* Posts by A____B

52 publicly visible posts • joined 28 Feb 2018


BOFH: Hearken! The Shiny Button software speaks of Strategic Realignment


Years ago I worked in a place where the senior manager was fixated upon appearance and "order".

There are numerous stories about edicts being issued about things being stored on shelves in general view, level of venetian blinds... projects were running late and staff churn was high, but it wasn't poor management to blame - no it was a pile of binders on top of a filing cabinet!!

One particular time he was having a go about general tidiness and voiced the opinion that "A messy, cluttered desk is the sign of a messy, cluttered mind".

Unfortunately, at the time I had a very young family and a mortgage to consider; even so, I still regret to this day not asking what an empty desk signified -- his room always had a completely clear desk.

BOFH: The Christmas party was so good, an independent inquiry is required


Re: Plagiarism?

On that topic... I'll be reusing [variants of] "I will freely admit that some of my decisions were creatively useless" in the future.

It's a phrase that (a) I wish I'd thought up and (b) has a huge range of applications.

Have a great Christmas

We challenged you to come up with tech predictions for 2024 (wrong answers only) – here are some favorites so far


This definitely will happen [not]

A completely bug free, secure, spyware free version of Microsoft software will be developed using AI and available as an NFT using a n environmentally sustainable blockchain. There'll be no comment from Elon Musk as he will have taken a vow of silence, or from Google as they'll be devoting energies into long term support of products 'resting' in the google graveyard.

On a non technical front: the UK government will actually work to learn and understand about technologies before making sweeping pronouncements. Or, if you want something more likely, peace in the Middle East / Climate Change solved / Cure for cancer.

No, no, no! Disco joke hit bum note in the rehab center


Why stop with a music track?

Many years ago, one of our 'louder' colleagues, who got on everyone's nerves, went off to a meeting and left his mobile phone unattended on his desk.

It didn't take long for the office prankster to unlock it and set his ringtone and notifications tone to the [in]famous clip from "When Harry met Sally" and cranked the volume right up.

When he returned from his meeting, in the company of several senior managers, someone rang his phone to the amusement of everyone in the open plan office and his great embarrassment.

Fortunately the lady from HR saw it as a joke and just said "I'll have what she's having!" rather than treating in the serious way things would happen today.

I'll see your data loss and raise you a security policy violation



I was expecting an explanation of Huon to be "Who On earth....."

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


Keyboard issues

Remember the days of PS2 connectors? **

Swapping the mouse and keyboard over would not give any BIOS errors at startup, but the system wouldn't work without a swap back and power down/power up.

Or for more modern pranks (works on Windows, not on Linux, haven't tried it on Mac) - CTRL-ALT-arrow-key combos are good for rotating / flipping the display

** back in the day when mice had balls and keyboards were real keyboards !!

Gen Z lingo and search engines: A Millennial Odyssey


Re: Baseline

Someone's found the "in the style of Jacob Rees Mogg" filter :)

Although the text still remains coherent, makes some sense and has a valid viewpoint so there's still some way to go to make a fully convincing output !

Learn the art of malicious compliance: doing exactly what you were asked, even when it's wrong


Re: Rate your skill level

Back in the last century, there was a 'skills inventory' developed at my employer.

You were allowed to view and update your own skills at any time. There were no "are you sure?" or other validation checks.


When (and it happened often) a salesman over promised and an over enthusiastic planner had caused a project to be rushed through, there was often a nasty "fix the bodges" maintenance task a few months (weeks?) later.

What seemed to come as a complete surprise to management was the sudden downgrading or complete evaporation of the relevant skills from those people smart / cynical enough to predict the "faecal fan fiasco" and thus dodge the summons for support. The 'bounce back' shortly afterwards when an attractive new project was in the offing also caused some bewilderment.

The whole thing was dropped within a year.

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


Re: Remove, Throw, Call

You're not alone.

Around the turn of the century, I was involved in a system upgrade. Because of the nature of the environment, we had an air gapped network, so it had to be done on premises (though the bulk of the activity was from a local server, but some final tweaking on each machine was needed).

For 3 days before, we had messages on the screen backdrop; we posted notices up everywhere (and I mean everywhere - including above urinals and the back of cubicle doors in the toilets on the basis that everyone must go there sometime during the day); we even [in breach of H&S regs no doubt] had a poster sized message taped to a trolley in the entrance lobby which people had to see and walk around.

Come the day, we STILL had people turning off machines when they went home, thus stopping the upgrade. We also had one individual staying to well past 23:00 who refused to go and have a coffee while his machine was upgraded as "he had important stuff to do" -- in his case we got him to sign a statement that he was offered the upgrade and refused it.

My manager, who had an interesting attitude to authority, sent a message to HR and the directors asking about the recruitment processes as they clearly had employed people who could not read. In the case of the awkward guy, who raised a call saying "his machine would no longer work properly"; it was put at the bottom of the priority pile; his manager came in fuming (demanding an immediate fix and an investigation into the incompetence of IT support) and was then shown the signed statement, re-shown the notices, reminded of the importance of the upgrade and asked whether many hundreds of people should be prevented from working for this one 'special case' -- fuming entrance / sheepish exit. Again my manager had a sarcastic question to add**.

I suspect that there's no way to get round those who WILL not listen (BOFH style cattle-prods connected to chairs are apparently not permitted).

** If I recall; correctly it was along the lines of calendars being used in the days of ancient Sumeria and well established thousands of years ago by the Babylonians, so why is such a shock/surprise when the end of month/quarter comes round? Couldn't some form of planning be done to avoid the last minute rush and panic?

Go ahead, be rude. You don't know it now, but it will cost you $350,000


Re: You get what you order

"And all they lose is my future business, which being an 'end' consumer is just a drop in the ocean to them."

No, because there are thousands of yous whose repeat business they lose.


True. But it would be interesting to find some way of measuring this. The boycotted business is unlikely to announce lost customers. The lost customers themselves have no way of knowing about others.

For what it's worth, Amazon lost my custom 5 years ago - prior to that they were my go-to for birthdays, Christmas and my own purchases so their opportunity loss is several thousands of pounds (non trivial in my terms, less than a rounding error in theirs) -- and all because they screwed me over with appalling customer service on an item costing less than 150 GBP.

Had they spent a fraction of the effort devoted to tax dodging schemes in customer service, it may have been a different outcome.

Run a demo on live data? Sure! What could possibly go wrong? Hang on. Are you sure that's not working?


Agreed - but would go further...

Make sure it's easy to distinguish between the systems (e.g. change the backdrop image and/or colour schemes, fonts ... for the test system).

I've seen an ohnosecond panic when the penny drops that the change was made on the wrong system -- fortunately nothing was lost apart from the demonstrator's** dignity

Typically I used some hideous colour scheme, one that nobody (apart from Lawrence Llewellyn Bowen) would sanction for delivery to users, on test systems. Taste doesn't matter if you're making it blindingly obvious whether it's "safe to play" or not.

** Thankfully not me ! :)

BOFH: It's Friday, it's time to RTFM


Would have got away with it...

Many years ago, when "cloud" was a new and not too familiar buzzword, my employer at the time** decided to create a consultancy service offering to help customers decide when/if/whether to move to cloud. It was known internally as the Cloud Opportunity Workshop [or Workbook depending on who you spoke to].

I was asked to run up a quick prototype tool to record the observations and automate some of it and so I created one in a few days using Ruby on Rails [again up and coming / trendy at the time -- don't blame me I was assured it was a demo that wouldn't be used in production!! ho-ho!].

I named it the "Planning and Assessment Toolkit".

It actually reached the proofreading stage of the marketing flyer before the potential acronym was spotted. I thought that COWPAT was a reasonable name for the marketing spiel of the time.

** I've since moved on and then retired -- the employer in question was bought up and absorbed.

Using the datacenter as a dining room destroyed the platters that matter


Re: Smaller buddies

It wasn't Terry Pratchett by any chance -- see his comments on the importance of ants to the working of HEX, the computer, and it's signage "Anthill Inside" :-)

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


Re: No Good Turn

Many years ago I was working on a network rollout for a multi company secure system.

Long story short, one site had all of the hard coded IP addresses set up incorrectly.

I (plus one other guy) said, "We're here in [back of beyond] and there's not much to do of an evening, we can visit the machines and fix them tonight".

Met with some unexpected resistance, but eventually were allowed to do so - provided we were escorted. The escort probably wouldn't have realised if we had been up to mischief and paid us little attention - rather offhand and definitely giving us the cold shoulder. Whole job wrapped up in time to go to the pub.

Next day, we were definitely not the flavour of the month on that site (but thanked profusely by the prime contractor). Found out later that they knew the IP addresses needed changing and had drawn up plans for 5 people to spend 3 weekends at heavy overtime rates to do it; we'd inadvertently deprived them of the dosh and shown how quick/easy the job was.

No good deed goes unpunished


Re: The d in £sd

Reminds me of a joke that Rick Wakeman did on stage a few years back, saying that he'd done a benefit gig for the incontinence society - their web address was incontinence.org slash slash slash !

Dev's code manages to topple Microsoft's mighty SharePoint


Re: Exchange

I have seen this happen in real life.

There was a point in time when a minor dispute arose. The 'working process' (as defined by Alice and Bob -- the people actually doing the job) document held by the "A" organisation differed in several small, but apparently significant, ways from the 'commercial' document which the "B" organisation was using. This caused some dispute in payments.

Tracking down the sources of changes, who suggested, who agreed, and who approved them... through individual e-mail messages was a nightmare [thankfully not for me, but it was so bad that even I had sympathy for the commercial/financial teams]. Even then, locating all of the various copies of the downloaded attachment documents was never truly completed (and as for those on backup tapes, archives...)

E-mail traffic for 'meta data' could just about be managed; for anything more serious than that, there should be references to one, agreed, change managed point of truth.

I'd like to say that painful lessons were learnt, but ... well "messengers were shot"

E-mail is good at generating [large amounts of] *data* ; less good at maintaining *information*


Re: Exchange

"Let's remember here that the users are (hopefully) using the stored emails to conduct the business the company exists to conduct."

Therein lies a potentially big problem...e-mails should be regarded as transitory, not as formal records

Suppose the ever popular Alice and Bob work for separate companies, but they figure out a plan to make one or both of their businesses better.

Alice sends Bob the revised process description.

To cover their backs they both send a copy to their respective bosses,Agatha and Bill.

Agatha and Bill realise that this has commercial implications, so send copies to their respective commercial, legal, QA departments. Finance dept. may also get involved

There are now (at least) 10 - 12 copies of the document floating around.

In quite short order, Alice and Bob may make minor changes, the commercial and legal folks will also want to communicate with their counterparts and change things ...

If you believe that all 12 copies of the document will remain aligned, I have a bridge to sell you :-)

When recovering from a SharePoint/Exchange outage, the choice of 'point of truth' will be stressful for the (innocent and not involved) IT techie [who will pick the 'wrong' one from the point of view of many].

I know that using Git, SharePoint ... would ease the issue but, in my experience, getting management types to use them properly (or even at all) is an exercise in futility and frustration when simply attaching stuff to e-mails is easy to do.


If, by some miracle, things turn out well, Agatha and Bill celebrate and get their bonuses; if normality ensues, Alice and Bob suffer career limiting reviews for 'not following process'. Either way Microsoft gets its licence income.

The next time your program is 'not responding,' (do not) try these steps



The shepherd says to the dog - "I want to recount. Please round them up to check the number "

The dog comes back and says "Woof! you have 140"

The shepherd says "Strange, I only had 137 this morning!"

The dog replies "Well you did say to round up!"


"if the management consultant can't tell the dog from the sheep" ... no no no - in the consultancy world view, they're all dumb animals and therefore fungible resources; just like his client's employees!

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


paperless office?

At a meting with the MoD where they claimed to have a 'blame free culture', I once said as a throwaway comment that "In my experience, a blame free culture is about as likely as a paperless office".

Several smiling, nodding faces.

Six months later, at a conference, I saw a PowerPoint slide being presented with exactly those words on it -- shown by a MoD 'senior manager'.

Spam is back with a vengeance. Luckily we can't read any of it


Re: Not really spam but...

I too am getting lots of emails from people with the same, or nearly same name as me.

Sad thing is, they seem to lead much more interesting and exciting lives than I do.

Tempting as it is to reply and mess up my namesake's social life, I just delete the emails. Gave up on trying to inform the senders that they'd got the wrong address.

When management went nuclear on an innocent software engineer


Re: Next time

Short of tattooing the warning to the inside of people's eyelids, I'm not sure that any sign would work.

Many years ago we had to do a software upgrade to all the machines at a site. It was Windows NT (before AD) and yes, we had to go to each PC to do it.

Now this site had over 300 individuals - each of whom was a 'special case' whenever it came to any set of procedures -- you know the types.

The upgrade was planned for an overnight job and warnings sent out to all with a request to leave PC turned on, physically unlocked, but logged out.

A week before, posters were put up round the offices; A4 posters were printed and put in the kitchen, above urinals and on the back of toilet doors (to read when sat down) ... We even printed an A1 sized poster and put it on a trolley in the entrance foyer so people had to walk round it (not sure if H&S would approve...).

Some accused us of being a bit OTT.

Come the day, about half a dozen PCs were turned off and security devices applied and one guy who was working late wouldn't move; it was a 15-20 minute upgrade and he could easily have had a short tea break, but no - he was far too 'special' and 'important'.

Next morning, he and those who hadn't left their machines as requested couldn't log on. Their help desk tickets were noted but marked as minimum priority.

Cue much complaining about "crap IT, crap support".

Senior management were called in and started complaining about how much it was costing having these people unable to work and threats to call in HR as we were 'disruptive', 'uncooperative' and 'causing problems'.

Thank goodness for our manager who just said "Yes, let's go to HR right now. I've a few questions ... You're paying how much? ... for people who can't read or understand simple instructions that the vast majority managed to follow? ... or have project planning and management so tight that your guy couldn't take a tea break late in the evening? have you considered your recruitment policy for staff or planners?"

Sometimes you do get a good boss.

Failed gambler? How about an algorithm that predicts the future


Already done (allegedly)

Back last century, we had a batch of PCs which kept getting memory induced blue screens on a pilot project.

Called in the DEC [remember them?] account manager for a word on our ** "disappointment".

Along came the account manager and one of his pre-sales, 'technical support' guys who explained to us in condescending tones that:

"Windows NT uses pre-emptive multi-tasking. This means that the system knows what you want to do next and loads data into memory ready to run for efficiency. If you do something unexpected, it has the wrong data, which is why we're seeing the crashes." In other words it was our fault!!

After the "if it's so smart, it can write my document for me as it 'knows' what I want to do" comments, the guy was promptly escorted from the premises and the DEC account manager informed that, if that was the quality of the support, then the main project would [against our company's procurement recommendations] be run on HP hardware. And, indeed, HP got the job (and later DEC too, via Compaq -- but I doubt our order change caused that!)

Strange that they didn't predict that bullsh*tting rarely works, patronising condescension works even more rarely and a successful outcome from the combination of the two is even less likely than finding a straight talking, honest politician.

** my employers - no royal pretensions :-)

Confirmation dialog Groundhog Day: I click OK and it keeps coming back


Re: Error messages have sometimes improved a bit

My favourite one (in a development system that somehow made it to live) was a response to a missing mandatory field for the applicant's sex [though I suppose nowadays we should say "gender choice"]

Sex is mandatory - please make an insertion

Google Docs' AI-powered inclusive writing auto-correct now under fire


Re: Not a good suggestion

Even a simple word such as "badly" can indicate either poor performance or the opposite: "singing badly" v. "bruised badly".

To say nothing of:

"My hair badly needs cutting" vs "My hair needs cutting badly".

If it's the latter case, I'll offer to do it for you at a reduced price :-)

There are cases in English where word order matters.

And for a language with a relatively large vocabulary (at least when compared against other European languages) with many nuances near synonyms, we do suffer from a lot of overloading multiple meanings on some common words.

Given the US Centric development it's possibly understandable, but irony and sarcasm (which are widely used in the UK) would be hard for some AI to detect, leading to all sorts of misunderstandings.


It's possibly apocryphal, but I recollect reports that earlier versions of MS Word wanting to change "pregnant woman" to "pregnant person".

Europe twists YouTube's arm to get better cookie consent popups


What I really want is a browser extension which automatically checks each cookie and does the following:

If the site is on my whitelist then leave it alone

If this is a session cookie or a GDPR consent cookie then leave it alone for now but delete on browser shutdown //effectively what incognito mode does

If this is a cookie for a third party or for a site on my blacklist then replace contents of cookie with random data each time it is fetched //using random data across many users would remove the 'unusual behaviour' fingerprinting and would 'poison the well' making tracking data less valuable to ad brokers

Then all I need do is maintain my own white/blacklists alongside my modified hosts file (which absorbs many cookie / tracking javascript requests from sites I don't like/trust). Oh, and plan how to deal with super-cookies, browser fingerprinting ...

It's the day before the grand opening but we need a firmware update. It'll be fine


Taking it absolutely literally

Many years ago (early eighties) I worked on a monitoring and control system at a customer site. Nearby was a pub which served good food at lunchtimes; it also had a micro-brewery that provided the local ales. The customer representatives, my team and I used to go there often.

After some (trying) months, we had the system in and fully acceptance tested by the customer's team.

Of course, the senior management (from both my employers and the customer's organisation) swooped into the final hand-over [to take the glory for the help they'd singularly failed to give]. One of my manager's managers said with great generosity (and some condescension) that he'd take care of lunch (even though we knew what we and the customer particularly liked / avoided) and proceeded to make a spectacular cock-up of ordering food and drinks.

At which point my opposite number on the customer team piped up with "Bloody hell ####, when your guys said you couldn't organise a piss up in a brewery, I didn't believe them, but..."

The glare on the manager's face, and then the dawning realisation as he saw the fermenting vessels through the glass wall was something to behold (and never forgotten).

Name redacted to protect other innocents who were around at the time.

How do you call support when the telephones go TITSUP*?


4 Yorkshire-men hit bean-counting!

Several years ago, the place I worked at decided to stop "frivolous" travel by making it a requirement to get an "approval to travel" form before going, and a strict approvals process for expenses.

Nothing unusual there - except the approval to travel form required FIVE sign offs - including a UK VP and a senior VP in the parent company's US office. Given the number of people working on customer sites, this must have occupied 2 very expensive managers, full time [unless of course they just rubber stamped it - but that would have undermined a critical business process and they wouldn't do that, would they?].

This had to be done every week (they later relented to every 2 weeks), even if you were working at the same site on a long term contract.

Expenses were similarly under heavy and costly examination. (Rough order of magnitude guess is ~£20 - £25 per approval/claim per person per week)

I guess it was worthwhile - after all a Travelodge on a business park is such an appealing destination that it's no wonder people would fiddle the system to go there!!

We asked you how your biz introduces new IT systems – and here are the results


More. Than. Ten. Steps.

Not surprised !

Back in the 90s, our company was looking at a major hardware vendor for a new project with multiple servers and hundreds of desktops.

The vendor loaned us a new, not yet released, server on the promise of an order. This was (in it's day) a serious piece of kit; with today's software bloat, it might just manage MS Word.

By the time the purchase process was completed and the order went out, the server was an end-of-life item and no longer sold.

And that was for a new, 'prestige' project which was supposed to be without baggage.

I wonder if they've approved that Office 97 purchase yet? :-)

There's only one cure for passive-aggressive Space Invader bosses, and that's more passive aggression


Personal space - the other way round

I recall hearing of an incident a few years ago where one manager had a Trump like hair style. This prompted much discussion as to whether it was real or a toupee - general opinion was divided.

In the office we had ancient air con systems -- really only glorified fans with slot shaped vents mounted in the ceilings.

One day said manager was standing near one, in conversation with a group of 3 or 4 people; they gradually moved a little bit at a time to invade his personal space and caused him to move in response.

It was described to me as being like a slow motion, well-choreographed sheep dog exercise (though multiple 'dogs' and one 'sheep') as he was manoeuvred under the air con unit

The result confirmed it was a hairpiece.

Just wish I'd seen it !!

BOFH: You drive me crazy... and I can't help myself


A problem shared is a scapegoat found

What do you mean you gave the boss THAT version of the report? Oh, ****ing ****balls


Redirected repercussions

Some years ago we had an "all hands" meeting when the CEO blew in to rally the troops and show just how out of touch the senior team was with the workforce. You know the suff - just like 'Young Mr Grace -- You've all done very well' ** / keep working harder / we're growing the business [so bonuses for me, more effort required from you] .....Of course held over lunch break; our time and no snacks provided.

Couple of days later, one of my colleagues who had been fortunate to be off-site at the time, asked me what it was like.

I replied as an off-the-cuff comment "the usual -- 'full of sound and fury, signifying nothing' ". We were unaware that a middle manager, famed for credit theft and blame avoidance was nearby at the time.

He later used the same words in a meeting which included senior managers from both our company and the customer. Unfortunately for him, one of the customer managers took offence - he was familiar with the quotation from Macbeth and knew the preceding line ('a tale told by an idiot')and was a bit upset at the implication.

Said middle manager moved onto another customer / project -- and there was much rejoicing.

I'd like to claim it was planned, but it was genuine serendipity.

** for those not quite into decrepitude who don't recognise this -- British Sitcom "Are you being served" reference

How to stop a content filter becoming a career-shortening network component


Re: Keyword filtering


At a previous employer, we had an internal collaboration system which had some filtering applied for banned words.

It would let you type something but then remove offending words and send a report to management.

Sadly it was a little zealous...

"Push down hard on cover plate and turn locking screw clockwise"

would end up as

"Push down ** cover plate and turn locking ** clockwise. THIS POSTING HAS BEEN REPORTED FOR FAILING TO MEET GUIDELINES"

There was quite a fad for excessively wordy circumlocutions in communications with some folks e.g. "tapering connector with externally raised helical binding" and the obvious descent into acronyms for others. Of course, adding in an extra space would defeat it anyway (though the spellchecker may object)

BOFH: Here in my car I feel safest of all. I can listen to you ... It keeps me stable for days


Not reading the text

Slightly off topic but still relevant...

Many years ago i worked at a certain UK company which conducted annual performance reviews.

We were told that they were all taken very seriously.

I know (because I saw the original and a photocopy) of one person who embedded in his "Objectives for the upcoming business review period" [seriously, it actually said that -- so much more efficient that 'next year'] one line of "slay or drive away dragons and rescue maidens". This was signed off by his manager and the 'grandfather manager' (ie his boss's boss) and registered with HR who duly checked it and approved it.

The next year, at appraisal time, he and his boss went through targets met/missed... Upon coming to that clause there was an outburst from the boss, to which he replied "it's all there in black and white - YOU approved it as did {boss's boss} and HR. It must be official".

"Well, did you do it?" said the boss, thinking of the chance to mark down a snarky smart-arse.

"I have to say, yes -- (1) have you seen any dragons recently? (2) there are no maidens needing rescue around here"

I understand that he got away with it. Somehow the annual appraisal forms got simpler and shorter after that!

One good deed leads to a storm in an Exchange Server


Ted talk about a similar experience


It's a very amusing talk, but the bit relevant to this thread starts around 5mins 20 secs in. I'd recommend watching the whole thing though

Oh Lord, won't you buy me a Mercedes-Benz? Detroit waits for my order, you'd better make amends


Re: Murphy....

A very old definition (I heard it back in the early 70s and it wasn't new then)


"Ex" as in "has been"

"spurt" as in "drip under pressure"


Re: Sometimes though....


There was the occasion when, arriving at work in the morning, everything was dead.

All servers down, no printers powered up... the works.

As people drifted in and found that even the kettles weren't working (the biggest disaster imaginable) there were growing murmurings of discontent.

This despite the company having 'acquired' a UPS system the size of 2 shipping containers and enough capacity to keep a small village going -- for a project of 3 servers and around 80 PCs sitting in some outbuildings on the edge of a main site.

Questions were asked. Fingers started to be pointed at facilities management and IT.

Finally, one of the less technical people [ie financial management], with no private life and a desire to come in hours before contracted time, owned up and said "That box in the corner was making a terrible racket so I switched it off" -- of course the 'terrible racket' was the audible alert on the management panel that showed that the UPS had kicked in.

On a separate power loss topic...

I also heard a story (possibly urban myth -- this wasn't from my personal experience) of a demo in the days of FDDI networking - early-mid 90s when people could still remember Sylvester Stallone making Rambo movies.

The vendor wanted to show resilience and 'keep going' features and had one of the fibre cables draped over a tree stump on stage. At a certain cue, an actor rushed on stage with a machete and severed the cable -- and everything kept going. One day however, the cable was not on the stump, so he picked up the nearest one and hacked that -- except it was the power cable, not fibre. Spectacular results, but not too great from a sales presentation point of view :)

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


I recall one colleague's way of handling this (phone + open plan office = much merriment).

It was in slightly poor taste then**, and definitely would be now but...

On getting the call, he responded in a slightly panicky voice, which got increasingly agitated with time.

"A virus? ... from my PC? ... It's not Ebola is it? ... I was emailing a business contact in Nigeria yesterday!... I'd better tell him in case he gets sick before he can go to the bank! ... should I soak my keyboard and mouse in disinfectant? ... should I unplug it first?.... no,no don't you try and access it, you could catch it too!..." and so on.

The scammer at the other end was getting increasingly worried that he'd cause someone to have a heart attack or get electrocuted.

Most entertaining 20 mins or so on that whole project!!

** a few years ago, as the ebola reference suggests.

Flash in the pan: Raspberry Pi OS is the latest platform to carve out vulnerable tech


Re: I went big

[Too] Many years ago, our group had a dot matrix Epson which was used for multi-part stationery. It used to make a real racket so was kept in a cupboard with a piece cut out of the door to let the cables in.

When we moved office, there wasn't a cupboard available so I requested an acoustic hood for it.

The bean counters said "No! there's no need!" (esp as they were on another floor in a separate wing of the building). I argued but in vain.

My inner BOFH was awoken.

So I got hold of a box used for paper delivery (strong and conveniently sized), made a hole in the side and put it and the printer, in the middle of an open plan office (printer on top). The box + hole was just like a guitar's sounding box.

Cue a massive print of a job with loads of bar codes [especially noisy] on a fairly frequent basis on single part paper, thus requiring at least 4 times as many prints as really needed. My team, being forewarned, found reasons to be elsewhere.

Complaints arrived and it was pointed out that bar code labelling was a contractual obligation and that I had requested a hood but was turned down.

In less than a week, a hood magically appeared. To this day I don't know how it was funded (not from my project's budget) - could even have been a whip round from the others in the office for all I know.

BOFH: Time for the MMOCC. You know, the Massively Moronic Online Christmas Call


Re: Merry whatever

All very true. But you slipped up in your summary -- each one of those words should have been in its own file under a directory structure (2n+1) layers deep [where n is the upper limit any sane person could consider reasonable]. And that's before you even get started on the multiplicity of subtly incompatible path/home variables.

BOFH on Christmas day -- what a great present :)

Cats: Not a fan favourite when the critters are draped around an office packed with tech


Not cat related but ... years ago I worked for a manager who was a clear desk fetishist (also cupboards had to be tidy with doors closed, window blinds had to be all up or all don... appearance was all - actually doing the job was secondary). He was really OCD on the subject; his desk was always clear.

At one meeting he pontificated that "a tidy desk is a sign of a tidy mind" -- I just wish I'd had the guts to ask "OK - what does an empty desk signify?"

I should have done so as I left shortly afterwards (so nothing to lose) and the company no longer exists -- who'd have thought that customers preferred deliveries over obsessive tidiness?

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


Over sensitive company intranet

At a previous employer the in house discussion system also took it upon itself to censor.

I wrote in a message that "a particular criticism was rather hard on a company" -- only to have it changed to "a particular criticism was rather ***** a company" and a warning that my manager would be informed if I triggered the system again. Raising this with the help line also highlighted differences between English and American (they don't use that phrase much apparently). I was not alone - the help message board quickly became full of similar messages.

Two work-arounds arose - one was that 'difficult' words started gaining extra spaces in them and the other was the use of deliberately wordy circumlocutions such as when writing instructions -- e.g. "To remove the plate, press down h a r d o n the cover and turn the cylindrical metallic attachment device fitted with a helical slope anticlockwise". Descriptions of connections of male and female plugs/sockets were very entertaining.

The other option, of everybody acting like grown-ups and not sniggering or taking exaggerated offence at unintentional double-entendres was seen as too difficult.

I use the term 'double-entendre' as 'innuendo' may be mistaken for Italian pornography :-)

The power of Bill compels you: A server room possessed by a Microsoft-hating, Linux-loving Demon


The frisson of Y2K

Not earth loop related but similar....

Back in 1999 (remember then? heady days, full of optimism..) we ran multiple tests on a duplicate rig to test everything prior to the 'big day' -- some interesting effects on licence servers winding dates back and forth but no problem.

So, on the last working day before Christmas we started our regular annual shutdown (only real time the server room could be cleaned thoroughly and other maintenance done).

Come the first working day of 2000, the IT team were in early to turn everything back on ready to welcome the joyous hordes back to their labours. Everything started up apart from the Windows NT file & print server. It refused to boot. No system found.

Start of controlled panic. Several retries - yes the disc lamp flashed, yes there was a comforting sound if you put your ear to the case. Get the backups from the safe. Get the recovery boot CD. Start the preparations to do a controlled restore when, about 45 minutes into the story, in walked the youngest member of the team who popped out a floppy from the drive saying "I was looking for that!". Two things happened then: one - the system booted OK :-) and two - he was persuaded that he was on tea & coffee making duties for the whole week to calm down his colleagues.

After that, a scheduled downtime was set to disable boot from floppy in the BIOS of all Windows servers -- especially as our boot images were all on CD anyway.

Google wants to listen in to whatever you get up to in hotel rooms


Could be interesting...

Apparently these devices can work with ultrasounds which people cannot hear -- see


So, leave a cheap phone plugged in "charging" which periodically requests the room thermostat to set to 35 degrees C, then a bit later to switch to 12 degrees, have it also turn lights on and off, TV volume up and down.... It may spook any room service staff in the room at the time but could certainly inconvenience the hotel management - and is easily deniable.

By emptying offices, coronavirus has hastened the paperless office


Blame free printing

Many years ago I was working in a multi-company set-up where most of the UK's bigger names were 'collaborating' * on a big government project.

At one meeting, the customer was being asked about some requirements, how firm were they? when would they be solidified? who would be accountable if they changed and a big cost was incurred?... usual stuff.

"Well _we_ have a blame-free culture" was the response.

Completely off the cuff, I blurted out "A blame free culture is about as believable as a paperless office" which caused some merriment.

Fast forward 6 months and at a completely separate public event being put on by the government department, there was a session on 'pragmatism in workplace cultures' (or something like that, I forget the title but it was the sort of wishy washy hand waving that public money subsidised then) and, lo-and-behold one of the first slides had my very words in big, bold letters. The consultant, rather smugly presented this as a great insight.

Shame I couldn't copyright meeting notes.

* for a very interesting/loose definition of collaboration.

Whoooooa, this node is on fire! Forget Ceph, try the forgotten OpenStack storage release 'Crispy'


Re: Thermal Incident

Similar story in my past.

Moved site to a "new" building (an old factory, gutted and with some newish desk). The secure server room was a windowless, box made of bricks in the centre of the building.

When we were planning the move I added up the power inputs of the servers, networking kit etc and asked for aircon to match (on the grounds of 1kW power in needs 1kW cooling).

A somewhat patronising refusal was given by the finance director [obviously a well respected architect/electrician in his spare time !!]. In his expert opinion, a big aircon was a luxury and a cost that couldn't be justified. Fortunately this was in a meeting and was duly recorded as part of the official minutes.

Fast forward a couple of months when we've moved in and the inevitable happened. The server room was over heating and the aircon was struggling away, noisily dripping algae laden condensate (known locally by the charming nickname of 'elephant snot'). As others have reported in their experiences, the main engineering design servers, database server and e-mail systems were too hot to touch (and the threshold of pain is generally reckoned to be 60°C).

Still no movement by the FD until... somehow in a server room rearrangement the finance server was moved under the aircon (wonder how that happened). After a few drips landed on it (and evaporated away quickly), it was shut down "as a safety preventative measure" (and logged in the safety incidents and risk registers) -- just a few days before the corporate quarterly return, a VAT return and a customer status report were due; strange how coincidences happen.

The FD was a little upset but on entering "the oven" and seeing the server draped in green gunk did have the grace to admit that "perhaps we did need more air-con" and ask brazenly "how did you let it get into this state?" The old meeting minutes and printouts of his e-mails were presented to him in a folder, which just happened to be at hand. The presence of several witnesses was a great help.

I believe that the purchase processing for the new aircon broke all company records.

But yes, HP and Sun Microsystems [remember them?] did make some good kit that survived abuse.

What the #!/%* is that rogue Raspberry Pi doing plugged into my company's server room, sysadmin despairs


"just unplug it to see who screams"

Ahh memories...

Many years (decades!!) ago I was working at a site which was an old factory 're-purposed' as offices. Nobody had a wiring plan.

We had some Vaxes and VT100 / VT220 terminals dotted around the place.

One day I was chatting to one of the operators (remember when operating a Vax was a full time career?) who casually pulled a plug from the patch panel, saying "hold on a mo...".

Sure enough the phone rand and his side of the call went "suddenly stopped? oh dear I'll see if I can fix it.... where are you located? and which terminal is that? third from the left? great" then he'd write out a sticky label and put it on the cable and plug it back in. He reckoned nine times out of ten there'd be a pathetically grateful call-back.

Doing once cable every 20 minutes or so from widely different parts of the patch panel reduced the risks of any user cottoning onto what was happening.

He saved the company thousands compared with getting contractors in to do the wire tracing.

On the BOFH absence front -- where is Simon? we need to know - has the PFY launched a successful putsch at last?

Expanding Right To Be Forgotten slippery slope to global censorship, warn free speech fans


Re: "should not be allowed to decide what Internet users around the world find"

"And I'm sure any search result about Google's executives and their relatives and friends are accurately censored to avoid any bad result..."

Google definitely applies this to itself as an organisation

For example: Try to find the contact details for Google's Data Protection Officer. For a search engine company they seem not to be able to find this info (I'm sure they wouldn't seek to hide it deliberately). Oh and writing to their head office [in my case in the UK] gets a boilerplate non-answer and statements that Google LLC may hold some information.

So, yes, Google does apply different standards for itself vs for ordinary folk.

A boss pinching pennies may have cost his firm many, many pounds


Server room cooling

Towards the end of the last century [sounds more dramatic than 22 years ago] we moved a project team with specific security requirements. Almost at the last minute I was asked about the server room - this was a windowless room [oversized cupboard] with no external walls and practically no ventilation - I asked what aircon was being provided?

Long story short, the management had either overlooked or severely skimped on this. I said that we should add up the power requirements stated on the labels on the back of the servers, switches... and use that as a guide - after all, every Watt of electricity in was a Watt of heat out [OK minus a bit for LED lights on the front of boxes and spinning discs]. The finance director (obviously a well trained installer!!) said no and booked in a small unit suited to a home.

When the servers started shutting down (the project was running at almost £1M/day costs) there was a sudden outcry. The home sized aircon struggled bravely but dripped water (yes it was mounted on the ceiling above the servers) - water with horrible snot like algae.

The company paid for external contractors to come in an give a quote. Guess how they sized up the needs?

As I was one of the sign-offs for starting their work, I took the opportunity of attaching my e-mail trail to the paperwork before it went to the board. The director got off OK but at least I wasn't blamed. :)

About 2 weeks of running inefficiently (and taking months off the life of the servers); over the top costs for fixing the issue when the room was full of kit [rather than doing it when empty] plus time spent for expensive staff to take turns to escort outsiders into the server room and watch over them... all because "a home unit will do!"

Google responds to location-stalking outcry by… tweaking words on its BS support page


On the other hand...Google are good at hiding from you

Google seem to go out of their way to avoid contact with outsiders.

I've spent a frustrating hour or so going through generic and not very helpful "help" and "contact us" pages without being able to get the answer to a simple question; "what's the contact info for Google/Alphabet's Data Protection Officer ?"

It seems there's one rule for them (we can/will stalk everyone) and another for ordinary folks (you can't find us).

Fixing a printer ended with a dozen fire engines in the car park


Response times

At a previous employer, some years ago now, the building we were in generated false alarms (and a few genuine ones - the wiring was pretty old).

The thing I remember most was the sight of us standing in the car park and watching an ice-cream van come tearing round the corner. It regularly beat the fire brigade by minutes - even though the fire station was only a mile or so away.

Full credit to the guy's entrepreneurial spirit ("there's a bunch of people standing around without much to do, it's a warm day, Bingo!").

Sad to say there wasn't a burger or kebab van appearing in winter :(

Nowadays with encrypted radio I don't suppose the opportunities are there.