Control is only an illusion, no matter what you shove on the Netware share

Stop that van!

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Who, Me? Welcome to Who, Me?, The Register's timid delve into the dark past and dastardly deeds of our readers.

Today's tale comes from a reader who was hoping for a pseudonym along the lines of Thor, Clint or maybe Butch. Luckily for him, our patented pal, the Reg-onymiser, has gone one better and elected to call him "Neil".

Here at Vulture Central, we often find that our tales of On Call adventures, Who, Me? near-fiascos and borkages trigger the odd memory or two, and Neil is no exception. A recent story reminded him of his own incident. "Well," he said, "not so much 'reminded me' as 'dragged a career-haunting mistake to the surface'."

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Neil's story takes us back to when Windows 3.1 was unleashed on a world tired of text and ready for Redmondian dominance.

"I was working in an insurance company whose IT Grand Fromage was very much Old School and Hands On," Neil recalled, "his obsession with having every last byte of the company's data on a single mainframe over which he could exert total control led naturally to an utter hatred of personal computers."

Unfortunately, this dislike came up against a tsunami of handy tools, such as Lotus 1-2-3. Sign-off of PC purchase orders could no longer be delayed once Windows 3.1 and cc:Mail popped their heads around the corner. The company had to have its tools and Mister Micromanager had to capitulate.

Except, of course, he didn't.

Neil explained: "He found out that it was possible to launch Windows with a switch so that it ran from a Netware file share with only a minimal C: drive installation, so he made that the mandated architecture."

Sadly, his plan went wrong pretty much from the get-go. Windows wasn't happy with a read-only folder, meaning that despite the Big Cheese's best efforts, users could still install their own software.

Rather than Fortress Windows, what he actually got "was a stream of applications failing for everybody at the same time when a shared DLL was overwritten by someone installing their mate's copy of Johnny Castaway, or similar twatware."

Seems harsh. We have fond memories of the nearly 30-year-old Windows 3.1 screensaver. Although we can't recall if Johnny ever did get rescued from that desert island. Attempts to make it work on Windows 10 have thus far failed but we haven't really tried that hard.

But back to Neil: "So all the company's PCs accessed L:\Windows rather than their own local folders. Bye-bye network between 8.30 and 9.30, hello interminable DLL issues, but at least El Queso Grande could maintain a warm glow of (totally illusory) control."

Before long, the inevitable happened.

"I confess that I don't recall why I did it," Neil told us, "I would like to think that it was a side effect of an urgent, skillful and downright heroic intervention required to maintain service, however it's far more likely that I simply cocked up."

He accidentally deleted the precious folder.

Remember, this was back in the halcyon days when PC-based servers weren't seen as mission critical and administration controls could be charitably called "less than robust". Not like now, of course. Oh no.

The event happened 20 minutes after the most recent backup tape had left the building, bound for off-site storage, so amid the suddenly borked Windows boxes Neil did what any self-respecting BOFH would do.

"I ignored the screaming and lied through my frickin' teeth."

The time reported to management to repair the suddenly and mysteriously "faulty disk controller" was uncannily the same time it would take a "a forever-in-their-debt colleague to chase the tape van by taxi, retrieve the backup and restore the folder".

Neil was never found out. Heck, the team were even able to swing the cost of a decent and resilient disk array out of the "incident".

And for our protagonist? "I still meet up with a certain ex-colleague, for whom the phrase L:\Windows never fails to raise a smile.

"For him, at least."

Ever done a delete and found yourself chasing down the backup van before you got found out? Or heard the sphincter-loosening words: "What's a backup?" The time has come to confess, and let the Reg-onymiser assign you your own pseudonym, with an email to Who, Me? ®

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