Turning a computer off, then on again, never goes wrong. Right?
Health service techie learns what happens when you brute-force a bureaucracy
Who, Me? Ah, dear reader, it's so delightful to have your company once again for Who, Me? in which fine upstanding Regizens like yourself regale us with tales of tech gone not so much right as … the other thing.
This week meet a reader we'll Regomize as "Arnie" who encountered a problem that required finesse and a delicate approach, but decided to brute-force it and hope.
Arnie worked for Britain's National Health Service (NHS) – a noble and fine institution that deserves much respect, yet has featured in this column rather more than you'd like a health service to feature in recent times. As Arnie and the NHS point out, it is "a complex system ... made up of a wide range of different organisations with different roles, responsibilities and specialities", some of which often operate quite independently of each other.
In the county where Arnie worked, communication between those different orgs was sometimes not perfect.
On one occasion, Arnie was sent to an NHS facility to check on a printer problem. The bit of the NHS Arnie worked for had provided both the printer and an HP box for the facility to use.
When he arrived, though, he did not find the HP box that had been provided. It had, at some point, been replaced by a Lenovo box – presumably by some other bit of the NHS. What's more, the Lenovo box was not running vanilla Windows, as the supplied HP box had been, but Windows Server. And an unfamiliar configuration at that.
Now, you may say at this point that Arnie should have put a call in to someone. Should have told his superiors that this was not his system, and whoever had configured it should come and fix it. You clearly do not know Arnie.
Arnie had been around a while, and knew that some NHS facilities had some quirky requirements, so these changes should simply be taken in stride. Sure, Windows Server isn't Windows, but it's still Windows, right? How different can it be?
So he set about troubleshooting, but was getting nowhere with his familiar bag of tricks. The printer simply would not respond.
When in doubt, of course, what do we do? We switch it off and then on again. Boom. Old faithful, never fails.
- Hacking a Foosball table scored an own goal for naughty engineers
- Security? Working servers? Who needs those when you can have a shiny floor?
- Data cleanser did its job, but – oopsie! – also doubled customers' bills
- A toast to being in the right place at the right time
Except, remember how this thing was running Windows Server? And you know how servers are quite often … what's the word … serving things?
Well it turned out this server had been serving facilities distributed around half the county. And what's more, whoever had configured it had not configured the database and core applications to restart when the machine was rebooted.
Chaos, as you might imagine, ensued. At the inevitable "what went wrong and who can we blame" meeting that followed, it transpired that the server had been configured by the son of a senior manager at the facility, which goes some way to explaining the not-quite-NHS way it was being managed. ("Yay for nepotism!" says Arnie.)
As for the original printer problem? It was never fixed.
The missing HP box? It was never found.
And Arnie? He will not be back.
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