DBA drifts into legend after inventive server convo leaves colleagues fearing for their lives

Fire! Fire! Oh, er, maybe not...

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Who, Me? Welcome to the latest instalment of Who, Me?, our weekly confessional column in which Reg readers share their tales of historic face-palms.

This week, "Fred" has written in to tell us about an incident while he was working as a DBA at a Knightsbridge-based shop's IT offices, which were a bit further away.

These offices had all of the firm's own kit, a large server room – "which still had a functioning IBM AS/400 and its obligatory green terminal companion" – as well as masses of other racked equipment, including the telephone exchange.

On the fateful day in question, Fred said that he and a colleague had two database servers handed over to them to commission.

"Once we got SQL installed, we did a few tests including testing the xp_logevent feature," he said.

"For a bit of a laugh we had a conversation between the two servers by logging events... admittedly, error events."

Our chap offered up an example of the conversation:

Server-A: Flugel Controller temperature alarm.

Server-A: Flugel Controller high temperature.

Server-A: I'm feeling a bit warm. My Flugel controller is overheating.

Server-B: Fred is looking a bit hot.

Server-B: Fred, I smell something burning.

Server-A: I see smoke. Help me. Help me.

Server-B: Smoke! There is smoke coming out of Fred.

Server-B: My Flugel controller is on fire.

Having tired of this "conversation", and being confident the servers and SQL were working okay, Fred and his colleague decided to grab a coffee from the canteen.

"As we were walking down the long corridor where IT was based one of the ops guys came sprinting passed us on the phone," Fred said.

chap with hand on head

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What might have seemed alarming to some didn't surprise Fred, because this particular person "did get excited from time to time so this was nothing new". And so the journey for coffee continued.

A short time later, the duo headed back up to IT and – unbeknown to them – to face the music.

"The IT office had large double fire doors leading into it... As I pushed them open and walked through with my colleague I looked up to see what seemed to be the whole world staring at me," Fred said.

"You know that stare you get when you know you've done something wrong and they know you know they know you've done something wrong? That stare."

Fred, who had been hoping in vain it wasn't about him, soon got summoned into his boss's office.

And it turned out that the ops guy running down the corridor should have raised Fred's eyebrows. Because this fellow was sitting in the bridge going through the morning routines when he was interrupted by a "ping ping ping".

"It meant a series of errors were happening and logged on SCOM," Fred explained.

"Reading the error and not fully understanding them, he did what he thought would be best: he grabbed the cordless phone and started running towards the nearest fire extinguisher. En route, he dialled 999 and asked for the fire brigade, nearly bowling me and my colleague over in the process."

Once our would-be firefighter had his trusty extinguisher, he stood at the server room door poised to spray at the first whiff of smoke – a whiff that never came.

"My boss had been alerted to the commotion and on seeing the errors immediately knew it would be me and my actions," Fred said. "All emergency services were stood down."

A contrite Fred added that his boss took it well, and even covered for him from above, while giving him "a hard time for being an idiot", but it seems that word still got around.

"I left the company a while later but returned a few years after," Fred said. "People I had not met knew of the Flugel controller story. It lived on for quite a while."

Have you ever been something of a living legend in your firm? Did your mistakes live on well past your lifetime at the company? Tell El Reg all about it by emailing in – we promise to protect your identity. ®


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