back to article Know the difference between a bin and /bin unless you want a new doorstop

The UK has bins, the US prefers trashcans, and computers like their /bin. How do you think today's episode of Who, Me? is going to go? Our story takes us back to the early 1990s when our reader, Regomized as "Jeremy," was a young PhD student in a biology lab. "Our supervisor was very fond of technology, and of looking good in …

  1. Korev Silver badge

    Bin? The Mac had a bin on the desktop that needed to be emptied. This must be the Indy equivalent, right? Full of stuff that just needed to be cleared. One swift tappity-tap later and /bin was a distant memory.

    So what you're saying is that it was a has /bin

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Enough of this trash talk

    2. ShadowSystems

      At Corev...

      I have the pleasure of having been the 42nd upvote to your post. Please enjoy a pint in delight over your deliciously groanable pun. =-D

    3. anothercynic Silver badge

      And Korev is here all week. Boom boom tish! ;-)

      Have a beer on me!

    4. katrinab Silver badge

      Versions of MacOS before Monterey had a trash can on the desktop, not a bin. I guess if you have your locale set to American English, you still have a trash can.

  2. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    There are some British English uses of the word "bin" to mean "storage container" .Which raises my hackles whenever I encounter it. I just cannot get myself to follow a process script that tell me to "place items in bin X...." That's telling me to throw stuff away!!!!!

    1. Willy Ekerslike

      Yes, rubbish bin, that holds stuff we intend to throw away; unless it's rubbish collection day, we can still have a rootle to retrieve something we now need :)

      Bin is a useful generic term but we often forget that and assume the "rubbish" (or, for left-pondians, "trash") prefix.

      1. Mark 85

        Bin is a useful generic term but we often forget that and assume the "rubbish" (or, for left-pondians, "trash") prefix.

        Way back then, I was told that "bin" was short for "binaries" and never, ever delete anything in that directory. That explanation served me well along with others that I trained. But then, this article is about academics and there's too many you can't teach them anything because they're smarter than everyone else.

        1. TKW

          That's as true today as it was then...

          I remember AltaVista had the cgi-bin as part of the URL in their searches. rewrite clearly wasn't "a thing" back then!

        2. vogon00

          Technical Question #3 at interview : "Briefly explain the Filesystem Hierarchy Standard (FHS)."

          If they can't answer that, or demonstrate the ability to say "I'm sorry, I don't know", then they are not 'Admin' material and should ONLY be dumped in group 'Users' until CPD takes effect and they can be trusted.

          Same sort deal goes for prospective Windows admins...if they can't explain %APPDATA%...

        3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          "But then, this article is about academics and there's too many you can't teach them anything because they're smarter than everyone else."

          In the case of some academics I've met, their brains are full to overflowing with their specialist subject. There's no room left for social niceties or storing information on how to tie shoe-laces, never mind other people specialities :-)

        4. Willy Ekerslike

          Yes, my understanding is that the /bin refers to binaries - ain't English wonderful when we use the same word to mean stuff that's vital and rubbish. Maybe bin is an IT Shibboleth.

          1. Cav Bronze badge

            We don't use the same word for something that is vital and rubbish. One is a word, the other is a contraction and used only in a technical setting.

    2. Major N

      Re: Are you sure?

      when i used to work in a bakery the display units we had in the middle of the aisles were called 'dump bins'. Always felt wrong to stock fresh bread in those!

    3. John Sager

      Bin has ancient antecedents in Old English with the meaning of 'container'. Apparently the usage for a rubbish bin dates from 19thC. I've been programming with FFTs and the output of a FFT is frequency bins.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Invented by Sir Philip Bin...

        At least according to the (totally historically faithful) Radio 4 drama-documentary Bleak Expectations, anyway. Although they may have included more swans than was strictly accurate.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Invented by Sir Philip Bin...

          Not to be confused with the Prefect Eugène-René Poubelle who did invent the bin for Parisians and made them compulsory :)

        2. David 132 Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: Invented by Sir Philip Bin...

          Damn, you beat me to it. Curse you, Mr Gently-Benevolent!

    4. GlenP Silver badge

      I've probably been working in manufacturing too long but I usually preface Bin with the type, e.g. rubbish, recycling, bread, anyway as the standard for stock locations tends to be Warehouse - Store - Bin.

    5. This post has been deleted by its author

    6. Giles C Silver badge

      Where my dad worked years ago was a warehouse, he used to come home and say the machine had dropped a cassette.

      If was only when the company had a family open day did we see that the cassette was about 6.5 x 1 x 1 metres. Strange terminology

      1. H in The Hague

        "... cassette was about 6.5 x 1 x 1 metres. Strange terminology"

        How about 40 ft?

        Used in ports to handle shipping containers, steel slabs, etc.

        Don't have any moving parts or electrics, so essentially maintenance free. Transported by translifters which slide into the cassette and then the shunting tractor lifts them.

        1. Giles C Silver badge

          Could be, the reason I half remembered the size is that steel coming in 6m lengths as a standard.

          I do remember the machine it stacked on was as high as the warehouse which was about 30m hence the deafness caused when it dropped one from the top of the machine.

          I was only about 12 at the time….

        2. logicalextreme

          So pretty much a massive pallet then?

      2. R Soul Silver badge

        Even stranger units. What's 6.5x1x1 metres in Wales's?

        1. Killfalcon Silver badge

          Wales is a measure of area, not volume: it's about 1125 footballs, or 0.0026 swimming pools.

        2. Charlie van Becelaere

          That would be 0.3128 NanoWale-metres (a measure related to the acre-foot from days of yore).

          1. John Sager

            Left-ponders still use acre-feet as a measure of volume, particularly large volumes of water. At the outflow of Lake Tahoe there are stats on flow and lake volume in acre-feet.

    7. Alan Brown Silver badge

      "binning" is a well-understood electronics manufacturing concept. Storage bins have been around a very long time for bulk powders, etc

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Bin has always been a storage location. "Rubbish bin" merely a subset. As opposed to say, the bread bin or the parts bin etc.

        That's the problem with abbreviations becoming the word itself. If you lose context you lose meaning. And if two words have the same contraction, there is always the risk that at some point there will be a misunderstanding.

        1. FirstTangoInParis Bronze badge

          Windows 98/2000 localised for Geordies comes to mind!

          Administering Sun Sparcstations with OpenWindows, I set the nightly backup to empty all the users Wastebasket folders before storing to tape, by deleting ~/.wastebasket. This was ok provided users weren’t logged in, and was recreated on next login. If someone worked late their session crashed when that happened, so I had to do some wizzy scripting to empty said directory (which usually had many subdirectories) leaving the top directory in place.

          1. phuzz Silver badge

            I was fixing an Outlook problem on my boss's laptop. I noticed he had a huge Deleted Items folder, so I decided to be helpful and empty it.

            (Bare in mind that as head of IT he was a very technical person, and the only reason I was fixing the problem was that he had to go to a meeting.)

            It turned out that his email filing 'system' was to delete any not immediately-relevant email, but leave them in the bin just in case he needed them later. Fortunately he understood that this was a carzy system, so he forgave me for deleting what was effectively his 'inbox'.

            (I hope you have a better system now Malc!)

        2. Chris Evans

          only be a matter of time...

          "And if two words have the same contraction, there is always the risk that at some point there will be a misunderstanding." more accurately: ".. it will only be a matter of time before there is a misunderstanding."

        3. logicalextreme

          I'd somehow never spotted the potential for confusion with /bin until now. I'm beginning to understand why Amazon decided to use the word "bucket" to refer to those storage locations where you leave all your unencrypted customer data available to the public.

  3. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

    "It spent the next two years being used for browsing the web and creating the occasional poster."

    If this was the early '90s, 'browsing the web' could probably have been done - in entirety - inside of an afternoon.

    1. gotes

      It would take the best part of an afternoon to load a single web page on my 386 in the 90s.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        That's why some of us stayed in universities for the whole decade

    2. Martin

      Even in the early nineties, you may be sure there would have been many large image files on busy servers, which would have taken some time to download.

  4. luminous


    I was doing some late night work, on deadline about 15 years ago, and somehow in my sleepiness or rushing, managed to drag a Macbook's main drive into the bin. That was 45 mins of nail biting agony. In the end nothing was deleted but it was not a pleasant experience.

    1. lglethal Silver badge

      Re: Bin

      Bin there, done that...

  5. Linker3000

    Son of a 'b'

    Back in the early 90s, the place where I worked ran Sage Accounting on a system running AT&T UNIX.

    Our semi-technical Financial Director was doing some housekeeping and needed to restore a copy of the bought ledger files from tape. As was Sage's way of things, all the bought ledger files started with 'b'. Unfortunately, the FD restored all the files into the root folder, so he just moved 'b*' to the right place and carried on.

    A month or so later, the system was restarted but failed to come up. A bit of head scratching and a pile of 5.25" 'recovery' floppies later, we discovered that a rather critical file called 'boot' had been swept into the bowels of Sage alongside the bought ledger files.

    1. Captain Scarlet
      Big Brother

      Re: Son of a 'b'

      Company I work for had Tetra CS3 system running on SCO Unix, I still have the SCO cd somewhere in the office. I assume its Line 500 as don't think Sage's other ERP purchases ran on Unix, could be wrong but I know Tetra CS3 (Sage Line 500/1000) programs appear to have been ported to Windows via the MKS Toolkit.

      1. SImon Hobson Bronze badge

        Re: Son of a 'b'

        Ah the memories ...

        I used to admin such a system. We actually started when it was Chameleon CS/2000, and then upgraded to CS3. The hardest part was keeping up with disk space demands which quickly started to rocket after we migrated from an older customer system (with a fraction of the capabilities).

        1. Captain Scarlet

          Re: Son of a 'b'

          Yes I do remember Chameleon CS in the documentation!

    2. elDog

      Surprised that you weren't commenting on the limey use of "the boot"

      As in the trunk of a car (not auto).

      Now why the americans want to call the storage area at the back of their car a "trunk" - another matter.

      1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

        Re: Surprised that you weren't commenting on the limey use of "the boot"

        In the context of computers, boot is a contraction of booting, which is itself a contraction of "pulling itself up by it's bootstraps".

        It's basically a way to start small programs that call larger programs that end in loading the operating system.

        I suspect, but I don't know for certain, that the term boot for a car actually originates in the term caboose, which was a storage compartment at the back of a horse-drawn carriage or coach (as well as other things).

        I'm prepared to be shouted down about that.

        But why trunk? That is a piece of luggage, an elephant's nose, or when paired, warn by men as swimming apparel.

        1. ClockworkOwl

          Re: Surprised that you weren't commenting on the limey use of "the boot"

          No actual clue here, but it's possibly because really old cars had no storage at all, just a place to strap your luggage trunk...

        2. Terry 6 Silver badge

          Re: Surprised that you weren't commenting on the limey use of "the boot"

          I assume that trunk is from the storage container. An actual trunk is pretty large. Think sea voyage in the 19thC or before. And you can imagine one strapped to the back of a carriage. "Boot" of a car is less understandable- even in the UK - it's just a term we use.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Surprised that you weren't commenting on the limey use of "the boot"

            It's from the name for fixed step on a coach, which was often used for storing luggage while travelling.

        3. Rob Daglish

          Re: Surprised that you weren't commenting on the limey use of "the boot"

          What on earth is "swimming apparel", unless you mean dookers?

          (You wear them when going for a dook, you see?)

        4. Confuzed

          Re: Surprised that you weren't commenting on the limey use of "the boot"

          Trunk is easy... On early automobiles... The only storage was a large trunk strapped on the rear of the vehicle. Some automaker decided to build a car with a built in trunk, and the name stuck.

          Boot is similar except the term refers to built in storage in horse drawn carriages.

          My suspicion is that Europe's car culture was far enough behind the US, that the first mainstream British cars had integrated storage, resembling the boot on the carriages they were familiar with. While most Americans witnessed carriages being replaced with more rudimentary autos with actual trunks for storage.

          1. Potty Professor

            Re: Surprised that you weren't commenting on the limey use of "the boot"

            I was told when I was an automotive apprentice that the name "boot" was descended from the canvas container on the back of the horse drawn mail coach (a bit like a tent hanging from the back), where you put your boots before climbing into the passenger compartment, so as not to get mud etc. on the upholstery.

          2. ICL1900-G3

            Re: Surprised that you weren't commenting on the limey use of "the boot"

            Car culture: I have a sneaky feeling Germany has something to do with the invention of cars, followed somewhat later by car culture.

  6. UrbaneSpaceman


    I once worked on a project that collected temperature data from various equipment we monitored....

    ... Someone decided to store it all in "/temp"

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Oops

      When I was on tech support, it wasn't uncommon for someone to phone in with computer problems, and the usual demand that 'they wanted an engineer sending out because the computer is broken'.

      I can remember two calls where it turned out the user had been poking around inside the file system and had 'deleted things' because they were trying to 'uninstall something'. And they'd likely removed something they really ought not to have. One of them definitely had, and the other had stopped something that ran at boot from running and it blue-screened the machine.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Some dimwit where I current work has decided that a very good file extension for template files is .TMP ...

    1. that one in the corner Silver badge

      We can do better than 8.3 these days, can't we?

      I can not understand why people are still using 3-or-fewer characters for their "new" file types. Especially as I had the impression that the number of us who remember being bound by the 8.3 limits (outside of some rare, probably embedded, cases) are the now minority.

      My personal hatred is the use of .md for Markdown (and I know who I blame for that monstrosity).

      John Gruber would support .markdown - - whillst I very much like the (and I wish I could find the original suggestion, but you just try Googling for it these days) using .markdown.txt - that's right, take *TWO* file extensions into the shower? Yes please!

      Give someone the file fred.markdown.txt and *everyone* can click on it and read it - anyone who knows what Markdown is can use their viewer of choice and everyone else just some sees it in Notepad (other simple text editors are available). Just the way that Markdown was intended to work (ref Mr Gruber).

      But, no, of course, .md is uniquely Markdown, no-one ever wanted to use GCC Machine Definitions and anyone who ever wants to read their old MuseData musical scores should Simply Know Better.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: We can do better than 8.3 these days, can't we?

        Back in the good old days proper operating systems had supplier and type ID meta data embedded with the file. So applications can open their own files without everyone trying to use .dat for data

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: We can do better than 8.3 these days, can't we?

          Back in the really old days, files never had or needed that sort of meta data. Any utility could open any file regardless of its "type", modulo access permissions.

          It's a disgrace that a limitation of the long-dead MS-DOS filesystem/OS still pollutes the IT world.

          1. swm

            Re: We can do better than 8.3 these days, can't we?

            "modulo access permissions"

            Access permissions? What are those? On a CPM machine?

        2. david 12 Silver badge

          Re: We can do better than 8.3 these days, can't we?

          Windows NTFS still has support for that kind of file identification, and there were abortive attempts to do so.

          It's just that for 20+ years, users have found that having clearly named files is more useful than having hidden file-system information.

      2. elDog

        Re: We can do better than 8.3 these days, can't we?

        8.3 only takes up 12 ASCII characters. Think of all the spinning rust that is saved by this format.

        1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

          Re: We can do better than 8.3 these days, can't we?

          Actually, as the dot was implied on MS-DOS and DEC files-11 filesystems, it only took 11 characters.

          1. the spectacularly refined chap

            Re: We can do better than 8.3 these days, can't we?

            Actually, as the dot was implied on MS-DOS and DEC files-11 filesystems, it only took 11 characters.

            Not really. From memory the dot was mandatory if there was an extension but optional and made a logical difference if there wasn't. That is, "file" and "file." referred to two distinct files.

            1. Adrian Harvey

              Re: We can do better than 8.3 these days, can't we?

              Yes, really! The FAT file system directory table did not include the dot. It had two fixed-length fields, one of 8 characters (the name) and one of 3 characters (the extension). So shorter names were padded with space characters that are ignored. See for details on the file system layout on disk.

              How exactly the command line functions and DOS interrupts (function calls) treated those special cases is an interesting question though….

            2. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

              Re: We can do better than 8.3 these days, can't we?

              As Adrian said above, the slots in the directory file were 8 characters and 3 characters, and the dot was not stored but implied by the OS.

              If you look at that other commonly used operating system of the time, UNIX, you could have extensions on file names, but there was nothing special about the extension, it was just part of the file name. It was normal to use things like .c, .o etc. but the extension was just a part of the file name, and the dot was just another character in the filename. You could have more than one dot as well (like the directory link ".."). Only a small subset of ASCII characters, including "/" were not allowed to be part of a name. Spaces, punctuation, non-printing characters et. al. could be in file names, and have been causing problems for UNIX users for years, but I would not have changed it. One learned about the "-b" flag in ls.

              IIRC, the UNIX filesystem shipped with Edition 7 of UNIX only allowed 14 characters in a file or directory name (it was to do with an entry in a directory file being limited to 16 bytes, with two bytes being used for the 16-bit inode number). That changed sometime before UFS on System V, but I can't remember when.

              Filesystems based on the Berkley Fast Filesystem also had the 12 character limitation lifted.

              To check, I would have to dig through the code on tuhs, but I can't be bothered at the moment.

    2. stiine Silver badge

      The advantage, perhaps the only one, is that if you restrict yourself to a-zA_Z0-9-_ and 8.3 format, you should never have any problem copying/opening the file no matter which OS you're using.

      1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge


        And what do you do about case sensitivity?

        I once had to stage an AIX service pack through a Windows server (using Windows as your gateway systems is a REAL PAIN), and it squashed the case on the file names such that when they arrived on the destination AIX system, not only did the files have the wrong character case in the name and wouldn't install, but with two files, there was only a difference between the filenames in the case of some of the characters, and one file over-wrote the other!

        Nowadays, I tar or PAX the files together, bsplit (or split -b) the resultant huge files (did I say that I use Linux on my workstations), and send them through like that (as long as you make the files a multiple of 4 characters long - some windows comms. packages [like the Windows FTP server] silently pad files out to the nearest 4 characters - did I say using Windows as your gateway systems was a pain?), and then re-assemble the files at the other end and unpack.

        Now some of you may say "Why are UNIX-like OSs case sensitive", to which I reply, why is Windows not? In my view, having case-insensitive file names is the real limitation, not the other way round (I had this discussion with D. Evnulll, the pseudonym of the writer of the Hands On UNIX column in Personal Computer World magazine years ago, and he really showed his colours as a migrant from another OS.

        1. David Hicklin Bronze badge

          Re: @stiine

          "case sensitivity?"

          Early days as a sysadmin on an HP-UX box, needed to re-arrange the file systems due to space issues, so took a "backup" by FTP to a windows box as a utility prog for "speed"

          Did not consider to set "preserve case"

          After everything was up the application fell flat on it's face, at least it messaged what the file it was complaining about but as there were hundreds of file the only answer was to reach for last nights backup tape...

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Sometimes in the nineties, we had Sun sparc workstations all accessing a "server", an IPX with an additional external disk. One day the server's disk became full and the "sysadmin" performed a thorough cleanup, in particular removing any file located under a "tmp" directory.

      It turned out that one colleague had all his work (source code, test data, ...) under $HOME/tmp, because it was stuff he frequently modified, temporary stuff in other words.

      The guy was not happy, but since the sysadmin was also co-owner of the company, he could not really complain and had to work late every evening for a few weeks.

  8. Howard Sway Silver badge

    The UK has bins, the US prefers trashcans

    Hence Windows and its famous Recycle Trashcan.

    Or did they introduce the Brit lingo as an underhand way of getting users who might one day find themselves on a *nix system to think that by trashing their /bin they were binning their trash?

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Vometia has insomnia. Again. Silver badge

      Re: The UK has bins, the US prefers trashcans

      Mine says "recycle bin". I can't say with absolute certainty that's how it came, but if I'd named it myself if would've probably been called something along the lines of "useless crap" so I assume this is just the Windows standard for England Land.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: The UK has bins, the US prefers trashcans

        >Mine says "recycle bin"

        We have several "recycle bins" on the standard desktop roll-out, one for documents, one for color images and another for raw data.

        This has nothing to do with me being a sarcastic el'reg reader who was responsible for setting up the system, and me living in a place where you are hung, drawn and quartered for putting your paper straw in the wrong bin.

  9. William Towle

    ...I've "bin" here all day

    In the 90s a (younger) friend with an Amiga got a magazine coverdisk with an icon editor on it.

    After sprucing up a few music files we'd made with alternative vinyl record style images, we pointed said editor at the disk's Trash Can, gave it smooth sides and a flip top lid, then duly renamed it Pedal Bin.

    It was then copied to a number of other Workbench disks to be discovered as an amusing surprise and prompt for a "do you remember..." conversation on more than one subsequent occasion :)

  10. nintendoeats Silver badge

    Hmm, I taught myself C++ on an Indy. In fairness to the department head, it would have been exceptionally good at browsing the web and making those posters. If he had bought a second one, they could have done video conferencing in 1993 (just because they could, that's why).

  11. bartsmit

    Indy's were cool

    From the cobalt blue case when most others were beige and the jazzy system sounds when everything else beeped timidly:

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: Indy's were cool


      "Oh! It's a Unix system! I know this!"

      *face palm*

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Indy Gone

    Indys and Indigos were quite de rigeur for crystallography and protein structure labs in those days, usually situated in darkened rooms with sweaty PhD students peering at density maps. (Well that was what was on the screen when you opened the door, anyway.) They could do shockingly avant-garde things like displaying a window on a completely different computer by the magic of NFS and the X-Window system. But it didn't stop them ending up in skips like everything else, which is why there is an Indy under my bed (I have no idea whether it would even boot now). Washed away by the tide of Linux/x86 as were most of the other workstations.

    1. nintendoeats Silver badge

      Re: Indy Gone

      They are very hardy machines, it may well work. The biggest concerns would be the HDD and the PSU.

      Of course you also have to get an appropriate SGI-compatible 13W3 -> VGA adaptor which is a bit expensive, and you need a monitor that supports SoG (fairly common).

      1. Korev Silver badge

        Re: Indy Gone

        > They are very hardy machines, it may well work. The biggest concerns would be the HDD and the PSU.

        Last time I touched an SGI, the PSU blew up treating our office to the Magic Smoke...

        It was a Tezro too, the last generation of their MIPS workstations...

        1. nintendoeats Silver badge

          Re: Indy Gone

          Not a Tezro!!!!!

          I have heard that people have issues with the Indy PSUs, but both of mine still work (one is Nidec, the other is Sony)

  13. fredds


    Earlier this year I was following some instructions to install a program, and managed to delete libc6. The machine would get half way through the boot sequence, then stop. It seems that everything relies on that library. I tried booting into another distro on a USB stick, tried apt, wget, and a few other things, but basically had to re-install the O/S. Fortunately had all my personal stuff on /home.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Fail

      Thumb up for having a separate /home but how on Earth did any instructions lead you to delete libc6?

      Didn't you try copying back it from the USB device?

    2. WonkoTheSane

      Re: Fail

      For next time, you might like to read up on the usage of "chroot"

  14. El blissett

    We restored a Mac Classic to working order in a middle-school computing project during the early 00s. It would complement the all-Mac computer suite by allowing people to work on real computing things and code in a safe, no Internet environment.

    Reader, it lasted 1 week before it was relegated to Risk duties only.

  15. ColinPa

    Clean desk policy

    I remember being at a company with a clean desk policy.

    One guy would store all of his "in progress work" in the bin under the desk when he went home, and get it out next day. Which worked fine as the cleaners came round mid morning. "Security" would check the desks, but not the bins.

    This worked fine until he had an urgent medical appointment one morning, and his bin was emptied.

    He wasn't too upset - he said the design was rubbish and the module needed to be redesigned anyway.

    1. GlenP Silver badge

      Re: Clean desk policy

      We had the opposite back when I was a civil servant many years ago. Anything that was in the bin and hadn't been physically torn through would be returned to your desk by the cleaners.

      We did have a user who stored emails awaiting action in the Deleted Items folder as it was easy to send them there (but I don't thing she ever deleted the actual rubbish). She was most upset when, as part of trying to speed her machine up, we cleaned out the folder.

      1. vogon00

        Re: Clean desk policy

        I had a friend in the Civil Service, who's department head insisted on a 'Clean Desk' before leaving on Fridays.

        EO's solution : Late on a Friday, post everything outstanding to yourself in the internal mail, for delivery back on Monday....

    2. jmch Silver badge

      Re: Clean desk policy

      "One guy would store all of his "in progress work" in the bin under the desk when he went home, and get it out next day"

      Odd. Companies implementing a clean desk policy normally provide lockable drawers to be able to implement said policy.

      1. ChrisC Silver badge

        Re: Clean desk policy

        They may well have done in this case too, but if said drawers are anywhere other than right next to/under your desk, so that adhering to the clean desk policy doesn't require you to trek over to the far side of the office, or, heaven forbid, a completely seperate storage area so remote from your desk that to get there you'd have to seek approval from your manager under business travel procedures, then it wouldn't be hard to imagine how this short cut might come about...

      2. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge

        Re: Clean desk policy

        They usually provide lockable drawers, but the keys are long lost distant memory.

        Security we've heard of it, but the clean desk looks nice, when manglement breezes through.

        1. Killfalcon Silver badge

          Re: Clean desk policy

          From experience: more often than not, there are only 4-6 distinct keys per building. Just try a few, one of them will work.

      3. SImon Hobson Bronze badge

        Re: Clean desk policy

        I recall in the dim and dark past, every now and then we'd have a "clear out" edict. One engineer in the office would open the drawer and dump the contents into the bin - on the basis that if it were in the drawer then it can't have been accessed for several years (since the last clear out) and therefore wasn't needed. He'd then transfer the feet high piles of papers on his desk to the now empty drawer - and the process would repeat of fetching things out if needed, otherwise they'd sit there until the next clear out.

        Yes, we supposedly had a clear desk policy, he just had a different idea of what "clear" meant.

        1. J. Cook Silver badge

          Re: Clean desk policy

          That's... actually brilliant. I should probably do that with the boxes under my cubicle at the office the next time I'm there, mainly because there's paperwork and other assorted junk in there that I inherited over the years from staff turnover and whatnot...

        2. David Hicklin Bronze badge

          Re: Clean desk policy

          I had a manager who had 5 piles of paper in a line going from his desk and across the one butted up to it, with the most recent closest.

          Periodically the piles would all shift one space right with the furthest pile being dropped into a bin on the basis that those papers were now so old that they must be "dead"

    3. Eclectic Man Silver badge

      Re: Clean desk policy

      I was part of a team 'implementing' some IT security at at client's site. We bought some security models for installing into the servers for generating and holding the cryptographic keys, but discovered that they would not fit and had to to be amended. We left them in the box on the desk and went home. Next morning we turned up, but could not find them. They had been in brown cardboard boxes next to (but not in) the waste bin. Reckon they ended up in landfill. Next time they all got locked away, until we fond out that the software did not allow the server to be re-booted (the module erased the keys), or for the admin password to be changed, ever.

      The supplier eventually ceased trading as an IT security PKI company.

    4. swm

      Re: Clean desk policy

      Our company had a "clean desk policy". I had a messy desk/room policy. When the inspectors came around they checked every box on the form including the "passed" box. I found the form a week later and since I had passed I ignored it. My boss said I had a very secure office - nobody could possibly find anything in it (except me).

      1. Empty1

        Re: Clean desk policy

        "Empty desk, empty mind"

        1. Herby

          Re: Clean desk policy

          A clean desk is the sign of a sick mind...

  16. Roger Kynaston

    tar(macadam) joy

    I needed to copy some config files from one machine to another.

    Source machine: tar cvf /tmp/roger.tar /etc/some/dir

    scp roger.tar to dest machine

    Destination machine: tar xvf /tmp/roger.tar

    "Ooh why does /etc not contain any files now?

    This was when I found that the backups hadn't been working.

    Four days later and I had sort of bodged the machine back into a working state and I learnt the lesson to extract a tarball into a different directory

    1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

      Re: tar(macadam) joy

      I don't believe this. Tar will overwrite files that match a file in the archive, but won't remove any files that don't.

      If you back up an empty directory, on restore, it will check whether the directory named in the archive exists, and if it does, it may change the permissions back to what is in the archive, but it won't delete it.

      If you used rsync, things may have been different, but tar? No.

  17. John Robson Silver badge

    Chroot jail work...

    When you mean to `rm -f etc bin usr` to clean out the chroot jail you were testing but accidentally add the `/` to each.

    And when the team is running low on dev boxes so your boss told you to use the build server.


    1. Joe W Silver badge

      Re: Chroot jail work...

      delete all of the hidden files in your linux home directory, recursively. Hint, it is not rm -rf .*

    2. Gene Cash Silver badge

      Re: Chroot jail work...

      And when the team is running low on dev boxes so your boss told you to use the build server.

      Hopefully he learned his lesson...

  18. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

    A colleague once managed to delete the kernel binary from disk on his SPARCstation desktop. The system stayed up, but there were a few tense moments while he found another system running the same OS version, FTPed the file from it and rebooted.

    1. stiine Silver badge

      Bah, as long as you discover this before booting it, you can recover by copying files/dirs from another machine. I've seen it done and can say it was fun to watch.

  19. Alan Brown Silver badge

    I think there are few (if any) greybearded *nix admins who haven't at some point trashed a system by accidentally removing /etc /usr, or /bin via various misadvantures (like having something unlinking "dead" directories and having it discover .. )

    The question becomes how quickly you recovered and how old the backups were

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      mv can be quite interesting. It might be OK if you can catch it before mv, cp or cat have been moved but I didn't.

  20. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

    This brings back memories...

    In the lab where I grew up (was a student in, in the '90s at any rate), they had a load of old Macs. This was the age of the Zip disk, and Zip drives came in two flavours - parallel port and SCSI for Macs, later a third flavour - the new fangled USB, but that's another story.

    Those who were familiar with the external SCSI connectors on those old Macs might already have guessed where this is going. Jobs et al had decided in their infinite wisdom that the connector should be identical to the parallel port connector. However, woe-betide anyone who thought they could plug the parallel-port Zip drive into the Mac's SCSI port. I can nether confirm nor deny whether I may, at the time, have accidentally killed one of those Macs by the simple act of attempting to do just this...

    1. elaar

      Re: This brings back memories...

      Commodore did the same thing with their Amiga CDTV. I was 13, plugged the printer into the scsi port and that was the instant death of my 1 month old Xmas present.

      By this time Commodore had gone bankrupt as well, so no replacement under warranty either.

  21. Vometia has insomnia. Again. Silver badge

    A place I worked in London in the '90s bought us all Indys because... well, reasons; and then they wrote them off, so I took mine home. Carrying it through a busy station was... well, exhausting, actually. I'm not sure how I managed since it wasn't just the novelty sparkly blue slab but also the 17" monitor. And then I loaned it to a friend who was studying animation and she never gave it back. Arse.

  22. Anonymous South African Coward Bronze badge

    Anybody had the infamous "Bad or missing Command Interpreter" on DOS V3.00 systems, after accidentally renaming/moving/deleting COMMAND.COM?

    need to get out of IT now -->

    1. Andy The Hat Silver badge

      No. What's DOS 3.00? I'm not old enough to remember floppies ... oh bugger.

      Be a wonderful thing to plot the age of people here by first OS ... I'd guess peak distribution would be around Win XP ...

      1. Eclectic Man Silver badge


        DOS 3.00, is what we all used before the magnificent DOS 3.11 came along.

        The standard hack of how to access a PC to which you did not have permissions, sorry, the user login credentials, was to get a bootable floppy (and with installed) insert it into the floppy drive and turn the computer on. It would automatically 'boot from floppy'. You could then run '' from the floppy drive and you were in. (I only used it professionally once, and I was allowed.)

        DOS 3.nn predates Windows XP (XenoPhobia) by some years.

        1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

          Re: DOS

          It wouldn't surprise me if there were still ways of doing the same with current iterations of Windows, if you have access to installation media. In any case, if someone has physical access to the machine, you have pretty much no security if they want to get into it badly enough, to the extent of obtaining in-memory keys by freezing the physical chips whilst powered on so that they retain their state for a short while after being removed from the motherboard and plugged in elsewhere.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: DOS

            So long as the drive isn't encrypted, yes, you can boot a Windows installed to an external HDD and read the internal hard disk. Likewise, booting a live Linux from CD/USB and then mount (if the OS doesn't do it for you by default), the internal hard disk.

            1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

              Re: DOS

              The linked article explains how you can remove the memory from a running machine, and plug it into a special "memory reader" box which will dump the contents, including the in-memory copy of the TPM keys needed to get into the encrypted drive. In some cases, the contents of RAM persist long enough when unpowered to even do this at room temperature. The length of time before the memory contents decays is inversely proportional to the temperature, so if you were to use something like liquid N2, you could go and take a nice long bath, go out and do some shopping, stopping for a pint on the way home, then come back, and the contents would still be there.

      2. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

        Be a wonderful thing to plot the age of people here by first OS ... I'd guess peak distribution would be around Win XP ...

        I think the end of that tail would include those whose first OS was one they wrote themselves, because that was all that was available, or at least, were part of the team what wrote it. @Jake I'm thinking of you here...

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          For me, the first identifiable OS (as in disk based), for me would be TRS-DOS/LDOS/MultiDOS. Earlier would be whatever ran on the local Town Hall mainframe where we sent our punched tapes from Computer Studies class, and possibly earlier than my TRS-DOS, experience, the timeshared teletype we got in 6th form linked to Newcastle Uni by a wooden box called an acoustic modem :-)

          1. Terry 6 Silver badge

            We had an IBM school computer ( say 1972ish) which was an experiment they tried. It looked pretty much the same as the big red IBM tills in a local supermarket (Tesco?). Programming was done in numbers. Codes for <add the contents of cell xy to the contents of cell AB and place the result in cell mH)>

            Which was fun. But it's OS was a long list of numbers that had to be typed in. And could get dumped/lost somehow.

            Otherwise we had special pencils and a stack of cards- which got sent off to Manchester Uni, and came back a week or so later with our errors, to be corrected and sent off again.

      3. Anonymous Coward
      4. heyrick Silver badge

        First OS? Acorn MOS 1.20

        I've also used a CP/M jobbie with loud-as-hell eight inch disc drives, holding something crazy like 360K of data. Bzzzt-thunk-thunk-thunk-thunk-thunk... The Beeb's drives were similar, but being merely 5.25" you didn't feel the desk vibrate as the heads stepped tracks.

        That CP/M machine had an absolutely lovely on/off switch. A big red paddle that made a very satisfying clunk. As for size? The main breaker for my house has a smaller switch!

      5. swm

        In my day (1960's) we wrote operating systems.

      6. irrelevant

        Hmm. TRS-80 was the first computer I used, at school. Model 1 machines, linked via their cassette port and a switch box to a model 3 with a disc drive - it could share programmes by using "cload" on the stations while saving on the m3..

        First with a floppy I got to handle myself, either an RML380Z, or a Data General Nova, both at dad's work (Tameside College of Technology.)

        First floppy off my own, hung from a BBC Micro..

        I did try writing my own operating system on the Beeb, though it was more of a task switcher/scheduler, for a second processor equipped machine, with terminal sessions coming from other machines on the LAN. Would have been cool if I'd ever finished it.

      7. Paul Cooper

        CMC Reality (a version of Pick). Before that I did use a thing called AS on an IBM 360, but I can't find any reference to it - I think it was something that IBM put together to provide bureau services. It bore no relationship with later things called AS. Then Phoenix on the Cambridge IBM 370. Then CP/M! But I started in computing for real in about 1976.

    2. Rob Daglish

      No. *I* was teaching myself what all the commands on schools newfangled 286 running DOS were. Format was very helpful, and told me I needed to append a drive letter to the command. I didn't k ow what it was going to do when I typed format c:, and apparently I wasn't that smart to figure out destroying all the data on drive c: meant the machine would be somewhat unusable until all the software was reinstalled...

      To his credit, the head teacher used it as a learning experience for me rather than just tell me off, and had he not I probably wouldn't be doing IT today RIP Mr Hedley.

  23. ShadowSystems

    My tale of woe...

    I volunteered at my son's elementary school (K~6th grade) to be their "Computer Guy" & bring their dead computer lab back to a working state. A bunch of Packard Bell boxes running an early version of Win95. Utter useless as they were, they all required an upgrade to the RAM, video card, networking (from ThickNet to Cat5), and a HDD that didn't rely on actual *rust* in the phrase "spinning rust". They didn't have any budget for "useless upgrades" (as the district head put it) so I essentially did it all out of my own pocket. Once they were all upgraded to a state where they could run anything newer than DOS at a rate that wouldn't get them assaulted by the monkies (children), I then went to work to update them to a newer version of the OS...

    It took a subjective forever to get them all to a state where I could even THINK of installing various educational software like Encarta, various math/reading/early science/etc that their teachers would approve of, and various age-appropriate games (Jardinians, Oregon Trail, a Space Invaders clone that used "math meteorites" you had to calculate the correct answer to destroy, etc) that the monkies would desire. Once they were at a state where I thought they might withstand the abuse of said monkies, I made a backup image of the default system, and declared the computer lab Open For Business...

    There was much cheering from the students whom hadn't had a working lab in so long that many had forgotten how to use the computers at all, a skill that was quickly remembered once a mouse was in their tiny little paws. Cue much delighted howling as chickens got blown up, settlers got eaten by wolves, & meteores got exploded. Cue many a pint bought me by the teachers whom, upon the restoration of the lab, now had a "free period" in which their students got to use the lab & the teacher got a break from the little shite-flinging monsters. That I'd included truely educational stuff (like Encarta) only helped those pints flow in their thanks. All seemed well until...

    One of the more inquisitive monkies managed to find the File Explorer & started poking around the file system. They noticed a bunch of files that all had the same extension, but were not for some reason stored in the same place. So they decided to "clean up stuff" & move all the same-extension files to a same-name file folder. All the *.DLL's in a DLL folder, all the *.EXE's in an EXE folder, etc. The system kept running somehow, right up until the monkey told it to reboot, at which point the computer happily shite itself. Up goes a hand & the dreaded phrase uttered from little monkey lips: "Computer Guy, my computer's gone bonkers."

    It took a while before I figured out what the kid had done, at which point I had to restore the computer to the default image. This wouldn't have been so traumatic except that it erased the little monster's high score in their favorite game. Cue much anguished howling, gnashing of teeth, & crying. I soothed their nerves by editing the not-really-a-text-file high score file to restore their score (minus the penis pun "initials"), and told them not to ever do the "cleaning" again or I'd refuse to restore their score. THAT got the little monster's attention, yes indeedy do.

    I wound up earning "Volunteer of the Year" & enjoyed many a pint in after hours celebrations, but I swear to Cthulhu that those little monkies nearly drove me even more insane than I already am. =-Jp

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: My tale of woe...

      I think I'd have just upgraded a few of them, then invited the district head to decide whether they were useless. If he stuck with his opinion I'd have pointed out that the upgrades so far had come out of my own pocket & the materials were therefore still my own property and I'd reclaim them.

      1. ShadowSystems

        Re: My tale of woe...

        I had considered such a move, but that would ultimately hurt the students more than the district head. I decided instead to leave the bill outstanding & just write it all off on my taxes. I listed a fair market value for each system, multiplied by the number of systems, tacked on an hourly rate for each system that would cover having the job "professionally done", and submitted that to the tax goons. They raised an eyebrow, called the school to verify that I wasn't yanking their chain, nodded & hung up with a "Well I'll be damned" before approving my credit.

        The district head didn't pay me, but I'd like to think someone at the tax office had a serious word with him & wielded a rather brutal red pen come budget time the next go round. "We're sorry Bob, but you cost us one HELL of a charge for some bloke that did volunteer work for you, you refused to reimburse him, and WE had to pay him instead. We're taking that money out of your budget & I'm making a note to audit your personal returns for the next decade. Now get out of my face before I call Security."

        *Cough* =-)p

        In the end it all amounted to naught. My ExWife's then-hubby worked at Intel & convinced them to donate new computers to the lab. The school went from Packard Bells running Win95, to brand new Dell's running Win98. More RAM, better video/audio, faster networking (gigabit LAN versus the 10/100 I'd been able to afford), and all the bells & whistles. The oohs & aaahs lasted right up until the first computer crashed, at which point the "Super Hubby" proved to be a Super Dud when he refused to *support* any of said new kit. Did the school have the budget to pay for support? Nope. Was I in any position to volunteer? Nope. Did the school lose their computer lab for the next few years until another Computer Guy could be drawn in to help? Yup.

        Be wary of a geek bearing free gifts, they may refuse to support what turns out to be utter shite disguised as shiny-shiny. =-/

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: My tale of woe...

          "I had considered such a move, but that would ultimately hurt the students more than the district head. I decided instead to leave the bill outstanding & just write it all off on my taxes. I listed a fair market value for each system, multiplied by the number of systems, tacked on an hourly rate for each system that would cover having the job "professionally done", and submitted that to the tax goons. They raised an eyebrow, called the school to verify that I wasn't yanking their chain, nodded & hung up with a "Well I'll be damned" before approving my credit."

          While I applaud your ingenuity (and success!) in writing off the parts and labour as tax liability, it no longer sounds like volunteering in the usual meaning of the word.

  24. Anne Hunny Mouse

    In the early 2000's I remember a Doctor in a Hospice using his deleted items to store emails..

    Was fine until the AV flagged an email virus and his deleted items was emptied...

    Have accidentally deleted /usr/bin on a Sun box. It continued run file. Just FTP'd the files from it's identical sister server on the other site and restored a backup the next day to fix the symbolic links.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "using his deleted items to store emails"

      That's the second instance so far in this thread. Combine that with everyone who stores their emails in the inbox and it's not hard to conclude that email clients do not do a good job with handling read email.

      1. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

        "it's not hard to conclude that email clients do not do a good job with handling read email."

        TBF they treat it much the same way I treat post, except that their big pile is easier to search.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        We once had a user that stored her email in the deleted items folder. We found this out (from the howls of anguish) the day after we set the group policy to empty deleted items at logoff.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          You really shouldn't do that. It's not that unusual for a deleted email to suddenly regain some level of importance. At best, if disk space is an issue, auto-delete the deleted items more than <some calendar value> old, eg 6 months or a year.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            This was a very long time ago, when disk space was an issue and Exchange database sizes were limited to 16GB. Plus, recovering important stuff is what backups are for, not relying on end users to keep things in the right place.

  25. phy445

    Trashy comment

    Back in the early nineties Macs had a Trashcan rather than a Bin on the desktop - I believe the Bin came along with OS X.

    I remember this because I worked out how to change the menu item to empty said space from "Empty Trashcan" to "Delete Thesis" on the lab Mac that several of us PhD students used to write up our magnum opera (Google says this is the correct plural, so it must be so). This made several people very nervous

    1. Irony Deficient

      magnum opera (Google says this is the correct plural, so it must be so)

      Either “opuses” or “opera” (the Latin plural) can be used in English. If you prefer to use “opera”, then you might as well use the corresponding Latin plural of “magnum” in tandem with it — magna opera.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: magnum opera

      ... is that one where the female lead has eaten too many ice creams?

      1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

        Re: magnum opera

        Well, you know that saying about the fat lady singing...

      2. Anonymous Custard

        Re: magnum opera

        No, she has a 'tash and drives around Hawaii in a Ferrari...

    3. Eclectic Man Silver badge

      Re: Trashy comment

      I once spent several hours one afternoon rewriting chapter 4 of my thesis (in the world-changing 'Spellbinder' word processing application), only to accidentally delete it, and have to start all over again ...

  26. Juan Inamillion

    Trash storage

    Client says his Mac is very slow and he's very fed up, can I fix it 'now'.

    Get info on his HD shows it's very nearly run out of free space.

    Check his Trash, ooerrr lots of files there, GB's in fact. So I empty it.


    "But that's where I save all my stuff!!!!"

    To this day I have no idea of the thought process that says 'Save important data in the Trash'.

    I'm slightly heartened by the similar experiences in this thread.

    1. heyrick Silver badge

      Re: Trash storage

      "To this day I have no idea of the thought process that says 'Save important data in the Trash'."

      Kind of makes one wonder what their home is like. I mean... trash. There's no "well maybe trash and a few useful things". You wouldn't buy pineapples and store them in the rubbish bin, would you?

      The mind boggles.

  27. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

    We had the

    physical reality of bins

    "just put the finished bits in the bin " so the operator puts all the parts he takes out of machine and places them in the trash bin.

    He wasn't the brightest spark, but he worked hard and turned up every day, and followed instructions.

    Lucky for us (and him) the QC check went "wheres all the bits you made today?" and he pointed at the trash bin... then the skip where he emptied said trash bin when it got full....

    Mangler gets called over and says "oh I should have told him into the QC bin ready for the check........"

    Good operator though..... retired now sadly.

    mangler.... since left (or fired depending who you talk to)

  28. chivo243 Silver badge

    I learned long ago

    directories with /something should be researched before deleting, if you DON'T KNOW what it is, geesh! We won't go into my depths of stupidity here... /

  29. billdehaan

    Mounter, automounter, what's the diff

    I worked at a large bank where there was a culture clash between the ancient whitebeards who used the ancient, grotty old IBM mainframes, while the younger generation of Sun worshippers (Hail to the Sun god, he is a fun god, Ra Ra Ra) basked in the glory that was Unix. Specifically, SunOS.

    One of the major benefits, they explained to the whitebeards, was that, unlike the mainframe, if the network died, individual Unix workstations would keep running. As they were saying this, someone upgraded the SunServer automounter, meaning that the workstations could not mount things from it. At which point, every Sun workstation on the floor also stopped working. In order to save space on the individual workstations, they loaded the /bin directory from the file server. Fortunately, the local workstations also had /usr/local/bin, but in a fit of overly aggressive optimization, that too was loaded from the server.

    This led to the bizarre admission that "SparcOS can't run $BUSINESSAPP until it can load /usr/local/bin from the file server", which led to management asking the fair question of why one had to load a "local" object from the remote server.

    Mind, it's not always the person deleting the directory who is at fault.

    I worked on a shared lab machine in the 1980s where space was tight. I was working on a video project, so I created a directory \DEVTEAMS (this was during the days of DOS 3 and 8.3 file names), and under it, I created VIDPROJ. Another group was doing a transputer project, so I also created TRANSPTR. That way, anyone who backed up the shared machine's \DEVTEAMS directory would back up both projects, \DEVTEAMS\TRANSPTR and \DEVTEAMS\VIDPROJ.

    The transputer team had different ideas, though. They used their teams initials. So Charley, Uri, Norman and Kevin put their development work in the directory C:\JUNK.

    Well, one day, a team member found that there was only 2kb of disk space on the 10MB (or maybe it was 20MB) drive. So, the first thing he did was run a backup of \DEVTEAMS, and then he went around seeing what he could get rid of to free up space. He found a directory C:\JUNK, and it was filled with thousands of small (10 to 50 byte) files with names like $d217.d78 and $aix7.7$a. They were obviously cache files of some kind, so he wiped them and freed up about 1.5MB of disk space.The machine now had enough space to run his build.

    The next day, the head of the transputer group was livid. His team's entire project had been destroyed on the lab machine. There was month's worth of work gone! It turned out that instead of saving source files, the transputer development tool saved their source as hundreds of individual source objects, and maintained a database of how to link them. In other words, hundreds of little files with autogenerated file names, like $d217.d78 and $aix7.7$a

    Yes, on a shared machine, they set up a directory called JUNK, and filled it with binary files with names like $3j5a1.d7x, and were upset people looking to clean out dead files didn't realize that those were critical project files.

    Although they weren't so critical that their team ever bothered to back them up once in the span of six months, of course.

  30. billdehaan

    And then there was OS/2

    The UK has bins, the US prefers trashcans, and computers like their /bin

    Due to the various look and feel lawsuits, after macOS put their "trashcan" on the desktop, Microsoft had to use "recycle bin" for theirs, to be different.

    So, when IBM released OS/2 v2, they could use neither. So they settled on "shredder". The desktop was complete with a paper shredder WAV file that made the appropriate grinding noises when any object was dropped on it.

    Since IBM was new to the desktop, or at least they believed their customers were, they populated it with all sorts of instructional games and the like to start with. They included a chess game (GNU chess, which they neglected to credit), and an entertainment program called Neko that helped users get used to the mouse interface.

    However, many of the studious, steadfast IBM employees had little use for humour, and their first reaction was to remove it from the desktop. However, this was a system object, not a user object, and so it couldn't actually be deleted.

    This led to much amusement as the OS/2 bug reports contained several variations of "I dropped the cat into the shredder but it didn't die". This became even more amusing when Very High Level Executives visited the site. These were not just Executives but Senior Executives. They were far too Senior to be familiar with (ugh) PC desktop software.

    And one of these Senior Executives either was on, or his wife was on, one of the state ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) board of directors. The phrase "dropped the cat in the shredder and it didn't die" was not as amusing to the Senior Executives as it was to the rank and file, oddly enough.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Silicon Graphics Indy

    That brings back memories.

    Was in Oil & Gas, writing Seismic Survey visualisation software and we had one for IRIX compilation of C++ code. It was a great computer, really quick for the time.

    Only negative was the soundcard played through speaker if it was on and people used to log in remotely, and play that flight sim game that was on there in an X session. However, as it wasn't an Indigo it was laggy. The speaker was really loud.

  32. IJD

    At uni in the early 80s I managed somehow to end up specifying and then running the group PDP11/44, which was shared between a heap of postgrads doing signal and image processing (including me). 64kB of RAM, two 20MB hard disks and a tape drive, which was supposed to be used for regular backups but often wasn't.

    IIRC the OS was RSX/11 which only had 2 categories of user, normal (restricted) and super (who could do anything) -- but to get access to the image acquisition hardware you needed to be a superuser, so most of the postgrads were. Late on day (Friday, obviously...) there was a major panic as everyone's VT100 stopped responding to commands, including directory listings. It turned out one idiot had decided to clean out his (multiple) directories, and entered RM [*,*]*.*;* (or the equivalent) and deleted not only all his own files but also everyone else's, and also the entire OS which is why no commands worked any more... :-(

    (and of course there wasn't a backup HDD since they'd both been used, and it turned out that the last tape backup was several months old...)

    In a stroke of luck the tiny little system debugger was sitting in memory because I'd been using it to try and track down a problem, and this quickly showed that all the HDD files had been deleted -- but the FAT was still there undisturbed since the disaster stopped anybody doing anything, just every block on the disk had been marked as unallocated. The debugger allowed the FAT (which included block number, filenames and used ID) to be inspected, and fortunately it could also drive the line printer directly since even the print command had gone.

    Which meant I could print out the contents of the FAT, hand it to the miscreant, and tell him to manually reallocate every block on the HDD, which included the OS. IIRC there were 20480 1k blocks -- almost all used, which was why the attempted file clearance had happened -- and this took him all weekend, since the debugger could only work on on block at a time. Amazingly pretty much everything came back undamaged...

    A close escape, all the PhD students would have lost months of work if not for the lucky fluke of the debugger still running.

    There still wasn't any way to stop this happening again, except giving everyone an absolute b*llocking -- oh yes, and backing up to tape regularly...

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The bin

    The 'bin' is where you temporally put 'misbehaving files' for 10 minutes.

    Like you do in some team games.

    1. druck Silver badge

      Re: The bin

      That's the sin bin /sbin

  34. Workshy researcher

    Sometimes people are smart

    I remember working at Essex Uni in the early 1980's and got my first taste of Unix on their network of Senate computers (built in house I believe) . The network used thick ethernet which I had helped to install. The spec of the Senate computer was quite a high one and included a 20 Mb hard disk, which was impressive for the time. The Unix system took up most of it, so one day I started deleting all the stuff that I felt was not required. "Surely we don't need yet another compiler" etc. By the end I had gained quite a lot of disk space.

    I logged off at the end of the day, and when I logged on the next day, everthing had been copied back over the network during the night. So someone somewhere had some forethought.

    Apart from Unix, my first OS was CP/M.

  35. Joe Gurman

    After working in France for six months….

    …. Thirty years ago, I think of it as la poubelle. Certainly prevents mixups.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    When I first started tech support, we had a lab with 50 PCs all running Windows NT 4. Because some of the courses required use of software that should not be used on any production machine (for security), 20 of the machines had a 2nd install of NT that was blocked from connecting to the network.

    Although these machines were fairly securely locked down, one of my then new colleagues decided he could lock them down more. These machines had two hard drives. The main system drive had a small system partition (C) and an Application partition (D). This drive was used for the main install of NT. They had a 2nd hard drive, with one partition (E) that was used for both system and applications for the 2nd install of NT, All the partitions had their security set up so that the only install that had access to the files and folders was the one they contained.

    This colleague noticed that some of the files on the C drive of the main install were accessible to both installs. He didn't check what these were, and decided to block them from the 2nd install of NT. He also didn't test the change, and happily made it to every machine in the lab.

    Slight problem. The files concerned contained the NT boot loader and menu that was used for both installs, with the result that the 2nd install no longer booted.

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