* Posts by irrelevant

253 publicly visible posts • joined 30 Mar 2010


How is this problem mine, techie asked, while cleaning underground computer


Re: Fire hazard

I had to deal with a pc in a furniture factory once. Compaq 386 running windows 3,if i recall. Same story, opened the case just to be greeted by a slightly undulating layer of sawdust where the motherboard should be. Think it was still working at the time, too. I'd just been sent to put in a network card and upgrade to WFWG.

That's gas: CO2 found on Europa surface may hint at some possible sign of life


We were warned..




Arthur C. Clarke, 2010: Odyssey Two

PEBCAK problem transformed young techie into grizzled cynical sysadmin


Re: Similar story

Argh. I got called out to my mother-in-law just this afternoon. "I've got no sound! "

She uses headphones on a laptop, almost exclusively did watching Netflix. I can't tell you how many ways she's broken things over the years. Anyway, I unplug the headphones so I can hear what's going on.. Sounds burst forth from the laptop speakers.. So I try the headphones on my phone. No sound. Then I look at them...

"Have you got the new ones you bought because these ones didn't work the last time you called me round?"

(she did, and surprisingly, using those solved the problem..)


Re: Enter Password

Better than the calls I got occasionally... "I had an error message, yesterday." "What was it?" "I don't know, and it's all working fine since."

Sure, give the new kid and his MCSE power over the AS/400. What could possibly go wrong?


Re: Ah, MCSE

I was a programmer at a small amounts software shop for a while. The boss took on a new guy, fresh graduate, compete with nice shiney MSCE. No idea why, we didn't use any Microsoft software. We were using "BOS" and working with COBOL.. (Actually, I think we had a couple of DOS machines, the most complicated thing they ran was a terminal app used to access a supplier's BBS.) Lad was completely lost, totally incapable of understanding or learning what we did. He was gone again after a couple of weeks.

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


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!

The choice: Pay BT megabucks, or do something a bit illegal. OK, that’s no choice


Re: Similar language problem on Windows 1 0

I desperation I tried using the vSphere Mobile Client to one of my ESXi servers to get at a VM that decided to not talk to it's network. No problem accessing the console. But almost all the punctuation keys failed to give the right symbols. Trying to get | (pipe) I pressed every single button on the virtual keyboard on every page, and couldn't find it. VM is set en_GB, I guess vmware only speaks American..

Linux lover consumed a quarter of the network


Re: "something like a dozen CD-ROMs."?

I'm pretty sure it was debian I installed, back in 1995 or thereabouts. Download one floppy, boot of it, and it grabs everything else it needs via a network connection. This was being provided at that time by a windows machine sharing a standard dial-up connection. Whilst it took a while, I don't recall it taking so long that I ran out of free phone call time. (I was lucky enough to find a local (UK) ISP with access numbers on the local cable network; that got me free calls to them, off-peak, once I signed up for a line myself.)

OpenAI pauses Bing search feature over paywall bypass abilities



"I am not able to display the full content of articles from [the site you requested] or any other publication that is protected by copyright,"

So that's pretty much every single thing on the Internet, then, given almost everything you can find is copyright somebody or other. Even if they make it freely accessible. And it's even more of a stupid thing to say given they trained their LLMs on (copyrighted) data in the first place, without asking, which many people are upset about.

Hacking a Foosball table scored an own goal for naughty engineers


We had a drinks machine at school.. It was, if I recall, 5p for a drink. Until somebody discovered that a particular foreign coin fed into it would get rejected and returned to you. But still give you the drink! For a while just being in possession of said coinage became a disciplinary offence.. Until the 20p coins came out and it did exactly the same thing. The machine was changed soon afterwards..

Techie wasn't being paid, until he taught HR a lesson



House I lived in in the 90s, it turned out I had a namesake (at least initial+surname) living further down the same road. I discovered this when a relative asked BT Directory Enquiries for our number, and was given his..

Earlier, late 80s, I'd moved and left my new number on a friend's answering machine. He misheard, dialed the number he thought he heard, and when it answered he asked for <my name> saying he was <his name> and got passed to someone with my name who had a friend with his name... Much confusion ensued..


Re: Unique keys

The predictive text on my phone knows my email address, and so entering it in on forms is easy. But it adds a space afterwards. Almost /every/ web form out there rejects this as having "invalid characters". Can't you just do a bloody trim() on the thing before validating it??

Cunningly camouflaged cable routed around WAN-sized hole in project budget



I remember one client, early 1990s, in the process of a massive expansion, taking a lease on office on the opposite side of the road from their existing location. And only then asking how to link then together. I gather that it was going to take way to long to do anything official, so they hired a cherry picker and a pile of cones and basically carried out an unauthorised road closure late at night to string some cables across at height. Definitely an arcnet cable, probably telephone too. This was in the very early days of Midland Cellular, before they became Phones4u.

(a later expansion, into bigger still offices, was a bit too far to do the same, so after attempting a microwave link, they rented a kilostream connection instead..)

Techie called out to customer ASAP, then: Do nothing


Re: SLAs make work for idle hands...

"Here's me thinking : yeah, well maybe you should have enquired about what you were leaving and what the replacement tool could do to fulfill the need."

Absolutely. Mid 80s, I was working for a small company, dealership for a particular niche-but-well-regarded accounts software. I'd not long helped install some nifty full tower 80386 machines at a client, a pair of which supported some 30+ serial terminals, when the client decided they'd had enough of us, and switched to the other local dealer. Fast forward a few years, I got a job at this other dealer too, and found myself installing a whole new system at this same client.

It seemed that in the intervening years, they'd got fed up of the new dealer, my new employer, and tendered out for a whole new system. I don't know who or what they chose, but it must have cost them a packet, as it involved PCs on each desk instead of dumb terminals, and thin ethernet everywhere. Then they tried to actually use it.. Apparently they had gone to the new company with a list of everything the existing software couldn't do, and were promised that the new software either could, or could be made to do all those things.

Of course, and I know you all spotted this coming, they forgot about listing all the things that the existing system /could/ do. So they start trying to use the new stuff, and it can't do most of what they were used to doing..

So they came back, cap in hand, to my new employer, apologising profusely, and we set everything back up as it had been, and were also able to address their list of Things It Doesn't Do. They didn't try to jump ship again, at least not in the time I was there. I don't know now - my now long since ex employer has switched over to selling SAP...

The most bizarre online replacement items in your delivered shopping?


Re: Years ago....

I'm still working my way through a part-roll of rainbow ribbon cable I was given when I was an apprentice at Ferranti, 40 years ago, after somebody wanted something like 100mm, ordered it from RS, and ended up with 100 many-meter-long rolls!

User was told three times 'Do Not Reboot This PC' – then unplugged it anyway


Re: Remove, Throw, Call

I used to live opposite a supermarket. It was a fascinating watch on Christmas Day. It was always amazing the number of people who would drive into the empty car park, presumably marvel at finding a space, get out, walk to the store, not even notice the lights were off and security shutters down, and only realise something was wrong when they couldn't get through the door!

I swear people just do not look at anything when going through familiar routines.

(I'm not going to mention all the times I nearly pulled up at the office when I was supposed to be going directly to a customer site that morning... I generally realised as I was making the last turn, when I guess my mind also turned to thinking about what I was supposed to be doing that day.)

Just follow the instructions … no wait, not that instruction to lock everyone out of everything


Re: Not a million miles away ...

Trying to set up a fediverse instance this week.. Start with a fresh and up to date install of Ubuntu each time.. I tried four different software setups, follow the setup scripts to the letter. Every one failed somewhere along the line. I managed to solve some of the issues, but it wasn't until I tried the very latest version of mastodon, released after I'd started this exercise, that I finally got the bloody thing working, and at that, it had told me to install the wrong version of Ruby than it then required later on.

China's single aisle passenger jet – the C919 – likely to be certified next week


Re: Russian market?

From what I read, around about the time Russia effectively confiscated all the planes they had on lease, as soon as they stop using certified parts or maintenance companies, the whole plane would need to be pretty much torn apart and every part checked and recertified before it would be allowed to fly again anywhere else. The cost of doing this would probably exceed their book value, thus they are effectively worthless already.

Terminal downgrade saves the day after a client/server heist


Re: RAM removal

One customer, they used to do maintenance on mobile cranes. Massive heavy bits of machinery on lots of wheels. Absolutely nothing will stop them if, say, someone hotwires one and drives it into the side of your office building, as they found out one morning...

After losing too many computers too often, they came up with a system where all the PCs we're locked in a room at the back of the site, enclosed in a cage that looked like welded rebar. They then used VGA/keyboard extenders to drive monitors on the desks elsewhere..


Re: RAM removal

Had a break in at work, ~2000. Nicked a load of PCs. So the boss told us to lock all office doors in future. So when they came back couple of weeks later, and kicked their way through every door, the cost was significantly more. This time we get told not to bother locking them...

Issue was solved by new shutters at the front door, and bars at the windows. First few months, the bars were copper water pipe held in place by bits of timber, all spray painted white. Anybody could have broken through them, but they looked the part, so the crims stopped trying.

Doctor gave patients the wrong test results due to 'printer problems'


Re: Anecdote

Same at my GP.

25 years ago, new house, new phone line, asked to be ex-directory. Then discovered from people who wanted to phone us, and had called Directory Enquiries, that there was someone else with the same name half a dozen doors down the road, whom were not XD, and, being the only match on our road showing up, had their number given out instead!

Burger King just sent spam receipts to customers



I got three..

On the plus side, now I know all the emails I registered in their app! (it was purely to access the offers.)

Is handy to have several accounts on these things, to get around the "only one offer per day/visit" limits. Although, for BK UK the code for a cheap whopper meal (APP35) hasn't changed in years, and I sometimes don't even bother loading the app when ordering via the drive through - they've never asked to see it! (Though I'm not sure if anything has changed the with new loyalty scheme they launched a couple of weeks ago.)

A character catastrophe for a joker working his last day


Re: Nothing so severe

Many years ago, when the supermarkets had money to waste on such things, a nearby ASDA had a greeter who would wander about the store with a microphone linked to the tannoy, making announcements about special offers, discounts, etc. If he got called away for something, he had a habit of stashing the mike on the top shelf somewhere.

This stopped after I was in one day and was suddenly greeted by the not-so-pleasant warbling of a very small child doing their best to bash out some unidentifiable song, amplified across the entire store. I can only presume he'd not hidden it well, or it had fallen off it's place, and been found by said youngster!

We've got a photocopier and it can copy anything


Re: Years ago....

I generally put my return address on the back of a letter as simply

"From: <number> <post code>"

The one time it turned out to be necessary, the letter did get back to me successfully. Complete with a sticker with the full address printed on it - presumably the system still relied to some extent on humans needing to parse a conventional address..

Know the difference between a bin and /bin unless you want a new doorstop


Hmm. TRS-80 was the first computer I used, at school. Model 1 machines, linked via their cassette port and a switch box to a model 3 with a disc drive - it could share programmes by using "cload" on the stations while saving on the m3..

First with a floppy I got to handle myself, either an RML380Z, or a Data General Nova, both at dad's work (Tameside College of Technology.)

First floppy off my own, hung from a BBC Micro..

I did try writing my own operating system on the Beeb, though it was more of a task switcher/scheduler, for a second processor equipped machine, with terminal sessions coming from other machines on the LAN. Would have been cool if I'd ever finished it.

How one techie ended up paying the tab on an Apple Macintosh Plus


Re: Under construction

I can't remember its name now, but CompuServe had a free "homepage" generator you could use to create your HTML.. It was dire - each paragraph could be either plain text, OR a link or other element. No in-line links here, thank you very much! Front Page was a dream, after that, although even then I realised that the HTML it created was dreadful.

That time a techie accidentally improved an airline's productivity


Re: Easy to miss something trivial

And predictive text is a right pain in the bum, especially when using a phone with a dodgy screen, so I miss the occasional incorrect word. Sigh.


Re: Easy to miss something trivial

Given the lack of punctuation in most online posts I see from the younger generation, I don't gibbous they do manage..

And the number of people I've seen generate capitals by pressing Caps Lock either side is significant..


Re: Easy to miss something trivial

One set of directions I remember to this day. "turn right half way along <very long road>"

Not very helpful if you've never been there before..


Re: Everybody knows...

One memorable support call I got.. "I got an error message when I did <task>." me: "What's the error code?" them: "I don't know, it was yesterday, and it's not happened again." Not much I could do in those circumstances..


Re: Everybody knows...

Argh! Reminded me of early pc motherboard manuals...

Take a cryptically named BIOS option, with just Enabled or Disabled as possible values. No idea what it is, or if it'd be appropriate to use, so look it up in the provided manual. Sum total of help: "Set to Enabled to enable <cryptic name>." Er, yeah, I'd worked that much out already.

Client demo in 30 minutes. Just what could go wrong?


Re: It was BT for me

Yups... Checked my emails: October 2000 I was one of the first 1000 to get ADSL installed by Freeserve. I'm not sure if anyone else was doing it any earlier

JavaScript library updated to wipe files from Russian computers


Re: No lessons learned

Set of temporary traffic lights near me failed just a couple of days ago. Gone are the days of an electromechanical timer and wires strung between them; these have smarts and link via radio. Much more to go wrong. And they did.

At least they failed to all-red. Chaos on the street though. I let the cops know (driving through a red light is still an offence) but some good samaritan decided to push them all over instead..

An open-source COBOL contender emerges



Seconded. I'm another who spent two decades with COBOL on the wrong systems. In my case BOS/COBOL and a database driven variant carried Speedbase running on BOS, a now-obscure cross platform operating system geared up to provide multi-user business applications on commodity hardware. (24 serial terminals on a 286 was one system I supported. It worked well.) I never even came across the Big Iron ecosystems.

(if anybody has any work to offer.... )

Saving a loved one from a document disaster


Re: The joy...

I seem to get a lot of "but before you do that.." when I'm about to go do something. Usually followed by the aforementioned "can you just.."

Beware the techie who takes things literally


Email from me to my ISP, 1997.

Dear Sales,

Received: from upsmot01.msn.com ([]) by mailhost.nwnet.co.uk

(post.office MTA v1.9.3b **** trial license expired ****)

with SMTP id AAA162 for <robert@########.nwnet.co.uk>;

Sun, 2 Mar 1997 00:22:56 +0000

Are you ever going to get a proper registered version of post.office ?

Real-time software? How about real-time patching?


Re: Firefighters

I'm not sure I had a job title, but turn of the century I was working for a small (not-my-)family business, reseller of a now-obscure accounts software suite. I was doing everything from installing serial terminals, Windows networking, general tech support, writing custom software in COBOL, debugging and patching crashed data to reverse engineering third party software to create data extraction tools. No day was the same. Massive variety, loved the work and the customer interaction, shame my boss, MD of the company, was a dick whom took advantage and ended up forcing my hand into leaving.

When forgetting to set a password for root is the least of your woes


Re: Nobody told me I wasn't allowed to do it.

The Great Prestel Hack was, I was reliably informed, because the password for System Manager (the highest level account on the system) was 1234.

Bouncing cheques or a bouncy landing? All in a day's work for the expert pilot


Re: Serial to VGA? All you need is an adapter!

I had to get out my box of miscellaneous serial adapters just a couple of weeks ago... Bit of second hand* network kit wasn't talking on the default IP address, and I couldn't immediately work out what IP it was on. It wasn't asking for a DHCP address anyway, plus I had suspicions that if I did find it, it'd be password protected. But, it had a DE9 on the back. Connected the breakout box via an adapter, and it had lights in all the right places for a serial port. Plugged in the other side to a USB>RS232 adapter, again via an adapter and a quick crossover adapter, and was able to talk to the thing. Single user mode was easy by just interrupting the boot process, and I managed to factory reset it.

* eBay "seller refurbished, fully working." Hrmph. I didn't even power it up until I removed one of their asset stickers that completely covered the air vents at one end..

Google sours on legacy G Suite freeloaders, demands fee or flee



I've seen a lot of coverage on this, on the tech sites, twitter, etc,, but nobody has admitted to receiving any notice. I've not.

I'm in same boat, used it since 2006, as do my entire family across multiple domains on two Google Apps for Domains.. It was marketed at us! And because its easy, I have extra accounts for seldom monitored things, not just one per person. Pay-per-account will hit us hard. I'm paying per month for extra storage on a couple of the accounts, but nowhere near that much.

I'm dreading losing the android logins, though I think most stuff the Mrs has bought has been against her Hotmail.com Google account thankfully. If I can't migrate the workspace based accounts to such a third-party-address based Google accounts I'll be pissed!

I'm already hosting some services in house, and was looking at dropping my paid Web hosting, using the savings on a second Internet link for resilience, so this is making me think quite hard about running my own mail servers again too. Anybody got any suggestions on that side.

To err is human. To really screw things up requires a wayward screwdriver



About 20 years ago now, I was installing some new data points in the office area of a client's factory. Cheap job, nothing hard, bit of cat5 from a panel at the other side of the office across a false ceiling and down some mini trunking to a new socket at skirting height. It was late in the day, all the staff had gone home bar the client's Financial Director, whom we were doing the work for. I was working on the last socket, crouched on the floor, simultaneously texting my girlfriend (now wife) as to why I was going to be late home, when there was a bang, a sharp pain on the top of my head, and some bright flashing lights behind my eyes.

It transpired that the FD, keen to help, or maybe just wanting to get home quicker, had hopped on a desk and tried to reposition the ceiling tiles that I'd moved to string the cable. Unfortunately, these were old, large and heavy, possibly asbestos or some sort of fireproof cement things, rather than the more usual soft sort, and he promptly dropped one. Right onto my head.

He ended up taking me to the local hospital where they applied stitches and checked me out for concussion. My boss turned up to collect me and take me home; I can't now remember who collected the van. My gf was worried sick because I'd suddenly stopped replying to her texts, and didn't arrive home for hours..

A time when cabling was not so much 'structured' than 'survival of the fittest'


Re: They had it coming.

Bloody hell, I remember that. I was taught how to lace up a wiring loom, 1982, Ferranti Training Center, Moston. When I finished the year there, and moved over to Cheadle, everything was already using plastic cable ties.

You've stolen the antiglare shield on that monitor you've fixed – they say the screen is completely unreadable now


Re: Shameless repost, but it fits :)

First PC I had, an Amstrad PC1512, came with my now ex-, got destroyed by cat pee.. Claimed on the household insurance as accidental damage.. It's surprising quite how devastating the stuff can be.


Re: Cat litter

We had a customer that moved into an ex-cat litter plant. I think they just had the warehouse, but even there, every surface was covered in the stuff. You dare not lean on the walls, even. Only place I've been that had a wheel-wash for the departing lorries. They, rather sensibly in my opinion, put the office staff and thus most of the IT in a portacabin in the car park.

Worst PC for contamination I had to fix was in the windows 3 days, an early Dell desktop from a furniture factory. It had a good half inch of sawdust inside - you couldn't even see the motherboard. Thankfully machines those days didn't need quite the level of active cooling as nowadays, but they did need some.. I think it only failed because the small fan on the processor got submerged. From the stories above, I guess I got off lucky!

Wi-Fi not working? It's time to consult the lovely people on those fine Linux forums


Re: oh...

The diagram showing how to connect a VTX5000 (modem and Prestel adapter) for the ZX Spectrum omitted to include the Spectrum's power lead... Despite presumably having had it connected at some point before they bought the modem, as I'd not expect people to buy an expensive addon without having a previously working computer, we (Micronet 800 Technical Help) still got occasional calls for which the answer was, after some diagnostics, "plug it in"..

Log4j doesn't just blow a hole in your servers, it's reopening that can of worms: Is Big Biz exploiting open source?



I've written lots of odd bits of code in my time; those which I've felt might be useful to others I've shared on github or other places. It's usually on a BSD licence, because it's simple, and these releases are more of a fire-and-forget thing. I have no expectation of making money off them.

The one big project I've been working on has, so far, not seen a public release. I'm in two minds about this, though. It's been a lot of work, but as a commercial venture I've probably got less potential customers than I have fingers on one hand.

Serves me right for mostly concentrating on stuff to support really obscure (these days) retro-tech I suppose! But it's fun, and makes me feel good, knowing I'm helping in some small way with preservation of our digital heritage.

(compared to if anybody needs some freelance BOS\COBOL support, I'd be happy to revisit my old day-job to help, but I'll need some pennies throwing my way to get the same level of enthusiasm!)

How to destroy expensive test kit: What does that button do?


Re: "More magic"

See also "the engineers finger" in the original BBC Micro. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/BBC_Micro

I would drive 100 miles and I would drive 100 more just to be the man that drove 200 miles to... hit the enter key


Oh god, the memories...

Not quite in the same league distance wise, Stockport -> Liverpool and back, but same issue. And these speakers WERE colour-coded. And in the wrong coloured socket. Argh.

Computer shuts down when foreman leaves the room: Ghost in the machine? Or an all-too-human bit of silliness?


Cubucle Lights

Mrs Irrelevant spent a considerable portion of 2019-2020 in the local hospital, and thus so did I. The corridor nearest the ward she was in had a set of four toilets, in each of which was a motion-sensitive light. During the day, when they were busy, the lights ended up staying on pretty much all the time. Not so at night.

It took me some time to work out, but I finally worked out what was so iffy about the light in cubicle 4... It would often fail to come on at night, whereas in the daytime it was fine. It turned out that if you activated the light in cubicle 3, then the one in 4 would work too. If 3 had timed out and turned off, then nothing you did would make the light in 4 come in. Obviously someone had wired it's feed up to the output of the motion sensor in 3, rather than having them all in parallel...

I did try to report it to maintenance, but I don't think they understood; it certainly never got fixed whilst I was visiting, and is probably still like that to this day.

How to stop a content filter becoming a career-shortening network component


Re: Keyword filtering

Worse, I used to live in Chorlton-cum-Hardy ...

Typically referred to as "The Scunthorpe Problem" ..