Ye Cannae change the laws of physics Cap'n
99 posts • joined 18 Feb 2010
My first real PC was a Rair Black Box, 256kB RAM, 8085 CPU and a 10MB 5 1/4" full height HDD running MP/P (Multiuser CP/M). It came with DB2, WordStar and after a long slow train journey to Sheffield one evening after work - SuperCalc.
Not a games machine as the input/output was all via RS232 to either printers or dumb terminals but I do remember I managed to get a BASIC version of Othello (Reversi) once and managed to massively increase the speed of it from re-drawing the whole screen every move to addressing the screen locations individually then compiling it.
Such fun we had back in the day but it did teach me how to troubleshoot RS232 problems and that's more than paid for itself.
<Think we need an owd codger icon for 'Back in my day....'>
Reminds me of the time I used to work for a private school, the stdents were supposed to keep their floppy disks (3.5" variant) in a special protective holder - the school shop even sold these but inevitably these got lost, damaged or even just forgotten about because they were 'inconvenient'.
As such it meant that very often the disks just got slung into bags and the metal shield would start to bend. Eventually these got to such a state that the disks would go into a drive but then the shield wuld spring out and prevent the disk from being removed.
This didn't stop the students as they had to either get to the next lesson or go out because it was breaktime - the disks were generally forceably removed leaving the shield in the drive (plus they didn't want to leave any evidence of teh fact they hadn't been using a protective cover as that would have had to be explained to the head). Guess what, next lesson that computer couldn't be used and guess who got a call to fix said computer (along with a complaint that little so-and-so couldn't save their lessons work).
Got very adept at removing said shields with 2 expansion blankers to the extent that I could even do it with the original disk in there - several culprits were actually charged for the price of a replacement drive as a result.
I'd like to be all nostalgic and say they were happier times but they weren't, the school was a git to work for, the teachers treated all anciliary staff as if they were something that had come in on the sole of their shoes and I couldn't wait to get out of there.
Nah, that roundabout looks like it's got gravel on top, epoxy will never stick to that. What you really need is quick setting concrete, they'll have a devil of a job getting that off. (and if they're anything like our local council when concrete's spilled on the road they won't even bother).
At that time I was at Uni and all of my housemates had either Atari STs or Amigas. Not for me, I had a green screen dumb terminal connected to one of those old Rair Black Box computers (Think mine was badged as BT Merlin) running MP/M, still, I was the only one in the house with a wide carriage printer and 'professional' software (Wordstar, SuperCalc and DB2).
I still managed o get my reports/assignments submitted on time and since I'd spent some time working in industry before I started Uni I managed to get them looking a lot better than many other submissions.
Having that old Rair Black box stood me in good stead for sorting out all sorts of Serial Comms issues, and for a while (only threw them out last year) I had an extensive range of RS232 cable adaptors.
Yes, or more accurately an exploding one...
This happenned one time when they were extending the warehouse at the firm I worked for and the JCB bucket found that the plans for where the water and power feeds came in were both wrong and they were in the same trench as the JCB was...
Most stuff survived, but he UPS for the main system (since it was alone on it's circuit) took the brunt of the surge and promptly sh*t itself to protect the main unit. Pretty much destroyed the power input stage of it but fortunately we had 24/7/4 hour cover so we had a replacement unit in place by lunch time...
A side story to this was the face that one of our crew was having his annual review at the time, so the other 2 of us were in the office when this occurred. First thing we noticed was the screens on the PCs were doing strange patterns so I got up to check the main unit oin the next roomand almost as soon as I set foot in there the UPS exploded. Cue the Boss and our colleague who was being reviewed running in expecting to see me with a charred screwdriver in hand, sadly disapointed they had to accept my explanation of what happenned.
I was on holiday in France the other year and in the public toilets (in the town hall as I recall) the urinals had recycling labels above them accompanied by a selection of beverage images (eg: urinal a was beer, b was wine, c was tea/coffee etc...) taking he recycling concept a bit far.
I remember seeing North-C on my flatmates Amiga 500**, as I recall the icon was a picture of an oil rig - very witty.
** this was one of 4 machines that we networked together with RS232 cables (the other 3 were Atari STs) so they could play games together. Couldn't join in though, my 'puter was an old RaIr Black Box running MP-M (Multi-user CP-M) with a Getronics green screen terminal (back in the day when Getronics actually made stuff, not just contracted to repair Dells), so I couldn't join in - although I did have WordStar, SuperCalc and dBaseII on it (and a massive 10MB full height HDD!!!).
In my experience, I COULD NOT GET a permanent position for many years - there just weren't the jobs in my area to have so I didn't have any choice - if I wanted to work I had to go contracting. This is the case for a lot of smaller and less skilled contractors, the employers don't want to take on a permanent employee if they can see that role being phased out after 6-12-18 months, such as hardware and software roll-outs. This sort of job will always exist as long as technology keeps moving forward and things need to be periodically refreshed where companies don't have the in house resources to do this. (read most companies). I do agree with a previous comment about contractors needing to talk to the cowards of employers and make sure they can be placed outside this legislation - it can be done and quite legally, I managed it when I worked for the NHS at a South Wales health trust but we were about the only contractors who weren't 'in scope' (I think the thought of either losing us or having to pay a lot more urged the contract manager to do something about it.)
I've moved on from there now and I was in the position recently that the company I was contracting to saw the value of taking me on permanently and my salary has even improved slightly as a result - this is the position I wanted to be in from the start. Many many others aren't quite as lucky.
That sounds like my comment whenever things are looking like being a little troublesome -
"I've got a 3lb forge hammer in the car if you need it..."
I ACTUALLY DO carry said 3lb forge hammer in the car but only for if I ever need to change a wheel since they have a habit of seizing onto the bit around the hub. Scared the life out of one user when I got it out of the car and brought it in (we were re-adjusting the shelves in the store room at the time, theirs was just an incidental job as I was passing).
Not just VPs but any managers can be susceptible... reminds me of our office/server room (this was at a private school by the way) that was about 6 x 15 feet and the "aircon" was 2 pedestal fans pointing in different directions in front of the windows (one blowing in and the other blowing out. Most mornings in the summer I had to clear the drift of dead midges of my keyboard. Didn't stay there long and took a pay cut to leave and was glad of it.
If your power was as prone to dropping the main breaker as ours is here you'd be happy for ANY UPS - just added another on one piece of kit that wasn't previously protected and was a pain in the arse when it had to be restarted (sometimes 3 dropouts in a day, and at random times upto and including 3:30am) Last one was 11:20 last night.
... And how adept did you become at removing the little metal covers off the floppy disks from the drives? Been there, seen it, done it, thrown away the t-shirt (was full of holes) - 2 expansion blankers and a little wiggling and it saves the price of a new drive.
Got out of education very soon after this and I've given up on council and NHS work as well (nope, never got IR35'd) - private only now.
Seems strange, they must've gone backwards on the design phase then (that or the beancounters have vitoed it on cost grounds or something).
I remember a LOT of laptop keyboards not that long ago were built with a sealed plastic tray under them and drain holes going through the laptop to the bottom. My Lenovo Wireless desktop keyboard has drain holes as well - didn't help it that much when I knocked a glass of red over it - still had to give it a good scrub but at least it's still working (it's what I'm typing this with).
(and why's no-one used the keyboard icon yet...)
Tell me about it - I used to work in a school and became very adept at removing the metal covers from discs from the drives they had been jammed in.
The students were supposed to keep their discs in a protective cover at all times when they were not being used but often this did not happen (translation - maybe 10%) as a result the metal cover would become battered and inevitably the sides would spring out and as the discs would usually go in, the metal would then spring back and prevent them being removed, not that this stopped the students, they'd usually just pull until the disc came out minus metal cover. (occasionally they'd be good and put their hand up and say they couldn't get their disc out, but since this usually meant trouble for not keeping it in the cover the quickly stopped doing this).
The next lesson someone couldn't use the drive and we were eventually called, sometimes they'd even trace the culprit (depending on the teacher) and since it was a private school the parents would be billed for a new floppy drive.
The moral of this story is if you get the metal off a floppy stuck in the drive, 2 expansion blanking plates and a bit of wiggling are often your saviour. (I mus have unclogged dozens of drives and only once lost a drive, and I think that was on the way out anyways).
Reminds me of an incident that happened one time we were having the warehouse extended at work. Apparently the plans showed the electrical feed at one end of the warehouse and the water at the other - they weren't, they were both in the same trench that just happened to be where the JCB was digging (thinking he was well clear of both).
Here's the IT angle - the digger bucket hit the pipe and cable at the same time and caused some sparks (OK - it took out the whole power feed to that end of the building, sending massive spikes up the earth line) . The first we knew about it was our screens wobbling a bit - went to have a look at the big main server (HP D series Unix box) and as I walked in the room there was a HOOJ explosion as the UPS just shat itself (managed about 30 seconds before it did so pretty good). Managed to protect the main server as well and the only problems were from a couple of incorrectly closed files from the sudden power outage and a new pair of trousers required as I was the one to go in to see what the trouble was just before it went bang.
Our Chemistry teacher used one of those wide glass bowls for that experiment - Sodium was fine, fizzed and popped over the surface but the Potassium exploded (I think it ignited the gas it was producing) and split the glass bowl drenching the teacher from about the waist downwards. He didn't do Potassium the next year...
Anyone else tried RS recently, good prices (I remember they used to be horribly overpriced, or so I thought at the time) and good delivery, as well as 'Trade Counters' which can act as 'Click & Collect' or just pop in if they've got what you need. Or there's CPC/Farnell - similar but don't remember seeing anything about trade counters with them.
Maplin have been going down the tubes for a long time, ever since some Eejit put the beancounters in complete charge of the company, ditching any product if there's a momentary dip in sales. A story I remember from a good few years ago (when the staff actually knew what they were doing) was that the D25 plugs weren't selling as well as the D25 sockets so they were discontinued, 3 months later they discontinued the D25 sockets as well as no-one was buying them there since they coundn't get the mating plug!
They were still using MTS when I started there in '89 - just for the 1st years, I seem to remember the machine was an Amdahl, no idea what model it was though (I suspect we night have been told but I don't have any notes from back then any more). I also seem to remember they had a cluster of *nix machines that the 2nd and 3rd years were allowed to play with instead of being hobbled by the old system.
I also remember an old HP analyser system when I started at RR with a fixed/removable platter on it - I only saw the cover off it once when it was being serviced and was told in no uncertain terms never to get your watch or anything that might be magnetic anywhere near the voice coil, even when it was off. Didn't need telling twice on that one.
The analyser was 'donated' to a college (who also had another virtually identical one) when we were granted funding to purchase one that could be moved by one person and was considerably more powerful (it even used 3 1/2" Floppies!!!)
A company I heard of did exactly that. I can 't remember who it was or where but here's how it went...
They were a production company and the product they made was pretty successfull and sold well, however they were still making a loss. They analysed the time usage of the higher wage earners of the company (ie the managers) and found 50% of the time they were at meetings, 35% of the time they were preparing for meetings and 10% of the time was spent writing up after meetings, leaving just 5% of actual productive time. They let go 90% of the managers and turned the company around overnight.
"Therefore, expect Her Majesty's Arse to announce that the rules will be expanding to the whole economy, not just the public sector."
As far as I was aware that was always going to be on the cards, hit the public sector this year and the private sector next year.
Funny how the amount they hope to raise (£440M) seems to be about the same as they expected to raise from stopping Umbrella companies allowing contractors to claim expenses. I sense that they'll probably just about make as much from this as they did from the umbrella 'clampdown' so will want to somehow make even more the following year with another hair brained scheme.
Only the liability falls to the agency, it's the end user (Gov/Health/public sector department) that actually decides whether the contractors are actually within IR35, so expect some 'interesting' anomalies due to differing departments policies regarding contractors, and with some policies being blanket applied from several layers above this means some departments that can't afford to lose them will lose their contractors even when the managers of that department can prove their contractors aren't IR35. (think Dilbert and lazy/incompetent managers)
A colleague of mine always gets his lunch from the canteen as a carry out and always eats it at his desk - he has found that this is the only way to avoid having the users pestering him with IT issues that should be logged in the proper manner (ie helpdesk) while he's trying to eat.
Happens all the time in Education circles (and medical establishments for that matter) - They think that because they've managed to get a post as a teacher then they're better than the ancillary staff and as such treat them as morons, and forget about any sort of funding unless it's one of their ideas (meaning they've probably specced up some utter shite and are merrily paying through the nose for it.
Works especially well on morning "I can't log in" od "My PC isn't working" type calls, an hour later you wander over to see how they're doing and you find they'd either forgotten to switch something on (PC, Monitor etc) or switch something off (ie Caps Lock) or they've actually properly checked and re-plugged in the cables.
"sending a copy to all other parties ie: the 1IC and all board members."
I did that one place I walked out of (made sure I had a job to walk into though) - it was politely swept under the carpet before anyone could say anything. Although apparently a few months later they had an impromptu IT audit instigated by one of the governors....
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