And while one contributor suggested that systems can't be up 100 per cent of the time
Mainframes achieve 99.9+ %. You get what you pay for. I was never convinced that cloud had all the answers (but also mainframe does not have all the answers0.
155 posts • joined 23 Jul 2018
"when ...the campaign of engagement and communication has increased public awareness of the programme, explaining how data is used and patient choices."
So when the public awareness goes from 0.1% to 0.2 % this is a success, and gives the go ahead?
I am reminded of the Hitch-hiker's quote...
“But the plans were on display…”
“On display? I eventually had to go down to the cellar to find them.”
“That’s the display department.”
“With a flashlight.”
“Ah, well, the lights had probably gone.”
“So had the stairs.”
“But look, you found the notice, didn’t you?”
“Yes,” said Arthur, “yes I did. It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard.”
Can someone explain to me how this would be used.
1) I understand having a smart card which I can use/wave around - like like a contactless credit card ( can we use the same technology?)
2) How would we do online stuff. Do I need a Hardware key I plug into the side of my computer so it can use my private key.
3) How do I validate someone who has sent me a data file/contract/money
4) My bank gives me a card reader, I enter my card, type my pin, and enter the encrypted value in an online session.
In simple terms what's the difference between a credit card and a private identity. The infrastructure is there. The banks validate "certificates" and I could get a "bank statement" with the name of the person who owns the identity.
When I worked in product development I was contacted by some one (in the same company) who wanted to ship our product as part of theirs. I was asked could I get them an early driver. I said go through the official channels, but we can provide some alpha level code so you can develop your install procedures. We fixed the code so it had a drop dead date of 2 months away. "No problems mate". He got the install working, so was happy.
Two months later my senior manager got a call from someone angrily complaining that our product was rubbish - it kept starting and shutting down with no error messages. They were going to ship their product next week, so this was a critical problem which we had to fix. The demo to their executives was a disaster ... etc
Instead of getting the golden master of our product, they had cloned the software from my friends machine, without his knowledge and were going to ship it. I believe there was a "senior manager to senior manager" discussion about the incident, and I believe the person who caused all the problems was asked to "review his options" and moved to pastures new.
I learned that if you are going to give someone a b*llocking - be very sure of your facts, and keep it low key.
I was doing support for one of the Olympic games. One of my colleagues told me about the Badminton finals. The computers were underground amongst the pipes. Because of the large number of people in the audience the toilet facilities were stretched. He went down the morning of the semi-finals to find the floor was wet, so he reported it, and they sent an engineer down to fix it. I dont know what they did, but it resulted in more "water" on the floor. They said it would take a few days to fix - so as long as it holds out - they would live with it. If necessary they would get a taller table to put the computers on.
On the day of the finals - the "water" was about 9 inches deep. My colleague had to wear boots to go and turn the machine on (then leave and get back to base).
The finals were played. My colleague had to go and turn the machine off - the water was just below the top of his wellies. He left the kit there for someone else to remove, and went for a shower before meeting us in the bar.
My office looked over the car park, and I would often see my manager drive up and park, and out would get his secretary with him. They would often leave together. Of course the obvious conclusion was they were having an affaire, every one could see it. Rumour had it, that the temporary secretary wanted a permanent position.
I spoke to the head secretary about the comments being made about them, and suggested they be a bit more discreet, for example drop her off at the corner while he goes and parks. I also said please do not mention my name.
Next day my manager burst into my room shouting "WE ARE NOT HAVING AN AFFAIRE - I JUST PICK HER UP FROM THE RAILWAY STATION ON THE WAY PAST". This just confirmed it for every one within range, as it was a 10 mile detour to the station.
She got moved on fairly soon after this, and the tale lived on in folklore.
I remember being asked to go a task force to review a document from on high, as we were going to have to implement its vision.
One of our senior technical guys said "dont review it yet - let me go through it".
He forwarded his marked up comments (so we could see the deleted text). There were comments like
1) Too vague - how do we know if we have achieved this.
2) How is this different from what we are doing this today
3) Not measurable - we need to be able to measure things to see if they were successful (or not)
4) Impractical - there is no way we can do this in the next 2 years, the technology is too new.
5) If we do this, then people will work around it, and make it worse.
6) We can do this - the cost will be 6 person years of effort
7) Cant do in the time frame - we need to allow two years to implement this - and running both systems in parallel for 3 months.
8) You are missing the cost of testing/support - they need kit to test it, and the teams that will be needed.
9) Great I support this item, we should do it.
When the "deleted" text was removed a 50 page report became 2 sides.
Most of the project was binned, we did the few good things.
I worked for a senior manager. A project was in trouble, so the senior manager sent out an email to the managers clearly laying out the situation, and the action plan. 30 seconds later he realised that should have said "do not forward this email", so he rushed into my office and asked if I go to to IT support and kill it.
I rushed down two flights of stairs and into IT support.
"Too late they said" they could see it had already be forwarded to over 100 non managers.
I went back to the senior manager and said "sorry - too late". He said don't worry, that is good news. He had received some emails from the grunts ( sorry, the professionals) with words like "Thank you for a clear statement, it looks like someone is finally doing something about the problems". So overall he came out well.
I realised that my mother's mental capacity was going when she complained that her laptop would not open. She was trying to open the hinges.
Her screen saver was an animated fish tank full of fish. I came in one day when she was waving a watering can over the laptop, looking for a hole "to top up the fish tank" because she hadn't done it for a while, and every one knows fish tanks need to be topped up.
The beginning of the end.
A large bank used a messaging product to send information around its systems.
Some of these "what is my bank balance" messages were not important, expired after 30 seconds and were thrown away - the requester could always resend.
Some of these were "transfer $100 Million" messages - and these were not allowed to expire. They were logged to disk.
Unfortunately a teeny-weeny application change put a random expiry time into the data.
The first the bank knew there was a problem when there was a phone call "Where is my $100 Million?"
I worked for the company that provided the messaging system. I got a call 10:00 from a stranger who explained the problem and asked if I could go on site to help.
I said I was happy to, but the customer would have to pay for a plane ticket etc. (That usually puts people off). I strolled over to my boss to give him early warning - but he was away from the office. I got back to my desk and had an email " there is a ticket for you on the 1200 flight to ... if you can make this it would be great"
This is when you think "They are serious". I left a note on my desk, booked a taxi - rushed home, picked up my passport, and change of underwear etc. I got the (business class wow!) flight with minutes to spare.
At the far end I was met and taken to the customer site. I knew the confidential layout of the log records on disk, and between us we came up with some rules - if this value is .. and that value is - then print out this other data. Some people then worked through the nigh and re-entered the expired data.
By 0900 the next morning, it was all fixed.
They then told me the true scale of the problem. They had "recovered" billions of dollars which was good. The banking auditors were due to arrive that day at 1200 for the annual review. If they found there was money missing, the bank would have been closed down.
I was talking to some one who worked in the help desk area. We had a senior executive who had a reputation. If you went to a meeting with him, and you had not come prepared he would let you know very clearly - you only did it once. He had a distinctive name let me call him Jo-shu Blogg-ings. One day the phone rang and this very junior guy took the call. When the conversation got to to "and how do you spell blogg-ings" the area went deathly quiet. After an amiable conversation where the help desk guy fixed the executive's problem the call ended, and there was "you know who that was?!" etc.
Next day Jo-shu Bloggings came through the area with the manager of the area, met the junior help desk guy and said "Thanks for your help yesterday - it solved my problem" and continued through the area. People who knew the executive said that he refused to have the reserved executive parking spot, and he got his own coffees from the machine etc. and was a very nice person - he just expected every one to be professional.
I am surprised that the list did not mention motherhood and apple pie - or perhaps these are too American.
In my 40 years in IT, I found the people who made big projects work, started with small projects that worked and moved up. The worst people were the ones "with vision". Once they had set a direction (head for them there hills) they were often moved on to other projects, and practical people took over to set achievable goals and plot the path to get there. The very worst stayed with the project and changed their vision once we were going down the path, resulting in lots of work thrown away, and heading in a different direction.
I like the Unix approach - do one thing and do it well. We should have enough components that it should "simply" be a matter of plugging them together, and upgrading them transparently as required. The problems of setting up database for 100 million people were solved decades ago.
A major bank had a power outage. The operators opened the procedures book and started the fail over to the backup site - a well practised procedure.
A was senior executive was passing and came to assist, saying "We have these big generators in the car park for times like this. Restart the systems in place"
The operators said "That's not in the book - it has not been tested". Senior Executive "If you can restart in place it will be back in no time! - read my job title"
They did what they were told - only to find the generators did not provide enough power for the machine room, and they could only start half the kit.
The operators made the bold decision to wait for the power to come back. They said that they thought they could not successfully fail-over to the backup site once they had started the restart. Not the sort of thing you want to first try in production.
As well as testing for failure, ensure that the people are considered as part of this. Keep the experts who know what they are doing out of it - they can watch as the other members of the team manage the fail overs. You can watch as much as you like - you only learn when you have to do it. If the team is screwing up - let them - up to a point. Part of learning is how to undig the hole.
The expert may know to do A, B, C - but the documentation only says do A, C.
In one situation someone had to go into a box to press the reset button - but the only person with the key to the box was the manager/senior team leader.
Having junior staff do the work, while the senior staff watch is also good as it means someone who knows is watching for unusual events.
I remember one strange box that had a light. If the light was on - it meant there was power, and it was turned OFF. Turn the box on and the light went off. The logic was as follow
If the box was working then you ignore the light
Else If the light was off - there is no power, turn on the power
Else the box was turned off, turn it on.
Obvious once you think about it - one light - 3 states!
I remember going to a customer who seemed a little distracted. They had to make a change to production that night without being able to test it. Several large financial organisations had to make the same change at the same time on the same day so data could be shared/transmitted. Backing out would be almost impossible.
One of the key benefits of the fix was to make a change, so any future changes could be backed out.
Next morning it was smiles all round. With the months of planning and the what-if scenarios, the 5 minute change had all worked.
I still remember that you can sometimes cannot test, and some fixes have to go straight to production.
On a trip to support a very large organisation (where they had men with machine guns on the outer perimeter, all bags were x-rayed, and we were body searched on entry), we had to go into the inner sanctum operations room. We were told by my company "put your hands in your pockets and do not touch ANYTHING".
We could not touch a (dumb) screen we had to stay 2 inches from it. This means pointing to the error was a challenge.
Someone had been caught on video, pressing the "next" button to display more error diagnostics. This caused a huge stink, involving senior managers having to apologise.
As we kept our hands in our pockets we could not get out of the room unaccompanied. Even in the "unsecure" areas we were not allowed to go to the toilet unaccompanied, but at 0300 in the morning no one was too worried.
I had some corporate software that assumed you had a full width browser. As I typically run with narrow window, I could not see there were icons called "SAVE" and "CANCEL" off the right hand side - and assumed it had autosave. My mistake when I lost hours of work.
I found this out when I contacted the help desk who said "press the save button" I asked "what save button", they said "it is the button off the side of the window".
I remember putting in a change request to fix a performance problem. It went through all the reviews, and as I was the expert they accepted my comments.
It took a week to implement, and after the IPL the performance was worse! I tracked it down and raised a problem saying the person who misconfigured it needed to be shot!
Of course that was me... the change needed to be at both ends of a connection (or to be more accurate, both ends of all connections). I learned to be a little more careful when saying 'execute the guilty'.
We were having a team meeting, and someone came in and said please phone xxxx who is very unhappy.
We phoned the senior technical guy who had the usual rant and ignored some of the suggestions the team leader offered.
The bad guy then said "what kind of idiot do you think I am". One of our team (on the autistic spectrum) who takes things literally replied
"well let me go through out list our list, ah yes, there's the idiot who doesnt listen, there is the idiot that shouts rather than ask politely, ah yes... there's the idiot who hasn't checked his mail" and hung up.
We sat there aghast, and the brave person said he didn't take that sort of behaviour, and had worked with xxx before.
We carried on with the meeting, and a few minutes later the same someone came in and said "xxxx said the problems been fixed, it was in the email".
I haven't been brave enough to do this.
In the days of dial up ( where you plugged your hotel phone into the side of your laptop), I was in working in Japan. You gave country and city and it dialed the right number for you. I could not get the local (free phone) number to work, so had to dial international - it cost thousands of pounds.
I reported the problem to the local team who said the phone number was working fine, it must be me. I hadn't time to argue as I had an anxious customer.
I sent an email saying I was trying to use number 012345678 ... and got a fax machine, and asked them what number they used... they said "98765421, 012345678 doesnt work"
My boss sent them the bill for the phone calls and a snotogram - and they updated the phone list the next day!
I heard that some young chaps wanted to move some solid state disks about 6 inches without powering it down. These were about 5ft high and 3 ft square and heavy. So the lads following the best health and safety procedures put their backs against it, and pushed with their legs. This was fine, till one of them found he had caught his belt under the recessed emergency power-off "pull knob" and did an emergency power off as he stood up!
I had a colleague using VM/370 and filelist - where it would display a screenful of files, and you could type a command in front of each filename
He had E for edit, BR for browse and ER for erase. When the command finished it would change the first letter to * so BR became *R
I remember watching him, type BR to Browse the file, and realising he needed to edit it, he typed E and the file disappeared. He said "that's strange - it often does that"
I asked if he used "ER" for erase - and he said "ah yes - that would explain it". I suggested he rename er to ERASE. I was amazed he had never taken the time to find out why his files kept going missing.
I spent some time at a customer site where they were building a huge wing next door to where we were working, and it was great watching all of the activity as plumbers took in furniture for the toilets, and the carpet fitters took in the carpets.
One day there was no activity at all. Someone had done a spot check, and found "officially (from the amount of stuff delivered) " there was at least one wash basin per person, and the amount of carpet that had been delivered would have had the floor 1 ft deep in carpet!
The stuff was being taken in during the morning, and out again into vans in the evenings.
All this was discovered because a policeman was taking his dog for a walk one evening and spotted the activity.
I worked with someone who had dyslexia. There are fonts that are easier to read because of the shapes of the letters ( eg b and d). I hope they consider this when choosing.
British Dyslexia Association says - Dyslexia friendly style guide
Use sans serif fonts, such as Arial and Comic Sans, as letters can appear less crowded. Alternatives include Verdana, Tahoma, Century Gothic, Trebuchet, Calibri, Open Sans. Font size should be 12-14 point or equivalent (e.g. 1-1.2em / 16-19 px). Some dyslexic readers may request a larger font.
Also consider Lower case I 1, and lower case L which can all look the same
I heard from someone who was involved in the early days of biometrics. Some school children got free school meals, others had to pay. A teacher used to monitor the pupils and check who was/was not meant to pay for the meals. Because this showed up the kids who had free school meals, someone thought this might not be a good idea. The school got involved with a project to scan the eyeball of each child, and automatically record who had what.
It used to take the teacher 2 seconds to "tick the list" as the pupils came past. With the new technology it took about 10 seconds. They introduced a second eye scanner which helped, but was still slower.
At the end of the trial, the school decided to go back to the paper way of doing it. The company with the equipment said they learned a lot from it, getting the developers out into the field. For example these developers learned that children are of different heights, and so their equipment needs to handle this. Obvious once you see it.
I had a neighbour who was involved in drugs trials on farms, and the company was very keen on collecting data, so they gave each farmer a computer, screen, and floppy disk drive. The farmers were a bit slow on this new technology stuff, but they persevered (as they were being paid for it). After a few weeks there were complaints that they could not get the floppy disks into the drives. My neighour went out to investigate and found the farmer in his barn, with his cows, and his computer in pride of place in the middle of the barn.
What head office had not realised was that a farm is a dirty place. You get down bales of straw for bedding- and get covered in straw dust, the hay (for food) has lots of seeds and dust in it. (There is a disease called farmer's lung from breathing all the dust in) The back end of a cow is fluid, right next to a cow's tail which can flick it 6 feet away.
The computer was there, caked in dung, straw and hay. You had to break off lumps of it to get to the floppy drive. The inside of the drive was solid with cow pats!
All those computers had to be thrown away, and the farmers were told to put the new ones inside the house, in the office!
I was doing a lot of travelling to an interesting country to work on their banking system. One day, in the UK, I had a meeting with 'John' who used to work in the Foreign Ofice, and was told to take care when travelling abroad.
1. if you keep getting the same room in a hotel - this may have hidden cameras, so be careful who you invite back to your room
2. assume there are cameras watching you as you type into your laptop, obscure your keyboard when you type passwords
3. take a bare bones laptop - with nothing on it; with you, in case it gets 'lost'. I said this was a problem as I needed tools on the laptop to do my job.
4. lock your laptop in the hotel safe when not using it. (Though once when I did lock something in the hotel room's safe, the lock was broken and the under-manager came along with his set of screwdrivers to unlock it)
5. check people in meetings to make sure they are genuine
I think 'they' were after people who had worked in new technology such as batteries or solar panels, and carried the plans on the laptops, rather than the throughput of data between two sites.
I checked "John" in our internal phone book, (see 5. above) and he did not exist - spook-y !
I was involved in one of the Olympics. We had a big test event about a month before the games, and they tested all sorts of problem scenarios. One morning I got out of bed, bent over to do my shoes up and pulled a muscle in my back. I managed to lay on the floor, and phoned in.
An hour later I still hadn't been contacted. I phoned in again and said I could not get up from the floor and needed to go to the bathroom, at the risk of a wet floor. Within 15 minutes I was in a wheelchair at a doctors who spoke no English (but very good acting skills). It all got sorted.
A couple of weeks later I was talking to a senior manager who apologised and said they thought I was the "medical test case", and they had their hands full with another "emergency".
My father was in the Royal Navy (this was 50 years ago). He said a foreign warship came along side the dock, and they plugged in a generator. There were a few problems as the plugs were different shapes, but with British ingenuity they managed to work round it. Unfortunately the generator was 240V AC, these particular circuits on the shop were DC 12V! Whoops.
I had to go to India to assist on the review of a project with the supplier
Technically it was not in a good state. They had not have a backup strategy, fall over strategy, security strategy, testing was weak etc.
After my technical review I was asked to sit in on a meeting to review the report "they" had written for the customer
After 5 minutes discussing the front page, I said, as tactfully as I could, that I think there were bigger problems than the colour and size of the font. They looked at me, and immediately moved on to the next page.
After 2 hours they finished the review, it was much more colourful than it was.
The next day the review was with the manager's manager's team. They undid the changes to the fonts and colours and rearranged some of the text.
Towards the end, I was asked for my views - I said this was like presenting the plan for rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, there was very little technical content, and if I was the customer, this would not meet my needs.
Later I heard they presented to the customer, and 'it did not go well'.
I had to go on site to help resolve a customer problem. I sat along side the customer and helped him configure the product and it was going well. Then I noticed we had a third person in the booth, someone had quietly snuck in while we were busy. It was Jo, the duty manager. We had a nice little chat, and I explained why I was there, and what we were trying to do. All very amicable, her parting shot was we had popped on the radar because they had been notified that "unusual" commands were being executed on the test system. The commands were locked down in production - but not on test, they just produced an alert if they were used.
Without any fuss, this reminded the team that unusual activity was being monitored, and that it would be nice to tell the operations people if there were any unusual activities being planned.
I remember interviewing someone for a job, and he was all "I did all this work, the others didnt do much... I expect you are looking for people like me".
"No", I said, "We are looking for a team player with rounded skills etc",
He replied " When I said I did all this work, I meant other people did the work under my guidance"
He didn't get the job.
Although my father had a chain saw, as children we had to saw the wood up by hand, because you got warm twice - once cutting it up, and once burning it on the fire.
We kids left home, my brother worked for the water board clearing timber from river banks. He came back one day and used his chain saw to cut up the pile of logs. Mum was every so grateful, as she could light the fire more often, and it made Dad even more unhappy because the wood got used up faster!
My wife had to work in Spain. Their new building was almost complete - there were small problems like no switches on the wires sticking out of the light switch box, but that was "OK" - just put some tape over the wires. There were two sides of the building with a fire door in between. The builders needed access to both sides, so they put a steel bar across the top of the doorway to hold the fire door open. This was "fine" until someone nudged the door in passing and the steel bar fell - just missing them. They sovled this by moved the steel bar to the ground level - a perfect trip hazard.
The Spanish builders were surprised when my wife's manager refused to move in to the building until it was "UK Safe".
If you take an on site test, and it comes back positive, you'll have to quarantine in your hotel for 10 days. How do you notify people you've been in contact with... it was John and Meg from a large company in umm,, they spoke German, and French, and Italian or was it Spanish - they are a multi national. John's a tall guy. Meg's got brown hair.
"Plan for the worst - hope for the best"
One of my first jobs 40 + years ago was in build. I built a major application on DOS/VS running under VM on IBM 360.
Disk space was short and we only had 2 disks/systems - the "current system" and the build system.
I was given an envelope with a short list of instructions which started "delete the old build". So off I went.
About half an hour later we had some developers came round to say there were some files missing... I was working on the live system - not the build system. Whoops. I got a bollocking and the instructions were amended to "1) change to the disk to the value written on the board".
Next Monday I started the next build.... and half an hour later a developer came round and said there were some files missing. I got another bollocking because someone had forgotten to update the board!
The next week I got moved to work on VS1 where I could do no damage. All important disks were read only.
A customer told me of an incident where he worked. They were a top z/OS shop, with two hot sites etc, they tested failover every 2 weeks etc. One of the critical applications told people what fresh fruit etc to put in the containers. It was very slick. The little problem they had was when the drivers came to pick up the containers and collect the delivery instructions, and the printer went down. This printer had been in the cubicle for 10 years. The driver would arrive, the person in the booth would print the instructions and off goes the driver.
When the printer went down there were lorries backing up along the road. As they could not buy a replacement printer with coax attach, it took over a day to get it working, as it was out of wifi range etc.
For want of a nail....
We had a useless manager who had a meeting once a week, where every one went round the table and said what they were doing. In theory each person got 2 minutes - but there was no control of the meeting so they got into design discussions. I worked on the mainframe and the rest of the team were midrange and had no idea about what I worked on. I just used to say "working on customer problems". These meetings were scheduled for 1 hour, often took 2 hours. I used to schedule medical treatment after the first half hour, sometimes the meetings were still going when I got back.
We would have the same conversations the next week.
When the manager asked "how could we be more efficient as a team?" My reply of "drop these meetings" did not go down well. I got a bollocking for not being a team player and for not supporting him.
One of my bosses told me that his date of birth was mis-recorded in the corporate HR database 06/071950 instead of 06/06/1950. As your data of birth does not change, there was no support in the application to change it. He said it didnt really matter - it just pushed his retirement date out by 1 month.
There was a different database which was used by people all over the world. If you pressed help for a date field, it gave you an example "02/03/2004". Is this 02/March or 03/Feb? 01/26/2004 would have been cleared.
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