* Posts by Moonrunner

20 publicly visible posts • joined 8 Mar 2020

BOFH: The vengeance bus is coming, and everybody's jumping. An Xmas bonus hits me…


On a good note, that's still more popular than a Yoko Ono original album :-D When I was a kid, I was going through my uncle's vinyl collection and came across her album. As soon as I started playing it, 23 stray cats and 6 air raid sirens went off. It was a traumatic experience!

Biggest takeaway from pandemic lockdowns for Microsoft? Teams stopped talking to each other


Worked for us

We managed to maintain good communications channels and even increased our productivity per hour worked. There is a lot of general chatter in our team channel and also we have been actively communicating with other teams. Our former CEO had to eat his own words in the end. It really depends on the company structure and how receptive your team members are. I moonlight with another company, in a different industry, also very technical workforce, main platform is Slack and that works quite well for everyone. In the end, as long as the tool is decent and the teams are receptive to tech, it'll work out.

Open-source software starts with developers, but there are other important contributors, too. Who exactly? Good question


How about the translators?

I've done UI translations for several projects, and even mobilised some people who knew nothing about open source software to do additional languages.

Florida man might just stick it to HP for injecting sneaky DRM update into his printers that rejected non-HP ink


Brother FTW and no reason not to firewall those devices

While I ran an HP I found curbside (the scanner feeder was shot, NBD) for a bit, what put me off was the nasty BLOB that required installing via undocumented procedures (documented ones didn't work) for me to get network printing and scanning to work. Yes, Linux comes with all you need to plug it in via USB and print, but network functions are a chore. Their ink shenanigans are only adding to my distaste for this company.

Eventually, I didn't bother buying replacement toner for it and I got my trusty ol' Brother MFC7440N back. That thing served me well for 13 years, but it wasn't worth my while to fix the feeding issues (tried cleaning out the usual suspects), so I just picked up another and the company paid for it. They work great with aftermarket toner, Linux BLOBs are in tens of kilobytes, so unlikely that they'll contain anything nasty and the install procedure is stupid-easy, even when you're setting it up for network printing/scanning. Just in case, I still made sure it has no WAN access. While Brother has been a good corporate player IME, who knows when they'll decide to hire some washed-out HP execs.

So the data centre's 'getting a little hot' – at 57°C, that's quite the understatement


Another car story

I don't have much to contribute about on the job cooling system issues. I did work for a company that was winding down and wouldn't invest in new kit as the soon to be new owners had their own DC and only needed to move some specialised encoders over to their own DC. Did have a midnight call to drive out to a truck stop and get some diesel oil when the backup genny shut down due to low oil pressure. Fortunately, I did have some lying around from my motorcycling days (at that time, diesel oils didn't have moly in them, so they made a great, cheap alternative to 'motorcycle-specific' oils for wet clutch uses). That got us through the night, until we got someone in to fix the genny.

On the topic of cars, while visiting the old country, my stepmom loaned me her old '95 Escort diesel. At some point, the cooling system crapped out. Equipped with a couple of lengths of wire, it took me about 5min to determine that the thermoswitch needed replacement. Having spent most of my life in the colonies, I didn't know where to get one down there, so I contacted a childhood friend, who referred me to his mechanic. I called the owner and arranged to bring the Escort in to replace the thermoswitch. Once I got there, he left me in the capable hands of his apprentice, who proceeded to tear the car apart and poke around with a multimeter for 3 hours, before replacing the thermoswitch. Then, he took me to the owner, so we could figure out how much I owe for the repair:

Owner: What did you do?

Apprentice: Thermoswitch replacement and 3 hours of diagnostics

Moonrunner: [If looks could kill, mine would have outperformed Hitler/Mao/Stalin/Hirohito in terms of body count]

Owner: No charge. Have a nice day, sir!

China stops networked vehicle data going offshore under new infosec rules


Good move

Nice to see the Chinese government standing up to big tech. I wish ours had 1% of their backbone. With that being said, I don't like the idea of cloud-connected self-driving cars. It typically means that either a corporation and or a government (or in our case all of the 5 eyes) know(s) where you are and where you're going, at all times. They can even remotely shut down your vehicle, accelerate, engage steering, etc etc etc In a completely dystopian world, they can literally lock the doors and move the vehicle to where they want you to be. As our society has been turning against basic human rights, individual property and personal agency, we won't have to wait too long until they start with child-molesters, then move onto terrorists, then people engaging in 'hate speech', and then, how about 'microaggressions'?

That's why I prefer for my vehicle to be under my control. Stick shift, no network connectivity. I don't care if I put in as much money into reconditioning a stick shift car as I would into buying the latest shiny new phallus, at least I know my personal transportation is under my control.

New GNOME Human Interface Guidelines now official – and obviously some people hate it



As soon as they introduced the mangled abortions called 'Unity' and 'GNOME 3.x', I started searching for alternatives. Cinnamon was only half-baked at the time, LXDE too clunky, but XFCE gave me everything I needed, with minimal complaints. That's what I've been using ever since. Nice to know that they decided to take one of those mangled abortions, put it into the food processors and spray the resulting sludge all over their users. Thanks but no thanks, GNOME devs!

Vivaldi offers users a 'break' from browsing. No, don't switch to Chrome... don't sw..


I am a happy Vivaldi user. I really don't see why I'd want to switch to Chrome. The reason I used Opera, until they became more Chrome-like and got on the Vivaldi bandwagon was that I wanted a powerful and customisable browser, instead of a dumbed down user experience that Chrome and other Chrome-like browsers offer. I probably won't be using this feature other than when I'm in a meeting and don't want sound notifications from certain IM service's web client.

Global network controlled by erratic billionaire Qracks down on Qanon Qranks


Other than the pizza parlour stuff, their claims are turning out to be pretty accurate. No wonder the media/tech oligarchs are shutting them down.

Please stop hard-wiring AWS credentials in your code. Looking at you, uni COVID-19 track-and-test app makers


In some parts of Canada, they are higher than commercial, but good luck getting a commercial loan. Never forgiven. Bankruptcy won't save you, either.

Ink tanks park themselves all over the lawns of Western Europe as orders flood in


Another vote for laser multifunctions. I'm running a Brother MFC-7440N, that's over a decade old and still tickin'... Toner cartridges can be found for a song (I can save even more should I bother refilling my own, but why bother?), great as a scanner, and completely bullet-proof. Bonus points for network connectivity and great Linux driver support. Actually, other than the quality, that's my main selling point for Brother printers. While they call HP's 'Linux-friendly', you only get basic printing functionality from the kernel. For network (especially scanning) use, you usually have to install a multi-megabyte BLOB, outside of the standard procedure, that doesn't work. Brother's Linux BLOB's are sub-100kB, TOTAL! You'll have to Heston this printer from me!

My main beef with inkjets is that they're useless if you print a lot (ok that's where I give some credit to the Ink tank concept) due to expensive cartridges, or if you print infrequently as the heads get clogged.

What are you gonna do? Give me detention? Illinois schools ban pyjamas in online classes


Pure idiocy.. Why force kids to wear uncomfortable, street clothes, when even us adults don't need to? Here's my typical work attire:


-Slip-on sandals


[when appearing on camera, I'd put on a normal t-shirt, though]

That 'no slippers' bit is particularly dumb. So, kids are supposed to wear outdoor footwear indoors? If I did that as a kid, babushka would have picked up any combination of slipper/rolling pin/spatula and given me an education in pain tolerance and proper sanitation procedures!

I got 99 problems, and all of them are your fault


Modem reset causes printer issues

Working as a Bob for a small ISP, way back when, this was 'Tuesday'. My favourite was when the client blamed powercycling his modem for a laser printer failure at the other end of the house.


Re: Ambush

There maybe a reason for that. Our company's CRM support team has a 6-8 months turnaround time for support requests. No, I'm not kidding. It really is 6-8 months, 25-33 weeks, 175-231 days, 4200-5544 hours.... You get the point... That's why our department (handful of people) also keeps a separate record of open tickets (ticket number, date opened, actual issue), so when we hear back from one of them over something that happened 6-8 months ago, we ambush them and ask them to look into the other dozen tickets that have been piling up since then. That's how we once got a fix for a ticket that's only been sitting for like 3 weeks!

Don'tcha just LOVE meetings? Microsoft does, too, so here are some new Teams features, you lucky, lucky people


Re: Meetings, Bloody Meetings

Some days I'm attending so many meetings, I literally don't have the time to get my ACTUAL work done. This only started when we went remote. Before then, we may have done like 1hr a day, on average. Now, I've had some days where I'm booked up for 5-6 hours.

Pandemic proves just the tonic for PC sales as shipments shoot upwards


Re: "restocking their supplies back to near-normal levels"

Yeah, I'm running an i7-3770 rig with 32 gigs of RAM, that's like 7-8 years old. The only upgrade (other than the peripherals) was going from SSD+HDD to 2xSSD when the HDD crapped out a couple of years ago. Since I don't do gaming, I really don't see myself needing any upgrades for at least another 5 years.

Soft press keys for locked-down devs: Three new models of old school 60-key Happy Hacking 'board out next month


Re: Alternatives?

You could go for a Unicomp. Old-school IBM-style keyboards. Great ergonomics and your typing will be heard by the entire neighbourhood. Their international shipping can get pretty expensive. Periodically they get good deals on international shipping (I think in November) and they appear on Drop, from time to time.

That awful moment when what you thought was a number 1 turned out to be a number 2


In Canada, it's still 'cheque'... So only one English-speaking country, that I know of, uses the word 'check'

Disk stuck in the drive? Don't dilly-Dali – get IT on the case!


Re: Firebombing

I'm betting that 90's HP printer still works, to this day. Same goes with my turn of the century Brother. If you want it, you'll have to Heston it (*) from me!

(Take it from my cold dead hands - Charlton Heston's NRA speech)


#1 rule of tech support - Customers lie

Starting out in the industry as a Bob for a small, independent ISP, renting the big telco's lines for last mile access, I had a runin with the BLFH (Bastard Luser From Hell). He was complaining about intermittent connectivity and slow speeds. I ran the basic diagnostics, and what seemed odd was that his numbers should look rosy , considering that he was pretty close to 'the good kind of remote', so that usually involved CPE or ISW issues. So, I went through a checklist with the luser...

-Is your modem plugged directly into the phone jack (no splitters, extension cords, etc etc etc)?


-What is the make and model of your modem?

-[I forget which one he said, but it was a good BCM-based modem, that performed well with all types of the telco's remotes]

-Which phone jack is it plugged into [multiple questions, boiling down to this]:

-[The luser indicated the jack that the telco installer put in for DSL Internet only]

-Are you using a 7'/2.1m or shorter phone cord to connect the modem to the phone jack?


We ended up trying various things to get the customer the speed and stability that he was paying for, based on the perfect install, perfect remote, perfect equipment, etc etc etc. The process took weeks, involved us paying the diagnostic fee to the telco since their tech found nothing wrong on their end and even sending out a freebie modem to the customer. I was already getting pissed at having a ticket in my bin for weeks, so I decided to revisit some earlier questions...

-How long is the phone cord from the modem to the jack?

-Oh, about 30' (10m)

-[in my head]: FUMOFOFUIHPUDIEMFFU, etc etc etc

After chucking out that Dollarama grade 30' phone cord meant to allow grandma to use her rotary dial phone while shuffling around the Victorian home, not for 50Mbps DSL Internet, and replacing it with the cord that came with the modem, there was a marked improvement in speed and stability. I did give the client a politely-worded lecture about how cheap Ethernet cables are and how much pointless diagnostics time we would have saved, had he 'given me accurate information' during the initial call.

Lesson for those of you starting out in a helpdesk/support role:

#1 Rule of tech support is that CUSTOMERS LIE

Don't ask them any leading questions. Be very specific (look at the difference between the initial question and the question I asked the second time around) and let them hang themselves. Also document everything. That customer did complain to the management about how long and arduous process of sorting him out was and implied that it was due to my incompetence. Fortunately, I took detailed ticket notes, which the management reviewed and ended up firing the customer, instead. Then they gave me the spiel about the #1 rule.