Can't put my finger on it
I read the article twice now, and feel like there is something missing? Maybe a second cuppa will help me put my finger on it.
Welcome yet again to On Call, The Register's Friday festival of futility in which readers share their stories of being asked to fix foul-ups inflicted by fools. This week, meet a reader we'll Regomize as "Dennis", who in the early 2000s worked for an outfit that had decided it was so good at tech support it might as well rent …
I noticed that part was missing right off, I chalked it up to part of the El Reg redesign, first remove Paris, then Dabbsy (https://autosaveisforwimps.substack.com/ )... then the banner for the category. What's next, removing the Vulture??
However I was referring to the story, too short, not enough action, other than running to the client.
I'm not sure the extra "A"s work in this context.
"What The Actual Actual Actual Actual Actual Actual Fuck" doesn't really scan well. It doesn't work as a word so the extra "A"s can't drag out and pronouncing the letters take just as long and uses just as many syllables as speaking the actual phrase without the extra "A"s.
And just to cap it off, the A is superfluous anyway and adds nothing to the original of WTF? or What The Fuck?
Normal service will be resumed shortly. As you were.
Thanks for that. Thought he was probably on a holiday. One less El Reg article to look for every week.
At this rate I'll be down to no articles most weeks. Even the ones I think might be interesting seem to be blurb with no meaningful content.
The annoying regular requests to refresh my login - and update my cookie rejections - have already caused me to make fewer visits to El Reg. Not to mention the US vocabulary that would have earned me a literal clip round the ear from my school English teacher.
For me it's the awful, repetitive nature of the front page, the two screens of links (phone screen, big text, getting old, grumble grumble) halfway through each story that I'm never going to click on in a million years, and the pointless links at the bottom of the page that I'm also never going to click on, and the drivel sponsored articles from other sites that make me pine for The Register of old.
Shame the Register is changing, too. It is becoming more and more 'pc', not nearly as bad as Ars Technica, but it's slowly loosing that light-hearted English humour that the BBC started to tear down some years ago. Next, we'll have more and more articles on climate change modelling and software solutions against populism. Can nothing good ever last? I still miss the wonderful CNET UK podcast moderators from ten years ago. All fun was sucked out when one of them was replaced due to 'gender equality'.
"ROFL. If going even further alt-right is 'becoming more and more pc' to you, you may have a bit of a problem there..."
I always try to understand where these kind of totally over-the-top and misplaced comments come from, and usually think it's a generational thing and something about brainwashing by constant repetition, but that thought isn't really comforting in the least, because it doesn't bode well for the future.
There's nothing over the top or misplaced about it, it's a simple statement of fact. If you are making observations relative to your position that lead you to conclude people on the right-most fringe of the alt-right are lefties, it can only be because you're even further to the right than them. Which, to be honest, is the impression you give when wittering on about Daily Mail talking points from 1985.
There has always been a right-wing tech-geek neckbeard thing going on round here, ever since the days of Mad Mike Magee. These days it is of an increasingly conspiratorial alt-right bent.
It always amuses me when the national socialist Marxist regimes of the national socialist German workers party and the Italian fascists are described as right wing. I think that to a communist anything to the right of that position is extreme right wing.And describing the murderous activities of those two socialist organisations and any other party as right wing and therefore bad belies the fact that the socialist extreme left communists were responsible for around 200 million deaths worldwide arising from their policies and programs.
> national socialist Marxist regimes of the national socialist German workers party
Huh? There is none. Especially none which calls itself and has enough members to be noticed anywhere. More details which party you actually refer to, and then explain again right from the start.
I smell B!
Richard Speed hasn't posted anything for nearly a month, is he another casualty of the descent of El Reg in to the current blandness, or is he just on holiday? Since the .com takeover things have been getting more and more strange here.
Almost certain we'll not see any more bork shots of Windows killing itself.
No BOFH this week either - hope that's not also on the chopping block.
At this rate the vulture is not only dying, its being eaten alive by mumsnet
I wouldn't worry about the BOFH just yet, Simon's stories often take a week or two to incubate...
But as of today, there's new style for comments, the reply button looks like a Wordpress plugin.
Used to train students using "AIM 65" development boards - 6502 with all I/O on 4mm breakout to a side panel. The kids blew the 6522 i/o ports up all the time so, exasperated, we decided to investigate how. Those boards had +/-5V in all directions, 12V from an RS232 and even +/- 12V from external PSUs - everything that was available to students in the lab - shoved up every external orifice and we could not just blow the 6522 i/o ports ... We gave up, accepted that the kids were better at destruction than we were and bought another load of 6522s.
In school I had a friend who really should have become a QA tester, he could unfailingly find the unique combination to trigger the obscure bug in my code. One time I thought I had him beaten, my program steadfastly refused to crash. Until he asked "what's that" and pointed at the screen, a centimetre-long spark went between it and his finger and the machine died.
 Or maybe, just maybe, I wasn't as good as I thought and my schoolboy code was littered with bugs and he just happened to find some of them. Nah, that can't be right, Shirley?
My bug story ended up with me being happily married.
I was a design student at a technical institute (yeah, bad idea), and as a requirement I had to take two computer classes, for which I have no natural ability. This in the days of an enormous UNIVAC 1108, and punch card submissions. We were working on learning a baby-talk version of assembler called MIX, for which there was a compiler running on the 1108. My printout returned was alarmingly thick and incomprehensible, not just error messages but digital equivalent of vomit. The teaching assistants were at a loss. I was leaving the data center when I bumped into a casual acquaintance (hello Dave, wherever you are!) and told him my tale of woe.
"I know just the guy who can help," he said, and brought me back to the data center, said, "this is Bob, he knows everything about assembler code."
Turns out that my short, easy assignment had found a bug in the compiler no one had tripped over in years.
Never did get that assembler assignment right, but we've been married forty-six years.
When I was doing electronic systems in college - certainly with a few people that shouldn't have been allowed near anything electrical, we had one guy who produced entertainment.
They used to have these plug boards with which you could fit components that was sort of a bit like lego, you could slot in these blocks that had components and a description of what it was on it, they were powered by a separate 12v power supply.
We heard a big bang and everyone turned round to see a mushroom cloud billow up to and across the ceiling and a look of horror on the guys face.
We never worked out how he managed to cause a transistor (I think it was) to lose its magic blue smoke.
We did jokingly create the "Theory of Random Connections" off of the back of what he done which was the running joke for the rest of the college year.
We never worked out how he managed to cause a transistor (I think it was) to lose its magic blue smoke.
Sometimes it does not require any external action to cause this, or something similar. Half a lifetime ago a colleague and I had a radio base station* open on the bench; it wasn't faulty - IIRC we were modifying the EEPROM program that master - minded the remote-control system.
We made some changes and were sitting back after checking that our changes had had the desired effect when the (large) room suddenly filled with what I can only describe as a "Dayglo - Grey" fog.
On later investigation we found that a small tantalum capacitor in the power supply had developed a tiny anus through which it had farted an inordinate quantity of magic smoke of a quite startling appearance; it was truly impressive.
We then found that the equipment continued to function perfectly well despite this loss so rather than spend quite a long time stripping the PSU apart to replace the exhausted capacitor we just left it as it was.
As Steve Kerr also said... truly Fun times.
* A Storno CQF6334 for anyone interested...
ever tried to connect paper capacitors between two phases in 380v ?
They make a nice bang.
But really the capacitors I was really worried about were the 1 farad monsters at the bottom of the Power unit racks when we had to actually put the 48v power on the rack...without the load resistors... it was all in the wirst movement to keep the fusein the huge fuse holder far enough to form an arc and spread it so that it didn't degrade the contacts until the humongeous capacitors at the bottom were charged enough not to explode.
A friend and I built a railgun once. Our power source was a bunch of 150 microfarad electrolytic capacitors harvested from disposable cameras, soldered in parallel on a couple metal rods, and charged using a bridge rectifier connected to US house current (120V). Quite a lot of power.
I wish I had been there when he tested the charging for the first time. Apparently we had attached one capacitor backwards. It reportedly let out a large bang and a 3-foot high flame.
(The railgun itself did, in fact, function. Sometimes. First firing, though, had a hot enough spark to spot-weld the chrome on our ball-bearing ammunition to the rails. A bit of sanding later...)
Given the description, I suspect this was more like the stuff I vaguely remember using back in the days of GCSE Physics (1988-9) as my introduction to electronics - a large plastic baseboard with regularly spaced metal pillars, between which you could insert smaller plastic carrier boards with spring clips at either end/each corner. On top of the carrier board was the schematic symbol for whichever component was fitted to the underside of the board (unless it was something like a switch or LED, in which case it'd be fitted to the top side instead), along with an indication as to how the component was wired up to the spring clips.
So, I guess, technically, in a very tenuous way, you could describe it as a breadboard of sorts, but it wasn't intended to be used as anything other than a teaching aid, and the number of potential positions on the baseboard into which you could slot a carrier meant it was only suitable for building the basic sorts of circuit you'd expect to deal with in an introductory course. Definitely not the general purpose prototyping breadboards as featured in your link, or that would come to mind when you say "breadboard" to anyone with at least a passing interest in electronics.
The first electronics circuit I built was a crystal radio. Hand wound ferrite antenna, and all the components connected on, literally, a wooden breadboard with brass cup-washers, and screws - flat head of course - none of your fancy Philips rubbish. Worked really well, even for many faraway radio stations, admittedly that may have been due to the 25m aerial strung across the garden.
"The first electronics circuit I built was a crystal radio. "
I used to have a wonderful, ancient book with instructions to build one of those. The first instruction was "Go to the chemist to buy [forgot what], mix the stuff together and melt it to make your crystal."
Sadly I lost that many years ago. Fortunately there's a cure for such sorrow -->
A good weekend with many frothy ones to all Commentards.
As someone got the reference... I tried to do this in the mid to late 80s (the project from said book). It did work eventually... but was a comedy of errors worthy of a silent film starring most of the carry on crew.
My naïve assumption that the smallest speaker would be the cheapest led to me spending over the odds for a 1.5" speaker.
Then the Indian electronics store owner didn't know the difference between cm and inches, and presented me with a 10" ferrite rod, the largest he could find... and I had to trawl all over town for the one radio and tv shop where the chap still had a folder full of components (yes, a literal foolscap sized folder with plastic pockets), with three OC71s, brand new, resting in peace.
To the upvoter, have yet another beer, for the memories.
At college we had a commercial AM radio station. During engineering tests while the transmitter was disconnected from the antenna I connected an analog multimeter between the antenna and ground. The needle of the multimeter showed a quite a deflection from other radio stations.
IIRC the BBC Droitwich 1500m transmitter could produce audio from the rusty joints in nearby wire fences.
It was rumoured that local houses could light bulbs from the radiation.
High on the Leek Moors during an amateur radio HF contest there was an imminent thunderstorm. The old timers just kept their feet off the ground to avoid the electrical discharges that the tall aerial was channelling
There is a story (don't know if it's true) that some guy built a frame aerial in his loft space to power his entire house, and was creating a radio shadow. The only way he could be stopped at the time was by being prosecuted for using a radio receiver without a license (needed in those early days). Suitable laws were hurried through!
My father bought a transistor radio kit from an advert in the Sunday paper which claimed "Even a child can build it".
My father couldn't get it working - so gave it to me. That started my 60 years of electronics. "No soldering needed" - it wasn't a breadboard though - more a rat's nest with 8BA nuts and bolts to join wires together.
I've been hit by lightening twice:
When I was a student it hit the metal ladder (wire ladder, rolled and attached to my belt) I was carrying out of a cave, ran down the seam of my wetsuit and to ground. I had problems between then and 4 years later when unplugging a TV aerial from the wall and the aerial took the strike.
Firstly, I was studying electronics and only had to put my hand near some CMOS chips (even when using an earth strap) to encourage them to lift their lids and smoke.
Secondly, some types of analog watches would stop or go backwards if placed on the palm of my hand. I showed this around the pub one evening and was invited to an academics lab where they could not explain it.
Luckily the second (indirect) strike returned normality, or at least as normal as I wasn't before!
Anonymous as I did not enjoy my day as a lab rat!
Early MOSFET transistors came with a little clip round the leads as an anti-static protection. Unfortunately to use them at 432MHz you had to reduce the leads to almost nothing. After blowing up several I gave the remaining ones to a friend - who had a knack of not blowing them up.
When I assembled my Motorola 6800 evaluation kit I stripped down to just my cotton briefs. It was at the office - but wisely out of hours.
> We never worked out how he managed to cause a transistor (I think it was) to lose its magic blue smoke.
Nothing easier than that. Try to design a motor driver on the fly and use too small resistor in line with collector/emitter, supposed your power supply can sustain more current than your transistor - which is a relatively safe bet.
Years ago we had a pc with a problem, opened it up and powered it on - we then saw a small flame about 1cm tail coming out of one of the components. Not surprisingly we sent that machine back (it was only a couple of months old) reason for return I think was put as motherboard has flames emerging when powered
In the 1980s we had a very large electromagnet on an instrument that was driven by a bank of 50A MOSFETs. When they became unstable (mains power?), the bang that they made was similar to a close-range pistol shot. Pfah, health and safety - What do you mean that your ears were ringing for a few minutes afterwards? It only happens about twice a year.
When I was still an apprentice (early 1980's) I was helping put together a switched mode PSU they were playing with in the lab complete with a birds nest ball of components (none of this fancy breadboard stuff!).
connecting up to a load bank of big resistors, after we had been testing most of they day I decided to have one more play and turned up the wick a bit too much......I got a lesson in thermal runaway as the output voltage slowly dropped until there was a POP! and glowing balls of the MOSFET innards went floating across the bench.
Got a good lesson in learning about heatsink design - those devices were bloody expensive in those days!
not 6502 i/o ports but I remember one day in Lycèe ( that probably parse as High school ), in Electronics where we went through the whole supply of Thyristor control circuits in less than an hour...
One of us had found a way to make the IC make a nice Pop sound and shows, through the cracks the embers of fried silicon. the rest of the class promptly reproduced the layout with the obvious results.
After receiving brand new chips from the teacher, everybody promptly sacrificed it to the Pop-ember god.
Since the spares were all gone, the teacher sent one of us to the local electronic store ( for watever reason it was located about 100m away from the school ) with some money to buy new ones and told us that nobody was to connect our circuit to the power before he checked it. Sadly no circuit met their (un)timely death by pop-ember that day. ( but we spread the way to do it, so that other groups managed to reproduce it in a limited way [ teachers being teachers, the word on their side spread almost as fast as it spread on our side, thus the limited reproduction ] )
"the teacher sent one of us to the local electronic store "
A New Zealand friend has a tale of what their school teacher sent them to get - in the 1950s.
Two boys were dispatched on their bikes to the local army outpost with a request to borrow some things to illustrate a lesson. The army people happily supplied them. They retuned with their bikes' front baskets carrying Sten guns. Shades of "IF...".
I remember my grandad and uncles purchasing dynamite and blasting caps over the counter at the local hardware store, no ID required or even asked for. Usually they just bought enough to set off their own mix of ANFO, though ... made a better bang for rolling Redwood stumps out of the ground.
BBC TV had a series of programmes about the near-miss blast damage effects of air-dropped bombs. In a disused quarry they built a row of houses for the test.
The series covered the increasing size of such weapons through WW1 and WW2. The final one was a simulation of a V2 warhead. They calculated how far the faster-than-sound warhead would burrow into the ground before the detonation completed. They dug the requisite hole and buried a large quantity of an ANFO type mixture for the equivalent payload of 745kg (1600lbs).
When it was triggered it matched the reports from WW2. The peripheral blast damage was not very much. However a large amount of earth was sent high into the air - and then landed as a suffocating blanket.
I have expressed my love of USB-C as it works either way now my eyesight is failing. I was not aware that pushing hard enough would cure that problem, if only to cause a greater problem. The W95 is just the cherry on the cake but raises further questions - who installed W95 on a new PC and why?
I don't think I've even walked a mile at work never mind run, maybe around corridors with some paper in my hand avoiding work. I've cycled to work on 24 hour callout, breathless and sweaty implies dedication.
"You've put the disk in upside down. I'm going to have to take it back to my lab to fix it." Saved a week of stupid fault calls.
I know of a major company which ran the entire factory production on Win3.1 for a *long* time. The argument was that worked, worked very well and was very reliable. Any upgrade would mean new hardware, OS and production software to integrate with an existing system which might work ... might even work well ... and would provide no obvious benefit (at the time) to production or user experience in return for a massive financial outlay and huge amounts of work ... The upgrade to WinXP was not happening and I couldn't really argue with that one.
To be fair to them: They were likely not connected to the outside, a Win3.1 (and even 3.11) system fighting you to connect to anything even remotely modern. I'm too young for having really worked on these systems, I had them on my own PC waay back when Pluto was still a planet.
So I can totally get that. Having to replace a hard disk would have been tricky. Those machines did not like anything larger than... 205MB, I think it was? Could be tricked into accepting it with a special driver (or just limiting the partition to the @amountallowed). We all passed a lot of water since then.
Back in 2004, I did data entry for DHL after uni classes - sweet gig, 5:30 PM to 8:30 Monday to Friday, paid for my beers. The couriers had handheld scanners for registering what they picked up, these scanners integrated with a single air gapped PC in the depot running a DOS program that transferred the data from all the scanners to a floppy disk, which was then taken to another PC and uploaded to the mainframe. Once the data was uploaded, we could start our job, which was taking these partial records and filling them in from the couriers paper copies.
This DOS PC was elderly AF, the floppy disk was elderly AF (of course it was the same disk each day, erased and re-used), so it was quite common to turn up at 5:30 and do nothing/drink tea/chat for an hour whilst the duty manager swore at the old machine.
Update: I mis-read the question. It's just over a decade since they stopped making new ones. As per the linked article, they are still selling "new" ones. It's just that they've been sat in warehouses, shops, stockrooms and filing cabinets for years, so "new" as in in not used or 2nd hand, uit not new as in they are at leats 10 years old even if still shrink-wrapped :-)
I had a part time job doing tech support back in my college days. The department I worked for had a mix of machines running XP and 2000... and one lone NT4 system that I was told to just leave alone in the hopes one day it would die and they could justify replacing it.
Anyway, the XP machines obviously had much better hardware compared to the older 2000 machines, so when someone managed to penetrate the department network and started trying to turn the machines into Warez mirrors, they didn't even bother with the 2000 machines. I imagine if someone managed to break into a network only to find some old systems running Win 3.1x, they'd just move on to the next target. It wouldn't be worth their time.
It's like my late friend said about why he kept a basic flip phone for so long. No one would want to steal it.
No one would want to steal it.
I did tech support in a very rich area when I was driving a beat-up old Micra. The line of cars, Mercedes and Beamers, I was parked between were all scratched / keyed but mine was spared. I initially found that hilarious, class war, until I realised I was being pitied by vandals. Then I was questioned by police which delayed me so long I got a parking ticket. Class war again, back on the losing side.
If they were smart enough to airgap the factory floor from the Internet, I don't see that there's a problem.
A lot of industrial equipment was designed way back when, and nobody's there to port the code to Windows whatever so, as said, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.
> Doesn't Win3.1 count as an airgap?
Nope. For Win 3.11 for workgroups you have the tcp32b.exe update. Which I happily used instead of trumpet winsock. For Win 3.1 for Workgroups you have ipx / netbeui / abunchofotheroutdatedprotocols . All with their own security issues. And you still have Tumpet Winsock for win 3.1/3.0 if you need tcp/ip.
For file transfer to newer system you's have to use, for example, WS_FTP and an unencrypted FTP server on the other side (with firewall(s) configured to let only that old machine talk to it. C'mon, even Windows Vista Firewall is that flexible...)
Yes, I am that old.
"no obvious benefit...for a massive financial outlay and huge amounts of work"
Hence the reasons various adaptors or whatever other solution is needed to get modern hardware talking to RS-232C and other "old fashioned" interfaces built in to very very expensive devices in universities too.
There's lots of old expensive machinery out in the real world that could cost many, many £1000s if not £millions to replace for the sake of non-fashionable interfaces and computers able to run old software. There are still companies out there that will sell you IEEE488 or RS-232C PCIe cards because there is still a demand. Sometimes it involves emulation or virtual machines to get the old software to think it's running on real hardware because some programmer hard coded the RS-232C port address.
If you're in that situation and it's DOS software, I highly recommend DOSBox, which can not only emulate DOS enough for most software to run fine (including limited clock speed), but can even present a real-world USB-to-serial adapter on COM6 as being a built-in COM1.
Our school lab had a bunch of Apple IIs and a Corvus Systems 10MB hard disc shared between all the systems, simultaneously, and 5.25" floppy discs for personal data storage. (The HD stored the OS, which was the UCSD p-System.) One day a student approached me and asked, "Is there any way to get my files off this?" and held out a floppy disc. It had been folded into quarters, and the plastic of the outer cover had somewhat "remembered" the folds. Not wanting to risk the floppy disc drive mechanisms, I replied, "No."
At college, when given a blank 3.5" floppy and a sticky label, one student on finding that the label was larger than the target area, placed the sticker so it partially covered the metal shutter. When inserted into a floppy drive, which offered some resistance, it then broke the drive!
Cue an interruption to the lesson for a brief demonstration on where to place the label.
Here in Right Pondia, it's *always* disc *except* for floppy and hard disks. We acceded to Left Pondia on the spelling for those specific items. Most optical formats like CDs etc are discs, not disks though. Not so sure on the magneto-optical jobbies.
Likewise, computer "programs". All other uses of the word "programme" is spelled as...er...programme, eg TV programmes, Theatre programmes etc :-)
Remembering a demo of a pre-production BBC Micro official Acorn floppy disc drive and accompanying DFS ROM.
Chap told us that they'd had to put in both *DISC and *DISK commands - oh, the waste of bytes in a 16K ROM!
 if someone wants to correct me on the ROM size (it may have just benn an 8K job), which would make it worse!
I based my comments on what I learned in O and A level Computer Studies at school from before the BBC got involved, pre-BBC Micro era :-)
It's more likely that the industry had already decided but the BBC, being British through and through, were not going to stoop to the level of accepting new spellings from the colonies :-)
Not to mention that the spelling on the BBCs The Computer Programme was actually a TV show and so correct by both our definitions :-)
Try one of the first HP Laserjets with the doubleside print facility. Add a secretary who wants to print labels and forgets to disable the doubleside facility and you have hours of fun peeling labels out of the unit.
Bonus: the cavity where the page turns was at the bottom in the first Laserjet, and the absolute only way to reach it was to disassemble the thing from the top down.
Day one: taking the thing apart. No manual, but a nice large table to work on (they were *huge*).
Day two: removing all the labels and generally cleaning the thing out.
Day three: putting it all back together. Much to my amazement, no screws left - and it worked too..
I don't think I'll be able to repeat that now if for no other reason than eyesight, but it was interesting and it's fun working on something that is essentially written off - it means you can screw up and you're no worse off.
The only time I had similar with labels was when the finance people insisted on putting the label sheet through multiple times, printing and peeling one label off each time, "to save money". They weren't happy when the new drum unit wiped any possible savings. I did try and clean it after removing the labels but no chance.
Acetate sheets wrapped around the fuses roller were always fun. Usually necessitated swapping the fuses unit out then sending off for repair or replacing the Teflon coated roller.
Occasionally though one could very gingerly slice through the acetate and peel it off.
Some clients it would happen once and you’d never get another call from them for the same thing. Others it would be a regular occurrence. Pretty much depended whether it was pay as you go or a support contract, you can guess which would be which.
Let’s think, this would have been back in 97 or 98 so a refurb fuser for an
LJ4 was about £35. New one about £120 maybe. Or £5 for a new roller and 30 minutes of effort when I wasn’t busy and bob’s your uncle.
I haven’t checked lately but no doubt fusers now even for big printers are sealed units, return to manufacturer and so on.
I had a new one recently which even shocked the engineer that had to come and replace the part.
We had a printer failing to start up, showing an error that the support team recognised as an issue with the mirrors. Certain colour laser printers have an assembly with 4 mirrors so that the lasers can charge the four drums that together makes up a coloured printout.
Engineers tend to travel onsite with the spare part that the diagnostics indicate, usually on the assumption that something electronic or mechanical had gone wrong, but what we found after the printer was opened up was an order of magnitude worse.
The 4 mirror assembly only had two. The two in the middle were broken and yes, that left quite a few sharp pieces of glass to be retrieved from all over the machine.
This mirror assembly sits immediately under the top cover where the printouts come out so the only viable explanation was that some moron must have hit the top very hard with a fist. Any object that would fall on it (difficult anyway, given where it was placed) would have left marks, but there were none.
Anyway, glass shaken out (and vacuumed out), mirror assembley replaced as well as the drum kit (because that's what the glass ended up in) and the unit worked again as if nothing had happened.
Some of these printers are simply impressive bits of engineering.
My wife worked for a time as an editor on the UC Berkeley Computing Center Newsletter. The printing masters were made on the university's phototypesetter, which was the one that the orginal version of troff was written very specifically for.
UC was getting ready to switch over to a new phototypesetter and ditroff (they'd concluded that updating the original troff code was...impractical, as the author was *exceedingly* clever and was dead).
The old typesetter (APS-4, IIRC), used glass font disks held in with a wingnut. The newsletter used a different font disk that the default one that was normally in place.
For one run, the operator didn't tighten the wingnut correctly and when the phototypesetter was fired up, it's inside got filled with tiny shards of broken glass. There ensued a rather hasty--and early--transition to the new phototypesetter.
"Pretty much depended whether it was pay as you go or a support contract, you can guess which would be which."
Didn't matter to us. It's user damage and chargeable anyway and it was rarely worth the effort of repairing a fuser when the customer was paying for it. It is, after all, a "consumable" with a finite life. If we'd replaced it already and it was still showing as at least 25% life/page count remaining and it wasn't obvious user damage, we'd not charge to replace it.
Apart from one customer, who paid us a small fortune annually to fix anything, user damage or not + parts cost on top.
"I did try and clean it after removing the labels but no chance."
I assume that was the first time you had ever seen a damaged imaging drum? Anyone who has instantly learns that once it's damaged it MUST be replaced. You might, MIGHT, get away with carefully polishing out a slight blemish that may last a few 100 pages, but anything worse and it's toast and you don't waste time even trying to "fix" it.
When the secretary left at a place I worked, I found that the bottom drawer of her desk was full of A4 7x2 label sheets, with the top-left label used. Evidently every time she printed a label, at a loss what to do next, she just stuffed the sheet in the bottom drawer.
Indeed, when you can't lose, you can take more chances and go further into the system than otherwise. Fixed a 700 pound (value, not weight) multifunction electrical tester for that reason, Megger wanted over the value of it to fix the issue. Turned out to be cracked solder joints at the 4mm sockets, but to get to them involved about 2 hrs of disassembly
well with 8" and 5.25" disks there was no upside down...
Unless the drive was a double sided drive you actually had to turn the floppy to read the other face.
So for some people in the 3.5" floppies early days trying to insert it upside down was something they considered normal.
Maybe with some, earlier systems, so by definition few people ever saw or used them, but from the early 8-bit micros of my youth, once floppy drives arrived, they had a proper "up side". There was an index hole and putting in the wrong way up would mean no index hole on the side where the sensor was. There was also a felt coating inside the sleeve designed to pick up any dust that got in. It had a nap so rotating the disk back the other way was not only more abrasive on the disk surface but any dust collected was more likely to come back out onto the disk, causing even more abrasion. Not to mention that single sided disks often did not have the magnetic coating on the obverse side, although as single sided disk drive were obsoleted by double sided ones, single sided disks were often just those that failed quality tests on one of the sides and so put in the sleeve with the good side as the read side.
There were, for a time, "flippy" disks made to work both ways but they were uncommon. Most of us would just cut an extra "write protect" notch on the other side of the disk and use a small single hole paper punch to carefully add the new index hole on back and front of the case on the opposite side and take the risk to save money.
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I worked with a colleague who many years ago was fixing a PC and complained that it was not working when powered on. I took a look a litle later and the BIOS chimes were pretty much indicating "no ram". The box had 2 sticks of RAM in them so that is wrong. I took the sticks out and to my surprise, I saw 2 sticks of DDR which were in a slot where there should be DDR2. I was baffled as the notches are wrong, so I compared the chips and the notches were correct. My colleague came back I asked "how did you get these into the motherboard ?" and was told "it took some pressing, but they finally clipped in"
correct RAM and MB worked, RAM into an older bit of kit to test and it worked, so no real damage, just bewilderment on my behalf at how they didn't stop, but just persevered, and this was a colleague with years of experience in the support team - so not a PFY from college
Maybe he used to replace ram in Sun Ultra machines.
I think it was the U60 where you had to press down on the ram so hard the motherboard literally started bending before the ram would fit.
And this was proper Sun original sun certified memory ...
we found that the (relatively) cheaper 3rdparty memory would fit a lot easier (still requiring ridiculous amounts of force though).
but the sight of my colleague bearing down his full weight on the ram, and the mobo bending was quite something
Years ago my then boss took it on himself to do a RAM upgrade on a PC. I generally tried to keep him away from such things for good reason!
After some huffing and puffing on his part he switched the machine on, only to be greeted with a nice curl of smoke and a smell of burning. He'd somehow managed to half insert the DIMM the wrong way round, despite the asymmetric slot, and decided that would do.
He probably had 40 years experience in IT, just not with PCs of course.
Reminds me of someone who for <reasons> shall remain nameless.
He inserted an SD card into his new digital camera - this was back in the early noughties. It didn't want to go in. So instead of turning it round and trying again he used welly. It broke the socket and he had to pay to get it repaired.
It's all of a piece. Given that users will use way more force than you'd imagine necessary, why are we still designing connectors that only work one way round? If it were me, I'd design a card with contacts on both sides so it wouldn't matter which way round it was inserted.
Oh wait: costs....
Yes, pocket lint adheres to sockets even more than to a belly button.
I've had quite a few people come to me with a complaint that their iPhone would no longer plug in, and generally it only takes the application of my very special tool (a bit of tie wrap) to mine a usually very impressive amount of crud out of the socket to get it all working again.
That said, I don't know if USB-C devices have the same issue. Anyone?
Putting contacts on both sides would not only require the card to get thicker and expose it to twice the surface area for damage, but it would also need the designers to either make two orientation corner cuts or remove the one they have now. On the surface, this doesn't seem like an issue, as that cut is there to prevent the card being inserted the wrong way up, which is no longer a thing. However, they're also useful in preventing the card from being inserted backward. Unless, that is, we should have four sets of contacts so that it can be inserted on any side and in both directions that fit the dimensions.
Maybe we should only have circular devices that have identical systems on each side and must be inserted like CDs in a tray or spindle. At least then, no user has to look at which way up they're holding it. Knowing users, though, they'll find a way to break something anyway.
Indeed, and if anything this problem has got worse since the days of SIMMs, which always seemed to click into place without nearly as much fuss. Fortunately the same can't be said for expansion cards - I always dreaded having to install cards back in the days of ISA (or Zorro, for anyone with big-box Amiga experience) as it always felt like the motherboard or card riser would snap in two before the card finally deigned to slip fully into place, whereas these days the only hassle with PCI-Ex cards is having to feel around blindly underneath the heatsink (thinking about gfx cards here...) to release the latch if you want to get the card back out of the slot.
Ex-Mrs Oncoming Scorn.
Rang me up to say one of the kids laptops wasn't working (I was working away & want due home for 2 weeks), while I'm at London Bridge Station.
I advised her to remove the RAM & told her to gently pull the metal spring tabs outwards to release the SODIMM's.
In her ham fisted hands she did just that, by bending the metal tabs upwards into a nice L shape that Yuri Geller would have been proud of.
DDR4 slots in really easily if you push on the locking tabs while doing it. They also seem to give a false 'click' if you try forcing them in the wrong way around, that's repeatedly saved me from breaking anything when fumbling in the dark corners of a case - just fails to find the memory during boot.
Or maybe it's just an Asus thing on their more expensive boards?
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I had a device which decided to only use friction to keep the card in the slot. That is not a good design if you expect the device to fall to the floor. Micro SD cards are wonderfully designed to bounce into places that seem unreasonable (when you find it a week later because you gave up after eight hours of looking where it was logical it'd be).
My most recent self-build has an NVMe SSD as the boot drive.
When I built it, I was miffed it didn't boot up first time (as all my previous ones have done). I was utterly stumped, and my ego was well and truly bruised.
I eventually realised the damned NVMe board had a gossamer-thin plastic wrap that I hadn't seen, and that I had not peeled off.
It booted immediately after I'd done that, but my ego never recovered.
Better than doing the same thing with a CPU heatsink!
Remember back then, when they came with preapplied thermal compound, covered with a sheer plastic layer covering it? Was not uncommon to have a 'new' cooler that didn't cool, and an embarrassed assembler after revisiting the installation.
[No, never happened to me. I always cleaned and lapped my coolers, so I could use Arctic Silver 7 or MX-4 or whatever, because I was far too cool for the stock thermal compounds. I had wholly different problems, but never that particular one!]
I've seen someone manage to plug RAM in the wrong way around. The worst part was that their entire job was building PCs, and they'd already built thousands, but for some reason didn't notice the extra resistance in this case.
IIRC it worked fine once the DIMMs were flipped the right way around.
I once plugged in a 2716 Eprom the wrong way 'round. A lovely white light emanated through the erasure window. Was sure that I'd cooked something. I killed power immediately. After it cooled down enough to touch, I pulled it and reinserted it in the correct orientation. Much to my surprise, it worked.
First time building a pc.
Fitting an ATX P1 mobo into an old AT case; not all of the holes and riser lined up of course, so I used lego to insulate.
Finish plugging everything in, or so i thought, and turned it on, happy to see the bios flash up.
Then - ERROR: no FDD detected
Realise I missed the power plug on the FDD, and rush to plug it in, forgetting to power off first. Managed to misalign the holes and start to slide it in one pin over where it should have been (somehow the slots and notches didn't prevent this). BZZT-CRACK! Flash! PC power dies. Strange whine.
In shame, turn off, unplug. Align and insert correctly. Expecting nothing, I turned it back on. Whirr, Beep! All is fine!
That's when I learned this PSU had a circuit breaker instead of a fuse (or worse, soldered in fuse; blew a few of those with the 115v switch in the wrong place in my time).
Lesson learned; Measure twice, cut once. And they don't make 'em like they used to.
I once plugged in an ISA card while the PC was running. I want to say it was a Sound Blaster AWE32, but I don't *think* I'd have been that careless with something that expensive, so it was more likely to be a cheap network card, like a DEC Tulip or something.
Nothing went wrong. No smoke, no fzzt. Nothing.
I rebooted (to load the drivers). All good.
I once plugged in an ISA card while the PC was running. I want to say it was a Sound Blaster AWE32
20+ years ago I was working on my powered on home PC, probably changing a fan or something on the go. A screw fell and landed on my AWE32 and killed the left channel permamently. :'-(
On another occasion (20+ year ago as well) I had a work computer without side panel because I was often testing different hardware with it. I inserted an Adaptec PCI SCSI card and hadn't noticed that the computer was on (noisy area, monitor sleeping), so I was amazed that Windows 2000 noticed a new card and started installing drivers without any problems.
Later I tried hot removing the same card to see what would happen and a BSOD ensued immediately.
When I was younger I thought I could change the world. Now that I've been teaching on and off for about 40 years, I've come to the realization that probably nine out of ten humans are ineducable beyond "eat here, sleep there, bathe occasionally & don't poop in the living room".
I remember back in the days when I worked in the local IT department at a hospital. The ambulance crew bought a, back then, new and modern digital camera to take pictures of car accidents and other situations for whatever reason. Looking for an easy way to transfer the files to the computer, the bright star and IT master (in his own eyes at least) amongst them wanted to upgrade one of the computers to Windows 2000 so he could get USB support. Back then we were still on Windows 95, so he wanted to take matters in his own hand. I was sent down to talk with them about the matter, and as he explained the situation he slammed a Windows 95 cd down on the desk saying something along the lines of "Look at this, this crappy OS doesn't support USB, that's why we need Windows 2000!". Unfortunatley for him, it was a CD with Windows 95 OSR2, and on the CD itself (or the cover, can't recall for sure) it said 'Windows 95 OSR2 - with USB support'.
I just pointed at the CD and asked him to read out loud what it said.
....around corridors with some paper in my hand avoiding work.
Only IT related in as much as it was absent.
After Uni, in 1979 and not having decided what I wanted to do with my future yet*, I worked for a few weeks for a mail order catalogue company. My humble job was to fit tiny scraps of paper into plastic wallets, so tightly packed that the wallet would cut into our fingers as we tried. So that they could save space in the filing cabinets. I quickly saw that the paper was in segments, some was in order, then random, then in order. It didn't take an archaeologist to work out that every few weeks the clerks would just give up trying, they'd fire the latest batch of slaves and hire a new batch, who'd do the job properly for a brief while and then they'd in turn get bored and just stick the paper in randomly..They used no IT there. We were cheap labour- and the fact that the job was rarely done properly didn't seem to bother anyone. Least of all the manager of our little department. It was sooo tedious.
So I started to slip off. No one seemed to notice. I'd grab a handful of A4 sheets and wander round the building, chatting to bored clerks in various rooms. I didn't get fired until we all did. I don't know why they wanted to get rid of the other guys- they still appeared to be persevering.
*I was really torn between computing and teaching. Eventually went into special education as a literacy difficulties specialist with the Psychology Service. Which gave me teaching and problem solving.
When I was an apprentice at a large motor manufacturer, one of the first pieces of advice I was given was to have a good wander round the factory and see how each department worked. If challenged, point to the clipboard or fistfull of papers that I should carry, and say that I am performing a stock check. One time when I actually was doing a stock check at one of our other factories, which made tractors, I was accosted by the Line Foreman and asked if I was carrying out a time and motion study, as the workers did not like to be checked and would deliberately sabotage any such attempt. I had to show him what was on my clipboard before he was satisfied and let me go. I spent many interesting hours exploring the lesser known areas of Dagenham works.
Another time, another job, this time making Turbine Generators. I was in the Drawing Office, and our filing system consisted of several multi-drawer cabinets, each related to a specific line of products, and every drawing was filed in numerical order. We had a new Filing Clerk start, and after a while it became obvious that she was completely innumerate. If asked to file a specific drawing, she would go to the appropriate filing cabinet, and then give up. She completely randomised the order of the drawings in each drawer, so no-one could find anything. She was transferred to the Mail Room, but the Union objected, so we asked the Union Rep to come and see what she had done. She then went on to wreck the Mail Room's system, so she was transferred to the Catering Department, pushing a tea trolley around the shop floor. This had an immediate negative effect on productivity, because every worker would stop what he was doing to watch this exotic looking creature as she passed. She was eventually redeployed into the Clerical Office, pushing the same trolley around amongst the mainly female staff, who were not so affected by her presence. When I left three years later, she was still doing her rounds, and everyone was happy with the arrangements.
I've always been equal parts fascinated and horrified at the things I've seen people do with cables. Like bending your standard AC cable to a 90 degree angle just to make the computer fit "perfectly" in a specific spot. One time when working as a repair tech a unit came in where the user was complaining that the USB port didn't work. A quick visual inspection revealed that the pins in the port had been bent up sort of like an accordion. Those are glued onto the plastic bit pretty well, and of course the Type-A connector designed to plug into it has pins that are supposed to slide over top of the port's pins. So I can only imagine the amount of effort it took someone to overcome both the force of the glue AND the inherent strength of the metal the pins are made out of when you're pushing straight on.
On a smaller scale, USB-C ports damaged by users. For some reason, no matter where the USB-C power port is located, the users will ALWAYS lift the laptop up one handed from the opposite side and so the plug takes the remaining weight of the laptop as it tries to bend in place.
Way back when I did Uni lab support, one of the lecturers had an electronics class, and one of the tutorials was given a box of parts, the students had to build a functional PC. Nothing fancy, just a case, Motherboard (with onboard Ethernet and GFX), PSU, CPU, HDD (with Window pre-installed), CD rom, Floppy, keyboard, mouse and the correct tools to put them together.
Every year, we'd have at least one power supply explosion, and those things make both a loud bang and an offensive smell. Especially when some f**ker flips the input voltage switch to the wrong voltage.
Thankfully, it didn't cost the Uni much. The parts were just stripped out of old PCs that we were getting rid of.
Or when a tech in the UK removes the shrink-wrap from a replacement PSU freshly-shipped from the US (yes, I'm that old, basic parts were still sometimes manufactured there at the time) and installs it into the PC without checking the voltage switch is set to 240V. (And yes, it wasn't a nominal 230V at the time either.)
Poor guy was the first tech on site after the workplace had negotiated new kit from a large US-based vendor, with full hardware support. Previously we'd done "return to base" for the really gnarly faults in equipment supplied by the previous UK-based manufacturer. It probably didn't help there were at least four of us standing around observing the new support arrangement in operation.
To give us credit, none of us laughed out loud at the loud BANG! and resultant billow of Magic Smoke. I think one of us gently suggested the voltage switch as the probable root cause while he looked on in shock. Motherboard, CPU and memory plus PSU were duly replaced with no further excitement a day later, ISTR.
Back in my days working for a major telco we had a "fun" incident...
We had just completed our upgrades of our Cisco CRS routers to take the faster line cards and one of our field team was installing one of the first new cards. The processor board for each line card was a heavy thing getting on for 1m long and had to be put into one of the slots on the back of the device. He carefully lined up the cards display with the others and then pushed it into place, it went in but wouldn't quite go home and the latches didn't align.
What he hadn't noticed was Cisco had changed the design - the old cards had the LCD display on the bottom of the board, the new on the top. He'd just loaded a very expensive card in upside down. Trying it the right way also failed. Checking the card it was fine, however the midplane that was built into the chassis was now mangled. Don't ask how much pain and expense it took fixing it.
They were however puzzled, the chassis had pins to stop them going in the wrong way and when they checked with their test robot the cards wouldn't go in the wrong way. We checked with a human and as the cards were so heavy and long the card ended up slightly tilted every time. That meant it happily rode over the pins and went in the wrong way.
Their fix - put a this way up sticker on the cards!
We did later find out that at least one ISP the other side of the pond had done exactly the same thing was we had!
"Their fix - put a this way up sticker on the cards!"
Sometimes, proper labelling and instructions can be far better than an expensive mechanical/technological solution. It's a waste of time and effort making something idiot proof and we all know why.
If you ever used a MultiTech modem when 1200 or 2400 baud was high speed here's my secret support story.
I was adding Novel cards to an office. I put the cover on the IT director's desktop, and reached behind to plug in the keyboard, mouse, printer, modem. The power plug on a MultiTech power supply was the same barrel connector as the old "fat" keyboard plug. I had switched the two going by touch. Motherboard let out the magic smoke. Director was pleased, he bought a new upgraded machine.
I'm sure this was also Multitech...
Supplied a bunch of offices with an ADSL router and a modem as backup (they could both connect to the same line, in the case of a line fault...). One had a 9v PSU, the other PSU was around 20v... same connector!
After releasing a few electrickery genies, 'fixed' by putting coloured labels on everything
Prior to the ATX standard, many will recall that AT motherboards received power from two separate connectors, fitting adjacent to each other onto a single row of pins on the board. Unfortunately, it was possible (and common) to connect these incorrectly, thereby trashing the MB along with the components connected to it.
Someone who had done just this, asked me if I knew of any place that had a 'motherboard repair service'. In these situations one endeavours to keep a straight face, so I thought for a moment then replied: 'Actually all computer dealers provide this service; you just give them the spec of the equipment you've destroyed, and they'll cheerfully sell you replacements.'
There are some looks one never forgets.
I was having problems getting a new expensive motherboard and video card to work. After repeated component swaps to try to identify the problem - I accidentally put those two motherboard power connectors into the wrong sockets.
I knew it was fruitless - but I put the connectors back in the right positions - and was pleasantly staggered that nothing had blown. I assumed that something in the circuitry guarded against that obvious mistake.
In the days when the UK was still rating the mains at 240V.
I had a call out to a customer that said they couldn't connect to their network printer from all 5 of their PC's and wanted me to come out to fix it.
On arrival the boss who had a laptop was the only one who could work. The reason the PC's couldn't connect is they were all dead.
Checking the mains fuses, checking the sockets themselves they should of been getting power.
It took me longer than it should to find the issue.
The boss himself had operated the switch on the power supplies on all the PC's from 240V to 110V - 'Because it would save power and therefore his bills.
Unfortunately he had popped the internal fuses on all the PSU's So he had to buy himself new ones plus face a bill for my time as it wasn't work covered by his contract.
He saved heating bills for his office for the day though. As he was rather red faced with embarrassment. My company charged my time at £150/h at the time for any work not under contract including time travelling to and from the job. So I charged him £225 just for getting there, but I didn't charge him for travel to next job as I told him I would take my lunch (1 hour unpaid for me, so the company couldn't charge them either)
On the plus side I had a cup of coffee ready waiting every time I ever had to do a call there afterwards!
The UK customer had ordered the smallest machine of a new range of mainframes. Deliveries ran very late - and the lower range models were regularly pruned. So the customer kept getting upgraded to a bigger machine for the same price. Eventually the available range was only the highest spec one. A UK built one was not available - so a clone was ordered from the USA.
Engineers successfully commissioned the new mainframe on the customer's UK site. As it was the USA version - a 250/110v conversion transformer was temporarily jury rigged. The engineers left for the day - and the customer's electricians wired the transformer into their system.
Next day he engineers switched the mainframe on - and immediately discovered that the transformer was now wired the wrong way round.
The customer did eventually get a mainframe - presumably at the price of the small one they had originally ordered.
A UK customer had a PC taken away by the police as part of a wider criminal investigation. A few months later the PC was returned. No data had been found to be relevant.
A couple of weeks later there was a bang and flash as the PC's psu blew up. It was presumed that the police forensic laboratory was a "safe" 110v environment. Instead of using an auto-transformer they had flicked the PC's PSU switch to 110v - and then presumably forgotten to switch it back to 220v afterwards.
is the answer, as I found out as a kid, to the question "If I wire my Scalectrix transformer to my Lego motor, what will happen?"
It went extremely fast for a second or so, then lost its magic smoke and died forever.
13V at 10A into a 4.5V motor doesn't leave room for any magic smoke :(
I have lots of AC/DC adaptors lying about. The manufacturers' rating labels are usually in tiny print and/or embossed in the plastic case. Like the 25 pin and 9 pin D connectors - the various shades of 2.4mm barrel plugs have been used for widely different voltages and polarities.
I immediately stick a white label on them to say which piece of equipment they came with.
If they are just adaptors then I use a white label with their rating.
If they are multiple voltage then I also try to remember to set them to their lowest voltage after use. When there are different voltages needed at the same time - then I try to remember to double-check their current setting before plugging them into each device. Often the rotary dial's "bar" has ambiguous ends - so I mark the pointer end to make it easier to recognise. The worst case is when the adaptor has multiple possible device connector sizes and a choice of polarity. Too easy to accidentally separate the end pieces and then put them back together the wrong way round.
Even marking board 2 pin connectors with red for positive - I have still been known to connect the coloured wires the wrong way and get magic smoke. That usually happens when you are getting frustrated and having to keep reconnecting things.
An engineer attending a site I used to work at told me he'd just come from a branch of a major supermarket chain where the server dealing with the online deliveries went into a boot loop because someone had unplugged a PS2 keyboard then tried to plug it back in the wrong way, bending the pins in the process. They lost 100 orders and had to compensate the customers £10 each for the inconvenience..
The OS Previously Known As Chicago made an infamous demo of plug and pray scanner while it was still in beta. I always thought it was a USB device.
Was there actually a Win95 sans USB? Or did they only get added in OSR2?