* Posts by GlenP

927 publicly visible posts • joined 25 Apr 2012

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Work for you? Again? After you lied about the job and stole my stuff? No thanks

GlenP Silver badge

Re: It's friday - time for beer.

I'd like to do that but when the nearest team member is a couple of hundred miles away and the furthest about 6,000 miles it's a bit tricky!

GlenP Silver badge

I've had a couple...

I've had a couple of post-redundancy contacts from former employers, where they seem to forget that they deemed my role surplus to requirements!

One I couldn't help them with anyway, it was the admin password on some NT machines in the CAD office that IT hadn't been directly involved in - my only involvement was towing the supplier's van back off the very wet grass after they'd decided to back it up to a window to save carrying the kit very far (I had a Range Rover at the time).

The other suddenly decided they desperately needed help a few weeks after I'd left. As I was signing on benefits at the time, and you have to be careful with re-employment after redundancy anyway, I told them I could only do 15 hours a week, split over two days, at a, for the time, fairly eye-watering daily rate and with all expenses paid. They had to go for it and I banked a few thousand pounds as a result.

Curious tale of broken VPNs, the Year 2038, and certs that expired 100 years ago

GlenP Silver badge

Time Consequences

a simple problem can actually be bigger than you think

Minor by comparison but we had an issue with NTP and the servers consistently setting the time to about 2 1/2 minutes slow. It was difficult to track down and not really taken seriously, after all what's a couple of minutes here and there? Except the same servers are used to reset the time on the factory time clocks; 2 minutes late clocking out is, for several employees, the difference between catching one bus or having to wait 30 minutes for the next one.

We never really did pin down the root cause, patching VMware, BIOS updates and MS patches eventually cured it so the shop floor were happy, as was their supervisor who was fed up signing off early finishes!

Please install that patch – but don't you dare actually run it

GlenP Silver badge

Re: We dont go for "uptime" records

All our servers are rebooted monthly, including SQL. Most of them are just on a scheduled task for the early hours of a Sunday morning but the SQL and Web servers are scheduled manually each month as they have to be done in the correct order and we try to avoid doing them if there's a possibility of significant user activity, just in case.

GlenP Silver badge

Uptime

About 10 years ago we had a PC sitting in the bottom on a machine control cabinet, just a bog standard computer, not an industrial one, which failed to boot one morning.

Upon investigation I discovered it hadn't been powered down for at least 5 years, possibly longer, yet for some reason the day before the person using it had selected the Shutdown option on the menu. We all know that's a recipe for problems, in this case the spinning rust was completely dead and the motherboard couldn't get past POST. No real problem, fetch a PC from the spares pile then wait a week or so for the machine manufacturer to supply us the software from the States (we couldn't download it as you required the floppy* for the security key, not sure why it was secured as the software would only work with their machine).

*I did say it was a while back!

Techie climbed a mountain only be told not to touch the kit on top

GlenP Silver badge

Re: Nice day for a trip to Scotland

without me or BT doing anything

I never entirely trust BT on that, I've had several WAN failures over the years where BT have come back with No Fault Found but it's mysteriously started working again at the same moment!

GlenP Silver badge

Re: I once had ....

Those 10base2 sockets were a boon and a PITA!

Due to multiple buildings and segment lengths I was stuck with having offices and the computer room on one segment, with one bridge half way down the main building, another at the far end from the computer room and the third in the next building.

The separate building was occupied by a sister company who had a server of their own as well as using the main AS/400. That was all very well until their support people decided to use two network cards in the server and configure it as another bridge to add a few more PCs onto the system, without actually consulting anybody.

Major IT outage at Europe's largest caravan and RV club makes for not-so-happy campers

GlenP Silver badge

Re: Blissful silence

That hasn't been best practice for 8-9 years

I've just been completing various audit documents (it's that time of year for us and we have multiple companies), all the auditors still expect password changes to be enforced despite it no longer being recommended.

Poor communication led to complete lack of communication

GlenP Silver badge

Email...

I had a similar issue with email in the days before on-site email servers and broadband. We used an ISDN connection to an external service which suddenly slowed down*. It turned out one of our users had put his Out Of Office on in whichever email client he was using without checking the "only send once" box. He'd then sent an email to someone external who'd done the same thing - result was multiple OOF messages bouncing between the two! Stopping the service, clearing the queue and fixing the OOF settings cured the problem.

*Users expected email to be instant, which it wasn't and isn't now - I had one senior manager complain that her colleague in the States hadn't received an email 2 minutes after she'd sent it. Being ISDN our email only connected every 15 minutes but I showed here there was nothing in the queue at our end and there was nothing we could do.

Junior techie had leverage, but didn’t appreciate the gravity of the situation

GlenP Silver badge

Re: Curious 6000kva?

6kVA or 6000VA would make sense, 6000kVA would need multiple cabinets on its own.

Personally I think the wrong person was suspended - the junior should never have been tasked with the installation on their own.

The New ROM Antics – building the ZX Spectrum 128

GlenP Silver badge

Re: "their substantial egos"

In the early 1980s I was at Inspex, the big UK Inspection Equipment show. This was at the time when electronics were coming in to the main stream* instead of manual equipment, we looked at one very expensive (as in 5 figure) machine and I immediately commented. "Interesting use of a ZX81!" They were a bit taken aback that I'd recognised it from the screen but admitted that yes, that was at the heart of it.

The reality was you could by a ZX81 for far less than any other Z80 based system board and of course they'd taken all the control lines neatly out to the edge of the board.

*There were earlier machines, the company I was working for at the time inherited a 3D measuring machine from the head office driven by a PDP-8.

WTF? Potty-mouthed intern's obscene error message mostly amused manager

GlenP Silver badge

It would still have potentially led to being fired, even in the 90s. "Karens" may not have been a thing then but equally there were a lot of older people in business who would have found foul language unacceptable.

I had to warn one of my staff for distributing a humorous, but foul, email to customers. Yes it was funny but I knew of several people who would definitely not appreciated it - had they seen the message it would have seriously impacted on business relations. He only got an informal, "Never do that again!"

You don't get what you don't pay for, but nobody is paid enough to be abused

GlenP Silver badge

Re: We refered to the CYA written confirmation as a "Shirt Tail Exercise"

Not quite to the same level but many years ago it was decided that we'd "host" a satellite office in the Netherlands on our ERP system in the UK. No real problem but with minimal capital budget available the only option at the time was ISDN (I did say it was many years ago!)

I duly warned the management about the call costs but the response was, "It will only be a few transactions a day!" I also warned them that it doesn't really work like that but they insisted we went ahead. At the end of the first quarter they were horrified at the telecoms bill at the remote site - well I did warn them! With a bit of balancing of connection charge vs per minute charge and an agreement they'd do all their processing in batches we got things down to an acceptable level.

Enterprising techie took the bumpy road to replacing vintage hardware

GlenP Silver badge

Re: We were not gentle, and each RM03 had a rough journey

I'm pretty certain all the ones I worked with said DEC on the front and CDC inside!

GlenP Silver badge

Peripherals

Not quite IT but inevitably under our remit...

Previous company had two paper shredders, an elderly strip shredder and a much newer, and more secure, cross cut one.

Payslips were still produced on a matrix printer as a printed top sheet with the actual secure NCR slip underneath so the top sheet was split off. The top sheets were kept as a strip for the required period then a year's worth would be shredded in one go, which was where the argument started. Firstly the newer shredder would only take one sheet of paper at a time and frequently jammed - that was easily sorted by actually lubricating the thing which I discovered hadn't been done in several years. The second complaint was it would only run continuously for a few hours a day - well it was only a 50% duty cycle!

Because of these issues they absolutely insisted they would use the old shredder for the job. It was pointed out that it was insecure, and the Company would be liable under the (relatively new) Data Protection Act* since it was easy to piece the paper back together again, but the payroll people were adamant. The old shredder happened to be in the wrong building though and needed moving about 100 yards so a couple of the shop floor were enlisted for the job. Now I'm not saying they did drop it deliberately, and I'm not saying they didn't, but the end result was some bent components and loud graunching sounds when it was turned on - result achieved!

*A company had recently been fined due to a lack of an adequate shredding policy when an employee "happened" to find a copy of his payslip in a black rubbish bag. Everyone was certain it was a stitch-up but it cost a few thousand pounds.

Bank's datacenter died after travelling back in time to 1970

GlenP Silver badge

Re: Priorities

I solved this by telling her a fictitious appointment time

We had a corporate manager in the Netherlands who really resented any travel in work time. He'd try and insist on us leaving the office at normal finishing time, driving to the airport, flying to Schiphol then taking a train right across the country, with the result you wouldn't reach the hotel until after midnight but would still have to be in the office for 08:00. For the return he'd make sure he delayed your departure from the office until the last possible moment for you to catch the last possible return train to get your homebound flight.

Of course the end result was a lot of lying. "Sorry, the later flights were all full!", when they weren't. "The only return flight is the 14:30!", when actually flying out on the 15:30 flight.

GlenP Silver badge

Time...

Is a PITA!

I was seriously considering an atomic clock setup for one of our servers as, for some reason we couldn't fathom, it was consistently 3 minutes slow despite regular NTP calls and irrespective of the time server used. Had I been sure it would have resolved the issue I'd probably have gone ahead but in the end our support company managed to fix it with an obscure patch.

Did 3 minutes really matter? Whilst not as critical as the time for financial trading yes, it did! The factory time clock updated from the server weekly (and when the clocks changed), that three minutes was the difference between some of the operators catching their bus home or waiting an hour for the next one.

Not work but we had an issue with linked electronics (it was a proprietary ring bus system) on a yacht where the time on the chart plotter (which didn't have it's own RTC) had to be manually reset at power up when it was supposed to take the time from the GPS. Having finally managed to track down a USB interface for the network we went into packet sniffing mode and it turned out the scenario was:

Chart Plotter sends Time Request Good so far

GPS responds to Request Still good

Chart Plotter responds to Request Eh? Why is it responding to its own time request?

Chart Plotter receives time from GPS and updates Correct time

Chart Plotter receives time from itself and updates Overwriting the correct time with the default start up time

We were able to update the chart plotter config to stop it responding to time requests but why the heck it was ever enabled to do so was beyond us.

Raspberry Pi OS goes goth

GlenP Silver badge

I Suppose...

<SmugMode>I'd better update my Pi 5 over the weekend</SmugMode>

OK, I was very fortunate to hit the first batch of pre-orders from PiHut by about 20 minutes. It's now set up principally as part of a dev station for Pi Picos that I'm using for simple model railway automation.

Sysadmin's favorite collection of infallible utilities failed … foully

GlenP Silver badge

Even Further Back...

defragging a disk could make a huge difference

A customer had two ACT Sirius machines, with whopping great 10MB HDs, to run Autodesk CAD. They weren't really our responsibility to support but they were complaining that saving files was becoming a huge issue, up to 20+ minutes for some designs, so I had a quick look.

Inevitably, with a small disk, low memory and an application that spewed out temporary files, the disks were so heavily fragmented it was a miracle anything ran at all. I ran defrag on both machines, ran a few more basic checks, advised the customer that removing a few older files and repeating the defrag monthly, or so, would help, and left a happy customer who could now save files in under a minute.

Nostalgia for XP sells out Microsoft's 2023 'Windows Ugly Sweater'

GlenP Silver badge

Re: Teletubbies

I was at one of the UK launch events for XP (not sure how I got an invite). It only took a few seconds from the image being displayed to the product being dubbed Tellytubby Windows.

Virgin Atlantic flies 'world's first fossil-fuel free' transatlantic commercial flight

GlenP Silver badge

Re: Hydrogen

No, because the hydrogen will be in liquid form. A quick (and unconfirmed) search shows the density of liquid hydrogen as 70.85 kg/m3, that of air as 1.29 kg/m3.

Experienced Copilot help is hard to find, warns Microsoft MVP

GlenP Silver badge

Seen it before...

I seem to recall exactly the same back when Exchange first came on the scene. Consultants who'd actually completed an implementation could virtually be counted on the fingers of one hand.

Suffice to say we will not be looking at 365 Copilot but I'm waiting for the first C-Suite to say, "I've heard about this great new tool, when can we have it?"

Share your 2024 tech forecasts (wrong answers only) to win a terrible sweater

GlenP Silver badge

A cold fusion reactor powered quantum computer is launched which runs Linux and dominates the desktop market.

Thus the holy trinity of "things that will happen this year" is complete and the ancient prophecies are fulfilled.

Lawyer guilty of arrogance after ignoring tech support

GlenP Silver badge

Been There...

I'm sure I've recounted these before but here goes:

Customer demanding an on-site visit "immediately" after being advised to power down and restart the system. It was pointed out that "immediately" would be at least 40 minutes to get on site. I did have to go out eventually but at least they'd tried the quick fix.

Insurance consultant's secretary who's computer (PS2/50) was completely dead. We went through the usual including specifically asking her to unplug the power lead from the computer and plug it back in firmly as they weren't the greatest power sockets. She claimed she'd done all of that and demanded an engineer, so we warned her that if it was a power lead issue the call would be chargeable; needless to say her boss immediately complained when he got the invoice for the engineer call out for, "Pushed cable into socket!" We pointed out they'd been warned and if he wanted to argue it would have to be with IBM not us (we were contracted first line support only).

Rivian bricks infotainment systems in 'fat finger' fiasco

GlenP Silver badge

And this is why a bought a car with physical heater controls and an infotainment system that is separate to the vehicle operation, and that isn't connected to the 'net!

Sadly by the time I replace it I suspect there won't be any option.

BOFH: Monitor mount moans end in Beancounter beatdown

GlenP Silver badge

Back when I was a Civil Servant we had a Vax 11/780 that was described on the purchase as a "PDP11 Compatible Data Collection Device" since all "computers" had to be ICL. I'm not sure what trick they'd used to get it's predecessor PDP 11/45 through but we had to keep that as part of the fiddle even though it was never turned on. They'd also only purchased the hardware and borrowed the operating systems for a year, otherwise the request would have gone to cabinet committee level and that was too risky, a second order was placed in the following budget year to complete the job.

We had a number of PDP 11/23s that were "Sound Analysis Equipment" on the books. The trick with these was that the sound interface was a very small part of the cost so in effect we could get the computers without the hassle - only one of them really was used for sound analysis.

Wanted: Driver for rocket-powered Bloodhound Land Speed Record car

GlenP Silver badge

I think part of what has stalled it for so long was the need for a step jump in the record to attract the publicity and hence sponsorship.

Richard Noble's record in Thrust 2 held until the technology advanced enough to make an attempt at going supersonic. After that milestone was reached everything went very quiet until 1000mph became possible when we saw more than one team going for it.

You're right though, it's a lot of money for little return.

Batterygate bound for Blighty as UK court approves billion-dollar Apple compensation case

GlenP Silver badge

Re: Its a weird one

Indeed, the telling part of the Tribunal's judgement is, "There remains a lack of clarity and specificity in the PCR's case."

I've had, and managed, phones covered by the case, I have not noticed any detrimental effects or had any such effects reported by the users. In performance terms our usage is relatively low (does anyone ever really notice the performance unless they're playing games?) so any extension of battery life would be welcomed.

UK convinces nations to sign Bletchley Declaration in bid for AI safety

GlenP Silver badge

Re: Turing had nothing to do with Colossus!

I believe he made a few minor suggestions that also helped but he definitely didn't co-design it.

Even with the Bombe Turing's theoretical version required Gordon Welchman's Diagonal Board to make it viable in practice.

I had to point out to someone earlier today that there were a lot of people at BP (Flowers and Welchman included) whose contribution to our code breaking efforts was at least equal to, if not greater than, Turing's.

Where do people feel most at risk of being pwned? The pub

GlenP Silver badge

If they do the pub quiz in my local internet access is essential as it's run online. You only have 30 seconds to answer though which precludes Google.

And yes, most of the customers there will be using the Wifi due to the cr*p mobile signals round here.

Tesla swerves liability in Autopilot death lawsuit

GlenP Silver badge

Re: Self Drive

I wouldn't want a car that used it's perception of the speed limit, period. My car has a speed limit sign camera and the sat nav has GPS based speed limits, on a variable speed motorway both can be wrong! The camera has issues with the illuminated signs, often reading 50 as 80 instead, and isn't very good with temporary signs at roadworks, on one occasion it managed to read a sign as 120. The GPS only knows the "normal" speed limit, assuming it hasn't changed since the last update of course. This is UK with decent speed limit signs, I'm not sure how they ever work in the US where signs are very easily missed.

I've got lane departure warning/avoidance (i.e. a warning and it will steer back into the lane) but it will quickly detect if you're not putting steering input in yourself. Overall it's useful IMHO but a long way from self driving, and makes no claims beyond being an aid.

The adaptive cruise requires me to set the speed limit, again it's just an aid though and requires some knowledge on how to use it, for example, on a motorway in slowing traffic if the car in front pulls out to the next lane you could suddenly speed up and go inside it.

Unit4 ditching on-prem in favor of SaaS come 2025

GlenP Silver badge

Yep - we're planning to deal with this by ditching Unit4. If we're going to have to migrate from on-prem to the cloud we'll do so with someone else.

Windows CE reaches end of life, if not end of sales

GlenP Silver badge

Re: Typical Microsoft

https://www.gsmarena.com/htc_p6500-2129.php

That what you meant?

That's the one - the P had slipped out of the ancient memory cells!

GlenP Silver badge

Re: I had an iPaq and a something else..

The Microwriter Agenda was the 5-key one. The small software house I worked for became agents for them but unfortunately they were just too quirky and the displays weren't really big enough given the overall size. I don't think we ever actually sold any but I used mine for a couple of years.

GlenP Silver badge

Re: Typical Microsoft

I had an HTC6500* which was absolutely brilliant, there was very little comparable at the time. I followed it up with a Nokia Lumia 1120 for the superb (by the standards of the day) camera. Sadly the app infrastructure ultimately killed them for me.

*I got it free thanks to a very good Orange customer services agent, "You're thinking of leaving us, and don't want to pay anything for a new phone, do you?" £500+ worth of phone with no upfront payment on a relatively low monthly contract.

Ask a builder to fix a server and out come the vastly inappropriate power tools

GlenP Silver badge

Re: Just a quick manicure.

turbo button

Or as we knew them, Slow Down Buttons! That's what they were in reality, originally fitted because some (mainly games) software relied on the IBM PC 4.77 MHz clock speed.

CEO Satya Nadella thinks Microsoft hung up on Windows Phone too soon

GlenP Silver badge

Re: It's hard to determine when Windows Phone died?

The end point for me was when the versions of MS Office on iOS and Android were at least two versions ahead of Windows Phone. That in itself would put off other app developers.

Cisco to sell enterprise version of $400 Bang & Olufsen earbuds

GlenP Silver badge

Re: Webex is still a thing?

Yes - just had to disable it from auto starting on a users laptop. He needs it for about one meeting a month, if that, but it's the only platform the customer will accept.

The Raspberry Pi 5 is now available ... if you pre-ordered

GlenP Silver badge

Re: Might be lucky

I sneaked into that batch by about 15 minutes so I'm hopeful it won't be long!

That script I wrote three years ago is now doing what? How many times?

GlenP Silver badge

Re: On the flip side

Getting "deep and dirty" is something everyone should do at least once to get a proper understanding of what is involved.

It was something they were very keen on at Newcastle Uni when I did my degree, even knowing that hand writing machine code wouldn't be something we'd likely need in our professional careers - an understanding of the fundamentals was considered a key skill.

I met a student from a another, supposedly more prestigious, University and discovered their entire computing course seemed to consist of learning as many high level languages as possible with very little emphasis on understanding programming techniques.

Raspberry Pi 5: Hot takes and cooler mistakes

GlenP Silver badge
Happy

Re: Crimbo

As I don't have a wife I had to order my own Christmas present (and call myself a sad B*****d!)

One door opens, another one closes, and this one kills a mainframe

GlenP Silver badge

Re: IBM, too, maybe...

That reminds me of another IBM story, I was assured, by someone who claimed to have been there, that this really happened but make your own judgement.

They were looking for some new tail-lift vans to deliver the large line printers. Ford UK's proposal was for Cargo vans but IBM decided they were larger than required and found an independent supplier who'd fit tail lifts to Transits, having figured that two printers would be within the van's carrying capacity and one would fit on the tail lift. As this was a big investment they arranged a grand unveiling with various senior management present. Having rolled a nice new printer onto the brand new tail lift the driver pressed the *up* button, at which point the printer stayed where it was and the front of the van rose into the air! The dodgy supplier hadn't calculated the loading correctly for a single large item being lifted, Ford had done so and realised a Transit wasn't suitable.

Workload written by student made millions, ran on unsupported hardware, with zero maintenance

GlenP Silver badge

I think my flaky server room temperature monitor failed a while ago - I really should check it and get it working again!

It involved an old laptop with a cheap USB temperature probe, exporting to a file which could then be read and checked by a scheduled job - not exactly elegant but it's saved us a few times and only cost £10.

Scripted shortcut caused double-click disaster of sysadmin's own making

GlenP Silver badge

Re: Are you sure

A small software house I worked for over 30 years ago had a cure for that.

Prompt: Are you sure (Y/N)?

Response: Y

Prompt: Are your really sure? Press <random letter> to continue

Not 100% infallible but probably saved a lot of Ohnoseconds.

GlenP Silver badge

Re: Is there anyone

I've recounted this before, back in the days when MS-DOS <> IBM Compatible Apricot used A: for the HD then B: for the floppy. Switching between different machines you'd go to format the floppy, type in FORMAT A:, Y to Are you sure, then oh sh*t (or other expletive). This was followed by frantic hitting of Ctrl-C and then reaching for the Norton UNDELETE utility which, fortunately, worked at that stage of the format. You had to know the first characters of the deleted filenames but the systems were a fairly standard setup.

Beta driver turned heads in the hospital

GlenP Silver badge

Nothing New

Back in the mid-eighties I was working at the local college (now university); PCs were starting to come in but the mainstay hardware was a Vax 11/785.

The secretarial* classroom was equipped with Facit Twist terminals which did the same as the Radius Pivot, but of course only in character mode. I don't recall what software was being used but it did take some fettling to get it to resize to the portrait mode.

*Senior Secs for Tom Sharpe fans, mostly "Daddy's got a BMW" types who's families had the money to support them through two years of college whilst ordinary people got jobs!

Raspberry Pi 5 revealed, and it should satisfy your need for speed

GlenP Silver badge

From one review it seems it's a power down / standby button with the power down being a customisable script which seems a good thing in general.

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

GlenP Silver badge

Re: A cave, rather than a mine, and a laboratory, rather than a computer

Interesting - I went down Blue John Cavern last week. They didn't mention that story!

GlenP Silver badge

Re: Dirt

keyboards and mice are consumables

Nowadays I agree, and chiclet keys on laptops have minimised the problems there, but I go back to when a keyboard was £100+ (IIRC DEC keyboards were around £130 in 1985) so we often had to go to great lengths to clean them, including dismantling and literally scrubbing under a tap (I thing that was the one that had Tizer spilt on it).

GlenP Silver badge

Dirt

I did have an issue at one employer, computers stood on the floor in a factory office with work boots frequently in close vicinity. I encouraged them to put the computers on desks but to no avail, "there's not enough room if we do that!" Computers were much larger then of course! We ended up with purchasing floor stands which helped a bit but any time you needed to work on those a vacuum cleaner was required.

Like many people, the biggest issue, back when smoking in offices was common practice, and occasionally since with wfh, is tobacco. I've had laptops returned that I would only handle with rubber gloves (and I'm not squeamish about such things) and that were impossible to clean and reissue. Some keyboards were positively disgusting, with ash, food scraps, etc. as well.

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