back to article The time you solved that months-long problem in 3 seconds

Being On Call requires certain skills. Technical ability? Sure. A desire to help? Naturally. However, there are some calls where one has to dip into one's reservoirs of diplomacy. Two bytes: good. Loss of face: bad. Our tale comes from a reader Regomised as "Alan" and concerns a database solution he works with. One that has …

  1. CuChulainn Silver badge

    I went over to Pakistan to manufacture a tricky medicinal product for the first time outside the UK.

    As I left when the job was complete, I was presented with a suitcase-sized, sack-wrapped package with handles sewn on to it, and instructions not to open it until I got home. They wouldn't tell me what it was, but I guessed 'rug' - which was fortunate, because when I checked in at Karachi Airport, the first thing the armed guards did was ask me what was in the bag. So I guessed 'rug' again and they were satisfied. They were less (i.e. completely not) interested in the large polythene bag I was also carrying - in the open to avoid any unpleasantness - of samples of white powder from various stages of the process I'd been monitoring.

    When I finally got home, I opened the bag and inside was a huge and beautiful handmade Persian rug.

    1. ibmalone Silver badge

      Some central Asian countries are quite hot on people trying to export antiquarian rugs and like to make sure you've got a certificate for it saying it's not!

    2. Lazlo Woodbine Silver badge

      Last time I flew from Karachi airport all the x-ray machines were broke, so they just swept everyone through and onto the plane.

      Fortunately someone must have mentioned this to the security at Muscat where we had a stop-over, so they marched everyone off the plane and tossed all the bags from the hold onto the runway.

      Each bag was checked before being thrown back into the hold, all except one, which was marched away with the owner, presumably to some CIA black site in the desert somewhere.

      Unfortunately I'd bought my sister a box of very intricate glass bangles, which were now in about a million pieces...

      1. imanidiot Silver badge

        My guideline when packing things for air travel is: Assume some will drop it from the cargo hold of a 777 to the tarmac. Because the reality won't be far off. Second is: assume someone will run over it with a bagage trolley. Whenever possible, delicate pieces should be carried on the carry-on/cabin bag. At least then you can punch whoever is trying to ram their "should obviously have been checked in" steamer trunk into an already full overhead bin.

      2. Stuart Castle Silver badge

        Back in 2006, I was flying back from Las Vegas. Checked in to the Airport, and when my flight was called, I went to security to check my hand luggage.

        My bag went into the machine, and came out the other end, where I went to pick it up. All of a sudden, I saw the operator reach for a gun (or taser, thankfully never found out which) and he said "Sir, step away from the bag". I did. Then I got the normal "Did you pack your bag?" and "Can you describe the contents of your bag?". I did so, honestly (after all, there was only a few washing things, a change of clothes and my phone and iPod in there), and said I had packed it myself. He started emptying it. He found all of the above, and a lighter my friend had dropped in there and not told me about.

        I packed the bag again, minus the lighter, and the guard was happy to let me through.

        1. Martin-73 Silver badge

          Similar concept but utterly reversed. I was flying back from Canada to the UK in Dec 2004 (i found out about the tsunami on my arrival back in blighty) . I'd been resident in the US, legally, for 5 yrs and was returning home for personal reasons, and decided to visit friends in canada en route. Canadian immigration could have been rude about the kind of things i was bringing into the country for a 'visit', but they were...Canadian; and thus accepted me.

          But given all this preamble, it's evident i have more with me than your average tourist. Lady at the Air Canada checkin desk at Toronto Pearson airport was insistant that my small toolbox was carryon size and thus would save me a LOT in excess baggage fees (which i'd already accounted for), as it was very heavy. So I opened it. the top tray on the box contained 3 different types of utility knife, and a 3/4 inch chisel. She grinned and said 'maybe not then sir'

          One day, i need to return to Canada, wonderful place.

          Related polite anecdote, I'd arrived 3h early for the flight and already checked in, and done the security thing but at the time i smoked, and Canada, being more progressive than most, had already banned all smoking inside the airport. So I left my carryon with the checkin desk, and went outside for a cigarette. Came back in, fully expecting to be scanned again. Nope, the security guard said 'I watched you thru the window, i'm pretty sure you've not picked anything up, will you be out for another? my shift changes in 1 hr'...

          1. Throgmorton Horatio III
            Unhappy

            In 2006 we flew out as a family to meet friends in Canada, changing planes in Toronto. We had brought apples for personal consumption in transit, so naturally did not state we were bringing food into the country on the immigration form. Cue sniffer dog pulling us from the queue, then being threatened with $2000 fines while our luggage was taken apart. A dumb mistake, but it WAS obvious that 3 clean and shiny apples in hand luggage for 3 people were for personal consumption.

            We did however do much better than the guy with dreads whose luggage was spread across a couple of tables and who was being interviewed with menaces.

            On the way back we had yet more trouble, this time in Sask airport. We had been given a bottle of home-made wine by friends, and placed it in checked luggage. Apparently it could not travel with us on the plane because it did not have an official wine production seal and serial number on the bottle.

            Never forget the Candians are partly French. I love Canada and have been several times, but depending on locality, Canada isn't a kind of easy-going America without the guns.

    3. DS999 Silver badge

      Somewhere in the metaverse

      Is an alternate CuChulainn who is serving a life sentence in some hellhole of a Pakistani prison because the conversation with the armed guards went in a slightly different way after they noticed that mysterious white powder.

      1. Benegesserict Cumbersomberbatch

        Re: Somewhere in the metaverse

        Considering the OP's description of his task in Pakistan, the other contents of his carry-on luggage was probably forensic proof of precisely what the white powders he carried were made of.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Somewhere in the metaverse

          Forensic proof would be analysing them to check.

        2. DS999 Silver badge

          Re: Somewhere in the metaverse

          You're assuming a lot of discretion on the part of customs agents, and that no drug smuggler will ever try "pose as an employee of a drug company so the white powder is legit" and ruin it for the rest. Or heck, actually hire an employee of a drug company to smuggle drugs along with his legit stuff.

          And that if the powder is seized some prosecutor who is worried being seen as falsely arresting a foreign employee of a drug company will hurt his status won't have the legit drugs replaced with illegal drugs. You think there aren't people in Pakistan's (and pretty much all other countries) jails who didn't commit the crime they were convicted of?

          1. fatbuddha

            Re: Somewhere in the metaverse

            Back in the 70s I worked for a company that made clinical analysers for measuring blood chemistry levels. They had a method of measuring CO2 in blood using an enzyme - phosphoenolpyruvate carboxylase- known to all as PEP-C. And of course pronounced Pepsi. A company accountant was asked to take some of this white powder to the US site and of course got stopped at US customs and asked what was in the bottle. Pepsi he announced! Cue lots of intense questions before being believed (with documents) and let through.

            1. DS999 Silver badge

              Re: Somewhere in the metaverse

              There's no way I'd be willing to carry something that could possibly be mistaken for drugs with me across a border. Or ANYTHING that's sealed up that I don't know what it is or can't open. I'd tell my employer to call up Fedex or get it shipped separately in the cargo hold of my flight with the drop off and pick up done by someone else and my name left out of it.

              Even if the risk is minuscule the potential consequences are too grim.

              Heck, I had a hassle once bringing a few hard drives with me in my carry on from the US to UK in 2003. Since they were new drives in sealed packages, they wanted to know what they were worth, etc. I told them as far as I know they were purchased by the UK entity of the company I was consulting for and it was up to them to deal with the customs stuff. I told them if they weren't satisfied with that answer, just sign something for me indicating you have confiscated them and I'll let my client deal with it. For some reason after that they decided to let me take them and be on my way. And that was just a few thousand dollars worth of hard drives!

        3. CuChulainn Silver badge
          Happy

          Re: Somewhere in the metaverse

          I knew that the white powder could be a problem, which was why I insisted on a large HDPE bag so I could carry it as hand luggage in full view.

          The funny thing was, all the sample bags were in heat-sealed pouches/sachets of (if I remember) 250g, and they really, really, REALLY looked exactly like what you'd imagine they would look like if they were concealed in the chassis of a Transit van somewhere and contained something of greater significance.

          I was carrying them around as if they were an Aegis (or maybe Del Boy's Filofax) - literally holding them so everyone could see - because I was worried about how they might be perceived.

          As it happens, I got through Karachi and Charles de Gaulle without anyone asking anything (except about the rug in the sack bag). When I got to the UK (East Midlands), I deliberately went through 'something to declare'. No one was at the counters, and I waited until someone saw me. I explained what I was carrying and they waved me through with no questions (not even about the rug).

          Maybe I just worry too much.

    4. Robert Carnegie Silver badge
      Joke

      Evidently there was a massive misunderstanding and you were working for international rug dealers after all :-)

      1. CuChulainn Silver badge
        Pint

        That's worth an upvote - and one of these -->

        In all the years since it happened (late 1990s), no one has ever made that joke, nor has it occurred to me before, either!

        I will use it whenever I tell the story to anyone from now on.

        1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

          Thank you, actually Jeremy Hardy did it once on BBC's "News Quiz", but he's dead alas and won't be drinking. Cheers!

          It was one of the misprints and odd stories that they used to include - listeners sent them and the team could bring or, it's been alleged, write their own. And I used to write them down, but I lost the file... all I think I remember is that local people or police were worried about rug pushers showing up in their neighbourhood peddling their evil wares. Maybe with a "think of the children" angle.

          As a genuine mistake, there are a few other cases online. Along with some who do it deliberately.

  2. Def Silver badge

    Fuck that

    If people can't deal with something being fixed in a few seconds then that's their problem.

    If it's my job to fix something, I'll fix it. I'm not going to hold your fucking hand for a week to make you feel better. I've got more important things to do.

    1. scrubber

      Re: Fuck that

      I agree with your sentiment, but there are worse ways to waste some time than a fully expensed week in Venezuela.

      1. Def Silver badge

        Re: Fuck that

        If your entire job description involves sitting around waiting for that one call a week, then, sure. I guess.

        But I generally have a backlog of things that need to be done with various other teams and projects all wanting their "thing" fixed first or their feature implemented last week.

        Judging by the downvotes so far, it looks like most people around here are content to sit on their fat arses and do as little work as possible. Which could go some way to explaining why so many companies either don't survive their first few years, or have oversized, largely incompetent IT departments where a few decent people carry the weight of a dozen slackers.

        1. Captain Scarlet Silver badge
          Coffee/keyboard

          Re: Fuck that

          As someone who has had consultants on site, as the customer it infuriates me when they all of a sudden start working on other customer issues when we have paid for their time.

          If they have finished what they need to do and have documented everything then fair enough, but then again as a tight git I'll find them something to do.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Fuck that

          Perhaps you need to spend a paid week in Venezuela trying to look busy and not doing any real work.

          or perhaps you have an and the marching powder has worn off?

        3. The Indomitable Gall

          Re: Fuck that

          Well, most people around here are reading the Reg in the middle of the work day, so make of that what you will...

          1. Cederic Silver badge

            Re: Fuck that

            Professional development. I'm obliged by BCS to read The Register.

            1. short a sandwich

              Re: Fuck that

              It's my prime source of what to watch out for when doing the little syadmin work I need to do

              1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

                Re: Fuck that

                And big hints as to how to make the necessary adjustments with a cattle prod.

                BTW I read an article the other day about using a 5KV device as a weed-killer for Japanese knotweed. It boils their roots I wonder if Simon has heard of that and arranged to trade-in the cattle prod to buy one.

                1. Gene Cash Silver badge
                  Coat

                  Re: Fuck that

                  "You know what really boils my roots..."

                2. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: Fuck that

                  So what is that 5KV device? Sounds like it would work on Dandelions.

                  1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

                    Re: Fuck that

                    https://www.knotweedservices.co.uk/japanese-knotweed-electrical-removal/

                    1. Ken G Bronze badge
                      Trollface

                      Re: Fuck that

                      Is there a gameshow based on it's use?

                3. 080

                  Re: Fuck that

                  Nach, a 5kV Megger has very low current so not much use against an earthed root, whereas a couple of applications of Glyphosate fixes the problem.

                  1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

                    Re: Fuck that

                    Even glyphosate isn't easy against knotweed. You can't just spay it, you have to pour it into the hollow stems so it's a matter of mowing them down, disposing of the mowings to make sure they don't root, then treating each stem separately and redoing it every time a new lot springs up from the unkilled roots. And less fun than 3KV.

                  2. imanidiot Silver badge

                    Re: Fuck that

                    What they're using is very decidedly not a Megger (or more generically a High Voltage Insulation Tester). It's 5KV at I believe up to 2 amps. Certainly enough to kill you very very very dead if you're not careful.

                4. Martin-73 Silver badge

                  Re: Fuck that

                  also provides worms for the fishing that comes later

        4. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Fuck that

          "I generally have a backlog of things that need to be done with various other teams and projects all wanting their "thing" fixed first or their feature implemented last week."

          So very unlikely you are going to be the techie to be sent in the first place. Also that techie will have been sent here there and everywhere given the article and more than likely away from friends and family. Do you really blame them for padding it out for a week? Can you imagine how irate the customer is going to be by a 3 second fix that they probably could have talked someone through over the phone? Do you think they are going to be happy to pay that invoice? Why cause all those problems when you can just extend it a bit? This is not about being lazy this is about using common sense. I'm guessing you are some sort of manager. Maybe not a clever one.

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: Fuck that

            So very unlikely you are going to be the techie to be sent in the first place.

            Have you never heard they saying "If you want something doing, ask a busy man."?

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Fuck that

              I have but that sounds like a project manager to me and ain't no way a project manager is going to get off their arse and actually do some actual work. They manage.

              1. TomPhan

                Re: Fuck that

                You're lucky if you get a project manager who can actually manage, the ones we've currently got take notes and that's it. And next week they won't be able to find the notes form this weeks meeting.

                1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

                  Re: Fuck that

                  They sound like the best sort. Good displacement activity, especially losing the notes, to keep them from meddling.

                2. PC Paul

                  Re: Fuck that

                  We are about three months into a four month project (as one of a million things we are doing so we didn't mind not being asked to do anything towards it yet) and the project manager has only just asked us to suggest a few requirements...

                  Sounds like it's going to be yet another project where the end result will be a vague definition in a wordy document that gets sent to the everyday team to 'productionise in the margins' because the project funds have all been spent on contractor Project Managers who have now gone.

            2. Rob Daglish Bronze badge

              Re: Fuck that

              Not a busy man, no...

              My grandad always gave that sort of work to the laziest person he managed, as he reasoned that they would find the quickest, easiest way to do it and get back to doing nothing!

              1. Aussie Doc Bronze badge
                Pint

                Re: Fuck that

                As a professional lazy person, I concur with your grandad's statement.

                I always told my clients that I'm so lazy that I only want to do the job once so it needs to be done properly.

                A few of them can remember finding out the hard way with the old "If you don't have time to backup data (or pay somebody to set it up), do you have the time to re-type it all over again?"

                Always time for one of those --->

              2. Necrohamster

                Re: Fuck that

                ... he reasoned that they would find the quickest, easiest way to do it and get back to doing nothing!

                Finding the quickest, easiest way to do something pretty much guarantees that you'll have bugs in your software, and the customer will have a sub-par support experience.

                That's not good advice. No offence to your Grandad.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: Fuck that

                  Finding the quickest, easiest way to do something pretty much guarantees that you'll have bugs in your software, and the customer will have a sub-par support experience.

                  Sounds like you've never heard of "Work smart, not hard" or the "KIS principle".

                2. dl1jph

                  Re: Fuck that

                  As a matter of fact, being one of those lazy people myself - the only people who actually do that are the ones who are "too busy" to do a proper job and they annoy the heck out of me - their screwups eventually end up on my desk and I end up dealing not only with the issue itself, but also their bodge and an irate customer.

                  If I have to deal with something, I want it gone for good and go back to doing stuff I like. The only way to reliably achieve that is to actually solve the problem.

        5. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Fuck that

          While I agreed with the general sentiment of your original post, I downvoted for the foul language and general bad attitude.

          1. Imhotep Silver badge

            Re: Fuck that

            My first thought was that this was exactly the sort of person I would not want dealing with my customers. It is possible to have both technical and social skills.

            The "techies" I have met with this attitude were usually deficient in both.

        6. Someone Else Silver badge
          FAIL

          @Def -- Re: Fuck that

          Judging by the downvotes so far, it looks like most people around here are content to sit on their fat arses and do as little work as possible.

          No, more like most people around here realize there is more to their job than twiddling bits.

          Customer Service? Maybe you've heard of it (possibly not, based on your comments), but there are those who have not only heard of it, but actually endeavor to practice it.

          And besides, handling customer expectations, especially in a foreign country, with unfamiliar customs and culture, is hard work...which you'd know were you actually to be arsed to do some of it.

          1. Barry Rueger

            Re: @Def -- Fuck that

            handling customer expectations, especially in a foreign country, with unfamiliar customs and culture, is hard work...which you'd know were you actually to be arsed to do some of it.

            This, I think, is the point. Imagine the commentard above landing in France and finding that at 12:30 everyone in the office disapears for a long, slow 90 minute lunch.

          2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: @Def -- Fuck that

            "Customer Service? Maybe you've heard of it"

            Typical customer service does not consist of fixing your problem in 3 seconds. In some cases the description fails at fixing the problem.

        7. An_Old_Dog Bronze badge

          Re: Fuck that

          @Def: I share your sentiment; I strongly prefer to do technically-productive things, v.s. ego-stroking and hand-holding. But many of us -- especially independant consultants -- are saddled with "ambassadorial" and "marketing/customer-retention" duties as well.

          1. This post has been deleted by its author

        8. rcxb1

          Re: Fuck that

          > it looks like most people around here are content to sit on their fat arses and do as little work as possible.

          As one of your down-voters, allow me to say I similarly would not have wasted even an extra hour helping others save face. However, your particular ability to be a verbally abusive, self-important git to everyone in spittle range, also means I wouldn't hesitate to fire you on the spot, no matter how well you handled the technical side of the matter.

        9. John Stirling

          Re: Fuck that

          I don't think the downvotes are because of your quite frankly excellent work ethic.

          I think the downvotes are due to your bombastic and arrogant prose.

          You could say something syntactically identical and get lots of upvotes if you were just a little more thoughtful, which is ironic considering that if you're being truthful then really very sophisticated thought comes very easily indeed.

        10. Martin-73 Silver badge

          Re: Fuck that

          My arse is indeed kind of fat, but I am not a consultant. However, the entire F article revolves around diplomacy. Evidently you have never looked that up on dictionary.com. You would have made NO friends and likely been fired

    2. boblongii

      Re: Fuck that

      Better things to do than what you're being paid to do?

      Take the money and shut up, would be my advice.

      1. Def Silver badge

        Re: Fuck that

        I can't speak for you, but I'm not usually paid to waste time and pretend to be working.

        1. Terry 6 Silver badge

          Re: Fuck that

          Are you sure? Is keeping the customer happy not part of the job then?

          1. Def Silver badge

            Re: Fuck that

            They had a problem they couldn't fix, and called an expert who came and fixed the issue. If that doesn't make them happy, what will? I doubt finding out said expert billed them for a week of work that took 30 seconds would improve their demeanour.

            1. My-Handle Silver badge

              Re: Fuck that

              How about not just telling, but showing them that their IT department wasted several months worth of work? It may be true, but since when does the truth make people feel better? These people are the people who are currently paying you, and may well be the people who will want to work with you in the future. Keeping them happy is important, no?

              As IT professionals, it isn't just our job to fix the computers. It's to bridge the gap between people and computers. Both would be pretty useless without the other.

              1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

                Re: Fuck that

                As IT professionals, it isn't just our job to fix the computers. It's to bridge the gap between people and computers. Both would be pretty useless without the other.

                Most people are pretty useless anyway.

                1. Munchausen's proxy
                  Pint

                  Re: Fuck that

                  Most people are pretty useless anyway.

                  To be fair, so is most software, and a lot of hardware.

          2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: Fuck that

            "Is keeping the customer happy not part of the job then?"

            My experience in freelancing was that the customer was very happy to have the problem fixed quickly and cheaply. Happy customers brought repeat business. Repeat business from happy customers had the added advantage of cutting the agency out of the value chain.

            1. My-Handle Silver badge

              Re: Fuck that

              By and large I agree, as long as the customer has a good head on their shoulders. But some people don't, and take anything that challenges them as an affront. I know quite a few people who I have to deal with daily on a professional basis who just don't want to hear some things and will make life difficult for professional, skilled people who are actively trying to help them.

              I ran into this kind of person in my first job, my immediate manager. She was a small lady, with absolutely no technical competency at all. It took her quarter of an hour to move files from her emails to her local machine, every morning, as she was opening each and saving them individually. One morning she asked me to do it, and I did it in a matter of seconds by dragging and dropping. I got told off for being disrespectful. She continued doing it her way for a couple of days before coming to her senses.

    3. DarkwavePunk

      Re: Fuck that

      I get your thinking and would normally just do the voodoo and leave. In this situation however it sound like a week of paid holiday for very little effort and free booze. Can't complain there.

    4. Fred Daggy Bronze badge
      WTF?

      Re: Fuck that

      You make great sense from an IT perspective. But perhaps the person you embarrass is also the person with the chequebook?

      I'd leave details like blame for the Root Cause Analysis, when safely out of the country.

      1. nintendoeats Silver badge

        Re: Fuck that

        The words "there is no way you could possibly have known this" is available for that situation.

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Fuck that

          Thank You! These words would have been most useful to me in past 'inspection' of why not working problems in foreign countries.

          History. One of our techies with physical address at a well known town beginning Pen..... ...stone, never received documents as they were stopped in outgoing countries customs inspection as address did not pass USA vetting at post office label entry.

          1. nintendoeats Silver badge

            Re: Fuck that

            I hear they are big on hovercrafts there.

            1. Martin-73 Silver badge

              Re: Fuck that

              Only ones full of eels

          2. Ghostman
            Happy

            Re: F--- that, Oh Fornicat the penguin

            Even here in the US we know that little quaint ville isn't far from Giggleswitch.

          3. Martin-73 Silver badge
            Mushroom

            Re: Fuck that

            Wait till they find out about the existence of Scunthorpe

            Icon=their brains

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Fuck that

          "There's no way you could possibly have known this"

          .......

          "because the answer is buried away in documentation only available to our TAC, and not available to our customers, even via the customer-only bug documentation portal"

          Welcome to life as a Cisco customer.

    5. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

      Re: Fuck that

      "If it's my job to fix something, I'll fix it. I'm not going to hold your fucking hand for a week to make you feel better. I've got more important things to do."

      Sometimes making people feel better IS the problem. That's why sales people on average get paid more than techies; because they understand that.

      1. Necrohamster
        Devil

        Re: Fuck that

        Salespeople seem to exist solely to give the customers unrealistic expectations, which customer support must live up to.

        1. Terry 6 Silver badge

          Re: Fuck that

          It's the system though innit. Salespeople only get to put food on the table if they sell stuff. How they do that is pretty much up to them as long as no one does jail time (or at least no one higher up).

          Why certain people go for sales jobs ( and that could be anyone from a door to door brush salesman to a estate agent) is another question - though certainly there are some who enjoy "living by their wits" and are akin to con men.

          1. Necrohamster

            Re: Fuck that

            ...certainly there are some who enjoy "living by their wits" and are akin to con men

            Nailed it :D

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Fuck that

      I generally do the same, I'd rather just fix a problem pronto and get on. However this is the real world you know what happens to people who are good at their jobs? Management spots them and dumps on them big time, more people see you as a "miracle worker" and next thing you're working 14 hour days trying to keep up and every Tom, Dick and Harry will come to you as they know you get stuff done.

      Trust me, I've been there and sometimes play the hero and do something double-quick, other times it's better to just play it low key and let the glory and credit go to someone else, else you become a marked man.

      1. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

        Re: Fuck that

        If you're in that situation and don't know how to use it to negotiate a massive raise, you need to pay more attention to that skillset and less to adding to your technical skills.

        1. Def Silver badge

          Re: Fuck that

          If you're in that situation and don't know how to use it to negotiate a massive raise

          Exactly.

      2. oiseau Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: Fuck that

        ... you know what happens to people who are good at their jobs? Management spots them ...

        And screws them over as soon at it becomes too evident.

        Like nature a vacuum, incompetence abhors aptitude and efficiency so keeping that in mind is of the utmost importance, lest some higher-up decide you're a a menace to them.

        It can be rather tragic to become notorious for being good at what you do.

        It's not a good place to be.

        O.

    7. mickaroo

      Re: Fuck that

      I am a consultant (not IT) and I would say that "client management" is part of my job description.

      If I arrive on-site and fix an on-going problem in two seconds, chances are I'm going to cause someone to be fired. Maybe they deserve it, but maybe not if they're not the Subject Matter Expert.

      1. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

        Re: Fuck that

        The real question here is why no-one had checked the simple bugfix was applied _before_ sending a chap halfway round the world.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Fuck that

          Usually because someone is howling blue murder down the phone and won't shut up

        2. DS999 Silver badge

          Because they didn't ask "Alan" before booking the flight

          If they had, he could have got on the phone with their best guy and walked him through editing those two bytes.

          It may have been a simple bugfix, but it doesn't sound like it was well known. You probably only knew about it if you'd encountered that particular bug, but since there was no internet in the 80s there was no way for that knowledge to be widely disseminated or easily findable like today.

          1. Jan 0

            Re: Because they didn't ask "Alan" before booking the flight

            No Internet in the 1980s? Where were you in the 1980s?

            1. DS999 Silver badge

              Re: Because they didn't ask "Alan" before booking the flight

              OK there was an internet, but it was basically only research universities in the US, Europe, and other rich countries, and tech companies involved in that research.

              The odds some random company in Venezuela was connected with a live link (i.e. not UUCP) are very very low.

              1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

                Re: Because they didn't ask "Alan" before booking the flight

                There might not have been The Internet, but many international companies had alternative connections via X.25 networks. Remote login was not unusual.

                1. An_Old_Dog Bronze badge
                  Facepalm

                  Re: Because they didn't ask "Alan" before booking the flight

                  I worked for a company selling medical management/billing software and hardware in the 1980s. The saleswoman always had to WORK HARD to convince clients to purchase a modem and and pay for a dedicated phone line so we could provide remote dial-up support! The beancounters just didn't see the value in paying for it, even though the alternative was a half-to-one-day support delay to drive to their location for even tiniest little thing we couldn't talk them through.

                  They further balked at us pushing them to buy the more expensive external modem (we didn't care which brand) with actual status lights, vs a cheaper internal modem card. The system was non-graphical, and ran on SCO Xenix or Unix; even a 1200-Baud modem was good enough.

            2. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

              Re: Because they didn't ask "Alan" before booking the flight

              The internet of that time was reserved for universities and military. For companies it was expensive, very. And even for companies it was often no direct internet, you dialed in somewhere, and used a shell to use the internet THERE, but not where you sit. To transfer files home you often had to use rz/sz commands... And now come to outside-US-UK.

              The widespread use of internet came with the 90's, not with the 80's. And it was expensive in the early 90's.

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Fuck that

        I would say that "client management" is part of my job description.

        But how does that relate here? Is it something the client's staff should have known about? Have the wrong staff been recruited? Do they need a more knowledgeable and senior member of staff? Do the existing staff need training? Did they demand someone on site rather than being satisfied with telephone support? There would be ways in which to spend a few extra ours or even a full day with the client providing value on these lines rather than spending a week pretending it was a big job just to save someone's face.

    8. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Fuck that

      "I've got more important things to do."

      I have sympathy with this. I once had to give evidence in a court martial about a break-in to the NAAFI at Omagh. They said they wanted me there, Inverness barracks*, on the Monday for a hearing on Tuesday. It turned out they didn't really need me there on Monday at all, they were just being hospitable (resulting in giving evidence with a raging handover).

      The trouble was that that was my last week in the job and I still had a lot of cases to write up. I could really have done with spending the Monday in the office. I finished the week with a murder case to write up. I ended up spending my spare time in my first week in London working on that and taking the work to the N Ireland Office to get it sent back and forth in internal mail for typing, checking etc.

      * If they'd left it any longer it would have been in Kenya.

      1. TimMaher Silver badge
        Gimp

        Re: Raging handover

        That sounds quite... hmm... “fruity”?

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Raging handover

          Well spotted. I completely missed that. My brain expected to see hangover and that's what I saw until your post made me go back and check it again. This is exactly how many bugs make it into software without proper management and bug checking :-)

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: Raging handover

            Your expectations were correct. And pretty indicative of the situation. All I can say is I went to bed, woke up in the morning finding myself still sitting up in bed - I passed out without even getting as far as lying down. Felt fine. Had breakfast. Still fine. Gone taken out to wait in some large hall for proceedings to begin. Still fine. Thought I'd better read through my file. Looked down and waaaaay - the whole thing started to spin.

            Got through it OK and discovered one thing that makes courts martial different. I got invited to lunch in the officers' mess & found myself sitting next to the Judge Advocate to whom I'd just given evidence. That never happened at Crumin Rd.

            But I'll admit my typing is getting very erratic these days. It must be age.

            1. Martin-73 Silver badge

              Re: Raging handover

              Or another imminent handover :)

    9. YetAnotherXyzzy
      Pint

      Re: Fuck that

      I had come to comment on the original article with words to the effect of how "Alan" was much wiser than I was when of a more tender age and doing that sort of work. Def's comment almost makes me think that I'm reading a message from past-me, heh.

      Certainly, fixing the thing to be fixed is Job One. It took me a shamefully long time to learn that going beyond Job One is often in everyone's interest, my own included. The icon is my toast to all the wise folks over the years who patiently taught me that lesson.

    10. DS999 Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Think of this way

      Your idiot boss has flown you halfway around the world for something that took only a few seconds to do. Do you want to step back on the plane that same day, giving him the satisfaction of saving money and expecting you to show up in the office on schedule the next day as if he hadn't been dumb enough not to see if you could solve the problem via phone first?

      So take the free vacation and shut your mouth, idiot!

    11. the spectacularly refined chap Silver badge

      Re: Fuck that

      Sometimes people want to simply know they've been dealt with properly, even if it means the other party is simply going through the motions.

      I work in insurance, mostly business processes, but a few weeks ago I was front line claim handling as a result of all the storm claims we were getting. You really don't want to waste time with non-claims when you know there are dozens of other people in the queue.

      One perennial issue we get with storms is blown out fencing. For the team I was on it's simple: none of the policies cover fencing for storm damage, it is a specific exclusion on every policy. The calls can be broken up in three ways:

      The first is a simple "Am I covered?" query. Simple, check what policy they have to ensure they're with the right team and advise not. Matter closed in two minutes.

      You break up the the remainder by judging the reaction to your "Oh, we need to see if you're covered..." observation. If they appear more speculative than anything else you establish which policy they have, look up their individual schedule if need be, advise as in the first case. Takes perhaps five minutes.

      If they're more assertive they want to make a claim then fine you create a claim and take all the details. At the end you find the schedule and then point to the specific exclusion in the policy. It takes the customer twenty minutes on the phone, ten further minutes of admin afterwards for us. Ultimately the same result for the customer but it's only actually those we get our claims handling fee for (i.e. if a claim isn't set up we get nothing for advising you're not covered).

      Ultimately it works against the customer's interest: once there is a claim the underwriter is charged. Underwriters vary in their opinion as to whether a claim closed with no customer payout affects their no claims but in many cases yes it does. But if you were adamant you want to make a claim, sure, I'll open and decline it in the space of a single call.

    12. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

      Re: Fuck that

      You miss one thing: Just because the fix was in within seconds and working does not guarantee the whole machinery does work. Fixing step 1 one can expose that step 2 never worked in first place. But I still agree on the point that a week is over the top when one day, at max 1.5 days would have been enough to keep a watch over things.

  3. ShadowSystems Silver badge

    I replaced a network cable.

    Supposedly the client had checked everything, double checked everything, triple checked everything, & "done everything Humanly possible" to fix an issue for nearly a month before calling my employer for a fix.

    Employer sends me out, I start checking all the physical connections first to get them out of the way, & realize that the Cat5 cable's little locking tab thingy is broken off. I replace the cable & the problem went away.

    A thousand dollar multi hour plane flight to send me out, car rental to get me from the airport to the client site, a hotel reserved for me with an open-ended occupancy, and it all got fixed faster than the hire car attendant took to make sure I was legally allowed to drive a car at all.

    I checked in to the hotel, informed the manager that I'd need it overnight, requested a wake up call for my return flight in the morning, called the airline to let them know I'd need to be on the return flight in the morning, and set about to enjoy a nice meal (room service) & use the room internet connection to chat with my girlfriend at the time.

    Next day goes without incident, I get back home, & report to work the next morning as normal.

    Boss nearly has a cow when I tell him what happened & how long it took to fix. He demanded to know why I used the hotel & spent the night if I could have been on a flight back the same day.

    "Because if I *had*, I wouldn't have arrived until after close of business & been one very grumpy boy when I showed up this morning. Instead I spent the night in a hotel you had already paid for, had a meal within my meal allowance, took a leisurely flight back, had a good night's sleep to lose the jetlag, & am fully prepared to get to work right now *without* ripping off anyone's head for intercepting me before my first tankard of caffeine."

    Boss gave one of those sheepish full-toothed grins as if to say "Ok, please don't kill me" and let me go. My meal was part of the room cost, so I didn't even have a receipt to hand over to the bean counters for reimbursement, thus it all ended fairly calmly.

    Sometimes you wish you could reach through the phone & thwap the caller in the forehead while shouting "WAKE UP, DINGUS!" in the hopes they congeal enough coherency to realize that they could save themselves a hefty bill & the responding on-site tech a LOT of headache meds if they just, y'know, ACTUALLY did some basic checks before calling... /Sigh/

    1. ComputerSays_noAbsolutelyNo Silver badge

      Re: I replaced a network cable.

      We have a saying (my background being Austrian) along the lines:

      The thing that doesn't cost anything,

      isn't worth anything.

      ... and shockyingly, in many businesses that seems to be accepted management practice.

      1. heyrick Silver badge

        Re: I replaced a network cable.

        Similar to "you get what you pay for", a lesson far too many fail to understand, repeatedly.

        1. TeeCee Gold badge
          Coat

          Re: I replaced a network cable.

          I believe that the FSF stick their fingers in their ears and shout "LA, LA, LA, WE'RE NOT LISTENING." whenever anyone mentions that.

          1. Mike Pellatt

            Re: I replaced a network cable.

            Write out 100 times:

            "Free as in speech, not Free as in beer"

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: I replaced a network cable.

        "The thing that doesn't cost anything,

        isn't worth anything."

        This is the basis for a lot of the management consultancy business: finding out what the lowly paid and hence un-valued staff already know and reporting with added value, i.e. a large bill.

        1. CuChulainn Silver badge

          Re: I replaced a network cable.

          That's funny, because when we switched from doing things properly to doing it with 'Teamworking' we had management consultants in. Actually, they were in to engineer the switch, but you get my drift.

          I think the money they charged was largely spent on Post It notes.

          They guided the 'team(s)' (which included shop floor staff) to break the manufacturing and packaging processes down into discrete stages, with each being written on a Post It note, which was then stuck on a wall. I'm not kidding, but there were hundreds of them - which in the non-air conditioned buildings in question in summer had the obvious effect on the glue.

          One of the departments I managed had a continuous sugar cooking process (among other complex processes), which was based on very precise science. The non-scientific consultants thought that shuffling/editing the Post It notes (like, warm the cooker up in 2 minutes instead of thirty, out of many) would still result in a viable manufacturing process in the end.

          Another problem was that they encouraged the shop floor staff to shuffle the notes if they had any 'ideas', and those staff - whose jobs were to push the green button at the start of the shift, the red one at the end, and to go for as many coffee or smoking breaks they could get away with in between - were less clued up than the consultants!

      3. Daedalus

        Re: I replaced a network cable.

        My way of dealing with the Scrooges is to say this:

        "If it only costs you money, it's cheap"

    2. ColinPa Silver badge

      Re: I replaced a network cable. -> We replaced a power cable

      Ive just experienced a similar but different problem. We were in a drama competition, where groups put on a play, and an adjudicator gives marks for presentation, acting, technical etc.

      We had a play and a critical part was projection on to the back of the stage. The projection worked the day before.

      When we tried it with out play, we found someone had hung a black cloth in the auditorium - blocking the projection.

      Our lighting man got his own projector, plugged it in to the mains, and computer and it would display the set up screen, but not talk to the computer. He tried everything. He finally used a different extension lead thinking it will make no difference, and it suddenly worked.

      The problem was that the computer and projector needed about 5 second to sync up. The extension lead had a dicky plug and would drop power for a millisecond, every second or so. As a result, it never synced up

      This took him 60 minutes to find - all the time we were allocated to set up the technical stuff.

      1. uccsoundman

        Re: I replaced a network cable. -> We replaced a power cable

        Q: What's a "Dicky Plug"? I haven't heard of that.

        1. ColinPa Silver badge

          Re: I replaced a network cable. -> We replaced a power cable

          Dicky means unreliable. (As in dicky ticker... bad heart)

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I replaced a network cable. -> We replaced a power cable

          Like a butt plug but smaller?

        3. ShadowSystems Silver badge

          At UCCSoundMan, re: Dicky plugs...

          A boy robot has a USB TypeA "Dicky" plug that he uses to interface with a girl robot's USB TypeB "slot" receptacle.

          History has proven how annoying this turned out to be, what with having to rotate the two numerous times before the alignment was such to allow entry.

          Thus the USB TypeC "reversible" plug was invented with the claim that you could stick it in either side up & it would always insert right the first time.

          Still, it is suggested that you use a bit of dongle wax to lather your plug to make sure it slides in easier & makes the data transfer go lickity split.

          =-)p

        4. An_Old_Dog Bronze badge

          Re: I replaced a network cable. -> We replaced a power cable

          Perhaps so-named because you have to "dick around" with it to get it to work.

    3. chivo243 Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: I replaced a network cable.

      I can only imagine being sent to exotic places... I was sent to a neurotic office, where the cleaners had bumped the Cat5 cable with the vacuum, and the printer didn't! Only to push the cable back in, no thanks, no drinks and pats on the back... Those were the days eh?

      1. gryphon

        Re: I replaced a network cable.

        Started a new job.

        Late Friday afternoon 10 days later manager asks "How would you like to go to Turkey for a couple of days. They have a teeny tiny problem with an ERP system. Oh, you need to be on a flight on Sunday afternoon".

        Me: "Umm.. Sure"

        Actually ended up spending 16 days there mainly working 08:00-22:00 although we did manage to grab some of a Sunday to see the sights.

        Proper kebabs though so all good.

        There were also various trips to Zurich including pulling an overnighter to swap over a server system board and then replace disks one at a time letting RAID set rebuild between each one. (They didn't trust the disks for some reason but didn't want to replace all at once and restore from backup for reasons)

        That was OK apart from taking me ages to translate the error message on the coffee machine to work out that the grounds tray needed emptied. Was a bit groggy at 03:30.

      2. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

        Re: I replaced a network cable.

        You neglected to spend a week visiting all the desktops and "trying" various things before declaring your fix.

      3. ShadowSystems Silver badge

        At Chivo243, re: exotic locations...

        I *wish* I had been sent somewhere exotic, tropical, & glorious. Instead I went from Sacramento, California to Chicago, Illinois. I *HATE* Chicago. It makes "the bunghole of the universe" look like Eroticon6 in comparison.

        Please note that I did *not* mention the quality of the room, the "view" from said room, that I ordered room service because all the local eateries that offered delivery had prices that made my eyes bleed in disbelief/horror, and the only reason I didn't set the car alarm when I locked it was because it was a *rental* and *I* wasn't responsible for anything but the petrol. Those Chicago cockroaches could steal it, strip it, & set the rest on fire for all I gave a shite, I'd just call the airline & request a pickup by the complimentary shuttle.

        Besides, my boss only paid for "cattle class" flight accomodations, so the in-flight snack was a single packet of stale peanuts, an overpriced soda, & "Biodome" with Pauley Shore. =-j

      4. CuChulainn Silver badge

        Re: I replaced a network cable.

        Where I worked, it was a sign that your star was in the ascendant.

        As well as Pakistan (which I mentioned earlier), I also got to do a job at one of our plants in Louisiana, then multiple visits to Germany to see manufacturers of equipment we were assessing or buying and carry out trials on experimental installations.

        When my star began to fall again (largely - very largely - because of 'Teamworking'), even though I was doing high-value business deals with overseas companies around the world, even getting them a packet of crisps when they came to see us was a challenge.

        That company is broken into fragments owned by other companies now, and even the remnant of the parent is looking to sell. It serves them bloody right - I told them what would happen.

        At least my company pension had almost maxed out and is paying well until I pop my clogs.

    4. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: I replaced a network cable.

      Thing is sometimes* it needs a different pair of eyes to see the obvious. The issue here is not the long plane journey and overnight stay. It's a setup that requires a long plane journey and an overnight stay.

      *For "sometimes" read "quite often".

      1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

        Re: I replaced a network cable.

        When I was a child, my mother was keen at needlework and had a new Husqvarna sewing machine. Every now and then she would call me into her sewing room (actually the dining room, but 'sewing room' sounds better) and ask me what was wrong with it. She was the expert but sometimes overlooked the obvious like - no thread on the bobbin, or thread coiled around the needled.

        Sometimes being too close to a problem and too expert prevents you seeing what is actually going on. The advantage a newbie has is that all fo the technical fixes have already been tried by the experts, so the problem must be something else.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Sewing? Re: I replaced a network cable.

          Husqvarna also make chain saws, so that might have been the problem.

          1. ShadowSystems Silver badge

            At the AC, re: sewing...

            "We at Husqvarna will make DAYAM sure you've got plenty of room for that button. One button hole coming right up!"

            *Rikka... Rikka... Rikka... RrrrrRRROAAARRRRRRR*

          2. Down not across Silver badge

            Re: Sewing? I replaced a network cable.

            And motorcycles. Quite capable off-road bikes. Well at least used to be in 80s-90s, I suspect modern ones should do as they merged with KTM IIRC.

      2. Inventor of the Marmite Laser Silver badge

        Re: I replaced a network cable.

        Ah yes. I recall a few years working on electronics test bench. It was amazing how you could stroll up to someone struggling to fault find, pick up the offending board and comment after less than 5 seconds "oh, that's what's wrong" and walk off. And you genuine HAD seen the problem (which was always eventually communicated to the guy. Eventually).

    5. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      Re: I replaced a network cable.

      I had something similiar, ooo, 30 years ago.

      Working near London. Got a phone call that a close friend had died, funeral was on Saturday morning. (Edinburgh Cathedral, lovely do.) Spoke to boss and got Friday off, booked overnight train on Thursday.

      Boss then adds: So, the funeral is on Saturday, so you'll be back for Saturday teatime to do the Sunday opening?

      WTF? Of core snot! I'll be taking the Sunday afternoon train and will be back on Monday morning.

      That job didn't last long, I left about a month later.

      1. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

        Re: I replaced a network cable.

        Being a non UK, and reading the Reg on an Sunday, I first looked at google earth "looks like a 6 hour to 9 hour drive by car" guess... Then plotted a random near London to Edinburgh Cathedral route. Woah, my guess is right. Then go back 30 years, planning without google maps.

        Result: It takes a whole day (or night) to get there, a half day for orientation and to adjust things. Then funeral next day after a slow breakfast, then at least a half day after the funeral since it would not be polite to run off right after the body was dropped. And then schedule the Sunday to return without stress. You planning was perfectly right.

        A boss incapable to see distance and circumstances at a quick glance is bad at a lot of other things as well.

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

        2. CuChulainn Silver badge

          Re: I replaced a network cable.

          I'm in the UK. I remember one time in the 80s (when I was not in management) when I was off work ill. I was lying on the sofa being sick and feeling terrible. It was only a cold or flu, but I was poleaxed.

          I heard a knock on the window and saw my manager outside. His manager wanted a report I was writing. As was the fad at the time (and probably still is in many places), the report had been returned for 'amendments' multiple times - mostly for silly grammar or prose issues. Indeed, I remember at least one report being returned simply because of an errant (in the mind of the reader/manager) comma.

          Also at the time, the nearest thing to a 'computer' at my company was the electronic typewriters the secretaries used. And getting reports typed by secretaries (who were assigned to specific managers as their own secretaries) could take months unless you were their manager.

          I had been writing the report on my Atari using SpeedScript. So I had to go to my bedroom, make some edits, and print the whole thing out (at 1980s letter-quality print speeds). The report was over 50 pages long, so it took probably close to an hour.

          Overall, being ill counted against me at the time, though work didn't give a damn.

    6. Flightmode

      Re: I replaced a network cable.

      I remember reading an entry in the Tales of Tech Support newsletter several decades ago. I may be a bit off on the details - apologies for that - but here it is to the best of my recollection:

      It's about this guy who gets called out to a remote farm in the US Rust Belt on a Friday afternoon - a customer's computer was stone dead. After a two-hour drive one-way on bumpy country roads he arrives at the farm house in a pissy mood, and understandably so. Sensing this may be a simple fix, he decides not to take his tools with him as he walks into the house. The customer shows him the computer and he notices that, indeed, the power plug is hanging half-way out of the socket.

      He walks up to the computer, puts his palms on the monitor and booms "In the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour, I compel you to HEAL" as he kicks the plug with his foot, out of view of the customer. The computer springs to life, and the customers drops to the floor.

      Anon, because it's not mine.

      1. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

        Re: I replaced a network cable.

        Bonus is the next tech support call will go to the local pastor. Double bonus if the pastor also realizes it's a loose plug.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I replaced a network cable.

        This shows a lack of imagination. The support guy should have done a quick exorcism as he kicked the plug "by the power of the almighty jesus, I command you satan to leave this computer".

        1. Someone Else Silver badge

          Re: I replaced a network cable.

          "The Lord and the Devil fight left and right, left and right..."

          Ob. Mac McAnally reference

          Link is to a Youtube page where you can hear the song

      3. Eclectic Man Silver badge

        Re: I replaced a network cable.

        "In the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour, I compel you to HEAL"

        There is a brilliant UK comedian with cerebral palsy. One of his problems is late middle aged religious women (he specified mostly women, who am I to complain?). On public transport they come up to him and say 'Do you mind if I pray over you?' Whatever he replies they basically do so anyway. They will pray to the LORD JESUS to HEAL THIS POOR SOUL, until it is their stop and then get off. His revenge is to shout "Hey! You haven't finished! Is your stop really more important than MY LIFE?"

        1. ShadowSystems Silver badge
          Joke

          At Eclectic Man, re: the comedian...

          "Do you mind if I pray over you?"

          I don't know, do YOU mind if I stare at your tits while you prattle on to your invisible sky friend?

          "Well, I never!"

          You've never prattle to your invisible sky friend, you've never had your tits stared at, or both? Please help me out here...

          "I'm leaving!"

          *Calling out loudly after the retreating lady* The truth shall set you free! */shouting*

          =-Jp

      4. Fred Daggy Bronze badge

        Re: I replaced a network cable.

        Not sure about leaving the tools at home. Sounds like that was an invitation to be joined by Murphy. If Murphy had decided to play a visit then not only would tools be required, the car would have broken down on the return journey about 10 km from any civilization, sound like pre-mobile phone coverage too.

        Perhaps it really was divine intervention.

        1. Ididntbringacoat

          Re: I replaced a network cable.

          Ah, but he left them in the car . . .

    7. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I replaced a network cable.

      I've already told this story, but once about 10 years ago I got an Argentina to France round-way ticket and 3 days at Paris to reinstall a two-node RHEL cluster in a rush. I got the data center all for myself that weekend, and ended up rebuilding the bootloader in a couple of hours (failed kernel upgrade apparently) and calling the day off.

      Since cancelling the return flight and booking a new one for the same Saturday was more expensive than flying back on Monday night, I got three whole days, full expenses paid, to wander around the City of Love. I still can't understand what sort of budget allocations did that project have, since I didn't even was onboarded to it, and got asked by my local manglement to step in and fix the issue in a rush. I'm sure there were a zillion local or European resources at hand who could have performed the fix in the same timeframe or less, and at a sensibly lower cost, but they still got me crossing the ocean on a four-day notice.

      Manglement and bean counters are weird people. And budget allocations are a world on their own.

    8. Eclectic Man Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: I replaced a network cable.

      ... the Cat5 cable's "little locking tab thingy"

      WHOA!!! Way too much obscure technical jargon for me there.

      I'd better call in an expert to explain it all.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: I replaced a network cable.

        Is that an actual and useful explanation or would you prefer a patronising mansplaining-type one?

        1. Martin-73 Silver badge

          Re: I replaced a network cable.

          I'm here for the argument (full half hour)

          1. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

            Re: I replaced a network cable.

            No it isn't, it's just contradiction.

    9. Beach pebble

      Re: I replaced a network cable.

      Reminds me of an issue with a simple terminator some years ago at a clothing company with zero tech skills, we being an airline computer tech department sent one of our skilled techs when we got a call out of the blue as we thought it was a complex network issue to solve.

      The tech upon return thanked me for a nice stay over in a foreign land upon return and getting paid to visit an office packed with nice people of the opposite gender, apparently he got properly pampered.

      Client payed for all hours, hotel, flight etc and called to thank us for stepping up as they had tried to source locally but were ignored by other providers.

    10. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

      Re: I replaced a network cable.

      My way to make the customer really check: "Unplug the cable and plug it back in, sometimes the contacts are weird due to vibrations and tiny movements". That way they usually either find such broken LAN cable or fix the half-millimeter-off plug which LOOKS like plugged in, but wasn't.

  4. wolfetone Silver badge

    ""Culminating with the company president offering me a leather-wrapped ancient bottle of rum.""

    Are they hiring? Asking for a friend...

  5. Eclectic Man Silver badge
    Coat

    Diplomacy

    or Diplomancy?*

    I'll get my coat, it's the 'second hand dagger-proof jacket'.

    *"Diplomancy" copyright 2022 Eclectic Man :o)

    1. A Nother Handle
      Pint

      Re: Diplomacy

      I believe summoning a bottle of alcohol falls firmly in the school of Dipsomancy.

      Cheers!

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Parallel Run Failures

    I once spent 6 weeks off and on monitoring parallel runs for a customer when they changed mainframe systems. I was a member of the team who had performed the system migration for them. Everything worked perfectly but payroll runs had odd differences.. We had done the job many times before and knew that if everything else was wrong the root cause must be in the payroll code. We were banging our head against a brick wall as the application support manager refused to look at the code as it had not been changed in years.We had built u p a good relationship with the on site admins and had discovered that the payroll system had been written in house, 2 decades before and was written in COBOL. We managed to pursued the on site admin to get us the code for the system and sure enough they were sorting a partial key on the transaction records, as the new system had a different internal character set to the original it meant that the partial sort resulted in transactions being applied to an individual pay record in a different order, we knew that sorting on the full key on both machines would result in the same results and had to find an acceptable response for the Application Support Manager. We ended up having conversations in front of him about 'character set differences' and 'partial key sorts'. Within 24 hours he 'discovered' the issue. When we asked when he was going to update the live and test systems he just signed off the installation stating 'oh we had the same issue last time we switched machine ranges'.

    1. MiguelC Silver badge

      Re: 'oh we had the same issue last time we switched machine ranges'.

      "And then, your Honour, was when I banged his head against the wall." "Yes, seventeen times, your Honour"...

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: 'oh we had the same issue last time we switched machine ranges'.

        Only 17 times? That doesn't sound excessive in the eyes of the law, no case to answer, you're free to go.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just one tiny text file

    Company had a backup system that had cost them several hundred grand, they'd had 5 consultants in and it had been failing for around 6 months, not a single proper backup has worked and there's about to be some serious stuff between vendor and company in court. I get called in, on site, 5 lines added to a text config file, restart the services and bingo, 5 mins later the system is working spot-on perfectly for the first time since it was put in.

    Cue humble demeanor with very smug feeling inside!

  8. Robert Helpmann??
    Childcatcher

    Printer Down

    I worked for an arts college as one of my first IT admin jobs. I got a call from the dean of the 2D school telling me he had a problem with his printer and that it hadn't fallen from the top of his filing cabinet (his words). I arrived, took a look at the HP IIP with the front crushed in lying on the floor and agreed that it had indeed not fallen, as he had claimed, and got him a replacement ordered the same day. I was able to use the rear portion of the original printer and the front of another piece of moribund equipment to create a Frankenprinter. The freshly ordered printer enjoyed a more secure perch on a work table in the dean's office. All was well.

  9. Richard Pennington 1

    Some years ago, before I retired ...

    One of my previous employers was $BIGCORP, a systems integrator since taken over by $BIGGERCORP. On one project, I was sent to a Government department in London for a project which involved sending out security questionnaires to various Local Authorities, and then assessing the replies. A previous contractor had constructed the questionnaires and the Department had sent them out; my job was to assess the replies.

    I went into London to find a pile of (paper) questionnaires. I duly put the data into a spreadsheet, and noted that the responses seemed naturally to fall into one or another of half-a-dozen patterns. So on the way through, I assigned each local authority a grade letter ranging from A (pass) to F (complete failure). I then instructed the department secretary to contact the various local authorities with one of half-a-dozen standard letters graded according to the next action which needed to be taken (some needed no further action, some needed [specific] further information, and some needed to learn the basics of IT security). So far, I had spent 2 working days on site.

    One peculiarity of this London venue was that the Department shared the building with the Food Standards Agency, who ran the canteen. Almost every vertical surface above a certain size was plastered with notices concerning the salt, sugar, fat and allergen content of their various offerings.

    A couple of weeks later, the responses to the letters had arrived at the Department (plus a few stragglers from the initial questionnaire). I dealt with the stragglers as before, and updated the spreadsheet with the additional information from the incoming responses. Another 2 working days on site.

    So, having completed the project and having spent 4 working days on site, I was then greeted at the debrief by a delighted customer at the Department ... and back at $BIGCORP by a disgruntled manager. They had estimated the project at 1 man-month, and had been expecting a man-month's worth of fees. And they hadn't told me.

    1. tip pc Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Some years ago, before I retired ...

      more fool your managers for not telling you!!!

    2. My-Handle Silver badge

      Re: Some years ago, before I retired ...

      My very first job was for a large, semi-nationalised company. They brought me in as a temp for a job that they thought would take 2 weeks. It took me just over a day. Initially, they didn't believe me when I told them it was done. Then they were delighted. So delighted that they extended my contract significantly.

      It was the most boring job I'd ever done, because they had very little other work for me to do. Some people in big companies are either really bad at time management, or are used to people loafing around a lot.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Some years ago, before I retired ...

        "Some people in big companies are either really bad at time management, or are used to people loafing around a lot."

        Nah. Big companies are much better at charging for 10+ days for each day of actual work.

        1. MiguelC Silver badge

          Re: "charging for 10+ days for each day of actual work"

          I was in a project with part of it being a mainframe application, whose manager estimated 600 hours for their part of the project. Their team only having 3 programmers would make things tight to keep within the expected time-frame. Plus, they were always busy and never find the time to even start working on it.

          Project steering meetings - with C-levels participation - were starting to get heated.

          On a meeting sometime later he let it slip that they had had some spare time and done it in a single week - to which I couldn't help myself from muttering that it was just great that they had been able to fit 600 hours on that week, at a volume just high enough for everyone to hear it.

          Cue lots of muffled laughter as this wasn't particularly unexpected from him but no one had ever said anything...

      2. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: Some years ago, before I retired ...

        "or are used to people loafing around a lot." That's called 'meetings'. Those things where you get round a table with a lot of people who are paid far more than you but stare blankly at you when you tell them the solution to many of their problems because its a) beyond them and b) upsets their plans for empires.

  10. John D'oh!

    Maybe I'm just naive, but in my view he acted dishonestly when he agreed to management's request to defraud the customer by pretending to work when he wasn't. Personally I would not have gone along with it irrespective of the location, but that's just me.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      pretending to work

      Given the default outlay was presumably quite high, I would think it made sense to spend a day or two waiting and/or checking that the fix wasn't the only problem that required addressing, but I tend to agree that in this case a little too much time was added on ...

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      It was the CUSTOMER who wanted this done. More precisely the customer's IT department, who would have been in deep shit if the consultant had come in and done in 15 minutes what they hadn't managed in several weeks

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        It still sounds like something that could have been sorted over the phone with one, possibly major, proviso - that there was someone at the client end who could be relied on to make the change without breaking things. A remote dial-in might also have been a possibility.

        But a more honest solution would have been to have recommended some training courses* for the IT department - which would probably have pleased them - or spent the seek providing some training.

        * Advanced, of course because this was a problem needing advanced knowledge.

    3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      On jobs like this, the customer has almost certainly been quoted a fixed price, so spending some time checking other stuff and making sure no feathers get ruffled isn't a bad thing IMO, especially if the culture has a thing about "face" and the saving of thereto.

  11. Swarthy Silver badge
    Go

    Not so much fixing it quickly, but fixing it on accident

    Once upon a time, I was starting a new job. I got my computer, and proceeded to tweak the environment to suit my desires.

    The build setup had project B being built, then A, then copying files from A to B and re-building B. I swapped the order of A & B in the build script with a file copy step in between, just to smooth out my workflow.

    It seems the team had been struggling with this broken dependency for months, and it was going to be my Major Effort to resolve it.

    ...Ooops.

  12. Andy the ex-Brit

    Not IT, but I'm a test and instrumentation guy. I once was flown to a factory that made engines, where a problem was occurring with the end of line test causing engines to fail. They were running out of space to store them, other factories were waiting for engines, and the problem had been going on for months. I had a suspicion, so I asked them to demonstrate the calibration process for the test cell, which they performed weekly. About one minute into it I said "wait, what did you just do?" I'd spotted the mistake they were making, we then did it my way, and then they spent the next several days running and passing all the failed engines.

    I then spent a few more days consulting on their other measurement issues, but it was a relief to have the major problem solved, and I'm now seen as some sort of engine test savant.

    1. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

      pass fail grading

      "I'm now seen as some sort of engine test savant."

      Only because your fix to the calibration caused previous failures to pass. If it had been the other way around, you would have been led out back and stood up against the wall.

      1. Richard Pennington 1

        Re: pass fail grading

        No, because I bet that they didn't re-test the previous passes.

  13. CA_Diver

    Keyboard Input

    Back in the 90's. After spending days trying to resolve why a customer's Program and Data Procesor kept hanging and crashing, I was dispatched. Our customer was getting frustrated and I scheduled a day of flying to the customer's site, and a night in a hotel.

    I walked in to the see the procedure book we provided with the system open and the cover holding down the "Enter" key at the edge of the keyboard. Auto-repeat was flooding the console and eventually hanging the system.

  14. msobkow Silver badge

    If the client's ego can't handle the fact that your experience is what solved the problem, then what are they bringing consultants in for? To make puppies?

    There are many times I've had a "quick fix" for a problem I'd encountered in the past. I just showed what I'd fixed, explained why it was necessary, and moved on to the next issue.

    People worry too much about fragile egos. You don't wnat to embarrass a client, but there is nothing embarrassing about not knowing about some internal quirck of a piece of software that has an undocumented solution from 20 years ago...

    1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

      People worry too much about fragile egos. You don't wnat to embarrass a client, but there is nothing embarrassing about not knowing about some internal quirck of a piece of software that has an undocumented solution from 20 years ago...

      Completely correct, but it is embarrassing when you walk in, firmly push one plug and thus fix the problem. Of course, that is an example of embarrassment the client deserves, just like removing an object frrom the keyboard, but there others where it pays to avoid embarrassing the client.

  15. Necrohamster

    The Parable Of The Handyman's Invoice (a.k.a Knowing where to tap)

    He was the best machinist in the district, and it was for that reason that the manager had overlooked his private delinquencies. But at last even his patience was exhausted, and he was told to go, and another man reigned in his stead at the end of the room.

    And then the machine, as though in protest, refused to budge an inch, and all the factory hands were idle. Everyone who knew the difference between a machine and a turnip tried his hand at the inert mass of iron. But the machine, metaphorically speaking, laughed at them, and the manager sent for the discharged employee. And he left the comfort of the “Bull” parlour and came.

    He looked at the machine for some moments, and talked to it as a man talks to a horse, and then climbed into its vitals and called for a hammer. There was the sound of a “tap-tap-tap,” and in a moment the wheels were spinning, and the man was returning to the “Bull” parlour.

    And in the course of time the mill-owner had a bill:–“To mending machine, £10. 10s.” And the owner of the works, being as owners go, a poor man, sent a polite note to the man, in which he asked him if he thought tapping a machine with a hammer worth ten guineas. And then he had another bill:—“To tapping machine with hammer, 10s.; to knowing where to tap it, £10; total, £10. 10s.”

    And the man was reinstated in his position, and was so grateful that he turned teetotaller and lived a great and virtuous old age. And the moral is that a little knowledge is worth a deal of labour.

    1. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

      Re: The Parable Of The Handyman's Invoice (a.k.a Knowing where to tap)

      I am that man, and its why my boss overlooks everything that goes on in meetings etc etc to ensure I'm happy'ish.

      Because he does'nt pay me for the 5 mins it takes to sort out a machine problem, he pays me for the 30+ years of knowledge OF machine problems.

      And besides... sometimes the hammer is needed on non-machine production problems...... ;)

    2. G.Y.

      Re: The Parable Of The Handyman's Invoice (a.k.a Knowing where to tap)

      I heard Steinmetz did that one on a $100,000 invoice

      1. Necrohamster

        Re: The Parable Of The Handyman's Invoice (a.k.a Knowing where to tap)

        Yep, an invoice to Henry Ford.

  16. NITS
    Pint

    Just the other day

    I got an emergency dispatch to a customer whose phone system had failed to come up after a power outage. Crash kit sent to site.

    The expansion chassis had power, but the main box was dark. I swapped the power leads. The main box powered up, the expansion box didn't. Swapped the power leads back and traced them out. One went to a UPS in the adjacent rack bay. The other one was super long (15 ft?) and went to a UPS 4 bays away, that had mostly security camera loads. Said UPS was dark. I pressed its on/off button, and the phone system booted.

    The only reason I opened the crash kit was to retrieve the reverse logistics label to send it back.

    The remainder of the time on site was hold time to report the issue to the customer's support center, and ask if they required further action on my part. They said no, they would sort out the power cabling themselves. Which I was very glad to hear, since the IT room is too effing small, there's no room to get your head behind the racks, let alone walk behind them. It'll be a real she-dog for whoever is unfortunate enough to be tasked with rationalising it.

    They'll need several beers when they're done.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Guy I know was trying to simulate how long it would take to fill up a new pipeline. Spent days on it as I understand it, trying to use our simulators to do the job.

    When I heard about it I solved the problem in a matter of seconds with Pi*r^2 * length to obtain the volume of the pipe, and then back calculated energy needed to fill that volume (which equates to a qty of gas at given pressure).

    I think I upset the guy tbh with such a trivial solution. He couldn't quite understand how I'd got the right answers and even accused me of just being lucky to do so. This did somewhat validate why I got promoted up the ranks at a rate of knots while he remained a bedblocker for people that could do his job a lot better.

    Those that can, do!

    1. CuChulainn Silver badge
      Happy

      "accused me of just being lucky to do so."

      I love when people say things like that!

      πr² is 'lucky'?

      I have had people try to argue that when something in a car door mirror moves further away, it is actually getting closer in reality, because everything is the opposite way round in a mirror.

      1. Binraider Silver badge

        Debunking with perpetual motion merchants is another personal favourite! An old scam that never seems to go away.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Yeah...

    I fixed something once. I think.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    My somewhat non-IT literate manager

    Shrieked suddenly from her office and rang the IT help desk.

    She'd been working on an important document and it was Friday afternoon and getting near beer o'clock.

    A bit of a miracle to be fair that the help desk was still staffed.

    Could I help, I tentatively offered. I doubt you could make it any worse, she said encouragingly.

    Tell me exactly what you were doing before the problem appeared, I said. And she told me.

    What software are you using here, I asked. And she told me.

    Then I pressed the undo button and her work reappeared.

    I suggest that before you do anything else you save your work, I said.

    I'm staying anonymous because she offered several benefits in kind as a reward.

  20. Basilicum

    Knowledge from experience

    While I’ve had a lot to do with IT, more recently though I’ve had to deal with electrical problems (yes, I’m licensed).

    So so so many times an electrical fault is like Alan’s - very simple and very easy to fix - if you know where to look. Will a customer cough up for the experience required to know where to look? Absolutely not. Would they be grateful for a quick, expensive fix? Not at all. So more often than not one has to spend time pretending to hunt around looking for the problem, Alan-style.

    It really is too bad that we have to play these games. Knowledge from experience is expensive and people don’t appreciate it.

  21. zb42

    Loose screws

    This reminds me of the case of an aspirating smoke detector.

    Rooms containing important equipment often have a smoke detection system where some air is collected by some red pipes running across the ceiling. Sometimes insurance companies will charge less if one is installed, as they can give an early warning of something smouldering.

    The main unit, on the wall outside the room, has a filter that has to be changed every year or so.

    They are often installed by a fire alarm man who was sent on a one day course, three years ago.

    One system was showing errors that the fire alarm man could not figure out and the fire alarm company eventually got someone from the distributor to come and have a look. He immediately diagnosed that the screws in the main unit were not done up tightly enough.

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