* Posts by pirxhh

66 publicly visible posts • joined 18 Sep 2017


User was told three times 'Do Not Reboot This PC' – then unplugged it anyway


Re: Content

The Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary (often spelled K/T boundary) is associated with one of the most investigated mass extinction events, i.e., the end of the dinosaurs. The age of the K/T boundary is currently estimated to be about 66 million years based on absolute dating methods.


Re: Content

I still use one, built October 1992.


Re: Not Worth an On-Call Story, But ...

LOTO tags are designed as they are for a reason.

Warning - do not operate (or unplug, in this case)

Locked on ...

This tag may be removed by ... only

The reason is, of course, "I thought it didn't apply to me"


Re: Content

I one had to explain by phone what a slash is...

Early in my career (just after the C-T boundary), I was in need of telling a user in some other part of Europe to type //HC into his terminal and hit Enter. After 15 frustrating minutes of trying to explain this arcane ritual, I sent them a fax.

Cleaner ignored 'do not use tap' sign, destroyed phone systems ... and the entire building


Re: Concrete dust = Kryptonite

I'm a bit OCD on backups - all really important stuff lives in Nextcloud on a VPS somewhere, synced to my (or the relevant family members') PC/phone. The Nextcloud is backed up hourly to my home server and my brother's home server, some 400km away.

Regular stuff lives on my PC, with an hourly backup to my home server, which is in turn backed up to my brother's and vice versa. So everything exists in at least 3 copies in at least two locations. (The backup is never mounted as a drive, so your run-of-the-mill ransomware would not too easily get to it, and all files are versioned.)

Maybe overkill, but drives are cheap.

Server broke because it was invisibly designed to break


Tax men

Years ago, I ate at the tax office's canteen about once a year. It was incredibly bad - a basement room, greasy unappetizing food staff calling Methuselah young man... the works.

It was so bad it had to be intentional, lest the taxmen be pleasantly sated and forgiving after lunch. Can't have that - lads need to keep their edge by nurturing low-grade ulcers, apparently.

Two signs in the comms cabinet said 'Do not unplug'. Guess what happened


Re: Don't forget mischief

I'd suggest lightly dusting the hard-to-press swich with a suitable dye. The culprit will be known and can be publicly crucified, defenestrated or otherwise disciplined.


Re: Not only two signs...

I like thst it is marketed for dementia care. Applies to a not too smsll portion of Manglement (and the workforce overall, really), as far as vital circuits are involved...

Boss broke servers with a careless bit of keyboarding, leaving techies to sort it out late on a Sunday


Re: The cycle is complete.

Usually, I'd just disconnect the switch from the mainbord. I haven't had a genuine need for a reset button on a PC in about this century.

For ESPs, Arduinos and their ilk sure, but not on PCs.


Re: "an on-prem email server"

Is that when the instant ionization of anyone using that non-word fails?

To make this computer work, users had to press a button. Why didn't it work? Guess


Re: Bad design

My Dell laptop had the paint coming off the left shift key, resulting in a fairly bright keyboard backlight "spotlight".

I should have just taped it over, but warranty! So I had Dell fix it. Big mistake.

First time the guy came to exchange the keyboard. Afterwards, it felt a bit wobbly, but okay, maybe that's expected. Only that the thing bluescreened several times during the following week. Crash dumps were inconclusive. Once it even complained abot the hard sisk (M.2 SSD) gone missing and refused to boot, but recovered after a bit of prodding.

Back to IT it went, and I got a loaner. Their tests did not show anything wrong.

Dell came again, a scant two weeks belatedly, and fixed it again.

Turned out the keyboard was very loose, and the case screws were loose too - except the one that was missing altogether. Our IT guy tightened everything, and it has been stable for two weeks now.

My theory is that the technician, and I'm using that term loosely, did not tighten the screws sufficiently on the first visit, causing any slight warping of the case to slightly disconnect the SSD.


Re: If I have to look in the manual (absolute last resort of course) it's a really bad design!

I used to have a Nokia VT220 compatible terminal next to my bed. Nice for late-night/early-morning system maintenance and email.

Nowadays, my DIY alarm clock (also ESP8266 based) can be controlled via Alexa and FHEM. It will slowly dim up the LED lighting, starting 20 minutes before I'm supposed to get up.

Needlessly complext technology? You bet.


Re: The human race could be safe after all

Yeah, but he (in the widest sense, sqids are mostly sexless in-universe) is an alien and a soundrel who actively resists doing good but ends up doing so anyway.


Re: Press the button

We had those at school. 15-year-old me somehow became the on-site fix-it for the computer lab aka four brand new Apple ][e with two 5.25" floppy drives each, running UCSD Pascal.

The Apple full-height, 143 KB floppy drives were noisy as hell, so some bright... person... thought that a bit of lube would help. So they put some light machine oil on a floppy and put it in. Didn't work, of course...

In the end, I spent an afternoon with a screwdriver and a bottle of 99% Isopropanol, cleaning the mess from the disk drives (and applying a tiny bit of silicone lube on the spiral that drove the head positioning where it belonged). Drive still worked when I left school over 3 years later.


Re: Manual is optional,

I had two users for whom the only thing that helped was a printed "Any" label applied to the space bar.


Re: cattle-prod category

In extreme cases, connect their stick-in-the-bum to said cattle prod.

Germany orders Sept 1 shutdown of digital ad displays to save gas


Re: Exceptions for such dual-purpose signs have been arranged.

Anything with Plutonium, for example.

Mouse hiding in cable tray cheesed off its bemused user


Re: Back when PCAnywhere was young and RDP wasn't even an itch in Bill's pants....

In the days of DOS, I wrote a small TSR (terminate and stay resident) program that hooked the keyboard interrupt. It randomly replaced key presses with others, just adding or subtracting one from the scan code - the faster one typed, the more likely it was to hit. Typing slowly? No problem. Getting up to speed? Typos galore,

Hilarity ensued as nobody could figure out what was wrong.

How one techie ended up paying the tab on an Apple Macintosh Plus


Re: No convert

Once, I wrote a keyboard driver for DOS (technically, a TSR program that hooked itself to the keyboard interrupt) that introduced typos - but only when the prank victim typed fast. Hilarity ensued.

Something like this could have helped - make the user's keyboard drop any consecutive spaces. Problem solved as now they had to learn tabs.


Management consultants too

Some friends and colleagues received their professional socialization at management consulting firms (think McK, BCG etc.)

They exclusively think in landscape mode - overly crammed PP slide decks and huge spreadsheets. Full sentences appear as slide titles and are otherwise frowned upon. Why concisely write what you mean when you can rather make people spend an hour trying to derive it from charts and bullet points?

This is the military – you can't just delete your history like you're 15


Re: Written reports on pron.

her teenage sone, was apparently a saint -

after a minute, she quietly said "Oh, that little sonofabitch..."

Which makes her... erm...

You need to RTFM, but feel free to use your brain too


Re: Courses

I have to complete a bunch of online courses whenever I need to go on an offshore unit (aka drilling rig).

Including one actually written by yours truly.



The flyboys have found that operating and maintenance procedures are quite important to ensure that things stay up until the pilot wants them to come down, preferably in one piece and at an airport.

So they developed Simplified Technical English.

When I write procedures, I follow that at least in spirit if not in letter. It contains so useful rules as to always call a spade a spade, not a shovel and a manually operated earth-moving device or MOEMD in the next paragraph. And use numbered lists for steps where order matters, bullets otherwise. And simple sentences ("Do ...") in active voice.

Everyone writing instructions should at least read it, it's free.

BOFH: Where do you think you are going with that toner cartridge?


In L-space, obviously.

When management went nuclear on an innocent software engineer


Re: This is the way... the Scotty way...

The accepted algorithm for software development estimates is "double the number, the swit h to the next bigger unit of time". So two weeks becomes four months..Surprisingly accurate, in my experience.

Pentester pops open Tesla Model 3 using low-cost Bluetooth module


Re: PIN to drive

A fingerprint reader in the start button, or facial or voice recognition of registered drivers might work instead of a PIN.

So you'd just need to greet your car with whatever cutesy (or not) nickname you choose... "Hello, you heap of c@#p, let's go!"


Re: Smartfobs, relay attacks and latency being the 'defence'??

My 2012 VW will unlock only if you pull the handle (any front door or the trunk) while the key fob is in range.

It is susceptible to a relay attack, though, requiring a bit of RF hardware.

Seriously, you do not want to make that cable your earth


Re: Zip memories

While they look like a pacemaker, using them as such is off-label and might meet fiery resistance from the medical sparkies.

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?"


BOFH: You'll have to really trust me on this team-building exercise


Re: Ahh, Team building/break the ice exercises....

In my line of work, icebreakers are big brutish things of steel and diesel or, if you need real endurance, nuclear powered. Once started, they tend not to be stopped by much...

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


Better yet: Hand two or three people a chit labeled "Part 1", 2 etc.

Have each of them select a few random characters, write on said paper, and place all of them in an envelope. Seal it.

Run the password change process with each of them typing their part.

You now have a pretty secure password that is written down - and nobody knows all of it.

File suffixes: Who needs them? Well, this guy did


Re: Still humans in the mix here not just machines

Inspecting each file has two disadvantages over using metadata: It's slower, and it's heuristic, aka educated guesswork.

Yes, a defined magic number would be beneficial, although the OS should keep this in metadata for quick access. However, this would require a central registry of known file types (a 64 bit number might just be enough).

Also, the .EXE (etc.) extension indicates that something CAN be executed, not that it SHOULD - it does not imply any security assertions.

Real-time software? How about real-time patching?


Re: Site Acceptance Test

European tour... heh, had a roadshow to do which brought me to 13 foreign countries in exactly 4 weeks - with most weekends home (in country #14). I felt very much like the stereotypical Japanese tourist. "How was Milano?", the wife asked. Me: "Dark when we came, dark when we left. Hotel was okay but in an industrial zone, conference room was windowless. Could have been Istanbul for all I know, but the caffé was good."


Re: Site Acceptance Test

Reminds me of a two-week trip to Libya in 2013 (after Ghaddafi but before utter chaos).

Spent a few days with rather high security at the client's HQ in Tripoli, then flew on a 20-seater company plane to their production site in the desert (it was an oil&gas company). The camp was actually rather nice; it could have passed muster as a holiday village (although those don't close the breakfast buffet at 6am). All very safe, the sandflies being the biggest hazard.

Back to Tripoli for a layover until our return to Europe; after landing in Frankfurt, we heard on the news that some insurgents had abducted the Libyan prime minister from his residency in the early morning.

His residency being a floor of the same hotel we had been blissfully asleep, that counts as one of the more memorable business trips.

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