There's an epidemic of idiots who can't find power switches

Sysadmin's choice - help a sales drone plug in a PC, or make sure SQL server upgrades properly?

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On-Call If it's nearly Christmas and there's not much news about, it must be time for some extra inbox-clearing On-Call columns, in which we share tales of the things readers are asked to do at unpleasant times and/or out-of-the-way places.

Today, we're again riffing on our November story about the politician who had a techie drive for three hours to turn on her PC. Plenty of other readers responded with similar tales, such as “Dan” who told us about the time he drove 600km to the Australian town of Rockhampton to fix a phone accounting system with unspecified faults that couldn't be remotely diagnosed.

“After had a pleasant eight hour trip to Rockhampton I arrived at their client, and noticed that the power led was off, dived under the desk and pushed the power adapter all the way into the wall socket, spent 10 minutes verifying the all was working and that was it.”

Dan had negotiated for two nights in town, so had a few beers and a meal in the pub, then drove home. On an hourly rate all the way.

Reader “Steve” told us about the time he handled a “PC Not working” call from a junior doctor in the North West of England. The PC in question was in the doctors' rest room, so wasn't a matter of life and death … except for this doctor who made persistent complaints.

Steve sent a colleague to do the job and “when he got there he noticed a leaking fridge, which was plugged into a four way power socket that was turned off.”

“Guess where the PC was plugged in? Yup the same four way power socket as the leaking fridge.”

At least the doctor probably wasn't drinking on the job, seeing as the beer would have been warm.

Another reader, Nick, wrote to tell us about his time as a network/system admin when he was in the server room, updating a SQL server.

“As you know,” Nick writes, “Microsoft upgrades needs baby-sitting. So I was there watching it when the phone rang.”

“THIS IS URGENT,” shouted a colleague in sales, explaining that he was on the phone to a client and was trying to read back some critical data from a spreadsheet. We say trying because the PC had suddenly turned off.

Cue an argument about the respective importance of spreadsheet versus SQL server

Nick proposed to sort the spreadsheet in 30 minutes, a tactic that only enraged management and led to stern exhortations to sort things out immediately.

Nick pushed back, saying that if the SQL Server upgrade went titsup, he wasn't going to take the blame.

With that agreed, he visited the dead desk. Oddly, every other machine on the floor was working.

Nick sensibly ventured beneath the desk in question, found a plug out of its socket and sorted the situation seconds later.

“What happened was as he was talking on the phone and 'swivelling' in his chair with his legs stretched out, he had knocked the extension plug out the socket.”

“I plugged it back in again, swore at the manager for wasting my time, and made the sales guy look a twat.”

And the SQL upgrade? Nick can't remember if it went well or not. And tells us he still doesn't want to!

What have you been asked to fix, and when? Let me know by writing me an e-letter and we may well find a way to run it in a future edition of On-Call. ®


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