Scripted shortcut caused double-click disaster of sysadmin's own making

Tech remembers why those safeguards were there there to start with

Who, Me? Come inside from the swimming pool, dear reader, and put away that sunscreen, for yet again it is Monday and time to return to the grind of the office and/or remote workspace. Thankfully The Register is here to cushion the blow, with another instalment of Who, Me? – the weekly column in which readers recall the times they would have been better off staying poolside.

This week meet "Ricardo" who spent some time in the 1990s working for a large management consultancy business. One of the big items on Ricardo's tech support to-do list was setting up laptops for deployment to clients. This task was repetitive and could sometimes involve configuring a lot of laptops in a single batch.

Naturally he'd configured CD-ROM containing a standard OS image, so the job basically did itself once he inserted the disc, ran a script, and clicked “OK” on a few prompts. The contents of the target machine’s drive would be overwritten by the contents of the CD within minutes.

Over time our hero realized that many if not all of those prompts were pro-forma and he was essentially wasting precious seconds clicking "OK" when the answer was never anything else. So he refined the script so that the prompts were suppressed – all of them – and all he had to do was double-click and then get a hot chocolate while waiting for the install to complete.

Efficiency, thy name is Ricardo.

One afternoon he was making a tweak or two to his brilliantly affective script on his production machine before burning a new version of the CD-ROM, when he remembered a small change he'd intended to make. Without even thinking, he double-clicked on the script …

Er, should that have been "right-clicked on the script?"

Yeah, it should have been. But it wasn't.

Rather than right-clicking on the script and selecting "Edit" to make his small change, Ricardo had instead executed the script. On his production machine. The machine that stored all of his carefully constructed scripting – not to mention absolutely everything else he needed to do his job.

And of course there was no "Are you sure Y/N?" to save Ricardo's skin, was there? With a fraction of a second, the script merrily started eating away the hard drive … and Ricardo's livelihood.

In desperation, our hero even pulled the plug out of the wall to stop the script from completing its mission, but too late. The master boot record was gone, and with it Ricardo's dignity.

Of course it was just one machine, and not a server or anything – Ricardo's only victim was himself. And of course there were backups for everything but the most recent work, so it wasn't too big a disaster.

But when Ricardo rebuilt the script, he left in at least one prompt to accept before wiping the disk. Lesson learned.

Ever learned an important lesson the very, very, hard way? Tell us about it in an email to Who, Me? and we'll share your learnings with your colleagues. ®

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