'The computer was sitting in a puddle of mud, with water up to the motherboard'
We asked you to share the dirtiest places you've been asked to work. Here are some of your filthy answers
On Call: Dirt File Each Friday, The Register shares another instalment of On Call, our weekly tale of epic tech support efforts.
A few weeks back On Call featured servers stuck down a mineshaft and we asked readers to detail the dirtiest places they've been asked to work.
With the imminent Christmas break slowing the pace and quality of news, we therefore present a special "On Call: Dirt File" to share the product of our request for filthy stories.
Let's start with a reader we'll Regomize as "Bevan" who told us of the time he was asked to fix a server for a bank that was old enough to occupy an historic building.
He was shown to the server room where he found "a packed dirt floor and a server sitting in a puddle of mud." It got worse: water had risen to the point at which it was lapping on the motherboard.
Bevan managed to avoid being electrocuted, figured out that guttering had overrun and caused the mess, and that the server had survived – but a monitor, keyboard, and networking kit had not.
Next, meet "Emannuel" who once had a client that operated both a dye works and a horse racing stable.
The two were oddly complementary because the dye works was a hazardous environment in which powered vehicles weren't welcome because they created a risk of fire. When the adjacent horses slowed down, they were sent to the dye works to haul loads.
Which was clever. But also foully pungent, thanks to the horses’ waste production, and the dye itself!
"I couldn't wait to fix the kit and get out of there," Emmanuel told On Call.
- You don't get what you don't pay for, but nobody is paid enough to be abused
- Bank's datacenter died after travelling back in time to 1970
- Bank boss hated IT, loved the beach, was clueless about ports and politeness
- User read the manual, followed instructions, still couldn't make 'Excel' work
Boiler room battle
Now let's meet "Vince" who once served as assistant IT manager for a company that built steam generators for oil extraction.
He described them to On Call as "basically giant boilers."
Vince tended workstations scattered around the plant, several in areas dedicated to welding, sandblasting, and painting.
After one of the machines started sparking, he inspected them all.
"The first was coated with metal particles on the motherboard and in the power supply," Vince recalled. "Others were caked with sand and other stuff."
Plenty were filled with "caked with hardened mud" and one even housed a wasp's nest.
"I chipped out the mud and mess, replaced a couple of power supplies and they were still running two years later when I left," he told On Call.
Finally, meet "Henry" who once worked with a customer that had a datacenter located in the basement of a parking garage.
"To get to the entrance you had to walk through a HazMat area complete with people working in HazMat suits with respirators and everything," he told On Cal.
And that wasn't the worst part.
"The garage was old, and the concrete ceiling started leaking all the water and salt dripping off snow covered cars onto the computer racks."
The datacenter was eventually moved, but when Henry was on the job the solution was to place drain pans atop the racks, to pipe the salty slurry into floor drains.
"That was the all-time low for datacenters I've visited," Henry recalled.
We have another couple of dirt files to share, but could use more! Dish your dirt by clicking here to send On Call an email and we may be able to squeeze in another seasonal special or two in addition to On Call's usual Friday frolic that will appear as usual across the holidays. ®