Accidentally wiped an app's directory? Hey, just play the 'unscheduled maintenance' card. Now you're a hero

It soothed this raging roomful of wannabe lawyers anyway


Who, Me? The oversized rear of Monday is obstructing our view of the receding weekend. Never mind, pour yourself a beverage, select a pastry and settle in for a morning with the Regomiser and another edition of Who, Me?

We skip back a few decades this week, to 1990 and the misadventures of "Terry", a student of computer science at a US state university.

To make ends meet, Terry had a side gig as IT support for the College of Law. "We were running a network copy of WordPerfect 5.0 on a Banyan VINES server running either Windows 3.0 or QEMM as appropriate for the application manager," he recalled.

Two names to conjure with. These days it is hard to remember the dominance of WordPerfect (now owned by Corel). While version 5.1 was arguably the pinnacle of the DOS incarnation of the product, 5.0 turned up in 1988 with all manner of enhancements, including improved graphics handling. Using it required commitment – no helpful menus for the faint-hearted here – but it did the job when it came to churning out documents.

Banyan VINES, on the other hand, was a network operating system. And it was with the network that our hero was to come severely unstuck.

"One of the legal assistants contacted me with a specific issue related to their WordPerfect instance and I was happy to help," Terry explained.

"Unfortunately, the problem resisted fixing over the phone so I went down the hall to check things out.

"In the course of troubleshooting I found that the user had run out of drive space so proceeded to delete the contents of the temp directory."

A common enough occurrence and a common enough solution. However, as the deletion proceeded Terry noted the background noise in the office had… changed. Become more… agitated.

He thought nothing of it. He had work to do and focused on the task in hand. Sadly, that focus had not included considering the prompt on the screen. Rather than the user's temporary directory, he'd dropped into F:\WordPerfect\ and blithely wiped its contents.

The noise level was increasing.

Belatedly gathering his wits about him, Terry realised that all eyes were turned his way. Not because anyone knew about the silly thing he'd just done, but because he was IT and so would obviously save the day.

"The staff were very happy that I was in the office when the problems went down," he said, "and a furrowed brow gave me a moment to run back to the server and trigger a restore of the directory from tape."

His supervisor raised an eyebrow as Terry burst into the server room. "I'll explain later!" our hero cried as he rushed back out. "Some unplanned network maintenance had temporarily restricted access to the application," he said by way of bullshit explanation to the front office.

"Unplanned network maintenance" possibly involving the word del and likely an asterisk or two.

Terry eventually confessed his misdeed to his boss, who gave him kudos for deflecting the issue. However, "he did not advance my name for a data migration project needing summer staff. So the good and bad are routinely mates."

Judging by our mailbox, accidental deletions are more common than management realises. Less frequent are the mental gymnastics required to turn an act of inadvertent villainy into a shining example of IT heroics. Tell us all about yours, with an email to Who, Me? ®

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