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View Full Version : OT, sickening goof up..



The Artful Bodger
12-09-2010, 01:55 AM
Years ago.... clients on the other side of the word complained that they had moved the equipment we supplied from one room to another and now it would not work. Obvious thing was to check the recabling etc, I told them (via email) that the gray cable had to go on the first socket in the machine and because englis was not their first language I put 'number 1' in brackets.

Days went by and I found myself on a plane, a few planes actually and more than two days continuous travelling to reach their site. I went straight to their office and they showed me what they had done including the gray cable plugged into socket labelled '1', the only problem was the first socket was labelled '0'.:o

46 hours of travel to do a job that took 30 seconds then the same to get home again, but I did get to see a lot of movies that week.:p

wtrueman
12-09-2010, 02:05 AM
Not as good as the artful: Called into work at the chalet where I was head of maintenance. Four hours for clicking a switch. Wayne.

morehelium
12-09-2010, 02:09 AM
Hmmm. So who paid for the trip?

oldtiffie
12-09-2010, 02:13 AM
Why not do a sketch with hand-written instructions and scan it to jpg plus pics in jpg format and attach the jpg files to the email?

I used my fax extensively for that sort of stuff as most people had a fax and maybe a basic computer or computer skills. The fax in "hi-res" resolution was not a bad printer or copier either at times. Further, the client could hand-write and or sketch and then fax his stuff to me. One of us might follow-up with a phone call as well.

Evan
12-09-2010, 02:16 AM
I spent the majority of my working life troubleshooting problems over the telephone. My work territory here covered an area of 45,000 square miles so it was essential to solve as many problems as possible by phone or at least get the client back in operation until I was able to make a service call. It is especially difficult when trying to explain complex technological equipment to people than haven't a clue what a volt is.

Of necessity I became fairly good at it and that was one of the primary reasons I was able to handle the workload for as long as I did. I eventually quit when the company informed my they were upping the workload to the equivalent of two full techs, a double workload. I said, "I don't think so" and resigned. They thought I was just joking when I sent my resignation in giving them 5 weeks notice. That turned into a panicked scramble to find a replacement when I showed up at the regional office in Vancouver to take care of the details 3 weeks later as I had said I would.

The pay was good but the job was very high stress. I protected about 1.5 million yearly revenue for the company. By the time I quit the company was nearly bankrupt because of the relentless drive to squeeze even more blood from a stone. By a minor miracle of fortunate timing they managed to survive. At one point Xerox was no more than 30 days from folding. As it happened I quit just a few months before the economy busted and had managed to get out with my pension intact and all in cash for the time being.

grannygear
12-09-2010, 02:55 AM
[QUOTE= because englis was not their first language I put 'number 1' in brackets.
[/QUOTE]

Let me take a wild guess: China, perhaps?

Black Forest
12-09-2010, 03:08 AM
I bought my first computer in 1976. It was a DEC PDP 8 mini computer. It came in a desk. Maybe two months after taking delivery I went into the office in the morning and tried to boot the computer. Nothing. Fiddled with it for a little while and called for service. Later that day the technician came out to our farm. He walks into the office looks at the computer and grabs the desk/computer slides it over a little and get this.....plugs the computer in!!!!!!

Then asks if we had cleaning people come in to clean......Yes I answer.....He remarks that this happens a lot to first time owners.....He comments that damn cleaning people always unplug stuff and never plug it back in...

Thank you very much, that will be $58.60! I will always remember the amount of the bill for plugging in my computer! I was a little intimidated by this magic desk. I paid at that time $30,000 for a mini computer and diablo daisy wheel printer. This thing had two 8 inch floppies of 250kb size. I was king!

mike os
12-09-2010, 03:31 AM
PDP8? proper computer LOL, my first computer job was sysop on a pdp11 (mind you in 76 i was still in school):D

The Artful Bodger
12-09-2010, 04:22 AM
Let me take a wild guess: China, perhaps?

Close, Afghanistan.

The Artful Bodger
12-09-2010, 04:25 AM
Hmmm. So who paid for the trip?

Those who were sponsoring the project paid for it.

Circlip
12-09-2010, 04:51 AM
Used to work for a company that installed, serviced and repaired expensive Danish Hi-Fi and Tv's. With the increasing use of remote functions on the equipment it became a nightmare trying to instruct a customer (Invariably the female half of the partnership due to the time of the day for installation) in the amount of time available, how to drive it.

One of the punch lines I always imparted before leaving was " Read the manual cos we'll be ringing in a couple of days and asking questions on it" After a suitable silence period, the ice was broken by a chuckle. This was then followed by the MOST important instruction, "IF you get tied up with all the command settings and it goes mammaries up, switch off and unplug the mains, count to ten, replug and start again, the equipment will have reset to manufacturers original settings. This would be the first thing I would do if called out on a service call and that would cost you 70"

Surprising how many could achieve remote programming via a quick telephone call.

Regards Ian.

garagemark
12-09-2010, 07:37 AM
Don't ya just hate it when things like that happen? Our aluminum smelter starts all of the melt pots at '0'. There are 84 pots in each room, but it sounds like an odd number. Since everything electrically and instrumentation wise is balanced, some guys get confused as to where to go to do their particular work. Real PIA once in a while if it's a new guy or a tired hand, though I am on site and don't have to travel far to clear up the confusion. But still...

Evan
12-09-2010, 08:49 AM
It's a consequence of using computers and lazy programmers. In the world of computers zero is a valid number. When counting and assigning quantities in a computer it is normal practice to use "arrays" of numbers. These arrays start at zero by default. In fact, in computer programming wonderland it became necessary to differentiate between the value of zero and the value nothing. So a new designation was invented to describe a value holder that contains no value. It is NAN which stands for "Not A Number".

Arthur.Marks
12-09-2010, 10:30 AM
46 hours of travel to do a job that took 30 seconds then the same to get home again, but I did get to see a lot of movies that week.:p

How much does a small digital camera cost these days?? ;) More than the alphabet can make it 'round the world on the internet! :p

bruto
12-09-2010, 11:22 AM
How much does a small digital camera cost these days?? ;) More than the alphabet can make it 'round the world on the internet! :pThat wouldn't help much if the picture was of the plug going into # 1 instead of #0, though.

ckelloug
12-09-2010, 11:59 AM
Hi Evan,

Your explanation above is a mischaracterization. The definition of NaN comes from the standardization of floating point number formats and calculation errors in IEEE 754. NaN is returned when certain calculations overflow such as division by by zero. It was never associated with array indexing and not developed to differentiate between zero and no-data.

Normally a sentinel value is designated in the context of the problem for describing a no-data condition. NaN, NIL , and NULL are all used occasionally as sentinels for non-existent data but of the three, it's an "off-label" use for NaN because it can conflict with the detection and handling of floating point error conditions.

Additionally, arrays that are indexed from zero are only common in languages derived from C. Fortran and its ilk use 1 based array indexes.

Both zero and one based indexes simplify certain problems and the language runtimes deal with the consequences of the choice made by the programming language's designers. It's usually wise not to show zero based indexes to end users even if the program uses them internally since zero based indexes tend to confuse users.

While you've got the history and derivation wrong for NaN, I do agree with you that you can count on programmers to be lazy. . .

lynnl
12-09-2010, 12:01 PM
....
... in computer programming wonderland it became necessary to differentiate between the value of zero and the value nothing. So a new designation was invented to describe a value holder that contains no value. It is NAN which stands for "Not A Number".

Never heard that one before. I've only heard of "null".

Or in the COBOL world, one can use either "low value" or "high value", depending on how you want things to sort out.

tlfamm
12-09-2010, 12:36 PM
It's a consequence of using computers and lazy programmers. In the world of computers zero is a valid number. When counting and assigning quantities in a computer it is normal practice to use "arrays" of numbers. These arrays start at zero by default. In fact, in computer programming wonderland it became necessary to differentiate between the value of zero and the value nothing. So a new designation was invented to describe a value holder that contains no value. It is NAN which stands for "Not A Number".


Termed, as you know, "zero-based counting" - and a frequent source of programming errors as the mind slips in and out of zero-based versus one-based counting.

A colleague once opined, "All good programmers are off by one" - a wry comment on the phenomenon.

Tinkerer
12-09-2010, 01:00 PM
That wouldn't help much if the picture was of the plug going into # 1 instead of #0, though.
Maybe maybe not and over all view sent may of shown 0 was the first socket and the corrective action could of been relaid. Also a few pictures of all the connections PRIOR to unhooking could of been used as comparators when re hooking all. ;)

Evan
12-09-2010, 01:16 PM
Your explanation above is a mischaracterization. The definition of NaN comes from the standardization of floating point number formats and calculation errors in IEEE 754. NaN is returned when certain calculations overflow such as division by by zero. It was never associated with array indexing and not developed to differentiate between zero and no-data.

I didn't say it had anything to do with array indexing. However, it most certainly does have to do with distinguishing between zero, null and an undefined numeric value. NaN stands for the latter and is not associated with calculation errors. Note that Nan does not represent infinity, either positive or negative but is truly undefined. It also does not represent overflow or underflow since those may be assigned values of infinity or zero or may raise exceptions that are not related to Nan. NaN cannot be compared even to itself since it is a non value for a numeric value data type. It is use to indicate an undefined value.



Normally a sentinel value is designated in the context of the problem for describing a no-data condition. NaN, NIL , and NULL are all used occasionally as sentinels for non-existent data but of the three, it's an "off-label" use for NaN because it can conflict with the detection and handling of floating point error conditions.


NaN as a sentinel value differs from the NaN as an undefined value in how the value is represented in binary. The two have only the name in common. The default when assigning NaN is to set the fraction bit non zero which designates NaN as an undefined value, not a signaling value.



Additionally, arrays that are indexed from zero are only common in languages derived from C. Fortran and its ilk use 1 based array indexes.


C wasn't introduced until 1972. BASIC used zero based array indexes when it was first introduced in 1964 and LISP used them in around 1958. Perl, Ruby and Java also use zero based array indexing. In fact, the majority of computer languages use zero based indexing, not just for arrays but for indexing in general such as character positions in string handling.




Both zero and one based indexes simplify certain problems and the language runtimes deal with the consequences of the choice made by the programming language's designers. It's usually wise not to show zero based indexes to end users even if the program uses them internally since zero based indexes tend to confuse users.


Agreed.

baldysm
12-09-2010, 01:36 PM
I few years ago before I became self employed again, I was a computer network tech doing installs and service of wide area networks (basically any computer network that extends beyond a building).

One of our clients had manufacturing facilities around the world.

It's a real treat trying to talk someone through unpacking and connecting a router and equipment connecting a T1 connection into their network. The router is pre-configured, but it's very common, especially in international connections to find something configured wrong or differently than expected.

If it's more than plug and play (or pray), you are attempting to talk someone through getting into the router to enter commands, enter those commands, and give you results of those commands (all of which are heavy in geek speak), all while only speaking pigeon English.

Throw in an environment where the the telco just doesn't care if your working or not and/or $1000 will bribe a telco tech to pull someone else's link for your use.

Ahh, the good old days. :)

tlfamm
12-09-2010, 01:53 PM
"Additionally, arrays that are indexed from zero are only common in languages derived from C. Fortran and its ilk use 1 based array indexes."

The universe is larger than that: every assembly language I am familiar with, as well as other non-C-based system-programming languages (Bliss, BCPL, etc) also expose zero-based indexing to the programmer.

The Artful Bodger
12-09-2010, 04:29 PM
Zero based counting is obvious in computing where data is represented in bytes of a number of bits. It would be really strange for someone to devise a computing device where the first bit could not be inverted.

madwilliamflint
12-09-2010, 05:17 PM
"Additionally, arrays that are indexed from zero are only common in languages derived from C. Fortran and its ilk use 1 based array indexes."

The universe is larger than that: every assembly language I am familiar with, as well as other non-C-based system-programming languages (Bliss, BCPL, etc) also expose zero-based indexing to the programmer.

Right, because they're used to calculate memory locations from base pointers plus offsets. It IS the right way to do it, users' idiomatic conveniences be damned.

rohart
12-09-2010, 05:25 PM
Zero based counting works well in C and related languages becase C is address based. So the address of an array is the same as the address of the first element of the array. Since to get the address of an element you add the index of the item within the array (possibly times the size of the item) to the address of the array, the index of the first item has to be zero.

This reminds me of the unusual, but useful, way of holding short character strings in Pascal (a language partly dervived from PL/1, itself an amalgam of Fortran and Cobol). The first character of the string represents the number of characters in the following string. This requires index 1 addressing of course, but avoids having to use that nasty NULL.

See, if the character string doesn't tell you at the beginning how long it is, you've got to use a special character to signal the end of the string. C uses NULL, the zero value (not to be confused with the thing that represents the digit we call '0'). Which means you can't use a NULL in the middle of a C string. Now that's a nuisance.

Look, life's complicated, OK. There are all these hidden complexities in every field of technology if you dig a little deeper. And without technology, we'd all be out there digging for our supper.

Rich Carlstedt
12-09-2010, 07:01 PM
Like Evan, I also spent my final years on the road as a trouble shooter.
We had a new customer about 150 miles from my home and I went in and spent the whole day showing them how to overhaul our machine.
After 12 grueling hours, I finshed at 7:30 Pm and then wanted to grease the very large Timken Bearing (worth $2K !). but the Super said " No, its a Union shop and we do all greasing on the floor ( Maint "Oilers")
We argued profusely, but he would not let me grease the bearing . We had a very tricky gasket/seal that could be put in backwards and prevent lube, and destroy a $30 K overhaul. So I drove home, really beat , and ate the first food of the day, and crashed at midnight.
At 3 AM the Super woke me up and was screaming about the bearing could not be greased and called me a AH among other things ..I could hardly awaken but it was a new and important customer so I drove like a maniac and got to the plant a little after 5 AM .
All I could think of was that I put the gasket in wrong, a stupid mistake.
The Super had been up all night (!) and led me out onto the floor of the plant that ran 24/7 and had about 150 employees per shift. The Oiler put the grease gun on the fitting and ...zip, nothing when it shopuld have taken 5 pounds of grease. I asked to change the zerk, and he screamed "do you think we are that stupid!, we put three in allready!"
So I grabbed a new zerk and tried the gun and got half a squirt and then nothing.
Do you have a new cartridge ? I asked....."NOooo" he said
Can I see the 55 gallon grease drum ? I asked
so we went, and I noticed the grease was stored next to pallets of pellets the size of split peas. I reached into the grease and grabbed a handful and felt particles in the grease. I then shook hands with the Super, and he realized the pellets had contaminated the grease, but could not be seen.
I said...Do not grease my machine with this ! I will get you cartridges ?
Then I looked around, at the 300 machines..all running...and said.
You have much more to worry about than my machine ! and he did
Every machine had plugged grease systems
I slept well that night, and we got paid double for my efforts.

It seems a week earlier, someone accindently dumped a pallet into the open barrel, and just picked up what they saw and never said anything.
What an experience
Rich

The Artful Bodger
12-09-2010, 07:24 PM
I was just settling into my seat in Frankfurt after finishing a "find and fix" job in Eastern Europe. I could hear a young man with a German accent trying to impress a couple of young strumpets.... "Oh yes, I am going all the way to New Zealand, there is a problem with their new cheese packing machine and I have to go and fix it..." Scheeze! He was going one way and I was going the other.

At least nowadays with software systems we can do almost everything without leaving the comforts of home but those sure were fun years!:D

justanengineer
12-09-2010, 07:45 PM
I think many of us share the pain of ridiculous situations at work making us travel unnecessarily. I used to get those calls regularly when I was a vehicle mechanic in the military. My favorite one was due to the modern military using automatic transmissions in everything...Geniuses didnt realize they needed to be in neutral to start the engine.

The Artful Bodger
12-09-2010, 09:05 PM
Not only geniuses have trouble with automatics, I shoved mine into reverse thinking I was changing a manual down to go down a steep slope!:eek:

macona
12-09-2010, 09:09 PM
Not only geniuses have trouble with automatics, I shoved mine into reverse thinking I was changing a manual down to go down a steep slope!:eek:

Why are you complaining? Slowed you down, didnt it???

The Artful Bodger
12-09-2010, 09:14 PM
Why are you complaining? Slowed you down, didnt it???

Well no, not really. When all the lights on the dash came on and the power steering lost its grunt I thought I had lost the serpentine belt. It did not retard the vehicle noticeably at all.

jkilroy
12-09-2010, 09:18 PM
I started life as a PC tech back when we still had guys fixing typewriters. I remember drive half way across the state to a hospital. Taking 15 minutes to find a parking spot, and walking around the maze of buildings for 45 minutes till I found the right spot. Once I got there the very polite woman told me the monitor was out. I sat at the computer and sure enough, there was nothing on the screen. I looked around back, found a knob, turned it and the brightness came up and everything was great. (Way before screen savers, or Windows of any version, for that matter)

I asked her to stamp my parking ticket, handed her a bill for $85, and let myself out.

steve45
12-10-2010, 12:09 AM
... the gray cable plugged into socket labelled '1', the only problem was the first socket was labelled '0'.
An engineering defect. If plugs shouldn't be swapped, they should be different so they can't be swapped.

The Artful Bodger
12-10-2010, 12:54 AM
An engineering defect. If plugs shouldn't be swapped, they should be different so they can't be swapped.

One thing we dont need is more types of data plugs and sockets.

ckelloug
12-10-2010, 02:16 AM
You haven't seen plugs until you've seen a cannon plug with 64 fiber optic sub connectors in it. We had to interface to another vendor's system and it took us over 6 months to get the plug. Apparently there was only one factory at the time that made them and it was on "sabbatical" at the time we needed it.

steve45
12-10-2010, 07:37 PM
One thing we dont need is more types of data plugs and sockets.
Do you want to solve the problem or not?

Evan
12-10-2010, 08:02 PM
An engineering defect. If plugs shouldn't be swapped, they should be different so they can't be swapped.


Xerox systems commonly use a different connector for every connection that lies on the same board. Some boards may have 20 connectors on them and every one is unique.

The Artful Bodger
12-10-2010, 08:12 PM
Do you want to solve the problem or not?

Rather difficult to change the English language so that "first" always means number "1".

The Artful Bodger
12-10-2010, 08:15 PM
Xerox systems commonly use a different connector for every connection that lies on the same board. Some boards may have 20 connectors on them and every one is unique.


You are no doubt aware of a once great mini computer company called DEC and you thought the name meant "Digital Equipment Corporation", not so, the real name for that company was "Damned Expensive Cables" and we would be right back there if common and standardised plugs and sockets fell into disuse.

Evan
12-10-2010, 09:38 PM
Ahh, but the nice thing about standards is that there are so many to choose from....:rolleyes:

BTW, "first" is the ordinal of the number "1".

Additional note: Xerox service manuals used a type of declarative language to ensure that they would translate well into other languages. Instead of asking "Is the connector plugged in to the first position?" the troubleshooting procedure would always be stated as a declaration like this: "The connector is plugged in to the connector marked zero." (yes/No)

mickeyf
12-10-2010, 09:52 PM
An engineering defect. If plugs shouldn't be swapped, they should be different so they can't be swapped.

One thing we dont need is more types of data plugs and sockets.


The company I work for makes a (non-automotive) product that uses the CAN-Bus (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canbus), which was originally designed for use in Automobiles and which carries power on some of the lines. In the early days of the company, someone thought it a Good Idea to use RJ-45 connectors for the CAN-Bus devices. Years later, we're committed, and couldn't change the connector type if we wanted to. Now, of course, some of our equipment also connects to LANs (using RJ-45's) and phone systems (using, in some cases, RJ-45's).

Amazingly, I've yet to hear of a disaster caused by cross connecting equipment types, but perhaps when that happens they just sort of quietly fix it...

KIMFAB
12-10-2010, 10:52 PM
"Go in that closet and fool around with the wires in there. It seems to work for the other guys."

I got this sterling bit of advice from the secretary at one of the companies I visited on a troubleshooting call.
It seemed to work and I used it many times.
Probably won't work over the phone tho.

jkopel
12-10-2010, 11:20 PM
I don't know who originated this idea, but I learned it while working as the computer help desk guy for a large engineering firm.

They would call and say "the printer does not work" and of course 80% of the time that meant it was not plugged in to the computer. But, you don't tell an engineer that he forgot to plug in the printer, so I was told to say "unplug it and blow on the connector, that will clear the dust off the pins".

Worked every time!

Josh

mwechtal
12-10-2010, 11:54 PM
An IT professor told me about a problem they were having with an early IBM mainframe. This was back in the olden days when men were men, and computers were fed Hollerith cards. In some installations, you practically had to worship the darn thing to get your job run.

Several professors, and IBM representatives spent most of the day trying to get the computer up. It had failed in a strange way, that no one in the group had ever seen. It just stopped as if an interrupt occurred, but they could not locate a fault or interrupt.

The cleaner would periodically ask to come in and dump the chip bin, because that was the day he always did it. They of course shooed him off because they had real problems and were too important to think about chip bins. Finally most of the really important people with advanced degrees took a break, and he dumped the chip bin which caused the computer to start up where it left off. It seems that the light that signaled a full chip bin was burnt out, and nobody ever checked on that.

Back then, mainframes ran one job at a time, and if it was trying to use the card punch but got a fault everything would come to a grinding halt until the problem was fixed.

All the professors and IBM reps. were then able to sheepishly go back to acting important.

Evan
12-11-2010, 01:24 AM
I still have my first job card for the Control Data 6400 at UC Berkeley.

http://ixian.ca/pics8/pcard.jpg

Black_Moons
12-11-2010, 02:14 AM
It's a consequence of using computers and lazy programmers. In the world of computers zero is a valid number. When counting and assigning quantities in a computer it is normal practice to use "arrays" of numbers. These arrays start at zero by default. In fact, in computer programming wonderland it became necessary to differentiate between the value of zero and the value nothing. So a new designation was invented to describe a value holder that contains no value. It is NAN which stands for "Not A Number".

For extra fun, I once had a bug in Floating point because I only checked for NAN, and not -NAN, that was apparently negative not a number ;)

The Artful Bodger
12-11-2010, 02:58 AM
One of the projects I worked on had seven, small, Control Data computers. Six were networked and the other was for software development etc.

One of the pranks played on newcomers to the development site was to send a blank page to their screen which looked like a fault until the victim twigged to it. One guy however was very slow to learn and they played him mercilessly going so far as to send the blank pages whenever he switched off or on his cubicle desk lamp. The whole thing got a bit out of hand when they had the CDC engineers on site examining the light and scratching their heads while the pranksters watched from behind the cubicle glass.

As far as I know the pranksters got cold feet and their victims never learned the truth.

WCPenney
12-11-2010, 11:41 AM
Years ago I worked as the service manager and lead tech for a small VAR. We built custom PC's and did repair work.

One of the owners friends decided to have us build a top of the line machine. He wanted the best of everything available at the time. After we built, and extensively tested everything, he came into the shop and picked up his shiny new toy. An hour later, he called to say that his mouse wasn't working. We told him to swing by and we would give him a new one. To make a long story shorter, after several mice and a half dozen trips back into the shop, he was getting pretty frustrated and my boss was putting quite a bit of pressure on me. The mouse always worked fine in the shop, just not at his home. As a last ditch effort, I called him at home and had him verify every plug and connector. Halogen desk lamps were all the rage at the time, and I suddenly had a "bulb" go off over my head. I asked him to turn off the lights in the room.

Sure enough, the mouse worked fine. The IR from the halogen lamp was getting in through the spaces around the buttons and washing out the two IR encoder wheels. A small piece of a balloon and a few drops of glue later, I was counting out a nice little cash bonus. :D

P.S. New poster, longtime lurker. Hi everyone.

-Wade