The Register


The Bastard blasts the confidence of the most well meaning souls...

It's a slow day network-wise, and for some reason I'm feeling a little like Clint Eastwood ...

"I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, is he monitoring the fourth floor or the fifth? Well, to tell you the truth, in all the excitement, I haven't looked at the screen myself. But, taking into account I have a defined key to invoke a kernel debugger on the server which can erase even the MEMORY of your database process - and the work you've done this morning - I'd like you to ask yourself one question: do I feel lucky? ... Well, do ya? ... Punk! ?" I demand.

I hear the clatter of the receiver on the wall, and in my mind's eye I can almost see the frightened accounts clerk scurrying back to the office to close the connection to the database in an orderly fashion before failover time.

My mind's eye being not what it once was, I flip through my CCTV monitors of the fourth floor until I see a geeky guy, laden with lunch, beating a hasty path to his office.

I click on the security window and deactivate the 'Door Open' knobs on the stairwell.

I almost wish I'd turned the CCTV sound on so I could hear the thud when the door didn't open, but you can't have everything.

Rule 75 of Network Ops: never log a fault on a device from the lunchroom. Especially if your office is up a flight of stairs and on the other side of the building.

I get on with my work, which today is 'fixing' the swipecard door-access machine. Apparently there's some logic glitch that no-one knew about until a particularly annoying sales consultant got accidentally locked in the secure area over the holiday weekend. The poor guy was a drooling wreck when they found him - apparently the sirens and sprinklers were playing up in there too, every 10 minutes.

It all goes to show that you can't be too careful when you don't hold the lift open for someone laden with networking magazines ...

I upload the original swipecard microcode over my specialised patched version, and give the system a clean bill of health. It was obviously a freak hardware problem, and nothing to do with the network whatsoever ...

While I'm in the computer room, a hard drive arrives in preparation for a disk replacement, which means the engineer can't be far away.

Quick as a flash I have the box open, wind a couple of paper clips round the power terminals at the back of the drive and return it to its packaging.

Scant seconds later a pin-striped service engineer arrives.

"Hi, I've come to replace the faulty drive," he buzzes.

I lead him over to the machine with the Fault Status on it and he goes to work.

"Will you be wanting me to have the system shut down?" I ask.

"Oh no, didn't you know, this machine is mirrored and hot-swapable. I just pull the cover off like this."


"Loosen these two retaining screws, grab the new disk and ... ... Hey, did you open this bag?"

"No, it must have been sent like that."

"Oh. It was probably the office when they pre-formatted it."

He has now added 'lying to the client' to his list of sins. Tragic.

He continues: "I get the new drive in one hand, slide out the old drive like so ... place it on the ground like so ..."


"And slide in the new one like so ... and ..."


The smell of ozone tells me that both the paper clips and the power supply are no more. Time to play dirty.

"What the hell happened?!" I demand.

"Er, it appears that the replacement drive was slightly faulty, and the extra load may have overworked your power supply."

"You blew up our machine!"

"No, no, it's only a power supply problem. All I need to do is slide the disk out like so, switch the power off and flick this switch to change over the power supplies. Now I switch her on, and ..."

Nothing happens.

"Nothing's happened!"

He hits me with the old engineer special: "That's interesting!"

"Yeah, that's what yesterday's engineer said when he blew the other power supply."

A network loading alarm shakes me awake in front of my terminal and I realise that it had all been a pleasant dream. Ah well, I guess a network engineer's got to know his limitations.

The phone rings, I pick it up.

"I know what you're thinking ..."