BOFH: Dealing with engineers

Sometimes it takes a bit more effort

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Application security programs and practises

Episode 21

It seems the cunning machinations from last week have come to no avail - someone at the coloured pencil office still wants the PFY to give them a hand installing some macintoshes.

"I hate going to see the designers," the PFY whines. "They're a bunch of overfed smelly beatniks who think that buying expensive desktops makes them important."

"Spare a thought for me," I mumble, nodding over my shoulder at the upset engineer behind me. "I've got to deal with him for an hour or so."

. . .

"I mean who the hell sharpens the blades on a bloody cooling fan!" the engineer gasps angrily as he wraps another couple of turns of gauze around his fingers in response to the seeping of blood through the existing wrapping.

"That would be me," the PFY says. "I was reading an analysis of propeller design with a view to increasing the efficiency of fans and it appears that sharpening the leading edge can lead to efficiencies of up to 0.7 per cent in power consumption.”

"You did this just to save 0.7 per cent of a 200mW fan?!"

"That's a 500mW fan - because of the metal blades," the PFY counters. "But anyway, I did it because it was funny. The 0.7 per cent saving just justified me doing it during work time."

"It's bloody irresponsible!" he whines, directing the focus of his annoyance at me.

"No it's not - the fan's got a guard!" the PFY says.

"Not on the inside of the case it doesn't!"

"Yes but it does say on the outside of the case that you should ensure power is disconnected before opening it - we always do."

"I was diagnosing a power supply fault!" he snaps.

...and so it goes...

The trouble with getting rid of an engineer who's become a royal pain in the arse is that it takes so much time to wear them down. Whereas your ordinary engineer will start crying if a power supply fails twice in a row, your RPITA variety of engineer is quite happy to come on site time after time to replace the same part over and over again, without ever wondering why or trying to diagnose the real cause. By the time the roulette wheel of engineer assignment spins in your favour and you get someone who knows what they're doing that dodgy capacitor on the motherboard has been responsible for more outages than a union official. Stronger measures need to be taken...

"And quite frankly you should earth your racks - I could've been killed!" the engineer adds.

"Yes," the PFY says, disguising disappointment as thoughtfulness.

It's a twofold upset for the PFY and myself - firstly the fan didn't result in some sick leave and the desired engineer reassignment and secondly the hour or so that I put into separating an earth lead from its tab inside a power supply then gently teasing the phase wire into contact with the metal body (all through the cooling fan grill so as leave the tamper-evident seals intact) was wasted.

The hour spent insulating the rack from any earthing was a waste as well, but at least we can write that off as planning for future requirements...

The 'great' thing about crap engineers is that they don't let something like not knowing anything about the product hamper them in any way. They're quite prepared to lift the cover on something, pull the memory out, hold the memory in their mouth while they bend a couple of heatsinks out of the way looking for a loose wire, shove the memory back in the slot, reseat it with a small amount of pressure, a medium amount of pressure, a large amount of pressure, then realise it's in the wrong way and repeat the pressure install method, shut the cover then realise they've been working on the wrong machine the whole time - and maybe they should have turned the power off first...

The PFY, while I've been recounting this, has been fielding calls from beatnik central about when their machines are going to be configured... Things look like getting a little, well... testy. Especially as I notice the PFY reverting to his newly mastered 'predictive obscenity filtering' technique...

"What's going on with the Design Office?" the IT director cries, stomping into Mission Control with a definite bee in his bonnet.

"Design Office?"

"Yes, the design office! They say that an important company brochure about the relocation is being held up by their inability to use their desktops."

"Oh that," the PFY says. "That's because they're Macs. I don't know anything about Macs!"

"Oh they're easy," our Engineer pipes up, playing right into the PFY's digits. "They're just like PCs."

"Really? Well how we trade jobs and I fix this while you fix the Macs upstairs."

"I... Well, it'll cost you a few beers."

"Done!" the PFY snaps.

Moments later the engineer's off to do battle with the inbreds while the PFY and I have a live chassis server to install. If only...

"Uh - you couldn't give us a hand getting this back into the rack could you?" the PFY asks, nodding.

"For Pete's sake, there's two of you! What do you need?"

"Basically someone just needs to hold the machine into the rack while we power it up..." the PFY says.


And then there were two...

Bridging the IT gap between rising business demands and ageing tools

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