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Quick Q: How many FLOPPIES do I need for 16 MILLION image files?

Don’t fret, I might still have a Zip disk knocking about

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Something for the Weekend, Sir? Howls of protest sound across the globe as I write this. I’ve been hired to help with the managed migration of incomprehensible volumes of data from one multi-intercontinental, instant-access media library system to another.

The protest isn’t a response to my hiring, understandable though that would be. No, my role is insignificant and comes at the end of the project after the real men and women have done the real work – which is how I like it. No, that wailing and gnashing of teeth is the inevitable response from users who have been told that their key business tools are about to change yet again.

It’ll be great when the process is over, but we know and they know that we’re all in for six months of hell.

The wailing is tiresome, but the gnashing of teeth is splendid compensation. It’s impossible to witness someone gnash without it raising the spirits, assuming they are not recently bereaved or suffering from rabies. If you don’t believe me, try gnashing in front of a mirror or just say "gnash" a couple of times out loud. Do it now while you’re reading this, preferably pronouncing the "g" even though you shouldn’t. Childishly fun, isn’t it?

Signs of tension from users were evident from the start. Line managers are issuing impotent ultimata. Utterly dispensable staff with inexplicably inflated egos are rehearsing how to say “we don’t work like that” to the trainers. Every brief delay in the rollout for the purpose of pruning bugs is described by the ignorant masses as a “monumental cock-up” on our part.

“Why do we have to keep changing?” they wail. “Gnaaaaash!”

These are the same kind of people enjoy switching their mobbafers every 18 months. Evidently, they don’t do irony.

Getting the reports back from the analysts is always entertaining, as we hear about the wasteful yet highly inventive ways in which staff on the ground have been interfacing their incompatible desktop and server systems with metaphorical bootlaces. Best of all is hearing about the things people do simply because they’ve always done it and were told to do it – probably by someone so long gone that their contact number leads to a headstone.

For example, we learnt there’s a department in the bowels of this building that religiously backs up its files every week to an optical drive. This in itself would be fine if we could be assured of at least one of two supporting key factors: (1) that someone somewhere else in the business also had an optical drive, or (2) that we had travelled back in time to 1994.

We are all time-travellers after all, and I’m certain many El Reg readers keep boxes of obsolete data storage machinery stacked up in their attics, sheds and garages to prove it. Once state-of-the-art, this stuff has gradually transformed into junk over the years but we can’t bear to throw any of it away “just in case”.

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