemons.

    According to this site: https://uncyclopedia.ca/wiki/Programmer

    "Linus Torvalds is Bill Gates' role model. He created a way better and secure kernel than that of Microsoft. Ever Since Bill Gates has secretly admired Linus and in Private conversations with his close friends is reported to "always be riding Linus' dick". He (Bill) wished he helped code the Linux kernel, and that Microsoft Windows XP had a 1000th of the security that the average Linux distro has. Unfortunately, all hackers around the world use Linux distros to fuck up Microsoft Operating Systems and Microsoft OS users are so fucking noob, they think their own computers are just going ape-shit. He is still the best kernel programmer out there and gets free lap-dances every evening from any of his groupies that he allow to shove their tits in his face."

    So until Microsoft engineers and programmers began following Linux programmer best practices, that OS was subject to inheriting the Linux expelled daemons and gremlins. This can be the only possible explanation for this event. ;)

  15. Haynomonous

    Paging Bob Howard to the thread

    Not one for the Laundry Files, unfortunately.

  16. DutchBasterd

    Not a server, but I had this thing once with a 98 PC. It would bluescreen constantly. This was a workplace at a real estate business. So I took the thing home, switched it on, and there it sat, working perfectly fine for 24 hours. Took it back, BAM, bluescreen. After some puzzled thoughts I realized that the building this thing was in was quite old, so I told the customer to get their power outlet measured. Guess what, there was a slightly lower voltage in the building. But the computers that I sold them worked, because those power supplies could apparently handle it. This was an older PC, and well, it could not, apparently.

  17. redone

    No ground, no print

    This must have been in the late '80s. A customer had a LED printer, I think it was a NEC LC866, but I may misremember the name and model. Anyway, one day it started acting up. It would print one or two pages, then shut down completely. Over and over. I had to unplug and replug the printer to make it reset and start up again, every time.

    So my first try was to replace the motherboard. Then the power supply. Then some other board I can't recall. Nothing helped. Finally, on day two, I brought another identical and definitely working printer and, of course, it failed in the same way. I connected to a new computer, same problem.

    Somehow I got my hands on a schematic of the printer, and there, in the power supply, there's a little label pointing to an empty box, saying something like "ground fault detection". Whoa... first I ever heard of that.

    Pulled out a multimeter and measured between ground pin and the nearest radiator, and yes, there was a significant voltage difference.

    Now, when I told the customer that there was something definitely wrong with his ground wiring, he got all upset. He had paid a lot of money to have all of his electricity rewired months before, and everything worked fine up to a couple of days earlier. He had even had an inspector from the government go through the system just the other day, the day before the problems with the printer occurred. And he approved the system.

    My natural reaction was: "where exactly did this inspector go to inspect?". The customer takes me down into the basement and pointed to the ground disconnection bridge and says: "that's where he disconnected the ground to measure it". Yes, you guessed it, it was still disconnected... So much for inspection and approval.

    Admittedly, this wasn't a real ground loop problem, it's more a ground missing problem, but the next one was definitely a loop:

    Years later, I had a network problem at a customer's site. It took me all of five minutes to suspect ground loop problems, in particular since I saw actual sparks coming from the token ring network connectors. Experience does save time.

  18. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "I have only seen this sort of thing twice and if I hadn't seen the first one, I would probably be calling the exorcist myself."

    What did he do when he saw the first one?

  19. richardw42

    Memory problems

    Another Windows cs. Linux hardware issue.

    Had an old box with Windows on it and decided to install some flavour of Linux on it to use as email/ftp/file server.

    Windows was running OK, the odd app crash now and then but no big problems.

    Installed Linux.

    Would boot and work for a few minutes and then fall over with kernel panic. Every time.

    Back to Windows (on a spare HDD), worked fine.

    Linux, crash.

    Turned out to be memory.

    Don't know the difference between Windows and Linux kernel memory usage but Linux was regularly hitting the bad memory where Windows would avoid it. Just the occasional app using that bad memory causing the app to crash.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Memory problems

      "Turned out to be memory."

      fake cache ram by any chance? (PCCHIPS and MSI boards were particularly bad offenders)

      The standard test for that was to compile a linux kernel - Sig11 was the giveaway

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Memory problems

      "Turned out to be memory."

      Could have easily been a part of RAM where Windows put something not executed, eg a message string, or maybe a stuck bit that was stuck at 1 where the OS actually expected a 1, but a different OS used it from something more important such as executable code, or stored data than should have been a 0 when read and was stuck at 1. There can be many reasons why a small RAM fault might work or fail under different circumstances.

    3. rivimey

      Re: Memory problems

      Back then it was "well known" that the Linux kernel used the available memory much more thoroughly than Windows did; I am unsure of the exact cause but I believed then that Linux would proactively buffer files and use swap processes more aggressively.

      The result was frequently to discover bad memory fairly quickly with Linux (usually via segfault) while with Windows it would only show up as a BSOD every so often, which had so many other causes it was considered unremarkable.

      The standard answer at the time was to "run memtest86" (later memtest86+) to discover which bank was faulty.

  20. Tom 7 Silver badge

    MS RAID!

    We has a RAID 1 configured NT server that started failing. Both disks were identical according to all tests. You could make a copy of either of them and put that disk in and the system would be fine but the two perfectly functional disks in failed. Boot to linux with failing disks in and the raid was fine. Put it down as a WAWA - whistle and walk away. After spending a weekend just completely intrigued as to why it was failing - we think NT just got bored with these two disks in this machine - they worked in other identical boxen and non-identical boxen.

  21. LenG

    Really dating myself

    When I replaced the 9" B&W monitor on my Apple IIe with a flash new 12" amber screen it stopped booting, To cut a long story short there was a magnetic field from one side of the monitor which disabled the left hand (boot) drive. I could boot from the RH drive (after swapping the cables) but then I still couldn't use the LH drive. I eventually had to stack the disk drives to the side of the system unit.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Really dating myself

      "I eventually had to stack the disk drives to the side of the system unit."

      That's what you were supposed to do. Stacking the drives side by side and then the screen on top was just because it looked "cool" in the adverts. It was never a good idea to place a CRT on top of the floppy drives. Apple marketing hype from day one! :-)

  22. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    Oh, that takes me back. After a routine check we discovered our network ground was floating at something like 120v, with the signal swinging between 115v and 125v. "Luckily", the server and client machines' power ground was also floating at 120v. Really luckily nobody was in the habit of sticking a wet finger into a network socket with their other hand clamping a radiator pipe.

  23. Norman Nescio

    Earth/Ground/CPC

    Much like the writer above with the poorly manufactured HP power cables, I have experience of an unexpected manufacturing fault...

    One of the 9-track tape drives in our data centre gave an unhealthy electric shock to an operator one day. He survived, but the problem was finding the fault. After 'a bit' of investigation, it turned out that the sealed power cable had been miswired - I don't know the precise details, but I suspect that the CPC and neutral had been swapped (this was in the days before RCDs, which would have tripped instantly).

    The ops manager was an unhappy bunny after that, and made it a rule that all power cables used in the data centre were tested to check they were correctly wired before use (this was also way before PAT, which would not have applied anyway, because none of the kit he was responsible for could be remotely described as portable, usually requiring specialist delivery lorries and strengthened floors.).

  24. JJKing
    Meh

    FYI

    The Server CD David not his name was taking to the site would have been Windows 2000 Server and not NT 4.0 coz it booted off the bloody annoying 3 floppies. Even Windoze 95, 95 OSR2, 98, 98SE, ME (damn, just threw up in my mouth typing that last one) used boot floppies to start unless you were doing an Upgrade.

    1. Cian Duffy

      Re: FYI

      98, 98SE and ME all had bootable CDs, floppies were offered for PCs that didn't have CD boot support only.

    2. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Bronze badge

      Re: FYI

      NT 4.0 can boot from CD for Setup. It was from SP3 or SP4 (integrated) on, as far as I can remember. Too lazy to google that now.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Genny + 3 phase = £bang

    Well a large number of years ago in a place that not far enough away ..... we had telesales using old (even then) xt pc as terminals.

    One day a "new" generator was connected up and tested ...... oh why are the pc's going BANG ? Ah..... does help if the 3-phase genny is wired up correctly ..... all switched on XT's had blown psu's...... not a "good thing" (TM) in a telesales organisation :-)

    Much hilarity ensued .... AC to protect the person wot got blamed ....

  26. StuntMisanthrope

    He’s behind you.

    Have you heard the one about Tesla and Edison dressed as each other at the same fancy dress party. #cameasashock

  27. Mage Silver badge
    Facepalm

    reminder to cloud refuseniks that on-premises email has its downsides

    How?

    The so called cloud ultimately is a real server in someone else's premises and with opaque information to you how it's managed. All the cloud vendors have had both fat finger, patch update and HW failure outages.

    That's Turtles all the way Down thinking.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: reminder to cloud refuseniks that on-premises email has its downsides

      "The so called cloud ultimately is a real server in someone else's premises "

      Which is why IF you're going to do it, you use multiple cloud providers

      who will promptly merge behind the scenes, destroying your carefully planned redundancy

  28. dklaus

    When ground isn't the same

    Back in the day before digital books I worked at headquarters of a U.S. book distributor that shipped to retailers. The company and its processing needs had grown considerably since it had moved into its location. (Books are generally inexpensive and heavy so are expensive to ship vs price, therefore you don't want returns of unsold inventory. They had one person who had put together a system that analyzed historic sales per store and was able to very accurately set reorder quantities per book to maximize sales and minimize returns. What is today hyped as Analytics was in the day a huge competitive advantage.) The computer room consisted of 4 rows of 9 foot tall racks with an assortment of Digital Equipment Corporation minis and super minis, a SAN storage, and assorted Windows servers. All of this was powered through a large always on UPS / Power Conditioner that fed its output to a breaker panel, which fed the room. Our problems started when a new DEC Alpha server was brought in (along with additional SAN storage) and reviewing the power requirements showed we would exceed the limits on our UPS. A second UPS was acquired from the same manufacturer and was installed along with a second breaker panel. Both UPS's were wired to a common 480V feed that lead to the power switch for our stand-by generator. Everything worked fine up until we started shifting some of the existing equipment to the new UPS. Strange hardware failures, system restarts, and hangs occurred. The eye opening moment was when we were working at a station with a VGA KVM switch and noticed that for the system on the new UPS the colors were 'off' (not correct). It was the last 'its weird' moment, and an Electrician was borough in who determined that the ground level between the two UPS's at the breaker panels had a 50V difference. The ground for the equipment for each UPS was supplied through the circuit of that UPS. He installed a ground wire between the two breaker panels, and there were no more problems. It lasted until the company was shut down.

  29. SuperGeek

    It wasn't a spirit....

    But an Earthly poltergeist!! Wearing a yellow/green cloak!

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