'We're changing shift, and no one can log on!' It was at this moment our hero knew server-lugging chap had screwed up

Where's the DHCP box? It's behind y... oh heck

Who, Me? It's a new week and that means a fresh tale of close calls and proper falls from those who should know better in another of The Register's regular Who, Me? columns.

This week's confessional comes courtesy of "Steve", and takes us back to the 1990s and a well-known UK bank.

The office, he recalled, was an open-plan space the size of four football (or "soccer", if you will) pitches. All the business units were in it – development, support, the call centre and so on. The only people not there were in marketing.

"No idea why they were different!" remarked Steve.

On the day in question, Steve was about to take a stroll from his desk when he spotted a colleague, Aaron, ambling toward him with a pizza-box server under his arm. "It was 2pm in the afternoon and all was well," Steve recalled. "He looked like he did not have a care in the world."


Britain has no idea how close it came to ATMs flooding the streets with free money thanks to some crap code, 1970s style


A swift chat later and the two went on their way. As he passed the call centre desks, the team leader called out: "Steve, do you know what's gone wrong?"

"Erm, no, what's up?"

"We're changing shift, and no one can log on!"

"Are there people already logged in OK and still working?"

"Yes," went the anxious response. "We are keeping everyone back from the early shift until it is fixed!"

At that moment, with hideous clarity, the image of Aaron with a server under his arm popped into Steve's mind along with some choicer four-letter words.

"Leave it with me!" he said brightly, before scuttling off to find Aaron and that mystery box.

"Aaron! Where did you get that server?"

World weary, Aaron sighed: "I got it from the development comms room, why?"

After a little "Oh no you didn't ... Oh yes I did" pantomime exchange, except swearier, Steve asked the pertinent question: "Is it the test DHCP server?"

Of course it was. Aaron wasn't a total idiot.

"It's the live one, Aaron! People who are coming in on shift can't log on! Show me where you got it from; if it's the test one I'll apologise! You can tell everyone what a [expletive deleted] I am."

Never one to pass up a chance to mock a minion, Aaron agreed and the two headed to the development comms room. Alas for Aaron, where the gap should have been, there was a server, with lights all aglow.

In the live room, however, there was a gap where the production DHCP server should have sat, while it instead was held moistly under Aaron's tricep as it took a ride in his armpit.

Realising that the cock-up had prevented an entire department from coming off shift, the pair raced to retrieve the removed server, a bit of HP metal running Windows NT4. Four-letter words were flying.

"Aaron! Had you done anything to that server?" asked Steve.


The pair retrieved cover and screws, and slammed the server back into its slot. An agonising few seconds letter and… "The lights flicker, they go green. The network light starts flashing. It boots up. DHCP service is starting back up. It starts."

After taking a few minutes to compose themselves, the pair returned to the office and Steve casually asked the call centre team leader: "Can you get someone to try and log on?"


Steve scarpered before any awkward questions could be asked. And Aaron?

"Aaron was my boss... His boss was not amused! [He] was very suddenly my boss as well.

"Poor Aaron."

We've all worked for an Aaron, but few have seen their boss nonchalantly strolling through the office, critical piece of infrastructure under their blissfully ignorant arm. Or have you? Confess all with an email to Who, Me? ®

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