Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?
Businesses IT

Ask Slashdot: Best Tools To Aid When "On Call"? 249

An anonymous reader writes "Since most readers of slashdot are IT'ers, I assume this is a familiar story: when working in IT, it often happens you need to be standby or 'on call' during a certain period. That may mean you can receive phone calls or text messages from a monitoring system in the middle of the night. I've been looking for a way to have those alerts wake me in the middle of the night but not my partner, who is sleeping right next to me. Are there hardware aids out there that can alert a person without troubling their close environment? I'm thinking armwrists, vibrating head pillows, ..."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Ask Slashdot: Best Tools To Aid When "On Call"?

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 17, 2011 @05:50PM (#38091892)

    Clearly the Poster is not in IT.

  • by ackthpt (218170) on Thursday November 17, 2011 @05:51PM (#38091912) Homepage Journal

    .. to settle down that monitoring system call. But, yeah, the smashing to bits of a phone might wake a light sleeper. So I see your point.

    I used to put my phone on vibrate and put it under my pillow.

    • by LoudMusic (199347) on Thursday November 17, 2011 @05:59PM (#38092074)

      I don't think that would wake me up. Especially if I moved around and the phone fell to the floor under the bed.

      My on call shifts don't typically go past 10 PM (we have global staff), so I usually just stay up. But if I do go to bed I leave my phone on 'GET YOUR ASS OUT OF BED' mode. My wife understands the situation, even offers to make sure I get out of bed in the event of an email or call, because she knows the on call work equals extra income, which means a portion (let's be honest, all of it) is hers. If you're not getting some kind of additional compensation for your on call, stop doing it.

      I like the wrist band idea. You could also build a Lego Mindstorm contraption to drop soccer balls on your head.

      • by CrudPuppy (33870) on Thursday November 17, 2011 @09:06PM (#38093948) Homepage

        I'm deaf and I use the AlertMaster AL10, but it could work well for anyone oncall. I simply plug my land-phone line into my alarm clock. The alarm clock controls a vibrator and can also flash any light/appliance that can plug into a normal outlet. As long as you pick up the phone quickly, it shouldn't severely irritate your partner.

        I have everything call my google voice number, which rings my home phone (connected to alarm clock) and also rings my iPhone so I can actually stop the ringing since the landline has no phone connected.

        • by Xacid (560407)

          Ok, I'm probably going to sound like an ignorant jackass but how do you go about using a phone when someone calls you? Is there some sort of software or do people just text you? I've just never had any exposure around anyone with any sort of hearing impairment.

      • by tehcyder (746570)

        My on call shifts don't typically go past 10 PM (we have global staff), so I usually just stay up.

        10 pm is staying up? That's about when I have dinner.

  • For Android phones (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 17, 2011 @05:52PM (#38091948)

    Klaxon (http://code.google.com/p/klaxon/) is a must have. It's an on-call app for text message receiving. You can separate out your on-call texts from personal ones and set separate alarms and everything. It's fantastic.

    • by Troy Baer (1395)
      Klaxon is what I and the other Android users in our on-call rotation use.
    • by ackthpt (218170) on Thursday November 17, 2011 @06:02PM (#38092120) Homepage Journal

      Klaxon (http://code.google.com/p/klaxon/) is a must have. It's an on-call app for text message receiving. You can separate out your on-call texts from personal ones and set separate alarms and everything. It's fantastic.

      That would be pretty sweet...

      Text includes words 'emergency' 'urgent' 'system' 'down' -> (Zzzz)

      Text includes words 'down' 'hours' 'hardware' 'failure' -> (Zzzz)

      Text includes words 'panic' 'weeping' 'wailing' 'praying' -> (Zzzz)

      Text includes words 'payroll' 'not' 'running' -> (WAKEY! WAKEY!)

      • by Venotar (233363)

        Klaxon (http://code.google.com/p/klaxon/) is a must have. It's an on-call app for text message receiving. You can separate out your on-call texts from personal ones and set separate alarms and everything. It's fantastic.

        That would be pretty sweet...

        Text includes words 'emergency' 'urgent' 'system' 'down' -> (Zzzz)

        Text includes words 'down' 'hours' 'hardware' 'failure' -> (Zzzz)

        Text includes words 'panic' 'weeping' 'wailing' 'praying' -> (Zzzz)

        Text includes words 'payroll' 'not' 'running' -> (WAKEY! WAKEY!)

        For differentiating between "personal" and "oncall" pages, I use handcent... then set the "on call" pages to play my Strong Bad "The System is down" ringtone.

        Downside? I can't watch strongbad without my jacking up my blood pressure.

        • by Lumpy (12016)

          Texts? IF they text me they will NEVER get me. they can stop being lazy and freaking CALL my cellphone.

      • by sqldr (838964) on Thursday November 17, 2011 @07:03PM (#38092940)

        funny you should say that. At one place I worked, they only paid us if we got called out. So we wrote a perl script called "cha-ching.pl" which created a fault then fixed it. We got paid.

  • I bet Ray Kurzweil has something hooked up. If he doesn't, he's a sham. I for one welcome our late-night-texting-overlords.

  • by decipher_saint (72686) on Thursday November 17, 2011 @05:55PM (#38092004) Homepage

    Regardless of what method of notification likely you'll have to get up, which is going to wake her up.

    If it's a real problem get separate beds.

    I did this for about 3 years, and it's fine when you're single or sleeping in your own bed but when you're in a relationship and you share sleeping arrangements it's going to add some strain to your life (I solved it by finding other, better work).

    • by BagOBones (574735)

      King size foam or similar mattress will allow you to get up without disturbing your partner... or in my case partner and small child also sleeping on my bed. It is a case of space and motion transfer... Just don't trip on something on your way out of the room.

      As for stealth notification, if your notification system can phone you instead of just texting / emailing you, there are a variety of Bluetooth watches out their that vibrate and do caller ID that I think would work.

  • by Psychofreak (17440) on Thursday November 17, 2011 @05:55PM (#38092016) Journal

    I learn to sleep through it. My wife is on call very nearly 24-7 and gets called multiple times every night.

    Her phone vibrates, then does a loud alarm, sorta like a Hollywood submarine dive alarm. The vibrating phone on the nightstand usually wakes her, but not always. She reacts to her phone immediately, but not to other noises. If I need to wake her up for some reason it is easier to call her phone, then get her attention.

    The key is you need to pick an alarm that you will respond to immediately, but your partner will tend to ignore. Then have the alarm become something that will wake the dead so your partner can kick you out of bed.


  • This may not be as high tech as a decent work controlled vibrator, but if one has a big enough place, perhaps crash on the couch, or a separate room. This way, one can deal with the on call bit and not wake the SO if something comes through. Then once the rotation changes, put up the bed and go back to the usual bed.

  • Resume (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Aladrin (926209) on Thursday November 17, 2011 @05:59PM (#38092082)

    The best tool for on-call duty is a resume. And a list of jobs to apply for.

    Even if you don't normally get called while on-call, it likely prevents you from going about your life. You can't go to a movie, go out of town, etc etc. They should be paying your for those services. If you aren't getting paid well for it, don't accept a job with on-call duties.

    And besides all that, a job with on-call duties is a job that has need of them. That means they either have an unstable system or they aren't staffed properly. It's a huge sign that things are not right, and that company is best avoided.

    I didn't realize all that until I got a job that didn't involve it. I kept making excuses for the company, and for myself. I'm so glad I'm not there any more.

    • Re:Resume (Score:4, Insightful)

      by s7uar7 (746699) on Thursday November 17, 2011 @06:28PM (#38092476) Homepage
      There's nothing wrong with doing on-call as long as you accept that the job comes with it or get paid extra if you're asked to do it in a current role.

      I agree with you about not realising how much of an effect it has until you stop doing it though. When I stopped about 4 years ago it took some time to get used to being able to go out in the evenings without having to worry about getting called.
      • I get paid 0.25x my normal rate while on-call and OT if called in with a 2 hour minimum pay (even if I'm there for 5 min to hit a reset button). I'm good with that.

    • Re:Resume (Score:5, Insightful)

      by thisnamestoolong (1584383) on Thursday November 17, 2011 @06:29PM (#38092498)
      THIS. I used to work in an on-call capacity (not IT, mind you, but the idea is the same). Being on call ruined 5 years of my life. It destroys relationships and makes it so you can never truly relax. I took a huge pay cut to get off of on-call duty and I couldn't have been happier about it.
    • Depends if you're the only one on-call 24/7. For example, I work with three others whom also provide server, network, and desktop support. We rotate the on-call duty each week. So having this duty for one week out of the month isn't too bad. Just remember, when doing this kind of IT work, it's almost a requirement. Technology failure waits for no man.

    • by swillden (191260)

      Depends on how it's handled, as others have pointed out.

      And besides all that, a job with on-call duties is a job that has need of them. That means they either have an unstable system or they aren't staffed properly. It's a huge sign that things are not right, and that company is best avoided.

      Or else they have a fairly stable system with high uptime requirements. Stable enough that it doesn't make sense to staff a full-time person around the clock, because that person would be idle most of the time, but with SLAs that demand quick response to problems. Even with fault-tolerant systems which automatically fail over when something goes down, it's often important to quickly diagnose and fix the root problem, because barring a simple hardware

    • by Splab (574204)

      Having on call is fairly standard and should be ok as long as there are shifts for it and you are paid for the standby hours and for taking the calls.

      Regarding the problems with the significant other - either find a job he/she accepts or perahps a new partner; if your partner can't accept the fact that you have to do it to keep a job, your relationship probably has other issues.

    • by evilviper (135110)

      And besides all that, a job with on-call duties is a job that has need of them. That means they either have an unstable system or they aren't staffed properly. It's a huge sign that things are not right, and that company is best avoided.

      Good luck with that... I doubt you'll ever find an IT job without a stipulation that you need to be reachable. Yes, some companies abuse the privilege, but even in the best case, if you're any good, there are going to be things you're able to do that somebody on the night

  • I think we found a new poll.

    For the record, I do home improvement work. Mostly hardwood floors. I spent a decade being very successful in IT but I never really liked it and finally couldn't stand "IT" anymore.
    • Good for you.

      I've been doing programming for 11 years- HATE IT... absolutely dread work every day- and it's not my company- I keep changing looking for greener pastures- it is the programming I find mind-numbingly dull.

      Hopefully I can find a job to transition to myself. Unfortunately reluctant to take a pay cut due to being sole provider for the family and already being stretched.

      • by wjcofkc (964165)
        Just keep an open mind. If 10 years ago someone had told me I would be installing hardwood floors and enjoying it I would have laughed. I am still a geek at heart. Just a happier geek.
  • Got me thinking: even getting up from bed disturbs a person sleeping next to you, in varying degrees. So an 'on-call' incident for one employer, lowers productivity for a different employer.

    For a cheap, reliable option, strap a smartphone on an armband, and write a program to poll your alerting system. Its better to poll than to wait for events - that way, at least your app knows whether it can reach the alerting system or not. Who knows, perhaps there's already "an app for that"? But be sure to have the a

  • In all honesty, I set the on-call phone to vibrate and goto bed. Problems can wait till 7 AM. Does this work for everybody? No.
  • by blair1q (305137) on Thursday November 17, 2011 @06:07PM (#38092208) Journal

    Wire your big toes to either side of the phone line, and disconnect the phone's bell.

    That sucker pumps 90 volts AC to ring your handset.

    To stop the on-hook 48 VDC from giving you the crawlies, put a small capacitor in series with each lead.

  • ...Red Bull and cocaine!

  • Most /. are developers not IT.
    • Most /. are developers not IT.

      They beleive themselves to be special unique snowflakes who need to be coddled.

      Which is why management is moving coding is going to Bucharest.

      Which is good for me because developers are paid out of the IT budget.

    • It's one giant umbrella. It's a field, not a career. Just like people work in the "medical industry" or the "financial area" - not all of them are doctors or mortgage brokers. So we work in "IT" but we're coders, hardware gurus, systems analysts, technical writers, managers, networkers, with even some random creative design and teachers thrown in the mix because the umbrella is getting larger every day.
    • by swordgeek (112599)

      1) Oh, really? Sez who?
      2) Coders are in IT too. You may not carry a pager, but it's the same damned field.

  • For reminding me about another great thing about being out of IT. That gut wrenching feeling when you get a call at 5am with someone shrieking the site has been hacked and there's an investor meeting that morning, hair on fire blah, blah, blah. Followed by the subtle insinuations that it was something to do with your code. The developers pointing fingers at the networking people, the networking people acting like the passive-aggressive beat dogs and biting back.

    Changing careers was the best move I ever

  • "Since most readers of slashdot are IT'ers..."

    Is this true?

  • Adrenochrome injecting flechette, launched by solenoid-triggered miniature crossbow bypass-wired to speaker circuit of pager.
  • Hook up your phone to a set of earbuds. But also set an alarm that goes off ~5 minutes after your earbuds are set to go off, in case they fall out of your ear. In most cases they wont, but it's good to have the security if they do so you don't wind up missing the alarm.

  • by smash (1351)
    a brain and a mobile phone.
  • by ediron2 (246908) on Thursday November 17, 2011 @07:23PM (#38093160) Journal

    Everyone else has good tech suggestions... but also have a talk with your SO regularly to solve the problem without just throwing tech at it. If she's a light sleeper, the tech might be needed. If she's able to adapt, the problem may solve itself or take some minor shift like telling her 'kick me when you hear a work pager' (i.e., she becomes part of your alarm mechanism -- there's no fooling the spouse-as-snoozebar)

    Wife used to notice stuff like this. Then the first baby came along and we started divvying out the labor: I feed the last bottle, she does the wee hours stuff and I do the early dawn stuff. This has evolved into kids, old cats gackking up hairballs, txts or calls about server issues, weather-related sounds (storm: close the windows), my insomnia and god knows how many other minor overnight interrupts.

    Oh, and we got a kingsize bed (just that few inches more separation disturbs her less when I get out of bed) and I got rid of the boss who skimped on everything, then thought they owned me 24x7 to compensate.

    Nowadays, we'll *RARELY* just be affected by these things. When that happens, we mention the problem and quickly adjust. But most triggers get ignored without even waking up. OTOH, if I need my wife awake, I can play her ringtone on my phone or speak her name loudly or make a sound like a cat hurking up dinner and *PRESTO*. (I know better than to ever abuse that knowledge -- I think my wife'd turn into the angry spawn of Shiva and Cthulu if I did it as a prank. I choose life.)

    Most importantly, try to rein in the late night calls: they shouldn't be a habit unless you get compensated incredibly well for also doing off-hours support. Don't let employers abuse you. Rule of thumb: If the calls seem lame or about preventable issues, and if the company won't pay extra for prevention, you're being abused.

  • Tell her those pages mean you keep your job and she can have more shoes.
  • I strongly recommend you read Ted Dziuba's article "Monitoring Theory" [teddziuba.com]. A little preventative medicine will do wonders.

  • You should be able to rig something up with one of those electric-shock dog collars.
  • I'm only on for two weeks of every six, thank God. After work until 10pm only.

    I'm still trying to figure out a way to notice my phone if I want to use the pool at the gym. I usually do weights or aerobic exercise, but I have occasional foot problems which make me get my exercise from the pool. The caveat is that I actually have to pick up the phone and answer calls - it's not a matter of noticing an outage via text message. Waterproof 2.4Ghz headphone?

  • I find it very hard to sleep through http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2P5qbcRAXVk [youtube.com]

    Though sometimes I panic and hide under a cardboard box instead of opening the laptop.

  • I actually started on call tonight. While it's not an ideal thing to do, it can be managed. Our company gives on call duty to a person once a week. Here are some things that have seemed to help:
    * Start on call in the middle of the week.
    * We always have a secondary on call person, and we're encouraged to work things out with the secondary person in case we want to go to a movie or something.
    * If we get called a lot, we're not expected to be at work the next day, which really helps out.
    * One beer (one, no
  • The sound of a beer bottle being popped open...it puts all senses in overdrive, anywhere in the house.

  • by myspys (204685) *

    Maybe you can reconfigure/hack Lark (http://www.lark.com/) in some way?

  • Just get rid of your partner. Duh.

  • If you are getting so many alerts that you are worried about waking up the person next to you, maybe you should fix the alerts. More than a couple a week is a sign of a shop that isn't doing enough to find the root analysis of problems and fix them instead of applying bandaids.
  • On those nights when you happen to be on call, try sleeping on the couch in the living room or something. Really not that difficult, and if your "partner" or yourself can't get by alone for those nights, you have codependency issues.
  • You could try this vibrating bracelet [amazon.com] that will vibrate on incoming calls. I don't know if does anything for incoming emails, but it might be worth a shot for $30.

New systems generate new problems.