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Tales of IT Idiocy 181

snydeq writes "IT fight club, dirty dev data, meatball sandwiches — InfoWorld offers nine more tales of brain fail beyond belief. 'You'd think we'd run out of them, but technology simply hasn't advanced enough to take boneheaded users out of the daily equation that is the IT admin's life. Whether it's clueless users, evil admins, or just completely bad luck, Mr. Murphy has the IT department pinned in his sights — and there's no escaping the heartache, headaches, hassles, and hilarity of cluelessness run amok.'"
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Tales of IT Idiocy

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  • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) * on Monday January 23, 2012 @12:56PM (#38793065)

    It's not really IT related, but in a similar vein to some of these stories, the worst workplace war I've ever seen erupted over a parking space. Here were two college-educated adults, both of whom made over $100,000 a year--at war with each other because one maintained that he had been assigned said space (even though it wasn't marked) and the other kept parking there. Combine that with weak leadership at the company, and bam!, you had an escalation that got fucking crazy. First it was potshots and pranks, then they started keying each others' cars. Then they were openly screaming at each other in the office. It only ended when the cops had to get involved (they were calling each other with death threats and one of them showed up to the other's house with a gun). They both ended up with restraining orders...and also pink slips (when management finally woke up and realized they were both nuts).

    When you're in the city, people take their parking spaces VERY seriously. And little things can become very big (in your mind) if you obsess over them long enough.

    But, hey, if the assassination of one dipshit Archduke could start a World War and one little fruit vendor setting himself on fire could start the Arab Spring, I guess any little thing can spark a fire.

    • by Sockatume ( 732728 ) on Monday January 23, 2012 @01:02PM (#38793151)

      I guess any little thing can spark a fire.

      Only when you have enough fuel. Which in this case is probably a metaphor for workplace resentment.

    • by vlm ( 69642 )

      It would have been a funny ending if the whole thing had been encouraged by a 3rd party.

      • It probably was, on stuff like that, the whole workplace becomes a rumor mill and people take sides.

    • And little things can become very big (in your mind) if you obsess over them long enough.

      Wait, what? I don't think it's gotten any longer.

    • by Machtyn ( 759119 )
      Just let it be known that "we didn't start it".
    • Any little thing is the spark. You need kindling like discontent in the general population for a fire. Or, when the atmosphere itself becomes toxic, you get an explosion.

    • by tilante ( 2547392 ) on Monday January 23, 2012 @01:55PM (#38794053)
      "One dipshit Archduke"? You do realize that the Archduke in question was heir to the throne of one of the most powerful countries in Europe, and this was a time when royalty still had more than just ceremonial functions? It'd be the equivalent of someone assassinating the vice-president of the US today -- not just some random bozo getting killed.
      • by ColdWetDog ( 752185 ) on Monday January 23, 2012 @02:11PM (#38794373) Homepage

        It'd be the equivalent of someone assassinating the vice-president of the US today -- not just some random bozo getting killed.

        If headlines read "Joe Biden" assassinated! about 90% of the US population would have shrugged their shoulders and said 'who'?

        • On the other hand, if headlines read "Prince Charles" assassinated, lots of US citizens would know who that is... which is kind of strange when you think about it. Of course, a hereditary monarchy has going for it in things like this the fact that the heir to the throne stays the same for decades at a time. If we only had a new vice-president every thirty or forty years, a lot more people would probably know who the current one was.
        • That's because Americans don't have a reason to care of a POTUS or Veep croaks.

          For better or worse (I argue "better") most of us are smart enough not to care about whatever hack is currently infesting the Oval Office.

        • And the other 10 percent popped open a beer.

      • I'd also point out calling the man who had been striving for peaceful relations (against the will of much of the military) with Serbia, and who envisioned converting the Austro-Hungarian empire into a federal state with more rights for minorities (thus potentially reducing the risk of ethnic strife in the Balkans) a 'dipshit' is a bit disrespectful. I mean sure the man was very far from perfect (staunchy conservative in the European old Catholic style and exactly as aristocratic as you might expect from som

    • IT idiocy? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by mcgrew ( 92797 ) * on Monday January 23, 2012 @02:48PM (#38795145) Homepage Journal

      IT idiocy? Is there a more idiotic tech site than IT World itself, with its twenty ad-laden pages for ten paragraphs, after a goddamned splash screen? I refuse to visit those morons. No RTFA this time, folks. Link to a respectable site next time.

    • by rot26 ( 240034 ) * on Monday January 23, 2012 @03:40PM (#38795967) Homepage Journal
      Don't tell anybody, but it was ME who keyed BOTH of their cars.
    • by mseeger ( 40923 ) on Monday January 23, 2012 @03:46PM (#38796047)

      My pet theory is of the "norm problem":

      Every person has a problem of which he thinks it is the most important one. He will scale all other problems according to his norm problem. He will devote the same energy on his norm problem as other people do for theirs.

      The norm problem of a) may be that his family is starving and of b) that his neighbor occupies his parking space. Nevertheless they will approach their norm problem with max energy.

      If you have two people competing for the same goal as norm problem, you will get a major turf war, no matter how trivial the object is.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 23, 2012 @01:03PM (#38793183)

    Anyone have a Greasemonkey script on-hand that automatically hides stories containing links to, or do I have to whip one up on my own?

  • by dkleinsc ( 563838 ) on Monday January 23, 2012 @01:03PM (#38793185) Homepage

    The Daily WTF [] has a lot of fantastic stories about what not to do. The stories include horrific interviews, code that makes you want to squirm at best, and plenty of IT mistakes.

    • by markkezner ( 1209776 ) on Monday January 23, 2012 @01:14PM (#38793361)

      This [] is the link he meant to post.

    • I was going to mention that site. I haven't read it for a while, but there were some truly atrocious things I've seen on there. My favourite was some VBScript that was embedded in a webpage, which would actually open a direct connection to the database, to retrieve data. Kind of like an AJAX call, but just running a query directly from the database.
    • by gknoy ( 899301 )

      While it's certainly amusing, it's also something that I think is a valuable resource for all developers to read. Seeing WTF-worthy code (or design decisions) helps you recognize it when you encounter it in the wild (design reviews, code reviews, HR policies,etc), and call bullshit when necessary. Many of the WTFs are about SQL, which is far outside my area of expertise or responsibility, but I feel like the code-related ones have helped me be a better programmer by being a constant reminder to read things

      • I feel like the code-related ones have helped me be a better programmer by being a constant reminder to read things carefully, sanitize inputs, and ensure that it makes sense to someone not up to their ears in this section of code.

        Obligatory XKCD [] sanitize inputs classic...

  • by SuricouRaven ( 1897204 ) on Monday January 23, 2012 @01:05PM (#38793195)
    "Document keeps formatting. Tried to go on different machines but still not working"

    Where is the document? What program is the document for? Filename? Purpose? Anything? Nothing.... as well as obviously not knowing what 'formatting' means, as neither the computer-sense nor the page-laying-sense fit there.
    • by tepples ( 727027 )
      I've been told Microsoft Word likes to base some of its page layout decisions on attributes of the default printer of the computer on which it is running. Might "formatting" mean "recalculating page layout for currently selected printer"?
    • That's a beautiful example of how nomenclature in IT can confuse a civilian. I don't blame the employee at all for coming to that conclusion. I just bought a printer that prints in "duplex" mode. Now, that's something so common that it should not be using a software engineer's term. Can you imagine a parent or grandparent trying to get double-sided copies and only seeing "duplex"?

    • If we're doing user quotes: "I need you to transfer the license."

      We asked for more info, and got: "My son-in-law plugged his computer into my computer and said you needed to transfer the license."

      Guessing at what she meant, we told her that she couldn't just install software assigned to her on computers owned by family members. Then she got annoyed with us and said: "The computer won't turn on! My son-in-law used his laptop to figure out you need to transfer the license!"

    • I routinely get emails that say things like "i get a box that says cannot connect".

      I mean sure, I understand people can't be troubled to write down the contents of every error message they see, but would a little basic grammar hurt?

      • by Quirkz ( 1206400 )
        Aw, you should be thankful they told you what the error was. I can't tell you how many times I get just "I'm getting an error." When I ask what kind of error, they don't know, they've forgotten, or they couldn't be bothered to read it and we've got to recreate it. The exception is the standard bluescreen that everyone should recognize, but which for some reason users quite consistently take the time to transcribe the entirety of the obscure hex code I'm very unlikely to want. It's the stuff like "password i
  • Save your clicks! (Score:5, Informative)

    by milbournosphere ( 1273186 ) on Monday January 23, 2012 @01:13PM (#38793351)
    Just go to []

    They'll have more tales of idiocy, and you won't feel like you need to take a shower afterwards. Seriously, InfoWorld, SIX pages? That's a WTF in itself.

    • And to add to the Monday doldrum... a blast from the past

      The bastard operator from hell [] :)

    • by jc42 ( 318812 )

      Seriously, InfoWorld, SIX pages? That's a WTF in itself.

      Nah; "WTF" generally refers to things that make no sense. In this case, what InfoWorld and zillions of other sites are doing makes perfect sense. You just need to understand that they want money, and their main way of getting it is by running ads past their viewers. This gives them a strong incentive to break articles up into small chunks, so you have to click from one to the next to read an article. That way, they can show that you clicked on N copies of an ad, rather than just one, and get N times th

  • by mwfischer ( 1919758 ) on Monday January 23, 2012 @01:15PM (#38793369) Journal

    Reading InfoWorld is about number 6 or so.

  • by grasshoppa ( 657393 ) <skennedy@AAAtpno ... inus threevowels> on Monday January 23, 2012 @01:15PM (#38793379) Homepage

    In my time I have seen some amazing examples of idiocy.

    I once had to lecture some linux admins as to the nature of ntpd and how they don't have to be constantly logging in to set the time, but here's the brilliant part of that equation: someone had come up with a "login script" idea, that used ntpdate to set the time. So all they had to do was log in to the system and the time would be automatically set. I only got involved when they were trying to develop an automated login system so they wouldn't have to log in to 500+ linux servers, constantly, all to keep the time set. I actually had to argue with them, to show they what ntpd could do. It was unreal.

    Then there was the time I found windows admins that thought you had to have a user account for every machine you joined to a domain. A unique user account. A unique administrative user account. And because they had several thousand machines, password maint was a nightmare...or at least would be, except they came to the conclusion that using an easy to remember password on all of these administrator accounts was an easier solution.

    • by vlm ( 69642 )

      here's the brilliant part of that equation: someone had come up with a "login script" idea, that used ntpdate to set the time. So all they had to do was log in to the system and the time would be automatically set.

      Now what would be funnier, that login name having to be "root" or having ntpdate SUID root...

      • Given the obvious competence level of these admins, do you think they knew how to make ntpdate work as a non-root user?

        Ya, neither do I. And yes, they were logging in as root....with a shared public/private key set. Note: BOTH private AND public keys were shared amongst all 500 servers.

        Because ssh keys are more secure, don't you know.

        • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

          Given the obvious competence level of these admins, do you think they knew how to make ntpdate work as a non-root user?

          Ya, neither do I. And yes, they were logging in as root....with a shared public/private key set. Note: BOTH private AND public keys were shared amongst all 500 servers.

          Because ssh keys are more secure, don't you know.

          And none could figure out the "hard" ssh command line option to run a command ...? (ssh can run rsh-like).

          Then again, I'd shudder to think what the shell script owuld look like

    • by Hatta ( 162192 )

      but here's the brilliant part of that equation: someone had come up with a "login script" idea, that used ntpdate to set the time.

      Holy crap. I can understand being ignorant of ntpd, but not even being aware of cron is criminal.

      • by ae1294 ( 1547521 ) on Monday January 23, 2012 @02:36PM (#38794897) Journal

        I can understand being ignorant of ntpd, but not even being aware of cron is criminal.

        Whoa, I just looked up cron.. My god you just saved my job man! I couldn't get my sleep script to run in the background right... Jesus I've spent 4 weeks on this job and now I can move on to the next. Getting every system to default saving files to root:root from smb shares!

        Thanks for saving me...

  • by onyxruby ( 118189 ) <<ten.tsacmoc> <ta> <yburxyno>> on Monday January 23, 2012 @01:16PM (#38793397)

    Fortune 25 contractor promises another Fortune 25 client that they can migrate their entire operation without a single desktop engineer. This was a 140 million dollar contract. Client also promised that their network conversion from 10Mb hubs to 100Mb switches would be finished before we started and then postponed the network conversion.

    When everything was said and done lawyers for both companies mutually decided that I was the best the person on the ground with the best insight into why things fell apart. I was told by lawyers on both sides I would be subpoenaed as the primary witness and that the trial was expected to take about four months. I wasn't being blamed by either side, I was just the one who knew what the hell was going on.

    When you testify as a witness (vs expert witness) you are limited to a $50 court fee and can't be otherwise reimbursed. I would have been financially ruined for other peoples idiocy and figured out a perfectly honest way to get out of situation their idiocy created.

    I told lawyers for both sides that I would appear and testify, and they would neither one like what I had to say. They settled two days later.

  • by Chas ( 5144 ) on Monday January 23, 2012 @01:19PM (#38793423) Homepage Journal

    They were running an older CRM version that still used direct file access.

    Because of this, their backup solution (for which they hadn't bought the live file backup module) would fail every night due to someone in the office leaving the program open.

    So they "fixed" it.

    6 months down the road they had a server crash and lost everything.

    So we're like "Okay, let's roll to backups. There's still data loss, but minimal, a day or so."

    Uh. What backups?

    Their "fix" had consisted of simply deleting that CRM program's directory from the backups (see: NOT BACKING IT UP) so their backup reports were all nice and pretty.

    The latest real backup this company had was over 6 months old.

    The company that was in place to handle their IT was out on the curb with smoking ears and a boot-print on the ass shortly afterward.

  • Shark Tank. (Score:5, Informative)

    by bmo ( 77928 ) on Monday January 23, 2012 @01:23PM (#38793481)

    >only 10 submissions of fail in the TFA.

    Someone already mentioned the Daily WTF, so I'll post its little brother.

    Always an interesting read. []


  • by The Moof ( 859402 ) on Monday January 23, 2012 @01:23PM (#38793483)
    ...and they'll just make a better idiot. Two gems I've gotten over the years are:

    "I can't log in when I type in my password! It's broken!" - The problem? They weren't typing in their username, they were only typing in their password.

    My all time favorite was a customer who was very unhappy with an application we had created for them to send out event invitations and what not. I get an angry e-mail passed to me. The claim: "Whenever I type in someone's e-mail address, instead of e-mailing that person, the system figures out who their spouses and children are, and sends them the notification instead!" I had to repeatedly confirm that what they're describing is not possible. Even then, the person still angrily refused to believe me. If I were to create software that somehow psychically figure out all of that information, I'd be very rich, and probably be working for the government.
    • by gbjbaanb ( 229885 ) on Monday January 23, 2012 @02:02PM (#38794181)

      it kind of is possible, many people have email accounts that direct to several mailboxes, like If your app was sending to an unknown name at the front of that (instead of 'dave@family' it was 'whoever@family') then its possible it got delivered to all accounts using that shared mailbox system.

      Not that I'm saying this is what happened, but something along those lines due to some wacky configuration.

      Moral: never disbelieve the user, although what they say is impossible, when you look at it, you find that not only is it possible, it's also happening. If only we could get the users to describe it in terms a tech would understand.

      • Yep. Although more fun is when users try to describe in "tech terms", but don't actually understand the terminology, so their 'explanation' just muddies the issue further.

        Generally my talking-to-the-end user script goes like this:

        - What program were you using?

        - What were you (clicking on, typing, whatever)?

        - What did you expect to happen?

        - What happened instead?

        If they're getting an error message, I'll get them to send me a screenshot or cut-and-paste it. I've had way too many times when someo

      • Oh, I do assume that the impossible happens quite a bit (I've seen enough "that shouldn't be possible" problems). I had told the end user that might be what's happening, or that the recipient forwarded it to a home address shared among the family. They didn't believe me, swore it was the system doing all of this (and instructed me to fix it).
      • by Verteiron ( 224042 ) on Monday January 23, 2012 @03:37PM (#38795933) Homepage

        "Never disbelieve the user" is right. One of my early tech support calls (many moons ago) was from a guy who claimed his computer rebooted every time he flushed his toilet.

        Yeah. I figured he was yanking my chain, but you can't just hang up on people, so after humoring him for a few minutes we actually set up a tech visit.

        We fixed him up, at least temporarily, by installing a UPS for his system.

        He lived way out in the boonies and used well water and a septic tank. Turns out when he flushed, not only did his computer reboot, but his lights flickered for a moment, too. Flushing the toilet activated some power-hungry pump in his water system, and the draw was browning out his computer.

    • I once worked at a place where the Windows group policy was to enter the username on all logins (it was really to wipe the previous username). So unlike most other Windows shops, you had to type both to log in. The system was set up so that we get messages about repeated erroneous logins, including the computer name, username, and time. We use to get notices all the time that someone was logging into a particular computer with usernames like S33Y0uL@t3r and !L0veY0u.

  • Infoworld (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Spykk ( 823586 ) on Monday January 23, 2012 @01:28PM (#38793569)
    We get a lot of fluff pieces on the front page of slashdot via Infoworld and I've always wondered what mechanism they are using to get such high returns. Do they have their employees vote up stories in the firehose, or are their articles genuinely interesting enough that they earn their place on the front page? If they are "gaming the system" somehow is that something that slashdot's staff should be policing?

    I'm not trying to cry foul or call anyone out. I'm just curious about what drives some of the patterns that emerge on slashdot. If someone from either Infoworld or slashdot could weigh in that would be great.
    • by epine ( 68316 )

      Pretty bad. I didn't think it was anything new, and the writing style was a sloppier version of the Darwin awards, as I remember them from when I gave up on them six or eight years ago. (Some of the stories were less than properly verified.)

  • In college - this was some 20 years ago - I once had a classmate who in the Computer Center did an assignment, and then exited the application without saving, and then tortured the help desk over retrieving the work he had done, which, needless to say, they couldn't. When he complained about the unhelpfulness of the help desk, I & my other friends had such a laughing fit that he got offended & left. There ain't too many things I've found as funny as that incident.
    • by Creepy ( 93888 )

      I have a bunch of those from that era - here's a couple:

      User is used to Word Perfect, but has to use WordStar. User wants to print, so presses Control-P. Wordstar erases (p = purge in WordStar, print in Word Perfect) the document and the user hadn't saved it first. There was no confirmation dialog back then, either. An hour of typing a news article gone in a second.

      User on a mac using Microsoft Word chooses Revert, but didn't know Revert means go back to the last saved version of the document and loses 2 ho

    • by garyebickford ( 222422 ) <> on Monday January 23, 2012 @05:22PM (#38797279)

      Only distantly related, but ... A long time ago I was writing code on a Perq workstation. The editor had a nice feature - it maintained a transcript of every change, and you could replay it. This became very useful once when I was working madly under deadline, and failed to save the file for ... wait for it ... 36 hours (yes, it was an all-nighter and then some). And the machine crashed - actually I think the power got cut. But with the transcript feature I was able to replay the entire 36 hour editing session, watching myself do my editing. It was rather fun, actually. Of course it was much faster than the original - I think it took an hour or so. And I was redeemed from my stupidity.

      I loved the transcript feature - it was useful any time the machine or the program crashed, as it could restore everything up to the last disk write that succeeded. You could also pause and continue, so if you went off on a dead-end, you could replay up to the point where you started going the wrong way and stop, step backwards or forwards to the point where you had something worth keeping, and then save or start editing at that point.

      I think it would be great for any text editor to do this.

  • by mbaGeek ( 1219224 ) on Monday January 23, 2012 @01:48PM (#38793935) Homepage
    users who don't know anything aren't the problem - users who don't know anything but think they know everything are the problem ...
  • Tales from the trenches [] has some horror stories as well.

    The Trenches [] comic is off to a slow start, I can't decide if I like it or not, but the QA tales below it are worth a read, IMO. I especially like this one [], because it's so true; In many projects where "ship it" becomes as much a battle cry as a new form of profanity, and not just in Game development...

    • by MBCook ( 132727 )

      I've been following it since launch day. The comic is cute, but I see it as a fun little distraction/bonus on top of the stories. The stories are definitely the best part.

      PS: Law Star rules.

  • I actually slogged through reading the whole Original Article and it seems like the editors at CIO don't know the difference between USER incompetence and incompetence in the IT department. Most of the "USER" issues were issues with the IT group, others were systematic failures... I particularly like the one where "IT" comes in and saves the day when "IT" diff's a developers' files and finds he's a bad developer, whereas the whole software Engineering department couldn't figure it out... yeah, right.
  • by MyLongNickName ( 822545 ) on Monday January 23, 2012 @02:57PM (#38795309) Journal

    Okay, serious question. Is it really a bad idea to make people's email addresses public? the article makes it seem like this is a bad practice. To me, if you are counting on email addresses to be private, that you have some crappy security going on.

    ""We took the roster of employees of our two largest offices and checked their corporate email addresses to see which were accessible off the Web. Out of 178 employees, 138 corporate email addresses were easily discovered -- like two or three clicks off Google. That alone surprised me."

    • by gknoy ( 899301 )

      Only in that it makes you a target, and if your spam/phishing/malware filter doesn't detect it, you're relying on users to fall for them -- and they demonstrated with their test that a large number of the users were gullible.

  • A few years back, my email stopped working and I couldn't fix it. So I called our IT, and was firmly rebuffed with a "Send us an email and we'll fix your problem.". Their stupidity astounded me. When I recovered from the shock I went over to their floor and pounded on their locked door until the someone answered it. At that point I said loudly enough so that the entire floor could hear, "I can't send you an email, because as I told you on the phone my email is broken! Are you stupid or something?!". It was
    • by Quirkz ( 1206400 )
      I called an ISP with a similar problem once. We could send email but not receive it. They said they'd look into it, but then several hours passed without word from them. I called back, and they said, "Oh, we figured out the problem and emailed you the solution." Apparently they didn't see any problems with that process.
  • I work in IT. I once received a help request from a person in a computer lab who told me that their screen would only display blackness, regardless of moving their mouse or tapping the keyboard. The monitor was on. So, I came to take a look, and sure enough, the screen was black.

    Know why?

    Because the fucking computer wasn't even there. It had been removed for service and the "Out of order" sign taped to the monitor somehow wasn't enough of an indicator.

    • by Quirkz ( 1206400 )
      I took a call from someone with a similar problem: trying to use the computer but getting a black screen. I eventually determined the problem was they were just pressing the power button on the monitor. When I asked them about the computer that should be attached to the monitor, I got "Greg took his laptop with him, does that mean I can't use his computer?" They were trying to use the monitor and keyboard without any computer attached.
  • Retail store decided to move the main front counter of the store. It wasn't permanently fixed to the flooring, but was hard-wired in with electrical and serial connections (serial terminals and printers). The decided it would be okay to just put eight people to work and lift the whole thing at once to drag it over about a foot. With the serial terminals and printers on it. Plugged in. Turned on.

    After a couple inches they got a nice *POP POP POP* and puff of smoke off each piece of gear. Not just on the coun

  • A while ago, I worked at a small print shop that was bought out and went from being run by a print guy to being run by ex-corp IT people. They spent their retirement money on this place thinking it would be relaxing. Then then found out how non-tech it was and off we went to turn a low-tech print shop into a high-tech outfit.

    They had vision of being something like Vistaprint is now, except this was in 1999-2000 when that sort of thing hadn't been invented yet.

    In any case, they started this project to scan

    • by tragedy ( 27079 )

      The png format existed by then. Was there any reason that tiff files were used instead.

Marriage is the sole cause of divorce.