back to article Can't get that printer to work? It's not you. It's that sodding cablin.... oh beautiful job with that cabling, boss

There are few things worse than when someone nicks your chips, be they of the potato or silicon variety as our latest delve into the annals of On Call reveals. "Ben", as the Regomiser has dubbed today's contributor, was tasked with supporting a network consisting of a pair of decade old HP1000 minicomputers. The devices ran …

  1. Robert Sneddon

    Time was...

    It was not unknown to get a service call to a desk in the morning, "My computer doesn't work". Upon inspection I would find RAM missing, the CPU missing, the hard drive missing. Changing out the contract cleaning staff who, ahem, "serviced" the office spaces in the evening cured the problem, mostly. Fitting security screws to the cases reduced the failure rate a bit too.

    1. Will Godfrey Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Re: Time was...

      Indeed. It's not unusual to find cleaning staff consider their pay as their second source of income

      1. JulieM

        Re: Time was...

        A company for whom I used to work used an external cleaning firm. When their contract came up for renewal, they were dropped in favour of a newly-started cleaning firm promising to do the same work for less.

        Even towards the day of the changeover, most of the actual cleaners (whom I got to meet while hanging around in the lab for as long as possible after hours before finally being chucked out and having to decide whether to catch the bus home, or walk and eat) seemed unperturbed, as they had been promised work elsewhere and a better hourly rate to boot.

        In the end, they found themselves working for the abovementioned new company, contracted to clean exactly the same offices and workshops as before -- but given less time in which to do it, amounting to a pay cut.

        When people get treated that way, it's hard to begrudge them getting a bit of their own back.

        1. Tom 7 Silver badge

          Re: Time was...

          Back in the late 80s my next door neighbour ran a cleaning company. I cant remember the exact details but the government started subsidised low wages with benefits so he was able to rip off his workers and the clients and the government simultaneously. He became very rich very quickly and died when he upgraded his car too quickly. He seemed a decent bloke but was caught like a kid let lose in a candy store. I had many a drink with him and he was always of the opinion that if he didnt do it someone else would but he did feel a line had been crossed.

        2. Terry 6 Silver badge

          Re: Time was...

          There's so much in that little story.

          If the new contractor is charging less they're almost certainly cutting corners elsewhere - unless there's sound reason to think the previous company were taking the piss in some way (which is possible of course).

          If the corners cut are in terms of how much actual work gets done then they aren't truly cheaper, they're just providing less.

          If the staff are treated worse then there are intangible losses - extra stuff or just extra effort which the staff did out of loyalty or care, which means that the job won't be done so well, or as reliably.

          If a new contract has been rewritten for the new company it will fail to include all sorts of items which a previous and long standing contractor had just incorporated into the schedule, or which they charged for at the standard contract hourly rate.

          The won't know the building, the staff, the patterns of working or the specific areas that need extra attention ( or provide that attention) - all of which are key to the real-life job getting done. As opposed to the mythical job the bean counters contract for.

          Anyone who's walked into a previously spotless conference room and discovered that suddenly there's dust in the corners and coffee rings on the tables can attest to this.(I've even had a colleague from an external organisation look round, at the start of a meeting, and say "You got new cleaners? "

          And it wasn't a positive comment).

      2. Martin an gof Silver badge

        Re: Time was...

        Which is yet another example of why outsourcing is rarely the right answer. Bring the cleaners in-house, give them the same pay and benefits package as all the other workers, let them use the staff room and come to the Christmas dinner, invite them to staff briefings, and you are in with a much better chance both of a job well done and a trusted employee who has the best interests of the company (or school, or whatever) at heart and is likely more flexible too.

        M.

        1. nintendoeats

          Re: Time was...

          But a 0.02% increase in Q2 profits!

        2. Headley_Grange Silver badge

          Re: Time was...

          Not just that, you've got a pool of already inducted talent that knows its way round the company and can apply for internal jobs and get on in the company. Just because they are cleaners, canteen staff, etc. doesn't mean they don't have other skills, experience and aspirations.

          I was once in a hotel bar with the finance director after a pointless offsite where we'd spent half a day developing mission statements, company visions, and all that crap. I asked him what the point of it was when a whole bunch of people that I saw every day didn't work for us. Cleaners, canteen staff, IT staff were all "outsourced" and we had a lot of contractors in development. He'd never considered that about 10-15% of the people he saw every day didn't work for us.

          Since I had him trapped I asked him to explain how it could be cheaper to pay Sodhexo to run the canteen. We still had to, effectively, pay all the direct costs of the staff and the stuff they use (food, electricity, space) and then we had to pay Sodhexo's's overheads, G&A and profit. If we'd taken on the 4 staff it wouldn't have meant any extra overhead for us and we could have used the money saved to pay them a decent wage and get better food. His answer? "When you run the numbers it looks cheaper on the books, even if it isn't". I'd like to think he was a twat, and he was, but no different from every other twat in every other company that "runs the numbers" and accepts the results even if they give an answer that they know can't be true.

          Sorry. Rant over.

          1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

            Re: Time was...

            Hey, don't knock Sodexo! They have a wonderful company song. It's drilled into my brain from having to sit on hold having it played at me for hours. Badabada dah badadada dah Sodexo!

            1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
              Thumb Down

              Re: Time was...

              Tneir company song may be great, but every Sodexho faxjlity I have eaten at, the food was cr@p.

          2. Tom 7 Silver badge

            Re: Time was...

            Its all part of a general accountancy short sightedness. Some things have to be paid for but some people are allowed to avoid it and think they are clever as a result. Its like out of town shopping - lower rates means they can charge less so the in town stuff suffers and those living in the town end up paying more in council tax than they saved out of town and have to pay fuel to get their because they saved 10p on their council tax and the bus service has gone so they have to pay few quid to drive to the out of town shops and lose a wheel in the pot hole they saved 10p on their council tax not fixing so that's another £50 and some serious wear on the suspension. Today I have to drive 20 mile to a town to get a plumbing part I used to be able to get a couple of miles away but the shop couldn't afford the council tax and rent and is now a dog charity shop so I'm paying tax to the landlord and extra fuel and car wear and tear because someone fell for voting for an idiot who promises to save them a fraction of that in council tax.

            1. SWCD

              Re: Time was...

              Couldn't you just order it from Amazon?

            2. low_resolution_foxxes Silver badge

              Re: Time was...

              The trend for out of town shopping was not simply a council tax avoidance scheme, although it is not unheard of to get a £2000+ per month council bill for running a small business in Sheffield town centres {www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-50459541.amp}

              But it comes down to the whole offering. Out of town land is faaaaar cheaper, Councils may be anti traffic and charge for parking (so not encouraging footfall), while deliveries can be really difficult in town. Heck, even having an indoor shopping mall that isn't subject to torrential rain has its benefits.

              Seeing it as a conspiracy, that people would choose a cheaper and more efficient option for their requirements is just silly.

          3. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Time was...

            Reminds me of the time I was working for a company which had a "self financing bonus scheme" paid monthly based on company profit.

            After a number of years in operation, with tweaks every year it was noticed that the scheme was still generating bonues even though the company was making a loss.

            So the schene was closed down, with all employees receiving a pay rise of the amount the scheme paid when it was closed down.

          4. Shalghar

            Re: Time was...

            One issue of management nonthink might be that they misinterpret singular events instead of looking at the full timescale and long term issues arising.

            Our managers have ordered not to blindly buy from proven sources but to check for each and any item if other suppliers cannot deliver cheaper. While some might indeed be cheaper, the logistic fallout of much longer delivery times (immensely increased by covid excuses and the insane lockdown ideology) has already triggered contractual punishment clauses and need for overtime several times.

            Cheaper products also do not always fulfill the necessary standards, like Atech/Zapi Inverters whose "OpenCAN" bus has no consistent length of address and command packets, ranging from 13 to 16 bit, too short packets sometimes filled with zero bits to reach a length of 16, sometimes not.

            If you additionally have to deal with different international regulations (UL/CSA instead of VDE for example) and/or additionally with clients like Airbus who insist on very special regulations for materials and machine design then a high fluctuation of trained and experienced individuals has dire results.

            German Airbus machine regulations are a pile of DIN A4 Paper thats around 5 cm / 2 inches high. Add another 2,5 cm/ 1 Inch for the A380 facility near Bristol.

            Any longer term dire results and quality issues are "financially" not connected to the initial management failure to scare away experienced personnel. All they see at that special moment in time is the drop in cost for personnel that has been replaced with those of the keen and green persuasion - with the appropriate results to follow later and to be blamed on "too lazy" staff.

        3. Malcolm Weir

          Re: What's the problem?

          The only place where the outsourcing _might_ make sense is where the number of staff needed is small; for example, if the premises can justify only (say) 4 hours of cleaning per workday. If you can find and depend on a single part-timer, that's great, but usually it really is more cost-effective to subcontract to someone with multiple people, so they can take holidays or be otherwise unavailable, plus you can get "surge" people for the monthly re-polishing of the anti-static floor tiles or whatever.

          (No disagreement with the OP for the large operation, but _sometimes_ the numbers can favor outsourcing).

          1. Martin an gof Silver badge

            Re: What's the problem?

            There are plenty of people out there who would be happy to do your four hours, and then go on to somewhere else to do another four hours. It gives them flexibility and is very common for cleaners or caretakers, especially if they have young families where they can fit the hours around things like the school run. You have them on a part-time payroll and so does the other place and the Inland Revenue sorts out the details :-)

            Outsource that and you will probably have half a dozen different people sent over the course of the first couple of years (if you are lucky), each one of which will need to be inducted and will have no loyalty to the business simply because they know their actual employer could require them to work somewhere else at a moment's notice.

            They are probably also on lower wages than they would be working directly.

            I can see your logic, but I think it applies in even fewer cases than you might expect!

            M.

            1. Terry 6 Silver badge

              Re: What's the problem?

              A very good point. Though OP did say "might", as in the only reason it might be sensible, and specified difficulty of getting the 4hr cleaner.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Time was...

        "Indeed. It's not unusual to find cleaning staff consider their pay as their second source of income"

        I can relate. Recently dayshift cleaning staff at our North West Amazon FC (a man and his stepdaughter) were nipping round the back with brand new Apple equipment, £5,000 worth, in bin bags.

        Caught red handed. It's in the news, so public knowledge, but I still remain anonymous as, well, I work for Amazon. Amazon itself, not the cleaners, mind.

        1. Malcolm Weir

          Re: Time was...

          You can tell that they worked for the cleaners, because if they were employees they'd have nicked $19,000, not £5000!

          (See reports of an employee in Sacramento, California, March 10, 2021...)

    2. I Am Spartacus

      Re: Time was...

      That happened where I worked. Security cameras were install. Next month a brand new, and at the time, very expensive 60" TV for the video conference suite went missing. And surprise, the security tapes for than night were all found to be blank.

      Exit one complete security team.

      1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
        Holmes

        Re: Time was...

        Last man standing at work every night, boss would let me into the stores with his swipe card to get out the machines I needed to kick off the imaging process between 5 & 6pm for the following days deployments.

        Every morning I would come in to find the stores manager & boss discussing how yet more PC's\laptops had vanished from the stores every night after I left the building.

        1. low_resolution_foxxes Silver badge

          Re: Time was...

          I worked as an asbestos surveyor for a while. It's an open secret that the teams who physically remove the old asbestos, are quite likely to include ex convicts.

          Soooo, one day I notice the curiosity that the removal teams have secured an area of a department store, with all the stock still on the shelves. The next morning the shelves are clear, but they have the most impeccably wrapped "asbestos hazardous waste" bags in one of the vans. How on earth they figured no one would notice, a whole vans worth of stock going missing, I do not know. Mind, I didn't have the balls to report them, so I quietly had a word with the store manager who "accidentally stumbled" into their van.

    3. ColinPa

      Re: Time was...

      I spent some time at a customer site where they were building a huge wing next door to where we were working, and it was great watching all of the activity as plumbers took in furniture for the toilets, and the carpet fitters took in the carpets.

      One day there was no activity at all. Someone had done a spot check, and found "officially (from the amount of stuff delivered) " there was at least one wash basin per person, and the amount of carpet that had been delivered would have had the floor 1 ft deep in carpet!

      The stuff was being taken in during the morning, and out again into vans in the evenings.

      All this was discovered because a policeman was taking his dog for a walk one evening and spotted the activity.

      1. MCPicoli

        Re: Time was...

        Better NOT investigating if the carpet rolls were bulkier when exiting the building than when they entered it in the morning before...

        1. Snapper

          Re: Time was...

          It's OK, it was a Chihuahua.

        2. herman Silver badge

          Re: Time was...

          Did the plumbers use large quantities of Quick Lime also?

      2. CountCadaver

        Re: Time was...

        Seemingly certain tenement flats in Glasgow for years had suprisingly expensive carpet and furniture due to being "borrowed" from shipyards...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Time was...

          I believe it Greenock tenements had the same carpets as the QE2

      3. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: Time was...

        I used to get quite a lot of very reasonably priced stuff from a mate in the pub until I found out he was security guard. at a building site. However I dont feel as guilty as I would if I was the developer.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Time was...

      Had the same thing at a previous role. IT desks were in an open-plan area and although the main kit was locked to the desks with Kensington locks and bulk of our spares were in a secure room, odd cables and accessories did disappear from time to time from our desks. In the end I set up a couple of webcams on my system (with blu-tack inside to shield the LED), and put "I-Spy" on my machine to record whenever movement was detected.

      Few weeks later, my toolkit disappeared. Looked back over the footage and found one of the company window-cleaners (who came around once a month to clean the inside of the windows) discretely slipping a towel over the toolkit and walking off with it.

      Showed the footage to security, and the window cleaning company was promptly kicked off-site.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Time was...

        All good and well, but did you get your toolkit back?

        :)

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Time was...

          Got a new one actually. The window cleaning company was allowed back after they'd fired the thief and replaced my toolkit with a brand new one of the same type. So, a happy ending (for me anyway).

    5. juice Silver badge

      Re: Time was...

      I've seen or heard of similar a few times.

      Way back when, I worked for an ex-public utility company, on a site which originally had a bar on site. This was apparently withdrawn when video footage caught some people carrying crates of booze from said bar out to their cars...

      Elsewhere, I worked for a company which had a canteen, ran by a very jolly man. Until it turned out that he'd been running his own catering company on the side, which for some reason had very low overheads.

      Sadly, the canteen food was never the same after that; I'm guessing the budgets were both trimmed to the bone and much more closely watched by the bean-counters!

      (Food puns intentional. Gotta milk it...)

      And it's not just corporates. A friend bought an apartment, and got a company in to do a deep-clean before moving in. Not only did they do a terrible job of the deep clean (e.g. failing to clean the over, which was explicitly part of the service), but a number of things vanished, from silly things like toilet paper to a brand new, boxed set of cutlery.

      A rocket to the cleaning company was duly sent, and the cutlery was returned with a muttered apology about how the cleaners thought the property was being moved out of, and everything not nailed down was therefore fair game...

      1. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: Time was...

        One place I worked got some new cheaper cleaners in and we had serious problems with static taking out everything left right and centre because they actually shampooed the carpets and removed the anti-static goop from them. You couldn't walk across a room and touch a door handle without swearing.

    6. heyrick Silver badge

      Re: Time was...

      One of my first jobs as a bratty teenager was contract cleaning. I started just after a guy was quietly asked to leave for stealing a fork lift from the factory loading area.

      The company decided not to press charges because they figured out that if somebody who shouldn't have been around in the daytime can wander in, get into a forklift, and drive it out across the car park to who knows where...there was so much fail going on that any investigation would have been extremely embarrassing.

      [life lesson: brazen audacity for the win]

      PS: yes, the thing that pushed me to leave that job in a hurry was not the crap pay, it was the not wanting to be associated with a group of chsinsmokers who would steal anything not bolted to something solid (and some stuff that was).

      1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge
        Unhappy

        Re: Time was...

        company decided not to press charges

        Which I think is the problem with all the stories posted here. The company just wanted the thefts to stop, so kicked the suppliers out. They, in turn, just fired the offending staff, who almost certainly hired on elsewhere and repeated the thievery. No-one got punished, so they all just treated it as being normal behaviour. No wonder it still happens.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Time was...

          I worked for a company who, a few years after I started, hired a new production manager. He promptly hired a bunch of old mates from his last company. Petty thefts (unknown before) started being reported. Nothing much - a few tools here, a multimeter there, a tenner someone left in his wallet in his desk. Production Manager was dismissive of complaints during staff meetings as "this sort of thing goes on everywhere". No it bloody doesn't, and it didn't before all your cronies turned up pal. But his mates were untouchable. He got another old-timer fired for crossing one of them, and trying to insist he did some work for a change. So the rest of us kept our mouths shut, and kept as much stuff as we could locked up too.

          A few years later he moved on to bigger and better things. Shortly afterwards, so did his mates. And the thefts stopped. I heard through the grapevine that the same thing was happening at his new place.

          Now I work for a company who not only investigated when stuff got nicked from their stores, but got the police involved, and insisted on a prosecution too.

          1. heyrick Silver badge
            Unhappy

            Re: Time was...

            Very much like your story, but a nurse in a care home helping herself to some of the restricted drugs (like morphine, which is a monumentally shitty thing to do when it's for pain control of a person riddled with cancer). We (the normal staff) found out about it when we had all of our bags and cars searched. Probably illegally (it was the boss that did it), but they weren't willing to call in the police.

            Eventually it came about that it was one of the newish RNs helping herself. So they "agreed" to give her a reasonable reference if she left immediately.

            So she did, they did, and she found herself a job in a nearby care home. Guess what started to happen shortly afterwards...

            [the benefit of working for an agency, you get to see faces moving from one place to another as nobody gives references saying "nicks the drugs" or "gets off on punching grannies with dementia" or "pisses herself more than the old folk and seems to enjoy doing so"]

            I suppose a blunt refusal to want to be seen liable in any way, plus not wanting any bad press (even by association), and these days a fear of being crucified or cancelled by a shouty mob mean that scumbags often get to walk away, and not in the arms of the boys in blue.

            1. nintendoeats

              Re: Time was...

              That's unfortunate reasoning. If the care home said "We found out about this, we investigated and we turned the nurse in" I wouldn't have thought another thing about it...giving a reference in bad faith on the other hand...

              1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

                Re: Time was...

                The length of time it has, or might have, been going on might be a factor. The hope is that it's something new or at least recent, but are in fear of a proper investigation not only showing it's been going on under their noses for way longer, but that other "dirty washing" might be found too. That's when management start getting asked awkward questions like "why didn't you notice" and "why are your procedures not working"

            2. Tom 7 Silver badge

              Re: Time was...

              I worked down't pit for a while an there were first aid stations in various places and seconded the bloke who replaced the morphine in them. We'd barely got out of sight of one box when we heard it being cracked open and running back it had already been lifted! Never found out who it was but most of the miners found it utterly disgusting and the culprit would have needed a very large dose if discovered.

          2. MOV r0,r0

            Re: Time was...

            If the company goes to the police they will expect it to provide evidence for prosecution to a legal standard, the employee will still have rights and may be on full pay until the trial and even if found guilty, employment rights still apply and there's no guarantee the court will compensate the company for loss.

            The alternative is to approach the staffer with evidence, recover as much as possible from them plus their resignation all in exchange for not reporting their crimes. Not only is this quicker and cheaper it deals cleanly with their termination in a situation where the police simply won't commit resources to investigate so I entirely understand why some organisations take this approach.

          3. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Time was...

            We had a spate of thefts from the pharmacy where I worked, and all indications pointed in MY direction. The Branch Manager had us all round the table and warned that if things did not stop disappearing, we would all be fired. They didn't, so BM called in Security for a meeting one Sunday, when we weren't there, and as a result of this, a camera was placed in the electric cupboard adjacent to the High Security Storage, where things like Viagra, etc., were kept. The next Sunday, the footage was reviewed, and the culprit was revealed (not me, I hasten to add). She was immediately suspended (on full pay!) pending an investigation. Her defence was that her husband had left her, the mortgage was in arrears, the building society was threatening repossession, and her daughter had been diagnosed with Cancer. Floods of tears, and the Company relented and just terminated her employment without bringing charges, but, because the Police had been involved, she now has a criminal record. Turned out the whole tale of woe was a fabric of lies, and a friend of hers got her a job as cashier at a local bookmakers. We suspected that she was targeting me because, as the van driver, I was the only bloke in an otherwise all-female branch.

      2. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
        FAIL

        Re: Time was...

        Pill pressing machine being moved from North to South site, security opened the gate to allow the staff to push it through on a trolley then instead of watching them push it cross a public highway & past the security controlled gates of the site 20 yards away, both security guards totally ignored them as it was put in the back of a waiting vehicle instead.

        1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

          Re: Pill pressing machine

          I believe that is called pilfering.

          1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

            Re: Pill pressing machine

            I am upvoting just to draw more attention to what you have done. :-)

            1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

              Re: Pill pressing machine

              Thank you Robert. I wonder when The Reg will instigate point-rationing. Until that time arrives, have an upvote.

    7. Old Used Programmer Silver badge

      Re: Time was...

      One company I worked for had a problem with PCs disappearing. A company employee found a system for sale at a flea market that was full of company software. Eventually, the "problem" was traced back to a night shift security guard who would back up his car to the loading dock and fill the trunk with PCs.

  2. Admiral Grace Hopper

    Printers are the Devil's work

    Printers are intrinsically evil, but that is especially cruel.

    In the late 80s and early 90s it was not unusual for offices to have all the memory cards removed from desktop PCs by burglars, but that is definitely enemy action.

    Shame about the name of the new analysis system. Our attempt to develop the Program Error Notification and Information System survived two design meetings before the name was changed.

    1. DailyLlama

      Re: Printers are the Devil's work

      We got away with the "Automated Reporting Systems Environment" for a good 6 months before anyone important noticed it.

      We also got "T(company name) Information Technology System" past three very important people, before they showed it to someone as childish as us :-(

      Strangely, they were all ok with "T(company name) Weekend Activities Team" as the name of the social club for over 10 years.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Printers are the Devil's work

        We still issue Temporary Works Access Tokens when people forget their ID badges...

        1. Dabooka Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: Printers are the Devil's work

          Yeah...

          I'm nicking this

      2. Ikoth

        Re: Printers are the Devil's work

        Speaking of malicious acronyms. A teacher friend of mine used to write "Still Has Initial Trouble" as the first sentence of his report card entry for kids he didn't like. No one ever cottoned on.

        1. Rob Daglish

          Re: Printers are the Devil's work

          My father in law once put “this child is a waste of a good skin” in a pupil’s report… it made it past a number of teachers, the head of year and the deputy head before the headteacher intervened. They didn’t necessarily disagree, but didn’t think it maybe needed to be put quite so bluntly to the little darlings parents…

      3. Boothy Silver badge

        Re: Printers are the Devil's work

        At a previous company, we had a Tactical International Tracking System. Obviously as a tactical system we had this for several years, as is tradition.

        We did try to get the next few related systems to fit A.R.S.E, (or even A.S.S), for a few years, but unfortunately never managed to get that one to stick.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Printers are the Devil's work

      I once worked on a mainframe TCP/IP stack. Module names had a 7-character limit e.g. TCPSEND, TCPRECV, TCPCONN. The module that parsed startup options was called TCPARSE.

    3. nintendoeats

      Re: Printers are the Devil's work

      We have a MILF1...I'm pretty sure that customers could actually see that acronym if they went looking.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Printers are the Devil's work

      VAX computers had a Failed Unibus Address Register. It was documented in the schematics and the architecture manual as FUBAR.

      1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

        Re: Printers are the Devil's work

        DEC were good with things like that. Many of the header definition files had appropriate names and symbol prefixes. I remember that the system security ones were in kgbdef.h with symbols defined as KGB_..., also nkvddef.h, and similar.

        1. Steve Aubrey
          Trollface

          Re: Printers are the Devil's work

          . . . reminding me of the love sent across the ocean https://micro.magnet.fsu.edu/creatures/pages/russians.html

          (icon for the originators)

    5. grumpyoldeyore
      Alert

      Re: Printers are the Devil's work

      The perverse burglars who broke into the company where I was working in the early 1990s stole the printers - the PCs were too low spec to bother with.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Printers are the Devil's work

        Mid 90s the factory my dad worked in was robbed, burglars took various stuff printers, desktops, however the ones they took were about knackered / broken and they totally ignored the drafting machines with the (then) expensive AutoCAD (IIRC) dongles plugged into the back.

    6. Stevie Silver badge

      Re: Printers are the Devil's work

      And yet our Paperless Office System survived as is even after the bleedin' obvious was pointed out to the pointy haired early in the design process.

      The corporate standard is to call it "Poz". You know when someone is unhappy because they switch to "Pee Oh Ess" when discussing some aspect of it.

      1. nintendoeats

        Re: Printers are the Devil's work

        Yet, Point of Sale is fine...

  3. I Am Spartacus
    Childcatcher

    "Well Analysis - New Knowledge"

    Which brings to mind a story of another system. This was to track oil tankers used in commodity trading. The name was "Tanker Information Tracking System".

    Which was actually used, until one young female analyst found a new trading route, and promptly announced it with glee, only for someone to yell across the desk, "Then get it on your T*TS".

    Management heard, and the name was changed that afternoon!

    True story.

    1. john 103

      Re: "Well Analysis - New Knowledge"

      When I worked in a Bank the Mainframe Logins were of the form Firstname + First Letter of Surname.

      We had an English Contractor named Chris Tompkins who was very very knowledgeable.

      If there was ever a question about the system we would happily reply "Christ knows"

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: "Well Analysis - New Knowledge"

        Obligatory https://dilbert.com/strip/2000-08-19

      2. Anonymous IV

        Re: "Well Analysis - New Knowledge"

        Our mainframe user-name convention was to take the first three characters of the surname, the first character of the forename, and add a two-digit incrementing 'sequence number' to prevent clashes.

        This usually worked fine; Fiona Smith became SMIF05; Ian Jameson became JAMI02.

        However the convention had to be modified in certain edge(y!) cases, such as for Tracey Cunningham...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "Well Analysis - New Knowledge"

          Similar to what we have here.

          "Boob" (can't remember her real name) loves it, David Turner however, not so keen on his user name

      3. Mine's a Large One

        Re: "Well Analysis - New Knowledge"

        In my first IT job, the mainframe IDs were first 2 letters to denote department, first 5 letters of surname and first initial. Ian Nisbet from Personnel must’ve been thrilled to know he was identified as PENISBEI.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: "Well Analysis - New Knowledge"

          He's probably why Personnel became HR!

      4. Potty Professor
        Angel

        Re: "Well Analysis - New Knowledge"

        We had a female manager who's surname was long, complicated, and rather masculine. She always signed herself as "JayniePee", and her email address was "JayniePee@(Company name).co.uk.

      5. JJKing

        Re: "Well Analysis - New Knowledge"

        Worked in a catholic school where login names were First name initial and surname. An exception was made for a your female teacher called Susan Luttleral.

        Four or five years later she got married and the naming convention tear in the space time continuum was repaired.

  4. chivo243 Silver badge
    Go

    He'll have the small plate of crow

    The tech blaming the cabling obviously didn't ship the shoddy card, but I think he can have a bit of the crow pie anyway...

    1. nintendoeats

      Re: He'll have the small plate of crow

      Eh, it sounds like was was basically on the money. I don't think a tech can reasonably be expected to predict "you only have half a board". He was right that the problem was between the mainboard (or whatever an HP minicomputer has) and the printer, just it was a little bit closer to the mainboard than he thought!

      1. Stevie Silver badge

        Re: He'll have the small plate of crow

        Damn straight, especially in the days of no standards to speak of. Who could tell what boards were expected to have socketed? I had a video card that had two empty sockets for chips if I wanted more video memory. The chips had edge connectors, not pins too, so were a bugger to source once I figured out I had options.

        1. JJKing

          Re: He'll have the small plate of crow

          Was that an S3 Trio?

  5. Headley_Grange Silver badge

    Blame the Cable

    Blame the cable was always good opening gambit. I have a very vague recollection that there existed two versions of D-types; normal and crossed, and Sod's law decreed that the only spare that could be found in the lab was the wrong kind.

    1. Jay 2

      Re: Blame the Cable

      See also the fun with SCSI terminators and if you needed a single-ended or differential.

      1. Denarius Silver badge

        Re: Blame the Cable

        Ah SCSI. High voltage diff or normal ie 5v or 3.3v. Some old Sun and HP kit was high voltage, almost everyone else low. Smoke got out if high was used on low voltage differential devices.

        1. Malcolm Weir

          Re: Blame the Cable

          Ahem. HVD was normal. LVD was some new-fangled scheme to render one's carefully hoarded stock of Adaptec AHA-1744 cards irrelevant. Ask me why I can quote the part number of a long-obsolete peripheral that I haven't touched in twenty years... <g>

      2. don't you hate it when you lose your account Silver badge

        Re: Blame the Cable

        It was great when it worked. But when it didn't, there was nothing fun about SCSI.

        1. nintendoeats

          Re: Blame the Cable

          I am a member of a hackerspace. I wanted to get some of the old SGI kit working. I literally went through every single box that might have cables, taking out anything that could possibly be SCSI. This was not an organized space, so that was a lot of boxes.

          I did eventually get it going, and have quite a nice collection of very different cables. 50-pin, 53-pin, 80-pin, VHDCI, parallel-> SCSI, internal and external, terminators, double-ended terminators...fak.

    2. cantankerous swineherd Silver badge

      Re: Blame the Cable

      I bought a dodgy monitor, weird random blankness. took it back, the ppl at the shop said no it's fine take it away son. cue grinding teeth. a week later after faffing, I found out I had a dodgy VGA cable. so there you go...

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Blame the Cable

      Way, way more than two. Does it use H/W control & if so which lines? (Memory says there were a couple of alternative conventions.) Then there are D25s & D9s. With D9s whoever laid out the board headers hadn't been told that the pin numbering on a header isn't the same as that on a D connector so a plain ribbon cable won't help*. And if all else fails a wrong gender connector can be thrown into the mix.

      * Got caught out by that one in reverse back in the early days. Spotted that the pin numbers on a 26 way header didn't correspond to the numbers on the D connector & started to wire up a custom cable. Oh, look, if you just use a ribbon...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Blame the Cable

        Back in the 80's, the company I was working for (one of the oil majors) had a serial network around their exploration HQ. Our team had Dec Rainbow PCs running Lotus Symphony to manage our part in the procurement process. All high tech as we could communicate direct with vendors via telex, straight from our PC. Printer communication was also serial. It wasn't uncommon for printer settings to get changed and, without knowing what they were, it was next to impossible to print anything. IT support was available, but they were overworked. Enter my Psion II PDA: it had a program that scanned through the full permutation of serial commands - hook it to the recalcitrant printer, run the program and whichever settings worked would be printed out. Simples!

        Our offices had more serial sockets than we needed at any one time, and unused lines were often re-patched for use elsewhere (office relocation had a full-time team). But we'd regularly find the ones we were using had been reallocated over the weekend. Enter my Psion II again: plug it into the various ports to see which were communicating and the office was back up and running.

        Must dig the ol' Psion II out from whichever loft box it's in for a bit of nostalgia...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Blame the Cable

          Must dig the ol' Psion II out from whichever loft box it's in for a bit of nostalgia...

          I still have a black Psion Organiser II, and it still works too. I think I may even have a comms link for it somewhere (but no software, sigh), and even some data packs. I'm waiting for the pandemic to finally die down (my own first vaccine appointment is in a week) so I can move to my new job, and then it'll get a place of honour somewhere in my office, together with the interfaces I developed for it.

          It's what actually got me from electronics into IT :)

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Blame the Cable

            I think I may still have the UV ROM eraser with mine, along with a couple of leads and packs. Can't remember what is on any of them, though. Went from the II to a 3a (with the modem pack); the hinges on the 3a were novel but mine broke a couple of times; I mothballed it after the second repair and switched to a Palm Pilot. My final Palm was the Tungsten. Replaced it with an iPhone 3GS because one device and charger could replace 4 sets of kit when travelling - my Nokia mobile, iPod, Garmin GPS and camera. The individual items were each better at what they did than that first iPhone, but it managed each job adequately - and saved a lot of hassle. Insisting on perfection is often the biggest obstacle to success.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Blame the Cable

              I built the UV ROM eraser myself so it could do more packs at the same time, with a timer. I'd come up with a conveyer belt idea for volume erasing as well but then they started with flashpacks so I never built it.

              I had an S3 for a while but also a Sony Clie NX70 which IMHO was a great PDA other than that it interfaced with almost nothing :). After that I had the Sony Ericsson p1i with a keyboard that even until now nobody has IMHO bettered: easy access to the whole alphabet with only 20 physical keys. It's the only mobile keyboard that ever worked for my fat fingers :).

              After hat it was iPhone for me. I've had a few forays into Android, but iOS worked better for me.

              And I stopped writing software. I coded stupid amounts of stuff in OPL, but from the S3 onwards it got too cumbersome so I eventually lost interest..

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Blame the Cable

                Ah, the Sony Clie. I had one in the late 2000s, not having a smartphone yet, and played around with programming it - using a compiler on the Clie itself (OnBoardC). Wonderful little device, and dirt cheap by that time. Not sure if I still have it, but I'm pretty sure I have a couple Memory Sticks around, including one with a switch (Memory Stick Select) that allowed me to have a whopping 2x 128MB storage on one stick.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Blame the Cable

        Once had a guy bring a floppy/HDD drive controller card back as faulty. The IDE cable was keyed so couldn't be plugged in the wrong way (unless you pushed really hard) but the floppy drive connector had no keyed shroud so could be connected the wrong way.

        I asked him if he was sure he had plugged the cable in the right way and he insisted he had swapped it and tried both ways with no joy. Took one look, could see it was on wrong. Flipped it 180, plugged it back in and it worked.

        "Ah, when I swapped it round, I swapped both ends!"

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Blame the Cable

          Didn't a reversed floppy cable cause the drive's LED to stay on? Not that I plugged enough in backwards to know that or anything.

          1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
            Pirate

            Re: Blame the Cable

            I was asked to test a machine we built for a Royal Marine Captains personal use (To the same spec as the ones we provided).

            I got our new Tech Manager to double check with me, just before I went on a much needed break only to come back to find that somehow the FDD was no longer working (LED on fully, cable reversed), when our boss delivered it to the house.

            My protests of how did we load the drivers then, fell on deaf ears, but with hindsight I think the new Tech Manager wanted shot of me.

            Icon - The company concerned had two crossed swords in a similar style as it's case badge.

          2. Shalghar

            Re: Blame the Cable

            Yes indeed, as the even pins were all GND and floppy control signals were mostly low active if i remember correctly. Fun to solder a 7406 inverter in between the pin for the side signal, best "hard coded" diskettes i ever had.

      3. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

        Re: Blame the Cable

        Then there are D25s & D9s

        I still have an Amiga that uses DB23 for video. Looks just like a DB25 until you try & plug it in. I still keep a few DB23 connectors in a box, just in case...

        1. Danny 14 Silver badge

          Re: Blame the Cable

          used a d9 serial cable not two weeks ago to factory reset a swtich I found in a cupboard.

        2. Version 1.0 Silver badge

          Re: Blame the Cable

          The great thing with DB connectors is that you can just keep a box of the shells and crimp up whatever you need - I've been crimping cables for 40 years now and it's so easy. And if you need to just check anything it's super easy to check the pin connections.

      4. Malcolm Weir

        Re: Blame the Cable

        Hmmm.... it was from an HP host, so that adds HP-IB to the mix (aka IEEE488 and GPIB), and of course the myriad of borked "alternative" connectors that some vendors used.

    4. Manolo
      FAIL

      Re: Blame the Cable

      Blame the cable still is a good opening gambit.

      Just yesterday, I received a logic analyzer (one of these cheap Saleae knock-offs).

      Plugged it in with the supplied mini-USB cable:

      $ dmesg

      [20830.498682] usb 1-6: New USB device strings: Mfr=1, Product=2, SerialNumber=0

      [20830.498684] usb 1-6: Product: Logic

      [20830.498685] usb 1-6: Manufacturer: Saleae LLC

      [20958.751963] usb 1-6: USB disconnect, device number 44

      [20991.903015] usb usb1-port4: Cannot enable. Maybe the USB cable is bad?

      [20992.030997] usb 1-4: new high-speed USB device number 47 using xhci_hcd

      [20993.011142] usb usb1-port4: Cannot enable. Maybe the USB cable is bad?

      [20993.011180] usb usb1-port4: attempt power cycle

      [20994.231147] usb usb1-port4: Cannot enable. Maybe the USB cable is bad?

      Plugged in another cable I had laying around and it works.

      Good thing it is my habit to check dmesg when I plug in new hardware.

      And thank kernel developers for these useful messages.

      Often saves a lot of head scratching.

      1. Shred

        Re: Blame the Cable

        The Chinese knock offs of those USB logic analysers are notorious for shipping with faulty USB cables.

    5. GlenP Silver badge

      Re: Blame the Cable

      Although I wasn't responsible for it I got involved in the first Cat-5 cabling that went in at a former employer (we'd previously used thinwire Ethernet with the make-before-break plugs).

      The cabling people insisted it should all work but one part of the building would not connect whatever they tried.

      I took one look and replaced the straight through cable from the master hub to the one servicing those connections with a cross over cable - this was before auto-sensing ports.

      The so-called professional installers had come along with a mixture of identical looking straight and x-over patch cables then wondered why they had problems. They also didn't have enough sense to look at the port lights on the hubs and see hey weren't lit.

      1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

        Re: Blame the Cable

        I had some bad experiences with a STARLAN implementation (1Mbs first generation twisted pair Ethernet). Turns out there was a lot of confusion about twisted pair cables and how they were wired and shielded back in the day, and tremendous issues with dumb hubs if you ended up patching a telephone or a terminal into a hub!

        So glad when we got switches rather than hubs.

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

        Re: Blame the Cable

        first Cat-5 cabling that went in at a former employer (we'd previously used thinwire Ethernet

        Ah yes, we had a thinwire (10base2, over 50Ω coax) network around the office. Worked fine most of the time, but under heavy load the throughput it would occasionally drop through the floor with huge collision counts. It took weeks before I eventually found the piece of left-over 93Ω ARCNET cable, buried in an underfloor duct, that someone had used for one small segment...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Blame the Cable

          Ah yes, ARCnet, my first network ever. With PowerLAN on the server which had no quota control so I wrote a quick Turbo Pascal program to create MB-sized files with nothing but spaces in to take up new space which would otherwise be absorbed by staff storing crap in literally minutes (so also my first exposure to managing users with psychology :) )..

          Anyone coming to me for more space I could help by deleting one of those files from a directory they did not have access to and it would be instantly available, yet they would not clutter the optical disk backup as that zipped everything first, and a file full of identical characters compresses very well indeed.

          I can remember looking in disbelief at the prices companies were charging for terminators and ordering a load of BNC connectors and resistors instead - one afternoon of soldering was worth the saving.

          PowerLAN had one unique feature: you could set up a print queue that distributed a job count over all printers. As the main output of the place I was working for was reports, you could accommodate a volume or rush job by telling everyone to stop printing (it was a small company) and then send the job into distribution and it would just keep repeating the job to whichever (similar) printer became available until it finished the count. All you had to do then was to make sure printers were fed paper and the output was collected before the trays were full. This way we didn't have to invest in a very expensive volume printer, we just distributed it over the ones we had.

          We now live in an era where we read from screen and, if a dead tree version is needed even a simple inkjet can hit 50 pages/minute so there's less need for this, but in the days of 5 pages/minute this was extremely useful.

          Fond memories :).

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Blame the Cable

        They also didn't have enough sense to look at the port lights on the hubs and see hey weren't lit.

        And voilà, here is the reason why I always insist on USB-C to Ethernet dongles with link/data LEDs. It's a very simple bit of diagnostics but it saves so much time when searching for connectivity issues that I frankly find it near criminal to omit them for the two cents it saves the OEM.

      4. Shred

        Re: Blame the Cable

        I had a project to convert a customer site from IBM token ring over CAT5 to ethernet. I started rolling out new 10/100 ethernet cards and they wouldn’t work. It couldn’t be the cabling, because it had worked before. Cue much head scratching, swapping out the new Cisco switch and so on.

        The numpties who had installed the fixed cabling had wired the patch panels as 568A and every wall outlet as 568B. Effectively every cable in the entire building was a crossover. Token ring didn’t care, but ethernet did.

    6. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

      Re: Blame the Cable

      Two types! Hoe naive!

      There were dozens of different pin layouts for RS-232 and it's it's compatible variants. Everyone did it their own way.

      Firstly, there is the type device (DTE or DCE), then the yype of connector (DB-25, DB-15, latterly RJ-45 [8P8C] and some horrendous proprietary connectors [IBM, I'm looking at you]) , then the gender, then the flow-control variants, and the redness pins (DCD, DTR etc.).

      And finally, if you were unlucky, there was synchronous and asynchronous (yes, RS-232 could be clocked!). And remember, there was no Internet to look these things up!

      I was very used to breaking out a line indicator (a straight through interposer with bi-coloured LEDs on nine of the common lines) or a protocol analyzer to try to get devices from two different manufacturers working together. Sometimes you could guess from the documents of each system, sometimes it was necessary to just work it through.

      Rather than buy the wireable interposers, I often resorted to two DB-25 connectors held together with long bolts with multiple nuts, and soldered wires running between the pins at each end. If I was lucky, I would find some heat-shrink to wrap them in, but often they were left open, I know Tandy and companies like Inmac did quite a trade in specific cables and interposers, and would sell kits to make up your own interposers at quite a premium. RS had connectors with push in pins to do something similar.

      Happy days spent grovelling around behind the back of mini-computers. With the state of my joints, muscles (and late-middle age spread!), not something I would want to be doing much now.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Blame the Cable

        "And remember, there was no Internet to look these things up!"

        Even when there was, it would be on the end of the cable you were trying to sort out.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Blame the Cable

        Not to mention instrument manufacturers who used odd pins on the DB25 for "accessory power" resulting in a fight to the death between the instrument and the PC motherboard if a standard cable was used rather than the £££proprietary one!

        (Fortunately the MB lost, as that was the cheapest to replace.)

      3. WonkoTheSane
        Facepalm

        Re: Blame the Cable

        The absolute worst version was the implementation of RS485 on the BBC Micro.

        The problem was that instead of the usual 5 pins spaced around 180 degrees of the connector face, they specced the X version with a central pin and the remaining 4 spaced every 90 degrees, giving the connector 4-way rotational symmetry!

        1. heyrick Silver badge

          Re: Blame the Cable

          Probably so people wouldn't mix up serial and Econet. I can't imagine Econet would appreciate the sort of voltage swings typical of traditional serial.

        2. Martin an gof Silver badge

          Re: Blame the Cable

          Wasn't it RS423? A bit like RS485 but with single-ended (0V - 12V?) signalling rather than differential to make it easier to interface with more standard RS232-based equipment.

          And didn't the domino plug, like all DIN plugs, have a key? My BBC Micro is in a box over there but it's buried under other boxes and a bit of a pig to get out right now. Of course, the key was on the shell, and DIN plugs were such a pig to solder up that many people didn't bother with the shell and the cover :-)

          M.

          1. heyrick Silver badge

            Re: Blame the Cable

            Yes, I'm pretty sure the plug was keyed. But as long as the pins lined up, an enterprising person (child) could make it fit.

            I know.

            I was that child.

            1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
              Facepalm

              Re: Blame the Cable

              From memory the keyed Domino Din on the BBC B would only go in in two orientations.

              Our modems used the same connector & we would get frequent calls about how the modem wasn't dialing out & The RX & TX LED's were flashing, on our various hardware software packages for supported machines.

              This problem was easier on the Beeb owners as they could just re-orientate the easiest cable end to reach.

              There was one guy (Icon) who absolutely wouldn't listen to this advice, calling us over several days/weeks & insisted someone travel up to County Durham to fix it (Boss said certainly if he pays in advance for the call out (2 days round trip from Devon to client, hourly rate plus hotel & travel costs) & would be refunded if the cable wasn't at fault). I think in the end he returned it for a refund.

            2. irrelevant

              Re: Blame the Cable

              It was indeed keyed but could (normally) fit in two ways round. Designers missed a trick totally by not having it wired so that turning it over acted as a cross-over.

              Reminds me of one time I got called to a top floor office where someone had tried to set up a BBC Micro and CUB Monitor, and only had a screen full of solid colour. On investigation, they had managed to find a cable that had the 5-pin X on one end, connected to the R423 port, and a 5 pin 180degree on the other that fitted the monitor perfectly .. Swapping the modem cable for a RGB one worked much better...

      4. nintendoeats

        Re: Blame the Cable

        This also reminds me of DB13W3. I have a cable for converting it to VGA, which has a set of switches on it for changing which device it supports. I can't find the instructions right now to check, but I think it has something like 12 different "official" modes for different devices. Of course, most commonly you will just use SGI and SUN.

      5. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: Blame the Cable

        Welcome to one of my first jobs in data-comms, wiring up custom RS232 cables.

        Which I passed over to our new PFY at the first opportunity.

      6. Old Used Programmer Silver badge

        Re: Blame the Cable

        Rant time...

        No such animal as "DB-15". The series is: DA-15, DB-25, DC-37, DD-50, DE-9.

        1. Herby

          Re: Blame the Cable

          Wow! Someone who got it right. Of course, a DE-15 is the standard VGA connector. Yes, the letter is the SIZE of the connector!

        2. Version 1.0 Silver badge
          Happy

          Re: Blame the Cable

          Absolutely but that's just techie engineer vs luser.

        3. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

          Re: Blame the Cable

          Hmm. You live and learn (or at least I do).

          DB-15 has become so ingrained that it feels correct.

    7. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Blame the Cable

      About the first thing I did when I had ran into that problem was to make an RS232 25 pin ribbon cable with a box in the middle with switches that allowed me to cross the signals. It had male and female connectors on both ends as well, as that too was often a bit of a gamble.

      I also carried a couple of 25-to-9 converters, and that little assembly saved a frankly stupid amount of time debugging connection problems caused by standards that weren't.

      1. msobkow Bronze badge

        Re: Blame the Cable

        We just had the cabling department wire up some doo-dads for us back in those days, with about 4 various ends on each end of the cable so you could cross-connect and use different size connectors to test and see what kind of cable you had to order from the cabling department for whatever new equipment you were installing.

        It was disgusting how often vendor documentation and manuals were flat out WRONG, leaving us to work with our hacks to figure out how it REALLY worked rather than what the manuals said. (PRINTED manuals to boot! Remember those? :) )

  6. TeeCee Gold badge

    Cabling.

    Not surprised the supervisor installed it himself. Back in the day cabling cost real money and was a black art.

    Once upon a time, a contractor mate in Novell picked up a job doing the setup for a very tight-fisted bunch. He was bemoaning the fact that a) he'd been screwed on his price and b) they wouldn't pay for decent cabling. He showed me the cabling quotes and said they were going for the cheapest (thinwire ethernet - yes, that long ago).

    I saw the big number at the bottom and swore. I asked if they'd like the place floodwired in Cat5 for 16Mb token-ring, with a proper cabinet and patch panel next to the server, for less money. He thought they might, but how? I pointed out that I knew what I was doing and had all the tools required.

    We did it over a weekend and pocketed well over half the big number at the bottom[1] between us. No wonder there was no shortage of choice in cabling contractors, the profit margins were astronomical. One of the more profitable items was the patch cables, which I made out of left over cable and crimp-on ends (10 quid for a bag of 500). It seemed cheesy to charge per cable, but I undercut the opposition by 50%, at 10 quid a pop, to salve my conscience.

    [1] Even with the higher spec kit, cards and cable than the etherstring lads. They must have been really coining it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Cabling.

      I'm still shocked at the price of Cat5e cables these days. $10 for a 10-foot cable? When I could buy the cable for $0.10/foot (1000' spool for $100), and connectors for less than $0.10 each?

      When I was in college, we wired up the place I was living with Ethernet. Used over 200 feet (went down the stairs). A full spool would have been cheaper than premade cables.

      1. Giles C Silver badge

        Re: Cabling.

        Here is a couple of comparisons

        Currys 10m cat 6 patch lead £17.99

        https://www.currys.co.uk/gbuk/search-keywords/xx_xx_xx_xx_xx/ethernet%2Bcable/xx-criteria.html

        Cable management supplies £7.04 plus vat so £8.45

        https://www.cmsplc.com/assynia-cat6-cable-assemblies.html

        I think marlins used to make curry’s look cheap….

        But yes if you have the need a 300m reel is £210 so a lot cheaper.

        1. Martin an gof Silver badge

          Re: Cabling.

          The problem with making your own patch cables is that the 305m drum you have is probably solid-core, so they're less flexible than bought cables and, of course, it all takes time, which is fine if you are only doing a few but could get tedious if you were doing an office.

          CPC have 3m (10ft) Cat.6 cables for £2.64 inc. VAT or 10m cables for £6.18. I've used a few of this brand and they seem ok. CPC isn't historically the cheapest around, but still it's not a lot of money.

          M.

          1. Giles C Silver badge

            Re: Cabling.

            It was, the price I put was for a flex reel, if you buy a solid core reel is is only typically about £100.

            Not that I can wire a patch lead as I am colourblind and the cable core look blue, red, orange and orange to me!

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Cabling.

        I have found that a bit of digging can get you decent deals, and we sort of boxed myself into a corner so HAD to find good but affordable suppliers: we switched to flat cables.

        Flat cables are far more robust than the "traditional" round ones so we had a significant drop in outages (typically caused by narrow bends and carpet runs - the joy of old "we must preserve heritage" offices), but they are nigh impossible to make yourself, especially if you need cables in the CAT 6/CAT 7 range of throughput. Fortunately, as long as you buy in bulk they're relatively easy and cheap to come by.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Cabling.

      profit margins were astronomical

      One of the guys working for us as a software developer around 1986 ran a cabling business in his spare time & weekends. After his company got the contract to re-cable our office he admitted that he was making more money out of us for that job than from the (generous) salary he was being paid for the day job, so he quit.

  7. Stuart Castle Silver badge

    Working in computing labs where students can come in pretty much when they want, we've always had a bit of a problem with theft. Even to the point where we have to secure the cables to the desks.

    This usually works. On day, I got a call to say a student had stolen a mouse. Not sure why I was told, as we only pay about a fiver for the mice, so we usually just replace them.

    Then, I saw the computer. The student hadn't done the sensible thing and cut the cable ties. No, No. He or she had cut through the mouse cable, leaving the USB plugged into the computer and walked off with the mouse. This was almost worse because he or she *could* have shorted the USB socket.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Bloody Developers and memory

    I was tech support manager for an organisation with a large in house dev team. After several years of debacles where the devs produced applications which could not run on end user PC's I restricted the memory size on the dev PC's when they were replaced, they still had plenty of ram for the time and it was more that the vendor recommenced. These apps were being rolled out to hundreds or thousands of machines and memory upgrades were cripplingly expensive at the time. When the next app was deployed sure enough the app failed to load due to insufficient memory. I called for a desktop engineer to bring and install more Ram to get the first team operating and when he opened up the PC half the memory as missing. I smelt a rat immediately and stormed off to the Dev office. Sure enough the developers machines had 4 times the memory they were installed with. They had actually stolen the memory from the user PC's because 'users don't need that much' I was absolutely furious as buying higher spec user pc's to run the app had cost me hundreds of thousands of pounds. Sure enough even with the additional memory installed the app wouldn't work. Not being willing to find another £500,000 to upgrade the entire estate the roll out was delayed by 2 weeks while the lazy b*stards actually did some tuning. Done even get me started on the quality of their server side coding.

    1. Denarius Silver badge

      Re: Bloody Developers and memory

      sounds familiar. Developers PCs with lots of RAM in 1990s and everything worked fine in test. Not so elsewhere. Bring back assembler !

      1. druck Silver badge

        Re: Bloody Developers and memory

        Then again, no!

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Bloody Developers and memory

        Still going on. I have a mobile game that takes over 500 MB of memory and nearly 1 GB storage. Same graphics and game would probably have fit on a 3.5" floppy, but nooo....

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Bloody Developers and memory

        "But it works fine on my computer!"

    2. nintendoeats

      Re: Bloody Developers and memory

      I must admit, I did do this to a teacher once. I upgraded to 32GB because I was running out of memory for some vector art. It didn't occur to me that the teacher wouldn't have that much, so he had to bring the file to school to view it...I still got a good grade, which was nice.

    3. nintendoeats

      Re: Bloody Developers and memory

      Now...that's terrible and everything...but wouldn't this have been solved by buying the devs a single target PC that they had to run their code on before deployment?

      1. Marcelo Rodrigues
        Devil

        Re: Bloody Developers and memory

        "Now...that's terrible and everything...but wouldn't this have been solved by buying the devs a single target PC that they had to run their code on before deployment?"

        Hardly. I bet every memory related bug would be closed with a "works for me" - since the developer desktop would have enough RAM.

        1. nintendoeats

          Re: Bloody Developers and memory

          When developing Crysis: Warhead, Crytek built a "target PC" that was kinda low-mid end. The final game had to be playable on that machine. That's what I'm talking about. Before release, the dev is required to run their code on the target machine rather than their dev machine.

      2. ITS Retired
        Unhappy

        Naaa, can't do that

        The bean counters wouldn't understand.

      3. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip

        Re: Bloody Developers and memory

        If the devs are prepared to steal memory to stick in their own PCs, do you seriously think that would make a real difference?

        The first thing they'd do is put extra memory in the test PC for a start

        1. nintendoeats

          Re: Bloody Developers and memory

          A: Keep it under your desk, force them to net into it.

          B: If they do that, then for a whole host of reasons they should probably not keep their job (since at that point they are deliberately and knowingly bypassing a fundamental development procedure that is REQUIRED for the programs they write to be useful).

          Imagine the conversation:

          Me: Why is there 256 MB in the test PC? it was specced at 128 MB.

          Dev: My code wouldn't work in 128 MB.

          Me: But the user PCs all have 128 MB.

          If they continue to argue with you, then they are provably an idiot and you really don't want to keep them around.

    4. Stevie Silver badge

      Re: Bloody Developers and memory

      I had someone steal all the memory out of an old sun workstation I used once in a blue moon.

      "Who would do that?" said my grinning manager.

      "I have no idea" I said with a sigh, and went off to check the office for old kit lying under desks and on the hot desk we were supposed to give short-term consultants who we never hired.

      A few days later the hardware replacement tech came yelling around my desk:

      "Who left this old busted sun workstation on my desk? And all these broken keyboards? And what' s with this pile of old SCSI disks all over my cabinet top?"

      "I have no idea".

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Bloody Developers and memory

      Let me guess, you worked for Microsoft?

      :)

    6. Martin Silver badge

      Re: Bloody Developers and memory

      Hmm. I've worked for one or two companies who would have sacked the dev team for that on the grounds of gross misconduct. And I'm not entirely convinced that I'd have a lot of sympathy for them.

  9. MiguelC Silver badge
    Coat

    Rage Against The Machine

    never specified what type of machine they were furious with but I reckon it was probably a printer.

    (source)

  10. trevorde Silver badge

    A rose by any other name

    Worked on a product for analysts to store, search and, err, analyse their data. Marketing called it something fancy but all the devs called it "Analyst's Repository Search Engine".

  11. -maniax-

    ...the potential for acronym naughtiness was sadly lost to time

    A place I worked at a few years back had the IT dept sharing an office with the Health & Safety guy

    For some reason we couldn't get the powers that be to agree to the sign on the door saying "Safety, Health & IT

  12. MOH

    Got an IT support call on Monday morning saying "My printer's not working" back when people had their own individual printers plugged into their PC.

    Down to the desk, check all the basics - printer is plugged in, turned on, no error lights flashing, print a test page, etc, all fine.

    Try to print from the PC, nothing.

    Took longer than it should have for me to check the cable from the PC to the printer wasn't loose. It wasn't loose, it just wasn't there.

    It had been there on Friday because I'd been dealing with another issue.

    Pointed out that the cable was missing to the user, who immediately exclaimed "Well I didn't take it!" - a surprisingly quick and strident denial from somebody who hadn't been accused of anything. Between that and the shifty look, they clearly had.

    I didn't care, just grabbed a spare cable, but I always thought it was a bit weird, as if the guy had decided on the Friday he needed a printer cable for home, but hadn't really thought through exactly how that was going to work on Monday morning.

    1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      "back when people had their own individual printers plugged into their PC."

      That would be tomorrow then.

      Hello, is this the first time you've worked for NHS IT Services?

  13. Daedalus Silver badge

    Legend has it that, in the dim and distant past, when some piece of new-fangled chippery was a bit later to market than the sales droids had advertised, there would be shipped some units with no or dummy components on the board. The defunctery rate of new stuff back then was high enough that buyers just shrugged, put in the RMA, and awaited the promised replacement.

    On the other hand, there were also instances where boards were shipped with full capability, only to have a disabling jumper installed to reduce that capability to what was initially promised. Getting said jumper removed was an expensive extra.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Wasn't that same trick repeated in software at some point with Windows NT where the difference between workstation and server was one single bit?

    2. Shred

      Very common in some areas. The Fluke 75 multimeter could be converted into a more expensive Fluke 77 by moving one end of a single resistor.

  14. doug_bostrom

    Heh. I worked for the well (oily type) logging outfit "Welex" in the same era. Our instrument/winch trucks were equipped with the same gear and I wonder if this story has its roots there. Ours sported dual compact tape drives with the classic whir-stop-reverse behavior and extremely nice for the time Tektronix graphics terminals. With those and the mixture of analog and digital displays, indicator lamps etc. it was an impressive concentration of gizmos in a very small space, perfect for making drillers feel they were getting their just desserts for our astronomical fees.

    Aside from missing chips (never ran into that), the Versatec plotters were distinguished by their "electrographic" technology for laying output on paper. This process produced toxic gas (ammonia) which needed to be exhausted from the operations compartment of the truck. If the exhaust blower failed during plotter operation, the compartment would become a hostile environment within a couple of minutes.

    I can't remember any of these blowers failing, and can't remember if there was an interlock to prevent them running with a failed blower. At the time of my employment Welex was enjoying the benefit of legions of cast-off NASA engineers in their design and production area (Houston headquarters). I have to say that attention to detail and reliability was good, maybe as a result of that crew.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Stupidity ‘sells out’ the Thief

    About 20yrs ago I worked for an IT distie who built themselves into a decent market position. I worked in sales on the phone and one day I look up to see two of the local constabulary going into the MD’s office, causing a not so discreet amount of chatter.

    A little while later, one of the guys from the ‘build dept’ was escorted out by the boys in blue with a very solemn expression. I don’t actually know what became of the guy in question but his own stupidity led to his downfall - who tries to punt knocked-off CPU’s, memory, HDD’s etc on the worlds biggest jumble sale using their personal known fleabay account with their personal email address (firstname-lastname) listed?

  16. Old Used Programmer Silver badge

    As for software system names...

    Company I worked for had a "Leaking Underground Storage Tanks" system.

  17. Johan-Kristian Wold 1

    Ahh, thefts...

    I work in the construction industry, and one of the «side quests» I usually get tasked with is making inventory of tools, fixing up what can be fixed etc..

    At one of my old jobs, I had quite the pile of old tools to go through, and a lot of this was pretty knackered, so I put aside everything I considered not worth the effort of repairing in a tool container outside, to be taken away once I had a trip to the dump.

    One afternoon, I got a call from the cops - «we have stopped a guy with a lot of equipment, and some of it had stickers with the company name. We know you work there (small town) - can you come by and have a look at it, and see what belongs to you?»

    As I was out driving, I just dropped in and had a look. The bugger had raided the container with all the broken tools. Some of them was even marked with «defect».

    I told the cops what tools used to belong to us, and «no, I don’t want them back». The cops got to take the stuff to the dump, and saved me the effort

    1. MCPicoli

      Re: Ahh, thefts...

      Place my father worked before retirement had a policy that all tools and equipment that was going to te decomissioned/dumped/trashed had to be physically destroyed or otherwise mangled to "beyond any chance of repair" condition before, and any and all company markings removed.

      It was sad to see lots of equipment in working condition, but completely obsolete, get the hammer/blowtorch/angle grinder treatment, but ended the sporadic cases of newer kit suddenly being deemed "not economical to repair" but misteriously disappearing from the bin later that night.

  18. rnturn

    Serial printer fun

    In a former life (early-ish '90s), myself and others got caught up in problem figuring out why the printer sitting on the desk of some self-important bank exec's wouldn't work. It connected directly to a mini in the data center. The complainer's office was at least ten floors above the data center and the printer was connected via RS-232. Our initial tests showed that there was nothing wrong with the wiring---no breaks. In that hi-rise, all floor-to-floor cabling was all done via phone punch-down blocks on each floor and we checked those multiple times. Eventually, we contacted the networking team to help us out with their TDR. As it turned out, the printer cabling was 666 feet in length. Not willing to accept that his office's cabling should have to be governed by some standard that he'd never heard of before, we had to have a manager two levels up explain to him that he was not going to have a printer working yesterday and that we'd have order equipment to allow him to have a private printer. There /was/ a shared printer in the general office area just steps from his office but, apparently, his ego wouldn't allow his print jobs to be mixed in with those of underlings.

    1. G.Y.

      666 (feet) Re: Serial printer fun

      = the number of the beast

  19. msobkow Bronze badge

    Well in the current realm of "stupid vendors", I have an Epson WorkForce Pro WF-3730 that will NOT print because the Magenta cartridge is out. You print, the printer complains you can only print in black right now. So you cancel the job and resubmit as black and white - and the printer rejects it again. You flat out can NOT print if ANY cartridge has run out with this printer. What a brain dead, piss poor, lethally incompetent design!

    I intend to replace this piece of schite with another HP laser printer as soon as possible; the only reason I settled for it is I only had CAD$200 at the time... :(

    1. Headley_Grange Silver badge

      Option?

      I've got a different model Epson printer and there's a setting hidden somewhere where black only printing has to be enabled before you can use it. Maybe yours has it too.

    2. Terry 6 Silver badge

      What a brain dead, piss poor, lethally incompetent design!

      "piss poor" yes. But the other bits, sadly no. From their POV this is sheer brilliance. They will be able to flog lots more packs of ink and/or single colours ( if they even make them available for that machine) that are marketed at a higher unit price than multi-packs.

      And if you buy packs there will be a certain colour that never gets used ( I used to have surplus yellow). All good for the sales figure.

      Printers, like razors, are traditionally flogged to make after-sales. They don't sell printers (or razors)- they may even make a loss on them, they sell ink/blades.

      1. gnasher729 Silver badge

        My personal Brother laser printer has two great features: 1. I found someone selling packs with two B/W and one of each color cartridges. 2. It doesn’t measure what’s in the cartridge but how many pages have been printed, and that counter can be reset.

    3. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Also a former Epson Workforce owner. Former for exactly that reason. Worked great when it did, but between uses the cartridges would fail, so every use required a $ expenditure. That got old fast.

      Now the proud rebuilder and user of a "free if you pick it up off our porch" HP Laserjet 5. After $200 of parts (rebuilt fuser assy, gears, RAM upgrade and LAN card), and a new toner cartridge, it prints whenever I need it to, and sits quietly on standby (7 watts) when I don't. And the toner doesn't go bad like the ink used to. No expiration date counters and it still works on Win10, in spite of HPs efforts to make it appear unusable by messing with the PCL driver.

      Warning: I have read that the latest batch of HP Laserjets, even the commercial grade ones, have expiration timers on the toner cartridges, maybe even remote controlled expiration switches. The current favourite seems to be Brother for laser printers.

      1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge
        Thumb Down

        RE: Brother for laser printers.

        I would be careful of touching Brother printers with a barge pole. I think I've mentioned this before, but once a toner cartridge is inserted, it is keyed to that device. I found this out the hard way when troubleshooting a printer which wasn't.

        To rule out the cartridge what is a good way to start the diagnosis?

        Swap cartridges with a known good one.

        Didn't work.

        Eventually spoke to Brother technical who told me this thing about not being able to swap cartridges.

        ===

        I agree that it is difficult to beat the traditional HP lasers, up to about the 4000 range. I have a customer who had to ditch a 5L, purely for the fact that it was getting difficult to source the cartridges.

        And that was a printer that, in its day, had a poor reputation for paper feed, because of the hopper design. HP rolled-out a kit to cure that and it was good as gold after that.

        1. Wellyboot Silver badge

          Re: RE: Brother for laser printers.

          I utterly agree with the 4000 series comment, mine is only seven months short of its 20th birthday and toner carts are still available. Emergency spare is a 4+.

          1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

            Re: Emergency spare is a 4+

            In the days when WordPerfect ruled the word processing market I did a lot of work for a Hungarian translator. She wanted a good solid printer. Supplied a LaserJet 4 to her at the time when they had just come onto the market, cost over a grand at the time IIRC. Mortified to find that most of the Hungarian accented characters had the accents shifted horizontally by an unacceptable amount. Moaned like hell at HP and they miraculously came up with replacement drivers within a matter of days.

          2. Dan White
            Thumb Up

            Re: RE: Brother for laser printers.

            Ah, LaserJet 4000TN, with a duplexer fitted. Still my favourite printer, and with XL toner cartridges that regularly lasted longer than rated.

            Lasted from 1998 until 2 years ago when children, lack of space and not working from home required me to part with it, still in full working order.

            They literally don't make them like that any more...

        2. JJKing

          Re: RE: Brother for laser printers.

          I had an HP 5L and found out about the kit for the paper feed issue. Filled in the online form and a couple of weeks later received a carton with maybe 20 or 30 of the kits. Told all my IT colleagues about this and jus to be sure to be sure, I filled out another online form and received another carton. Used the last kit in 2009 on a 6L. The worked on the 5L, 6L and the 1100 if memory serves me correct so had many a happy customer after finding out about that.

  20. Conundrum1885

    Its said

    That the fellow who later won the Physics Nobel "borrowed" a defunct >20M Yen MOCVD machine that was being thrown out because it had been replaced with a nice shiny new one, took it home with the aid of some friends and then spent evenings and weekends hacking and modding it to make the p type GaN for the very first blue LEDs which the same employer had said were impossible due to defects and would never work.

    Said employer wasn't very happy about it but he'd got all the appropriate paperwork so there was nothing they could do.

    Think it was the largest settlement ever paid to an employee in Japanese history.

    Literally a 10,000:1 value gain.

    Whats the Traditional Japanese phrase for "Skunkworks" ?

    1. Daedalus Silver badge

      Re: Its said

      In Japanese it's スカンクワークス. Unfortunately, that's just a phonetic rendering in Katakana. The original reference was to the comic strip "Li'l Abner"

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