back to article Be careful where you install software, and who installs it

Be careful where you install stuff, and who is doing the installing. Welcome to an On Call in which normal service is interrupted by a military intervention. Our story is told today by a reader who wished to be called "F Hop Smith", and we will simply refer to as "Smith" since that is not his name and we have been to too many …

  1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    Installed a product in his private libraries, eh ?

    Too bad. Really unfortunate.

    Should have given the job to someone who knew what they were doing.

    And it was a mainframe. Wasn't there an admin available, or was "Bob" the admin ?

    Because if he was, he should have been fired.

    1. Greybearded old scrote Silver badge

      Re: Installed a product in his private libraries, eh ?

      Deployed to the Gulf means he was fired at. '100% unavailable' suggests the poor sod was carried home too.

      1. DS999 Silver badge

        Re: Installed a product in his private libraries, eh ?

        Assuming the 'Gulf War' referred to the first, he was just unavailable in the sense that back then snail mail was the only way to initiate communication with people over there - and you probably had to know some sort of information about which unit etc. to tell them where to deliver it.

        He wasn't checking email, because he likely didn't have email (or internet access he could personally use) You couldn't call him, he had to call out and while he may have called his family as often as possible he sure as heck wasn't wasting precious telephone time checking in with the office!

      2. Stork Silver badge

        Re: Installed a product in his private libraries, eh ?

        If it was the 1st Gulf war, not terribly likely. AFAIR US soldiers were safer there than at home.

        1. Greybearded old scrote Silver badge

          Re: Installed a product in his private libraries, eh ?

          The RAF is said to have lost at least one Tornado to trigger happy Merkins. One F16 pilot is supposed to have fired on a Patriot missile emplacement because they had locked onto him.

          All hearsay of course.

    2. elsergiovolador Silver badge

      Re: Installed a product in his private libraries, eh ?

      Bob was owner's uncle...

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Installed a product in his private libraries, eh ?

      perhaps it was meant to be made available only for a few users while they familiarized themselves with the program and then moved to world accessible libraries without more information we do not know what the decision makers did after Bob deployed... maybe don't sh!t on the man without all the facts... we are all not infallible

  2. Robin

    Private Libraries?

    General Misunderstanding and Major Problems

    1. Roger Greenwood

      Re: Private Libraries?

      Sounds like a need for Corporal Punishment

      1. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

        Re: Private Libraries?

        Stop it! These puns are just rank!

        1. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

          Re: Private Libraries?

          I love those "language jokes" in those REG comments!

          If my mother tongue would be English I'd be drafted to join.

          1. EVP

            Re: Private Libraries?

            Yes indeed. We should collect them all into a library. /etc/potd, anyone?

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Private Libraries?

              So given todays theme, we'd make a pun on rank and file

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Private Libraries?

              Piss Off To-Day?

        2. Ebbe Kristensen

          Re: Private Libraries?

          It seems to me you are punning rank here?

        3. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

          Re: Private Libraries?

          Immediately, or it’ll be a punishment detail for Private Parts!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Private Libraries?

      March up to him and demand the passwords. About turn, and double time back to aim to fix whatever Major problems still command attention. Have a word with him in Private (no point in gunning for the guy, no need to resort to Corporal punishment, and no need to FIRE! him).

      In General, this is a funny story!

    3. Insert sadsack pun here Silver badge

      Re: Private Libraries?

      This Bob guy sounds like a loose cannon. I hope they got shot of him.

    4. Sceptic Tank
      Linux

      Re: Private Libraries?

      The software caused a Colonel Panic.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Private Libraries?

        Please stop this thread. Few of these puns are admiral.

        1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

          Re: Private Libraries?

          There are not masters of them for sure, not even a half-master. Maybe a quartermaster?

  3. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

    Those GUIs ARE only frontends!

    Windows 11 user here (mostly). Hate the GUI, but love the improvements of the ACTUAL OS. And the more you dig in deeper, and start calling .net and .dll functions from powershell directly, the more you see it is true.

    1. ArrZarr
      Facepalm

      Re: Those GUIs ARE only frontends!

      My favourite bit about win11 are the right click menus. Somebody must have realised that they were woefully inadequate for the job because they left the old menus in as the bottom option.

      Replace it with something that works or leave it alone, Microsoft.

      1. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

        Re: Those GUIs ARE only frontends!

        Even worse: The "new" right click menu opens much slower. Using the registry hack to show the classic right-click menu instead of the new and incomplete one. They COULD have done it so much better instead of creating a new slow overlay with only half of the options.

        1. Graham Dawson Silver badge

          Re: Those GUIs ARE only frontends!

          I have a horrible feeling that big chunks of W11 are written in some bastardised version of electron.

        2. IGotOut Silver badge

          Re: Those GUIs ARE only frontends!

          Oldest trick in the Win95 book.

          TweakUI and speed up menu pop up animation.

          "There you go. I've ran some clean up tools, freed up space, clicked up the CPU and put the memory into boost mode. Your machine should be running a lot faster now".

          "Wow... That's really quick now, thanks!"

          1. simonlb

            Re: Those GUIs ARE only frontends!

            Wasn't it Windows 2000 or XP where the login prompt at bootup was displayed earlier to make it seem like Windows was booting faster, even though most of the services hadn't even started so you still couldn't actually logon and get to the desktop any quicker?

            1. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

              Re: Those GUIs ARE only frontends!

              2000: Nope, never. XP "by accident" and not planned and with unloved side effects when it kicked in. Vista was the first, albeit without much effect. Improved with Windows 7. And the big step was with Windows 8, causing more issues regarding this than before. I had to tell the users "wait for the network icon in the lower right corner before logging in".

              8 an 11 are alike: Below the hood are some really good improvements, but the UI f*cked up. Windows 8 was the first which made consistent 113 MByte/s over gigabit LAN possible with its TCP/IP and SMB optimizations with cheap network chips in consumer PCs. At the same time needing less CPU power to do the same copy job on the same hardware.

              1. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

                Re: Those GUIs ARE only frontends!

                PS: I have to correct myself: With Windows 2000 and XP the logon was indeed displayed while some services were still not started. They optimized the service dependencies so the logon could be displayed sooner since all depending services were started. But the spooler and other non-dependent services may still not run. The biggest step in that regard after that was with Windows 8, using the cached credentials trick more aggressive.

            2. stiine Silver badge

              Re: Those GUIs ARE only frontends!

              Windows XP or NT. It could have also been a problem on 2000 but our company didn't use Windows 2000. If you were a fast typist (120 wpm or faster) and you began typing as soon as the login prompt was available, you could enter username<tab>password<cr> before the system had completed starting the network, causing your domain login to fail...every damn time. The solution turned out to be, power on computer, walk outside for a cigarette, smoke a 2nd one, walk back inside, log in. So, any time I had to restart, I had to take a cigarette break. ha.

              When we got laptops, i got mine with the extra battery that went into the cd player bay, thus enabling me to work from the smoking area from 8am until nearly 4pm every day (when i wasn't needed elsewhere.)

              1. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

                Re: Those GUIs ARE only frontends!

                For XP your sysadmin COULD have avoided that by adding a dependency to "Netlogon", waiting for Lanman-workstation (not 100% sure, too long ago...) to be started first. For NT 4.0: It did not have that problem, the login prompt would only appear after all services were either started or failed to start within the timeout.

        3. MrBanana Silver badge

          Re: Those GUIs ARE only frontends!

          "They COULD have done it so much better ..."

          Pretty much describes all of Microsoft from the get go.

          1. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

            Re: Those GUIs ARE only frontends!

            Yep, it is the half-assed company. Some bits are not half assed, but way too many are.

            1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

              Re: Those GUIs ARE only frontends!

              Some bits are not half assed, but way too many are.

              Correct, some bits are fully arsed.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Those GUIs ARE only frontends!

            To quote an old UserFriendly:

            (Microsoft spokesperson on screen) We can build a better OS than Linux.

            (Character looking at screen) Then why don't you?

            1. Gene Cash Silver badge

              Re: Those GUIs ARE only frontends!

              Sigh. I had the shock a while back of seeing UF is completely gone from the net.

    2. Strahd Ivarius Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: Those GUIs ARE only frontends!

      and then you start adding your own interface frontend...

      1. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

        Re: Those GUIs ARE only frontends!

        Nope, too lazy. Rather got back to https://github.com/microsoft/winfile/releases :D

  4. Lis

    Linux Bros'

    "We're not sure who are the more frightening: Windows obsessives or Apple fanatics, both of whom will be shrieking that the latest incarnations of their beloved GUIs are far more than mere front-ends".

    Even though my business and personal computers are Macs, I pretty much agree with the above statement. For what it's worth, I have always assumed (on the rare occasion when I have thought about it) that the gui part of macOS was just a, well gui.

    However, you seem to have missed out the Linux bro's who can and are equally as rabid about Linux.

    The fundamentalists of any operating system are a total pain in the arse if you ask me. Why can't they just use the damn thing and shut the fuck up.

    1. Greybearded old scrote Silver badge
      Linux

      Re: Linux Bros'

      The reason for not including us in that statement is that we know the GUI is floating on top of the old-timey CLI.

      Whether that's a good thing or not is a whole 'nother question.

      1. John Sager

        Re: Linux Bros'

        If you want to be able to do stuff then a CLI is essential, as Microsoft have very belatedly realised by introducing powershell. cmd.exe is/was no shell worth the name. On Linux I use the GUI for browser, email, file manager and an IDE but much of the rest is cli. I've got about 8 terminal emulators running over 5 virtual desktops on this laptop. Not all in use at once but they all have different CWDs for ease of use.

    2. PerlyKing
      Trollface

      Re: Linux Bros'

      Linux has a GUI? ;-p

      1. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: Linux Bros'

        Of course.... its something to look at while you compile your own kernel.......

        Need a double troll :)

      2. Gene Cash Silver badge

        Re: Linux Bros'

        Linux has a GUI?

        I think it's called multiple xterms...

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Linux Bros'

          Shirley that's what the Alt-Fn keys are for. Multiple consoles, not those new-fangled xterms.

    3. MrBanana Silver badge

      Re: Linux Bros'

      If only MacOS was a GUI on top of Unix. It isn't, by any stretch. The Unix is an ancient BSD variant that was chosen because of the licensing issues of using something close to the current century. The GUI schlap that sits in front of the user actually interacts with a whole bunch of Apple specific APIs. Although you can can see Unixy things like /etc/hosts, no chance that it is useful to any admin user wanting to change the system configuration.

      1. DJV Silver badge

        Re: Linux Bros'

        "no chance that it is useful to any admin user wanting to change the system configuration"

        ...which pretty much adheres to the Apple mantra of "you don't need to know".

      2. Tim99 Silver badge

        Re: Linux Bros'

        Some of us started Using *NIX with BSD, we like it that way. Mutter, kids these days…

    4. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
      Linux

      Re: Linux Bros'

      Linux bro (and Boomer) here.

      Happily working away on Mint 20.3. It doesn't suck any worse than Windows. Heck, the Lords of Redmond have even seen fit to write a Teams client for Linux (which actually works!).

      While you are stuck with being your own sysadmin, at least you are in complete control of updates. I find this refreshing, after years in a corporate Windows environment where the UI and available features are "fluid" as the various updates and "upgrades" are applied.

      Overall, I'm happy with Linux as my daily driver. And I'm not shy about saying so. I'll happily use Windows at work, but Apple is beyond me. Maybe you just need to have a different mindset (sort of like Linux, I guess).

      1. RockBurner

        Re: Linux Bros'

        .... a Teams client for Linux (which actually works!)....

        Prey tell?

        The one that is part of the Ubuntu 22 libraries sucks donkey balls.

        1. tiggity Silver badge

          Re: Linux Bros'

          @RockBurner

          "The one that is part of the Ubuntu 22 libraries sucks donkey balls."

          So, same as the Windows Teams then.

          Have to use Teams on work machine (Windows mandated) and it is horrendous software (and a massive resource hog, and given that resource abuse is far too common with windows apps, its an impressive feat to be the worst (best?) of the lot)

    5. ShortLegs

      Re: Linux Bros'

      No names, no comeback

      I once worked at *cough*, and they used Windows, Linux, and Apple. IT used Windows, and refused to support the core team who used Linux, Two of the core team used Macs. Everyone, and I mean everyone, was rabid about their pet OS. Me,

      I managed to annoy everyone by threatening to put one of each in a pile and set alight to it.

      1. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

        Re: Linux Bros'

        Were those: Windows NT 4.0 SP2, Linux Kernel 1.3.19 and Mac OS System 7.5.5?

      2. that one in the corner Bronze badge

        Re: Linux Bros'

        > threatening to put one of each in a pile and set alight to it.

        One of each group of users?

        Ah, of course, it makes them easier to carry out, those carpet rolls are heavy.

  5. ColinPa Silver badge

    Who is your customer?

    One of the sales people in the US for our product had a phone call to be at the corner of 1st and Washington at 1000 - that's all he was told.

    A black Limo (black glass so he could not see out) picked him up and drove him around for half an hour, and then we went down, down down.

    He got out the car, and was met by some marines with guns - and a receptionist. There was a flashing red light - which meant there is a visitor in the complex.

    He was taken to an empty room (with mirrored glass at the far end), and voice over a speaker said hello, please give your presentation.

    He gave his presentation to the empty room. At the end he was escorted out to the hospitality suite for coffee and doughnuts.

    He wanted to use the wash room, and was escorted by a marine. The toilets had no doors, so he had to sit down and do his business in full view of the solder (with gun)

    He went back to the presentation room and answered a few questions. After this he got back in the car and went up, up, up; drove around and was dropped off where he started from.

    He does not know which US agency it was, but he said it was the scariest presentation he ever gave.

    1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

      Re: Who is your customer?

      How come giving presentation to an empty room was scary? Isn't that exactly the environment he was rehearsing his presentation at?

      1. ColinPa Silver badge

        Re: Who is your customer?

        It was the guard standing over him while he sat on the toilet - guard's finger on the gun trigger.

        I guess the organisation routinely killed people with no questions asked.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Who is your customer?

          Maybe the guard just thought he could solve your colleague's constipation problem? Pointing a loaded gun at someone is guaranteed to loosen anyone's bowels.

        2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

          Re: Who is your customer?

          And if he shits himself, what's the problem here? Sounds quite helpful really. Perhaps all toilets should have some "assistance terror". (Australian ones could have a large, unoccupied web.)

          1. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

            Re: Who is your customer?

            Upvoted for "unoccupied".

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Who is your customer?

          A previous employer had a customer somewhere in the non-Arab Middle East. How did I find this out? I got a support call from the area's epecialist reseller sales and support agent:

          "Hi <local_reseller>, I hear you are having problems. Can you tell me the customer ID please?"

          "No, I'm not allowed"

          "Okay - that's strange. Fine, can you send me on the logs and the output.file from the main process?"

          "No, again I'm not allowed. However I can get them to read out the file and I can read that to you..."

          I see chinese whispers in my immediate future. However, given that this local sales group are stellar performers and brought decent sales inwards, I was instructed by my bosses to proceed with the chinese whispers even though it was going to take a long time.

          It turned out that the reseller was onsite with a small angry Middle Eastern nation's specialist security forces' headquarters, where he was in a room that was one half of the airgap to their internal network. On the opposite side of the room, past a bulletproof partition with monitored comms, was sitting a very pretty lady facing the reseller, sitting at a PC. That PC was connected to their red network. Only employees with certain security clearances were allowed to see that screen. Oh, and behind each of the IT people were two well armed soldiers with weapons that had wear signs on the barrels and guards (i.e. competent and well used). The airgap was very heavily enforced.

          I did end up solving their problem even if the call took most of the day.

          I think the employer's products were not well liked by that group as later that year a bug in the code of the ring-0 driver needed for the core functionality took down the core internal Windows server cluster belonging to the bank that hosted that security group's payroll accounts. That Windows Server cluster had been designed to withstand a moderate nuclear blast with having a hot-hot config separated by approx 65km. The kernel driver bluescreened all nodes in both sites during boot. That particular support phone bridge lasted over a week with VPs and the lead devs in the country of build being permanently on the call. Fun times.

          I'm still not sure if that security forces group know of my existence, and if they do, whether that's a bad thing or not.

          1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

            Re: Who is your customer?

            A previous employer had a customer somewhere in the non-Arab Middle East.

            That is only three countries.

            It turned out that the reseller was onsite with a small,

            That excludes Turkey.

            angry

            That excludes Cyprus.

            Middle Eastern nation's specialist security forces' headquarters,

            I'll leave that as an excercise for the student ;)

            1. Stork Silver badge

              Re: Who is your customer?

              Is Iran considered Middle Eastern?

              /Probably not there anyway, small does not apply.

              1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

                Re: Who is your customer?

                Is Iran considered Middle Eastern?

                Good question and if it is, I must confess to having overlooked it, but as you wrote, small doesn't apply. Thanks.

          2. druck Silver badge
            FAIL

            Re: Who is your customer?

            That Windows Server cluster had been designed to withstand a moderate nuclear blast with having a hot-hot config separated by approx 65km.

            If the server cluster is running Windows it is unlikely to withstand a warm breeze.

            1. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

              Re: Who is your customer?

              > If the server cluster is running Windows it is unlikely to withstand a warm breeze.

              If you set it up probably yes!

        4. elsergiovolador Silver badge

          Re: Who is your customer?

          Okay, but aren't Marines the good guys and actually trained how to handle a weapon and dangerous situations?

          I would feel like being in extremely safe hands. Also they have probably watched someone "doing the business" millions of times. It's almost like being shy of undressing in front of a doctor.

          1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

            Re: Who is your customer?

            Okay, but aren't Marines the good guys and actually trained how to handle a weapon and dangerous situations?

            I'll accept the actually trained part, but unless somebody with a gun is in the same group as I am, that person is not necessarily the good guy/gal.

          2. doublelayer Silver badge

            Re: Who is your customer?

            If you're going to give a presentation, you likely trust the armed people in the facility. An armed guard from there is preferable to an armed person you don't know pointing a gun at you. It still doesn't instill confidence, because it's usually less preferable to nobody pointing a gun at you.

    2. WhoAmI?

      Re: Who is your customer?

      Are you sure it wasn't the agency Protecting the Earth From The Scum of the Universe?

      1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
        Alien

        Re: Who is your customer?

        Are you sure it wasn't the agency Protecting the Earth From The Scum of the Universe?

        If it was, he wouldn't have remembered any of it afterwards, or at least anything before the eye exam?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Who is your customer?

      I'm pleased to hear the Peace Corps has finally improved their office security.

    4. adam 40 Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      Re: Who is your customer?

      It was funnier the first time.

      The second time, not so much.

      Now, I'll get the FSB onto it...

      Sergei Lav.

    5. johnmc

      Re: Who is your customer?

      Interesting. Way back when I was part of a team constructing Tempest class systems for a govt agency. We did not know who, just that is was govt. We loaded up the cabinets and assemblies into a company truck. Were instructed to arrive at an address just outside of DC. Turns out it was the parking lot of a KMart. We sat there for well over an hour. Finally two cars rolled up. The men asked for our drivers licenses and bill of lading.

      The men returned from their vehicles and asked us to follow them in the truck. We end up at Langley. We were ushered into a area very much like you might see at an upscale auto dealership. We never unloaded the gear. Never installed anything. Never saw anything past the visiting area. Every once in a while some tech would come out and ask a few questions then disappear again. Q&A lasted for about 2 hours. They signed off on delivery, escorted us out and that was that. Craziest cloak and dagger I ever witnessed.

  6. MiguelC Silver badge

    It can bite us all

    One project I did, I had to extract data from a fund management application, which had it's own query builder. I was given a user access, being assured that all necessary permissions were granted to that user, and created the query and a job to extract new data daily for my own SW to ingest.

    All went well in testing, having frequently adjusted the query during that process, and, after smoothing all edges, into production we went.

    All kept going well, at least for a month or so. Then suddenly we stopped receiving the files. Nothing. The reason behind the problem was soon found: my user's access had expired and, therefore, all of those user's processes stopped working.

    So we had to ask the application's admin to recreate our process using a system user that never expired, or they would have o keep giving us access to something we didn't need or want.

    1. Dafyd Colquhoun

      Re: It can bite us all

      Been there, done that, was that user.

      Whipped up a quick'n'dirty mapping application for emergency response planning @ previous employer. Operators liked it, and it was implemented on a spare PC. PC had its own user account, but the backend DB access relied on my account.

      All worked fine until 6 months after I left the company and the DB account was cleaned up. "Nothing can be done" said IT. Operations Manager spoke to IT Director in a firm manner. Account was reinstated that afternoon and then something was figured out.

      Last I heard the Q'n'D afternoon bodge system had moved to be a hot-failover VM because it was that useful. Until an IT upgrade rendered it unnecessary and the features were rolled into the main system.

  7. tatatata

    Where is it installed?

    Well, people still do install things everywhere. Somehow it reminds me a bit of the installation of Python. https://xkcd.com/1987/

  8. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    Gawd, the old "just add /usr/home/bob/bobsprogs/bobsbin/ to your PATH" nonsense. blah blah T-shirt.

    1. cosmodrome

      >/usr/home/[...]

      IRIX?!

  9. heyrick Silver badge

    "In fact, the lack of use (while Bob was out of the country) meant an archive process scooped them up."

    Hey, GitLab, take note...

  10. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge
    Trollface

    So now we know, that Bombastic Bob loves to do borked software installations and retreat to the safety, watching the resulting fallout with glee.

  11. An_Old_Dog Silver badge

    ISPF

    Our installation used that software on our Amdahl V6, and it worked nicely.

  12. The Vociferous Time Waster

    Sadly missed

    My current contract has scheduled tasks and processes that still run under the user account of a guy who died two years ago at the start of the pandemic. His user account has gradually and very carefully had privileges removed so it's basically a service account now it can't be deactivated because nobody really knows how many important things run under that user account.

    I am reminded of GNU Terry Pratchett.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Sadly missed

      The proper solution is to get someone who knows the systems to locate them for you. Your domain admin should be able to tell you which systems they're running on, and when they run; however, if they can't, you have bigger problems.

      1. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

        Re: Sadly missed

        Hey AC, you indeed have a reason to post this as AC.

  13. johnmc

    Yep

    I retired out of a top name telco years ago. Usual exit plan -- keys, badges, accounts and passwords, disclosure restrictions, etc. Four months pass and my ex-manager calls. "Hey do you remember the password for system XXXXX? " 'Uh no. Even if I did I could not tell you based on my termination agreement." Amazing in itself as I had given a copy to them and the HR person. They lost the document....

    1. arachnoid2
      Facepalm

      Re: Yep

      Did they check behind the back of the filing cabinet

      1. Martin J Hooper

        Re: Yep

        Was the filing cabinet in a basement down some stairs behind a sign saying "Beware of the Leopard" ?

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