* Posts by Sequin

159 posts • joined 20 Dec 2011

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

Sequin

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

Sequin

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!

Sequin

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...

Sequin

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.

RIP Sir Clive Sinclair: British home computer trailblazer dies aged 81

Sequin

I started with a ZX81 kit - my first real adventure in soldering! I got it working after a day or two and never looked back. I later upgraded it with a proper keyboard kit from Maplins - I still remember cutting out the paper letters to stick in the clear keycaps! A piece of window insulation foam between the case and rampac cured the wobbles.

Magna Carta mayhem: Protesters lay siege to Edinburgh Castle, citing obscure Latin text that has never applied in Scotland

Sequin

Re: Sumption is wrong

A friend of mine, who has since retired from the British Library, had to take a copy of Magna Carta to Australia for their bicentenary in 1988. They both travelled business class, and dear old Magna had her own seat.

Sequin

Re: Holy Progress

"Luckily they didn't dig too deep. Or straight down. The Rock being a volcanic plug and all. Which I guess also goes towards explaining the... strange character(s) of Glasgow on account of the high radon levels."

They pump the Radon 50 miles to Glasgow?

Ah, I see you found my PowerShell script called 'SiteReview' – that does not mean what you think it means

Sequin

Examining the proxy logs at a satellite office, I discovered that one of the staff seemed to be accessing a site called Rubbermaid.co.uk - each to his own!

Management suggested that I send round a generic warning, reminding people that browsing was logged and that disciplinary action might be taken if dodgy sites were accessed.

Ads a matter of research, I visited the Rubbermaid website, to find that they were suppliers of things such as rubber mats and waste bins!

Go to L: A man of the cloth faces keyboard conundrum

Sequin

I had to change the prompts in an application I wrote from "Press A Key To Continue" to "Press Any Key To Continue" because the main user, who was an electrical engineer, complained that he was not a typist and it was taking him too much time to find the "A" key each time.

Hmmmmm, how to cool that overheating CPU, if only there was a solution...

Sequin

We put a Prime mini into and office, and the business decided to partition off a corner of the room as "the computer room".

One day the outflow for the toilets on the floor above, which ran through the false ceiling in the main office, blew. Guess where the effluent went? The stuff literally hit the fan, which didn't cool very well after that!

The server is down, money is not being made, and you want me to fix what?

Sequin

Re: Tea

When I was younger I worked behind the bar at a local social club.

Every couple of days we got visits from the local bizzies, usually about 11pm, dropping in for a couple of free pints. I expect they did this at other places too, and would probably have failed a breathalyzer at the end of their shift.

One night a couple of them were there until about 2am, at which poit I said that I wanted to lock up and go home. Kindly they gave me a lift home in their panda car. An hour or so later there was a banging at my door. I looked out the windo to see a cop at the door. Assuming there had been a break-in at the club I threw on some clothes and ran down. It turns out that one of the cuntstables had left his radio in the club and would get a bollocking from the seargent at the end of his shift if he didn't have it!

Congestion or a Christmas cock-up? A Register reader throws himself under the bus

Sequin

I was IT manager at a tourist attraction in the north of England and I was tasked with keeping the POS POS system going (the first POS does not stand for point of sale)

It was written as a Foxbase system and when I arrived the database was stored on a Windows 95 PC whith file sharing enabled - supporting about 25 POS terminals running on DOS 3.2. After migrating the database to a proper server, I mostly kept the thing running apart from a few odd foibles where I ahd worked out problems and could cure them by tweaking of the back end data using MSAccess as a data entry tool - the management were very cheap!

One day I was looking through the logs for the credit card processing system (Barclays PDQ IIRC) and noticed something very strange. One customer had received a refund of about £2.5K to their card. When charging them for entrance, taking the money on their card, one of the front desk staff had apparently manqaged to drop something on the keypad, entering a negative amount. There was no front end validation to prevent this from happening.

We had to contact our bank, who then had to contact the customer's bank and ask them to contact the lady, asking if we could have our money back. She kindly agreed after a week or two, and we ended up giving her a year's free entry to placate her (and she didn't get charged for the visit when the cock-up occurred).

The software house got a bollocking and rolled out a fix ASAP.

The future is now, old man: Let the young guns show how to properly cock things up

Sequin

Re: Backup always

One company I worked for kept the backup tapes in a fireproof safe, which survived a fire one night. Unfortunately, the key didn't - it was in a desk drawer and melted in the heat!

Protip: If Joe Public reports that your kit is broken, maybe check that it is actually broken

Sequin

Re: Civil service paying for excuses

The Home Office had a department that was responsible for the installation and maintenance of radio equipment for the emergency services. A new big-wig came up with a "wonderful" idea for coping with the occasions when a force's main transmitters had to be taken offline for maintenance. He specified a complete comms system in a lorry container that could be driven to the site, dropped off and plugged in to keep the service running while the maintenance work was done. The only problem was that he ordered dozens of the units when there had never been an occasion when more that two or three transmitters were offline at any one time!

Most of them were stashed in a field near their HQ just outside Cheltenham and it was all hushed up.

I believe that they ended up selling them at a cut price to many third-world countries as prepackaged systems for their Police an armed forces.

Don't cross the team tasked with policing the surfing habits of California's teens

Sequin

Our team put in a system for tracking Immigration statistics at various ports and airports around the country. We had to build in "adjustment factors" agreed by the unions and management so that some locations didn't look bad in relation to other ones, with all sorts oof wooly explanations to justify fiddling the figures.

George Clooney of IT: Dribbling disaster and damp disk warnings scare the life out of innocent user

Sequin

In our office we had an ICL DRS-30 concurrent CP/M system with about 8 terminals. As a joke I wrote an assembler program to run on boot , which checked the system date. Only if it was 1st April would it do anything - it would pop up a message saying "Are you sure you wish to format the system drive?" - no matter what key you pressed, it would the display a progress bar, saying "Deleting...." and then, when it reached 100%, it played the Monty Python theme tune.

I thought it was hilarious - others didn't!

You want a reboot? I'll give you a reboot! Happy now?

Sequin

Having to support servers around the world (UK, US, Germany, Australia, Pakistan) I have learnt after several bottom-clenching mistakes, I now change the colour schemes on each of my remote desktops. I set a desktop wallpaper which includes the country's flag, with the server name in large text underneath, with a background colour of red for live systems, yellow for test systems, and green for dev systems. This simple scheme has saved my job on several occasions!

Quality control, Soviet style: Here's another fine message you've gotten me into

Sequin

Re: Russians, alcohol, making toasts

Lots of Scandinavians (especially the Finns) take weekend trips to Russia or the Baltic states for benders, as the cost of alcohol in their own countries outweigh the cost of the weekend away. I have seen dozens of drunk Finns sleeping off sessions in hotel lobbies in both Leningrad and Tallinn

Yes, there's nothing quite like braving the M4 into London on the eve of a bank holiday just to eject a non-bootable floppy

Sequin

I had to jump into a taxi and head for our data centre after a call from the operators saying that a system had gone wonky and all of the menus had disappered - if it wasn't fixed soon there would be riots in prisons as the officers would walk out, not having been paid their overtime.

I grabbed all of my support and OS Disks, stuffed them into a bag and called a taxi to take me the 5 miles to the datacentre, spent 30 minutes trying to get somebody to let me in to the secure area and finally got to see the system. I switched up the brightness on the monitor, then walked out again.

What could be worse than killing a golden goose? Killing someone else's golden goose

Sequin

Re: One place I workded...

I was there when we were market tested and shipped out to a private company (Sema Group). Our political masters had spent years telling us how much better the private sector was than us. A couple of months working with them showed us that this was a complete and utter load of bollocks!

Sequin

Re: One place I workded...

Don't get me started about the Home Office! Loved working there, but there were some absolute numpties!

Don't be a fool, cover your tool: How IBM's mighty XT keyboard was felled by toxic atmosphere of the '80s

Sequin

My neighbour once asked me to have a look at her laptop as it kept shutting down. Just touching the thing revealed that it was extremely hot, and also covered in a sticky residue which reeked of tobacco.

Turning it over, the mesh covering the ventilation intakes was no longer a mesh - the tar had built up so much that about 90% of the holes were closed up completely! Ten minutes with a stiff paintbrush, a vacuuum cleaner and some baby wipes returned it to working (and clean) condition.

Sequin

Re: Smoking

My reply to pub smokers using that argument was "I have the right to drink beer - would you be ok if I pissed on your shoes?"

A word to the Wyse: Smoking cigars in the office is very bad for you... and your monitor

Sequin

A neighbour asked me to have a look at her laptop as it kept cutting out - the vents were clogged with cigarette residues and it worked fine again when I brushed them out.

My father-in-law asked me to look at his laptop as the keyboard was playing up - I discovered a layer of sticky, sugary grot inside it and had to replace it - he still insists he hnever spilt anything on it!

I got an emergency callout to the data centre of the large government department I worked for, saying that the on-screen menus on an old, but vital system had disappeared. Yes - the brightness had been switched down.

The wastepaper basket is on the other side of the office – that must be why they put all these slots in the computer

Sequin

Re: oh crumbs!

I had a similar problem with my neighbour's laptop - ten minutes with a vacuum cleaner and a stiff paintbrush cured the problem (for a while)

Takes from the taxpayer, gives to the old – by squishing a bug in Thatcherite benefits system

Sequin

Our company wrote a system for a large housing association that produced gift cards for tennants who had kept up with their rents throughout the year. They sent us Excel spreadsheets with the tennant detains - name, address etc and the amount to be paid and we created prepaid gift cards loaded with the said amount and mailed them out to the recipients.

When I was doing some testing prior to the live production of the cards, I was scanning through a list of recipients and noticed people with names like "Mr John Smith - DECEASED" and "Mrs Mary Jones - DECEASED". They had no way on their system of marking tennants who had died, so just tagged the text to their surnames and later exported the data to us!

I pointed out to the clients that some people might be upset to receive letters addressed to their dead loved ones, plus the fact that dead people don't tend to use gift cards. There were some red faces, but I did receive thanks for saving them both embarrasment and money.

You can drive a car with your feet, you can operate a sewing machine with your feet. Same goes for computers obviously

Sequin

Re: Foot pedal

When the company I worked for were short staffed I was asked to help out with doing a hardware refresh at a solicitors' office in Dewsbury (I was employed as a developer).

I turned up and started exchanging machines, installing software etc and was then asked if I was going to install the foot pedals for the transcription software. After they explained what they were and what they were used for, I wint to plug them in only to find that they wre serial devices and had 9 pin RS-232 plugs at the end of the cable, but the new desktop machines were USB only.

I had to make a trip to the local Maplins to clear out their stock of USB-Serial converters. Luckily I had a company credit card with me.

After all of that, I got back to my car to find that I had a puncture and the wheel nuts were seized!

What a day.

Loser Trump's last financial disclosure docs reveal Tim Cook gave him $5,999 Mac Pro, the 'first' made in Texas

Sequin

There will be a delay in the opening of the trump library, as he's not finished colouring the books in yet.

The Novell NetWare box keeps rebooting over and over again yet no one has touched it? We're going on a stakeout

Sequin

Re: Hands up who thought it would be the cleaner again

In the UK we had different plugs for our servers - the earth pin was round, like on the older mains plugs. The Server power sockets had matching receplatcles, meaning that the servers would only plug into a surge protected power supply/UPS and that vacuum cleaners etc could not.

Windows might have frozen – but at least my feet are toasty

Sequin

A neighbour once asked me to look at her laptop, which kept cutting out. A couple of minutes investigation showed that the thing got very hot before shutting itself off. Suspecting a faulty fan I turned it over to find that the fan vents were all clogged with a brown sticky substance. Long experience in bar work in my younger days led me to imediately identify this as tar and nicotine from cigarette smoke. She and her partner would sit at the laptop for hours on end, surfing the web and chain smoking tabs. The reult was absolutely disgusting.

Ten minutes scrubbing with alcohol wipes and a stiff paintbrush fixed the problem.

Oh, no one knows what goes on behind locked doors... so don't leave your UPS in there

Sequin

We had a Prime minicomputer, running a stock control system at a warehouse in the Cotswolds. When it was installed, a UPS was also fitted.

One day contractors digging up the road outside hit the electrical supply and the power to the building went out. After finding a torch, I headed to the computer room to gracefully shut down the machine, as the power was likely to be out for several hours and the UPS was rated for about 20 minutes. When I got there, the machine was dead. Later investigation showed that between the UPS and the computer was an RCD circuit breaker wired in such a way that a loss of the mains power would trip the breaker, cutting all power to the machine.

Should I mention that the warehouse was part of a department full of electrical engineers, who installed and wired up the supply themselves? No - that would be embarrasing!

Microsoft celebrates undead MS Paint with festive knitwear

Sequin

Gogh is pronounced like 'khokh', not "go"

For every disastrous rebrand, there is an IT person trying to steer away from the precipice

Sequin

Re: It's not just our business

Foden trucks are sold in Portuguese speaking countries as "Poden"

Sequin

They used to have an office in Germany - if you called it they answered by offering this advice - "Wang Cologne"

Who knew that hosing a table with copious amounts of cubic metres would trip adult filters?

Sequin

I subscribe to a weekly email, which the author numbers using Roman numerals.

Every now and again he has to change to arabic numerals, when the number is in the 30's as many spam filters will block emails with XXX in the subject

Panic in the mailroom: The perils of an operating system too smart for its own good

Sequin

I had to deal with a similar, but opposite problem one day for the UK Prison Service. They had an office in Birmingham that allowed the families of inmates to claim financial help for visiting their loved ones in chokey. The figures weren't immense, but they could claim travelling costs and occasional overnight B&B stays. The system ran on Novel Netware and was set up to print Girocheques in batches from a bespoke application.

One day I received a call saying that the system had gone haywire, printing duplicate cheques, many of which had already been sent out in the post. I had to drop everything and hire a car to drive like a madman from Liverpool to sort it out. I even got stopped for speeding on the M6, though the nice policemen let me off with a warning after breathylising me.

When I finally got in to the office, it took me an hour or so to track down the problem. To deal with a backlog of applications, the local management had instituted an "all hands to the pump" blitz, shoving through more than double the number of cases than they normally did. The then loaded up the girocheques (on continuous paper) into the impact printer and kicked off the print routine. There was so much data that it filled and overflowed the disk space allocated to the print queues by Novel and the print spooler crashed. Novel, in its wisdom, automatically restarted the spooler, which then restarted the print job, reprinting multiple chueques. Th two lowly admin assistants whose job it was to separate the cheques and stuff them into window envelopes happily continued doing their menial tasks, filling mailbags with duplicate Giros.

As can be imagined, many of the recipients thought that Christmas had come early and shot off down to the Post Office clutching handfulls of cheques. Much of this money was not recovered.

Brit accused of spying on 772 people via webcam CCTV software tells court he'd end his life if extradited to US

Sequin

They can have him when we get Anne Sacoolas back here. What's sauce for the goose......

Excel is for amateurs. To properly screw things up, those same amateurs need a copy of Access

Sequin

The problem is usually not the tool that is used, but the tool that uses it.

Big IQ play from IT outsourcer: Can't create batch files if you can't save files. Of any kind

Sequin

Working on a system at Scotland Yard, users were not supposed to be access anything other than the application, which loaded automatically at boot etc.

One persistant user discovered that if you hit F1 to load the windows help file, there was a "Run" option in the File menu, which meant that you could run any application or utility if you knew the name of the executable. This would give you access to such things as Progman.exe, Fileman.exe, command line etc.

We don't need maintenance this often, surely? Pull it. Oh dear, the system's down

Sequin

I was once asked to look at some software a police department had brought in to log staff absences, which had stopped saving new records. The people who wrote it said that it would take them weeks to fix, at a cost of ~£5k.

It was written in MSAccess, which I knew very well and made myself seem a genius by cofidently predicting that the main table would contain 32,767 records, which turned out to be spot on.

Changing the ID column definition from short integer to long integer took me all of 5 seconds and the system miraculously started working again. I asked if I could have a bonus of 50% of what the supplier had quoted, but they just laughed!

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

Sequin

I maintained a system on Netware that processed applications for government assistance, which eventually lead to Giro cheques being printed and posted to the applicants. These were on tractor-feed stock and were printed on an impact printer to prevent the cheques being altered by scraping off laser toner, which does not penetrate the paper.

After building up a backlog of cases, the management decided to have a blitz and instituted lots of overtime and brought in temporary staff. They then hooked up a box of paper and ran the print job. Unfortunately, the size of the job was larger than the disk space allocated to the print queues. The cheques started printing, but after a while the system crashed and restarted. This started the the print job from the start, not from where it left off, and led to hundreds of duplicates being printed. The temporary staff in the mail room were not aware of this and just separated the cheques, plonking them in window envelopes, and put them in the postal system.

By the time it was noticed, they were too late to recall them. I got a call in Liverpool and had to get a hire car and drive down to Birmingham with my foot hard on the pedal - I even got pulled by the boys in blue on the motorway, but was luckily let off with a warning after being breathalysed.

It cost them thousands of pounds in the end as people cashed in their windfalls.

Finally, a wafer-thin server... Only a tiny little thin one. Oh all right. Just the one...

Sequin

I worked for a large government department and our team were the first to develop PC based solutions, the department's vast majority of work being done on ICL mainframes. We bought our own development server (Novel Netware), wired up our own network, and got ourselves a UPS to protect the server. We used to test the UPS every 3 months, doing a controlled shutdown, and everything was hunky-dory.

About 18 months later we moved to a new building and our server was moved into a new server room and plugged into the new network. We got it up and running very quickly and things were going well. Until, that is, we decided to run our regular UPS test. We switched off the mains supply, then watched as the software on the server detected the power out and shutdown everything gracefully. At this point screams came from another team that their system had gone down.

When putting their server into the server room, that had spotted a spare outlet on our UPS and decided that it would be a good idea to hook into it, but they had not made us aware of this. Doh!

Bite me? It's 'byte', and that acronym is Binary Interface Transfer Code Handler

Sequin

A boss of mine (we were working for a big government department) asked the guy from the customer who was our liaison what the system should do if a low level user tried to access the admin functionality. "It should tell them to bugger off" came the reply. The boss then wrote an assembler program that slowly wiped across the screen, displaying "BUGGER OFF" in large red letters on a white screen, while my contribution was a bit of code that played the Monty Python theme as it was writing the message. We were both very proud of this, until the system was being demonstrated to the bigwigs from our and their departments!

Resistance is futile: Some Cisco security appliances are ticking time bombs of fail thanks to faulty resistors

Sequin

Synology NAS devices have had similar problems in the post - check out Dave Jones (eevBlog) who found one in a skip and fixed it by soldering in a single resistor

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y8_emfoR_MI

Your Agile-built IT platform was 'terrible', Co-Op Insurance chief complained to High Court

Sequin

I've learnt from long and painful experience that going for a "tailored" package is almost invariably a nightmare.

Disk stuck in the drive? Don't dilly-Dali – get IT on the case!

Sequin

Re: Chemical fun

Many, many years ago, when doing my Chemistry A level, the teacher decided to punish us for some infraction and told us to wash and dry a large pile of glassware - test tubes, conical flasks etc. H told us to dry it by swilling a few drops of acetone around the inside, then blowing it dry with a bellows with rubber tube attached.

I decided to speed things up by swilling with acetone, throwing any excess down the sink, then flashing off any remaining by holding the open end over a bunsen for a second or two.

After doing this for considerable number of items, I forgot to pour out the excess and held it over the burner. When the thing burst into flames I dropped it in shock, into the sink that contained all of the previous washings. This ignited, and caused the vapours in the drain to go bank, leading to waterspouts from all of the other sinks in the lab!

Sequin

Re: a melting mystery

When at university, studying for my finals, we experienced a heat wave, so lots of us went out on to the lawns outside to enjoy the warmth and get som fresh air. To prevent my notes blowing away, I took an apple shaped glass paperweight with me (which I still have) and placed it on top of my folders.

After a few minutes I smelt burning and realised that the glass apple made a lovely lens, with a focal length of about 4 inches. There was a smoking black hole in the cover of my folder, which was covered in black PVC.

Sequin

I once had to try to sort out a user's keyboard (that user being me) after a soft drink had been spilt on it. Not having a dishwasher available, I took it in to the gents' toilet and ran it under the tap. After shaking out as much water as I could, I decided to speed up the drying process by sticking it under the hot air hand dryer. Unfortunately, the thermostat on the dryer was buggered and the air it blew out was remeniscent of a pyroclastic flow from a volcano! The surround on the keyboard softened like putty, jamming most of the keys when it rehardened after I removed it from the airflow. Doh!

I heard somebody say: Burn baby, burn – server inferno!

Sequin

Many years ago I was working on a project for the department that installed and maintained comms equipment for the emergency services, from the Police handheld radios to full hilltop transmitter sites with 100ft aerial arrays etc.

At the time the stock control at their warehouse and central stores was all paper based and we were sourcing and installing a computerised system that ran on a PRIME minicomputer. We told them that they would need a computer room building and they said that they would do this themselves to save money, as they were used to doing things like this when setting up comms rooms in Police and Fire stations.

Sure enought, They boxed off a corner of the office with partition walls, put in the power supply, wired in the supplied UPS etc. What they did not do was check what was running through the cavity in the dropped ceiling.

A month or two later we got an emergency call saying that everything had gone down - what had happened was that the pipework from the toilets on the floor above had become clogged and a build up of pressure had caused a joint in the pipework to pop - right above the computer room. The sh*t literally hit the fans!

Who needs the A-Team or MacGyver when there's a techie with an SCSI cable?

Sequin

Re: Bless..

Don't forget that you must use juicy lead based solder - none of that naff ROHS lead free junk!

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