Tales from the world of ICT

Power failure It's a hot day in the un-air-conditioned building where this IT pilot fish works, and the temperature is getting to everyone. "Everyone on the upper floors, that is," says fish. "It was quite cool and pleasant in my basement office-cum-workshop. "Then the telephone rang -- one of the bright young men in the marketing department. 'Sorry to be a nuisance,' he said, 'but my screen's just gone dead and I'm on a deadline.'" Fish trudges up to the open-plan office this user shares with half a dozen others. It isn't exactly cool up there, but there is some air movement from a floor-standing fan. It only takes fish a few seconds to diagnose the problem. But fish figures he should lead the user to it gently. Nice fan, fish says. Is it new? "Scrounged," user says. "Got it for the afternoon from HR." Where is it plugged in? fish asks. "The six-outlet power strip under my desk." And did you have to unplug anything to make room for it? Short pause. Sighs user, "I've unplugged my monitor, haven't I?"

Bad placement The dated mainframe in a large educational institution was slated for replacement with the latest and greatest. One factor was an ongoing intermittent problem with the existing system that caused system lockup at random intervals. As part of the preparation for the new system a power analysis was required. While tracing the system, ground technicians discovered the existing mainframe ground was tied to the safety ground of an electronic book theft detection device in a library in the same building. Testing revealed that anytime a book theft was detected, a giant power spike migrated to the mainframe system causing a power surge and system failure. "We then knew we had the worlds most expensive theft detection device", fish recalls.

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