The choice: Pay BT megabucks, or do something a bit illegal. OK, that’s no choice

We’ve dipped into the mailbag for more tales of rogue cabling and keyboard confusion

On Call Some say that working for The Register is one never-ending holiday, but On Call – our weekly reader-contributed tale of techies being asked to endure atrocious emergencies, has taken a break. This week we therefore present some shorter tales from the On Call mailbag that were sent in response to an On Call from June 2nd, regarding ethernet cable strung through trees to avoid blowing the budget on a WAN, and an On Call from June 30th concerning the perils of international keyboard layouts .

On the topic of cabling, one contribution came from a reader we’ll call “Mark” who told us he once handled IT for a supplier of safety products.

“We were tasked with connecting their new warehouse just across the road into the main network and didn't fancy paying the earth to BT.”

Nobody likes paying BT, the UK’s former monopoly telco that has become a byword for big bills and cretinous customer service.

Mark therefore tried Wi-Fi, but it couldn’t go the distance. An absence of trees or other foliage meant a hanging cable was not feasible.

But then Mark noticed a BT engineer working on an underground conduit that followed just the right route!

Mark and his colleagues watched until the BT bloke took his lunch break, whereupon they dived into the conduit and inserted the most anonymously gray cable they could find.

“Bingo! Gigabit ethernet to the new warehouse!” Mark told On Call.

Another reader, who we’ll call “Brad”, told us about the time he was given just the weekend to migrate data from one datacenter to another in a adjacent building.

“We thought and thought but couldn't really come up with a good way to do this, until one of our engineers suggested we run fibre between the two buildings – through the parking garage that linked the two?”

Brad went through the front door with a formal request to facilities but was rebuffed.

“We decided to do it anyway – surreptitiously,” he told On Call. Under cover of darkness he was part of a team that ran fibre through the garage, suspending it to the roof for “several hundred yards.”

Performance was brilliant, and the boss thought Mark and his mate were too: they took credit for a job well done without ever explaining how they pulled it off!

On the matter of international keyboards causing chaos, a reader we’ll call “Lars” and who owns PCs with both QWERTZ and QWERTY layouts, told us why this sort of mess happens.

“Microsoft appears to store keyboard layouts with the profile of the USER rather than the profile (identity, whatever) of the computer,” he told On Call.

“As a result, I may have to adjust my keyboard layout before logging in on a computer. From US to DE on this ‘German’ machine, from DE to US on others. The keyboard settings may change against my wish during use again, so using my latest Windows computers requires me to pay close attention to the keyboard settings.”

We’re guessing the need for that sort of tedium explains the trouble experienced by a reader we’ll call “Paul” whose employer acquired a piece of equipment from Germany, a nation that prefers the QWERTZ keyboard layout to QWERTY.

When the equipment was configured an admin password that included a “Z” was chosen, but as the machine connected to a QWERTY keyboard, logins failed time and again.

“I wish I could remember how we actually diagnosed the mapping issue, but that's lost somewhere in the brain cell,” he wrote.

Speaking of unresponsive brain cells, that’s why On Call is taking a break.

The column resumes normal service on August 4th. Make its return from holiday worth celebrating by clicking here to send On Call a story of your tech misadventures! We favor stories of techies being asked to achieve miracles, being under-appreciated for pulling them off, and walking away triumphant! The cleaner the better, and no story is too silly! ®

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