* Posts by MarthaFarqhar

71 publicly visible posts • joined 9 Feb 2011


Dave's not here, man. But this mind-blowingly huge server just, like, arrived


Re: Laundering

"Nubbing up" - The practice of recovery/recycle of ashtrays for (re)smokeable materials.

Meta accused of enrolling undecided EU users in ad-sponsored platform


'It's free and always will be"

RIP: Software design pioneer and Pascal creator Niklaus Wirth


My first formal teaching in CS used Modula-2. Naively I thought all languages would be this sensible and readable.

RIP Prof Wirth.

Superuser mostly helped IT, until a BSOD saw him invent a farcical fix


Re: USB memory sticks

Ah, a fellow veteran

Did you encounter the stolen mice balls from the computer rooms, or were you lucky to be in the laser era?



We provided students with plenty of filespace, dutifully backed up to various products.

Did they use it? No.

Trusting their work to single instances of floppies, then USB sticks, with disks contaminated with dust, liquids of dubious origin, and other such aids to lose data, we were often challenged as to why we didn't back their floppies/USBs up. Many of them forgot their induction paperwork that stated. "We backup all network drives, but we can't backup your removable media. Please, Please, PLEASE store a copy on your network space, it will save you a lot of hassle and tears in the future."

It wasn't just limited to students. We've had admins that saved all their work to a local drive, which promptly died, a professor who managed to delete a lifetimes work, rather than use the ample network storage (we realised that this would happen, so a copy of Retrospect and a lot of disks connected to the server meant we could recover his work to the previous day.)

We tried in that battle, but we knew that for every scenario we dreamt up, the users would find new and improved ways to ignore it.

I now only have to worry about my family and their flagrant disregard of backups. Even they don't listen, till it's too late.

Lawyer guilty of arrogance after ignoring tech support


Re: Guy was an arse BUT..

Having a overseas PhD borrow a departmental printer, then complain it wasn't working was unusual in the fact that we didn't loan printers. But an exception was made for this student who appeared like Mrs Popoff from Rentaghost in anyone's office. Ours, admin support, finance, the Director of Operations, you name it, she would pop in silently. She was wasted as a student, assassin would have been a doddle for her.

The words "Excuse me" in a particular tone caused me and a colleague to develop a twitch whenever she came to our office, so much so that we had a response to stand, grab a random part and try and walk out of the office. Whoever got to the door would win and the loser would have to take the call from her.

When she brought the printer back in, I lost the race (my office mate was a tri-athlete, I was a smoker, drinker so no effort needed by either party).

Placed the printer on the bench, opened one of the covers to find several custard creme biscuits.

I couldn't figure out if it was the student or her children, but I did clean them out and assured the student that the only things required were power, toner cartridge and paper. Anything else may stop the printer from working.

I wish I had my office mates lung capacity, as the student's trek to leave the office meant several strained snorts may have escaped before full laughter.

At least I tried before full volume was reached.


Got a call that an all-in-one fruit based computer wasn't booting. Went through usual faultfinding on the phone.

Is the power cable plugged in both ends? Is the plug switched on? Have you tried another socket?

Arrived at the office to find:

2 gang switch. Plug in one. Switch switch to "off" on the plugged in flex. Switched "on" on the other..

Very simple call, felt the heat from the blush as I left. I got some exercise, so not all lost.

Techie labelled 'disgusting filth merchant' by disgusting hypocrite


Re: "The caller had paid the bill, but wasn't happy."

Most Universities dropped the alt.binaries.* due to bandwidth issues as well as the lack of storage. The majority of issues Universities had with USENET was trolling, basically one religious group baiting another, or bored students trolling rec.pets subgroups.

Watt's the worst thing you can do to a datacenter? Failing to RTFM, electrically


Re: Check the power supply

Wait till you inhale burnt rice after our floormate tried cooking rice in a rice cooker. Parents didn't include the other vital ingredient as well as rice.


PEBCAK problem transformed young techie into grizzled cynical sysadmin


If you think that something is so mindblowingly stupid to you.Go check it.

I've found terminators unplugged (SCSI and 10base2), keyboard and mouse swapped (PS/2), the wrong monitor cable plugged in (meaning the other side of the cubicle got their screen instead of their own).

Cross-over serial/ethernet being used by someone attempting their own diagnostics.

IEC13 to IEC14 plugged in a loop was a surprise, but the user was just "tidying up" and requested we get an electrician to check first.

Fan heater plugged into a UPS socket.

Just when you think you're a God and everyone else are idiots, check your own assumptions. The good old "Of course it's turned off" at the consumer unit/panel. That the computer is really turned off and unplugged. That the terminal you've got open is the one connected to the server your shutting down/rebooting. The drive your formatting is the one you want to format.

Ingenuity is very short on supply. Ignorance/Idiocy is boundless.

Infosys launches 'sonic identity' – an aural logo to 'reinforce brand purpose'


Re: Like most modern music...

Elevator muzak, for marketing types. Somebody probably got a promotion and a higher floor office for this utter pap.

This is evidence that Golgafrincham is not fiction, and that Douglas Adams was pointing out what was happening.

Turning a computer off, then on again, never goes wrong. Right?


Re: Reminds me of an old (early '80s) AI koan ...

Absolutely. We had a sysadmin when I was studying who had the attitude, you break it, you fix it. Was an infinitely patient man, who also managed to never laugh whilst in the presence of the student or even the staff that had allowed this to happen. Down the pub was a different story.


Re: Reminds me of an old (early '80s) AI koan ...

We had one fiddler/developer that decided to change the default shell for Windows to "calc.exe". Why they did it, I never managed to find out, as they reduced a piece of very expensive lab equipment unusable until another member of staff called the IT Helpline, and sent me to have a look. The local fiddler was asked not to attend site without an appointment or a person with them at any time they were near the factory floor.


Re: Reminds me of an old (early '80s) AI koan ...

AKA the fear effect. The computer knows we have screwdrivers, and are not afraid to use them.

As oppose to the meddle effect, where the user had screwdrivers, is not afraid to use them, and the item never works again.

Fed up with slammed servers, IT replaced iTunes backups with a cow of a file


Re: ??

cat encryptedaudiofile >> /dev/audio

would create something possibly better than the original.

Rigorous dev courageously lied about exec's NSFW printouts – and survived long enough to quit with dignity


Re: Bit puzzled for a moment

Has memories of being an undergrad with a 24 hour lab. Went to pick up a listing, and a job was hogging the listing printer. lpq showed who owned it, and he went beetroot red after a few of us were shouting his name. Turns out he was using gif2ascii *pron.gif | lpr -P labprinter

He was later found using the operators room printer as it was colour. That was the end of a budding Paul Raymond

Server broke because it was invisibly designed to break


Some old tattoo inks result in a burning sensation as they used metals in the old days for pigmentation.

A 7T research scanner wasn't the place to be to find that out.

Buying a USB adapter: Pennies. Knowing where to stick it: Priceless


I'm changing career to creative accountant

One of my friends brothers has a knackered laptop. A 2013 Dell running Windows 7.

After his daughter spilt juice on it, he messages me frantically about fixing it.

I told him to immediately power it off, leave it off. I'd look into getting parts, he might have been lucky that it was only the keyboard that was tatered.

Got the part numbers, got him prices, and was then told that was too expensive, he'd have to think.

Couple of days later

"It can't boot.Why can't it boot"

Told him that it could be the juice has gotten past the keyboard, and why the chuffing hell did you switch it on again. Was told "That's what all IT people do, turn it off and on again"

It got better, he asked could I install the drive into a Mac, which then sparked the conversation that newer Macs had SSDs, so I'd probably have to get an adapter/caddy for him to use. That sounded expensive to him. Especially as he had about 300 quid to get a Mac laptop with 512 GB storage, and he needed 1TB for his music, plus some software to use with a mixing desk. He'd got a licence for one piece of software, he just needed to buy Logic Pro X.(174.99 from the App Store)

So from 300 quid for a laptop, minus software that was more than half of that, plus the possibility he might have to pay for a new license for other software from the PC for the Mac and the dock for his hard drive, what spec Mac was he looking for.

2017 MacBook Pro. Said I must know someone with one to sell.

I asked if he had been on the pop as his figures were all over the place.

He's told me he's going to get his MP3s off his hard drive and will let me know when that's done so we can talk about a discount as he's doing the hard work himself.

I didn't dare ask if he had backups.

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


A student who was a Student's Union officer left herself logged in.

Another student decided to post under her login "I'm a stupid expletive expletive. I've let myself logged in" and an invite to tell her that via her email.

This was posted to alt.test, misc.politics, alt.flame, alt.tasteless and a few other delectable groups.

The sysadmins had a hell of a time with her account mailbox being over quota within minutes of this happening.

ASUS recalls motherboards that flame out thanks to backwards capacitors


Re: Abit tale of fail

You didn't work for a company that sounds like Piglen, did you?

I kind of remember the V69 towers with Pentium III contenders had this issue, we used to set ourselves Pit-Stop style challenges who could strip a board out and have the machine reassembled, and powered up in the quickest time. I can't remember the exact time, but when they sent a few with a tech rather than just the boards themselves, he was rather impressed how quick the turnaround was from us.

Swooping in to claim the glory while the On Call engineer stands baffled


Re: Obvious in hindsight

Eco friendly directive at a University datacentre during a hot summer.

Open vents in the roof to allow the hot air to escape.

Didn't realise that in many climates, prolonged hot periods are followed by thunderstorms.

AIrcon cost saved were possibly in the 100s. Replacement parts for damaged servers/switches in the thousands.


Re: It's all about the bass

Security Staff-the living embodiment of percussive maintenance when verbal requests don't seem to work.


Re: Hands On (and Eyes On Too)

When diagnosing the faulty caps used during the early 2000s on motherboards from a certain manufacturer, first sign was an acrid smell,a pop followed by a ping as the metal case from the leaking capacitor left its earthly shackle and flew for freedom until it hit the side of the PC case.

The Nose 0.7a (still in early testing found a eggy smell near some UPS banks. Using TouchTemp(tm), we found that the UPS batteries were cooking rather nicely.

Never had to use taste yet at work, apart from experiments back in school with a PP9 battery. Tangy, with hints of citrous.

England's Data Guardian warns of plans to grant police access to patient data


Re: It's a bit late now

I believe the spoonerism bazy lastard covers my constituency representative at that time. The MP at the time for RIPA didn't attend the debate despite being asked and told of my concerns. When questioned, he said that he was waiting for the party to give a clear line. After the third contact, he was told that the party were opposing it.

I told him it was too late, it was already at third reading and off for royal assent.

Wasn't particularly impressed when I asked what he did to justify his expense claims for London when he didn't bother to visit the House of Commons.


Re: It's a bit late now

Some of us did when RIPA and IPA were in the House of Commons. It sometimes helps when your MP makes an appearance in Parliament.

Mate, it's the '90s. You don't need to be reachable every minute of every hour. Your operating system can't cope


When we moved from our departmental hosted email to GroupWise (shudder) as a result of management wanting to standardize, one of the first questions the users asked was "Can we get Elm or Pine working with it?".

Samsung says it makes the world’s best holes. Yes, holes. Holes so good they even get a brand


Re: So if it's the 'Best' hole ....

Bit of a stretch to ask for that.

University of Cambridge to decommission its homegrown email service Hermes in favour of Microsoft Exchange Online


Re: Modern

As well as the whole internal versus external costs, University management now use the "it's not us, blame them" if anything goes wrong. If you don't own the service, you aren't responsible for the problem, so you don't take the blame.

Even if though you as a management group chose that solution.

The way for IT in Higher Ed is going the way of Facilities Management in Buildings and Estates. Why buy the tools and expertise when you can rent? When it all goes wrong, not your fault, not your problem, time to find a new supplier, on the merry-go-round we go.

Oh sure, we'll just make a tiny little change in every source file without letting anyone know. What could go wrong?


Back in the days of Napster, Kazaa, students setting up their own workgroups in halls of residence and them not being isolated from the real campus network, there was a lot of network traffic purely just for evaluation of copyrighted material *ahem*.

One bright spark decided to use our mail server to email his mp3 collection from his office computer to his own account. Via an old Sun SPARC running our mail service with a spool of around 70MB.

People kept wondering why mail was patchy that day. Of course, the logs were being filled with disk full, and then once the non-delivery reports started to fill the logs, /var started to rapidly fill.

Drastic action was needed. Short of using the scissors method of network disconnection, it was a small enough building to find the (ab)user and inform him how we applauded him on his understanding of the concept of attachment size limits, however, flooding the mail queues with multiple mails exceeding the mail queue for the department wasn't a good thing.

He then opened Outlook Express (his choice of client). His mail queue was about a third of the capacity of the entire University mailqueue. At that point, we advised him it was probably quicker to invest time in learning about sftp or scp, or investing in a CD-RW.

Reply all storms seem to be cyclical. Every so many years, these happen, until a personal attack/information disclosure gets sent to all, is memorised by everyone as an example, then people move on. New people move in. Wait about two-three years. Off we go again.

Oh what a cute little animation... OH MY GOD. (Not acceptable, even in the '80s)


Re: Ever done something in your youth that leaves you still gnawing a knuckle or two decades on?

cat "ezekial25.au" > /dev/audio in a lab full of Sun Sparcstations with a 3 second delay per workstation with a slow increase in volume.

Wait till there is one student in there at 3 am while the rest of you are in another lab with a view in. Wait and hear the gunshots. See the jump scare.

Wait till the sysadmin reviews the CCTV after the complaint, finds out the miscreants logins, changes their login scripts so the next time they use the Suns, they get the same treatment.


Re: Head

Hmmm, Please make sure that you have an ample supply of mind bleach fior this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z0rlYSJQkyw cover of the Divinyls.

Dixons in the 90s. The Goatse boot floppy. A store full of Packard Bells with boot from floppy as first option.

We weren't absolute bastards. We only booted from the floppy. _We_ didn't overwrite the drives.

A paper clip, a spool of phone wire and a recalcitrant RS-232 line: Going MacGyver in the wonderful world of hotel IT


Re: Luxury


A bored teenager working in a store with the right diameter pin could cause havoc.

That awful moment when what you thought was a number 1 turned out to be a number 2


Re: In pre-computer days people were used to memorize sequences....

My first boss at a real job used the mantra "If you want to find the easiest way to do a job, find the laziest man to do it."

He was also of the opinion that if you mess up and hide it, that's sackable. Mess up, fess up, that's learning.

God I miss him and his ilk

Beware the trainee with time on his hands and an Acorn manual on his desk


Re: Ah the good old days

Ah, the goatse boot floppy was used by miscreants in Currys, PC World, Dixons...


Re: Oh, the joys

The write command and wall were abused horrendously in our labs as a student. Some of us sensibly set mesg to n, but even so, some of the abusers didn't get tire of this. cat core|write idiot was a suitable warning, as well as cat /dev/urandom | write idiot would tend to lock their session.

Hey, I wrote this neat little program for you guys called the IMAC User Notification Tool


Too right. I had someone who I had to deal with called Mr Angus. He really lived up to his autocorrect surname.

Rise of the Machines hair-raiser: The day IBM's Dot Matrix turned


Or he thought he was of Royal blood?

Guy is booted out of IT amid outsourcing, wipes databases, deletes emails... goes straight to jail for two-plus years


I had a similar situation, I was the local IT and he thought my position was redundant, he decided to play silly buggers. Got a new position, wrote meticulous documentation, made sure I left everything in order.

He didn't actually understand my role, but soon realised.

Whatever instructions/documentation etc would not be followed and calling me two days after I left and started my new role, that I wasn't going to "do him a favour" and bail him out of brown stuff.

It cost him a weeks wages to get me back in, in cash before I set foot in the area the fault had occurred.

Despite me telling me repeatedly that spares are good in time critical situations, it backfired spectacularly when they lost around 100,000 quids worth of production, a production line crew standing idle for what should have cost 1600 in parts and one electrician following instructions to restore a backup to a touchscreen. He had to wait till morning to get a refurbed screen,

I left site 10 minutes after I arrived, a huge grin and a perfect tale for future employers that documentation, courtesy and spare parts can really make a difference, and Schadenfreude is real and so, so satisfying.

Sex and drugs and auto-tune: What motivates a millennial perp?


Re: Well there might be a bright side

Or more likely that Kims arse is the only thing that could accommodate Kanyes ego.

Daddy, are we there yet? How Mrs Gates got Bill to drive the kids to school


"If it takes a village to raise a child then maybe put it onto the local tax..."

Knowing my local council, they'd tax it at the county, district and parish level.

Is that a stiffy disk in your drive... or something else entirely?


Re: Re. Zip disks

We still have machines with SuperDrives in, as well as blank media. USB superdrive is hanging around somewhere as well


For that very reason, we used to put m-m or f-f connectors on any piece of kit in the general areas so that if they did force the cable in the port the wrong way, we'd spend 90p getting another changer rather than having to spend hours trying to repair the port.


Re: Help! My stiffies stuck in the slot

Have the same thing here. The problem we now have is that they don't send engineers over, they leave it to a "print champion". Namely the muggins that used to have to do the jobs, but were allocated different tasks to make up for the loss of maintaining the printers.

All mails from the outsourced print team are now correctly routed to /dev/null

The peelable, foldable phone has become the great white whale of tech


Re: Like self-driving cars, isn't it?

I'd love a self driving car. My licence has been suspended on medical grounds, but the chance not to use public transport I'd buy one in a jiffy.

Cheapskate Brits appear to love their Poundland MVNOs as UK's big four snubbed in survey again


Re: Are you sure?

Never let the facts get in the way of the tone of the article

So, that's cheerio the nou to Dundee Satellite Receiving Station: Over 40 years of service axed for the sake of £338,000


I believe its worth 205.47112462 duck houses at MP expenses rates.

You were warned and you didn't do enough: UK preps Big Internet content laws


They didn't listen when RIPA was up for vote in Parliament, so this is hardly a surprise.

Get the smell out of here! Gaming tournament bans players who raise a literal stink


I remember going to Games Workshop in my youth, and I always wondered why the army didn't weaponize the stench from some of the customers. Definitely an area effect weapon up to 30m range, 2D4+20 damage for 6 rounds with Save against Poison 18 or above.

Are you sure you've got a floppy disk stuck in the drive? Or is it 100 lodged in the chassis?


Drive head cleaning disks

Anyone called to somebody trying to save data to one of these.

Users fail to squeak through basic computer skills test. Well, it was the '90s


Dell Laptop. Incontinent cat. Keyboard a nice place to rest. You can guess the rest.