Not as bad as I expected
I thought Ruud was going to find and remove some horse betting malware which the boss man 'could not do his "job" without'
A call from the executive floor is rarely a harbinger of happiness, especially when one is wading knee-deep through the molasses of malware. Welcome to one Register reader's experience in On Call. Our story takes place a few years ago and concerns "Ruud" (not his name) who had joined a very well-known company as head of IT. As …
I was thinking that it might involve a certain Romanian-born (something East European, anyway, might have been Bulgarian or Hungarian) Italian politician who was famous for two things:
1 running for political office by being driven around town in a convertible, stopping at bust intersections, standing up, pulling her blouse down, and flashing her surgically amplified assets
2 a certain movie involving a horse. I believe that that particular movie may well be illegal in the UK.
Note that she got elected. What this says about the other Italian politicians is left as an exercise for the student.
I worked as a sous-chef for a chain of upscale restaurants, my chef went on vacation (I know!! can you believe it?) on a day with many large parties booked, June wedding receptions etc. The Executive Chef shows up out of the blue and begins poking his beak around, and decides that "I" should drop what I'm doing and re-arrange and re-label the produce shelves in the cooler! Needless to say, the GM did a bit of comping that day, as I was in the cooler, and not running the kitchen. I gave notice as soon as my chef returned.
Yup, when the brown stuff starts hitting the revolving blades there can be some strange behaviour. I was working at a major UK Building Society in the early part of the century when word got out that some major systems were down, and unofficially some colleagues asked if I could help. Rolling up sleeves and walking across the floor I met the system admin who was responsible for said outage acting very busy - tidying up the software cupboard, arranging all disks/CDs/etc. in alphabetical order! So we had to completely bypass them, let them get on with what made them happy, and fix the issues. Weird how pressure can affect people in strange ways - in this case CYA mode "Let's look busy and I won't get asked to do anything useful...."
> I met the system admin who was responsible for said outage acting very busy - tidying up the software cupboard, arranging all disks/CDs/etc. in alphabetical order
I've not encountered that particular sub-species of admin but I have met a close cousin: the developer who creates a problem through his own lack of diligence and then promotes himself as the "hero" who saves the day by working overtime to fix his own problem.
Or the payroll Dev Who came screaming into my office complaining that my sysadmins had cocked up the system and we were not going to be able to pay 22000 employees (including us)
A walk into the Dc to check everything out showed the machine running flat out 100% CPU usage but only processing 1 record pr second)
There was however a small grey rectangle on the system console which shouldn't be there.
It turned out the dev had made some 'small' changes and had included a debug line in his code displaying the currently active payroll record.
It transpired that the 'small change' he had made had broken an index on the table and the database was having to do a sequential read of the table for every record displaying the payroll reference of each as it passed through.
Turning off debug and rebuilding the table meant we all got paid. on time and he got a bollocking for making any change on a payroll day
I worked with one such developer who was the bane of my existence for a few years. He left at least 12 months ago, but I am still raising tech debt items to fix the mess he left behind. He was a pretty good dev overall, but had a real ego and usually came up with ideas beyond his ability. He also couldn't see past what happens in a dev environment, and could never understand how things worked in production.
I think what made it worse was all the problems he created were always because he refused to follow the designs I came up with. I might not be an out and out developer, but I know how to design something which is not just functional, but also production/real world operations ready. Unfortunately "blue sky" Devs don't like that, and think they know better.
I must have warned upper management 2 years before he left that he would be a problem, but my warnings were pushed aside as too confrontational. I think it too one very low performance review with A LOT of negative feedback from multiple peers before they took it seriously that they have a problem on their hands.
It doesn't have to be the developer self-promoting. It always seems weird to me that I get far more thanks and gratitude on the (rare) occasions that I screw something up, it causes problems, and I put it right, than for the much more frequent case of doing things correctly, not causing any problems, and processes operating smoothly and efficiently.
It's just human nature to pay attention to the problems, I guess. It is a little bit grating when this sort of thing goes as far as actual meaningful (monetary) awards, though. I have seen a case or two of awards being given for "X really went above and beyond fixing this problem for us" when I've known that X was also the person who caused the problem in the first place by not paying attention to what they were told to do. Fortunately that is pretty rare where I work and most of them are for genuine reasons. As far as I know.
I recall, many years ago (around 20ish) when I temporarily stood in as IT mug for a small company I was working for (in an otherwise non-IT role), that the office server got infected with a virus. The previous IT incumbent had installed AV software but decided not to install any updates as it took too much time and effort. Anyway, the system needed sorting fast, so I added my own laptop to the network and used the (up to date) AV program on that to scan the server. It found the source of the virus and disinfected - remember, this was back in the days when things were much simpler. The source had been an email received by the General Manager; it was deleted and he was told why. All sorted and back to real work.
The next day, the system was reinfected, so laptop hooked back in and system scanned and cleaned - again. The source? The GM had decided he needed the infected email and, realising he also had a copy on his PC at home, had forwarded it to his company email a/c after dinner. A trip to the GM's home to clean his PC followed! He was a good guy to work for, but not the most computer-savvy...
Having appeared in one of these stories (or at least a story very similar to mine was published) without my name attached to it, I can attest to the utility of the regomizer.
It was not this story.
No I'm not going to tell you which story it was, that would defeat the point of the regomizer.
Many years ago I was working at a customer site. They had an in house IT Manager and his assistant . One morning I received an email from the user I was working with and my virus checker popped up a warning. I quickly let their IT know, and we all swooped on the Users PC ASAP to clean it. While disinfecting the PC, the assistant (who was responsible for keeping the virus checkers up to date) kept giving me a gentle ribbing about the virus, as she thought it had originated from my PC. Just as we were finishing up, I casually mentioned that the virus came from the user's PC, and that it was my virus checker that flagged it. She went deathly pale when she realised it had got through their virus checker (which it turned out wasn't up to date on the user's machine). In a very shaken voice she said she need to get some air and popped out. The IT Manager just smiled and said 'I better make sure she's okay' and went to let her know not to worry :).
I once worked for a CEO who would proudly proclaim how "technology informed everything the company did".
He'd then come into the IT shed and "talk through some ideas" with us. This quality time with a cherished colleague occurred, without exception, at around 1645hrs on a Friday.
The requirement was invariably on the scale of inventing a new form of fusion, or creating a holographic user interface - "trivial stuff really!" - and always with the bracingly naive expectation that it would all be delivered by 0900hrs the following Monday.
"After all, there's at least 48 hours between now and then, that's basically 5 work days!" he'd burble.
Ho ho ho. We'd chuckle, with the brio of an emergency morgue in a disaster zone.
His "specifications" comprised a 10 minute monologue made up of internally contradictory jargonese. This was often assisted by some impromptu "wireframing", which typically looked like a losing round in a solo game of Pictionary.
With a final flourish of "but it's simple really; it's just a button!" he'd bolt for the door, because he was a Very Important Man With Many Important Things To Do.
We often considered creating a button that popped a dialog with 15 paragraphs of "Jargon Ipsum" on it, as "just a button" and a lot of words seemed to be the overriding requirement.
I have a sneaking suspicion it would have kept him happy for more than a few minutes too...