back to article Lock-in to legacy code is a thing. Being locked in by legacy code is another thing entirely

As Friday rolls around and the prospect of fleeing the office looms, The Register brings you another instalment of On Call, our weekly reader-contributed stories in which techies are asked to help – but too often end up needing to help themselves. Progress bar Boss put project on progress bar timeline: three months … four … …

  1. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    "You deserve this more than me"

    That must be the first time I have ever even just read about a boss saying those words.

    It's incredible, so much so that I firmly believe that, no sooner had he said those words, a wormhole to a different universe opened to return him to whence he came, because that guy didn't belong in this one.

    1. KittenHuffer Silver badge

      Re: "You deserve this more than me"

      He obviously came from one of the earlier versions of the Universe as mentioned in HHGTTG.

      1. b0llchit Silver badge

        Re: "You deserve this more than me"

        But due to a slight miscalculation in size, the whole force was swallowed by a dog?

    2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Re: "You deserve this more than me"

      That must be the first time I have ever even just read about a boss saying those words

      Certainly not one of my early bosses - put in the work and paperwork for a shiny new 386 (we had 286's so running anything to allow multitasking was a problem). After giving a presentation to the higer-level manager, my request was granted.

      I got word that the machine had arrived - and discovered that my manager had decided it should be on his desk rather than mine - despite the fgact that my job role would benefit from it and his wouldn't.

      Came very close to committing a gross malpractice event.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "You deserve this more than me"

        We had a manager who insisted his laptop was higher spec than his subordinates, even though he didn't need the power. Even when he was under threat of redundancy he demanded a replacement, despite being warned if he did go he would not be permitted to keep it.

        He was made redundant (as the plant closed) but failed to return the laptop until threatened with the police for theft (we knew they would say it was a civil matter, he didn't). The irony was if he'd just played the game he could have kept his older, but very good, laptop as we'd set a book value limit where they could be retained (strangely mine came in just under that limit).

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "You deserve this more than me"

        "Came very close to committing a gross malpractice event."

        I need to correct your terminology here. Your boss commandeering the 386 was gross malpractice.

        The reaction to him like say, shitting in his desk drawer, or knocking his favorite pen to the floor and then accidentally sliding the 386 off the desk and onto his head when he goes to pick up the pen, now that would be a gross misdemeanor event!

      3. imanidiot Silver badge

        Re: "You deserve this more than me"

        That's when you swap the internals of the case and give him his old machine in a shiny new case and you get a spiffy 386 in your old case. He'll never know.

    3. Mostly Irrelevant

      Re: "You deserve this more than me"

      More managers should read the book "Leaders Eat Last" by Simon Sinek. If you only look out for yourself no one respects you and you can't really lead people, only manage.

      1. CowHorseFrog

        Re: "You deserve this more than me"

        More people need to wake up and realise that theres no such thing as leadership. Almost always "leaders" are frauds who are nothing more than a tax on the business and good will of employees. Reading a self help or any type of leadership book for advice is bullshit.

    4. Fr. Ted Crilly Silver badge

      Re: "You deserve this more than me"

      The Vl'Hurgs were a species who lived on the far reaches of the galaxy. They declared war on the G'Gugvuntts, the original reason being to force the G'Gugvuntts' leader to take back what it had said about the Vl'Hurg Commander's mother, when a freak wormhole carried Arthur's words, "I seem to be having this tremendous difficulty with my lifestyle", into the midst of their negotiations - it just so happens that in the Vl'Hurgs' language, that phrase is considered the most dreadful insult imaginable.

      The Vl'Hurgs waged war on the G'Gugvuntts for a long time, until they realised that it had all been a terrible mistake, and the two armies joined forces to attack Earth.

      Unfortunately, due to a terrible miscalculation of scale, the entire fleet was eaten by a small dog.

  2. Korev Silver badge

    > He was told Police don't do that sort of thing, so he should find somewhere to sleep. And then emergency services hung up on him.

    So they copped out?

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Useful advice i was given, if locked in a lift at night don't bother with the service number - just call the fire service

      They'll be there in minutes and love breaking into things.

      They are the Labradors of Emergency Services - hugely destructive but so joyful you just can't get mad at them

  3. TonyJ

    Almost got locked in

    I was working at what was to become a 6th form college in 2009.

    As the new building wasn't ready (still a building site) a temporary server room was created in the existing building.

    This included bars over the windows and metal shutters in front of the doors.

    I'd been working late one evening* (not that late - maybe an hour) and as I opened the door to leave, a security guard almost jumped out of his skin. He was literally about to pull the shutter down for the night and had been told no one was in the room**

    Had I been a mere few seconds later I'd have likely been spending the night in the server room.

    *Pre-planned for a while as I wouldn't usually give more hours in the day without good reason

    **Apparently he didn't have access to the room to be able to physically check, but one does wonder why he didn't knock on the door first just to be sure.

    1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Re: Almost got locked in

      but one does wonder why he didn't knock on the door first just to be sure

      Because it wasn't in the Procedure Manual and, most likely not being blessed with higher-level brains, if it's not in The Manual, it doesn't get done.

      1. NXM Silver badge

        Re: Almost got locked in

        "higher-level brains"

        I'm pretty sure security guards often have these, but are forced to work in dull, poorly paid jobs because there's nothing else. You could say the same about people studying for qualifications while flipping burgers, serving beer, cleaning floors, and so on.

        Never diss people doing lowly jobs, they're still people and they deserve respect. If your life was to become difficult, it could be you.

        1. parlei Bronze badge

          Re: Almost got locked in

          I know at least 2 PhDs that have worked as security guards. It pays the bills while you study, and if you take e.g. weekend night shifts they (a) pay better and (b) allow you to attend classes full time

        2. bpfh

          Re: Almost got locked in

          This - and one day you need a favour or a blind eye turned, your friends in security will be more than happy to join you after for a beer as payout.

      2. collinsl

        Re: Almost got locked in

        Often this is also done because the client is a d!ck and will penalise the security company for anything they miss, so they take an "we'll follow the contract exactly" methodology, which often ends up backfiring on the clients because it wasn't catered for in the contract

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Almost got locked in

      Maaany years ago, I was working on a small part of the control desk for a nuclear installation - something naval up on the north coast of Scotland - during construction. When I went in, there was someone already in the control room, and I never thought anything about it. When I came to leave, I found the door locked - the other guy had "just gone" and without even mentioning he was going had locked the door behind him. So I figured he'd be back after lunch and carried on.

      It wasn't long before a security guy on his rounds came in and was surprised to find me there - especially as I wasn't on the list of people allowed to be in the room on my own. So I didn't miss lunch - I'd have been quite a bit more unhappy if I had !

      Yeah, some people just don't think, or are complete ****s.

      1. ricardian

        Re: Almost got locked in

        Working at a secure government site the security guards would patrol twice a day to ensure that all was well. One area only worked Mon-Fri so when the security chap checked it on Sat morning and found a cupboard left open he reported the security guard who had performed the previous security check. Alas, he failed to realise that occasionally someone in the area would work on a Saturday. The outcome was that if that situation occurred again the security guard wouldn't simply report his mate for failing to do his job but check whether (a) someone was working in the area or (b) there had been a break in!

  4. Giles C Silver badge

    Happened to me

    Working in a new building still being final fixed on the main site putting the network in, finished what I could do for the day - it was about 5:15 and walked out the comms room to a bulldozing with all the lights off.

    The builders had all left site and locked the outer doors. I rang the site manager for the rest of the site and spoke to him. Five minutes of laughter later he agreed to come over and unlock the outer door so I could go home.

    I think they had words with the builders over the importance of checking the site was empty before locking up.

    1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      Re: Happened to me

      In mah yuuf I had a job delivering telephone directories (remember them?). On one light industry office site I entered through the gates and walked clockwise around the site posting the directories to the various occupants. When I got back to the gate it was locked. The site supervisor had been walking around the site about five minutes ahead of me locking up, and locked the main gate behind himself. I was just able to get out by emptying my luggage trolley and pushing the rest of my directories a couple at a time under the gate, then scrambled over the gate and carefully dropped myself the eight feet down the other side.

  5. TonyJ

    Just remembered...

    Not locked in, but in the mid/late 90's I was doing some work at an HSBC office.

    I had a visitors pass for the duration as I was due to be there for about a week, from memory.

    It was well run and I was given a bit of a tour - alarms, exits etc.

    The site was a bit unusual - the main doors were through a branch so during the day you came and left via them but at night you had to go out via revolving doors as they closed the others to the branch.

    It's a long time ago so my memory of it's a bit dim but as I recall the only pad for card reading only opened the doors to go through the branch not the revolving doors - though they were placed as though it'd do both.

    Except it was two thin wires in the edge of the door frame that actually read the card.

    So on the first evening I swiped and of course it went green because... well even though they were physically locked, I guess the maglocks still functioned on the branch doors, and I managed to blunder straight into a locked door at full chat. Much to the amusement of those around me before someone kindly pointed out how to actually make the doors operate.

  6. jake Silver badge

    I've been locked out ...

    ... of buildings after driving for an hour or more to fix an "emergency". Not my favorite waste of time. My standard contract now details the charges incurred for such rude behavior (once bitten ... ).

    But locked in? Nope. Here in the Civilized world, we have fire exits. I had (and have!) absolutely zero compunction about this. If whoever is in charge is too stupid to make sure that whoever has the job of locking up has enough clues to check the building before doing so, they deserve the fine for wasting the time of emergency services.

    I've lost one or two clients along the way, but usually they apologize profusely.

    Yes, I always wait to explain to the emergency folks why I tripped the alarm ... it's hardly their fault.

    1. David Nash Silver badge

      Re: I've been locked out ...

      Good point, didn't the OP have a fire exit he could have used?

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: I've been locked out ...

        The security conscious have been known to lock fire exits.

        1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

          Re: I've been locked out ...

          The security conscious have been known to lock fire exits.

          The arseholes who don't care about human life have been known to lock fire exits.


          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: I've been locked out ...

            Certain acquaintances of mine who made their income less than honestly and others who work as physical pen testers love arseholes who insist fire exits shouldn't be padlocked when a building is closed.

            There, FTFY.

          2. I could be a dog really Bronze badge

            Re: I've been locked out ...

            It is an acceptable policy to lock fire doors when the building is closed & empty - but alongside that there must be procedures in place to check that the place really is empty before locking, and to unlock when opening up. You'll often see places with a board, prominently visible, with hooks for each lock so you can see at a glance that all the locks have been removed. It's all about having done a suitable risk assessment.

            Why ? Well it really isn't a case of fire doors being unopenable from outside. There is a well known (so I don't think I've giving anything away) trick of drilling a fairly small hole (not too difficult in most cases, and doesn't make much noise) through the door, then inserting an umbrella or similar, opening it, then pulling. This pulls on the bar, opening the door. Obviously you can spend a lot of money upgrading the doors to be more or less drill proof (which might not be permissible in a rented property), or you lock it when closing up.

            1. jake Silver badge

              Re: I've been locked out ...

              "It is an acceptable policy to lock fire doors when the building is closed & empty"

              In your jurisdiction this might be true. It might not be in mine.

              Be wary of making sweeping proclamations of this sort in an international forum ... or, if you do, name the jurisdiction.

              1. I could be a dog really Bronze badge

                Re: I've been locked out ...

                Point taken. This is in the UK, or at least England.

            2. jmch Silver badge

              Re: I've been locked out ...

              Or you do what is considered the best practice, and rig the fire door to automatically trigger an alarm and call emergency services when it is opened. That way you are taking care of the safety of the buildings' occupants without compromising the security of the premises.

        2. G.Y.

          Re: I've been locked out ...

          At one place, the blocked all exits except one. I asked people whether they liked to catch fire; was told "this is temporary"; said "OK, I'll tell the fire not to come"

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I've been locked out ...

          No need to leave the fire exits open when nobody is inside.

          1. An_Old_Dog Silver badge

            Re: I've been locked out ...

            Fallible humans (security guards, managers, etc.) don't always correctly know whether or not "nobody is inside."

          2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: I've been locked out ...

            Unlocked, not open. There's a difference. Fire exits do not usually open from the outside. They are emergency exits. If you can open a fire exit from the outside because it's not "locked", then you are doing it wrong.

            1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

              Re: I've been locked out ...

              And if it's locked it's not an exit. If it can be locked it's not an emergency exit.

            2. Benegesserict Cumbersomberbatch Silver badge

              Re: I've been locked out ...

              As a student on placement overnight in a teaching hospital I was given an overnight room on the fifth floor of a building described as "nurses' quarters". One morning after night shift I thought there had to be a quicker way to street level than through the twisty maze of corridors that connected the building to the main hospital, so I legged it down the emergency exit... and into the convent where the nuns who still were associated with the place had their quarters / retirement home. Turned around in time to hear the click as the one-way lock on the door I'd just come through closed.

              Those nuns had jammed open the fire door and filled that fire escape stairwell with potted plants, photographs, souvenirs, basically the accumulated detritus of years, in a place where they obviously expected no-one from the outside world to ever visit.

              I just asked the first person I saw what the quickest way out was, and followed their direction, taking care not to make eye contact with anyone until I was out of there. Coincidentally it was right across the road from the headquarters of a fire brigade that serves a city of 4.5 million people - but who can't find anyone willing to inspect a nunnery.

          3. This post has been deleted by its author

          4. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: I've been locked out ...

            I guess I should've added the /s.

      2. bpfh

        Re: I've been locked out ...

        OP noted that they were in the Fire Brigade's "naughty" list, probably for having blocked/locked fire escapes amongst others. Or you find that the only opening fire escapes are in a corridor that you actually thought was a storeroom as it's filled with boxes floor to ceiling...

      3. jmch Silver badge

        Re: I've been locked out ...

        "didn't the OP have a fire exit he could have used?"

        As mentioned in the article, the building owner was already in the fire departments' black book for not being up to code.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I've been locked out ...

      "Alessandro" here...

      They failed their fire inspection not only because there were mo keys for the fire brigade, but also because:

      * one of the fire escapes was bricked up.

      * the other one on the other side of the building only led to the garage...

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I've been locked out ...

      For a fire drill, we used to delight in trooping down the back stairs and smashing the 'break in case of fire' glass to exit the building

      (well they would always pick a rainy day, and small things please small minds...)

  7. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

    I had a similar situation

    I started a new contract at a regional electricity supplier (this was before UK de-regulation, which was why they took me on, to help commission the required systems for that).

    They gave me a temporary badge which gave me access to pretty much everywhere I needed to be, while they sorted out my proper photo ID.

    Because it was the regional electricity company for the area I had just moved to, I thought I'd drop off the paper work for the new electricity account for my new house into the mailbox provided for such things, located in Reception. It was just after office hours, and reception was shut, but I could get in (my badge let me through the internal door into Reception).

    But it didn't allow me back into the main building, and the external door was shut and locked. This gave me the same problem, because it was before I had a mobile phone, and reception had shutters that prevented me reaching the phone on the desk.

    After about 15 minutes of trying to work out what to do, the door into the building opened, and a bemused security guard looked out, and asked if I needed help! Apparently he had looked at this alert screen when finishing a round, and seen the failed authentication attempts when I was trying to swipe my card, but had paid little attention because he knew that reception had been locked up, and nobody had been in there when he'd checked! Eventually, his curiosity got the better of him, and he came to see what was going on.

    Shortly afterwards, they put an enquirey button somewhere where it could be pressed, just to prevent the same thing happening to someone else.

  8. David Nash Silver badge

    I thought it was going to turn out that his software update had somehow caused the security systems to lock him in, especially as the title said "being locked in by legacy code".


    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I think that is reserved for high end secured BMWs inhabited by expensive people whilst being parked in the sun on Bangkok airport.

      At which point the air conditioning failed as well. And no, the windows didn't work. "Secured", remember, and they certainly were.

      I think they had to fly in an engineer to convince the car to unlock. This happened quite a while back so I can't find the details anymore.

      Not sure if the inhabitants suffered the same fate as dogs left behind in a car in sunlight, but I think it's safe to assume they were at least very unhappy.

      1. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

        If you're talking about the same incidents I heard about, there was a backup manual door release that the occupants didn't know about, but they were too dumb to read the manual, so had to pay for new windows after they were smashed so they could get out.

        1. C R Mudgeon Bronze badge

          "too dumb to read the manual"

          Too panicked, more likely. "Stop, think, act": there's a reason that formula has to be taught -- because it doesn't come naturally in an emergency, when emotions and adrenaline are running high.

          Or maybe they did, but the manual was as confusing as the one for my not-a-BMW.

  9. mhoulden

    A few years ago someone got locked in a branch of Waterstones: The idea of being locked in a bookshop with only sofas and a café for company proved so popular that they ran a charity sleepover a short while later.

  10. hoola Silver badge

    Door Access Readers

    At the last place I worked door access was all on some sort of reader and it was based on groups that where managed directly in the controller system. This was managed from security. One day I turned up at the office to find someone outside our external door waving a card trying to get it. The assumption was that his card had failed. I tried mine, nothing. Gradually more people arrived whilst we were speaking to security. The system that managed the doors had a "failure" so nobody could get in, this included security into the room where the PC needed to drive this operated from.

    We have really bad remote access at the time to manage systems. We could connect to the WiFi but not our corporate network. Access to the systems was mostly tied down to a limited range of IP addresses.

    Eventually someone decided which doors would be easiest to force to access the offending PC. I think it took about 2 hours to gain access and fix it. The problem is that it could not "fail open" from the outside as this would leave all the buildings with unrestricted access.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Door Access Readers

      Have mentioned before -

      Used to work at a manufacturer for access control equipment. At the interview, I was told that one of their customers was at an army base - their response was to blow the doors off!!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Door Access Readers

        Were they in Italy?


    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Remote controls

      Mid 80s, IBM had an office in central Belfast. Security being considered Very Important (Belfast, 80s) this office was linked to the main security centre, in Manchester I think. This included master control of the door locks.

      One evening the last people were preparing to leave, and found that the remote link was down, so they couldn't lock the doors. No-one had thought to provision a manual backup (i.e. a key).

      After several fruitless hours trying to restore the connection, and faced with a ruling that the office was not to be left empty when unlocked, one poor sod had to stay the night, on a chair by the door. I hope (s)he got overtime...

    3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Door Access Readers

      "Eventually someone decided which doors would be easiest to force to access the offending PC. I think it took about 2 hours to gain access and fix it. The problem is that it could not "fail open" from the outside as this would leave all the buildings with unrestricted access."

      Was the eventual solution to have at least one access point that can be entered with a traditional lock and key?

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Door Access Readers

        With the rule that the emergency key had to be kept locked in a key safe in the security office?

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Door Access Readers

          My near-universal set of emergency keys are in my wallet.

          Learn to pick locks. The life you save may be your own.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Door Access Readers

            Unless you get pulled over for some reason, the copper is in a picky mood[*] and, not finding anything else, does you for "going equipped".

            [*] see what I did there? :-)

            1. jake Silver badge

              Re: Door Access Readers

              "Unless you get pulled over for some reason, the copper is in a picky mood[*] and, not finding anything else, does you for "going equipped"."

              In your jurisdiction this might be true. It might not be in mine.

              Be wary of making sweeping proclamations of this sort in an international forum ... or, if you do, name the jurisdiction.

              Is there an echo in here?

              1. phuzz Silver badge

                Re: Door Access Readers

                If "going equipped" isn't a law locally, then they can still find something else to charge you with. At the end of the day, it's the cop's word against yours.

  11. david 12 Silver badge

    Completely different problem ...

    I was working late one night after the lights had gone off, when security came by. Security was retired police, who knew how to protect themselves just by being intimidating and by putting you mentally off-balance. And the ex-police had been hired after one of the cheaper security guards had been bashed, injured, hospitalized, and retired with permanent disability.

    So there was none of that "excuse me sir, you aren't supposed to be in here" The greeting was very sudden, very loud, and very immediate.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Completely different problem ...

      It sounds like a bit of a pantomime...

      ""excuse me sir, you aren't supposed to be in here""

      "Oh yes, I am."

      "Oh no, you're not"


      1. RAMChYLD

        Re: Completely different problem ...

        I've seen that TV show. Think it's called Punch & Judy.

        It doesn't end well for the copper.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Completely different problem ...

      Several decades ago I was doing some conformance testing to verify software compliance with US government standards. The software was sold to the Federal government, and the test lab was in Reston Virginia, Fed central.

      My usual day was to spend most of the time doing testing with the lab techs, then to retire to our local office where I could login to my development system and spend a few hours fixing the issues, prior to returning to my hotel for dinner, and a repeat the following day.

      Our local office was in a building full of federal agencies and military suppliers. One evening it took longer than expected to solve a problem, and by the time I left the building was empty, and secured. I knew the way out, but it was quite nerve wracking walking through that building, very aware of my visitor's pass, UK passport, and complete lack of US security clearance, with my fingers firmly crossed that I could get to the exit before any large uniformed guy decided to find out who I was.

      I felt very relieved when I reached my car.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Completely different problem ...

        I have once had an armed military guard run after me.

        Worst part was that the gentleman didn't speak any English, and I spoke even less Persian. Unmarked access cards, too. So explaining what I was doing and why I was supposed to be in the secure area involved a lot of pointing.

        Fortunately, entirely by me. The guard was perfectly polite and did their job entirely correctly.

        It was a far less concerning interaction than when I got locked out of a Spice Girls relaunch so couldn't turn the power on. Supposedly I'd been issued the "wrong" AAA pass, whatever that meant. (It'd been fine until then)

        Though in retrospect, maybe that guard was actually trying to save the world...

        1. I could be a dog really Bronze badge

          Re: Completely different problem ...

          AAA = Access All Areas

  12. UCAP Silver badge

    I guess I caused a lock-in once ...

    Back in the late 90's I was work as a contractor for a SATCOM company, and I was tasked with travelling out to Japan to one of their suppliers to witness a Factory Acceptance Test on a system that was due to be delivered by the supplier. Everything went fine for the first morning and half of the first afternoon, then suddenly one of the critical test failed significantly. Much panic then occurred with the Japanese supplier's staff; in order to minimise the loss of face to them I took myself off to a safe (and discrete) corner of the factory floor and watched proceedings with considerable interest and a certain amount of amusement.

    Come 17:00 and the end-of-day bell occurred. It had previously been explained to me that when this bell rad you had 30 minutes to vacate the site then the doors would be locked and not opened until 08:00 the next day, so I dutifully said my goodbyes to the Japanese supplier's test manager. The next day I was back on site just after 08:00 to find a very frazzled test manager (and equally frazzled team under him); apparently they found the problem at about 02:00 in the morning (a simple case of forgetting to purge a configuration left over from the previous test case) but had then had to camp out of any sofas they could find. Not a pleasant night for them! On they other hand I accrued a lot of brownie points for being understanding and giving them room to sort the problem out.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Inverted security, Royston Vasey style

    Went to a meeting at a university* campus. Confusing directions, unlabelled buildings, so ended up in the wrong one. Door open, but slammed shut behind me. However once in, it became apparent the building was deserted apart from me, and the only way to get out was to use a key-card, which I didn't have, or to trigger the fire-alarm, which I did. That unlocked the door, and I was able to watch the ensuing drama from across the road. *Specialises in MBAs.

  14. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "Had he seen a bump there, on the ramp near the exit? Asking because jumping on those often triggers the garage door."

    The other mechanism, of course, is the induction loop. I often wonder how much is needed to trigger those. I've seen that on an exit-only gate and wondered if something like s few flattened cooking oil drums pop riveted together would do it. Throw it through the gate and, for good measure, reverse in so that if the guard looks up at the CCTV he sees a car apparently leaving.

    1. BenDwire Silver badge

      I know from experience that a standard shopping trolley can raise a car park barrier. Lost token? No problem; just reverse out the way you came in, pushing the trolley out of the way. It was even easier if your student mates helped out ...

      1. Potty Professor

        Remote sensors

        My daughter was once returning home from her university some 100 miles away, and when she arrived in town in the wee small hours, the traffic lights refused to sense her 125cc motorbike, it didn''t contain enough iron to trigger the sensor. She waited and waited, and eventually had to dismount and push it across the pedestrian crossing after pressing the button to announce her presence.

        1. Spanners Silver badge

          Re: Remote sensors

          Mine didn't even trigger half the car drivers in Glasgow!

          This was the 1980s and if the russians had invaded us on motor bikes, they would have been in Inverness before anyone actually saw them!

    2. rafff

      The other mechanism, of course, is the induction loop.

      My 500cc motorbike was frequently not enough to trigger these.

      1. upsidedowncreature

        Re: The other mechanism, of course, is the induction loop.

        Sometimes flicking the side stand down is enough to trigger the loop. Remember to pull clutch in or go into neutral or you'll likely cut the engine!

    3. H in The Hague

      "I often wonder how much is needed to trigger those."

      A friend lives in a block with an underground car park. They keep a metal bin lid close to the exit, to trigger the loop if you want to open the main door to leave by bike (easier than using the wicket door).

      That time of week again -->

    4. NITS

      vehicle detectors

      Back when I was using my road bike regularly I found that induction loop vehicle detectors for left-turn lanes would often fail to trip. Partially dismounting the bicycle and laying it parallel to the road surface for a few seconds, usually did the trick.

      Don't know what you'd do in this situation with one of those fancy carbon fiber framed bikes -- carry a trash can lid? Kinda defeats the purpose. Weight reduction is a fine thing, but as someone once wrote, if you have to carry a 20-pound chain to keep your 20-pound (9-ish kg?) bike from getting stolen, you might as well ride a 40-pound bike.

      A few decades ago when I lived in Baltimore, the city used ultrasonic vehicle detectors. They broadcast a chirp that was annoying to those of us whose hearing extended to higher frequencies than it does now. Rumor was that they had a theft problem, because the transducers made excellent tweeters for your stereo.

      1. PRR Bronze badge

        Re: vehicle detectors

        > Partially dismounting the bicycle and laying it parallel to the road surface for a few seconds, usually did the trick.

        Yes. I got to where I could wide-straddle with one foot on the pavement and the bike almost-flat, for less than a second. This was an exit gate so instant response, not like posting a request to a traffic light sequencer.

        And long-long before practical non-iron bicycles. (I did attempt an Aluminum but that level of alloy welding was not yet commonplace.)

      2. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

        Re: vehicle detectors

        "if you have to carry a 20-pound chain to keep your 20-pound (9-ish kg?) bike from getting stolen, you might as well ride a 40-pound bike."

        But you still need the 10 kg chain to stop the heavy bike being stolen. Even if it's a cheap bike-shaped object, it'll still get nicked and you'll still have to walk.

      3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: vehicle detectors

        "induction loop vehicle detectors for left-turn lanes"

        Or right turn lanes in the UK.

        The loop for this one used to be situated where the cement mixer is now:,-1.773666,3a,75y,328.58h,92.19t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1s1unTI35lU_eVQU5hVOqt_A!2e0!7i16384!8i8192?hl=en&entry=ttu i.e. past the stop line. It meant that when the lights changed for the straight ahead the leading vehicle for the right turn had to roll forward and then wait for the filter. If that vehicle was driven by a stranger it could take a few changed before they noticed the loop and realised this.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      One of my father's friends had a Lotus of some description which was mostly fibreglass and didn't have enough metal to trigger the induction loop on the carpark exit at his employers office.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        The original Elite? Fibre-glass monocoque IIRC.

        1. jake Silver badge

          The engine and trans is more than enough to trigger an induction loop.

          Source: Me driving Dad's '62 when I was a teenager,

    6. Stu J

      A place I used to work at had several free parking spaces in a courtyard right in the city centre which tended to be unused on evenings and weekends - you needed a pass or code to get the bollards to drop on the way in (which wasn't always available) but just had to trip the induction loop to get the bollards down on the way out.

      Someone figured out - and shared with a select bunch of people - that if you put a mobile phone on the corner of the induction loop and phoned someone from it, that was enough to get it to trigger. Your milage these days may vary, but I'd always give it a try if desperate!

    7. C R Mudgeon Bronze badge

      " I often wonder how much is needed to trigger those"

      In at least some implementations, I think it's tunable. It used to be that my cromoly bicycle was enough to trigger my neighborhood's traffic lights to change. There was even a road marking to tell cyclists where to stop, to make that happen. But now it no longer works and the markings are much worn; I have to go push the pedestrian-cross button.

      And Toronto likes to call itself cycling-friendly. Feh!

    8. JT_3K

      I had a university lecturer 20 years ago (eek) who bemoaned that the council had put some form of scale/loop device to trigger the traffic lights in his locality and his scooter wasn't sufficient to trigger it. Apparently he'd wired an electromagnet under the scooter to a pushbutton on the handlebars and via investigation, upped the strength until it triggered.

    9. david 12 Silver badge

      I often wonder how much is needed to trigger those

      I was walking into the university one day (restricted parking, staff only, paid parking permit), when I saw a student stop at the exit, get out with a toolbox, and use that.

  15. Neil 32

    Not tech but, possibly better!

    I once managed to get locked in my local students' union building when I was acting as the treasurer for my local beer festival!

    I was hidden away in an office doing the end of day cashing up ready to put money in the safe. Came out to find a deserted building. The SU had cheaped out and got rid of all the staff we'd worked with for years and the new people didn't know to check if I'd finished - they should have known as they were the ones who would let me access the safe!

    And no, I didn't drink the profits. Phoned university security who got the SU manager to come let me secure cash in the safe and then let me out; so fire exit wasn't an option, plus most were alarmed if I recall.

  16. heyrick Silver badge

    So much fail...

    Let's see - there doesn't appear to have been a signing in book (which would show somebody still "present"). There also doesn't seem to be anybody that did a tour before finally locking up (or if they did, they did it wrong). And nobody thought to tell him about closing time.

    Well, the article did say they failed the fire inspection. Seems to be an institutional lack of shits being given.

    1. Marty McFly Silver badge

      Re: So much fail...

      Crash bars on doors? "Emergency exit only, alarm will sound"

      I totally get security. However, if the value of the asset is such that the building needs to hard locked to prevent exit, then the valuation should require on-site security staff present 24x7.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: So much fail...

        In the event of a fire the only difference between having a hard locked fire exit and one opened by crash bars is whether, in event of a fire, the staff die. The valuable asset gets destroyed anyway.

        1. I could be a dog really Bronze badge

          Re: So much fail...

          There are more ways to lose your valuable assets than in a fire - like someone opening the fire door from outside (see my earlier post for one way to do this) then strolling in and helping themselves.

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: So much fail...

            It's a good trick if you can also defeat the alarms and CCTV which guard the premises with valuable assets. As Jake said before, name the jurisdiction where lockable fire exists are legal.

            1. Richard 12 Silver badge

              Re: So much fail...

              United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, for one.

              Fire safety is now entirely "risk assessment", where the assessment is almost always done by someone incompetent who doesn't understand (or doesn't care) that they may be asked to justify their decisions to a judge while sat in the dock.

              (Since 1999, IIRC. Thanks Blair)

              Insurance companies tend to drive UK fire safety these days.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: So much fail...

      "there doesn't appear to have been a signing in book (which would show somebody still "present")."

      Signing in books are still quite common and reception are usually quite scrupulous in making sure visitors sign in. Signing out they leave? Not so much. I suspect if there was a real fire and an evacuation, the Fire brigade will be looking for an awful lot of visitor who've apparently been in the building for a month or more :-)

  17. KLane

    Did I miss something?

    Why was the building locked down at 18:15, if it was supposed to be open until 19:00?

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Did I miss something?

      Because the boss left at 18:14

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Did I miss something?

      "Akessandro" here: the floor was supposed to be 19:00 and building 20:00, but I guess reception security left when they saw the last floor security guard leave...

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ahhh yes....

    Back in the mid 80's, back in my youth was a mainframe operator for a company in London. 2 shifts - morning and evening, with evening shift locking up the building once everything was finished for the day.

    There were 2 doors at the entrance to the building - with just enough between them that both doors couldn't be open at the same time. The inner doors were on magnetic locks, which could only be opened by pressing a button on the inside if you didn't have the right keys.

    I was the evening shift... Finished the job, put the mag tapes in the firesafe (those were the days..), had a quick scoot around the building (4 floors) to make sure there was no-one about and went home, locking the doors behind me.

    The following day, I had a call to my manager's office to be asked if I'd checked the building before going. I had (honest guv) - but why?

    One of the developers had been working late - and on hearing me putting the mag tapes away he'd decided to put on his cycling gear and go home; he'd switched off his terminal (ahh 3270!), switched off the lights and headed to the gents to get changed.

    I did my rounds, saw no-one, no lights and naturally assumed the place was empty (I have to point out that we always checked the toilets too just in case, but on this occasion the dev concerned went to some toilets I'd already checked) .

    Outcome was, he got stuck in the 5 foot "lobby" between the 2 doors, unable to open either one. Eventually he managed to attract the attention of a passer-by by shouting through the letterbox, who in turn called the police and they in turn called my manager (as registered key holder) to rescue him...

    If he worked late after that, he always made sure he was visible to the ops!

  19. Stuart Castle Silver badge

    Not a funny story this, more a small boast.

    When I had just left school, I worked for BR in the Quantity Surveyor's office. a major part of the job was entering data into a database that used some relatively complicated code to generate some mailshots, and spreadsheets.

    Basically, we had to mail out these sheets to various other departments, and the system did this. It also generated the covering letters, and labels for the envelopes.

    My colleague who did my job before I did had gotten the boss to buy a fairly powerful (for the time) office suite called "Smart Office" (which makes the product difficult to google, as the name is too generic). This was the first office suite I'd seen, and certainly the first to have a scripting language linking the applications.

    I was a decent hobbyist coder, and had a fair bit of experience with this suite from a previous job, so I started tweaking his code.

    By the time I finished, the system ran something like 3 times the speed, with no change to the output.

    Unfortunately, the boss decided that the pretty blonde he'd just employed could then use the improved system to do both her and my job. He didn't tell me this, of course. He got me to train her, and being a teenage geek, given even a chance to spend some time with a pretty Blonde woman, I leapt at it without really analysing things. Being a temp, I really had no rights, so my agency got a phone call the next week asking me not to come back..

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      office suite called "Smart Office" (which makes the product difficult to google, as the name is too generic).

      Probably SmartWare which is googlable.

      For some inscrutable reason Informix bought it. For an even more inscrutable reason they didn't make the database element a front end for the Informix database.

      1. TimMaher Silver badge

        Re: Informix front end.

        I built one of those using a combo of 4GL and C, to run on Xenix.

        Back at the end of the eighties. Happy days.

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        "Probably SmartWare which is googlable."

        Having used it (them), IIRC, the first version was Smart. Later, it became SmartWare II. For it's time, it was immensely powerful, even including a terminal client so you could pull in your data from the database, consolidate and mess with it in a spreadsheet and create some pretty graphs, and put all into a pretty formatted report via the word processor, possibly link to external programs if you need other stuff, then dial up and send the report to HQ, all under the scripting language control. Something that's still a pain the arse to do with MSOffice :-)

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Have you been locked in, locked out, or rescued while working in tech?

    Yeah more than once while staying late to use the college I was working at's speedy connection to play Unreal Tournament I found the caretakers had locked up , and I would have to use the fire escape , which would trigger the alarm and annoy people.

    Its surprising Alesandro didnt have this option

  21. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
    Big Brother

    Portacabin Blues

    Deploying PC's to a portacabin, the last remaining worker packed up & left, thoughtfully locking me in.

    My phone was on my desk (We weren't allowed them on site), site security was obviously napping, so I broke the glass tube & exited via the fire escape.

    Making my way back to my office, I advised security that the secure exit was now probably insecure.

  22. chivo243 Silver badge

    Asleep on the couch

    Back at the turn of the century, I had a colleague, he was the counselor for the school I was working at... He was working late one afternoon, and decided to pop over to his couch for a few minutes of shut eye. A few minutes turns into many hours... Security makes their rounds, and don't see the counselor on his couch, pulls his door closed and locks it. The poor guy wakes up, building is dark, door is locked and his coat is in the foyer with his keys in the pocket. Being extremely embarrassed, he didn't call anyone, but went out the second story window, along the ledge to the corner of the building, and was able to shimmy down a drain pipe. This story didn't come out immediately, but at a cocktail party many months later... Embarrassed to say the least!

  23. DS999 Silver badge

    What he should have done after emergency services hung up on him

    Was call back and say he saw a guy wearing a mask and carrying a gun walking down a hallway, and now he's hiding in an office. Bet the police are more interested in showing up then, and if the guy with the gun is not there when they arrive oh well I guess he stole whatever he came for and left!

  24. NITS

    Almost climbed a fence

    A colleague and I worked late at a sports venue in Kentucky. The building was dark and locked. We found our way to a fenced-in garden area and were contemplating whether it was a good idea to climb the fence to exit. A security guard happened by. We explained ourselves to him, and he asked "You in that fo-wid?" After requesting a couple of repeats, it dawned on me: "Oh, Ford! Yes, my rental car is a Ford!"

    (I grew up in a suburb of New York City, where fo-wid was the opposite of back-wid. So my ears were not well-attuned to his accent.)

    Anyway, he sprung us without further ado.

  25. Ian Johnston Silver badge

    A friend of mine was trapped in an Oxford University science department lift overnight, because the emergency phone turned out to be as dud as the rest of the system. After rescue he was given a formal written reprimand for using the rubbish bin in the lift as a toilet.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "After rescue he was given a formal written reprimand for using the rubbish bin in the lift as a toilet."

      Well, I hope he in turn reported them for the H&S violation of not ensuring the emergency phone in the lift worked.

  26. gnasher729 Silver badge

    A harmless variation

    I worked in one office where you needed a card to enter through doors, but no card to exit through doors.

    The building had a trap: One little part that you could enter through two doors but not leave. So if you forgot your card and entered there you were stuck. I managed it once and had to wait five minutes for someone to open a door. If you were the last person to leave the office , forgot your card, and took the wrong route, you were stuck.

  27. An_Old_Dog Silver badge

    Screaming Alarms Included

    I once was doing some Unix consulting in a large office building entirely owned and occupied by the client. The first floor was the reception area/lobby; the second floor contained mostly open-plan desks, with some private offices, conference rooms, and the room with the Unix host (a 486DX PC with UPS). When I finished, it was 8:23PM, and the office was deserted. I walked down the stairs to the lobby and was beset by screaming alarms and flashing red lights. The doors all were locked. I had no idea where the switch was for the overhead lights, I had the number of one person from the business, and after ten seconds realized there was no way I could figure out how to call out from the receptionist's PBX mega-console.

    Fire doors? Yes, they had them, somewhere, though not locatable by me in the dark punctuated by flashing red lights.

    I ran back upstairs, found an ordinary desk phone, called my contact at home, shouted my predicament to her (the alarm sirens were very loud), and she said she'd inform their security service to come and let me out.

    Back downstairs I went, waited by the front door, and eventually someone from "Joe's Security Service" showed up, unlocked the doors, shut off the alarm, escorted me out, then locked up again.

    Yes, I billed them for my time waiting for Joe to let me out.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Screaming Alarms Included

      So, the response to the noisy, flashy intruder alarms is...nothing? It took a phone call to the security contractor to make time in their diary to come and let you out? I suppose they cheaped out on the security contract and relied on the noisy sirens and lights to scare off any real burglars.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Screaming Alarms Included

        They probably still saved money even after paying Old Dog's invoice.

  28. martinusher Silver badge

    Happens all the time

    In the US its not uncommon for small to medium sized office spaces to have both the entrance/reception area facing the parking lot and secondary doors onto a shared internal corridor which provides access to restrooms and other facilities. Naturally all these doors are alarmed and the unwary can be caught out quite easily when working after hours.

    This particular incident happened to an engineer visiting from our Northern California office. Like all engineers he tended to dress informally but unlike nearly all engineers he was a "minority" -- a rarity in technology, an "African American". Our office was located on the periphery of Los Angeles County, in a nice area, the sort of area where there's a lot of money around along with the attendant paranoia that goes with nice people running into the hoi-polloi. Anyway, our visiting engineer runs off to the restroom, tripping the silent alarm, and on returning finds that there are several cop cars outside with cops facing him with guns drawn. (This might have been the early 2000s but still even in this day and age being 'of African descent' tends to be prima facie proof of criminal intent -- the idea that one of them could not only be an engineer but a damn fine one apparently would never cross anyone's mind, he's obviously up to no good).

    Fortunately, as he told it later, there was a sergeant with them who calmed the situation down so we kept our engineer.

    (PS -- For those who don't know, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department used to have a bit of a reputation of being a bit trigger happy -- shoot first, sort out the paperwork later.((Actually, they were downright dangerous to have any dealings with....)

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Well my favourite was when we had a power failure and the generator did not start (the automatic starter was broken and the generator could only be started with a screwdriver)!

    The mag-locks all defaulted to 'locked' and the generator was the other side of 4 locked doors. We had to kick the doors open to get to the generator room to start the generator. In the dark, with only a flash light and emergency lighting. That was fun explaining that to management the next morning.

    I have a friend who was delivering to a secure site. He had to pass through several checkpoints, but the site went into lockdown between checkpoints. He couldn't go on, and he couldn't go back. He was stuck there for 4 hours. What was funny was that people knew he was there, but couldn't let him move even if they wanted to.

    1. I could be a dog really Bronze badge

      So someone failed the obvious "what if ... ?" workshops around that setup. Not uncommon.

    2. irrelevant

      Not locked in, but this reminded me of a time one winter evening when a JCB further up the road dug through the power cable feeding our building, among others. We were in an industrial park in an otherwise rural location, so when the lights (and monitors) went out, there wasn't even any light coming through the windows. The way out was through an internal corridor and staircase with, it turned out, no emergency lighting. This was way before mobile phones (with or without torches) were common, so nobody had a light. In the end, I dug out a cheap electric rechargeable soldering iron from my bag, and led my colleagues out by the light of the single tiny bulb (I don't think it was even an LED) it had for illuminating your work, whilst hoping I didn't run into anybody and impale them on the burning hot tip!

  30. JerseyDaveC

    Brings back memories of a colleague a few years ago. Some of the senior IT guys (of which I was one) had 24x7 access to the building, but Dean (not his real name) and his colleagues didn't. You had to swipe in and swipe out of each floor.

    Anyhow, the cut-off for non-24x7 cards was 9pm. You couldn't get in after that. And it turned out that you couldn't swipe out after 9pm either, thanks to an oversight of design. He finished up at about 9:45pm, and his swipe card wouldn't let him out. For safety reasons, of course, there was a break-glass button on the door and so he used it to make good his escape.

    The next morning all hell broke loose. Poor guy was dragged into a meeting with senior people to receive a major b**locking for using the emergency button. Happily I got wind of this and stuck my nose in and was able to point out that: (a) the third-party security guard was supposed to do a sweep of the building at 9pm prompt and was conspicuous by his absence; and (b) the reason Dean didn't call the security company to be rescued was that there was no signage along the lines of "In the event of a security emergency, call <number>" and he had no idea of what the company was called (and why would he - he wasn't on the extended security list).

    Happily he was exonerated and the security company were "asked" to explain what happened to the 9pm sweep.

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