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Memory-Lane Monday: I guess it’s not stealing when you’re paying for your own

It’s back in the day when Wi-Fi was relatively new, and pilot fish is visiting relatives over the holidays when his brother-in-law begins grousing about lousy internet performance.

“A friend had set up a wireless access point for him,” says fish. “But he neglected to provide important information like the administrator password so a poor slob like me who came later might be able to take a look and diagnose anything.

“After a reset of the access point and a reconfiguration of the laptop, we came to find that my brother-in-law had never actually connected to the access point in his own house. He had instead been connecting to an unsecured network that one of the neighbors had been broadcasting.

“Turns out he had paid for a cable modem for two years that he never actually connected to.”

It’s back in the day when Wi-Fi was relatively new, and pilot fish is visiting relatives over the holidays when his brother-in-law begins grousing about lousy internet performance.

“A friend had set up a wireless access point for him,” says fish. “But he neglected to provide important information like the administrator password so a poor slob like me who came later might be able to take a look and diagnose anything.

“After a reset of the access point and a reconfiguration of the laptop, we came to find that my brother-in-law had never actually connected to the access point in his own house. He had instead been connecting to an unsecured network that one of the neighbors had been broadcasting.

“Turns out he had paid for a cable modem for two years that he never actually connected to.”

Get connected to Sharky. Send me your true tales of IT life at [email protected]. You can also subscribe to the Daily Shark Newsletter.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.



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Memory-Lane Monday: Sometimes these things just slip our minds

User stomps up to the cubicle of this pilot fish tech who’s responsible for backups and snaps, “You need to restore my spreadsheet!”

“Normally,” says fish, “people start a conversation with hello, but I let that go.”

Fish asks user where she stores the spreadsheet. “On my laptop.”

I’m sorry, fish tells her, but we don’t back up laptops. Anything important should be kept on a server.

“No, you don’t understand,” user says. “I need that spreadsheet!”

Fish is about to lose his cool, so he tells uers to speak with his manager, sitting in the cube across the aisle.

At the manager’s cube, user humbly knocks. “Hi, Fred,” she says. “I need to get my spreadsheet back.”

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Memory-Lane Monday: Please tell me his name wasn’t Jones

Pilot fish and his help desk colleagues do a lot of password resets and have learned that it’s best to sympathize with the callers and normalize forgetting those strings of letters, numbers and symbols. It can happen to anybody is the message.

But some forgetfulness is more normal than others, finds fish, who told one user, “I’m going to reset your password to your last name, with the first letter capitalized.”

Reports fish: “He said, ‘Wait a minute. Let me get a pencil and paper to write that down.

“I then spelled his last name for him and reminded him to capitalize the first letter. He thanked me and hung up the phone.

“Surreal doesn’t even begin to describe how this felt!”

If you want to send me your true tales of IT life, that’s “Sharky” with a Y. Send them to me at [email protected]. You can also subscribe to the Daily Shark Newsletter.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.



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Memory-Lane Monday: We’re monitoring the situation

It’s several years ago, when monitors have just started to arrive at this pilot fish’s company with a new feature: They automatically turn off the screen after 15 minutes of nothing happening.

“All you had to do was press a key to get the screen to come back on,” says fish. “But one middle manager left work one day with his monitor on. In the morning he came in and, thinking it was off, flipped the little rocker switch.

“That really did turn the monitor off. When it didn’t light up in a minute, he called me to ‘repair’ it.

“The third time this happened, I figured out what was going on and explained that if it did not come on in a few seconds, he should flip the switch again.

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Memory-Lane Monday: Write once, use never

It’s the early aughts, and IT department trainee gets the task of sorting through a pile of unlabeled recordable DVDs, reports the pilot fish who assigned him to the job.
“I asked him to check the DVDs one by one, discard obsolete data, sort blank media and label the rest of them according to their contents,” fish says.

 trainee, permanent marker in hand, disappears. Two days later, he dumps two piles of media sitting on fish’s desk. One of them is DVDs nicely labeled with content description, date and number, using rather good handwriting.

“The other pile,” sighs fish, “was also labeled with permanent marker — 30 DVDs with ‘BLANK’ written on every single one of them.

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Memory-Lane Monday: For once, credit where it’s due

Pilot fish gets a job at an electronic cash register company, where he’s been assigned to put parts in little plastic bags for the people who solder the circuit boards. He applied to be a programming intern, but HR said he wasn’t qualified.

Fish is good at his assigned job, but bored. Especially on Friday afternoons.

“The computer we used in the parts cage had to run weekly inventory reports,” explains fish. “The reports took about four hours to run every Friday, and pretty much shut the parts cage down because we were not allowed to kit components without first entering them into the computer, and the PDP-11 couldn’t multitask.”

But why should one report take all afternoon? Fish talks his boss into letting him look at the inventory software — which, it turns out, is written in interpreted Basic.

Fish inserts a few “got here at HH:MM:SS” debug lines to tell him how the run is progressing, and he quickly determines that, for all but five minutes of the four-hour run, the program is re-sorting the transaction history file. And with tens of thousands of records, the bubble-sort algorithm that the program uses is, well, slow. A few dozen lines of code later, fish has implemented a more elegant sort.

“That Friday, when my boss kicked off the usual report at noon, the printer started dumping the report at 12:10 instead of approximately 4 p.m.,” fish says.

Her first thought is that fish broke the inventory software, but after she goes over the report and realizes it’s correct, she starts to show real gratitude.

First, she gives fish a big hug and congratulations. Then boss walks him down to management row, where she gives fish full credit for his initiative and success in fixing the program — being sure to note that the manufacturing line will no longer have a partial shutdown on Fridays.

Then she tells the big bosses that, while she’ll be sad to see fish leave her department, he belongs in software development.

Finally, she explains the real reason she has come to management row: Fish has just earned a bonus that’s larger than she’s authorized to grant.

“The best part of the day, I think, was getting escorted to HR,” says fish, “and having the same woman who said I wasn’t qualified to be a programmer cut me a big fat check that was no doubt more than she made all summer, and doing the paperwork that put me into firmware development, with my own office.”

Sharky loves a happy ending. Be they happy or not, send me your true tale of IT life at [email protected]. You can also subscribe to the Daily Shark Newsletter.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.



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Memory-Lane Monday: Hard copy | Computerworld

New guy on this IT team about a decade ago heads to a site two and a half hours away where he’s urgently needed to diagnose a failed server, reports a pilot fish at HQ.

But he’s back in half an hour with a problem: His satellite navigation system has failed.

“We got a road atlas and printed detailed instructions on how to get to the site and sent him out on his way again,” says fish.

But the guy can’t read maps. “An hour and a half later we got a call from him saying the instructions were no good. We asked him where he was.” They work out that he headed north, exactly opposite of the direction he should have taken, so he’s now four hours away from the site he’s suppose to be heading toward.

“We sent him back home,” says fish. “When he arrives back in the office tomorrow, we’ll be teaching him how to use the antique skill of reading maps — just in case his satellite navigation system fails again.”

To which Sharky can only say, aren’t you over-confident that he’s going to make it home?

The fastest route to the Shark Tank is this one: [email protected]. Take it to email me your true tale of IT life. You can also subscribe to the Daily Shark Newsletter.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.



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Memory-Lane Monday: Even worse than you thought

This government agency has cashiers’ stations for handling transactions with the public, and the treasurer’s office decides it needs new software to run those stations, according to a pilot fish in IT.

And there’s going to be one sign-on and password for all the stations, brag the higher-ups.

Bad idea, protest all the IT programmers and system administrators. For one thing, having a single user sign-on to the system will prevent tracking who is completing each transaction. They cite security, accountability and separation of duties, but their protests fall on deaf ears.

The vendor rep shows up one day, and he and the treasurer do a presentation for an audience that includes IT managers. The two sound excited, and a touch proud, when they tell everyone that the cashiers will sign on with the user ID “Cash.” They don’t share the top-secret password, though; that’s just for the cashiers to know.

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Memory-Lane Monday: 240 would be twice as good, right?

Pilot fish walks into his small lab at a big computer maker one morning and finds one of the building’s maintenance guys packing up his tools. So fish chats with him for a bit and then asks what he had been working on. “I had a work order to change the wall power for the lab’s printer from 240 volts to 120 volts,” responds the maintenance guy.

“That’s odd,” says fish. “The printer’s been happily plugged into that outlet for years.”

Maintenance guy shrugs and leaves. Almost immediately, one of fish’s co-workers announces that the printer is down.

Fish opens the printer’s cover and looks at the power plate. Sure enough, the printer is built to use 240 volts. So when the printer vendor’s repair guy arrives to troubleshoot the problem, fish immediately fills him in about what the maintenance guy had done.

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Memory-Lane Monday: We’re monitoring that

Flashback to the 1990s, when this pilot fish is the lone network admin for his division of a big office support company.

“Since our division had its own building and was somewhat remote, we had a lot of autonomy,” says fish. “I was able to pretty much have my data center and work spaces designed the way I wanted them — within budgetary guidelines, of course.”

Then comes an office-space reshuffle, and fish’s desk, workbench and lab are moved into a much smaller space.

But to make up for the newly cramped quarters, fish’s boss gives him permission to design exactly how the new space will work.

Fish lays it out to put power and data connections in all the places he needs them, with a specially built workbench and even a large, extra-heavy-duty shelf designed to hold several huge monitors with pull-down keyboard trays.

“The shelf was built to my exact specifications and was more than strong enough for the displays — remember, this was the ’90s, and that means big honkin’ CRTs,” fish says. “It was mounted above the workbench and looked great. Functionally, it made my smaller space much more usable.”

A few days after the construction was complete, fish is working at his new desk one afternoon. The lab is quiet and he’s almost ready to go home when he hears something begin to creak.

Then it gets louder.

Fish looks up just in time to see the entire shelf slowly crash down to the workbench, dumping four large monitors plus keyboards, mice and other assorted items on the bench, the chairs and the floor.

A quick investigation shows why. Turns out that the contractor had paid strict attention to fish’s demands that the shelf be built strong enough to handle all the heavy equipment.

Just one problem. “He mounted it on the finished drywall using a well-known liquid construction adhesive,” sighs fish.

“He wound up replacing all the smashed equipment. Oh, and he rehung the shelf — my way.”

The only way to get Sharky your true tale of IT life is at [email protected]. You can also subscribe to the Daily Shark Newsletter and read some great old tales in the Sharkives.



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