back to article Scripted shortcut caused double-click disaster of sysadmin's own making

Come inside from the swimming pool, dear reader, and put away that sunscreen, for yet again it is Monday and time to return to the grind of the office and/or remote workspace. Thankfully The Register is here to cushion the blow, with another instalment of Who, Me? – the weekly column in which readers recall the times they would …

  1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    Lesson learned


    I would even say, lesson engraved.

    1. Korev Silver badge

      Re: Lesson learned

      Yeah, he learnt to be more careful whilst doing CD things in the office...

    2. b0llchit Silver badge

      Re: Lesson learned

      Wouldn't that be, lesson wiped?

  2. Korev Silver badge

    "we'll share your learnings with your colleagues."

    "Learnings" - yes from orbit -->

    1. AdamT

      Where I work we have "eLearnings".

      That's even worse, isn't it?

      It feels worse.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        It's worse.

  3. Caver_Dave Silver badge


    Learnt that for exactly the same reason.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Yes

      To (mis-)quote Korev, above...

      "Learnt" - yes from orbit -->

      Bad spelling caused by poor pronunciation. :-)

      1. Elongated Muskrat Silver badge

        Re: Yes

        Oh, my dear American friend, you should have learnt to check whether your point of pedantry is correct before committing it to the internet.

        Both forms of the past participle of "to learn" are correct, with "learned" being in use in the US, and "learnt" in the UK.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Yes

          My UK reading of "learned" makes the "ed" a distinct syllable and the word an adjective as in "learned friend".

          1. bemusedHorseman

            Re: Yes

            Stripéd pants.

        2. NoneSuch Silver badge

          Re: Yes

          Learnt maths.

          Learned math.

          1. WanderingHaggis

            Re: Yes

            I instinctively make a distinction here -- I learnt maths (past part) that is learned (i.e. high level) maths.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Yes

          That learnt him good!

      2. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

        Re: Yes

        > pronunciation

        'nuff quoted.

  4. TonyJ

    Is there anyone

    With more than a few days' experience in IT that hasn't learned that kind of hard lesson?

    My own was back in DOS and Netware days (thankfully also on a workstation and not a server):

    Format c:

    Are you sure?

    Of course I am bloody sure! I know what I'm doing ffs!

    Oh hang on...that was C: not D:

    Ah crap.

    1. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

      Re: Is there anyone

      Memories of a colleague back in the day, when we used 3.5" floppies quite extensively. He was muttering and grumbling and someone asked him what the problem was. He said that all he was trying to do was format a floppy disk so he could re-use it, but his computer had started asking loads of "are you sure?" type questions. Unfortunately he made the final confirmation a split-second before someone asked "are you sure you didn't type 'format c:' ?"

      1. Hairy Scary

        Re: Is there anyone

        Ah, the good old days of DOS and floppies. A common thing that happened where I worked was someone would ask if they could check the contents of a floppy on a workstation -- from the "C" prompt they would type in dir a:, up came the directory of the floppy followed by "that's a load of crap I can get rid of it all". The next command was del*.*, remove floppy and walk away leaving the workstation user with a machine that now had no files in the root of "C". Problems for the user soon followed, even worse if they re-booted it.

        Of course if the machine was re-booted it failed with "missing" error as the root of "C" had been deleted -- I was the one that had to sort it out (I had a boot floppy with the necessary files to restore the root of C)

        Myself I never used dir a: from the "C" drive, as it was all too easy to forget the machine is still logged into "C" and any further commands will be run on "C" not "A".

        1. Sam not the Viking Silver badge

          Re: Is there anyone

          "This computer is faulty. I've put a disk in and it says 'Not Found'."

          "Are you sure you have selected the right drive?"

          "Of course I have, sonny. Drive 'A'."

          "How about Drive 'B'?"

          "..... ..... ..... Look. Don't bother. I've got it working now."

        2. mikecoppicegreen

          Re: Is there anyone

          And this is why we used to hack to remove the del command - for some reason, typing erase used to give me just enough pause to (mostly) see my error before completing the command!

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Is there anyone


          I've been there a few times!

        4. Evil Auditor Silver badge

          Re: Is there anyone

          If I remember correctly, I once fully recovered (i.e. the machine recovered, I still wear emotional scars) from a "del *.*" in the C:\DOS\ directory. The memory's a bit blurry as this was deep in the 90s but it involved playing a bit a floppy DJ to get the files back from another machine.

          1. BenDwire Silver badge

            Re: Is there anyone

            Amateur! Norton's Utilities was the weapon of choice for this (then) PFY. I've got a bit of a straggly greybeard going on now ...

            1. Evil Auditor Silver badge

              Re: Is there anyone

              Norton Utilities? What a luxury! Where I was at that time, we had to use a magnifier with sunlight to burn the binary code onto foliage and then enter that binary data with our toes because under the leaves we also burnt all of our fingertips.

        5. Blacklight

          Re: Is there anyone

          PROMPT $P$G was/is really useful :)

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Is there anyone

        "someone asked "are you sure you didn't type 'format c:' ?""

        Worse, on Apricot computers, the A: drive was the floppy until you added a hard disk, which then became A: and bumped the floppy up to B: or C: or whatever came next after each hard disk and/or partitions had been allocated driver letters. Not fun if working with both those and "standard" PC's. There may have been others that did it that way, but IME it was only Apricot.

    2. Dabooka

      Re: Is there anyone

      Just about to post this very thing.

      Oh so very cock sure, so very confident, so very fucking naïve!

    3. GlenP Silver badge

      Re: Is there anyone

      I've recounted this before, back in the days when MS-DOS <> IBM Compatible Apricot used A: for the HD then B: for the floppy. Switching between different machines you'd go to format the floppy, type in FORMAT A:, Y to Are you sure, then oh sh*t (or other expletive). This was followed by frantic hitting of Ctrl-C and then reaching for the Norton UNDELETE utility which, fortunately, worked at that stage of the format. You had to know the first characters of the deleted filenames but the systems were a fairly standard setup.

    4. Neil Barnes Silver badge

      Re: Is there anyone

      Forty years ago - so memory is hazy - I was very inexperienced with the Basys newsroom system. I mistook a couple of commands and instead of just restarting the single user I had intended, I reset the entire system: newsroom, gallery, control room... at about five minutes before the broadcast.

      Fortunately scripts were always printed, and most of them had been, and also fortunately the system restarted - just - in time. But the screams were loud...

      flak jacket--->

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Is there anyone

        "In today's news, a local IT employee was fired into orbit" etc. etc.

    5. An_Old_Dog Silver badge

      Re: Is there anyone

      The Unix/Linux device-to-device copy program, dd is blazingly fast, asks no questions, and has no prompts.

      dd if=/dev/sdb of=/dev/sdc bs=32768 [Enter]

      [10 ... 20 ... 30 seconds pass] ^C^C^C^C^C^C^C^C^C^C^C^C^C^C^C^C^C^C^C^C^C^C

      "(/dev/)sdb was the target drive! Shit-shit-shit-shit!"

      (Icon 'cause I couldn't belive I did that.)

      1. whitepines

        Re: Is there anyone

        Good old Data Destroyer. Learnt to always do a dmesg and a gdisk -l before blithely assuming the target node was whatever I thought it should be.

        1. An_Old_Dog Silver badge

          Re: Is there anyone

          On Linux, I have a shell script, lsdisk, which parses the output of fdisk -l. On OpenBSD, my fingers have memorized dmesg | grep [wscf]d[0-9]" ".

    6. that one in the corner Silver badge

      Re: Is there anyone

      BBC micro: menu shell to load a selected program from floppy (floppy! We were so happy!), with categories (games, games, or, um, card games!).

      Make an edit or forty, run it, press key - game loads, menu program vanishes (me, no longer happy, bystanders ecstatic).

    7. garwhale Bronze badge

      Re: Is there anyone

      # rm -rf *.*.*

      oh sh*!

  5. UCAP Silver badge

    Decades ago, in my first job as a software engineer, I was also asked to administer my company's Sun-3 workstations since I was the only person in the company who had any Unix experience. One day I started to get complaints about one of the machines not working properly, and when I investigated I found that /tmp was pretty much full (the SunOS installed assigned /tmp to its own partition, but when it filled up all sorts of applications stopped working). So, metaphorically putting my System Administer hat on, I logged on as "root" and entered the following command "rm -rf / tmp/*".

    Note critical space in an unfortunate place. I certainly did and hit Control-C within a couple of seconds, but too late to save the OS. Fortunately, this was early in the working day and I had performed a routine backup the previous night, so I was able to get the installation tapes (yes, *tapes*) out of the cupboard, re-install the OS and re-load the backup. Downtime was only a couple of hours, but tense ones for me.

    Lesson learned - always double check the commands you are entering as "root". Also, the next time this happened I used the command "cd /tmp && rm -rf *" - much safer!

    1. David Nash Silver badge

      cd /tmp && rm -rf *

      Any time I have to enter rm -f * (let alone -rf) I do the cd first, then make sure I am where I think I am and that ls returns what I expect, before entering the rm.

      I wouldn't have the balls to enter it all in one go as above.

      1. Jusme

        Re: cd /tmp && rm -rf *

        I dislike having certain "dangerous" commands in the history, in case a little bit of lag, or jitters on the arrow keys, causes them to reappear at an inconvenient time. I tend to do things like:

        # mv important-sounding-dir xyzzynosuch

        # rm -rf xyzzynosuch


        # bash +o history ## new shell with no history retained

        # dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/sdb

        # exit

        Of course I've still had several ohnoseconds over my ${too_many} years in this game. That's why I'm quite keen on backups...

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: cd /tmp && rm -rf *

          "Of course I've still had several ohnoseconds over my ${too_many} years in this game. That's why I'm quite keen on backups..."

          With age comes learning from experience, preferably somebody else's experience.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: cd /tmp && rm -rf *

          ISTR putting a space character before a command to keep it out of bash history. Was that a thing or is it time to ring the nurse to bring me some memory pills?

        3. TheBruce

          Re: cd /tmp && rm -rf *

          Set this up for all accounts

          alias rm="rm -i"

          1. collinsl Bronze badge

            Re: cd /tmp && rm -rf *

            Luckly that's set by default on most Redhat distros

          2. doublelayer Silver badge

            Re: cd /tmp && rm -rf *

            No, because it will simply annoy anyone who needs to delete a lot of files. Every time you do an rm -r and it gets turned into an rm -i -r which asks for your permission for every single file there, it will annoy the users. It won't take long for them to realize that -f cancels out -i, so now every rm command will be an rm -f command which means you will lose the warnings for files that rm would normally warn about. Forcing that only makes things worse.

      2. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: cd /tmp && rm -rf *

        The other useful parameter is -i, when you need to do something more complex and you're not entirely sure if it will be safe. For example, when I was trying to clear out temp files, but no other files, from a nested directory. I was very careful to specify "rm -i */*/*.tmp". Anything with that many asterisks seemed a bit too dangerous to do without at least seeing some of what would get wiped.

    2. G2

      re: cd /tmp & rm -rf *

      that double & is going to bite you and some day you will make a typo... happened to me a couple of times but fortunately i was not doing rm -rf but 'yum clean all & yum upgrade'

      ... and had a few moments of confusion wondering why was yum seemingly waiting on... itself until i realized i had typed a single & instead of &&

  6. mhoulden

    The Sorceror's Apprentice

    Reading the article I had an image of a young Mickey Mouse trying to stop enchanted broomsticks from interfering with the laptop.

    1. Grinning Bandicoot

      Re: The Sorceror's Apprentice

      One lawyer from Disney in the audience.

  7. DwarfPants

    It is mandatory to have a Oh No Oh Second experience

    We all need to have had that sudden panic at least once in our lives, preferably on our own/test systems.

    It teaches the fallibility of human condition in the clearest terms.

    It is where we get our fear of things we don't fully understand and has us reaching for the manual, making n+1 backups and only when forced do we ignore this sagely wisdom "Draco dormiens nunquam titillandus"

    1. Aladdin Sane

      Re: It is mandatory to have a Oh No Oh Second experience

      "an Oh No" not "a Oh No"

      1. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

        Re: It is mandatory to have a Oh No Oh Second experience

        Actually it is AAaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa Oh No Second

        1. Aladdin Sane

          Re: It is mandatory to have a Oh No Oh Second experience

          Quickly followed by an "Oh shit oh shit oh shit"

        2. Grinning Bandicoot

          Re: It is mandatory to have a Oh No Oh Second experience

          But I have yet to understand why it is in my mind and not going tom the hand pushing the 'enter'. Do you have a answer for citation?

      2. pirxhh

        Re: It is mandatory to have a Oh No Oh Second experience

        Stercus, stercus, stercus, moriturus sum!

        GNU Pterry

    2. imanidiot Silver badge

      Re: It is mandatory to have a Oh No Oh Second experience

      The Ohnosecond, that mysterious time dilation quantum effect. Wen measured by any measuring device it is only registered as a tiny fraction of a second while the human just realizing the full levity of his fuck-up and the full consequences of the action just performed, experiences it as an eternity. Having all the time he or she needs to contemplate the meaning of life and their place in the cosmos.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It is mandatory to have a Oh No Oh Second experience

        And one of the only other times you will see it, outside of IT, is during a car crash.

        1. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

          Re: It is mandatory to have a Oh No Oh Second experience


          "And one of the only other times you will see it, outside of IT, is during a car crash."

          You've never been involved in robotic programming then?....... being called over to cell #5 today because the operater loaded the magazine with castings and put them up the wrong way with the hole at the bottom.

          Then pressed start.... where the arm grabbed the first casting , stuck it in the lathe and then he noticed the tool heading for a non-existant hole.........., to his credit he did e-stop the cell... too bad it was after the tool and part died (we've had worse than that ..... thats when the ohno second goes straight to brown alert)

          1. David Hicklin Bronze badge

            Re: It is mandatory to have a Oh No Oh Second experience

            > You've never been involved in robotic programming then?

            Maybe not an "ohnosecond" event, more never tell someone to not pull that leaver or press that button.

            Fresh out of school and at my first job we were all marking time a bit until the tech schools started (we got a one year off the job training - those were the days!), so we got given various jobs around the factory (electrical engineering firm).

            Mine was on a large automated lathe turning motor/generator casings that were cut from lengths of pipe. Had a small crane to do the lifting, set into the 3 jaw chuck and press the start button. There was a big drum on the end of the machine with pegs that changed the tools and started the next process. Over the drum was a big lever - NEVER PULL THAT LEVER ! (oh and precious few guards but this was the late 70's in the UK)

            So one day the machine seems to stop part way through the program, waited for a few minutes and - yes you guessed it - rather than seeking help I pulled the lever. The drum rapidly did a 90 degree rotation and the next tool fast traversed straight into the casing leaving a lovely deep spiral grove until the whole thing jammed up

            Then I went and sought some help!

            1. imanidiot Silver badge

              Re: It is mandatory to have a Oh No Oh Second experience

              I'm guessing the lever was the mechanical equivalent of "skip/forward to next operation"?

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: It is mandatory to have an Oh No Oh Second experience

      I always use a script to dd a download onto an SD card, usually duplicating the last line* of the script, commenting it out and then editing the if=value to be the new file name. Nevertheless between pressing enter on ./script and the red LED starting to flash on the SD adapter there's an enormously elongated couple of seconds of thinking "Could I have gone wrong and be doing this to /dev/sda?"

      * The script ends up being a series of commented out lines and one non-commented line. From time to time it gets pruned.

    4. collinsl Bronze badge

      Re: It is mandatory to have a Oh No Oh Second experience

      Tempora mutantur, nos et mutamur in illis

  8. Ball boy Silver badge

    "The master boot record was gone, and with it Ricardo's dignity."

    Sums it up perfectly. And who amongst us has not had that sinking feeling at one time or another?

    1. Filippo Silver badge

      Re: "The master boot record was gone, and with it Ricardo's dignity."

      Or the syncing feeling when a screwup has been automatically propagated to backups.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "The master boot record was gone, and with it Ricardo's dignity."

        I've been working on getting a certain cloud file sync tool working on Linux. Of course, I needed an account to test with, so of course I'd been using my own. As my testing was mostly concentrated on the install and first setup, I kept reverting back to a fresh state and syncing for the 'first time' again. At one point I must have just deleted the synced files...without making sure I'd disabled the sync tool. Then went back to my main computer, and wondered why all of my documents had disappeared.

        Fortunately there was a 'restore deleted files' option.

  9. Woza

    brilliantly affective

    Nice use of language, made me smile, have one of these.

  10. elsergiovolador Silver badge

    Are you sure

    "Are you sure" wouldn't stop many people from making the same mistake.

    Of course I am bloody sure! I just run it you muppet!

    *proceeds to delete the "are you sure" prompt*

    1. Killfalcon Silver badge

      Re: Are you sure

      I find the problem with having so many are-you-sure prompts is I build muscle memory to click through them. It takes an effort of will to read every prompt before clicking.

      1. GlenP Silver badge

        Re: Are you sure

        A small software house I worked for over 30 years ago had a cure for that.

        Prompt: Are you sure (Y/N)?

        Response: Y

        Prompt: Are your really sure? Press <random letter> to continue

        Not 100% infallible but probably saved a lot of Ohnoseconds.

        1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

          Re: Are you sure

          Press <random letter> to continue

          How many support calls this generated when user couldn't find <random letter> on the keyboard?

          1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

            Re: Are you sure

            Just use the Any key ;)

        2. doublelayer Silver badge

          Re: Are you sure

          The other side of this is that the prompt absolutely must, no exceptions, contain enough data to know what it's asking you about. Not just trusting that you can scroll up to see the command that launched it, not assuming that the user knows which script they clicked on, the prompt must print that again. If it's really dangerous, maybe make the user type it again to be careful, but that part is at least optional.

          1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

            Re: Are you sure

            Ideally the command should pretend it has been executed and take user to a honeypot, where all the data is wiped off (or whatever worst case scenario could there be). Then once it detected the despair in how user tries to find the extent of the damage, it should display:

            "See what could have happened had I listened to you? Do you STILL WANT TO PROCEED or do you want to stop crying and get your data back?"

            1. Killfalcon Silver badge

              Re: Are you sure

              I'm fond of estimating scope before running. "Do you want to delete 5 rows" vs "do you want to delete 5,000,000 rows". Ideally, give a guide - I have a tool to clear old data that knows roughly how many files are created per day, so the prompt is "do you want to delete 3000 items (expected: 300 per day)?"

              Not guaranteed to catch every mistake, but it gives the user more reason to check themselves.

            2. Ozumo

              Re: Are you sure

              Unfortunately you have phrased that so that the answer "Y" could lead to either outcome...

              1. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

                Re: Are you sure

                You mean like Microsoft GPOs? "Do not allow client printer redirection" -> Enable or Disable or Not Configured? You always have to think twice on that. I know examples of triple-negatives in their GPO logic, so you have to think three times, like "Allow disabling of XY". In the end you test which gives the result you want, export it with a sensible file name or check which registry setting is changed and re-use it to stop your brain from curling more than needed.

        3. Herby

          Re: Are you sure

          The second question should be something like:

          Do you want to exit and skip this?

          Which would prevent the operator from just hitting the 'Y' key over and over again. Then again, this is similar to the CAPCHA we see from time to time and it is a challenge to figure if the "operator" is a machine (in the form of a biological unit), or a human (with some thinking ability!).

      2. Vulch

        Re: Are you sure

        Once upon a time I had a SCSI drive with removable disc packs. To format a disc pack you needed to answer three prompts chosen randomly from a pool of six. Three of the pool questions needed a 'Y' to proceed, the other three needed 'N', so you actually had to check the prompt before clicking through.

        1. Elongated Muskrat Silver badge

          Re: Are you sure

          1) What is your name?

          2) What is your quest?

          3) What is your favourite colour?

          1. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

            Re: Are you sure

            What is the air-speed velocity on an unladen swallow?

            1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

              Re: Are you sure

              European or African?

  11. I Am Spartacus

    Confirmation bias

    Was with someone in the early days of DOS. She put in the dreaded "del *.*" on her C: drive. But its OK. She realised the error "OH, God, I didn'y mean to do that".

    DOS prompts "Are you sure?"

    And she replies, whilst talking to me, "Yes I am sure I didn't mean to do that".

    Sorry - But I did laugh

  12. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge


    I'll admit it ...

    I have done this with XCOPY / MIR .

    The MIR mirror feature is very dangerous , especially if you make any kind of mistake in the source / dest paths

    I ended up chewing the guts out of a colleagues system32 folder and killed the laptop, much like in the story , except worse (and more embarrasing) as it was someone else's workstation

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Guilty

      Ditto the trailing or lack of trailing / in rsync paths changing the behaviour of what gets transferred or where has probably caught every *nix user out at some stage.

      Also, for those of use using pip on CP/M and moving to MS-DOS and discovering source and destination are reversed. Although to be fair pip using destination=source feels like a bit of an outlier since I think pretty much every other OS I ever used from TRS-DOS on up used source:destination format. I never really used mini or mainframe OSs, so I'll have to assume that CP/M did things they way they were expected on some previous OS.

      1. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

        Re: Guilty

        A thing I "like" about rsync: You cannot prevent it, on the server side, to NOT save the ACLs of the source. Can result in inaccessible files on the server, so you have to use the root/root or BUILTIN\SYSTEM to access the stuff. Maybe it is possible now, but the only way to prevent that is to run rsync server with its own user, which does not have the right to set or change any acls let alone owner of the files.

    2. Sceptic Tank Silver badge

      Re: Guilty

      I may have some of the product names or versions wrong, but basically this is what happened: Back in the late 90's I was working at a site where my colleague was writing a VB6 system for a weighbridge. The system had some issues which he corrected using his Windows 95 computer and using InstallShield to create an installer for deployment. InstallShield automatically detected DLL dependencies and included them in the distribution package. Then he went over to the server, which was running Windows NT 4.0, and fired off the installation of the upgraded software. After rebooting ... the server was trashed. Turns out that NT 4.0 won't boot with Windows 95 versions of the system DLLs in the Windows\System32 directory.

  13. Steve Kerr

    Amiga hard disk partitioning

    Made mistakes with Amiga hard disk partitioning

    Whatever tool I was using to do it (may have been inbuilt one) didn't compare the size of the disk against the size of the partitions.

    From memory, you had to specify the start/end block for each partition.

    Somewhere along the line, I got confused and managed to create a partition or extend it beyond the end of the disk, what this ended up doing (unknown to me at the time), was wraparound the partiton back past the beginning of the disk (as that's what this partioning app done) - this particular tool didn't check for validity it seems!

    Only noticed some days later when weird things strted happening and files got corrupted - took ages to sort out that mass, I think I actually had some backups that I managed to restore (done to VHS tapes no less) - no idea what I lost but I don't think it was much as I was only about 19-20 at the time so didn't have much of importance!

    Fun times!

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Amiga hard disk partitioning

      Everything is mega important when you're about 19-20

      You probably lost that download of Jolly Rogers Cookbook , and with it you're ability to make thermite or tone boxes that would only work on American phones

      1. Stu J

        Re: Amiga hard disk partitioning

        ...and these days you'd be prosecuted under terror offences for even downloading a copy. Sad times.

        1. Martin-73 Silver badge

          Re: Amiga hard disk partitioning

          Unlikely, it has to be actually USEFUL to a terry-wrist

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Amiga hard disk partitioning

        There is a copy on the Freenet Project distributed system. An ex-Para gave me a copy in the early 90's. He was one of the demolitions experts in his company.

      3. Clausewitz4.0 Bronze badge
        Black Helicopters

        Re: Amiga hard disk partitioning

        BBS times were great - You could download the Anarchist Cookbook (a friend of mine told me, bcz I had never read or downloaded it !!!! I swear !!! ) and not to be prosecuted / snooped as a terrorist.

        1. doublelayer Silver badge

          Re: Amiga hard disk partitioning

          If you search for a few minutes, I'm sure you can find a copy on good old HTTP somewhere. If you search better, you might find an instruction manual that's less likely to cause you a fatal accident. Whichever one you use, if you're found making explosives, that'll be the major problem and yes, they'll cite your possession of instructions on how to make weapons when they try you, because most of society thinks that making explosives isn't great. The possession might also be brought up if they have a different reason to suspect you, but it's not as if downloading that file will bring the police to your door.

          1. Terje

            Re: Amiga hard disk partitioning

            Always back up before doing something dangerous! Always keep the reaction mixture properly cooled.

            Both of those are likely to be ignored by those that should head them :)

  14. Rikki Tikki Bronze badge

    One Tuesday morning, many moons ago, as a fairly green system manager of a debtors system, it was my job to start the annual debtors run. So, locked the system for update, started everything off ... all went swimmingly, until I checked the output. Guess who mis-typed one parameter, with the net result that every single account (90,000) had double charges.

    There was nothing to do except fess up to my manager, luckily he was more interested fixing the mess rather than executing the guilty. Unfortunately, I had to restore from Friday's backup, meaning everyone in the office lost all Monday's work - and I had to walk the gauntlet of a very disgruntled office on Wednesday morning.

    The only long-term damage was the footnote in the documentation (with my initials): "Always back up before starting this process, unless you fuck up like I did". The punchline, though, that 15 years later I was asked to return to the same area - due to a the then system manger jumping ship without training a successor - and, despite the system having been replaced several times, my footnote comment was still there in all its glory.

  15. JulieM Silver badge

    Hard lessons

    That which was hard to learn, will be even harder to forget.

    I recently had to modify a script I wrote to extract files from disc images, after I mistyped a filename and overwrote something important. It was an old script -- and only by sheer, blind luck that I had managed not to do this sooner.

    Still, adding an -e test and a yes/no prompt at least provided a pleasant diversion before the unenviable task of recreating the changes lost since the last backup (so only a morning's work, but it had been a busy morning).

  16. Stuart Castle Silver badge

    Years ago, my boss came up with the idea of operating an internet cafe in one of our buildings. We needed a way to limit the sessions on each machine, but the Boss did not want to pay for any kind of software to do this.

    Being a keen c++ coder, I offered to write something. I hit upon the idea of writing a screensaver to restart the machine when it triggers. After all, Windows already has a timing mechanism for triggering screensavers, so I wouldn't need to write my own.

    Being the astute person I am, I realised that people would just leave documents open, so the system doesn't just log them out. So, I altered the screensaver so it did a forced restart. Because the restart was forced, it would not prompt the user to save it.

    Then I tested it.. And realised, as the machine rebooted losing me some very important other work. I'd forgotten to disable the shutdown API call. I don'r remember why, but for some reason, the screensaver would not compile after this. But, I had realised it was a stupid way to do this, so I deleted what I'd done, and ultimately, the Internet Cafe was shut down (it was costing too much to staff).

    1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

      I've seen internet cafe where guy selling access to machines had kitchen timers with a number corresponding to each computer. Once you paid, he'd set up the timer.

      He also had a baseball bat and would walk to your desk once timer gone off and firmly informed you that the time is up whilst angrily pointing the bat at the computer screen.

      If there was a slow day, he would be napping until the alarm followed by juicy "oh ffs, who is it now" and still half asleep trying to find which timer is making noise.

  17. aerogems Silver badge

    Some years back I wrote a macro for MS access. It would basically take a series of reports that had already been generated by Access and attach them to generated Outlook mail messages. I easily could have made the script automatically send these messages without any user intervention, but there was always something in the back of my mind saying maybe I should give the user a last chance to review the message before sending. Sure, most of it was probably a CYA type of thing, so if one of my coworkers using the script hit send when they shouldn't have, it's on them and they can't blame my script for anything. Still, it did also have the added benefit of not creating a situation vaguely similar to our "hero" here.

  18. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

    Long live $WhatIf

    My powershell scripts contain a line near the beginning


    All commands which might cause problems have


    So as long as $WhatIf is not set or $true all commands only pretend to do something. I did not always do this as you guessed right. My scripts got more -Verbose over time to show the Computername and a few other things to make sure I run in the right context.

    1. richardcox13

      Re: Long live $WhatIf

      PowerShell has inbuilt support to do this with $WhatIfPreference.

      See about_Preference_Variables.

  19. Sam not the Viking Silver badge

    Don't forget to test it.....

    For a particular application we bought a special valve controlled by simple 'open' and 'close' buttons. Taking the finger off the button stopped the valve mid-way.

    My eager assistant wanted to perform this operation via the PC and so he wrote a simple little procedure. This made the task no easier but it kept him out of my way for a bit.

    "Don't forget to test it" was my sole guidance.

    "It works brilliantly" he said later on returning to the office for a cuppa.

    Much later, one of the engineers came in and said "Your valve is making a funny noise. It seems to be running all the time."

    "What did you test it on?"

    "The valve."

    "Did you see it?"

    "Yes. It worked both ways."

    "And did it stop?"

    "Er. I think it might have done..... Probably....... Not sure..... Perhaps not..... "

    The drive gears were destroyed. I made him work the valve manually.

  20. Orv Silver badge

    I performed more than one recovery from similar situations based on two bits of knowledge:

    - Unlike DOS FDISK, Linux fdisk doesn't overwrite any data in the partition itself, so if you know the partition sizes you can use it to re-create a missing MBR

    - FAT32 stores a spare copy of the boot sector in sector 6.

    Fix the partition table, then use DEBUG (or a sector editor, if you've got one handy) to copy sector 6 to sector 0, and you've resurrected the filesystem.

    1. An_Old_Dog Silver badge

      Partition Recovery


      Do I remember the sizes of my partitions? No. That being the case, the badly-named, excellent, open-source DOS/Linux/etc. program, TESTDISK, comes to my rescue.

  21. DS999 Silver badge

    I always make the Y/N prompt as useful as possible for highly destructive scripts

    Don't put something like "install new OS? (Y/N)" but grab as much useful information about the environment as possible to make the question better. So before you ask you grab the name of the machine it is running on, who else is logged in, the current drive usage, and running processes. In particular, take note if there are other mounted volumes that would not be expected for this script to run on, are other users logged in or processes not owned by you or the system running.

    Then you can not only have something better like "install new OS on 'workstation24c'? (Y/N)" but after you type Y you may have another prompt "Are you sure? There are other users logged in, and/or background programs running, and/or unexpected mounted volumes. Type YES if you are sure:"

    I never had to learn this the hard way, I saw others learn it the hard way around me and didn't want to follow in their footsteps!

  22. claimed Bronze badge

    Right… I mean the prompt is not the solution. Surely the script should have set a marker when it executed, and refused to do anything otherwise. That way it would work on new laptops and not repeatedly unless the marker was cleared.

    Adding alternatives for “real” laptops too, like the existence of User folders, would have been the way, IMO

  23. Sceptic Tank Silver badge

    Is the delete function ready?

    I was writing a disk maintenance program in Turbo Pascal 6 that was going to put X-Tree and PC Tools out of business. So I'm happy to report that my implementations of Interrupt 21H Service 65 and Interrupt 21H Service 58 worked flawlessly the first time around because I tested it on my source code directory and everything was gone. Yes backups, we've heard of those.

  24. TRT Silver badge

    You can probably tell when this has happened...

    By examining the browser history for searches related to "How can a script determine which drive location it has been called from?"

  25. Morten Bjoernsvik

    we have all been there

    I cleaned the wrong database and wiped a 40 person department entire days work.

    Luckily the DB-admin could do a rollback to last backup and then rollforward to exact at my delete operation.

    But we lost 40 persons * 20 minutes of productivity because it was no cases in the queues coming from the mainframe.

    In this case it was IBMs DB2 and a very nice DB-admin that saved my career.

    (He actually got a cake from management for fast problem solving)

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Back in the day

    When I was trained as a Unix admin (for historical context, 486 chips were still rumours) the guys who ran the courses used to demo how to trash a system (admittedly not a system that was doing much).

    They'd merrily rm away everything but, miraculously, the system stayed up unless you rebooted.

    ISTR you could drop it to single user and then it was possible to reinstall/recover from backup while it was still up and once done it would reboot happily.

  27. Lee D Silver badge

    Ricardo needs to learn "not to run as root".

    Because if it wiped out his boot sectors, that means he was working as an administrator - I'm not sure you could do that otherwise even in the 90's when you were inside the OS itself.

    Also... always have a confirm script and/or an "if this is my test computer, then don't actually run these commands" in the script.

    I caught one from my team a few weeks back where they were trying to use a script they'd copy-pasted to deploy disk encryption (rather than just group policy it!) to a bunch of machines... and the script meticulously:

    - Generated a highly secure random key.

    - Encrypted the disk with the key.

    - Backed the key up to a file on the server.

    I think you can see the problem with the order there.

    To top it off, the script was supposed to be used to encrypt multiple machines and the "backup" involved echoing the computer name and key to a text file on a shared network location.

    Bad enough in and of itself, but it used > instead of >>.

    So now every machine that had the script run, would permanently overwrite the only record of all the previous computer's keys anyway.

    The script never hit a real machine, tripping up on my very first eyes-on review and was immediately condemned.

    In the space of a few minutes, we deployed an alternative that was vaguely sane and also checked to make sure the key was stored in a secured area before it then proceeded to encrypt.

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