I would drive 100 miles and I would drive 100 more just to be the man that drove 200 miles to... hit the enter key

When a server crash became a motorway dash


Who, Me? The best laid plans of mice or Register readers can founder on the rocks of iffy connectors and wobbly cables, as this week's entrant in the Who, Me? archives discovered.

Regomised as "Chris", our hero's tale takes place long before the seemingly infinite (and infinitely expensive) cloud storage of today. Even before NASes and SANs were ubiquitous corporate hardware.

Chris was one of the poor souls charged with keeping an eye on the storage available on his company's NT servers, and ensuring no department wanted for capacity. "The weekly task of taking the capacity figures and plugging them into the trusty management spreadsheet was the highlight of my week," he said.

Chris's team was also responsible for IT at the company's various satellites, one of which required a journey of over an hour on the UK's motorways followed by a trek through a city centre to get to.

Inevitably, this remote office eventually needed attention. The existing file server was crammed full of data and could take no more drives. A new box was needed so Chris would have to make the journey, plug in the kit, and start the data migration.

After the usual to-ing and fro-ing required to make things happen in the average corporation, Chris headed off with a boot (or "trunk" for US readers) full of hardware. The traffic was its usual hideous self, and Chris's mood was not helped by the insistence of security that, despite his photo ID, he had to be chaperoned into the two rented floors in the block where the offices lurked.

"Doubtless," he remarked sourly, "just in case I wanted to deposit Compaq's finest that I was lugging with me anywhere else."

All went well. The new server was installed, the scripts to migrate the data from the old machine were kicked off, and Chris opted to head back to the motorway. His physical presence was not required – his whizzy scripts meant the work could be completed remotely.

All that was required at the end of the process was a reboot of the old server, it was all easily monitored from the comfort of Chris's office.

What could possibly go wrong?

Before going further, it is only fair to point out that the process was well tested: "It had worked flawlessly every time," Chris told us.

And sure enough, come the go-live day the scripts had done their stuff. The new shares were working. Everything looked great on the new server.

The old server, less so. While every other server in the rack responded without issue, all he could get out of the old box came via a ping. Not a good look for Chris's godlike IT skills.

"I rather quickly decided a face-saving sprint in the car was the only answer," he told us and, this being before speed cameras were as common on UK roads as they are today, made excellent time. Too excellent, as he found himself yet again made to wait for a chaperone.

"The cavalry finally arrived, coffee in hand," he told us, "wondering what I was doing there." Mumbling something about hardware, Chris headed back to the server room to hunt down the culprit.

It transpired that his scripts had indeed worked. Right up until the reboot when a problem unbeknownst to all had reared its head. The server was attached to a Compaq KVM switch into which also was plugged an iffy looking keyboard. The server BIOS had been set to halt on all errors... including keyboard errors.

"So my urgent 200-mile round trip ended," sighed Chris, "with nothing more than to press the enter key and all was well."

Early at the satellite office he might have been. Late back to his desk he certainly was. We like to think his response to the inevitable "You've been where, to do what?" from his boss was suitably colourful and creative.

Ever had your cleverness undone by that one, weird hardware error? Or undertaken a Proclaimers-length journey just to press a single key? Confess all with an email to Who, Me? ®

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