As the holiday season nears
You mean Christmas?
As the holiday season nears, prepare for the smaller celebration that is the end of the week with another edition of On-Call, The Register's weekly walk through the worst of the world of work. This week, meet "Brad", who sent in a story he says has haunted him for over 25 years. Such is the anguish he suffered after the email …
There's apparently some religious stuff going on in the winter, but then there seems to be that sort of thing going on all the time so it's not worth paying attention to.
However, the important part is that I get a couple of days off around the 25th of December, and another one off for the 1st of Jan.
That's two different sets of time off, hence, 'holidays' plural.
No. You’re wrong. We ‘have’ any and all holidays celebrated by a multiracial, multi-ethnic population, and that’s fine. But that doesn’t mean the specific holiday of Christmas must be renamed or ignored, because the UK is a Christian country and therefore ‘officially’ celebrates Christian holidays.
Diwali gets called Diwali. Ramadan gets called Ramadan. Why should Christmas be different?
So what next? They'll start saying "Now the weather is warming up"... in November. For our antipodean readers.
I'm not Christian, but I still celebrate Christmas (by eating nice food and having a few days off, and generally trying to avoid trudging around the whole fucking family to drop off presents - but not succeeding). You don't have to cater for every single user of your site, and should not completely lose your roots! I'd quite happily read a mainly Hindu blog, based in India if it was actually interesting. If they said Happy Diwali, it would not offend or bother me. I'd join in, as I do with my Indian colleagues. (even though I'm not actually religious) But I'm happy to respect their celebration.
The Reg used to be a UK blog, but seems to have bigger aspirations now. They want to be global, which means watering down the brand even more. I scan the headlines every day using Feedly (for how much longer though?), but very rarely find anything even mildly interesting any more. They have put so much water in the ale, that's it's hard to tell it apart from just water any more. No flavour. (and why, oh why is my spell checker telling me it should be flavor).
BITE THE HAND. You are getting boring.
Just as a quick point - looking at stats online, The Reg gets more readers from the USA than the UK now. Way more if you add Canada into the number... If you look at all "non-UK" audiences vs UK, then the UK is a minority of the readership.
So, tailoring it to a non-UK audience seems sensible.
I guess if they had made the films Snatch or Lock Stock and tailored for a non UK audience, they would have taken out all the British parts and made... I don't know... Oceans Eleven instead. I credit the USA readers and the rest of the world with enough intelligence to appreciate our unique quirkiness and humour and traditions, and still enjoy the content we make*. If you try to please all the people, you end up pleasing none of the people.
* and if they don't appreciate it, they must be wankers anyway, so they can fuck right off.
Among El Reg's attractions for me over the years was the fun and confusion I experienced getting a peek into another culture. I relish the challenge and the educational aspects of discovering what some of the more colourful expressions mean.
And I learn so much from the commenters about IT, metallurgy, history, linguistics, desserts and everything else under the sun. I am disappointed at the recent changes (for a while I thought the headquarters had officially moved to the US), and I would be very happy to see the site return to the UK-centric format, but I still haven't found any meaningful competition.
It makes me sad to realize that almost none of the good tech sites or podcasts originate in the US.
Now then. Yeah, it's patchy as well. I had a mate who grew up about eighty miles from where I did but he understood most of my dialect words and I understood most of his, while the people who grew up in the town we both lived in until recently (more than a hundred miles from either of our birthplaces) barely recognised any. He said that back when he started secondary school he'd only had to travel eight miles from his village to the edge of the nearest city, and he found even there that people drew a blank on words he'd commonly use or used them to mean something else.
That's because our standard of education has fallen so far in the U.S., compared to other countries. Starving public education, which once was the best in the world, to having private, corporate... err... charter schools skimming the cream of the crop students from public schools, starving the public schools even more money. That plus not coming within a mile of teaching critical thinking anymore. That is by design. Those of us that were taught critical thinking are dying off of old age.
I guess if they had made the films Snatch or Lock Stock and tailored for a non UK audience, they would have taken out all the British parts and made... I don't know... Oceans Eleven instead.
They've done it plenty of times in the past. The remake of The Italian Job comes to mind. Take a quintessentially British film and remove every last trace of Britishness from it. And 99% of the Italianess come to that.
Not if its all of the British expats in that country that are reading it, and it was the British attitude that made it successful in the first place. I too, am finding the register is way down the list of websites that i read these days. It used to be top of the list.
In short, I bought a friend the "india" T-shirt when they were going through an outsourcing / redundancy situation at work. I bought rockall times T-shirts, i bought the Distributing clue to users T-shirt.
I wouldn't event know if the register does T-shirts any more. I doubt I'd buy one now,
Yes, El Reg has changed a lot over the past couple of years. A lot of it was just bad design and bad style changes, (most recent, up votes and down votes are now smashed to the left) I still keep coming back. A lot of the change is the subtle and surgical removal of certain aspects. Bye bye .co.uk, so long Paris we'll always have, oh never mind. See ya around Dabbsy https://autosaveisforwimps.substack.com/ And most annoyingly of all is Biting the Hand that feeds IT is also gone from the masthead.
"BITE THE HAND. You are getting boring."
Yes, even the new "Who? Me" and "On Call" seem to lack the depth they originally had.
What ever happened to the post pub nosh? And the crazy and fun projects like the PARIS paper plane? Yes, I remember that Lester passed away.
What has happened to the spirit of El Reg? I fear it will vanish into the pool of mediocrity. It's sad really, I have more time to read now, and less entertaining content here to read.
What ever happened to the post pub nosh? And the crazy and fun projects like the PARIS paper plane? Yes, I remember that Lester passed away.
What has happened to the spirit of El Reg? I fear it will vanish into the pool of mediocrity. It's sad really, I have more time to read now, and less entertaining content here to read.
I blame the pandemic...and the tragic dumbing down of everything that went along with it.
El Reg commentards, however, continue to be highly entertaining, and well worth the visits to the site.
"El Reg commentards, however, continue to be highly entertaining, and well worth the visits to the site."
I generally scroll down the front page then start scrolling back to the top, middle clicking any vaguely interesting headlines into new tabs, mostly skipping anything in a "special" section. Then I start reading articles, oldest to newest, bit more and more find myself giving up after the first couple of paragraphs, skim reading the remainder of the article to get the gist of it, and probably spending way more time enjoying the comments than the actual article.
Interestingly, I often miss seeing the BOFH, On Call and Who, Me? in the main articles. They only ever seem to appear at the very top row in "!popular" or whatever it's named now. Rather than having stories posted in order of publication, they seem to be interspersed with stories being "pushed" at the audience. I find that distracting and it makes me even less likely to read them,
"Ïnterestingly, I often miss seeing the BOFH, On Call and Who, Me? in the main articles. They only ever seem to appear at the very top row in "!popular" or whatever it's named now. Rather than having stories posted in order of publication, they seem to be interspersed with stories being "pushed" at the audience. I find that distracting and it makes me even less likely to read them,"
Go straight to https://www.theregister.com/Week instead, you will be thankful.
"Not everyone is fucking woke, either."
So you think Sophie Wilson is a man?
Christmas is Christmas, and Hanukkah is Hanukkah.
They are both around the same time. You could stretch the dates to include other events, a 'season' if you will.
Happy Holidays is not about erasing Christmas, any more than its about erasing Hanukkah or Diwali, (Or Eid, but that moves about more)
Its about wishing good things upon everyone, not just the followers of one particular religion.
You can wish happy Christmas, or Diwali or whatever, but when you object to wishing folks from other religions well, that's Fucked Up.
Christmas is called Christmas, and it's a holiday. If you have another holiday at a similar time and you want to refer to the group, you call it holidays. Just as if I want to refer to the computer in front of me, I call it "This HP laptop on my desk", and if I want to refer to the multiple computers over here, I call them "these computers". Failing to specifically name the HP in the group with all the machines present isn't insulting that laptop. As people point out, there is another recognized holiday (in most countries) for the start of the new year, and that's a week from Christmas, so they're often logically grouped together. Since this article was published in October, they may actually be referring to other less celebrated holidays closer to today, taking place in November. Depending on your country, you may have one or more of these.
So, following your logic. Since Halloween was probably closest (like your HP laptop) they should simply have referred to Halloween?
For me personally, this time of year has been, is and always will be Q4 or "Autumn". If I want to be more specific, I will use October, November, December.
Sometimes, I'll even use the full date or a timestamp for a given day. Preferably a timestamp because I like to be ahead of the curve.
Many centuries in the future the main religion will be UNIX, based on the teachings in the UNIX Bible and time will have officially begun at the epoch. Some will even think the epoch predicts the end of days.
Yes, I know...there are many UNIX Bibles and even radical offshoots like the Linux bible. But we can all learn to live together.
Except for the Church of Apple...I've visited one of their many churches and I find their system confusing. There is nowhere to sit and you have to book in advance, even though their are priests everywhere on the premises. They also can't confuse me with that curtain they send machines behind to be magically fixed by so call geniuses. It's clearly got to be just a few people in a room behind a curtain with basic tools performing repairs.
I tried to find out once, but I was carried out "screaming, it's just people behind the curtain, there is no magic here! THEY'RE BULLSHITTING YOU ALL! WAKE UP PEOPLE!".
"So, following your logic. Since Halloween was probably closest (like your HP laptop) they should simply have referred to Halloween?"
Unless they wanted to refer to more than one holiday. This site gets readers from a lot of countries. If you allow me to use all of them, I can probably find you one every week for the rest of the year. As pointed out, if they meant Halloween to start the group, Guy Fawkes Night is less than a week from that, so once again, a logical group of holidays is created.
I don't get either Guy Fawkes or Halloween off of work, if that's what you meant, but they're both holidays in the sense that people treat them as special and celebrate them. If you don't think one is, I'm curious why you think the other is. If you don't think either is, then we fall back to the holidays we can agree on that I do get off work, Christmas and New Year's Day, each of which gets its special holiday capitalization. I'm not sure why people object to the existence of multiple holidays and treats it as insulting the one they care most about.
At the risk of getting too serious after a quick quip about Lewes (as I'm missing their celebrations, now I no longer live in the area), but as you chose to say that as a reply to my comment, I'll try to answer it:
> they're both holidays in the sense that people treat them as special and celebrate them
We celebrate some things with a holiday but we don't make all celebrations into a holiday.
You can stop reading now, that was the gist of it, but I'm lying awake now, so I'll keep tapping away:
At base, a "holiday" is a day off work - you can guess at how it got that name. Nowadays, different places have a different selection of days that are National Holidays, when you expect to be off work (or get double- or triple- time). For example, in England, Easter provides us with two holidays but we don't have have All Saints or All Souls National Holidays. We also have a few holidays that aren't directly based on religious observances - May Bank Holiday, for example.
The days that are set as National Holidays have a historical basis to them far more than a religious one; any question as to "why this day and not that" has no more "meaningful" answer than "well, this happened in history and now we get a holiday, enjoy it".
As well as those National days, so long as you've got the time accrued, you are at liberty to take any of your personal holidays at a time that coincides with any event you feel like. So you could habitually take Halloween as a holiday, if you so desired. Many people will decide to regularly take off as holiday days that are meaningful to their religions; they still get to have the National Holidays as well (or work them for extra time, as anyone else can).
>... If you don't think one is, I'm curious why you think the other is...
Nope, sorry, you lost me there, maybe you're meant to aim that at someone else?
> I'm not sure why people object to the existence of multiple holidays and treats it as insulting the one they care most about.
The best I can come up as an answer to that is simply that, in the UK there really is just one long celebration over the Winter, which is "Christmas and New Year" - even though it has been increasingly eroded (come on, we *all* know the song "12 Days of Christmas", so why are so many people in a rush to chuck the tree out on Boxing Day?) and we only (only!) get three actual National Holidays in there now, instead of the whole lot (well, the servants didn't get the holidays, but they had an extra half a groat and a turnip, stop complaining), the cards still say "Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year": the celebrations can continue, a bit each and every day (often with a particular blowout at the start and near the end).
Other countries have other, a multiple, holidays in the Autumn & Winter, and all the best to them. Have fun.
But over here, just the singular holiday, which, like the classic Summer hols, actually spreads over more than one day.
The actual objections, when not made in jest, are then more about cultural imperialism when it seems we Brits are supposed to be doing what other countries do or expected to pander to a perceived inability on their part to admit that different places do different things.
 the proper name for a National Holiday is, of course, Bank Holiday.
... Unless we call it Xmas (as one commenter did above), which then makes me raise him an XXmas, and you can see where it goes from there.
I just hope that you have a good time. And if you don't, then maybe add some more Xses, because that can fix anything.
You do realize that X is not the Latin letter between W and Y don't you? It is the capital form of the Greek letter Chi, which happens to be the first letter of "Christ" (and "Christmas"). As the new testament was originally written in Greek, X is a common abbreviation of Christ.
"which then makes me raise him an XXmas, and you can see where it goes from there."
My wife and I tend have our XXXMas very late on new Years Eve. She like the orgasm to last across two years :-)
The timing isn't always perfect but it's still fun.
(yes, it IS a party of two, we don't really do crowded parties and getting blind drunk)
I think the main complaint is Xmas instead of Christmas. There is Hanukkah, but no Xkah. There is Ramadan, but no Xdan. There is Panchmukhi Ganapati, but no XGanapati. Why is Christ, therefore, X-ed out of Christmas? It certainly isn't length or spelling, given that the Panchmukhi in Panchmukhi Ganapati is far longer and more complicated than the whole word of Christmas. No, Xmas is a slight against Christ, no other way to interpret it, and quite frankly I think Christians are sick of being singled out this way.
Don't bother bringing up what Christians did in centuries past, we all know what was done and there's never been a religion where someone hasn't done horrible things in its name.
No, Xmas is a slight against Christ, no other way to interpret it.
That's what my old headmaster said to the school in assembly, all the way back in December 1977, when someone climbed up on the roof opposite his office and wrote 'Merry Xmas, Phil' in six foot high letters in the snow. His snappy lecture wasn't very well-received, even by my mates in the Christian Union.
He was wrong then and you're wrong now. The X isn't a placeholder for anything; your Xkah and Xdan comparisons are just silly. MJB7 provided the explanation.
"But insulting an HP laptop is a worthy endeavor in its own right."
This HP laptop is almost 20 years old (she's a zv5105). Still runs just fine, with a hdd transplant, a RAM upgrade, and many battery replacements. Running Slackware-stable the entire time. Of course.
Insult her at your own peril.
Err, actually not. Like Iran, the Head of State is head of the national religion of the largest nation in the United Kingdom. It's just that, very much unlike Iran, and pretty unlike USA, we are very relaxed about what (if any) religion people are.
I know Sunak is the first Hindu PM - does anyone know if any previous PM has been not-Christian? (Disraeli doesn't count, he became an Anglican aged 12.)
The company I currently contract to has declared that it is not inclusive to refer to Christmas as Christmas, and employees should use the 'inclusive' term "Happy Holidays" instead of "Happy Christmas", in order to avoid offending... well, they never actually mention who might be offended. Note that this is an official company policy, communicated officially by the General Manager.
Interestingly, no equivalent official communications have been received regarding Diwali or Ramadan. Indeed, senior management goes to great lengths to recognise both of these celebrations by name.
The same company also makes a great public show of 'celebrating' Black History Month twice - once in October for the UKians, and once again in February for US/World. Both geos being harangued and exhorted to 'celebrate' in both months.
My considered response to both of these abysmal attempts at virtue signalling comprises a two-word answer involving sex and travel.
Yes because Guy Fawkes night, Hallowe'en are not holidays.
There are national holidays in the UK specifically because that is when Christmas happens. OK so Hanukkah is at the same time, we have no problem with that but the time of year is still Christmas time in the UK, even for us atheists, because it's become a social thing that happened to have originated in a religious festival (which yes is still celebrated as such by many). Oh and yes I know there was a festival pre-christian times at that time of year too.
We have the 1st november as a holy day: All Saints. "halloween" is the evening before, the holy evening, imported from the (less and less) USA. Just as we imported "santa claus" for Christmas, since the cowboys couldn't keep Sint Nicolaos' feast from the 6th of december apart from Xmas. With Sint Niklaas our children get presents as he would have resuccitated three kids that were butchered. But that was a secret known only in France and the low countries.
the first day after the winter solstice when an unaided person can detect that the days are starting to get longer
Really? Here at 51N there's only a six or seven second difference per day in day length at that time of year, which I'd be very surprised to see someone identify without a timepiece in the context of an eight-hour day. It doesn't help that sunrise remains stuck at almost the same time for a full fortnight.
Doesn't matter what time sunset and sunrise are. In fact, clock time doesn't matter at all. What matters is how high the sun gets at noon. A stick in the ground and a series of small stones to mark the shadow at noon works nicely. Note that you don't need an actual clock, you just have to be there to observe the moving shadow at the required time. The taller the stick, the more obvious the movement. Try it with your local flagpole.
> "In the UK we have Guy Fawkes, Hallowe'en,"
Those are not holidays. Remember that the word holiday stems from Holy Day. Guy Fawkes may have had aspirations but was not classed as a Holy man and not celebrated as such.
Hallowe'en is pretty much the opposite of Holy. (It's the demonic party the evening before All Saints' Day)
All Saints' Day could be argued to be a Holy day but isn't widely celebrated as such.
> Hallowe'en is pretty much the opposite of Holy. (It's the demonic party the evening before All Saints' Day)
Nope. This "demonic party" is something that was invented out of whole cloth by certain sects and slapped onto the day as their attempt to control it and have an excuse to get shirty with anyone following any other sects.
All "Holy Days" are declared such purely by the sect(s) that name them such. So if some people celebrate All Saint's Day as a Holy Day then it is a Holy Day, to them, and it is not up to you, me or anyone else to argue it one way or the other.
Similarly, the day of Halloween is still a Holy Day to anyone who claims to celebrate it a such (and to anyone who celebrates it as Samhain) and it is not up to you, me or anyone else to deny that.
 but probably *not* anyone who celebrates it as Samsung, as autocorrect insists.
Only if you are "a septic". See, we can make silly xenophobic comments too. BTW, the origin of "limey" refers to the British Navy's habit of not letting their sailors get scurvy, so by using it as a pejorative, all you are doing is indicating that you would like to be diseased.
It's probably worth pointing out, at this juncture, that All Hallows Eve has been commemorated in the British Isles (and I use that term, because it includes Ireland) since before the US existed as a country, so Halloween is very much not a uniquely US thing. It's also not a holiday in any country I know of, although it would be nice to get a day off work...
As for "Thankgiving" [sic], nope, that's not just something "us limeys" don't celebrate, but a uniquely American custom. Based, as far as I can tell, on commemorating colonialism. Yay, colonialism! What a thing to celebrate!
Genuine holidays around this time include Christmas, and if you are a Hindu, Diwali. Maybe also some other religious observances around the world, which doesn't actually revolve around North America, in case you needed reminding.
"Thanksgiving" isn't just a US thing...It's celebrated (in such that folks get the day off) in other countries as well, parts of Canada etc.
Also (apologies i was triggered)...Just because a user touches a computer doesn't mean they've screwed something up (to paraphrase)? It doesn't mean they haven't either...And you know its the truth so don't bother arguing. 15 or so years ago i upgraded a person's .net as required for some software upgrade and a virus popped up...the virus required a newer version of .net to run properly, so had just been waiting around. She also had more than half her screen populated with search bars on whatever version of ie we were running at the time (5? ...or was it netscape?). I can also recall users unplugging computers and not being able to figure out how to turn it on the next morning (director level position...happened twice)...Did you know, that you can force an old style usb in to an ethernet jack at a 45 degree angle with very little pushing (oh and it turns out the mouse you're plugging in *still* doesn't work). Once i was teaching a bunch of slackers (professors) at a one Ball State University between semesters as requested by leadership there, microsoft office class (back in the late 90s), and a prof there raised her hand and requested some help. I wandered over and took a quick look at her screen, she wanted to know how to open word or excel or something, so i said "ok, take the mouse, and double click on this icon here, this is word...she picks the mouse up and clinks it against the cvt. One time, head of sales at a small company years ago said the update i pushed out earlier in the week was causing his pc to work properly. I came over a bit later, spent 10 min unplugging and plugging in his pc, plugging and unplugging various components. It was just doing weird stuff...then i noticed there was water under the keyboard, then he looked in just as i picked up the keyboard and an eighth of a cup of water came pouring out.
Dude...users...they're the worst. Except for maybe it managers... "Hey are the vmware servers shut off yet? <yank> 'No don't...f*ck' <ZZZZzzzzzz go the fans>..."
Yeah, that's Harvest Festival. It was the only service I enjoyed when I was a kid at Sunday School, because I could see all the contributed tins and baskets of food up on the altar, which would be distributed to the needy after the service. Easter and Xmas seemed much less concrete or worthwhile in comparison.
It is All Hallow's Eve, and there are in fact two holidays in Germany, sadly not in the state I live / work in:
Allerseelen and Allerheiligen. Both similar, one Catholic, the other Protestant., one on 31st Oct, the other 1st Nov. And yes, the "All Hallows Eve" is a reference to a Chritian holiday (which was based on Samhein, a pagan feast, like Christmas, and Easter)
BTW, the origin of "limey" refers to the British Navy's habit of not letting their sailors get scurvy, so by using it as a pejorative, all you are doing is indicating that you would like to be diseased.
The British Navy's attempt to prevent scurvy with Lime Juice was unsuccessful, and British sailors continued to get scurvy until the introduction of steam.
The lime juice was prepared by heat treatment, which destroyed the vitamin C. The limes, which had low vitamin C to start with, were provided by British Interests, replacing EU Lemons, which had high vitamin C. The original research used the word "lime" to refer to what you would call a "lemon" (as in limonade). Science at the time was unable to distinguish between 'acid' citric acid (lemons) and 'acid' acetic acid (vinegar). And the 'Krauts did NOT get scurvy, because the vinegar helped preserve the Vitamin C in sauerkraut. The choice of supply was made for political reasons.
You may draw your own parallels with modern defense industry or IT procurement.
The British Navy resisted the move to steam because steam ships required frequent refueling, requiring navy bases internationally located for re-fueling and preventing long unsupported voyages. Elimination of scurvy was a side effect.
"And the 'Krauts did NOT get scurvy, because the vinegar helped preserve the Vitamin C in sauerkraut."
No vinegar involved. Just salt and cabbage. The lacto-fermentation of cabbage massively increases the vitamin C content. Typically, one cup of fresh cabbage contains about 30mg of vitamin C. Add the right amount of salt and wait, and the same cabbage will have around 700mg. I'd provide an actual recipe, but there are thousands of them available online. Don't forget the kimchee!
Only issue is the resulting salt content ... by modern standards it's kinda high. In fact, it turns out that a daily dose of sourkraut provided Vitamin C also provides (roughly) all the salt you need for the day. So eat your fermented veggies, but lay off seasoning anything else.
Me, I practice all things in moderation.
Made properly, kimchi doesn't contain much salt, because although you use a LOT of it in the salting process, this is only used to draw the water out and break the cell walls. The second process of washing and wringing the leaves should remove most of the salt.
YMMV, because one batch I made did turn out to be very salty.
The same goes for sauerkraut, although the recipe I followed the last time I made any had very little salt to start with, which may be why it didn't ferment so well.
Yes, any techie will confirm that OCT 31 and DEC 25 are the same.
But have you ever noticed that Santa and Satan are anagrams? Have you ever seen Saint Nick and Old Nick in the same room together? Who would YOU pick as the patron saint for a holiday best known for hedonism, libertinism, decadence and debauchery?
Who would YOU pick as the patron saint for a holiday best known for hedonism, libertinism, decadence and debauchery?
If you deleted the saint bit, which would be singularly inappropriate for him, an old friend called Peter Johnson. Pretty much an avatar of Bacchus, but without the restraint or moderation. It's a wonder we got out alive.
Santa on his slay with his elves looks suspiciously like a Disneyfied Wild Hunt. He departs from his otherworld to ride the earth for one night of the year. It depends on your local geography as to who you think leads the hunt. But Old Nick, rather than Saint Nick, is not unknown.
On a UK website, it's not a bizarre thing to say at all. The UK is a Christian country, and celebrates Christmas in December. If you or yours have a different celebration, knock yourself out. But that won't change the fact that in the UK it's the Christmas Holidays.
And if you're going to include Õmisoka, you also have to include ALL World celebrations, all year round. Which means we can't call ANY of them by name, because they're guaranteed to conflict with something else somewhere. Are YOU going to be the one to tell Muslims they have to say Holidays instead of Ramadan? Or ban Hindus from saying Diwali because it occurs in the same week as Nepalese Bhai Tika?
Where something is founded or headquartered does not mean that's its intended audience. The Reg has made it very clear that it is not focused on Britain for several years now. The style guides use US formatting for most things, for example.
Downvoting me for literally putting what the site itself states on its "Who we are" page is very odd...
"Our core audience is in America, Asia-Pacific, and the UK. We also have readers hailing from Canada, northern Europe, India, and beyond."
I'm confused. Isn't Canada (along with the USA, Mexico, Peru and a few other places) already in America? And looking at a map it seems that the UK might be in Northern Europe too.
Is this deliberate double-dipping or just house-standards-compliant US-centred poor geography?
"Is this deliberate double-dipping or just house-standards-compliant US-centred poor geography?"
No, I think it's actually British poor geography. I find that regions often have unique ways of butchering geographical terms, and one thing that people in the UK do a lot is call the United States "America". This might be because there's no good adjective for people from there, so they tend to be called "Americans" (at least in English), but nobody in the Americas uses "America" as a noun for just the U.S. (the few who do are all in the U.S. and it's not the normal term there either) and, from my limited experience, a lot of other countries similarly don't make that mistake. They make different ones, allowing a general fingerprinting of where someone came from based on the incorrect or sometimes just inexact ways they refer to regions of the world. For Americans, the typical way to get it wrong is to call the UK "England", basically reversing the size mistake the UK people are doing.
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> nobody in the Americas uses "America" as a noun for just the U.S. (the few who do are all in the U.S. and it's not the normal term there either)
Using "USA" may be more common in the USA (although that certainly isn't the case for the media expose myself to, but that is anecdoctal) just using "America" still seems to be quite normal and accepted practice, from the Library of Congress to, well, Reddit:
https://blogs.loc.gov/loc/2016/07/how-did-america-get-its-name/ "How Did America Get Its Name?" Today, America celebrates its independence
https://www.usa.gov/flag "The American Flag" - Learn about the American flag and how to display it.
https://www.pbs.org/a-capitol-fourth/history/old-glory/ - "THE HISTORY OF THE AMERICAN FLAG" The history of our flag is as fascinating as that of the American Republic itself.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demonyms_for_the_United_States: People from the United States of America are known as and refer to themselves as Americans (which more implies than states "America means the USA" but it implies it pretty strongly)
Songs: "America the Beautiful"; "We're the Girls in America"; "I like to be in America"; "America (My Country, 'Tis of Thee)" (ok, only in the title);
In American English, yes, it's correct use. America can refer to the entire continent or the USA specifically.
I'll admit it's not as clear as my initial comment suggests, but your examples demonstrate part of the confusion. One of the problems is that there is no good adjective in English, so they do use "American". some of your examples do not include America as a noun but American as an adjective. I see why someone would see "American" used and assume that "America" must be the appropriate noun. When it is used as a noun, it's usually in colloquial or abbreviated speech, meaning you're a lot more likely to see it in a slogan or lyric than in general conversation, and more likely in general conversation than anything formal.
Having watched a lot of people from both places talking about their countries, I'd compare this to the use of the terms UK, Britain, and England. British is the general adjective I've seen most often, but Britain isn't generally considered the name of the country. Still, it's used often when a shortened name is wanted. While I have seen some British people refer to their country as England, however, I don't think that's generally accepted and probably annoys people from the other parts of the UK. Inside the U.S., using "America" is like using "Britain" I.E. it's a shortened form that is understood, although I'd say it's less common. Outside the U.S., especially in other countries in the Americas, it's like using "England" in that it's considered inaccurate and mildly annoying.
Hang on, have you just switched arguments from "what words do people in area X use to refer to themselves" to "what words do people in area X use to refer to people in area Y'?
Because, sorry, it really now sounds like you are describing how certain foreigners refer to Brits, not how we refer to ourselves. Although there is plenty of fun(?!) to be had when choosing which word to use, I really don't recognise any of the confusion you seem to implying. Everyone is well aware that their are multiple layers of division: we live in a town (or Toon), in a county (Arrr, that'd be roight), in a country (Boyo), on an island (IoW raises its hand, just trying to confuse matters).
> British is the general adjective I've seen most often
Because it encompasses all of the people from the island of (Great) Britain, which means the majority of the citizens of the UK, so purely on a numbers basis it'll be used a lot?
And we don't call ourselves " Great British" out of modesty, you understand.
> Britain isn't generally considered the name of the country.
Because it isn't a country, it is an island! With more than one country inside it!
> While I have seen some British people refer to their country as England
Because those particular people are from England, one of the countries in Britain? Presumably, the others have simply *not* been from England.
> I don't think that's generally accepted and probably annoys people from the other parts of the UK
What? Who doesn't accept that someone from England is English? And why would that annoy anyone in other parts of the UK? OK, there are whopping great chunks of the UK where "English" is only the abbreviated form of what they say and they might prefer you use the whole term, but getting annoyed about it? Nah, they're far too calm and relaxed for that.
If you've ever come across a Scot who said their country was England you should be checking for head injury!
> Inside the U.S., using "America" is like using "Britain"I.E. it's a shortened form that is understood
Huh? Shortened form of what? "Great Britain", I guess, but "Britain" still unambiguously refers to the one island and nowhere else on the globe. OK, quite often we do get it wrong and use Britain when we should have said British Isles (come back IoW) or even the UK (which will get you tutted at; it occurs but is not acceptable), but even then we're using the name of a smaller thing when we meant the larger geographical area, not the other way around.
 "The plucky Brit has the ball, he takes a run up and - oh no, what a disgrace for England that was!"
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(the few who do are all in the U.S. and it's not the normal term there either)
The sales of MAGA hats must have been miscounted.
Several patriotic songs from the 19th century must clearly be outdated and need fixing; perhaps their other claims should be amended too.
Thankfully, no politician ever finishes a rousing address with 'God save America!' That would be so wrong.
"Plus, Thanksgiving, Halloween, the Winter Equinox, etc..."
Winter Equinox? What planet do you live on?
Around these parts the Summer Solstice happens in December, and we don't need a special holiday 'cos we're all at the beach anyway.
Northern Hemisphereanism - the last acceptable prejudice.
Yes, I think that's the main reason that "Happy Holidays" as a greeting sounds so weird in the UK. As you say "the holidays" means the annual summer holiday when people go away for a week or two, often to sunnier climes and many, is embedded in to annual six week long Summer school holiday. It's really nothing to do with how many religious or other holidays happen across whatever period "Happy Holidays" might be referring to and most especially not "renaming" Christmas to some generic "holiday" as just one of many. It's simply that in the UK "holidays" plural already has a long established meaning and having Coca Cola TV adverts telling us "holidays" is now in the dark cold of winter instead of the bright and sunny (hah!) Summer is utterly and contemptibly wrong :-)
don't have a religious component to it.
I don't mean Xiand, I mean the whole range of gods and whatnot.
So let's go with the winter solstice, which demonstrably happens.
* lemons were known to be more effective - later explained by their higher content of vitamin C, but at the time Scurvy went out of fashion England/Britain didn't have any friends among the many places that grew lots of lemons.
They do go well with rum though
Guy Fawkes Day?
This fake outrage about "holidays" not just being Christmas is just getting very, very, very tedious. I've worked more xmases than not, because neither I nor my family are Christians - we're "nothing at all".
"Holiday season" implies all the holidays around the end of the year, such as New Year's Day (even if you're so bigoted as to believe the other religious solstice-ish holidays don't "count"). It's disingenuous to pretend it doesn't - it's been common usage since before all this BS about "PC language" hit the Daily Fail and its like.
If you only count Xmas Day/Boxing Day as holidays - no "season" for you - and you don't take New Year's Day off, oh well, your loss.
In this case "Holiday Season" implies that the vulture took one of the stock articles off of the stack, and it was originally written for use in December. Lack of appropriate pipeline of articles is another indication (like dropping some of the writers), that there isn't the advertising money available that there used to be.
Call it holiday(s) or vacation or whatever ... who cares what you name it.
In my case, it's a day (or days) when I don't have to milk the cows, collect the eggs, feed the livestock, and all the other bits that have to be done around here on a daily basis. In other words, almost never.
Good thing I love my job :-)
I had similar from an IBM engineer on an AS/400. We were getting disk warnings on one of the drives which he attributed to a faulty cable. No real problem, I left it to the evening shift operator (the former DP Manager who'd semi-retired) to deal with the engineer after office hours. The AS/400 setup I'd inherited, and never had the budget to improve, was only RAID0.
I arrive the next morning to find the AS/400 is down and much wailing and gnashing of teeth.
Both the engineer and my operator should have known the correct procedure was to remove the "faulty" disk from the array first (we had sufficient spare space) then change the cable and add the disk back in. No, to save time they'd decided to just change the cable which turned out to not be the problem of course, and the drive failed to spin back up.
I then found the system wouldn't restore all the config settings off tape* (the exact details and reasons are lost in the mists of time). I managed to get the ERP at least running in a couple of hours but it took the best part of a week to get everything back fully working with all permissions, etc. in place.
I'd have liked to sack the operator and remove IBM from the support but neither was an option, unfortunately, so I had to live with it.
*1/2" Mag Tape on reels, none of those new-fangled cartridges! :)
IBM midrange systems were inherently RAID 0 by default since time immemorial. Of course they never referred to it as "RAID 0", as they were doing it waaaay before the RAID concept was ever dreamed of. Besides, the bloody disks were anything but "Inexpensive". Still, good old IBM were trying to wring every drop of performance out of the hardware and forcing parallel disk channel use by deliberately fragmenting the data across all the available disks was a big win.
At least by the time the '400 came out, the backup systems had evolved to the state where you could feasibly backup the access paths (indices) as well as the data. Back in the days when tape bpi was measured in three digits, on the '38, even if you could restore everything, you were then looking at a week for the thing to rebuild its access paths before it would let anyone login.
Thus finding one day that some eejit had caught a sleeve on the handle of the isolator wallbox for the disk array, causing an immediate and ungraceful shutdown of all the disks and controllers, looked like being a bit of an issue. Good old System/38. I turned the disks back on and it picked up and carried on like nothing had happened. I've never seen another machine before or since that would do that.
Chief Operator: "You mean you can turn the disks off for a few minutes and then back on and it just carries on where it left off?"
Me: "Apparently. Let's not try it again though."
I always got the I as "interchangeable". The D now goes as Drives, because some are not even Disks anymore. And it isn't redundant at level 0, so it is "repeatable" "repetitive" instead?
Repeatable Array of Interchangeable Drives. = Raid 0
Redundant Array of Interchangeable Drives = Raid 1, 5,6 etc...
And I chuckle when I think that my home M.2 NVME drive is faster than the RAM on the old stuff.
Discuss it over a beer.
Uh... that´s a hell of a "journaling" system then?
I mean, the clients throw drive requests at the system, but these never time out, or time out into the MINUTES?
So, whoever built this expected the disks and controllers to have a significant amount of delay and cooked it with a hell of journaling system, by complete accident?!? I mean, the system was also handling tape backups, which aren't exactly nimble and involve some mechanical arm whizzing around racks of tapes like a DJ or your ol'giant spool of tape to roll back and forth or whatever? So at some point, some part of the system has to wait for the other mechanical bits to move... and that is done OUTSIDE of the controllers?
I could see this idea working into a vacuum...
"I could see this idea working into a vacuum..."
AIUI, the tapes are the big reel to reel jobs. The tape "DJ" was a person, not a mechanical arm thingy. But some did use suction to feed to tape past the heads, capstans and other bits of feed mechanism ready to be attached to the take up spool, so yes, it was sort of working "into a vacuum" :-)
Loved every second of that video.
I think Hollywood ended up getting a lot of those, because I remember quite a number of 80's movies having these whirling around in the back as props whenever the movie demanded 'computers'. It was these reels and the blinking panels. Iron Eagle and WarGames came to mind.
You bastard! I ended up down the rabbit hole for a couple of hours!
I missed out on that stuff. By the time I got into computers at school, the 8-bit micros were just coming in. Learned on 5-hole punch tape, but by 6th form and A levels, we had a single Commodore PET to play with. I ended up down that track rather than the mainframe track.
As a field engineer, I miss the days when we used to fix stuff, not just replace entire modules. I can't remember when I last needed a soldering iron at work.
Watching the one about compiling and running the Fortran test program, I was already aware of the basics of mainframe stuff, but seeing them wandering around from device to device, just to run a "simple" program and actually doing it for real put me in mind of starting a vintage car, set the fuel, set the ignition timing, crank the handle etc all just to do what we do nowadays by turning a key or pushing a button :-)
Been there more than once.
A Sun engineer that didn't know how to shut down a system springs to mind - he got escorted offsite *very* quickly.
Having said that, back in their respective hey-day, I knew both ICL and HP engineers that were amazing, and really knew their shit. I learnt a lot from them. And there were more good than bad engineers back then.
Back in the day - mid 90's - when I was a hardware engineer myself the company I worked for was a bit fast and loose with the engineers it sent on site for various things*.
Basically if a field engineer was available and fairly close, they got the job.
Because as part of my role I repaired the PC's and and servers that came back to us, said field engineers would often call me for help.
I think I may have mentioned this one before, actually, but one of them called me to ask for help. Having hot swapped the drive in a Compaq Proliant (remember the big ol' towers that weighed as much as a small car and were the height of a desk? That sort). This was in the fairly early days of hot-swap disks to the point that the port colouring was still a new innovation to tell you a device was hot-swappable.
Anyway he had successfully swapped out the disk but then followed what he knew for desktops - booted to a floppy disk and typed format c:
Mind you this was also the same guy who phoned me whispering to ask if opening the door on another type (I forget which model with age) would turn the server off. No hot swap on this one but a door interlock that yes, turned it off. He'd walked in an opened the door.
The thing is, he wasn't a bad engineer just not trained on the kit.
**Some things don't change, eh?
I'm sure I've mentioned these event before, but I've seen some people treated very badly for doing what they had been told to do:
1) Night shift was tasked with manually populating diodes and tantalum capacitors on PCBs after the pick-and-place had done the ones it could handle. Every board failed when they got to the test cell because (on average) half of the components where in the wrong way round. Manager tried to sack the workers - until I pointed out they were unskilled and had not been told polarity was important.
2) Job experience guy was tasked with programming EPROMS - "Put it in here, press this button, take it out and put it in the pass or fail bin, as indicated by this light". He came in the second day and continued as before. Units hit the test cell on the third day, and all failed to start. Once again, management's response was to sack the guy - someone forgot to mention that the master needed to be loaded into the programmer first thing in the morning.
One reason why instructions have to be explicit and precise. Something documentation writers can get right, and most engineers simply fail at because they have the view that "surely they know this".
Always write instructions in a way that a complete dumbass who can read can read them and follow the instructions to make something happen.
Even with properly written step-by-step instructions, you'll run into people that have enough knowledge to skip some parts "because they know how it works", and then miss implementing a step that is specific to the system they are working on and not usually needed...
If you can identify those steps (and doing so is another level of difficulty) don't write "Important, do not skip" in red above them.
Instead, give those steps their own boxes to be signed off and dated by the operator following the instructions. If that fails to concentrate their minds at least you have a paper trail on them.
Bonus points if those steps also write something to a log.
and most engineers simply fail at because they have the view that "surely they know this".
I spent some years teaching general "IT" before and during the rise of the "IBM PC". I know how to write instructions. I despair at some of the "project notes/guidance" we usually have to deal with. Even though *I* know what I'm doing, trying to interpret what the project manager actually wants us to do is an exercise in frustration. It's not simply a lack of basic instructions. It's a lack of anything useful. They seem to think what I would call the "Aims" section is enough. No "Objectives" at all and certainly no "Conclusion" stating what we should have working at the end of it.
"trying to interpret what the project manager actually wants us to do is an exercise in frustration."
And it's been that way since project managers discovered that cozying up with Management and Marketing was more personally profitable than paying any attention at all to Engineering. Started getting bad in the late '90s.
Remember the days when you could walk inside a tape backup system? Well, a customer of mine had one and was very proud of it. So, proud that he was showing off to his superiors and said "let's go inside". Managed to open to door - at which point, everything inside shut down and all the tapes dismounted. Well, it would, wouldn't it. Humans and tape mount systems don't work well together.
It took us 2 days to remount all the correct tapes and restart the backup processes. During that time, the customer was given an opportunity to work elsewhere...
StorageTek silos were like that. I was on a site where the StorageTek engineer has just finished replacing some component in the library, and had shut the access door and initiated the startup sequence, which took a few hours to complete (it was before barcode labels on tapes, and it had to load each cartridge into a drive to confirm which tapes were where), when he discovered he'd left his 'phone in the library.
He had to wait for the initialization to complete before he could retrieve it, and then wait again for the initialization to complete before returning the library to service.
We had something similar when a supplier was asked to do a firmware update on a modern disk array - they even ran it up to the manufacturer, to check it was good to go, as they had remote monitoring.
Cue chaos as wrong firmware was applied.
(Can't remember what we got out of it, but was worth it iirc)
Got that as well in the mid-00s, with HP-UX systems and auto-raid on a mail system as well.
Once, such auto-raid was to be FW updated in Germany (I was in France, where I was the L2/L3 support guy for my company, client of HP).
Dude on site told me it was all online, fair enough, I was just monitoring the situation.
All of a sudden, all FSes just disappeared ! Oopsie.
Called my colleague, chaperoning the HP chap:
me: "hmmm, is everything OK ?"
him: "yep, proceeding as planned"
me: "don't think so, mate, can you connect me with the HP chap ?"
After a while, said HP chap asked us, candidly: "where are your backups ?". Yep, he basically fucked up the entire auto-raid !
Worse that this, he also re-installed HP-UX 10.20, forgetting a critical patch, which if not here, would slowly corrupt vxfs FSes !
And it did, the weeks after restoration.
It took us a lot of time to sort out the data, patch the OS, fix corruption, etc ... Quite a lot of emails were lost.
Worst of the worst ? The exact same happened on another mail system, in an other country.
I never understood what was wrong with auto-raids, but at least it was consistent. Unlike the data on them post FW upgrade !
Two things, both with the same employer in the late 70s!
1) Company moved to a new headquarters, and telephone access to our computer (a bureau service) was essential (this was pre-internet days, and British Telecom (it might still have been the General Post Office!) were the only supplier. We had arranged with them for the telephone lines to be connected on the day of the move, well in advance. Come the day - no engineer. Rang them; "Oh, the engineers are on strike!" One and only time I have come close to losing my cool; they were told in VERY strong terms that it was their problem, not ours, and we had their name on a supply contract! I must have hit a nerve - an engineer (probably one who had been promoted to management) turned up and we got our connection. Or it might have been a case of the squeaky wheel getting the grease...
2) The hardware included a disc drive - probably a few megabytes in a thing the size of a spin dryer. It needed fairly regular maintenance (I had the usual collection of crashed disc platters on display). Funny thing was that every single time the engineer came, there were screws left behind - they knew they'd be back, and why put screws back in that they knew they'd be taking out again?
"Funny thing was that every single time the engineer came, there were screws left behind - they knew they'd be back, and why put screws back in that they knew they'd be taking out again?"
This was very common in the days before functional electric screwdrivers.
I bought a Makita "screwshooter" cordless drill back in '86ish so I could refasten the hull in my Owens (double-planked 5/8" Port Orford cedar ... they don't make 'em like that anymore). I quickly discovered how useful it was in my day-job, fixing computers and ancillary bits. I don't know how many 9.6V NiCad battery packs I've worn out with that tool, but it still works. They don't make 'em like that anymore, either.
A long time ago...... Before Windows 3.1..... I was given the unenviable task of fixing a sensor high, very high, up on a water tower. Awkward access but I was young then. Having reached the correct location I found that the fixing holes were not there. Apparently this was known but somehow that snippet of information had failed to reach me. As I said, I was young then. Did I have a drill? Yes but not 70 metres of extension cable.
A visit to the new 'DIY' shop found a Black & Decker Cordless drill on offer, £20. Back to site. Climb the tower. Drill the fixings. Fix the sensor. Tested OK. Long drive home.
That drill was so useful, I didn't claim the expense..... until our workshop asked to borrow it, endlessly..... It lasted years and had several 'new' (homemade) batteries.
I suspect you're thinking of the original Makita 9.6V drills with the long battery in the handle. Damn near idestructable. I had one for close to 25 years before it finally bit the dust enough it wasn't worth finding a new battery or replacing the trigger switch. The original ones had the simple on/off switch, the slightly newer ones had the squeeze switch for variable speed.
You could practically hammer stuff with the back end, and they would survive a drop from a suprisingly high place too.
Miss that sucker...
But the DeWalt 12V stuff is damn near a perfect replacement. Strong, light (not like the 18V and 20V stuff!) small and easy to use. And so much power.
"You could practically hammer stuff with the back end, and they would survive a drop from a suprisingly high place too."
FWIW modern Makita impact drivers have been known to survive a three story drop onto concrete, although the concrete may suffer some damage. I'm very careful about not dropping tools when working at height, but others on site are often less careful.
It's still happening...office fibre went down, reported to BT. Two Openreach "engineers" arrived, tested the internal fibre and said nothing was wrong, we need to check the fibre outside...but we don't have the training to work outside. So a senior "engineer" appointment was made. I called back days later because I'd heard nothing, and apparently Openreach "engineers" were on strike - silly me for not knowing! Anyway three weeks later a competent technician arrived and fixed the problem with the fibre outside, and also fixed the problem with the fibre inside that had been caused by the two "engineers" when they came to test the fibre in the first place...
I got three months credit on my bill at least.
I didn't buy my HP LJ5. It was offered to me as "on the front porch, free for the taking". I spent around $250 replacing the fuser and gears, adding RAM and a JetDirect card, and installing a fresh toner cartridge. It now sits in my basement office, printing like it was meant to.
They are amazingly easy to work on, and built like a tank. When you need a printer, they do their thing, even if that's only once a month. Mine had 300k pages through it when I got it working, and I am told that, like Toyota Camrys, it has many, many more years ahead of it. It is one of my better acquisitions. I only wish I had twigged to the inkjet printer scam 20 years earlier and acquired a business-quality B/W Laserjet earlier.
Way back in the late 80's I set up my grandfather's first computer system for his office. We bought him an original IBM PC XT. I installed a Shugart 5MB hard drive in it (full height 5 1/4"). I was a teenager, and that was the first hard drive I ever installed. I remember you had to have a custom EPROM programmed for the specific drive you were using to put on the controller card!
Shortly after, I recommended one of these fancy new things called a "Laser Printer" to replace the noisy and temperamental daisy-wheel printer he originally bought with the PC. We got him a brand new HP LaserJet II.
Fast forward to a couple of years later, and building that his office was in burnt almost to the ground. It was a historic 100 year old (at the time) Victorian mansion along the river that had been converted to offices. There was an electrical fault in the old phone system's power supply. He was more upset about the beautiful old building burning than losing his office.
After the fire investigators got finished with their work, we were allowed into the building to salvage what we could. We got to where the PC and printer had been. The wood desk was mostly gone. The printer and PC looked mostly intact.
I took all of the equipment home, and set it up outside (the burnt smell was absolutely horrible). I looked at the printer, and all of the paper in the tray was mostly just ash. I dumped out the ashes, and wiped the tray clean. I put some new paper in the tray, wiped the control panel enough to be able to read the display, and powered up the printer. I went into the menu and selected to print a self test page, and it actually printed the two pages. The first one was covered in a lot of soot, but the second one looked totally fine. Literally, a whole 3-story building burnt down around it, and thing still printed just fine. I wished later on that I had taken some pictures of it where it was in the rubble of the building. People told me I could have sent the pictures to HP. HP was a much different company back in those days.
The insurance company ended up replacing the printer, along with the PC and other equipment anyway. There was no way to get the horrible small out of any of it.
Also, the data on the old Shugart hard drive survived!! That turned out to be a huge bit of luck, since almost all of his paper files were lost.
The old ones are built like tanks from Circa 1995-1999. All hail the Laserjet 4050!
Contemporary ones, not so much. HP occasionally outsources it's printer design to third parties on the sly. So if you're not careful, you can in fact by a printer from HP that is just re-badged. It's usually their entry level lasers.
When I was young I was taught the art of spanner wielding by a kindly neighbour who had picked up his mechanic skills working on aircraft for the RAF during his National Service. Two of them were assigned the task of performing routine maintenance on a huge pile of transfer boxes (for what I do not know). This involved replacing worn washers, bearings and so forth, checking tolerances, lubricating and moving to the Done pile.
At the end of the day, my man cleaned his work station (he was meticulous in these matters) and looked over to his workmate. He had a pile of washers, springs and other bits and bobs, both new and used on his bench. He cried, "Spares!', then picked them up and threw into the bins of new parts.
My neighbour learned a lot about how far to trust the workmanship of others from that and was keen that I learned from his experience.
A co-worker who had served in the Air Force reserve said that all tools had to be accounted for at the end of a job. If one was not back in the kit, the mechanic had to go back onto the plane and search. If the search failed, in extreme cases the USAF would X-Ray the plane. I assume that this led to reassignment from mechanical work to runway sweeping. (A noted American actor experienced such a demotion in the USMC during WW II--an airplane he had repaired went out of control, fortunately on the ground.)
And a fellow who had been on a government contract before my time remained a legend. In order to demonstrate his skills with hardware, he took a minicomputer all the way apart and put it back together again. When he was done, there was one part left over. The prime contractor issued a non-negotiable demand that he be removed.
Has a tech support incident ever made you bellow with rage?
From time to time. As the support is more and more outsourced, it happens more often.
Seen this week: a vpn tunnel managed by an external outsourcing company went down. It took several hours to come back. When I asked for a root cause analysis and actions to avoid this to happen again, the only answer I had (after several reminders) was "there was an error".
I don't know if the answer I made showed accurately my state of mind on this.
== Bring us Dabbsy back! ==
Oh I can go one better I think!
We had an issue with a link to the US. It was new (can't remember the technology - it was after ADSL and I don't think it was around for long), and for some reason it was running slower than our original ADSL link.
The office technical support had recently been outsourced - so I logged a call, and got a response from a manager, who tried to tell me it was 'because of the speed of light'!
Finally I managed to get to talk to an engineer, and we managed to track down a bad config. Once we'd stopped laughing that is.
The same 'manager' came to our office to do an audit. We'd already provided the details, but he wanted to personally see. I am not 100% sure, but I have a feeling it was to ensure the contract price was right. Anyway, we had a training course on that week and had hired in a few PCs (something we regularly did for customer training). Told this manager not to bother with them as they would be going back the following week. Guess who I found writing down the PC serial numbers/specs.....
Just this week we had a serious issue, affecting an unit's business, as a side effect of a new SW release going into production.
I asked the team how they had succeeded in testing the release without this happening.
"Oh, it also happened in our test environment a few days ago, but we didn't think it was related to our developments"
There are now 5 people involved in sorting out the mess while users twiddle their thumbs (and I should bellow with rage, but have learned to let it go...)
I was in development trying to help a customer with a problem. Customer thought he knew better than us.
I asked him (very forcefully) to type some commands in... he came back and said "didnt work".
I asked him to send in the listing of him issuing the commands.
He entered different commands to the one I asked him to, and skipped an important command in the centre... "because it will not have any effect". I got louder and started using short sentences. Eventually I asked to speak to his manager. The guy typed in the commands I told him to and it worked". He hung up.
My colleagues though it very funny - but my boss asked me to go an office for my next call.
An hour later his manager phoned me - ever so apologetically, and I explained the situation. I never heard from the original guy again .. I think he was moved on.
Has a tech support incident ever made you bellow with rage?
Yes, when my superior decided the best place for a rack was next to an emergency cut off switch for the entire building. The rack door opened in the direction of the switch and couldn't be swapped to the other side. For months, engineers were opening that rack and cutting the power by accident.
9/10 times it was my superior tripping the switch. The other 1/10 times it was his superior.
When I finally left that company I felt like I'd escaped Shawshank.
Heh. A supplier, who shall go un-named had the temerity to ask why we didn't renew a support contract with them a few years ago; for a particular black box associated with instrumentation.
"Because, when we raise a support ticket, it is closed by [the supplier] because the black-box in question is out of support - please buy a new box".
Suffice to say they aren't a supplier any more. New black boxen that do the same job are available for considerably less through other suppliers, and have better standards of support that will attach onto the same instrumentation.
Franking Machines and Pitney Bowes come to mind with that one.
PB: You must have maintenance "by law" (actually by Post Office rules), but the contract will increase 10% per year plus inflation.
Us: So you'll fix or replace the machine if it breaks?
PB: No, we don't carry spares for that model any more!
Us: Goodbye (or words to that effect)
Years ago in the late 90s my broadband internet kept failing. BT came out, engineer said he couldn't find a problem but if it persisted, maybe they would 'reset the line card at the exchange'. He did not find any fault in my computer or modem (this bit is important).
BT later sent me a bill claiming it was my fault as they couldn't find a fault of their own; note this was a typical corporate fudge; they did not prove my equipment was at fault, only that they couldn't find a fault with theirs.
Meanwhile the fault had persisted and somewhat later, I phoned them again and suggested they do what the engineer had said; they did it ... lo and behold, my broadband was back!
So I wrote to them and stated what had happened and demanded my money back (which I got), pointing out to them that if they'd done this by default, the whole issue would have gone away.
BT Paid for an install of a competitors service here.
Line would, at a set time, not receive calls. Could make calls however. Replaced phone, plugged into backplate.
Reminded them that the have broken the law by closing the ticket as rectified.
Hello Dial up to a free (evenings and weekend) POP on the CableTel network.
Back in the UK our landline had a constant ticking noise (annoying whilst talking on the phone, but killed the ADSL). I rang BT and the lady told me that her system said the line was fine. I pointed out the ticking noise and she laughed and then got someone to look into it which fixed it. Thankfully she had the sense to ignore the system and get stuff fixed...
I just remembered this neighbour I had, how he complained he was being billed by calls he didn't make, and as he could hear crosstalk on his phone line. The phone company finds nothing wrong with it, as usual.
What they didn't expect is that this guy knew his way around car coils.
So, to prove his point on the crosstalk, he injected the full blast of the coil through his phone lines. His lines' insulation melted, along with the phone exchange box on the corner of the street. Inside, 2 lines were melted. His and somebody else's stealing his phone lines with an illegal extension.
No more crosstalk. No more wrongful billing.
The box also received padlocks.
I had a very similar issue with Talk-Talk (one of the many reasons I am no longer with them).
An ADSL connection that was supposed to be "up to" 8 Mbps would frequently drop out, or fall back to very low speeds (double-digit kbps). An "engineer" was booked, didn't turn up on the day, a second "engineer" was sent round a couple of weeks later...
The first thing they do is to pull out the phone extension that I had (properly) crimped into the master socket using Cat-6e, despite being told, and shown, that their shitty modem did the same thing if plugged directly into the master socket, and that the fault occurred every time there was heavy rain (obviously some sort of problem in a junction box in the street somewhere getting flooded).
Cue an actual engineer, some weeks later, actually visiting the said junction box, and the issue going away. Probably someone from Openretch, since the copper is maintained by them.
Then a bill for £50 for the "engineer" they sent round, who I hadn't asked for but had been told was a necessary visit before they'd investigate anything outside the premises, and who had managed to do nothing except damage.
It took me about 40 minutes of arguing with someone in an Indian call centre before they finally agreed to cancel that bill and refund me the £50 they'd taken from me on Direct Debit.
A company I used to work for had a very expensive backup system that my predecessor bought from a bunch of clowns who claimed to be specialists in backup solutions. It never worked properly from day 1. Every part of it, was defective in some way. The hardware was crap, the software was crap.
Part of it was an Exabyte DLT tape library, which failed more often than it worked. On about the 7th callout, the engineer told me that he was going to just take the unit away and replace it with a brand new one. But what he actually did was bring another failed unit from another customer and try to build a good one out of the two.
Then having taken them both apart, he realised they were slightly different and the parts weren't compatible. Having mixed up all the bits, he couldn't figure out how to reassemble either unit, so he just left them in bits in the middle of the server room floor and was last seen driving out of the car park in a hurry.
The company decided to dump this junk and buy a complete new backup system. Within days of starting to make inquiries, I got an email from the aforementioned bunch of clowns, offering to sell us a new system. They seemed surprised when I firmly declined to do any further business with them. In retrospect, we should have sued them into oblivion.
I also heard that this particular engineer had "moved on" to another backup company. So I declined to do business with them as well, because that engineer is forever banned from touching any piece of equipment that I am responsible for.
Just this week I received a survey email from a printer sales company regarding the printers that had been recently delivered. One of the questions was 'would I recommend them' to which I chose (1-10) a 5 as the phone lady is very nice and helpful. I quickly got an email asking why to which I replied ' 2 of the mid-sized printers have had input paper tray-lifting problems, the large one's output hopper tray fell off because somebody didn't put the screws in to hold it on and it has had 2 wake from sleep issues requiring it to be turned off and on again requiring a firmware upgrade. All of these issues should have been resolved while you were assembling the printers before shipping them to us.' Also the one large printer, only one which handles 11x17 paper, has a jam at the stapler, according to the info screen and the recommendation from the info screen has not worked. I haven't heard back.
Not truly relevant to the ooops you screwed up, but i really wanted to get that off my chest.
..with surveys and rating systems.
Being British, on a scale of 1-10, I regard 'adequate' as a 5 or a 6, and I reserve higher numbers for exceptional service, and I rarely give 10 out of 10, as I regard that as meaning that the service provider literally pulled off a miracle in some way or other.
But as it seems that most rating systems nowadays regard 'performing what they were contracted to do' as a maximum score. I don't know what they expect to receive in the afore mentioned miracle situation.
Another thing. Why is the lowest a one (one star or whatever). There really ought to be a 0, meaning that no service was delivered.
It really pains me to have to explain all this whenever I am asked to explain why I had not given a maximum rating. But I guess that this is just a problem between us brits, and much of the rest of the world.
Yes - I used to be rated on an international team (UK and US) against my peers.
So we'd get things like:-
Did such-and-such do a good job on that project?
UK answer. "Yes, very good job - 8/10"
US answer. "Hell, yeah! 10/10!"
And of course, you tend to know the people better in your own part of the world. And as a result, the US guys tended to get more of the promotions than the UK guys...
I nearly only give 10s at work now. If I give an 8 or 9, you messed up.
This after working under a survey system at the same job, where my [2nd worst ever] supervisor decided that anything less than a 7 "exceeded expectations" meant a meeting with her and the internal customer to determine what had gone wrong. I had several of those, and she didn't get the hint even when the customer was there with her saying "why are we having this meeting? I marked "met expectations."
We were also expected by her to improve our average survey results by x% each year, pretty tough when a 4-6 was "met expectations" and my average was about 8.5 . So yeah, f that, nothing but 10s for my colleagues.
I think they're probably interpreted like school marks. When I and almost certainly you were in school, 6/10 was not an acceptable result. Depending on the course, that was either the lowest passing result or a fail outright. I can't speak for your interpretation of the numbers, but when I was there, my parents viewed 100% as generally expected, 95% as fine, 90% as acceptable if it happened rarely, and 85% as you'd better not get any more of those. The grading system didn't use exactly the same levels, but they were also not keen on lower scores.
Adjusting from a scale like that to one where 5/10 is satisfactory may be difficult for people who are used to the old one, and people asked to give survey results can use whichever scale they're familiar with. That means that, if you get enough people using high numbers to denote good but not exceptional results, it makes anyone who gets a lower number for the same performance look bad. I therefore prefer surveys that use a smaller range of qualitative labels where there's less likelihood of statistical problems. Or surveys that just ask for text feedback, those can be even nicer if ignoring them is easy enough.
Actually, when I was at school, the break point between a B and an A at 'A'-level was (anecdotally) around 70%, and actually changed year on year, because it was marked to the bell curve. This was when 'A' levels were marked A-E, with A-C being a pass. No A* back then.
So getting more than 70% in exams where a grade was given meant that you were likely to get the top grade, and the majority of successful students normally achieved Bs and C's.
A C normally started at around 45%.
So in my case, a B and two C's at A-level was enough to secure (just) a place at Durham University, which was then one of the top 10 in the UK. Someone who got three As at A-level was really exceptional, and in my grammar school (actually, we were the last but one year of that school), I believe that out of about 200 students, I only remember three or four of my peers getting 3 grade "A"s or more.
Marking to the curve made comparing results year-on-year more difficult, but gave a measure of how good a student was against their peers, which isolated the difficulty of the exams. So in a year with particularly difficult exams, about the same proportion got high grades.
Not quite tech support, but a few years back I moved and was looking to set up new Internet service. I was told in no uncertain terms that a technician HAD to come out and perform some kind of task. Come move in day, I plug in the cable modem and then sit around for a good hour or two waiting for the ISP tech to show up. They come inside, look at the lights on the modem to see that it's properly trained a signal, and then promptly proceed to just sit in their truck for the next half hour or so. I was told I'd be charged $50 for this visit, and was ready to do like the hero of the story and say there's no way I'm paying for some guy to sit out in his truck dicking around on his phone. Fortunately, I never saw a trace of the charge.
At one point I was the on-site repair "engineer" (read "tech") working on a Compaq PC that had a weird issue with turning on (or off - mists of time) it took me four trips out because HQ would only send the parts in order of cheapest to most expensive - Power button, power button cable, micro switch, and finally a new mother board. the new MB fixed it.
On the other hand, I once attempted to get service out of ComCast, and no more needs to be said.
I had that on my home PC (a Schneider when they were doing them, I didn't actually pay for it as we were a dealer).
It was one of the earlier PCs to not have a hard on/off switch. It would turn on fine every time but wouldn't power down again when the "You may now turn off your PC" message was displayed.
I eventually tracked it down to a failed 12v line on the PSU - everything else ran happily on 5v including power up but for some reason it needed 12v to power down.
occur to me now I'm safely out of the pub...(hic)
Our machines have a hard drive... needless to say after 3 or 4 years they tend to fail, and this one showed signs of failure runnning checkdisk showed bad sectors etc etc enough to make me go "disc needs replacing" to our manglement, who called the machine tool builders to have them install a new one (something they do about every 12 months for us).
I have the day off they came in....... and the next day hit the power button only to notice a lack of files in our control directory.... yupp.. engineer pulled the drive, and replaced it without backing any of our stuff up. thank gawd for our monthly backup cycle....
And next the main feature this week....
"The case of the flat battery" or "who the hell hired this idiot?"
At a previous job, the machines had a small battery pack to keep the machine's c-mos memory going (rather like a BIOS battery does)
So the manual is full of warnings about what to do when the battery alarm goes off.
And under replacing battery pack it says "Do not turn off power when putting a new battery pack in...." (yeah you've guessed where this is heading)
So the idiot comes along..... isolates the machine and pulls the battery pack before I can yell "NNNNNOooOOOOOOoooooooo" in a dispairing voice...
C-mos memory wiped along with the machine custom control parameters.
Basically we've got a 1&1/2 tons of scrap on the floor now until we can wheedle the parameters out of the machine supplier.
Said idiot still wanted paying 'cos "I've replaced the batteries..."
6 yrs... just 6 more (sobs) years....
An insurance company I worked at had a similar experience, tech showed up to service a UPS unit and was supposed to switch power away from UPS unit while keeping everything else on. Instead they managed to turn off all power to the entire server room. On a Friday. Absolute chaos ensued, staff were summoned back from holidays, one particular bit of Fujitsu kit would not come back up and required a tech from HQ in Japan to remote in and coax it back to life. A heroic weekend-long effort by IT team managed to get everything back on line by Monday.
A week or so later the IT team received an invoice from the UPS tech for his work. Suffice to say some colourful language and loud phone calls later the invoice was consigned to the rubbish bin, unpaid.
At the last gig - main SAN for the entire datacentre was showing a failed redundant power supply.
Supplier (IBM) called to replace the failed unit, which was hot-swappable.
In comes the IBM tech, into the datacentre... and pulls the working supply. Everything goes down, hard, including the entire VMware farm.
Eventually, all gets brought back up. Manglement decided to do something to prevent this from happening again...
Now, everyone needs senior management approval and detailed justification if they are going to go into the datacentre.... except for supplier techs, and senior management themselves, of course. This does not make our jobs any easier, and would not have prevented the original problem.
I recall a day when we had an email server with a similar problem. One morning a perfect storm of a power outage and a failed UPS battery meant that power was lost to the corporate DC before the genny could kick in. The sound of UPS alarms was accompanied by the descending drone of fans and hard disks spinning down and joined seconds later by the usually reassuring sound of the genny firing up. On that particular morning that sound came too late to reassure anyone.
Controlled restarts of servers were carried out with disk arrays carefully checked before full boots and all was well. This was while we were actually in the middle of a project to duplicate all servers to a second DC with real time data replication for the most important servers and out of hours replication for those deemed less critical. For some reason the MS Exchange server was well down the list for this work and hadn't been actioned yet.
The storm for the exchange server became even more perfect. Firstly when we came to carry out the controlled restart we found somebody had left it set so it would boot with the restoration of power rather than waiting for a manual startup. And secondly the main RAID 5 array was corrupt. A well meaning technician noted that there was a flashing light indicating that one of the hot swappable disks was poorly. So without consulting anybody he decided to swap it hot. The problem for him was that while this disk was poorly it hadn't failed completely. If I recall correctly the light sequence was flashing amber=poorly, solid amber=falling, red=fucked. And obviously no light meant that a disk want even getting power. Maybe the unit was some dead or maybe it just needed reseating. This light was flashing amber. What the technician hadn't noticed was that the lights were completely out on another disk in the array. When he pulled the poorly disk that was it. The array was shagged. Had he swapped the dead disk first it's possible that the array may have been able to rebuild itself but not now. A RAID 5 array with two disks out is useless.
This is where the storm got really bad. The backup procedure for that server was supposed to be weekly full backups to tape with nightly differential backups. The problem was that the last few full backups had failed. Operations hasn't bothered raising a trouble ticket for the backup failures. And operations were the people who had swapped the wrong disk. Operations were not popular. We needed to firstly build a blank RAID array, restore from a four week old backup and then then apply about twenty differential backups on top. So here was my plan. Take the server off the network to start restoring it. Spin up a replacement server so people could send and receive emails. And then when the original server was back figure out how the hell we were supposed to consolidate the two.
The dinosaur in charge of the IT department decided that this would take too long.Yes it would take a while, here we were in the late afternoon and I estimated that the full restore would probably take into the following morning and then feeding it the tapes for the differential backups would take into the following night. But that would mean that we had the email server back by the time people returned to the office on the third morning. A Friday as it happens. We would be operational by the weekend. What, you may ask, about local ost files for users histories? Unfortunately most users were on Citrix so they didn't have local ost files.
The dinosaur had already called out hardware and software vendors and he decided that they could fix it without resorting to backups. I explained that this was almost certainly impossible, but his response was that he paid a fortune for support so he was going to use it. Support engineers duly arrived and sat down to formulate a plan. The dinosaur went home before they'd all arrived. We hung around till about 10pm and as there was nothing we could do, off we fucked as well. I arrived at 7am the next day to find that the engineers were finalizing their plan. That's right they'd achieved nothing overnight. The plan arrived at 7:30, it was a hefty document. We sat through a presentation from the assembled support engineers. The first half of which was an explanation of exactly what damage had been done and how. The second half was how the engineers proposed to repair the damage. It was about 30 seconds into this second part of the presentation that I realised that the plan was almost exactly the same as there plan I'd hastily cobbled together the previous afternoon. The only difference being that they knew how to consolidate the two servers at the end. I could see the dinosaur looked distinctly uncomfortable. However his discomfort increased exponentially when one is the engineers days that we should have implemented a replacement email server before they even arrived.
Dinosaur barked out orders as to who was going to do what, but you could see he was panicking. He had a meeting with the board at nine. He're we were almost 24 hours after the initial failure and email was still down. Email of course being just about the only system the board actually used. Not only that but dino now had to tell them that it wouldn't be back until Friday evening. It was likely that quite a lot of people would have to work the weekend. And that would be at time be and a half.
Dino wanted to take a delegation to the board meeting as backup. The trouble is that anybody from engineering would be likely to explain that Dino had delayed things by over 12 hours by bringing in external engineers who had come to the same conclusion as his own engineers. He decided to take the operations manager and the facilities manager. Not as backup, but as scapegoats. He could blame operations for the failed backups and swapping the wrong disk. And he could blame facilities for the failed battery. But blame is a dangerous game. Of course ops and FM had some difficult questions to answer, but when you're being blamed the normal tactic is to deflect some of that blame. So it wasn't long before the operations manager dumped all over Dino and explained the delay of well over twelve hours. Not to be out done FM jumped in and pointed out that their monthly genny and UPS tests had been cut to size monthly by Dino because he didn't like paying the bills.
That time a top-ten UK Higher Ed institution had a failing HPE disk controller (one of four) and when the HPE support arrived, the engineer hot-swapped the bad controller with a fresh-from-the-bag replacement, only to watch the array rebalance itself by wiping all the blocks. There was a firmware incompatibility between the actively running modules and the newly installed one which apparently had a higher firmware version. What's worse, this was a known incompatibility, and a version check should have been part of the SOP; who knows if it was but didn't get done, or if it hadn't been included in the manual. What makes it even worse is that the redundant copy and the tape backups were also useless.
As a Compaq field service engineer in the early 00s, I can attest to the fact that most of my colleagues (as was I) were contractors with virtually no experience.
If I was a customer, I would've let a chimpanzee near my valuable machines before a Compaq engineer.
I quit after three weeks when I got a job with EDS that paid twice what Compaq offered.
IT was mid-00s, and my ISP, the cheapest in the country, all ramping up and all the rage, had an FTP service.
One day, I realized it was no longer working, connection was fine bu no data transfer.
Opened a ticket, ran the usual crap, "is your modem working etc ...", and after a while, I took a capture via wireshark.
Obviously, a firewall was blocking any return packet. I was really proud and sent the stuff to the support person.
After a while of no change on this, I insisted and requested if the change was implemented at FW level.
The guy at the other end then confessed, than no, because they don't have any contact at $ISP !
I was basically talking to a droid with 0 ISP infra access !
Back around 1990 we had a HP system installed that took reading from a gas chromatograph. From day one, it kept refusing to see the hard disk. Tech support arrived installed a new disk and took the old one away. The thing they installed, didn’t have the software that did tge monitoring, and even more amazing didnt have the OS.
If I were to list all the incompetent support people I have dealt with, I would be here for hours.
This kind of incompetence is standard these days, especially with most large companies outsourcing all their support to India.
Any support ticket requires you to explain the issue at least 10 times and tell the support agent to go back and read previous replies properly at least another 20 times.
Compaq support engineers
In a past life at another company we had them in to replace the Pentium CPU's that had the floating point bug (remember them?).
Guy came in using a screwdriver to lift the old CPU out which went well until it slipped and ploughed into the motherboard, those ultra fine chip legs (even in them days) don't appreciate a visit by a screwdriver.
Management was not pleased to say the least and a new motherboard was provided post-haste.
And the poor service guy? No idea what happened to him but it was not looking very good when he was spending most of his time on his phone trying to avoid being evicted from wherever he was living, maybe a bit more attention to the job in hand might have helped.