back to article Terminal downgrade saves the day after a client/server heist

Welcome again to On-Call, The Register’s trawl through readers’ reminiscences of tech trials and tribulations. This week meet a reader we’ve Regomized as “Walter” who in the early 1990s took a temporary job working for a finance company that funded car purchases. “The work was simply keying and validating finance requests …

  1. chivo243 Silver badge
    Pint

    Ah, the equivalent of a modern day rollback!

    Give Walter a cold one for that quick thinking! I have also grabbed an old system of the shelf and put it back in production, I seem to remember a McAfee ePO all in one box that had to be resurrected for a short time while the kinks in the newer system were straightened out.

    1. Captain Scarlet Silver badge

      Re: Ah, the equivalent of a modern day rollback!

      Ah ok, I installed and managed McAfee ePolicy a long time ago so know its very customisable and actually very light weight. Compared to Symantec, yes it looked older but had easier features such super hosts could be set to distribute AV signatures (So obviously set to local servers). Rules worked well and compared to the car crash consumer AV version of McAfee was fast and reliable.

      I don't think my colleague had to much trouble with Symantec, more the McAfee uninstall caused issues with Lotus Notes (The McAfee scanner added a line in the notes.ini file which if open wouldn't remove and Notes then refused to launch because of a missing file).

      1. Outski Silver badge

        Re: Ah, the equivalent of a modern day rollback!

        Lesson: don't fuck with notes.ini unless you know what you're doing. I've seen many instances of McAfee screwing up Notes because the uninstall 'forgot' to remove a hook in the .ini file (and just screwing it up for fun). You need to kill ~notes.lck as well.

        Or you could just remove all but the first five or six lines of notes.ini, then run through the setup again, that'll see you right in most cases.

    2. Hero Protagonist
      Alert

      Re: Ah, the equivalent of a modern day rollback!

      Nowhere in the story does it claim that it was Walter’s idea, he just appears to have been there and lived to tell the tale.

      1. chivo243 Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: Ah, the equivalent of a modern day rollback!

        I see your point... have a pint! and an upvote! I hadn't even had tea yet when I read the article, good catch!

    3. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Linux

      Re: Ah, the equivalent of a modern day rollback!

      I started a contract a few years ago working with embedded (RPi-based) systems that all ran Linux. But there was not a single Linux workstation in the place, so I could not get anything significant done using WIn-10-nic even with some of the new,shiny Linux-like command line features (like ssh).

      I had installed Linux on an old laptop from 2003 (an old Toshiba) and I did not have another (working) one available so I brought that one in the next day and got BOATLOADS of work done. I instructed a guy with a Mac on how to make an SD card image (he was angry because it took 20 minutes to write an 8gb image from his Mac, but would have taken hours with USB 1.1) and THEN had the thing talking to equipment in short order. There were other problems, like the network firewall NOT letting me update Linux packages and things of that nature (this was eventually resolved) but 2-3 days with that stone-age Linux laptop getting MORE work done than a Win-10-nic machine convinced them. So I took an unused Win-10-nic workstation home with me and used my own (pathetic at the time) connection to install everything (while watching TV (etc.)

      Funny how a pathetically slow DSL and an ancient Linux laptop "saved the day" in their OWN way.

      (later after severely mocking the network people [contractors] behind their backs for being so anal retentive with the firewall settings, they were eventually "convinced" to set up an IP block that I could use that had NO FILTERING on it. As I needed outgoing ssh to my home network, as well as being able to install Linux packages, this was a MUST.)

      1. Loyal Commenter

        Re: Ah, the equivalent of a modern day rollback!

        Or... You could have hooked a R-Pi up to a monitor and keyboard and put a linux boot SD card into it?

        Okay, the old MK1 Pis were a bit clunky, but IIRC you could easily put a wi-fi dongle into them and RDP onto them from a PC as well.

  2. ColinPa Silver badge

    Green screens were great!

    During the 1970's green (bright green, and not so bright) screens were great. If yours broke, you just wheeled another one in, plugged it in and you could start working immediately,

    30 years later, when my laptop had a problem - it got sent off to be fixed, and was given a loan machine. Of course this loan machine only had the basic software - it took a week to get all of the software I needed installed (and configured),by which time my original machine was fixed!

    It was interesting to see the trend of "very thin" desktop/laptops to avoid this problem - all your software and data is stored "in the cloud" - just like it was in the 1970s. You just have a browser to access it.

    I also remember being around as colour screens were being developed, and people came from a bank to see it. (This was pre graphics) A banking executive asked "Why do we need colour". Someone said "it allows the bank statements to show overdrawn in red", and the executive was persuaded, and put in an order.

    1. blah@blag.com

      Re: Green screens were great!

      Maaany years ago I was a techie at our European HQ and was an early beta tester for Windows 98. I was the first user globally (in our company) to have a 2 monitor desktop. For months I had a caravan of vistors from our EU offices and Japan HQ who generally stood behind me and pointed and cooed.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Green screens were great!

        Can beat that!!

        We sold a graphics card that could do two AND four screens at once!!! It had drivers for Windows 3.1x!!!!

        1. MiguelC Silver badge

          Re: Green screens were great!

          S3?

          Also worked with some SGI workstations in the early 90's with twin monitors, not sure uf they supported more but they probably could - those workstations were a class apart from anything else at the time

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Green screens were great!

            may have had S3 chips on there, but they were made by a company called Mira? Miro?

            1. TedF

              Re: Green screens were great!

              "made by a company called Mira?"

              Mira are a complete Shower to work for...

              1. PM from Hell

                Re: Green screens were great!

                I feel a bit hot and cold about Mira

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Green screens were great!

              Matrox?

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Green screens were great!

                Nope, wasn't them.

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Green screens were great!

        I was aware that IBM PC mono and CGA cards could co-exist, but I think I first saw it in actual use with AutoCad running the graphics on the CGA at 640x200 and the menus running on the mono text screen. Or it may have been a Hercules card running the graphics at higher res and the menus on the CGA screen running as in MDA mode (not sure, long time ago, but I remember MDA being at xb000 and CGA at xb8000 but herc gfx also was at xb8000 so may have conflicted. Fun days and various conflicts to deal with to enforce some level of comparability :-)

        1. C R Mudgeon

          Re: Green screens were great!

          In 1990 or 91, a coworker who was doing Windows development had the same idea: the program he was working on on the main display, and the debugger off on a much smaller black and white (well, actually amber and white) screen.

          I was so envious! The Amiga I was developing for was superior in many ways, but monitor count wasn't one of them.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Green screens were great!

            Yeah, you can. As with early PCs and MDA/CGA etc, you could plug in a GFX card to an Amiga and run both it and the internal screen at the same time. WB couldn't spread across multiple screens, but you could specify a screenmode in a tooltype and make a programme open on, eg a Picaasa screen while running WB on the internal AGA. I never did it, but I know it could/can be done. You'd have needed a big box Amiga back in the day so there'd be slots to plug in a GFX card though or have to heavily mod an A500/A1200 into a bigger case with a Zorro adaptor/riser.

            1. C R Mudgeon
              Happy

              Re: Green screens were great!

              Nooow you tell me!

          2. david 12 Silver badge

            Re: Green screens were great!

            Debug was a feature even of MSDOS and MS Fortran or third-party c.

            Application on CGA or Herc, debug on serial port. That continued through Win3, Win98 and Win2K, where it was still available, but the presumption was you'd put your debug monitor on a ethernet connected PC.

            I never used my serial-port debug monitor, (although it was on the shelf). When I was doing Win98 development, I had a 23"" screen, and we were still developing apps for 17" screens, which gave me spare screen space for debug and development.

          3. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Green screens were great!

            IIRC - couldnt you set the debugger to output to the serial port?

            1. Loyal Commenter

              Re: Green screens were great!

              This is how it is done on embedded devices, for example, you can use one Raspberry Pi Pico as a debug probe for another, and use the USB port as the output which you can then wire to log to a console (or wherever) on a host. I have one sat on top of my gaming PC right now.

        2. RAMChYLD

          Re: Green screens were great!

          I've used a program called SignMaster for the PC that does the same thing. Editing is done on the mono display, but when the print or render option is selected the CGA monitor would spring to life and give users a preview of what they'll be getting.

      3. Marty McFly Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: Green screens were great!

        I filled the extra PCI slots with S3 cards. I had a whopping three large cathode ray tubes aimed squarely at my face. My peers marveled at the mouse jumping from one monitor to the next.

        Win98 though. So I had to endure the mid-day reboot to avoid the afternoon crash. Par for the course in those days.

        Haven't lost the joy of it though. I now have nine monitors in front of me, across four computers, and only one keyboard/mouse. Works across the network wire though.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Green screens were great!

          "I now have nine monitors in front of me,"

          Small screens or do you get neck strain? :-) Must be as bad as watching a tennis match from the seats by the net LOL

        2. herman Silver badge

          Re: Green screens were great!

          Aah, those were the days - of staring straight into an Electron ray gun all day (and much of the night) - I wonder why I have so many floaters in my eyes?

    2. imanidiot Silver badge

      Re: Green screens were great!

      "all your software and data is stored "in the cloud" - just like it was in the 1970s. You just have a browser to access it."

      Yes, great, until it's a cloudless day (as in, the internet is down or the supplier goes TITSUP). Then you can't do anything. Call me a grumpy old git, but I like having my stuff local so that it runs when I want it to independent of anyone else. External storage (potentially even "the Cloud") is great for stuff like backups, but imho not a substitute for local.

      1. tip pc Silver badge

        Re: Green screens were great!

        Google docs let’s you cache stuff locally for those cloudless days or when travelling or when wanting to work offline etc.

        1. ICL1900-G3 Bronze badge
          Headmaster

          Re: Green screens were great!

          Let's??

      2. Dave K

        Re: Green screens were great!

        It works both ways, we use OneDrive at work and that maintains a local copy of files so I can work when travelling, internet is down etc. It just re-syncs when I'm back online which works pretty well if I'm honest.

        I'm less impressed however that OneDrive running in the background prevents you from attaching open files to e-mails etc. Very annoying to have to close a spreadsheet to attach it to an e-mail before re-opening it again. Still, I imagine it's beyond Microsoft's capabilities to figure out a solution to something so primitive...

        1. david 12 Silver badge

          Re: Green screens were great!

          Your spreadsheet isn't flushed to disk until you close it. In the background, it flushes to a working copy on disk, and maintains a revert dictionary. Which version did you wish to attach to email? The version in memory, the backup on disk, or the intermediate copy on disk?

          1. Dave K

            Re: Green screens were great!

            Simple, I want to attach the version I had when I last hit the "save" button. That should be what pretty much 100% of people want when they try to attach a file to an e-mail. I should also add that this only affects folders synced by OneDrive. If I save it to C:\Temp then try and attach it whilst it is open, it works just fine.

            Regardless of the points you raise, the fact still remains that MS have taken something which has worked just fine for the past two decades and have over-complicated it into the unfriendly and annoying mess it is right now.

            Oh, and one final point. If I try and attach an open file and it appears in the "Recent Files" list in Outlook, it attaches fine. Once it drops off this recent list, it won't attach unless it is closed. That's consistency eh!

      3. phuzz Silver badge

        Re: Green screens were great!

        'The cloud' is just the modern version of mainframe and terminal.

        1. An_Old_Dog Silver badge

          The Cloud vs Mainframe+Terminal

          If "the Cloud" breaks, the trouble typically is on unknown-to-me, inaccessible-to-me, unfixable-by-me devices. I can swap a terminal and I can troubleshoot a serial connection.

          1. The Indomitable Gall

            Re: The Cloud vs Mainframe+Terminal

            Well the point of the term "cloud" was always that the internet is the part of the network you can never know the shape of, hence so it was shown on the network diagrams as a cloud symbol.

            When cloud computing started to gain traction, I could not understand why so many companies would use unauditable services.

            I was in an IT company that refused to offer cloud services because we insisted our client do due diligence. Vindication came in the form of companies being sued for data loss and being found negligent for failing to do due diligence.

            Then the industry decided that maybe cloud computing was bad and just went back to hosted datacentres... but we now called them "clouds".

            1. Arthur Daily

              Re: The Cloud vs Mainframe+Terminal

              Clouds took advantage of

              1) Costcentres , costcodes and Project Time Management chargeback

              2) Budget theft by OPEX CAPEX interchangeability

              3) HOWLS - that something other than Opex/Capex needs to be invented when you sign 5 year leasing deals with MS or the other. Bit rich coming from Finance, Exchequer and banks.

              4) Denial. Ask what happens when you don't pay your bills on time. See Turkey, Russia and Ukraine and others in that debt pipeline.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: The Cloud vs Mainframe+Terminal

            "I can swap a terminal and I can troubleshoot a serial connection."

            And a Country Geek can surviiiiiive!

          3. G.Y.

            Lampson Re: The Cloud vs Mainframe+Terminal

            Lampson: "a distributed system is one where a machine I never heard about can bring my code crashing down"

          4. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: The Cloud vs Mainframe+Terminal

            Sure. But you can't interfere with the mainframe, or generally the cabling, as they are looked after by specific departments / suppliers.

            Same as with your cloud computing and network.

      4. C R Mudgeon

        "The cloud" is just a euphemism ...

        ... for "somebody else's computer". It can be very useful, as long as that core truth is kept constantly in mind

        1. adam 40 Silver badge
          Terminator

          Re: "The cloud" is just a euphemism ...

          ... for SKYNET!!!

        2. G.Y.

          swamp Re: "The cloud" is just a euphemism ...

          Ron Rivest says it should be renamed "the swamp"

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: swamp "The cloud" is just a euphemism ...

            I thought some ex-President or other drained that? It must have happened. He said he would do so if he won. He did win. And had four whole years to do it.

      5. JimboSmith Silver badge

        Re: Green screens were great!

        "all your software and data is stored "in the cloud" - just like it was in the 1970s. You just have a browser to access it."

        Yes, great, until it's a cloudless day (as in, the internet is down or the supplier goes TITSUP). Then you can't do anything. Call me a grumpy old git, but I like having my stuff local so that it runs when I want it to independent of anyone else. External storage (potentially even "the Cloud") is great for stuff like backups, but imho not a substitute for local.

        I worked for a firm that was keen for everything to be in the cloud. They had no idea how things were used on the office floor and whether the move would bugger things up. So they move everything to OneDrive and Microsoft Office online with internal servers still going to allow the easy transfer of needed files. Then someone pointed out that you couldn’t access files on one program via OneDrive the cockeyed way they’d set it up. The solution according to IT support was to download the file onto your desktop. Then access the file and do whatever you needed to do and then reupload it to OneDrive.

      6. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
        Alert

        Re: Green screens were great!

        Call me a grumpy old git,

        @imanidiot - You're a grumpy old git

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Green screens were great!

          nothing wrong with grumpy old gits!

          1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

            Re: Green screens were great!

            Nothing wrong at all.

            We are also privileged to be in the company of Mr V. Meldrew...

            https://forums.theregister.com/forum/all/2022/09/03/artemis_nasa_scrubbed/#c_4525386

      7. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Green screens were great!

        Cloudtastrophie is the word.

        Please inform me if there is a PC correct alternative for shemozzle. Because a lot of managers reckon backups are unnecessary - because the cloud handles that. They found that out the hard way when someone setting up the storage - did not tick those option boxes - because it cost more - and you know, saving money.

    3. Antron Argaiv Silver badge

      Re: Green screens were great!

      Where I worked, management got the Trinitron displays first, then the workers. IIRC, "Viewsonic" was the brand everyone coveted.

      This wouldn't have been so bad, except that we workers were drawing schematics and such on our displays, and so more pixels and better colours were of actual benefit to us, whereas pie charts and spreadsheets look pretty much the same in b&w.

      I don't miss the weight of those monsters, though. And the 4k 28-incher (oooh!) I have on my desktop now is a real joy.

      1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

        Re: Green screens were great!

        I thought iiyama was where it was at! I'm looking at two of those right now

    4. Def Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Green screens were great!

      If yours broke, you just wheeled another one in, plugged it in and you could start working immediately...

      I'm pretty sure that's how monitors still work to this day.

      Except these days, of course, they're light enough to carry.

      1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

        Re: Green screens were great!

        I think he meant back in the day the screen was all you had - terminal / thin client etc

        No "base unit" to rebuild (or hard drive as the users call the box bit)

        so you could get another , no configuring , log back on the mainframe.

        ...unlike when your win pc goes into an unstoppable loop of not completing an update

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Green screens were great!

          We have hardware xterms connected to HPUX workstations where I work. (Yes, they're as old as they sound.) The look on peoples' faces when my co-worker simply hits the power button, waits 2 seconds, and hits it again is priceless. "You didn't shut it down first!" Yup, no need...

    5. My other car WAS an IAV Stryker

      Re: Green screens were great!

      I also like amber phosphors as much, maybe even more, than green.

      The green Digital VTs in the college library basement were (way) faster and easier on the eyes than the "shiny" new web interface they built in the mid-to-late '90s, and dumb terminals don't crash like Windows PCs. I also didn't have to scroll past the navigation buttons just to see 10 records, or click a button (keep your finger on "[F]orward").

      I could also Telnet from anywhere with my own PC -- via modem, no less -- into the same database, same navigation, without needing a resource- and bandwidth-heavy browser.

      Now, surrounded by Windows 10 working from home (two work laptops and my own tower under the desk), the only 'old green" I have around is the plastic keycaps on the Remington typewriter.

      1. HighTension

        Re: Green screens were great!

        Similar memories from UCL in the mid 90's. We had VT100/220s in the halls connected to the timesharing system. You could log in with your IS account, browse the web with Lynx, get your mail with mutt or pine, and telnet to the library system to reserve books/manuscripts - I even used to dial in from home (direct modem PAD connection) just before the end of holidays and reserve books for the upcoming courses - I was altruistic and offered to tell others when I'd deposited them, or take requests for copies. You could also access library databases from many other institutions across the greater London area, eg the resource centre at Harrow/Northwick Park which had a lot of periodicals not available in the college libraries (you couldn't reserve without a library card though, but that was free to register for in person and then you were sorted).

        Using the RS/6000 terminals with their 1600x1200 CRTs was also a joy - they were the first to get web browsers (Mosaic and later pre-1.0 Netscape) and you could just pop open another xterm to telnet into what you needed. Still didn't master LaTeX though, one day I will!

        1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

          Re: Green screens were great!

          Ahh. UCL. AIX on RS/6000 (and AIX/PS2 and AIX/370). Bloomsbury Computing Consortium.

          I spent many hours as their support advocate when I worked at IBM. They were very good at finding awkward and difficult to fix problems in AIX (my support area), but very slow in installing the fixes that solved their problems.

          Used to drive me nuts in my regular review calls when asking whether they had installed the fixes to allow me to close some of the 100s of open support calls we kept until they were happy.

          But I can't have annoyed them too much, because my primary contact there offered me a job after she left and went somewhere else.

    6. rcxb

      Re: Green screens were great!

      The most productive thing I ever did was eliminate the dumb terminals being widely used in my company.

      With hundreds in use, there were several maintenance calls to IT about them every day. Users would accidentally hit Ctrl+S, power them off before logging-out, the program would occasionally puke dumping trash on the screen, etc. All scenarios users had no clue what to do about.

      Poor descriptions of problems from non-technical users would lead the entry-level IT support person to always check the settings, verify the serial cable was working, often swap a keyboard (then need to test the removed one), etc. And this often took away productive time from the users, too, moving their desk for the day and whatnot. With a few hundred terminals, several people had full time IT jobs, for years.

      All of this went away in a hurry when converted the terminals to locked-down kiosk Linux PCs running terminal emulators under X11. Everyone knew how to close a terminal emulator window when something went wrong, so no more IT calls. Not to mention the added productivity of everyone being able to have several different terminal windows open at once.

      1. the spectacularly refined chap Silver badge

        Re: Green screens were great!

        All of which were trivially solved with a four wire connection. Connect ground, TxD and RxD as per usual. Wire DTR on the terminal to DSR on the host. Use the "modem control" device files. If the user hits any difficulties turn the terminal off, they are logged out and the line reset.

    7. Christoph

      Re: Green screens were great!

      You 'ad screens? Luxury! At university we handed in the stack of punched cards and got back the results on music-ruled fan-fold paper.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: At university

        At our US Junior college our professor sent in our stack of cards and the cards and the fan-fold printouts came back the next week a few hours before we needed to send in the next stack of cards.

        Good it was only a deal our calculus professor had worked out so he could teach us some programming from a class he was taking at the time.

  3. Solviva Bronze badge

    In the innocent times of the Swedish 90s, the place I'm at now got broken into, and all they left with was lots and lots of RAM chips from the servers and workstations, probably SIMMS of a few MB each :)

    So like any company short of a few MBs of RAM would do, they ordered in replacements and fitted them to get everything going again. Apparently it didn't take long for the thieves to know this is exactly what would happen, as the new RAM was plundered not long after. Cue a third order, along with some better security!

    1. Norman Nescio Silver badge

      RAM removal

      In the no-so-innocent times of the London 90s something highly similar happened to the department in our building that used Sun equipment. The thieves got in via the temporary (permanent) scaffolding put up round the building for maintenance and emptied the kit of RAM. Apparently it was rather expensive and difficult to get hold of at the time, and obviously a lot easier to abscond with just the RAM instead of the entire systems.

      1. Joe W Silver badge

        Re: RAM removal

        At my uni a security guard stole a number of lab PCs. The PCs were not a big deal - the high speed data acquisition cards were. Those likely ended up in landfill somewhere, because noone needs those. Those did cost an order of magnitude more than the rest of the PC, so that was quite problematic for the institute.

        And in a place I used to live, our basement storage compartment was forced open. They made off with two cases of bottled water (I guess ~€5 deposit each), fixing the door cost ~€60 or so. Eejits.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: RAM removal

          At my uni, we (cheap student labor) were laying new ethernet in the ceilings.

          Cue campus security coming in with drawn weapons, and we learned the Expensive Robotics Lab(tm)(R) had silent alarms in the ceiling and walls.

          At one job, we had an impressive thick door with lots-o-locks. So the thieves broke through the thin drywall next to it.

          1. DrSunshine0104

            Re: RAM removal

            I worked in construction in a past life and I also found it humorous that in many horror movies or video games the protagonist is trapped by the antagonist in a building or home. If you had sturdy ladle you could beat your way through most non-masonary, structural envelopes into freedom. You probably could do better with your own two hands if you didn't mind doing some major damage to them.

            1. Joe W Silver badge

              Re: RAM removal

              Well... since "non-masonry" (and in masonry I include for the sake of the argument concrete and such things) covers a negelgible percentage[*] of houses over here, I see no problem...

              [*] ok, not true, probably, since we have an abundance of timber frame buildings, especially in many villages. "Ladeling" your way out through the wattle and daub (I think it is called) infills might be possible, though the stuff does dry pretty hard. Of course you are out of luck if the infill has been done with bricks...

          2. Nonymous Crowd Nerd

            Re: RAM removal

            Our neighbours had a bull that used that very same approach to avoid the intimidating gate!

        2. irrelevant

          Re: RAM removal

          Had a break in at work, ~2000. Nicked a load of PCs. So the boss told us to lock all office doors in future. So when they came back couple of weeks later, and kicked their way through every door, the cost was significantly more. This time we get told not to bother locking them...

          Issue was solved by new shutters at the front door, and bars at the windows. First few months, the bars were copper water pipe held in place by bits of timber, all spray painted white. Anybody could have broken through them, but they looked the part, so the crims stopped trying.

          1. druck Silver badge

            Re: RAM removal

            One place I worked for at the turn of the millennium was so paranoid about the PCs or RAM being stolen, they used to get a lockable 20ft shipping container delivered to the workshop, to put all the PC's in over the Christmas and New Year shutdown.

            I always thought that if thieves found out about this, they could break through the shutter doors and put the container on a lorry, far quicker than the half a day it took us to unplug everything and bring it all downstairs from the offices.

            And of course it cost us nearly a whole day to put it all back again on the 2nd of January.

            1. irrelevant

              Re: RAM removal

              One customer, they used to do maintenance on mobile cranes. Massive heavy bits of machinery on lots of wheels. Absolutely nothing will stop them if, say, someone hotwires one and drives it into the side of your office building, as they found out one morning...

              After losing too many computers too often, they came up with a system where all the PCs we're locked in a room at the back of the site, enclosed in a cage that looked like welded rebar. They then used VGA/keyboard extenders to drive monitors on the desks elsewhere..

          2. fromxyzzy

            Re: RAM removal

            Of course, a few years later the copper pipe would have cost more to replace than the doors.

          3. Potty Professor Bronze badge
            Facepalm

            Re: RAM removal

            One place I worked used a lot of Tungsten for making electrical switch contacts. The bars, about an inch in diameter by six feet long, were stored on a rack just inside the roller shutter of the Stores Department building. One Monday morning it was discovered that the whole supply had vanished over the weekend. In inquiry was initiated, and CCTV footage was scoured to see if anything could be discovered. It was quite clear that someone with inside knowledge/access had unlocked the roller shutter, backed the old Bedford CF van into the Stores, loaded the bars into it, and made off with them. But where had they gone? Careful examination of the soil outside the building revealed that the Bedford had been backed up to the chain link fence, and the bars slid through one at a time, into the back of another (unknown) van, before the Bedford had been returned to its usual parking spot. The other van was never traced, and neither were the Tungsten bars.

    2. Dave K

      I heard of a company back in the 80s that bought a bunch of IBM XTs. Their place got broken into overnight, however the thieves only took the monitors and keyboards - not the base units. The hypothesis is that they were used to BBCs, Apples etc. where the computer is built into the chassis that houses the keyboard and must have thought the base unit was just a fancy monitor stand or something.

      I bet they had fun trying to get the "stolen" computers to work later...

      1. Kubla Cant

        Back when VAX was a thing, someone smashed a window and broke into our machine room. The only thing they thought worth taking was a MicroVAX. Presumably they thought it was a PC. Good luck selling that in the pub.

        1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

          I might've considered buying a cheap MicroVAX back in the day, but probably not if I thought it was stolen.

    3. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      it didn't take long for the thieves to know this is exactly what would happen

      That's a general problem. A friend's house was burgled & her hi-fi stolen. The insurance paid up, but also advised her to wait a few months before buying replacements, since the thieves would probably come back in a month or so to lift the expected new stuff.

      1. disgruntled yank

        Back for more

        About 50 years ago, a fellow I knew and his girlfriend had an apartment in Denver's Capitol Hill area. One evening when they were out, burglars broke in and stole a lot of stuff. The cops came around, took a report, and left them with the advice: Get a gun, they'll be back for what they left.

        1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

          Re: Back for more

          well this a fun new angle to the joys of being burgled that I hadnt previously considered : (

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Back for more

            On the plus side, now you KNOW they are coming.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I had that with a friend's photo studio, so we put up very visible cameras with one moving back and forth leaving what appeared to be a hole in the coverage.

        What was not apparent was that we also seeded the area with a number of hidden cameras and a lot of IR light in that apparent 'omission'.

        No, they didn't get in that second time, we fixed those issues in the process so it took longer to enter than the police took after the silent alarm triggered but they fled in time. Unfortunately for them, the hidden cameras did their job and they were caught. Turned out they'd been quite busy in the area.

        Overall security tip: sleigh of hand and misdirection is not just for magicians :).

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      oh yes... the same era that the high security, guards all-over-the-place cameras-everywhere security-doors-heavy-enough-to-take-limbs-off military equipment R&D company I worked for at the time, was broken into by the local scrotes for memory boards from the PCs... They just cut the fence, walked across the grass no-man's-land and jemmied a window...

      They even had time to carry all the PCs from the office areas to each wing's lab areas to use the company's tools and anti-static mats... They did get disturbed in the end, and 1 guy caught due to a broken leg, after he forgot he wasn't on the ground floor.

      Explaining the incident to the UK MoD was "interesting", as were the repercussions for the site.

    5. kikipo

      So it was RAM raid?

      1. John PM Chappell

        Seriously underrated comment :)

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        If they used a car - it would be a ram RAM raid?

        1. Mike Hartley
          Coat

          If it was a Doge truck...

          Would it then be a Ram ram RAM raid?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: If it was a Doge truck...

            If there was a male sheep driving the doge truck, it will be a ram Ram ram RAM raid

            1. Solviva Bronze badge
              Coat

              Re: If it was a Doge truck...

              If there was a welshman with the male sheep driving the dodge truck, is there potential for a ram ram Ram ram RAM raid?

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: If it was a Doge truck...

                Only if the sheep was on top..

    6. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Devil

      very similar events took place in the early naughties for a company i did work for. The PCs were stolen (cables cut, smash and grab job) so new ones were purchased and software re-installed. THEN the NEW ones were stolen. I recommended getting steel anti-theft cables with key locks to at least slow them down on the next round of computers.

      (and the CEO and I actually suspected it may have been an inside job, a new employee who spent 2 weeks doing nothing but re-configure his computer twice, who was subsequently let go, and no additional thefts. no correlation, but still...)

    7. RobDog

      Help yourselves

      I worked for a UK clothes and home retailer (defunct quite recently actually) in early 90s, and one morning we arrived at HO to find, on one floor, monitors disconnected and placed on the floor (15inc crt so some effort required), little piles of screws neatly beside the Elonex desktops, lids lifted and the 4MB/8MB sticks of RAM gone. Probably about 40 machines. Hey ho, we’d heard it was going on and we were a victim. You’d think a lesson would have been learned. Except that 2 weeks later, a different gang (maybe) returned and this time were not so civil, and a number of the monitor signal wires (fixed connection, not plugged) had been cut to speed relocation, the lids of the pcs wrenched off with some kind of pry tool and again, the RAM nicked. Just for good measure, they didn’t bin the remains of their sustenance; crumpled sandwich packages, crisp packets and coke cans.

  4. trevorde Silver badge

    Remote development

    Went on an MS Azure training course many years ago and the MS trainer pointed out that his dev machine was actually a remote desktop, running in Azure.

    It was very handy when his laptop was stolen as he just got a replacement and carried on as if nothing had happened.

    1. Norman Nescio Silver badge

      Re: Remote development

      Went on an MS Azure training course many years ago and the MS trainer pointed out that his dev machine was actually a remote desktop, running in Azure.

      It was very handy when his laptop was stolen as he just got a replacement and carried on as if nothing had happened.

      Neatly re-inventing the Sun Ray system from 1999*.

      Sun Ray: 1999

      Azure: 2008

      *Which riffed Olivetti's Teleporting System with mobile X sessions - 1995 paper: Teleporting - Mobile X Sessions (Tristan Richardson) - [PDF]; and 1994 paper - Teleporting - Making Applications Mobile (Frazer Bennett, Tristan Richardson, Andy Harter) [PDF]

      The Olivetti Active Badges were interesting.

      1. l8gravely

        Re: Remote development

        We had labs filled with X-terminals from (digs through trashheap of my memory...) NCD which ran great, were cheaper than the DECstation 3100s they replaced because we just got a big honking AlphaServer 2100 as the base system everyone logged into.

        I miss tvtwm window manager still...

      2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

        Re: Remote development

        I remember getting a demo of early Olivetti active badges in the late 1980s. Neat idea. Your login sessions followed you from room to room, and in the pre-cellphone era they were hooked up to the PABX and would route a call made to your number to the nearest phone.

    2. Strahd Ivarius Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: Remote development

      which one of the trainees did stole the laptop?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Remote development

        That was probably more to end the course than for the asset value..

    3. rcxb

      Re: Remote development

      Notably less helpful when internet access is slow or entirely unavailable, and all he can do is sit around doing precisely nothing.

      1. Loyal Commenter

        Re: Remote development

        Or when an entire Azure region falls over, as they occasionally do.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Unfortunately, with some of the customers I have to deal with, even a modest downgrade from current standards would still be an massive upgrade on what they are running their critical systems on.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ah - being raided by thieves ....

    Way back when (2001) I worked for a company who had a satellite office in the middle of nowhere near Leeds (it had been acquired in a buyout).

    One weekend thieves broke in and ripped all the 1990s PCs out. But only to use to smash the windows of an adjacent office that had modern day tech.

    If LISA PAM means anything to you, you may have been there :)

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Ah - being raided by thieves ....

      Thieves break in and upgrade the RAM cos they feel sorry for you

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ah - being raided by thieves ....

      I had the fun of interrupting a burglar mid-spree. At 19:00 (later?) on a Friday he'd have assumed that the office was empty. "Who the fuck are you?" I asked on looking up from my code and seeing some random bloke with a laptop under his arm. I then sort-of chased him out back into the meeting room before coming to my senses and returning to a phone to call 999. The room he'd broken into using a Stanley knife to carve out a rubber-mounted window. He took the opportunity to take the projector as well. Well, to be entirely honest I think I shrugged at him and indicated that I wasn't coming in the room.

      The policewoman taking my statement seemed delighted at being able to record my profanity. The cops obtained some CCTV and were able to say that the plates didn't match the year model - quite impressed by that.

      My next / last 999 call was for a fire. Don't wait for the question - the moment the call is answered say which service you need and they will put you straight through,

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Ah - being raided by thieves ....

        The cops obtained some CCTV and were able to say that the plates didn't match the year model

        I've had cops at 4 break ins over the years with CCTV. Not a single one led to an arrest. Hence my deep cynicism about the mass deployment of CCTV being anything other than a colossal waste of time. You may as well give police officers a magic stick to find perps.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ah - being raided by thieves ....

      When I worked for Sun our offices were burgled & several servers stolen. There was an HP server in the same lab, they just used it to wedge the door open:-)

  7. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    Trollface

    "the new app meant nothing"

    Ah, so just like a lot of "upgrades" today, then ?

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Cisco stuff

    Not exactly the same story but close.

    Back in the 00s, in the shittiest company I've ever worked for, big one, with a big DC, we had a routine op, with a colleague: insert a 24 cat5 ports card in one of the 4 Cisco 6509 of the DC.

    Easy: one lifts all cables, and the other slides the card gently in the chassis.

    Except, it did NOT go as planned: as soon as the last gentle push was done, a big bang occurred and we ended up with a down whole chassis, unable to switch it back on again.

    Long story short: we replaced the chassis with an old one coming from the basement, moved all cards to it (minus the one creating the whole incident) and were back in business in 2 hours.

    Turned up the fried chassis died because it was (like everything else) recycled and the idiot that removed a card last time bended the male power plug of the back plane. So we shorted it when we inserted the card, frying the chassis.

    I remember this email I sent to the c**t who was serving as CIO that day, who was suggesting to make sure it didn't re-occur (what a fecking good idea, CIO !), basically telling him + world "yes, good idea. We should stop re-using old kit and procure for new one, since this was the root cause.". Did not get an answer, I wonder why ... Didn't get funding for DC kit either ...

  9. RichardB

    So whatever did happen to ram raiding?

    I guess it doesn't work so well on electric mopeds...

    1. pavel.petrman Silver badge

      Waiting for the cybertruck with enough RAM and a RAID array.

      1. Toni the terrible

        Improved Truck-kun

    2. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge
      Flame

      Cars got a lot harder to steal I guess

      With todays asynchronous encryption it should be absolutely impossible to steal a car without the key or a recovery truck.

      ...but the manufacturers seem to want to put massive holes into todays security tech like these bloody stupid keys that are so determined to open the car for any tom dick or harry 24/7 that you have to lock them in a tin to stop them .

      Stupidest. idea .ever

      Then theres the "smash a window and ask the car via its odbc2 port what he key code is" technique, so that you can spoof a key. The manufacturers have for some reason made this info available to anyone with a hammer and a fancy odbc reader.

    3. WonkoTheSane
      Headmaster

      The thieves graduated to stealing JCB diggers to extract ATMs from bank walls

    4. Outski Silver badge

      Depends if you can get him to point his horns in the right bit of the window

  10. pavel.petrman Silver badge
    Pint

    Text based computer interface

    When I was in high school computers were growing their first thin roots in general education. PCs were still expensive and difficult to paintain* in working order. My school bought a lab worth of PCs with windows on them and additionally got some really old boxes from a bank as a donation. The bank PCs weren't powerful enough for Windows at that time, nor were reasonable desktop options available on Linux, so our lab manager installed the then free Red Hat on them with CLI only, together with Lynx, Pine etc.

    The lab was open to general studentry during brakes (home PCs were still rare and hunger for the Internet was huge even though xxx was strictly verboten) and with one PC for every 30 pupils only the sharp elbowed got their vaunted online time. The white on black screens with their blinking cursors, howere, remained vacant all the time. Yes, it was then that I learned to love the blinking cursor - one could get everything done on those machines, since the only use for graphical display connected to the Internet was banned anyway and, worse, the ban was strictly enforced.

    It was good times. Textual information would be conveyed in text form, not a JPEG or a TikTok dance, Brin and Page were yet to apply for the grant for their Lego server, which only later turned into the privacy, social and ecological nightmare we are having now, the systemd guy was still bullying his kindergarten mates and not the whole world... I'd hazard a guess that the only thing those machines would struggle with today is TLS, the rest would still be quite serviceable, if we managed to keep to text. (I quite like curent KDE though:)

    Icon: happy Friday!

    * Originally a typo but I'm keeping it as like the word!

    1. Will Godfrey Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Text based computer interface

      Upvoted for "paintain".

      1. Agamemnon
        Pint

        Re: Text based computer interface

        I'm adding "Paintain" to my daily lexicon.

        Please have one on me. --->

    2. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

      Re: Text based computer interface

      The average webpage now takes up more space than DOOM's shareware release!

      https://www.theregister.com/2016/04/22/web_page_now_big_as_doom/

      1. WonkoTheSane

        Re: Text based computer interface

        Doom now runs on a Lego brick

        https://youtu.be/DwMhtTR_8c8

        1. Old Used Programmer Silver badge

          Re: Text based computer interface

          It will also run on a Raspberry Pi Pico MCU.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Text based computer interface

        That fact was mildly discomforting, until I realized it's over six years old, then it became downright alarming!

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Text based computer interface

      "Textual information would be conveyed in text form, not a JPEG or a TikTok dance"

      Hear hear. The number of times I've googled "how do you ___", only to get 30-minute YouTube videos instead of the single photo and two lines of text I was looking for...!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Text based computer interface

        or my mother sending a 10MB+ video file of someone reading a 10KB joke

        1. NITS

          Re: Text based computer interface

          Or having to establish a remote desktop connection via Zoom or whatever just so someone can use Putty on my laptop to administer a network device over its 9600 bit/sec serial interface... Seems quite the waste of bandwidth to this old codger.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Text based computer interface

            You haven't lived until you have done that via Teams with keyboard layouts that are different.

            I never realised just what a mess the whole keyboard layout thing is in Windows until I encountered this, and the only solution is to set the 'receiving' (remote controlled) system up as having the layout of the system used by whoever remote controls the session.

            Horrific, but somehow so bad it's fascinating to observe..

  11. Mayday Silver badge
    Angel

    Did something similar for an Aussie telco once

    I worked for Aussie”s third tier telco back in the day (this particular day, I’ve also worked for numbers 1&2 at various stages) An old ATM based partial mesh was replaced with a ladder type MPLS topology and everyone was happy. That was until two legs of the ladder “somewhere between the east coast and Perth” suffered from backhoe attenuation* almost simultaneously. The normally highly resilient ladder topology didn’t handle two backhoes a few thousand km apart going through two legs at the same time.

    I recalled an old STM-1 that connected Sydney to Perth that no one remembered to turn off. Rang a NOC guy and asked him to log into the router these links were connected to. “No shut” on both interfaces and they lit up (!!!), better yet the old IPs were still on the interfaces and the bastards could ping. Immediately set up BGP neighbourships and they started to exchange prefixes. Bang. We’re up again. One poxy/stupid** ATM link is hardly a super resilient ladder topology but it worked until the network could be repaired (a week or so).

    * Backhoe attenuation is a phenomenon where cables, particularly underground high capacity fibres, lose signal due to errant backhoes digging them up.

    ** If something is “stupid” and it works, then it is not stupid.

    1. My other car WAS an IAV Stryker

      Re: Did something similar for an Aussie telco once

      ** If it's stupid and it works... it's still stupid and you're lucky.

      -- #43 from The Seventy Maxims of Maximally Effective Mercenaries

      1. Agamemnon

        Re: Did something similar for an Aussie telco once

        Ah... beat me to it.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Did something similar for an Aussie telco once

      "backhoe attenuation"

      I'm going to nick that one, thanks.

  12. casinowilhelm

    I used to work in video games - the company I worked for in late 90s/early 2000 had some very expensive and secretive playstation 2 (or xbox, I forget which) devkits. Thieves broke in and stole them, ignoring all the fairly valuable pc workstations nearby. Almost like somebody put them up to it...because these were not useful things to flog to your average man in a pub carpark, as they are fairly useless unless you knew what you wanted them for. Very fishy business!

  13. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Coat

    First time I saw an actual AS400....

    I thought it was some kind of aircon.

    Very differnt form factor to PC based servers.

  14. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
    Alien

    Satellite tech

    Sometime in the mid-2000s, we took on a client whose office had a fancy satellite internet connection. This was in the days of ADSL having patchy availability and dial-up still being popular.

    I visited their office to do some work. Remarked how slow their internet connection was. "It's always been like that"

    I noticed that their in-house server had a 14.4k fax modem attached to accommodate network-based faxing (advanced tech for the time/company) - I configured a dial-up connection on it, then set the server up as a router.

    They were amazed at the speed difference.

    I went back the following day with a 56k modem. They dumped the satellite service and soon went to bonded ISDN.

    1. anothercynic Silver badge

      Re: Satellite tech

      The days of bonded (or even just single-channel) ISDN... *happy sigh* It was incredible what you could get done from halfway across the planet (literally) by dialing into an ISDN number in the US... The

      1. stiine Silver badge

        Re: Satellite tech

        X11 over a 2 channel bonded ISDN connection worked like a champ. Much better than the replacement split-speed DSL and cable modems.

  15. trindflo Bronze badge
    Facepalm

    How quickly did they replace the stolen "upgrades"?

    So the company invested in very expensive new technology.

    It was subsequently demonstrated the expense was not at all justified.

    I can only imagine the purchases were repeated as quickly as possible.

  16. Joe Gurman

    Once fashionable?

    Maybe all the Apple Stores the UK are in rehab ciliated, old buildings with good bones, but a number in the US are at ground level on public streets, and ram raiding is very definitely still a thing.

    1. Grey_Kiwi

      Re: Once fashionable?

      Also currently extremely fashionable in the youth culture of NZ

      https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/300580899/the-carnage-of-youth-are-ram-raids-a-fad-or-are-we-entering-the-age-of-the-bollard

  17. The Vociferous Time Waster

    Teletubbies

    I was doing a server and client upgrade at a small automotive company which included a VPN to connect them to their new owner's head office. We had a very busy weekend reimagine PCs and swapping out servers and migrating data - tested everything and got completed by mid afternoon Sunday feeling really good about ourselves.

    Come Monday we were on floor walk to make sure users could log on and get started - teaching them the art of the three fingered Microsoft Salute (they had moved from Win98 to XP so had never had to log in with CTRL-ALT-DEL before). All was going well until in walks Maureen from accounts.

    She may not have been called Maureen, but you know the type. Been swapping the tapes for decades without ever checking if a backup has actually run.

    She looked at the teletubby desktop background and the green start button and immediately announced that she couldn't use it because she hadn't been trained on it so we would have to put it all back to how it was. She marched off to speak to her boss. At this point I had the bright idea to switch the desktop theme to "windows classic" and put the picture of her grandchildren back on her desktop and told her that we had downgraded her machine so it was how it used to be. She mastered the three finger salute to 'get past the new security software' and was logged in and working in minutes. She even bragged that she had special treatment because she was so important as accounts needed to be able to run 'special applications'.

    1. Hazmoid

      Re: Teletubbies

      I've done that before, copied people's windows 7 profile and installed it in Windows 10 machines, so they feel comfortable with the new machine.

      1. Toni the terrible

        Re: Teletubbies

        A salute to you for dong thjat

      2. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

        Re: Teletubbies

        My wife has Linux on her laptop. Not that she pays any attention to that, as it's got a good Windows XP theme loaded, (and yes, she calls the standard background "Tellytubby land).

        I did it because she would not use the Windows 7 system I built for her when using XP on the internet became hazardous. As I use Linux anyway, this seemed easier than tweaking Windows 7 to look like XP.

        Any Windows special software she uses (which is all pretty ancient stuff for creating cross-stitch patterns and the like) runs under Wine pretty well, and she used to use Firefox and LibreOffice on the old Windows XP laptop anyway.

        Only problem now is that I need to give her another system, as while the 3GB memory limit on IBM T60 laptops does not stop Linux, Firefox is incredibly greedy nowadays, and she manages to drive it into paging every now and then, which even with an SSD slows the system down.

        But she wants a system with a 4x3 aspect ratio screen...

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