* Posts by pirxhh

32 posts • joined 18 Sep 2017

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


Re: I recognise the story

Same - I had to sit through a cyber security video before going on site. Notwithstanding that I had personally designed, written and recorded said video as a consultant to the site owner. I took the liberty to watch the thing in a language entirely foreign to me (translated by one of my native-speaker colleagues from my English version), just for fun.

Electrocution? All part of the service, sir!


Re: Shock ! = Death

Here in Germany, 3 phase 400V is standard (230V phase to ground).

Residential circuits are usually 63A per phase.

High-powered equipment like ovens, ranges and water heaters (air conditioning is still rather uncommon) get 3 phase, everything else gets 230V, usually 16A per circuit.

The 3-phase circuit comes in handy to set up a fast charge wall box for electric cars as well.


Re: leaving each end welded

Ah... chemistry!

We did stinky stuff (like making soap from animal fat we got at the butcher's... it was already a bit off when we started), boom-y stuff that left a 1.5 meter crater in a classmate's field, and actually some sciency stuff like a Stanley Miller-Style early earth atmosphere experiment with automated sampling hooked up to the school's ancient gas chromatograph. That was actually quite involved for a high school project in 1983 - had to build some hardware, no Arduinos around at the time so we built a custom interface for the Apple II, borrowed some servos from the RC model Club as our actuators etc. It even worked reliably for the 6 weeks of the experiment.


Re: I had a similar "shock" once

And this is why we have the five rules:


2. Lock-out/tag-out

3. Measure voltage

4..Ground and short

5. Cover or remove nearby parts that remain energized

I carry a nice homemade tool: A plug wired to short all three pins together. After making sure the breaker is off and my circuit is dead I'll plug it in to make sure it stays dead. Had one too many case where a helpful person ignored my tag-out. I "can* wire a socket under power if I really must but if so I'd want to know, thank you very much!


Re: "The power lead approached the PC..."

Had the same issue... made it part of our installation process/checklist to set the switch to 230V and apply a dollop of hot glue in the now vacant cavity on the 115V side to prevent moving the switch back easily.

Still could be done by poking the glue out with a small screwdriver if ever needed but as that took several minutes to do no idiot ever tried.

Scalpel! Superglue! This mouse won't fix its own ball


I know *exactly* were mine is.

Bought it directly from the manufacturer at CeBIT trade fair in Hanover in the 80s.

Now that it's dead, I severed its "tail" and put it in a mousetrap (actually, a rat trap as it's larger) on my wall. No great art but a nice geeky conversation piece.

You would expect a qualified electrician to wire a building to spec, right? Trust... but verify


Re: You would expect a qualified electrician to wire a building to spec, right?

I now tag-out the breaker, lock the fuse box with my own lock, measure the circuit and then plug in a handy plug with a direct bridge between all three prongs (and a "remove before flight" tag attached).

So if any kind of... helpful person... tries to power the circuit, the breaker will trip immediately.

Paranoid? Maybe. But I have had narrow escapes of exactly that kind, so hopefully I'm paranoid enough.


Re: You would expect a qualified electrician to wire a building to spec, right?

Red is black

plus is minus

earth goes into the flowerpot




Re: Socket Tester Plugs

German sockets ("Schuko" aka CEE 7/3) are not polarized and there is no standard nor universal consensus if the right or left connector shall be live.

Therefore the tester can show "live/neutral swapped" on a correctly wired socket; turning it by 180 degrees should show "all good" - if not you'll need to debug.


Re: You would expect a qualified electrician to wire a building to spec, right?

Same here - when my parents had their home built in 1978, the sparky did that "as the 4-wire cable is too expensive". Wide-eyed and all keen to learn, I asked if the relevant code (VDE0100) had been revised (happened all the times but rarely in the really fundamental areas).

Shamefaced, he pulled out the offending cable, fitted the correct one, and had the wall replastered.

I was twelve at the time.

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


As I never need the microphone socket anyway, a dollop of hot glue works wonders.


Re: Dark Monitor - might have been the cleaners

I had a call-out once where a terminal (actually, a NorthStar set similar to a thin client nowadays) was equally dark.

Turned out the brightness dial was placed just so that a wipe down the side of the screen turned the thing utterly dark. The cleaners had been doing their job, the user was suitably red-faced, and I became the company's go-to techie.

That time a startup tried to hire me just to push clients' products in job interviews


I got a question like that for one of my first job interviews. The veep hiring a brand-new IT Team had no technical background but an issue he wanted solved ("how can we send faxes from all our computers? We have Novell NetWare..."). I proposed a solution (involving something not many companies had in 1992, Email) and got the job. Only disagreement was on the salary, they wanted to pay 15% more than I asked for.

I found it a brilliant tactic for the hiring manager-"can you come up with a good plan and explain it so non-technical but business savvy people can understand?"

We don't know why it's there, we don't know what it does – all we know is that the button makes everything OK again


Re: The knob......

When visiting one such large, vastly impressive facility, one of the group asked "How many people work here?" - to which the guide, a nice physics postdoc, responded "oh, about thirty percent". Netted her a good laugh.


Re: The light..

In the eighties, I was an intern at an aircraft manufacturer. We had a lovely CAD system that used a lightpen and a separate function keyboard. One of the most-used keys was helpfully labeled "Yes|No".

If pressing that ambiguous bird meant "yes" or "no" was context dependent. Lovely UI.

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






Re: Am I Old?

When I had too much time on my hands, I wrote a TSR (terminate and stay resident) program that intercepted the keyboard interrupt. The faster one typed, the more random errors in introduced. So it was not reproducable for the user/victim - typing slowly, everything looked okay.

Nasty, I know, but I was young and foolish then (and the victims were IT students like me so had a sporting chance...)

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


Sometimes, it baffles even techies

Years ago, I had a call-out to fix a large Exchange installation.

The Global address list was borked, as Exchange was known to do from time to time. No big deal, the admins had deleted and recreated it and also set the permissions correctly.

I drove an hour to the site (security did not allow remote access), sat down and checked and re-checked everything. No dice.

One hour into the job I finally spotted it. In German, address is Adresse, and when recreating the GAL, the client had dropped a d.

Deleted the GAL, recreated it again with correct spelling, and everything was up and running again.

I'll happily admit that it was a lucky find, we could easily have stared at the screen for many more hours.



Next time, add a running hours counter behind that service door. *That*'ll show them!

It's just a pair of arrows. What could be more innocent than that?


For me, the striking similarity to the recycle logo would be more of a concern.

The one "flash" does not raise any significant unfortunate association with me - and I'm a German in my fifties, definitely not taking history lightly. A double "flash" would be an immediate no-go here, of course.

C'mon SPARCky, it's just an admin utility update. What could possibly go wrong?


I distinctly remember a hard drive urging the user to wear safety shoes (with steel toe caps) during installation. Cannot remember the brand; may have been HP.

Justice served: There is no escape from the long server log of the law


Re: Surely...

Nah, only a significant reduction of reproductive success is needed.

Loss of attractiveness to prospective mates and/or ability to provide for offspring would qualify.

Our hero returns home £500 richer thanks to senior dev's appalling security hygiene


Re: Ahhh passwords...

I once had a project for a major hosting provider, which involved forest admin access. This was way more than I really needed for the actual project, but it got the job done with late-night support calls.

When the project was finished, I handed over the documentation and asked for my account to be terminated or disabled.

It turned out that so large a client had strict processes to follow, which meant that half a year later, my account was still live. I actually had to threaten them I'd write to corporate compliance to get the access revoked.

Exclusive: Windows for Workgroups terror the Tartan Bandit confesses all to The Register


Re: Childish but satisfying...

I was really bored once... wrote a (DOS) keyboard driver that randomly introduced spelling errors, but only when typing fast. When the victim tried to troubleshoot, they'd type slowly, so nothing unusual happened. Once they sped up, the errors were back.

Hi! It looks like you're working on a marketing strategy for a product nowhere near release! Would you like help?


Re: So...

Just like your body needs an asshole.

Are you sure your disc drive has stopped rotating, or are you just ignoring the messages?


Re: I can believe it!

Lasers, surprisingly, also are better at very low print volumes. With inkjets, if you do not print every couple of weeks, the ink will dry up and may break the print head. If you print only every other day, the cleaning cycle will empty your ink cartridges rather quickly.

Lasers do not have that issue, so I run a laser at home for the few times a year I have to print something, like official letters or tax forms. When not in use, it's completely powered down - another thing most inkjets don't like and penalize by more elaborate (and ink consuming) cleaning cycles every time you turn them on.


Re: I can believe it!

With special printers (large format, special certificate paper...), either the output is brought to you (inhouse mail) or you pick it up at some kind of cubbyhole.

In large-scale operations, many hardcopies are mailed or used directly - e.g. letters to customers or pay slips that get sent out directly, so the user generating them never sees the final hardcopy and does not care where the printer is located - it may be even offsite, in a mail depot somewhere.

The best way to screw the competition? Do what they can't, in a fraction of the time


Re: Don't forget arcnet

Archer was token passing, but no ring architecture.

Then there was Corvus Omninet, 1 Mbps over very simple tweisted pair cable and dependable as hell.


Ethernet is (was) coax - originally (10Base-5) thick, yellow coax with transceivers mounted to the cable by drilling a hole to the cable core, then came the so-called "Cheapernet" (10Base-2) RG-58 cabling that we all loved to hate.

Twisted pair (10Base-T and later) came later.

Convenient switch hides an inconvenient truth


Re: And as any fule kno ...

No, a projector starting up (or trying to...) has a pretty low resistance, so there will be more than enough current to energize a relay coil.


It's a plain and simple relay circuit, thus operating at the mains voltage.

The 115 VAC power the coil to a relay, which breaks the power to the mainframe (and whatever). Same as the light circuit on stairs or hallways. Old-school but reliable.

Equifax's IT leaders 'retire' as company says it knew about the bug that brought it down


Re: 'You don’t pay extra at restaurants to keep rat poison out of the food'

Europe is leading the US by a wide margin in this - the EU General Data Protection Regulation (EU GDPR) is already in force and becomes fully mandatory on May 25th, 2018. This unifies the much stronger stance on privacy prevalent in Europe - in part this is due to different perception; Europeans generally care more about e.g. your neighbor knowing how much you make but less about nudity than their US counterparts.

The EU GDPR has significant fines attached, i.e. 4 percent of annual global turnover or 20 million Euros (about 22 million dollars), whichever is greater.


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