Computers

Presented in no particular order. :)


    Filesystem problem
    At one time I worked for a commercial operation, maintaining their Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system.
    The system ran on an HP minicomputer, and contained bills of materials (so you knew how many #2 screws you needed for a product) and pricing history (so you know what product has which piece, and where you bought it). It was set to run a backup every night, which was then copied to DAT tape.
    Shortly after I started, I was sitting at my desk when one of the purchasing folks ran in flustered, they were supposed to have deleted the pricing information from five years ago, but they hit the button to delete _ALL_ the pricing information!
    So, I immediately kicked all the users out of the system, and started looking at the backup... and that's were things got interesting...
    At that time, there were two versions of filesystems for that platform, one for small files (up to 2GB), and one for large files (up to almost filesystem size), which you had to set up when you installed the machine.
    In looking at the backup, I realized the machine was set for small files, so every backup of the ERP would create a file 2GB in length, then overwrite the last byte in that file with the rest of the ERP... another two or three GB! -- WITH NO ERROR MESSAGES!
    Luckily the manufacturer of the software and I found that the needed pricing iformation just happened to be in the good part of the backup, recovered it, restarted the ERP, and went to work fixing the backup process!


    Fixing the backup process
    Took a retired laptop, installed Linux which doesn't really have a file size limit. Mounted one of the filesystems on to the HP, told the HP to save backups there at night, wrote a script to compress and generate checksums for the backup files, told the HP to then copy those files to tape towards the end of the day.... and then checked the tape to make sure the files were being created properly! :)


    Keyboarding trouble
    Had a fellow employee call because they couldn't log in to their computer. I walked over, asked her password, and logged right in. She was annoyed, I asked her to sit down and try, and I had an "aha" moment... someone had pranked her and switched a couple keycaps on her keyboard... just so happens that 1) one of those was used in her password, and 2) unlike me, she's not a touch typist, so she's hunting and pecking the keycaps, pressing the wrong one. I pointed out the problem, had her fix her keycaps and change her password and went back to my office after making her promise not to leave any dead bodies lying around.


    Insert CD-ROM
    Back in the old days at a library, I installed a computer with CD-ROM for public use of some Genealogy databases we'd purchased on CD-ROM... wanna guess how many times I had to remove CD-ROMs from the space between the CD-ROM drive and the 5.25" floppy drive before I managed to put a mechanical block in the space between the two?


    A color, graphics terminal
    I used to work for a small software company. Among other things, we would write pseudo-drivers for our graphics software... basically letting them draw graphics on whatever printer, plotter, or terminal the user had. One customer ordered a couple hundred of a new terminal and sent one to us so we could write a driver for the device. I set it up on the network and stared working... and quickly noted that the terminal had pixel-based graphics capabilities, but you could only set foreground and background colors... you could chose any of 16 colors for foreground or background, but you couldn't chnage colors on a pixel basis! The vendor ended up issuing a "personality module" you could install which let you address colors on a pixel basis!


    What time is it?
    Had a remote user who couldn't get our interlibrary loan software to work. Sent her the upgrade for it I'd gotten the day before. Didn't work. I drove up there and discovered the problem was that when she turned on the computer, she'd type random numbers until the date/time request went away (in the days before clock chips became popular)... unfortunately, this program used the date/time as part of the algorithm to confirm it was talking with the proper server. Ended up gently explaining to her that when the computer asks for the date and time, it sometimes really matters!


Last Modified 20 Sep 2018


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