* Posts by A____B

22 posts • joined 28 Feb 2018

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.

RIP... almost: Brit high street gadget shack Maplin Electronics


Re: Well at least

But heaven help you if the item doesn't work.

Amazon is on my 'back of the queue list' and I won't buy from them unless I really have to [not found a need in nearly 2 years now].

Bought a phone from Amazon - allegedly UK spec Huawei. ( months later it failed. Amazon won't replace it (says it's not our problem - although we advertised it and we took your money, it was a 3rd party), the 3rd party has vanished (and Amazon has less interest in finding them or chasing them up than a politician has in giving a truthful straight answer), Huawei claim it's not a UK phone and won't honour the warranty, the credit card company say talk to Amazon, we won't refund you....

So for the sake of a few pounds, Amazon's not only lost a customer but now has one who'll try to dissuade family and friends from using them. If they devoted a fraction of the effort they spent on tax dodging to providing a service they'd have two lots of Christmas shopping and probably a monthly Prim income from me.

Back on topic - comparing Maplins and PC World (who are almost next to each other where I live) is interesting. As mentioned by someone else the Maplins staff do at least engage with you (often too much) whereas PC World staff hide; I wanted to buy a vacuum cleaner recently and there were no staff in sight apart from a chap standing by the door. I asked if he could fetch me a cleaner so I could buy it and got a "not my job! you need a salesperson" reply. Needless to say they lost a sale.

BBC Telly Tax heavies got pat on the head from snoopers' overseers


Re: Paying for a license is optional

I'd gladly pay a subscription - but only if ALL channels asked for it.

The BBC suffers because the costs are visible. We all pay for ITV, C4, C5... but the costs are hidden.

Unless the commercial stations are operated by a benevolent cash fairy, they will need an income to pay for staff and equipment; this comes from advertisers. Again, unless the advertisers work for free, their 'creative genius' needs to be paid for (plus 'production' costs for their masterpieces); this comes from the people whose product is advertised. They in turn will need to get money to cover these costs - and this comes from the customers - you and me.

Remember when you watch a programme and see adverts from Tesco, Sainsbury's, insurance companies... when you do your shopping a part of the bill is going to subsidise commercial channels whether you watch them or not.

On the whole, I like the BBC model - at least they don't have to shy away from topics for fear of offending powerful companies and their advertising budget and they can steer away from lowest common denominator mass audiences for ratings.


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