* Posts by Sequin

205 publicly visible posts • joined 20 Dec 2011


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


Re: Unique keys

I am one of two people with the same name at my GP's surgery - causes some confusion at times when picking up prescriptions etc. I finally met him a few weeks ago in the attached pharmacy and we shook hands after we both went to the counter at the same time when our nae was called.


I used towork for the Home Office, and when criminal records were first computerised they decided that the primary key would beSurname, Initial and date of birth. This worked fineuntil they tried to enter the records of Kreay, Reginald and Kray, Ronald who forsome reaon also shared a DOB!

Lost your luggage? That's nothing – we just lost your whole flight!


I managed to do the same on another airline system when about a month in to my current jon (I'm currently at 11+ years) - I emptied a table on a production database by highlighting and running a SQL delete command, without realising I had not highlighted the WHERE statement!

Luckily we had a log shipped copy of the database for reporting purposes, which log shipped every 15 minutes - we switched the log shipping off before it caught up with the delete, then inserted the data back from the copy, before swicthing the log shipping back on .

My punishment? U had to buy cakes for the whoe office!

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


Re: "......the mine had closed."

I read somewhere recently that one is reopening as they can also extract Lithium from it, and there is a world shortage, mainly due to battery manufacture.


Re: Cleaning Printers that are full of dust

I used to work for a government department in Liverpool. The 20 storey tower block we worked in had been the subject of one of the longest running strikes in British history - the main fabricof the building went up - walls and floors. heating and AC ducts etc, but no windows and doors, before the site was picketed by building workers for over three years. During this period all of the local feral cats moved in as they had found an ideal home.

When the strike eventually ended the site managers realised it would be impossible to round up and expell the sitting tenants, so they covered all openings in plastic sheeting and pumped the shell full of poison gas, then continued the fit-out, removing any corpses they found. They probably foundabout 20% of them.

Several years later , we used to come in to work every day to find our desks sprinkled with a grey, gritty substance which management insisted was coal dust from the nearby coal shipping dock. We all knew that it was mummified cat dust!

The building, St John's House, was officially the "sickest" building in Europe, and this is what they eventually did to cure the problem! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z3i2baydpCM

Windows screensaver left broadcast techie all at sea


Re: Not a screen saver, but...

A boss of mine once asked the customer what should happen if somebody tried to access an area of the application they should not. "It should tell them to bugger off!" came the reply.

He duly programmed this into the application which was MSDOS based. When the situation occurred the screen cleared and the words "BUGGER OFF" scrolled slowly down the screen in huge letters, while the system played the Monty Python theme tune (this was my suggestion - implemented in assembler, driving the speaker directly).

When it was demonstrated to the customer's boss he was not amused!

Nobody would ever work on the live server, right? Not intentionally, anyway


I found about 10 old rolls of undeveloped film in boxes while having a clearout and decided to have them developed to negatives as I have a negative scanner packed away in another box.

They came back with a warning that because the films were old and may have been stored in less than ideal conditions they could be degraded. Some were, but I could make out what they were. Others were fine, and the latest ones that were ok were from my daughter's 4th birthday party - she's now 31!

Linux lover consumed a quarter of the network


Re: Rule one...

Don't forget the pigeons!


Bizarre backup taught techie to dumb things down for the boss


I had a high ranking police officer (Chief Superintendant) phone me asking that I provide paper and toner for their printer because the stuff we provided at installation had run out. When I explained that he should order it from wherever he got his other office supplies he freaked out and said that it was our responsibility as we provided the printer. I was later informed by officers working under him that he was in the job as his force had "promoted" hime sideways to get him out of the way of real work as he was such an arsehole!

Nobody does DR tests to survive lightning striking twice


I worked for the Home Office in the late 80s and was sent of to Fire Service College in Moreton-in-March in the midlands for several months - I got to go home at weekends, but it was a twohour drive each way, so I got home late on Friday night and had to travel back down on Sunday afternoon. I could claim for the travel time, so no complaints there.

I was staying in a lovely little pub in the village - horse brasses, wood fires, good beer etc. Civil Service rules said that if you were working with somebody of a higher grade and having work discussions etc you could claim the expenses rate of the higher grade. This applied to me, as I was working with somebody two grades higher than me, so the difference was significant.

Several months later I put in my expenses claim and it was the highest one they'd ever seen from somebody on my grade and they baulked at paying it. They tried to say that I should have stayed in dormitory accommodation at the college, but I said that if I stayed on site I wouldeffectively be on duty 24 hours a day, andthere was no rule that stated that I had to stay on site, so they had to pay out.

A couple of months later they rolled out a new rule that if there was accommodation on site, you could either use that, or only be able to claim 50% of the usual rate if staying off site.

Security? Working servers? Who needs those when you can have a shiny floor?


Re: Clean keyboards

I worked for a large UK government department, and the management decided to get a company in to sanitise phones, keyboards and monitors. The next evening I got an emergency call from the mainfame room - one of their systems was malfunctioning and needed fixing NOW - "all of the menus have disappeared"! I grabbed my toolkit, diagmostic software etc and jumped in a taxi to get there. I finaly got admitted to the secure room, walked over to the (green screen) monitor, looked at it for 10 seconds, turned the brightness up, then walked out and got another taxi back. While cleaning the monitor the sanitiser had wiped across the rotary brightness control.


Re: Clean keyboards

I spilt a can of coke on my keyboardsotook it into the toilets and rinsedit under the sink. I then held it under the hand drier to dry it out,and of course it melted!

Datacenter fire suppression system wasn't tested for years, then BOOM


A colleague of mine once caused the evacuation of a 17 storey office block by burning her toast one morning -after this the toaster was removed and a ban was imposed.

Your security failure was so bad we have to close the company … NOT!


Colleagues of mine used to play 5-a-side football during their lunch breaks at a local council facility. One of them was accidentally elbowed in the nose during a match and had a major nose bleed and ended up at the local casualty department to get his nose reset and packed with gauze.

A couple of days later he received a letter ostensibly from the council, with a large bill for cleanup, incuding specialist bio-hazard team and materials. it was at least a dqay before we told him that a friend had got hold of some council letterheaded paper and typed up the letter. He swore more than he did when he was elbowed!

Errors logged as 'nut loose on the keyboard' were – ahem – not a hardware problem




I worked on a system for UK customs and we were instructed to build in a "fudge factor" that each site could set for themselves to adjust their stats so that they were comparable with other sites - e.g. a small detatchment at a minor harbour could tweak their figures so that they were "comparable" with a major port such as Dover.

As somebody once said of the Indian government, which is even more stats obsessed than the UK government - they take the figures and come up with all sorts or reports and policies based on the figures, but when you drill down, the base data is entered by a lowly civil servant, sitting in a village in the back of beyond, who just makes up the figures just so he can say he has sone his job.

Don't worry, that system's not actually active – oh, wait …


A colleague once caused the evacuation of a 17 storey office block by burning her toast and setting off the smoke alarms. Toasters were banned from the break room afterwards.

Service desk tech saved consultancy Capita from VPN meltdown, got a smack for it


I once worked for Crapita for a short time on a large UK government contract, after being made redundant by the same government department a week earlier.

After a couple of weeks I was in a Capita internal meeting and was asked a question , to which I gave an honest answer. After the meeting my boss bollocked me for telling "the business" what I did. What do you mean "the business" I asked - aren't we all Capita?

It turns out that two different departments from Capita were on the project - we were IT and they were Business support, and I was told that under no circumstances was I allowed to give "the business" information like that!

I left several weeks later.

A tip for content filter evaluators: erase the list of sites you tested, don't share them on 100 PCs


I once sent a company wide email warning people about accessing inappropriate sites after finding that somebody had been accessing Rubbermaid.com - what you do in your own home is up to you, but don't follw your kink at work!

It turns out that Rubbermaid sells cleaning equipment!

What's up with IT, Doc? Rabbit hole reveals cause of outage


I got a call from my ex-wife one night panisking because all her power had gone off. I drove over and started troubleshooting. About an hour's testing, unplugging appliances and resetting the circuit breaker suggested that the problem was in the kitchen. It turned out that one of her cats (un-neutered male) had a habit of sleeping on top of the fridge. This time he had decided to spray his corner and the urine ran down the wall and seeped into the socket the fridge was plugged in to! I had to remove the socket, rinse it out and dry it carefully before reinstalling it. I also sealed the edges of the socket with silicone. I also arranged an appontment for the cat at the vet's - the unkindest cut of all!

Dear Stupid, I write with news I did not check the content of the [Name] field before sending this letter


I worked on a system for a Housing Association which was set up to encourage tenants to pay their rent in time. If their account was up to date at 1st December they would be sent a prepaid Visa card loaded with £25 which they could then use in any shop at Christmas. I was tasked with setting up a mailmerge from their data to send out a letter to prompt them to clear any arrears and inform them of the scheme. I sense checked the data and found quite a few instances where the tenant had obviously died and they noted this by tacking the word "Deceased" onto the surname. I managed to warn the client before they got lots of complaints from people who got letters for their dead relatives.

This can’t be a real bomb threat: You've called a modem, not a phone


Re: This has happened before, and will happen again

My daughter saved us from the bomb outside Boots by shitting herself. It was a day o tow before her first birthday and we were heading to Boots to buy her a new outfit. As we were walking from the car park in the Golden Square shopping centre sh started to grizzle and smeeled very ripe! We took her into BHS to change and feed her, and to get some lunch in the cafe. As we were sitting there we heard the bang and were evacuated back towards the car park.

Server installer fails to spot STOP button – because he wasn't an archaeologist


We had a room housing various systems which used to get mysteriously powered off at random times. It turned out that the switch on the ank of sockets was directly in line with the handle on the inside of the door and if you opened it while carying stuff, either by backing against t, or pushing it with your foot the handle hit the switch with just enough force t break the contanct without the switch latching over fully. A strategically positioned door stop eventually fixed the problem.

Senior engineer reported to management for failing to fix a stapler


A senior police officer called me one day and asked me to provide some more paper for the printer attached to a system we had written and installed in his department. I explained that we provided a pack of A4 and a toner cartridge to start them off, but after that they had to order their own consumables. He complained that he hadn't budgeted for supplies and surely it was our responsibility as we had provided the printer! My reply was along the lines of "Foxtrot Oscar!"

No, working in IT does not mean you can fix anything with a soldering iron


At a previous job I was asked to investigate why the lights in the ladies' toilets blew the circuit breaker when switched on - they had seen me using a soldering iron and a multimeter during my lunch break, and were too cheap to call in an electrician.

I reset the breaker and flicked the switch - sure enough, the breaker popped and the lights went out, but I heard a crack coming from the suspended ceiling. I reset the breaker then got a ladder, removed a tile and asked somebody to hit the switch while I had my head inside the ceiling space. I saw a flash coming from where the cable passed over some of the metal ceiling hangers - investigation showed that the insulation on the cable had been worn away and it was arcing on to the hanger, which presumably was earthed.

A trip to a local hardware store got me a junction box - I cut out the damaged section of cable, joined the ends in the junction box, which I screwed to a wooden batten, well away from the metalwork and all was hunky-dory.

Tetchy trainee turned the lights down low to teach turgid lecturer a lesson


I once got a critical leve support call from our data centre telling me that a system had gone wrong and it needed fixing immediately or heads would be rolling. The symprtoms wre that all of the system menus were blank apart from the headings. I jumped in a taxi with all of my support tools and headed up there to discover that they had had somebody in cleaning the keyboards and monitors (an annual event) and the person doing it had managed to turn down the brightness control on the CRT monitor. The menu headings were in high intensity, with the menu options in lower intensity. It had been turned down enough to hide the low intensity text, but you could still see the high intensity text.

I twiddled the knob, picked up my gear and took a taxi back.

In a time before calculators, going the extra mile at work sometimes didn't add up


I once worked in a major police force on a system that had a team of operators transcribing criminal records from microfiche into a database that coud then upload the data to the Police National Computer (PNC). This involved convictions, including fines - some of which were in Guineas, ponds, shilings and pence - down to farthing level. The system captured this data and converted it to decima format in the process. This was quite easy - multiply each unit by the number of pennies in it (252 for a guinea, 240 for a pound, 12 for a shilling etc), add them all together, then divide by 240 and round to two decimal places.

A year or two later, when I had moved on elsewhere, I got a phone call begging me to help by explaining the process to the company who had taken over support - there was nobody in the company that had ever seen "old" money, never mind calculated using it!

We've got a photocopier and it can copy anything


Re: Don't know if it's just that my coffee hasn't kicked in yet...

I once did some work for the counteirfeit currency unit of the UK National Criminal Intelligence Service and had a trip around their museum and rogues' galllery. Some of the counterfeits wer top notch (see the North Korean superdollar) while some were laughable, but had worked. an example was a £10 note which had been made by gluing together two single sided photocopies and colouring it brown with wax crayon.

It had been accepted at a farmers' market (i believe drink was involved)

The perfect crime – undone by the perfect email backups


Re: "Delete" = "Hide"

Back in the day many offices used Amstrad PCW8256, 8512 and 9512 machines as they came with word processing and a printer, and you could buy spreadsheet, database and accounting packages, as it was a CP/M machine. If using the Word processing software and you chose to delete a file, it just flipped a bit on the header and moved it to another user partition. In CP/M you had 16 user partitions on a disk - the equivalent of folders on DOS machines. I file in one user partitin couldn't be seen from the others. Locoscript let you use the first 8, and if you deleted a file it got moved into the partition plus 8, so if it was stored in user 1, the "deleted" file would be moved to user 9 and so on. I think backup copies were also stored there. Finding and restoring them was trivial.

I loved those machines!

Beware the fury of a database developer torn from tables and SQL


I was messing about during my lunch breaks with the Microsoft Agent software and wrote a program that would monitor my email inbox and play a sound, followed by an agent (wizard, robot dog etc) character popping up, who would then read out the subject line of the email.

One Friday, I forgot to switch it off and some colleagues, who were working over the weekend, were surprised to hear it announcing my emails when they arrived.

I came in on Monday to find my inbox full of messages with the most disgusting subject lines you have ever seen! They had lots of fun that weekend.


My boss asked a client what the syetm should do if somebody tried to access an area they were not supposed to. "it should tell them to bugger off!" was the reply.

When demonstrated, the system (running on MSDOS before the days of GUIs) scrolled up a message in ASCII block characters which said "BUGGER OFF!" in red (my involvement was to have it play the Monty Python theme through the PC speaker while scrolling - all written in Assembler)

For some reason the client's boss was not happy!

We can bend the laws of physics for your super-yacht, but we can't break them


Re: ""Don't you know who I am?"

"Do you know who I am?"


"In that case, f%$K off!"

Not to dis your diskette, but there are some unexpected sector holes


We were able to get permission to take taxis around London when visiting our HQ as "the motors on the tube will corrupt our important floppies". This lasted a good while until the BBC Microlive program showed that it was BS

You can buy a company. You can buy a product. Common sense? Trickier


Re: GAS!

A few years ago a bloke in the UK chopped off a gas line in a house and plugged it with a carrot. A few days later the carrot had dried out and shrivelled, letting the gas out and causing an explosion that took out several houses and at least one person.

An early crack at network management with an unfortunate logfile


Microsoft's Critical Update Notification Tool anyone?

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


Re: Television repair

My TV took to switching itself off after 20 minutes or so recently. I opened it up, took the part number for the power supply board and bought one from ebay for £15. waited two days for it to arrive, swapped it out in 5 minutes and the set is working fine again. Most moder LCD TVs have three boards - power, display and bbacklight - each is easily swapped and readily available for most brands - no need forschematics or a soldering iron any more.


A government department I worked for had bought a database system, written in Access, that had worked fine for 18 months, but had stopped accepting new records. The company they bought it off wanted a couple of grand to investigate and fix the problem. I asked the person who ran the system if by any chance it had stopped functioning after they had added 32767 records. He was gobsmacked to see that I was spot on! I changed the definintion of the primary key column from integer to large integer and bingo - working again for £0

If you fire someone, don't let them hang around a month to finish code


Re: Comments?

The product in question had been originally written as an in-house tool by a large corporation's IT department.>

I've worked on many systems that have been written by in-house tools!

Help, my IT team has no admin access to their own systems


An ICL enhgineer once doubled thhe capacity of the disk drive in our mainframe by removing a plastic peg that physically prevented the heads from moving to the outer part of the disk. This cost us a lot of money!


We stored important stuff in a fire safe. We had a fire one night and the safe did it's job. Unfortunately the key was left in a desk drawer and melted in the heat!

The IBM System/360 Model 40 told you to WHAT now?


My boss asked a client we were building a system for what it should do if somebody tried to access a function that they shouldn't. "Tell them to bugger off!" was his response.

The system was only running for a day or two before the first complaint came in. Mind you, we did get it to play the Monty Python theme whille it slowly painted "BUGGER OFF!" in large letters over the whole screen! (This was in pre-gui days)

Prototype app outperforms and outlasts outsourced production version


I've written some extremely good and popular applications using MSAccess - as I always say, it's not the tool you use that causes the probem - it's the tool that uses it!

We have redundancy, we have batteries, what could possibly go wrong?


I worked at a site that was the maintenance centre for emergency services comms equipment. We were installing a stock control system running on a Prime mini and they insisted that they could do all of the cabling themselves, being electrical and electronics engineers. They partitioned off a corner of the main office and installed the power supplies and the UPS system that we had specified, which was sufficient to run for about 30 minutes to allow a controlled shutdown.

One day contractors working on the road outside put a digger through the power cables. Everything on site went down like the Titanic - including everything in the server room.

It turns out that they had installed circuit breakers ("for safety") that sensed the incoming supply - but they installed them between the UPS and the server, meaning that when the supply went down there was no connection between the UPS and the server!

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


In the 90's I was working on a system fro a Police research department based in a Home Office building in London - we were based at the IT centre in Liverpool. At a meeting with the moron of a Chief Inspector in charge of the department (obviously deployed there to get him out of the way) he basically accused us all of being IRA sympathisers - "You've even got an Irish name!" I was told. After biting my tongue and assuring him that we were all sevcurity cleared, he went on about how sensitive the info was, and how access to it must be strictly controlled!

A week or two later I visited the office to see how the bobbies using the system were getting along and noticed a sticky label on a function key that said "Login". Using my supreme detective skills I asked the bobby what that was for - he said "we can't be arsed typing in user names and passwords, so we found out how to program it into the function key. One press and we're in!". Oh how I laughed!

Software guy smashes through the Somebody Else's Problem field to save the day


My boss noticed me doing a bit of soldering on an electronics kit during my lunch break. "You obviously know something about electricity could you have a look to see why the lights in the ladies' toilets are always blowing their circuit breaker?". I quick check in the false ceiling showed a broken cable shorting out on the metal fixings for the ceiling. Snip snip with some wire cutters and a £2 junction box from a local shop I had the problem sorted.

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


Many years ago I was buiding a database system (Dataflex on MS-DOS) for a government department and went to a specification meeting with my boss. He asked what the system should do if a user tried to do a particular sequence of ations - "It shoud tell them to bugger off!" came the reply from the client.

When we built the systemand you tried to do teh said verbotten thing, the screen cleared and slowly filled with block art, it vivid colours, which said BUGGER OFF while playing the Monty Python theme tune through the PC speaker! I did all of tis in 8086 assembly language and was very proud of my efforts.

The client was less impressed and we had to change it.

Fatal Attraction: Lovely collection, really, but it does not belong anywhere near magnetic storage media


The story went around in the 80's that trravelling on the tube i London would corrupt any magnetic media you were carrying - apparently the fields from the motors were rather strong. It was actually not tue, but we could use this excuse to travel by taxi, rather than tube, when working in the capital and get paid our expenses fr it.

Firewalls? Pfft – it's no match for my mighty spares-bin PC


You mean the employer thhat was using kit so old that spares had to be sourced from eBay? The ones using a Windows95 pc with file sharing set up as the host of the main POS database? The ones who bought a job lot of redundant kit from a closed down care home for £250 to find that it was 10 times better than the kit they had?

It was a case of do anything to keep the business running and keep 50 people in work!


I once worked as the IT manager at a tourist attraction, and was given a miniscule budget to keep the back office and point of sale systems working. After several staff losses, I also took on the reponsibility of keeeping the Audio visua systems running for the punters. I did this on the cheap, scrapping obsolete VHS machines and replacing them with 20 quid DVD players from ASDA.

I used several old PCs from home for vital tasks, and an old Epson dot matrix of mine was used to print everyone's payslips. One day I was called in to see the boss to be told that I was being made redundant and should pack up my things and leave the building, serving out my notice on gardening leave.

At this point I requested the return of all of my equipment, with the exception of a 22inch Dell CRT monitor that I personally gifted to a lovely colleague with very poor eyesight.

Panic ensued and I cared not a jot - most of the kit I dropped off at the tip on my way home.

You want us to make a change? We can do it, but it'll cost you...


While working for a government deprtment I was asked about an application being used by police forces to record sick absences. The system had stopped accepting new records and the supplier had asked for several thousand pounds and several weeks to fix it. On learning that it was an Access database I asked if the system stopped working after 32767 records had been added. The guy asking me was gobsmacked that I could be so specific and correct! The autonumber primark key column had been defined as a short integer and had hit the max limit. Changing this to a long integer took 5 seconds and the system started working again.