back to article Rookie's code couldn't have been so terrible that it made a supermarket spontaneously combust... right?

It's March again and we're still (mostly) indoors. Let us take your mind off the long, dark teatime of the soul (to paraphrase Douglas Adams) with another reader confession in The Register's Who, Me? column. It's back to school for us today as a reader Regomised as "Harry" regales us with a tale from a late-1990s work …

  1. Korev Silver badge
    Joke

    Sad to see that even back then burnout was common in IT...

    1. Korev Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      I'm not sure that is something we should be joking about really, so I'll downvote myself...

      1. Evil Auditor
        Thumb Up

        I'd rather go with there is nothing that you cannot joke about. Thumb up for self-awareness.

        1. Korev Silver badge
          Pint

          I dunno, it pushed me over a thousand downvotes...

          One to help me celebrate after work -->

          1. John Sager

            What's your upvote/downvote ratio though? >1 heaven, <1 hell. Not sure what =1 is...

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              "Not sure what =1 is..."

              Sitting on the fence?

              1. AHW

                I never said it was your fault, I said I was blaming you.

              2. Rol Silver badge

                If my old boss got his wish, and I like to think he did, it is sitting between God and the devil, helping to sort out their differences and having them get along. An arbitrator, that has a foot in both camps, but isn't hampered by partisan politics.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Like many long-running conflicts - the leaders don't want a decisive victory otherwise they will have to address their population's other issues. There always has to someone else you can blame for every decision you make.

            2. Eclectic Man Silver badge

              According to Dante

              =1 would be eternity in Limbo, worth all those unbaptised babies, and dead people who died without being told the good news of Christianity.

              Of course, that is only for those who follow Christianity. Hindus, Buddhists etc. may have other ideas.

            3. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Not sure what =1 is...

              Purgatory - a Register editor.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                regedit for short

                1. Korev Silver badge
                  Childcatcher

                  >regedit for short

                  I'm disappointed that they don't already use this

              2. John Sager

                I thought of Purgatory after I posted, but too late to edit.

            4. Someone Else Silver badge

              Not sure what =1 is...

              Limbo?

              Average?

              Life on Earth?

              Wednesday?

            5. Korev Silver badge
              Pirate

              What's your upvote/downvote ratio though?

              ~24

              I just need to make a few pro-cycling comments and say how much I like Windows to lower it.

            6. Glen 1 Silver badge
              Trollface

              =1 could be an assignment...

          2. Captain Scarlet
            Trollface

            What you want to do if you haven't already, is say some comment that really annoys someone so much that every comment they see with your name on they will downvote you.

            Oddly my unknown nemesis has stopped, I hope his ok (As I am 250 off 1k dislikes)

            1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

              The nicest thing

              I may have one too. I was doing ok (upvote to downvote ratio almost at 20:1) when I injudiciously made a critical remark of what is obviously a well-loved and respected cultural icon, and got over 20 downvotes on a single post. Followed by inexplicable single downvotes on innocuous, factual posts without any replies to explain said downvote.

              I consider that to have been a 'learning experience'. And obviously, a downvote from some people counts as an upvote from others. The nicest thing anyone has ever said to me was when a racist lady called me a "n*&&%r lover". And I didn't even have the courtesy to thank her.

              My conclusion is that the upvote to downvote ratio here on the Register, although of great cultural significance (lots of PhD theses will be written about it), is not necessarily an effective indication of you after-death destination.

              1. W.S.Gosset Silver badge
                Happy

                Re: The nicest thing

                I was going to upvote you, but that single strident downvote so magnificently underlines and emphasises your post that I just couldn't.

            2. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

              Yes, there's a few people like that here.

              I once interrupted a virtue-meme self-righteous circle-jerk with some actual facts --which not only were readily verifiable and invalidated the virtue-meme, but actually proved the opposite was reality-- and on top of the downvote pile-on, several people crawled my comment history to downvote hundreds of comments, each.

              Subsequently I get downvoted routinely.

              My downvote number I now view as a measure of the number and degree of pathological personalities on this site.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Humour is the way many societies cope with disturbing facts of life that are not otherwise allowed to be addressed.

        1. TRT Silver badge

          Indeed, just what The Doctor ordered.

          Yes, the clown / jester is a familiar figure, anthropologically speaking. He diffuses a potential source of conflict through mockery and ridicule; don't you?

    2. Stoneshop Silver badge
      Flame

      Well

      With new hardware you do burn-in testing.

      So why not with new software?

    3. arachnoid2 Bronze badge
      Joke

      So he nearly got fired himself

  2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Shouldn't have put that HCF instruction in...

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Ah! Though one could have balanced the flammability risk out with an HFC subroutine.

  3. tip pc Silver badge

    Not just me then.

    As the youngest of 4 i always got the blame for everything when i was growing up.

    I still do now of course.

    funny incident a few months back, something broke on a project i was on, suspicions flying that it was something i had done, bosses checking my change controls, what systems i had logged into and what commands i had run etc. The fact was, other than log in & run commands to take a look around, i had made no changes so should probably have got into some trouble for not doing any changes, but i could hardly of got into trouble for breaking the project as i hadn't made any changes at all to anything anywhere for about 2 weeks.

    I think i dodged a bullet there!!

    1. RockBurner

      Re: Not just me then.

      Nah - the eldest is always the one held responsible, the youngest can't possibly be expected to be aware of the consequences yet....

      (eldest of 3 here)

      1. Will Godfrey Silver badge
        Unhappy

        Re: Not just me then.

        I agree with tip pc

        Also the youngest

        Also always got the blame

      2. Evil Auditor

        Re: Not just me then.

        I think it depends entirely on who's cleverer. Says one who usually got the blame.

        1. CuChulainn

          Re: Not just me then.

          I know the feeling.

          When I was in my early teens, and having just got into electronics and making my own circuit boards, it was always me who got blamed for throwing ferric chloride solution down the sink and staining it. Or dropping solder on the carpet.

          Not my sister, who was four years younger. Oh, no. Always me.

          A complete stitch up, I tells ya.

          1. Evil Auditor
            Devil

            Re: Not just me then.

            At least, you didn't get blamed for throwing ferric chloride solution down your sister which she clearly deserved for dropping solder on the carpet.

            1. CuChulainn

              Re: Not just me then.

              I usually got blamed for throwing it down me. Another stitch up.

              As you probably know, ferric chloride has a delayed action on clothing - especially natural fibres. Apart from the fact that you can't get the brown stain off unless you're quick, if it's spilt on jeans or shirts it gradually bleaches them, then eats through the cotton/denim, so you end up with holes.

              Thinking about it, people will spend hundreds these days on jeans that look like all mine did anyway back in the day - many as a result of some initial contact with ferric chloride to start the rot.

              1. Evil Auditor
                Boffin

                Re: Not just me then.

                I do know the stuff but less so the holes because usually I was wearing a lab coat. But it reminds me of an incident back then. I had to take care of some interns. This rather small lab with all the nice chemicals for making printed ciruits had quite a distinctiv stink to it. And its windows were covered with UV filter to protect the photoresist. One of the interns asked if we could open the windows to let some fresh air in. In a fit of silliness I answered that no, we can't because for environmental protection we are not allowed to let those fumes escape into the air outside. Never saw any of those interns ever again.

                Mind you, I was pretty young too. And probably did, after all, deserve the blame I got. But somehow I still feel a bit guilty about that incident. Many years later after I long moved on, a neighbour learnt that I used to work for this company. She told me of a guy who was strongly adviced not to work there because apparently they handle hazardous chemicals without any protection.

              2. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Not just me then.

                "[...] as a result of some initial contact with ferric chloride to start the rot."

                In the 1960s we used to get slabs of ferric chloride mail order - probably from Henry's Radio or Proops - delivered by Royal Mail. Now on their explicit banned substance list. It was also deliquescent - so any solid droppings soon became a corrosive liquid.

          2. vogon00

            Re: Not just me then.

            Ohhh, ferric chloride,,,,i remember that... it's lovely stuff....NOT!

            My personal wall-of-shame moment when experimenting as a young'un was to attempt to light up a neon indicator/bulb using household 240VAC, obtained by disassembling the bed-side light and twisting the phase and neutral wires directly onto the bulb leads.

            I learnt quickly that a neon that usually operates on 90VAC doesn't like 240V and tends to disassemble itself with a loud 'pop', some smoke and some flames. I also learnt that the bed covering was flammable.

            I soon moved on to bigger and better things, like blowing the fuse for half the sockets in the house by letting the soldering iron burn through it's own cable.

            Fun times, they were - it's all boring and 'safe' now.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Not just me then.

              My brother borrowed my DVM - and then measured the mains voltage when the meter was set to Amps.....

              Still see the scorch marks on the wooden floor.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Not just me then.

                I decided to measure the resistance of the mains supply, which the then still analogue (and brand new) multimeter didn't take kindly to.

                It was quite spectacular, though, still worth it :).

          3. onemark03 Bronze badge

            Of course the youngest always get the blame.

            They're the ones least able to defend themselves.

      3. BebopWeBop Silver badge
        Unhappy

        Re: Not just me then.

        The eldest of 4 who provided tech support for my parents - always to blame, even if I had never been near their house and never even heard they had bought some new kit.

        1. CuChulainn

          Re: Not just me then.

          I remember back in the 80s one day. We had an earthquake - and yes, this was in the UK.

          It was more of a big tremor, but it did do some structural damage. One house, in particular, almost lost its chimney stack - it was a tall one and it had twisted around by perhaps 5 degrees and all the pointing had gone.

          But anyway, the afternoon it happened, I was sitting in front of my Atari 800XL. I quickly stood up thinking the late teenage equivalent of 'what the f*** was that?' (actually, I did think exactly that, and probably said it, too).

          My dad went racing up the stairs and came out with the immortal line: 'What have you done now?'

          Being blamed for an earthquake is definitely top of my list of being accused of stuff.

          1. Conundrum1885

            Re: Not just me then.

            Like that time I was testing one of my "creations", a dual ignition coil beast with Epoxy insulators and TV flyback wire spark spewing gadget running on a chunky 12V SLA that I was certain qualified as a weapon of mass destruction when it wasn't blowing 2N3055's like popcorn and the occasional 555 timer.

            Turned it on, had near 2 foot snappy impulse sparks probably >80,000V jumping the gap about every third or fourth pulse and all of a sudden the lights went out. Cue angry voice "WHAT DID YOU DO THIS TIME!" and rapidly hiding said device under more junk.

            Nope not me this time, twas a massive positive lightning strike to the main switching station somewhere in Europe.

            So that was the time I got unfairly blamed for a multiple hour power cut.

            AC because shortly afterwards it got dismantled for "safety!" reasons.

            Then there was the force beam incident..

          2. Bogbody

            Re: Not just me then.

            Ah that earthquake.....

            My brother was up a ladder at roof hight planning a repair when it struck.

            He said it looked very odd with the slates flapping like waves in water radiating out from a stone thrown in a pond.

            He came down the ladder very quickly when he realised what was happening

            :-)

          3. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

            Re: Not just me then.

            Not quite in the same league as an earthquake, but around ten years ago I was in the kitchen when a pair of the RAF's finest went supersonic over the Midlands, where we lived at the time. "What the fuck are you doing?" came my wife's dulcet tones from the living-room!

          4. H in The Hague Silver badge

            Re: Not just me then.

            "We had an earthquake - and yes, this was in the UK."

            There were some tourists in the Blue John Cavern in the Peak District at the time. After they got out they apparently described the experience as 'very interesting - preferably not to be repeated'.

            1. Diogenes

              Re: Not just me then.

              I was abused by SWMBO as the house started swaying when I was jackhammering some rock near the foundations. It was actually the Newcastle (on Hunter) earthquake

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. JimboSmith Silver badge

      Re: Not just me then.

      One company I slaved for had a good relationship with a software house. They had industry leading DOS software suite when everybody was now using Win 95/98. So we were chosen to be Guinea Pigs for their new windows version. Now their products may have been industry leading but they didn't have a stellar reputation. They convinced one of our directors to pay for a bloke to come from the USA to install their new software. We'd also be paying a reduced rate on the license for the period we were testing. Why we were paying anything was beyond me but there we go.

      So we started using it as a test bed with the data from four of our services. I had written a post it note saying "Days since last crash 0" and affixed it to the crt monitor bezel. I never had to change it though. We'd been using the software for two weeks and we had crashes every day. Then one day everything stopped working. It was totally dead and not just one program it was the whole suite. The UK office sent people round to try and fix things. They couldn't fix it and people had to remote in from head office in the US as well. They needed to take copies of our data for examination which required an NDA. They took until the week after to have things back up and running. The explanation was that one character in one of our datasets and a filename had corrupted everything. After a short in house evaluation we politely told them to take their software and sod off. We told them we couldn't have that happen on live machines. One day would have been bad enough, one week would have killed us. They tried to say we had to accept a lot of the blame as we'd been the ones using odd characters in our data. That was the kicker.

      The youngest member of the team got given the blame (firmly tongue in cheek) for the whole mess. He was deeply unimpressed as he had been on holiday for those two weeks.

    4. Eclectic Man Silver badge
      Meh

      Re: Not just me then.

      Ah yes, you see, the youngest person always gets the blame because "everything was fine until YOU came along". And "Why did YOU have to spoil everything by being born?" Which seems to be the attitude of my elder sister, who was once asked which of our parents was the cleverest. She thought for a while and responded (rather astutely I must admit):

      "Daddy's very clever, but Mummy knows how to get her own way."*

      *(And if she reads this, she will know who I am and I will be in serious trouble. No point going AC either, not with her x-ray vision.)

  4. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge
    Flame

    His job didn't involve changes to the print queue did it?

    Good old Unix printer error lp0...

    Did they confirm if it was the server or office printer that immolated first?

    1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

      Re: His job didn't involve changes to the print queue did it?

      Ah, lp0. A bit of a diversion, but it brought this to mind.

      I've related this tale before, but back in the depths of time, I was working in single user mode (as root) on a PDP-11/34 (actually a SYSTIME 5000E) trying to get something like the 22-bit memory, or it may have been the Calgary buffer mods for UNIX Edition 6 or 7 working.

      Being in single user mode, the printer daemon was not working, so I got into the habit of cat'ing files directly to /dev/lp0 to print them. This worked fine, but on one time, through force of habit, I typed rp0 instead of lp0...

      You can already tell, can/t you. We had RP03 disks (well actually emulations to drive SMD disks), and rp0 happened to be the device file for the root filesystem at the beginning. Wiped out the boot sector, the superblock and the first few dozen inodes for the root filesystem.

      It would not really have mattered too much if it had not been my development disk pack (removable disks back in those days), and contained several weeks of work trying to get the extended features of the SYSTIME system working, without a backup (we had too few disk packs, and no tape drive at that time).

      I reasoned that the first couple of hundred files on the disk would not have changed since I cloned the disk from the live system disk a few weeks before (back in the days of UNIX Edition 6 and 7, filesystems, especially the root filesystem, did not change that much), so I took the gamble of just overwriting the corrupted portion of the disk with a copy from the backup of the live disk.

      It was a relief when it fixed and then passed icheck, dcheck, ncheck and I think fsck (fsck only appeared on the Edition 7 addendum tape). The biggest surprise was that it was able to fix the beginning of the free list, although identifying the beginning of the free list was always something that had to be fixed during a normal system crash (the pointer to the beginning of the linked-list of free blocks on the filesystem was held in the filesystem superblock, which was frequently re-written when blocks were peeled off the list to be used, making losing the beginning of the free list the most common filesystem corruption).

      You learn by your mistakes...

  5. Admiral Grace Hopper
    Facepalm

    The power of coincidence

    I was working in an office that overlooked the roof of the computer hall. I was demonstrating a new piece of code that did useful things to an Oracle database. As I pressed the button to do the business, there was a rumble as the emergency generators kicked into action, the flap on the exhaust of the generator engines flipped up and dark smoke started belching out while the lights dimmed briefly as the power supply switched over. I had to spend 5 minutes convincing the assembled management that the loss of external power had nothing to do with me running a script on the Oracle server.

    1. KittenHuffer Silver badge

      Re: The power of coincidence

      My favourite perfect timing/just coincidence/did that really happen moment was about 3 decades ago. Walking through the pedestrian shopping precinct in the middle of Portsmouth with my ex-SWMBO. the problem being that the ex-SWMBO had a near phobia about animals (ALL animals) so avoiding the flying rats (eons of pigs!) was her prime concern. And trying to pull my arm out at the shoulder when one got too close.

      For a bit of fun, I quietly said that all you needed to do was say the magic words, and when asked what they were I said "Pigeon Pie! Pigeon Pie! Pigeon Pie!". And just as I finished EVERY flying rat decided as one to leave as quickly as possible! The look on ex-SWMBOs face was priceless! (And no! There were no dogs running around, or stamping sprogs, or firecrackers going off. I really didn't see anyone or anything that set them off.)

      The story was repeated by the ex-SWMBO to friends and family, and years later I would occasionally catch various relatives repeating the magic words hoping for a repeat performance.

    2. Stu J

      Re: The power of coincidence

      I once pressed "Online" on my parents dot matrix printer (my mum couldn't get it to print, for obvious reasons), and the electrical substation opposite their house exploded...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The power of coincidence

        I repaired my parents' old TV - with my mother nervously hovering as she was afraid of electricity. At the instant I plugged it back into the mains socket by the room window - there was a rumble and a large cloud of smoke rose over the rooftops opposite. A transformer had blown in the 132kv distribution centre in the next street. My mother was convinced it was my fault.

        1. druck Silver badge

          Re: The power of coincidence

          Mothers are like that, I was a qualified CEGB test engineer for a short time many years ago, she knew I was allowed fiddle with conventional and nuclear plant, but still stood over me when wiring a plug, and asked if I was sure I knew what I was doing. God rest her soul.

      2. Someone Else Silver badge
        Coffee/keyboard

        @ Stu J -- Re: The power of coincidence

        Look what you went and made me did! - - - >

      3. C R Mudgeon

        Re: The power of coincidence

        Impressive. Most impressive.

    3. Shooter
      Facepalm

      Re: The power of coincidence

      Early on in my industrial maintenance career I was tasked with making a few minor repairs at a paper mill. The mill was in the middle of their week-long maintenance break, and had throngs of outside contractors all over the place - millwrights, electricians, pipe-fitters, you name it.

      I had just come back from my lunch break and was getting ready to start on a new repair. I reached out to the safety switch so I could lock-out the machine. At the very moment that I threw the switch, the entire mill went dark!

      Other than a few points of light from workers who just happened to have flashlights on them at the time, and some woefully feeble emergency lights, pretty much pitch black. Dozens of workers in the dark, many of them in precarious positions in or on the machinery.

      Although I couldn't imagine how that switch would turn off an entire paper mill, I immediately returned it to the "ON" position and wandered away wearing my best "Who, me?" expression. No, the lights did not come back on...

      Turned out that the mill engineers had arranged for some type of electrical upgrade to the incoming power feeds, which necessitated shutting down the mill for about four hours. Somehow, word never got passed along to the crews doing the inside work.

      Oddly enough (or maybe not), that mill shut down about five years later. Shortly thereafter the mostly empty building caught fire in what was widely suspected to be an insurance scam.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The power of coincidence

        "Shortly thereafter the mostly empty building caught fire in what was widely suspected to be an insurance scam."

        Ahh yes, a friction fire. Lots of fires start from fiction, you know. Friction from a heavy mortgage rubbing up against a fat insurance policy.

      2. Muscleguy Silver badge

        Re: The power of coincidence

        This mill wouldn’t have been in Guardbridge Fife by any chance would it?

        1. Diogenes

          Re: The power of coincidence

          Or owned by Graham Richardson (ex Aussie Govt Minister) and Rene Rivkin (spiv - grade 1) ?

        2. Shooter

          Re: The power of coincidence

          Nope - it was on the left side of the pond.

      3. aaronlow_aaronlow

        Re: The power of coincidence

        I was once performing spike testing on a large system. I clicked the single pulse button and the power to the whole neighborhood lost power. Turns out the instant I pressed the spike button, someone crashed into a powerline and took out the neighborhood.

    4. Shadow Systems

      Re: The power of coincidence

      I had been listening to the local news on the telly while I was doing homework on my computer. I heard the weather announcer saying something about severe winds & lots of rain heading my way, so decided I'd shut everything down & unplug it to protect it from potential electrical damage. (My parents wouldn't let me buy a UPS, those things were nearly the size of my computer desk at the time.)

      Anyway, just as I've told the computer to shutdown & I'm reaching for the power switch on the power strip, there's a HUGE flash of light outside our windows followed a moment later by an Earth-shattering KA-BOOM of thunder. I slowly pulled my finger back from the now off power strip & blinked away the spots of dazzling lights in my eyes. I'm still sitting there staring out the window at the T&L storm that's just stomped our house when my mom asks from the doorway: "Did YOU do that? Damnit, stop it!"

      It shouldn't surprise anyone why I'm a bit paranoid about that sparky zappy stuff. =-j

      *Gives the power strip TheEvilEye, forks fingers at it, & hisses like a scalded cat*

      Evil, EVIL zappy stuff!

  6. Roger Kynaston Silver badge
    Flame

    Copmputer room shutdown

    We were having to shut all the kit down so some electrical work could be done. I had done a cron job on my SUN boxes to take them to init 0 which left them at the OK prompt. I duly entered the power-off command and with a clunk everything turned off in the room well before the Windows mob had got half way through their order shutdown process. A moment of bowel loosening panic ensued where I wondered how the test payroll server could switch everything off when the facilities guy came in and said "Good, all off then." The language from the Windows guys was not fit for the delicate ears of Register commentards.

    1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      Re: Copmputer room shutdown

      I seriously hope that "electrical work" was fitting a UPS!

      1. DS999 Silver badge

        Re: Copmputer room shutdown

        Even if you have a UPS you may have electrical work that requires shutting down the power getting to the racks.

      2. JeffB
        FAIL

        Re: Copmputer room shutdown

        Or the UPS was duff (nothing new there...)

  7. TonyJ Silver badge

    Back in the 90's...

    ...one place I worked at fired a sales drone.

    I am foggy on the details but it was some kind of inappropriate behaviour.

    Apparently whilst being frogmarched off the premises (remote sales office in Bristol, I think) he was apparently furious and screamed out that he would return that night and "burn this place to the ground".

    Oddly, it turned out, he kept his promise.

    It didn't take long to track the genius down, either, unsurprisingly.

    We had one guy who left the head office under a bit of a cloud. Nothing sackable just a clash of personalities.

    The weekend after he left, someone was caught on CCTV that Saturday night filling every accessible external lock with superglue. The hoody and poor quality of the night vision made it impossible to tell who it was, of course, and no one was stupid enough to admit to it.

    Made a fun Monday morning when no one could get in until a locksmith could arrive.

    Oh and whilst I remember - there was a time when one French company I worked for, who had a plant in Birmingham that built trains, had said facility broken into by armed gunmen.

    Nothing was taken of exceptional value but they did take a set of master keys and some IT access badges.

    For some reason management thought that was ok and did nothing.

    A few weeks later they returned and emptied the server room as well as a few other high value locations (most definitely inside knowledge). Management response "Well we didn't expect them to know which keys they took but we do at least know whose access cards were used..."

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: Back in the 90's...

      I started work at a site the same week that some incompetent in the Finance department was put on gardening leave for allegedly covering up some expensive cockup he'd made in a finance spreadsheet; it was my job to do a bit of basic forensic work (IT, not the accounting type) on his PC and the server share hosting some of the spreadsheets. I also searched the office for floppy disks (this was in the time of Windows 95) and found some unofficial backups tucked away which contained incriminating versions of the covered-up files.

      There was a suspicion that Mr Incompetent would have wanted to get rid of those floppies if he hadn't been frogmarched out by Security, so it wasn't a surprise to hear the following day that he'd been spotted on camera trying to break into his office in the middle of the night. His office window was hidden from the main walk by bushes and they found jemmy marks in the woodwork, plus burn marks where he'd attempted to start a fire once he failed to break in (presumably he chose not to break the glass because it would have made too much noise). He'd clearly given up and walked away, because he was on two of the security cameras, with a hoody and baseball cap obscuring his face. Mr Incompetent lived up to his name by pulling down his hood and taking off his cap the moment he stepped off the property, providing an absolutely perfect mugshot to the camera across the road watching the gate.

    2. not.known@this.address Silver badge

      Re: Back in the 90's...

      "...but we do at least know whose access cards were used..."

      I know the names of senior people in my organisation so I could code keycard with their names. That doesn't mean they were involved in any misbehaviour that resulted from the use of those cards. If someone is smart enough to steal the keys and access cards to get in, it is not too much of a leap to assume they won't use their own names or the name(s) of their inside man (or men)(*) - unless they are going to deliberately sacrifice those people - which does not bode well for the rest of their names being kept secret for long.

      (*) or "inside woman (or women)". Or whatever else the thieves might want to identify as...

      1. TonyJ Silver badge

        Re: Back in the 90's...

        "..I know the names of senior people in my organisation so I could code keycard with their names. That doesn't mean they were involved in any misbehaviour that resulted from the use of those cards. If someone is smart enough to steal the keys and access cards to get in, it is not too much of a leap to assume they won't use their own names or the name(s) of their inside man (or men)(*) - unless they are going to deliberately sacrifice those people - which does not bode well for the rest of their names being kept secret for long.

        (*) or "inside woman (or women)". Or whatever else the thieves might want to identify as...."

        Think you missed the point:

        That being that they'd nicked said cards, as well as master keys, in the first robbery. The cards weren't deactivated. Locks weren't changed.

        They *already* knew which cards had been taken. There wasn't supposed to be any suggestion of wrongdoing or involvement of those people.

    3. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      Re: Back in the 90's...

      "The access card usage is all logged on this server... wait, where's the server? ...Oh."

    4. spold

      Re: Back in the 90's...

      Back in the 90s, I worked in a 6 story building leased by a computer company with Incredibly Borked Management. One Bank Holiday, when the place was empty, thieves broke in.... they didn't access the office spaces, which had badge access, but they did steal all the security cameras!

  8. Christoph

    Get into work, check that the lines to the subsidiary offices are OK. Nope, one of the cards is dead, no lights showing.

    Phone that office, ask the switchboard to put me through to the computer room.

    "Sorry, we can't transfer calls at the moment, we've had a power cut"

    "Ah thanks, that answers the question I was about to ask!"

  9. gnasher729 Silver badge

    One place I worked, when we all came in on Monday morning, the build server was down. They tried for an hour to contact it, until some bright spark had the idea to actually go into the server room.

    He found an open window (the glass variation), an opened server, and all the RAM in the server had gone missing.

    1. Martin Silver badge
      Happy

      We had a similar issue once at a bank I worked at. Someone managed to bluff their way into the computer room at about 6pm, switched off a server and took all the RAM out, presumbly put it into his pocket and just calmly left.

      Around that time, one of the users called down to say that the server seemed to have failed - which is when the theft was discovered. It could only have been about five or ten minutes between nicking the RAM and the support guys finding the machine with the lid off - but he got clean away!

      Security got tightened up at bit after that....

    2. SuperGeek

      "He found an open window (the glass variation), an opened server, and all the RAM in the server had gone missing."

      Literally a RAM raid! :)

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      About 30 years ago I worked for a large UK telco. We had a 10 storey office block with 24/7 security staff. The bean counters decided that was too expensive as no staff normally worked over night or at weekends. So the security was downgraded to 5 days a week from about 07.00 to 19.00. The following weekend the office was broken into and all the IT gear from 10th to 6th floor was taken. Huge panic and lots of accusations on the Monday, Following weekend the 5th to ground floors were emptied!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Someone obviously gained access to our building during working hours. Then stripped desktop RAM overnight before getting away next day undetected.

        Back in the days when the building had landscaped lawns down to the road - and no security fence. At a weekend a lorry rolled up and told the lone security guy they were there to take away lab oscilloscopes for recalibration. The security guy even helped them load them on the lorry.

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        "The following weekend the office was broken into and all the IT gear from 10th to 6th floor was taken. Huge panic and lots of accusations on the Monday, Following weekend the 5th to ground floors were emptied!"

        If I'd been in charge of the gang of thieves, I'd have come back two weeks later and gone to the same floors since they'd now be full of brand new kit!

    4. Red Ted Silver badge
      Happy

      Money making exercise

      In the early '90s there were shops in Tottenham Court Road that would pay cash for PC RAM.

      One of the open access rooms at collage had PCs that were used for CAD and so had a whopping 4MB of RAM (as 4x1MB) in them.

      I never quite had the nerve to carry out my plan to take half the RAM out of all of them as it would have taken a long time for someone to work out why the computers were a bit more sluggish than they used to be.

      1. ridley

        Re: Money making exercise

        In the mid nineties I ran a computer business. One day I had bought a lot, for me, of 1mb RAM chips for an order IIRC about 400 @ £4 each. Said order fell through which left me with a bit of a problem as RAM prices were falling at the time. I tried to offload them left and right and could get rid without taking a bath.

        That night there was the Kobe earthquake taking out a large proportion of the globes RAM manufacturing capability....

        I sold them about a month later for about £100 each :-)

        1. Shooter
          Mushroom

          Re: Money making exercise

          Timing is everything!

          So, just where *did* you set off the underground bomb?

    5. RobDog

      RAM gone - and gone again.

      I worked for a UK clothes and home retailer (defunct quite recently actually) in early 90s, and one morning we arrived at HO to find, on one floor, monitors disconnected and placed on the floor (15inc crt so some effort required), little piles of screws neatly beside the Elonex desktops, lids lifted and the 4MB/8MB sticks of RAM gone. Probably about 40 machines. Hey ho, we’d heard it was going on and we were a victim. You’d think a lesson would have been learned. Except that 2 weeks later, a different gang (maybe) returned and this time were not so civil, and a number of the monitor signal wires (fixed connection, not plugged) had been cut to speed relocation, the lids of the pcs wrenched off with some kind of pry tool and again, the RAM nicked. Just for good measure, they didn’t bin the remains of their sustenance; crumpled sandwich packages, crisp packets and coke cans.

  10. MiguelC Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Just imagine if...

    ...the second store had also burned down the night after deployment!

    Would they do a third deployment, just to be see what happened then?

    1. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

      Re: Just imagine if...

      But of course! That's how we fix things in IT - if it fails, try it again a couple of times first before cracking it open to see why.

    2. Martin Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Just imagine if...

      Semi-related xkcd.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Just imagine if...

      Twice can be a coincidence. Thrice is unlikely to be.

      1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

        Re: Just imagine if...

        According to Lady Bracknell, once may be misfortune, twice smacks of carelessness.

        (The Importance of Being Ernest, by Oscar Wilde)

        1. Shooter

          Re: Just imagine if...

          Once is happenstance.

          Twice is coincidence.

          Three times is enemy action!

          1. Aus Tech

            Re: Just imagine if...

            "Once is happenstance.

            Twice is coincidence.

            Three times is enemy action!"

            Said Goldfinger to James Bond.

            1. Shooter

              Re: Just imagine if...

              Thanks!

              I knew that was a Bondian quote, but couldn't quite remember the details.

    4. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      Re: Just imagine if...

      I think someone else would just look over the program code even before the second attempt...

      Or at least ask if the fire started near any of the computers...

      Park Primary School in Invergordon has just had a fire. Cause unreported, but the school buildings actually have been closed since a major fire almost exactly a year ago, but were due to open shortly. The first time, "an old laptop" was a suspected cause - possibly along with lots of paper and being left running unattended, I'm speculating - and use of that model of old laptop was suspended for investigation, says BBC News. I assume the school's own laptop was removed and almost certainly isn't responsible this time. Nor anything else that was there the first time, e.g. electrical wiring, emergency gasoline supply in the office (perhaps), large glass spherical paperweight (perhaps) focussing the sun's rays on the homework heap or on the gasoline, etc.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: Just imagine if...

        "Nor anything else that was there the first time, e.g. electrical wiring, emergency gasoline supply in the office (perhaps), large glass spherical paperweight (perhaps) focussing the sun's rays on the homework heap or on the gasoline, etc."

        You seem to have some very specific possible causes in mind there. Is there something you are not telling us sonny. Here, let me help you down those stairs, mind you don't trip. :-)))

      2. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: Just imagine if...

        "I think someone else would just look over the program code even before the second attempt..."

        What's the point of that? In reality, the chances of code starting a building on fire are next to nil. Code running an industrial machine, sure. Code running on a power management device, maybe. Code running on a server, no. Even if the server was the initiating factor, it's not due to the code on it. More likely due to the hardware and the stuff next to the hardware which could carry on the fire. Also, for a store to burn down, it's incredibly unlikely to have started in a room that's probably relatively isolated from the rest of the building. In a situation like that, ruthlessly searching code to see if it's the culprit is like checking every vegetable supplier to see if any of them supplied a different type of vegetable which might have explosive properties, A complete waste of time.

        1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

          Re: Just imagine if...

          But if I was team lead, and our software update had coincided with one catastrophic fire for one deployment, I would not want any risk at all of having to say that our second roll out coincided with the second catastrophic fire and we -hadn't- re-reviewed the software before that deployment.

          Actually a server had lots of things that could start a fire if misused; fans to turn on and off, a UPS, a printer. Just overflow the paper tray and it could start dropping sheets on someone's personal heater...

  11. MarkET

    Experience

    As a programmer since 1973 I'm just amazed how many people haven't a clue about the job they do.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Experience

      (Since same era) I'm just amazed they still have that same job.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Experience

        " I'm just amazed they still have that same job."

        or even promoted.

        The Perter Principle suggests that promotions stop when a person reaches their level of incompetence. However in the real world they are likely to be promoted higher than that - especially if they reach the elite Golden Circle constantly moving between companies.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Experience

          That would be the Peter Principle. The Perter Principle would, presumably, refer to other reasons for a promotion...

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Experience

            My cataracts' removal is apparently delayed indefinitely by the Covid backlog. Amazing how the brain doesn't immediately see some fat finger key presses when it is out-guessing optical aberrations.

            Dictionary definitions - take your pick

            Pert: (of a bodily feature or garment) attractively small and well shaped.

            but elsewhere

            Pert: saucily free and forward : flippantly cocky and assured

  12. Evil Auditor

    No one must let me near code or a production machine these days. But I know the feeling, both from past and present experience, when you finally and proudly finish something amongst everyday's madness just to find, shortly thereafter and usually with the help of others, that you took a shortcut and missed out some crucial parts. For example, in distant past: why does it only read one of the three types of input files? Or today: where in your report is xyz covered? All of which is adding more lunacy to my day, increasing the chance of repeat.

    Shouldn't we have a straitjacket icon?

  13. JimC

    Haven't had the site burn down but...

    I have phoned up a customer to find out why their server is down to be told they had a break in overnight and the server was stolen.

    And all the backup tapes.

    "Oh, is that why you told us we had to take a backup tape home? It seemed like too much bother so we stopped doing it"

    1. irrelevant

      Re: Haven't had the site burn down but...

      We had a customer that exact same thing happened to ... they stored the backup tapes in a safe. And the safe got nicked, whole!

      Thankfully it got found in a secluded spot adjacent to a nearby railway line, smashed open, sans cash but with the tapes abandoned.

      1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

        Re: Haven't had the site burn down but...

        Which is why HMG regulations require that alcohol, postage stamps and cash must not be kept in any secure cabinet that holds classified information. (Also prescription forms, prescription drugs, jewellery and items of high monetary value etc.)

        1. yetanotheraoc

          Re: Haven't had the site burn down but...

          The thieves probably didn't know exactly what was in the safe when they broke in, so not having cash in the safe wouldn't necessarily have made it less attractive. Wouldn't you want to have some cash in there, to distract them from the valuable backup tapes? Finding no cash, who knows what they might do.

          It seems to me there are two types of thieves. Those who are after the cash, and those who are after the backup tapes / classified information / whatever. For the second type it doesn't matter if there's cash in the safe. For the first type, you definitely want cash in there.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Haven't had the site burn down but...

            Seems like protecting against the first type would be easy - a sign posted on the safe saying "ABSOLUTELY NO CASH ALLOWED - BACKUP TAPES ONLY" would get the message across.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Haven't had the site burn down but...

              yeah, right. it's a proven fact that criminals always read signs and obey them.

              this is why you never see a sign on a safe saying "steal this one. it's got all the money".

            2. arachnoid2 Bronze badge

              Re: Haven't had the site burn down but...

              Like having a van with a sign " No tools left aboard overnight"

      2. Stoneshop Silver badge

        Re: Haven't had the site burn down but...

        At one job, about two decades back, a small safe was nicked. Not a lot of value to plain thieving scrotes, but there were source code tapes in it, kept in escrow. To the tune of nearly seven digits, in Euros.

        The safe and its contents were found, more or less straight down from an open window on the fourth floor, sufficiently deformed from the impact with the concrete platform at ground level to bust open the door; it was more like a hardened box than a real fire- and pilferage-resistant safe, and after taking inventory of the content the burglar(s) clearly had a disappoint.

        That building suffered several break-ins during the two years I worked there; usually a bunch of laptops went missing, although one time security nabbed one of the perps as he was rather hampered by the large duffel bag full of them. Maybe he should have kept to the Elfin Saftey limit of 25 kilos instead of trying to hoof it with about double that.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    20 years ago...

    ... I had a very suspicious team leader who for [reasons] didn't like me (or frankly many other people in the team). One day I had to do a big install into a UAT system and once it was done and working home I went. Got a call that night from him saying it wasn't working properly and that he was going to go through all the steps I'd done in my shell history and find out what I'd wrong. Suffice to say I hadn't done anything wrong , however HE had regarding some DB table updates he'd screwed up. Naturally he didn't mention this the next morning and it only came out later via the project manager.

    Unsurprisingly his brown nosing skills far exceeded his dev skills and last time I checked he'd risen to VP level. Quelle surprise.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 20 years ago...

      It was said that a project manager with a fairly common name - had falsely claimed a degree when applying for the job. Years later I discovered that my expense claims had him really worried. They were so perfectly correct - that he was convinced I had a scam which he wanted to use himself.

  15. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    "almost an hour into the grilling"

    So, if I understand correcty, they missed Step 1 in the exploration handbook : call the store and get someone to check on the server.

    Had they done that, they would have noticed that they couldn't reach the store. That might have set them on a path that did not include trying to harass the junior coder for nothing.

    1. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: "almost an hour into the grilling"

      They certainly did. It's not unreasonable for them to ask the coder about changes that might have taken down the server, but they definitely needed to call the store if only to get someone to restart the server. With it offline either due to the code crashing it or something else, it wasn't doing anything useful. The first step should have been to call the store, reboot the server, and roll back the software running on it. Then they could determine whether the code was at fault or not, although in this situation they would have found their problem at "call the store".

  16. Gene Cash Silver badge

    Typo? Or me being dense?

    "One unlucky programmer caused frozen food to be delivered to a chilled warehouse"

    Is it just me, or does this seem to be the right thing to do?

    Is it supposed to read unchilled instead of chilled?

    1. twellys

      Re: Typo? Or me being dense?

      Frozen food = Frozen warehouse (e.g. walk in freezers)

      Chilled food = Chilled warehouse (e.g. walk in fridges)

      Ambient food = Ambient warehouse (just a warehouse)

      1. ibmalone Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: Typo? Or me being dense?

        Curiously "ambient house" is chilled.

    2. John Sager

      Re: Typo? Or me being dense?

      Chilled is just above 0C, frozen is more like -40C for a warehouse.

      1. Martin Silver badge
        Headmaster

        Re: Typo? Or me being dense?

        Boring fact.

        -40C is the same temperature as -40F.

        1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge
          Trollface

          Re: Typo? Or me being dense?

          Presumably then, it's the temperature at which American brains start to work efficiently, like trolls on the Discworld. This presumably is why they are fine using archaic units, which they comedically refer to as "British units" despite the fact that the ones for fluid volumes aren't even the same as the Imperial units that are no longer even used in Britain, except for possibly when following a recipe from a book published before 1970.

          1. X5-332960073452
            Pint

            Re: Typo? Or me being dense?

            I can think of one REALLY important imperial measure still in use ! ------------>>>>>

        2. andy k O'Croydon

          Re: Typo? Or me being dense?

          That's not boring. I'd say it's pretty cool.

    3. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      Re: Typo? Or me being dense?

      Chilled (circa 4°C) != Frozen (circa -15°C)

      edit - after posting that, the other replies before mine showed up!

    4. BeefEater

      Re: Typo? Or me being dense?

      Chilled NE Frozen

      1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
        Flame

        Re: Typo? Or me being dense?

        Frozen is more like -40C for anywhere in Northern Alberta in winter.

        Icon - Fire good, keep warm!

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Typo? Or me being dense?

      Not sure either - maybe it's the difference between a freezer and a fridge?

  17. logicalextreme Silver badge

    From a quick Google

    I'm wondering if said chain was Scandinavian for value.

  18. nijam Silver badge

    > ...to paraphrase Douglas Adams...

    That's a quote, not a paraphrase, surely?

    1. Martin Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      A pedant after my own heart. Have an upvote.

  19. Stuart Castle Silver badge

    I've had some interesting errors, but.

    Code I have produced or been involved in has produced a few interesting errors when it fails. Usually team in jokes.

    In one extreme situation, the configuration changes I made to a windows machine blew up the previously lovely CRT monitor I was using. I was using Windows 3.1, which didn't do nice things like limiting resolutions and refresh rates (it did, but only in the GUI, the settings were easy to change in the INI files) to those the monitor was capable of. The monitor didn't have any protection shutoff, and produced an absolutely amazing picture for 30 seconds before dying.

    But, to my knowledge, my code (or any code I have been involved in) has never set fire to anything,

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I've had some interesting errors, but.

      The ICL 2903 was a microcoded computer. All the built-in peripherals were controlled at a very low level by the microcode. If the card reader code timing wasn't right - there was the instruction "select solenoid - and catch fire".

      That was borne in mind when using an Arduino to control the points (turnout) solenoids on an automated model railway layout. No matter how long the Arduino port stays selected - the solenoid will only be given one short burst from a large capacitor (CDU). Interestingly - the published CDU designs seem to keep the charging voltage connected to the capacitor all the time. The charging resistor could get quite hot if it stays selected. My design intrinsically disconnects the resistor during the discharge phase.

    2. DJV Silver badge
      Happy

      But, to my knowledge, my code (or any code I have been involved in) has never set fire to anything

      You're obviously not trying hard enough!

      1. AlbertH
        Mushroom

        Re: My code (or any code I have been involved in) has set fire to certain products

        We used to have great fun with the version of the TRS80 that had a PROM blower built in. If you felt malicious, a line of BASIC would "poke" the system RAM with the PROM writing voltage, with ensuing smoke and dead machine.

        The number of those TRS80s that got destroyed by evil kids - who soon learned the one-line BASIC incantation to destroy those machines - was huge. It was usually preceded with a for / next loop to give the miscreant time to get away from the shop!

    3. sofaspud

      Re: I've had some interesting errors, but.

      I have legit accidentally started a fire with code before!

      I mean, the whole point *was* to start a fire, but *this* fire was not the fire that should have been started.

      This was before fancy-schmancy rPIs made it easy for everyone to build custom kit. My partner-in-stupidity and I were setting up a small pyrotechnics display, to be controlled by a switching board run from a PCs parallel port. Which pins my code triggered caused the HV controller board to fire the corresponding output, neat and tidy. And it worked a treat!

      That is, until my partner absentmindedly connected one of the outputs to the live charge and not the test lamp. Test run, things got a bit exciting for a bit, and the customers got an early preview..

      I can blame him with a clear conscience: I was a dumb twenty-something at the time who'd volunteered my coding skills, HE was the 'industry professional' :D And while it was a dumb mistake, the field was clear and nobody was hurt. But still.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I've had some interesting errors, but.

        Iraq suicide bomber beeps car horn to his friends as he leaves his camp - forgetting that is the detonator trigger.

        1. David 132 Silver badge

          Re: I've had some interesting errors, but.

          I seem to recall there was an incident a few years ago where a mix-up over daylight savings time caused a (Palestinian? Hamas?) suicide bomber to blow up an hour prematurely, whilst still en route to his target.

  20. Eclectic Man Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Responsibility

    So, let me get this straight. A work experience lad(ette) was given the job of implementing an update on an essential system on a remote branch, expected to test his own software and do the update without any supervision at all!!!?

    Whoever ran that department should have been sacked for dereliction of duty. WTF did they think they were doing allowing someone to update anything on a live system without independent verification and testing?

    OK, OK, I'll calm down, eventually, but honestly, had they not heard of quality control?

    (Icon, because, well, they deserve it.)

  21. Muppet Boss Bronze badge
    Flame

    On a cold Friday afternoon of some 2000ish winter in a cold faraway country we (telecom team) got a high temperature warning from a Cisco router in a remote warehouse. We asked the team responsible for the warehouse to investigate. Meanwhile, the router temperature kept increasing. We asked again, to no avail. The router then went offline, which we duly reported to the warehouse team. They said, no worries, everyone went home already, no rush and they would check on Monday.

    We asked again on Monday and they said, you know, the warehouse burned down on Friday evening. We asked if there was any chance that the router could be salvaged. They said it was difficult to check because the firefighting water got frozen overnight and the warehouse turned into a huge snow castle with everything inside under a thick layer of ice.

    The router died.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  22. Rob Daglish

    I once had it call to a local hospital to replace a smart card printer/encoder. The guy who’s PC it was attached to turned out to be a guy I’d done some work for years ago, and we were having a good chat when we started discussing the new hospital build that was happening. The handover had been delayed due to issues with the new power plant, which wasn’t going to be ready by specified date. Amazingly, the night before it was due to be handed over (with penalties from contractors if it wasn’t), there was a fire in the power plant, which by a handy coincidence seemed to start in the fire alarm, disabling it completely... no one was ever sure if that was an accident or a successful way of avoiding contract penalties.

  23. arachnoid2 Bronze badge

    Didnt the Americans

    "Allegedly" produce some nice code that caused some foreign based fans to exceed their safe speed limits and sort of , well mechanically fail .Thus causing a nice chain reaction to the attached systems much to the consternation of the owners?

    1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      Re: Didnt the Americans

      Are you thinking of Iranian gas centrifuges here by any chance? *cough* Stuxnet *cough*

      1. arachnoid2 Bronze badge

        Re: Didnt the Americans

        OOH as if the Americans would stoop so low though it did seem to work for a while, I wonder what gave it away in the end?

  24. David Neil

    The World cup match and the missing laptops

    Pretty sure it was the 2010 World Cup, England v Germany match.

    A large consultancy beside the River Thames, next to HMS Belfast.

    An entire floor got cleaned out of laptops people had in their desk drawers and whatnot - the security guards in the building had all decided to sit in one room and watch the football and didn't notice someone jemmy open the pedestals and walk off with over 20 laptops.

  25. ChrisBedford

    What weird IT department...

    ...did not think of the first, most obvious troubleshooting step: phone the location of the server.

    Seems IT nerds had their heads even further up the proverbial drainpipe back then. Unless this story is apocryphal. But Harry would never spin us a tall tale, now would he? Would he?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What weird IT department...

      Apparently the medical profession have an expression - that the sound of hooves behind you is not a herd of zebras. It means someone is not applying Occam's Razor to a diagnosis of a patient's symptoms. You should start with the most likely condition and work down through the lesser probabilities.

      In IT the equivalent is "What was the last thing you changed?". Of course Murphy does like to outfox Occam by having a perfect storm of unlikely events to produce an apparently known symptom.

      If you go into a dark room you press the light switch. If nothing happens you have four choices: no power; blown bulb; broken switch; broken wire. The probabilities vary depending on other factors which need correlation. If you are unlucky there is more than one that has failed by Sod's Law.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "If you are unlucky there is more than one that has failed by Sod's Law."

    Addendum example. I have had a bulb blow, that took out the lighting circuit fuse, and destroyed the switch contacts.

  27. This Side Up

    Halt and Catch Fire

    Wasn't there once an apocryphal IBM 360 instruction HCF = halt and catch fire? Type your comment here — advanced HTML and hotlinks allowed

    Actually it was rumoured that you could get an IBM chain printer to catch fire by alternating between upper and lower case!

    1. AlbertH

      Re: Halt and Catch Fire

      We used to set fire to the tractor-fed printer paper by repeatedly printing a line of 79 spaces, and no line feed. The print head would repeatedly race across the paper at the same line, and the friction would eventually ignite the paper!

      It was a great sprinkler test!

  28. Conundrum1885

    LP0 on fire

    I did find a "killer command" in a diagnostics tool that caused my all in one to try and force the print head to exit the left hand side at speed.

    Fortunately managed to clean up the optical ribbon and all fine.

    If it had been left it might have gone into thermal runaway but these days most printers are id10t proof and even stop you

    putting the cartridge(s) in the wrong place unless you like I did swapped over the chips.

    You could say it got marooned! (gets coat..)

    Old hacker trick to fix stubborn head clogs is to fill a used yellow cartridge with DI water and swap it to the blocked colour.

    It works, sometimes.

    Also what works is the old "pull cleaning solution the wrong way with a syringe" method.

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