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What is the Worst Tech Mistake You Ever Made? 503

CraigEagle asks: "Mistakes are made every day. The more technical knowledge you have the bigger your mistakes can be. What is the biggest technology related mistake you have ever made?"

"In the interest of full disclosure, this is mine:

I was working at a Fortune 50 bank as a consultant. I was due to go on vacation for a week and the company did not have webmail. I decided that I would try forwarding emails to my corporate account. (I know this was a bad idea, and probably against several corporate policies.) I set it up so that any email that came in would forward to my consulting company's account. My mistake was I also left Delivery Receipt on. This was not Microsoft, it was Lotus Notes. The system began forwarding the incoming mail to my account. But then it would get a Delivery Receipt, which in turn would be forwarded to my account, which would generate another delivery receipt, ad infinitum. When I got back from vacation they claimed I had brought down the email system for 4 hours. This incident caused the bank to stop allowing consultants to set up email rules. What's your story?"

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What is the Worst Tech Mistake You Ever Made?

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  • One time... (Score:5, Funny)

    by PeekabooCaribou ( 544905 ) <> on Thursday January 08, 2004 @01:02PM (#7915856) Homepage Journal
    I launched SkyNet, right before my daughter and future husband rushed in to warn me. Boy was my face red!
  • easy... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ddeyoung ( 578199 ) on Thursday January 08, 2004 @01:02PM (#7915866)
    staking mine and my family's needs in a technical career!
    • Re:easy... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Strange Ranger ( 454494 ) on Thursday January 08, 2004 @04:17PM (#7919443)
      Anybody remember those commercials on TV: "There are 50 thousand ice machines in the US and somebody needs to fix them." And then they'd offer to send you to ice-machine-fixing school. There are others, fixing/ driving the "Big Rigs", learning how to be an X-Ray Technician in 6 months, etc. etc. etc.

      Well recently I've seen at least one each for "IT Manager", "Computer Technician", and "Internet Technologist"... "learn in 6 months!"

      They might as well be playing "Taps" [] as far as I'm concerned. Well not quite but those ads are ALWAYS for commodity positions, "anyone can learn", etc etc.

      And if there are any ice-machine repair-folks reading this, there's nothing wrong with that, it's just that most of us have spent our entire lives deeply involved with technology, and we are used to our compensation reflecting that. Those ads tell us that people think they can learn in 6 months, and schools are filling up with people doing just that.

      No they're not going to directly take our jobs if we have 10 years of experience, but all those folks sure will lower the paycheck bar for the entire spectrum of IT workers. It's called Flooding the Market.

      Add that to overseas outsourcing... it's so depressing.

      I used to console myself with the adage "You get what you pay for.", but way too often the people doing the hiring don't understand what they need or what they're getting anyway, they don't understand the benefits of paying for something better, so they go cheaper, time and time again.

      There are 50 million computers in the US and somebody needs to fix them.

      [buries face in hands]
  • File errors (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dfreed ( 40276 ) on Thursday January 08, 2004 @01:04PM (#7915885) Homepage
    When I worked for a library I noticed a log of files with red ! as their icons. I determined that they must be erorrors or duplicates. So I removed them. Turns out that in windows 95 a red ! means that it is a critical system file.
    And the library did not have the system source media anymore so we spend the next day looking for any machines with a similar version of the deleted file and moveing them back by hand.
  • by Usquebaugh ( 230216 ) on Thursday January 08, 2004 @01:04PM (#7915886)
    Back in the mid 80s I was a jnr op on an old mainframe. Not much disk space so we used to save old audit trails to tape and remove them. Another pertinent fact is the DB starts UDX* and the audit trails start UDXA*

    I wonder what might have happened if a certain jnr op had not being paying attention and thought he knew it all.

    Yep, there goes the audit trails and the database :-( God knows why they kept me around.
  • by Mr. Piddle ( 567882 ) on Thursday January 08, 2004 @01:05PM (#7915898)
    "What is the biggest technology related mistake you have ever made?"

    Statement by Slashdotters after the supoenas start rolling in: "Posting an admission of wrongdoing on a semi-anonymous public forum, whose owners will most likely cooperate with law enforcement when asked about an admission of wrong doing in a semi-anonymous public forum."
  • by NickDngr ( 561211 ) on Thursday January 08, 2004 @01:07PM (#7915930) Journal
    My biggest mistake was finding this website. I've wasted more time here that could have been spent doing my job and getting actual work done.
  • A pretty basic one -- doing an ls of a different directory, forgetting I was actuall in /usr, and proceeding to rm -rf *. Pretty stupid, but in retrospect harmless. /home was unharmed, and it was just a home computer. Given that I work with equipment costing tens or hundreds of thousands, it could be a lot worse.

    I'm reminded of when the metric/standard error lost the Mars probe. A labmate commented, "Boy, at least I'll never feel bad about screwing up a $20 experiment again!"

  • by FreshMeat-BWG ( 541411 ) <> on Thursday January 08, 2004 @01:10PM (#7915992) Homepage
    ...and force others to do the same thing.

    Never, never, never, never commit to a schedule that is not realistic. If you know it isn't realistic before you get started, imagine what happens when you discover the unknown problems.

    No matter how much that guy in marketing wants to meet his roadmap, he will not help you design, code, or test your product. If you are lucky, he will complete the requirements before you are supposed to ship the product.

  • A small one (Score:5, Interesting)

    by FattMattP ( 86246 ) on Thursday January 08, 2004 @01:10PM (#7916000) Homepage
    After working on a bunch of NT servers all day I needed to make a quick change to our company's primary file server which ran Linux. After I logged out I hit control-alt-del and the machine started shutting down. About 30 seconds later the helpdesk switchboard lit up like a christmas tree. After working on the NT machines all day I didn't even think before I hit the keys. I guess I thought I was going to lock the screen or something. 15 minutes later I had the linux boxes configured to write to a log file when ctrl-alt-del was hit rather than rebooting. Lesson learned.

    Thankfully, that's the worst I've done so far.

    • ...server which ran Linux. After I logged out I hit control-alt-del and the machine started shutting down.

      Been there, done that. One of my first tasks when provisioning a RH box is to edit /etc/inittab in order to prevent CTRL+ALT+DEL shutdowns. This is especially helpful in a mixed Linux/NT environment on a KVM switch :P

  • by etymxris ( 121288 ) on Thursday January 08, 2004 @01:11PM (#7916011)
    Recently, I went to a work-from-home arrangement. Soon after I left, I got a call from several people at work asking me if I had emptied several SQL tables that were key to our QA environment. I swore up and down that I had done no such thing, and it was dropped.

    The next day someone powered up the monitor to my old desktop (still at the office) and what did he see?

    SQL Query Analyzer maximized with:

    Query successful: 18,452 rows processed
    (I still don't remember doing it.)
    • I've done similarly stupid things when trying to fix live databases. Typing in things like "DELETE FROM accounts", then switching to another screen to find the account details, switching back, and watching in horror as the query executes without giving me the chance to enter "WHERE account_id = 184"....
      • That's odd. Generally you have to terminate the line with a ; or something, so it shouldn't process your query unless you tell it "yes, I'm all done typing." When I log into my mySQL server and do a "SELECT whatever FROM table" and press enter, it just goes to the next line, then I slap myself in the forward, hit ";" then Enter and it processes my query.
      • Re:Damning evidence (Score:4, Interesting)

        by bwt ( 68845 ) on Thursday January 08, 2004 @02:37PM (#7917373) Homepage
        This wasn't my mistake, but I guy I work with left a where clause condition of an update SQL statement and released the work to production. In development he was working on a system with a reduced data volumes and it updated a few stray records and he didn't notice. In test, the test cases didn't cause the SQL to run. In production it wiped out about 20000 records and had to full scan a very large table to boot. We actually found it because of the performance problem first. It took us a few weeks to reconstruct all the erased data.

        My biggest mistake was in my first programming job years ago. I intentionally wrote an infinite loop into a program that was running on a very powerful (for the time) reasearch unix box used at the Naval research lab where I had an internship. It was a sonar imaging optimization routine and I would let it run for short periods (10-30 seconds typically) and then CTRL-C it to force it to stop and inspect the log file to find the results. I was new to unix and so I would use "ps" as opposed to "ps -aux" to see what processes I had running. I had multiple sessions up and managed to leave one of my programs running, switched sessions, ran ps which showed no processes running and went to lunch. The sysadmin was also a meeting and then lunch. When I returned I had a bunch of nastygrams telling me to kill my job immediately, not to run processes that hog the CPU because other projects couldn't use the system and to get approval before running long running jobs because the CPU time was billed (this was around 1985). I actually sat down, ran ps again, saw no job, and wrote back saying I didn't know what they were talking about. The sysadmin (who had returned from lunch) came over to visit me and educated me on a whole bunch of things.
      • Re:Damning evidence (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Just Some Guy ( 3352 ) <> on Thursday January 08, 2004 @03:25PM (#7918410) Homepage Journal
        One of my former coworkers always typed "# rm" instead of "rm" at the beginning of a long delete command, and only when he was finished typing would he go back to the beginning of the line, delete the leading "#", and hit enter. Were he to accidentally hit enter before he was ready, then he did nothing more harmful than send a comment to his shell.

        I've adapted that idea to a lot of other situations; my SQL queries always start out as "-- delete ..." until I'm sure about what I'm typing.

    • Re:Damning evidence (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Jerf ( 17166 ) on Thursday January 08, 2004 @01:45PM (#7916460) Journal
      Similar to the if (0 == c) trick in C, I've been trying to train my fingers to type DELETE WHERE whenever I mean to type "DELETE". Then, I fill out the WHERE clause and only then go back to say what table to delete from.

      This also gives you time to ponder the wisdom of first running a SELECT statement with the same WHERE clause and comtemplate whether you want to do this.
  • rm -rf * (Score:3, Interesting)

    by FunkyRat ( 36011 ) <funkyrat@ g m a i l . c om> on Thursday January 08, 2004 @01:12PM (#7916023) Journal

    ...five minutes later after coming back from getting coffee: D'oh!

    I actually did this once... while logged in as root... at the top level in /home... on a production server. Thank baphomet for nightly backups!

    Hopefully none of my clients are reading this. :-)

  • one day i was caught reading slashdot
  • I always had good luck with Maxtors, though I had only used old and small drives- 80-200 MB or so. When I was putting together a new computer for myself in 99, I thought I'd get another trusty Maxtor, a 6 GB. Pfft, bad idea. Thing failed in less than a year, taking all of my music with it; 5 years of dorky industrial music, recently copied over from a huge stack of ZIP disks. 100 songs.

    • Thing failed in less than a year, taking all of my music with it; 5 years of dorky industrial music, recently copied over from a huge stack of ZIP disks. 100 songs.

      So in essence you're saying that Maxtor hard drives are bad for maintaining data integrity, but excellent for protecting data quality! ;)
  • by smoondog ( 85133 )
    Buying a PCjr. (Actually my dad made that mistake, and got it for me for christmas, about a month before IBM discontinued production. Fortunately, it had real keys at that point. Heh)

    • I started on a PCjr. But in my case it was free and I got a second one for $25 which came with all the software and cartridges I wanted.
  • One that I saw... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Inexile2002 ( 540368 ) * on Thursday January 08, 2004 @01:15PM (#7916057) Homepage Journal
    None that I've done come to mind - I tend to make lots of little stupid mistakes rather than occasional huge cock-ups. But I had a client that had a CIO who was actively hostile to the idea of any kind of computer security what-so-ever. Waste of time and money for a made up threat he said.

    They were running 13 servers at remote locations (and I mean remote, as in out in the boonies 4 hours from nowhere on back roads) and these servers were unpatched, had out of date or innactive anti-virus and were connected to the net via a combination of satellite and dedicated (always on) dialup. Their communications were secured with nothing more than Windows 2000's built in VPN.

    Needless to say, my audit report told them that they had big beefy powerful angels on their side since they hadn't yet had a noticable intrusion. (They had no way of detecting one, but at least the servers weren't hosting porn sites.) I warned them that a virus or worm would come along though and knock the whole thing out. The CIO scoffed at my report, called me an alarmist and said that my opinions were right up there with the Y2K doomsayers.

    When Slammer hit, I had described the vulnerabilities and outcome so accurately that this guy actually accused me of writing it myself. Took the whole corporate network down and they couldn't bring it back up until their techs visited each site. It took two teams seven days to get to all the sites. The company lost 6 business days, three customers and a months worth of transaction records.

    Needless to say the CIO was demoted (they didn't fire him, which I consider itself a major tech mistake) and had me re-issue my audit report which they then followed to the letter taking every precaution I suggested.
  • by Merlin42 ( 148225 ) * on Thursday January 08, 2004 @01:16PM (#7916068)
    When I was first learning linux/unix I installed RH5.something on my computer (cyrix 6x86 133+ iirc), anyway I was having weird issues with several programs so I decided i needed a fresh start, those darn dot files must be currupted.
    So I typed:
    rm -rf .*
    This disk started churning ...
    about 30 seconds later
    the disk is still churning ... damn I must have a LOT of those dot files.
    about a minute later .... *DOH*
    Where did all the files go? DAMNIT! I recursively deleted .. ( I was running as root, It was my personal box what could be the harm)
    I learned my lesson very well:
  • Telling that twerp Bill that he should quit school and try his hand in the computer industry.
  • by chendo ( 678767 ) on Thursday January 08, 2004 @01:16PM (#7916077)
    I was young (around 8 at the time, can't remember) and I was bored one afternoon. I started fiddling around with the back of the computer, the PSU, to be exact. The red button looked fun to play with.

    It was on 220v. I turned the computer on. It worked. Then I tried putting it on 110v and turning it on. Nothing. Then I switched it back to 220v, turned it on, and switched it to 110v while it was on.


    Moral of the story is, trial and error isn't the best way to learn hardware, and don't throw water on the smoking PSU while it's still live.
    • by aoteoroa ( 596031 ) on Thursday January 08, 2004 @01:53PM (#7916564)
      Last year a friend gave me a pentium 200 mmx that he coundn't get working. Since my parents were in need of a firewall I figured I would drop a couple nics into this box and build one for them.

      The first thing I did was plug in a keyboard, monitor, and turn the box's power on to see if it would reach the POST.

      Smoke started coming from the box, and soon open flame. For a brief moment I just stood there looking at it thinking, "That's interesting. First time I've seen a computer catch fire." Then I pulled the plug from the wall and the flames soon stopped.

      I looked into the case to see what went wrong. It seems that the power supply connector for a floppy drive is roughly the same size as a speaker connector on the sound card. My friend had plugged the power supply into the sound card which seems to have caused the fire when the power was turned on. I suppose I should have checked for something like this instead of just plugging in the machine.
  • by Isao ( 153092 ) on Thursday January 08, 2004 @01:17PM (#7916084)
    The more experience I and my coworkers have, the fewer mistakes we make, and they are less severe than before. This is because we learn from previous errors, and apply those lessons to entire classes of problems, not simply the error itself.

    I think the articles implication of "the more we learn, the less we think" is wrong.

  • Back in 1998, we were working on site deploying a new product to a customer. The product required us to create a new database on MS SQL Server. Well because of the size of this database, it takes over 5 hours to create. We could not continue on with the deployment until this was finished.

    Well when it finished, in a rush to get out of there, I accidentally deleted the database and had to restart the process all over again. Many a cow-orker was pissed at me. Had to stay an extra day to complete the dep
  • I've lost my machine to cheap power supplies. The first time I thought was just a freak accident (blew the motherboard, CD drives, hard drive), since then I go for the Enermax and not some unbranded power supply.
  • by j-turkey ( 187775 ) on Thursday January 08, 2004 @01:17PM (#7916096) Homepage

    So this wasn't a production machine I screwed up or anything, but I'm still a moron.

    I had a Linux workstation that was ultimately adopted by the development group I worked with in the late 90's. Anyway, for some reason I needed to make a boot disk from an image. For some other reason, while typing in my command line, I was thinking fd0 but managed to type hda. So my line was dd if=/wherever/whatever.img of=/dev/hda.

    Anyway, before looking at what I had typed, I hit enter. About 2ms later, I glanced up at what was on the screen and exclaimed something along the lines of "holy fscking shit!" and simultaniously hit a ctrl+c. Interestingly enough, the drive still kind of worked. I tried copying the contents of the disk over to another device, but I found that with each command - nay, each disk access, the filesystem would disintegrate further. I was able to save /home -- but I otherwise had to reOS the system.

    I guess I've done much more stupid things with production machines -- but these were better machines, with storage on a NetApp NAS, which all had snapshots, so recovery was nearly instantanous.

    These are not things that I include on my resume. (So -- anyone want to hire a disaster waiting to happen?) ;)

  • by GuyMannDude ( 574364 ) on Thursday January 08, 2004 @01:19PM (#7916121) Journal

    Oh man. So I was a grad student, right? I was always trying to portray myself as a very serious, dedicated student to my thesis advisor. And he had the fastest computer in the department (a Sparc10!) and he gave me permission to use it for batch runs. So I pretty much kept one of my xterms as a remote terminal to his machine.

    Anyhow, one day I found this funny .au (sound) file and wanted to play it for my office mates. So I did a 'cat > /dev/audio'. Nothing happened. So I turned up the volume and tried it again. Still nothing. Then I screached in horror! I was typing this command in on the xterm I use for my advisor's machine! Sure enough, two seconds later an email comes trickling in from my advisor stating 'Please note that you are logged into my machine so your sound file is coming through my speakers.'

    So what was this sound file that I had inadvertently played for my advisor?

    Butthead: "Whoa! Naked chicks!"
    Beavis (excitedly): "Yeah! Naked chicks! Naked chicks!"


    • > So I did a 'cat > /dev/audio'. [ ... ] 'Please note that you are logged into my machine so your sound file is coming through my speakers.
      >So what was this sound file that I had inadvertently played for my advisor?
      > Butthead: "Whoa! Naked chicks!"
      > Beavis (excitedly): "Yeah! Naked chicks! Naked chicks!"

      Geez... kids these days.

      You old-schoolers know what I'm talkin' about.

      Dumbest Tech Mistake: Air conditioner fails in a server room full of machines r

  • Okay, so "back in the day" (Amiga!), I got this really spiffy new floppy disk copying program, and decided that would be a good time to make backups of all my floppies (no HD back then). So I fired up the new copying program, and made backups of all my floppies.

    Unfortunately, I hadn't taken quiiiiiite enough time to learn how this new copy program worked - it LOOKED pretty easy to use, but,

    Instead of making backups of all my floppies, it had reformatted each of the floppies I put in to make bac
    • I did something similar on my beloved C=64.

      I borrowed a game from a friend, and wanted to copy it. Of course, it had the classic 'deliberate bad checksum' anti-copy protection, which meant nothing more than loading a disk copying program that would handle it.

      About half way through the first phase of copying, it suddenly dawned on me that I was using my disk copying floppy as my destination disk. I immediately pulled it out of the drive, thus ensuring I had neither a copy of the game nor a copy of the so

  • by runswithd6s ( 65165 ) on Thursday January 08, 2004 @01:26PM (#7916190) Homepage
    I have two, both at the same company. I was hired on as The Tech Guy(TM) at a local OEM Manufacturer. They were willing to take me on w/limited experience but my pay reflected it. My first job was to replace their existing DOS-Cobal Manufacturing Resource Planning (MRP) software before the Y2K problems hit. The original software company wasn't supporting the old version any longer and the Mfg was getting too large for the program. They looked at a number of demos that were slow and painful, but they decided to try a "favorable" application (See also: cheap).

    My mistake was to give the techie "thumbs up" under pressure. I folded to the "We needed this yesterday" argument despite my misgivings about the software. I paid for that mistake for the next year in slavish tech support. We became the software company's test bed as we found bug after bug. The software "worked", but operator efficiency dropped, and uptime was sub-optimal. "Customization" caused problems, etc., etc.

    The second mistake I made was to attempt to use VPN over Broadband with Citrix MetaFrame. Although MetaFrame was a pretty secure and slim protocol for remote desktops, the Internet provider on the remote site had horrible latency problems and was run by a group of amatures. I should have stuck with the original Sprint frame relay proposal.

    Morals of the story: don't let PHB push you into a solution you don't trust, and when network reliability is important, pay for assured quality of frame relay.

    • I had a similar experience a few years back. The county council I worked for wanted a PC-based employment budgeting system and in best local govt style a comittee (of end-users) was appointed to select a package that we could be build a customised application on. I was lead technical advisor on the assessment and would be leading the application build. However, it was the committee who would select the package... Uh-oh. Oh and I did mention that the leader of the committee was the most psycho person I'
  • by Perdo ( 151843 ) on Thursday January 08, 2004 @01:27PM (#7916200) Homepage Journal
    I was a young pup in the Army, during a training exercise. My Commander told me to kill the network, to "simulate" it's loss. We were operating a frequency hopping radio network, which of course is based on time. As the master node, I controlled the time. I pumped my transmitter to full power, and slowly pulled the stations that could recieve my signal out of time. Lowered power, pulled a smaller number of stations even farther out of time. Wash, rinse, repeat.

    Commander thought I was brilliant, and so did I. I had fractured our network into at least 10 different domains. No one could talk to anyone, effectively "simulating" an enemy jamming attempt. It would take hours to restore the network, with many mad commo guys having to drive about with Pluggers, early GPS devices, to restore each radio to propper time.

    Then a tank flipped. Someone died. No one could call for help. I am so damn smart.

    No moon black, At 2 in the morning, in an upside down tank, the gunner figured out how to put his radio in plain text to call for help. It took him almost half an hour.
    • by wayne606 ( 211893 ) on Thursday January 08, 2004 @02:28PM (#7917146)
      It sounds like you did exactly what you were supposed to do. Isn't part of the point of a training exercise that the danger is real and freak accidents like that can happen? Maybe the real mistake was not having an emergency backup communication system (and the same would apply for a real conflict situation).
    • by 0x0d0a ( 568518 ) on Thursday January 08, 2004 @02:54PM (#7917715) Journal
      You know, while that had bad consequences, it also isn't something that I'd call your mistake. Your CO asked you to kill the network, you did so. The issue that came up wasn't a technical one specific to the issue, so you weren't in a position where I'd expect you to be able to advise your CO using specialty information. This wasn't something unethical, where you might have taken another course of action, or illegal, where you should have refused to follow an order. You did exactly what your orders stipulated that you do.

      Frankly, from the post, I doubt that the person dying could have been saved if the radio had been active.

      Furthermore, unless the Army has rules requiring that personnel on training exercises have a comm system always up, I'm not sure that even your CO made a poor decision. There is such a thing as tragedy -- where everyone really did do the right thing, and someone still gets hurt as a result.

      It's kind of like deciding to drive down Main Street in a town instead of Lambert Street and hitting and killing a kid that ran out into the street. Yes, had you taken the other road, the kid would have been alive. However, you can't be expected to or be *able* to always make the decision that produces the best outcome, or you'd be the best gambler in the world. The only thing that you can do is what seems the most sensible thing given the information that you have at the time. You did that, and nobody could ask for more.
    • by scorp1us ( 235526 ) on Thursday January 08, 2004 @04:03PM (#7919186) Journal
      This sucks, but you did what you were told. And it is not your fault the tank flipped. Better simulate a loss in comms and have your men learn that they can send plain text over their radio, than lose 10 men in wartime.

      Still, I'd feel horrible. But I wouldn't hold you responsible.
  • Posting your worst tech mistake ever on slashdot and forgetting to check "Post Anonymously".
  • I worked in K-12 for a few years as a network engineer and programmer (weird combo, but's served me well)

    The particular district I worked for supported three school districts on a single Data General minicomputer. This meant three separate student databases. When we wrote new apps, we would install the app and then create a symbolic link to the student database for which we were installing it. In this way, a single new app could be easily rolled out to all three.

    Once... (just once!), I rolled out the
  • Not about computers, but: While working for a Physics research lab, I made a laser water jacket without a bulge at the end of the inlet pipe. The water pressure rose at night, the tubing slipped off, and the 2nd floor and part of the first was flooded, including expensive test gear like oscilloscopes.
  • by zonk the purposeful ( 444367 ) on Thursday January 08, 2004 @01:33PM (#7916269) Homepage
    Working as a consultant I turned up at a new customer (moderate sized pharmacy) to see what they needed. Walked in, all confident, the local tech guy met me, and I asked to look at their server room (I always liked seeing the hardware).

    Anyway, as we are standing there, I think, well lets see how many users they have, so I ask if I could look at the Name & Address book. Opened up the people view, hit Control-A to see the count at the bottom of the screen of the number of records. Unfortunalty it was a very small compaq keyboard, hit delete as I turned to the local tech..

  • I was working on a cisco access list one day, and was working on blocking IM clients per my manager. I tested it when I was done and sure enough, it blocked the clients, they could no longer log in. Satisified with myself I went to browse to slashdot. "hmmmm Slashdot must be down" I thought. So I tried somewhere else, maybe my computer is having problems. Then the IS phone started ringing off the hook. Dammit! Everyone is down. Nobody can do anything. Email is down, Web is down, VPN is down. I we
  • Actually, this was fairly recent:

    The Chemical Engineering Department at my university purchased a 42 node rackmount beowulf through my department (well, the one I work for), the Research Computing Department. We were to assemble the cluster and house it in our server room.

    Since my boss was busy working on a visualization project and my co-worker was out sick, I was handed the whole job. I decided that the best way to organize the cluster would be to put the 42 nodes in one rack and the head node, sw
  • I stuck a bare CD into a drive that required a caddy, before I knew that kind of CD drive existed. This was at school in the 7th grade (I'm a college senior now). If anyone had seen it, there would have been an uproar, because I was a well known, but not well liked (at the time) computer nerd. As I was too rushed to get it out to think carefully, I committed another foolish act by fishing it out with a paper clip. Luckily I didn't cause many scratches.
  • Oooops. (Score:5, Funny)

    by Jasonv ( 156958 ) * on Thursday January 08, 2004 @01:40PM (#7916385)
    I was doing phone support for a national bank in Canada. One of the problems we routinely had was a connection would freeze-up on a teller's terminal in one of the 1000s of bank branchs across the country.. We'd have to go into a program running on our AS-400 and reset the connection. On the odd occasion it wasn't just one terminal but serveral at the branch. We'd have to get all the tellers to exit out of their terminals for a second, then, in the program, we'd esentially hit the 'back' button, be up one level so we saw all the connections by bank branch instead of by terminal, hit 'backspace' to send the command to reset the connection and then 'y - enter' to confirm.

    I got one of these calls, and I went one level up the tree, got distracted by something, and without thinking hit up-backspace-y-enter, going up two levels in the tree instead of one. This reset all the connections for the whole network, to all the banks, all across Canada.

    Every phone in the call center started ringing. Every LED that could flash red did so. Everyone in the call centre looked around frantically. I looked at my terminal and almost died on the spot.

    Not only had I reset all the terminal connection, but trying to bring them back online flooded the network so as soon as they tried to come back up they all went offline again. It took several hours to get things stabalized and the banks could start serving customers again.

    Fortunatly my boss was a decent guy. He saw it as an accident and something that no one should be able to accidently do. The command to reset the entire network was modified so you had to type in your password to confirm, instead of just 'y-enter'

  • Once in college, many years ago, drunk on the power of UNIX and beverages that I can't recall, I decided it would be clever to create, as root, a directory named '*' in the home directory. The following morning, hung over but still drunk on the power of UID 0, I correctly decided that this was a stupid id and ran the obvious command:

    rm -rf /*

    Then, I went looking for coffee.

    Ooops. So, don't drink and root. Important safety note.

  • by Fortunato_NC ( 736786 ) <verlinh75@m[ ]com ['sn.' in gap]> on Thursday January 08, 2004 @01:41PM (#7916393) Homepage Journal
    (comic book guy voice)

    By far, my worst tech mistake was dropping out of college to take a full time job as an outsourced computer admin. Not having my degree has kept me from being competitive for better jobs with larger companies.

    I love job now, but I don't have much room to grow, being as I'm the top IT guy in a 70-person company that's family owned (and I'm not in the family). I'm working on finishing my degree now so that when the time comes to move on, I'll be able to find jobs that have room for growth.
  • How about 5 times?

    in 2000, a co-worker was migrating a large Catholic Diocese, one of the top ten say, from Novell to Microsoft (I still don't know why) as I had somewhat purposefully(on my part) been asked not to come back for a while (but that's another, dumber story).

    Anyway, not having done any such migrations before, after thoroughly RTFM, he set up, almost entirely correctly, the migration service and began moving users. The syncing tool was set to run just before backups, so that the backup would r

  • Ahh, stories. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Zapman ( 2662 ) on Thursday January 08, 2004 @01:42PM (#7916418)
    My best singke mistake was after a long night of re-installing an updated version of solaris on a SparcServer 2, I needed to clear out the /tmp dir sor some stupid reason. So, I did the old: "mkdir newdir ; mv * newdir"

    I wasn't in /tmp. I was in /.

    My next command was 'ls'. It returned: unable to find /usr/lib/


    I now know how to solve that under solaris. Under /usr/sbin/static there are 5 statically compiled binaries: cp, ln, mv, rcp, and tar. /newdir/usr/sbin/static/mv /newdir/* / would have fixed it.

    Ever since then, my prompt has had my current directory in it. That experience certainly made me more careful.

    Better (or worse) was when a stupid service rep came in to replace a bad CPU on a sun e10000. The idiot shut down the sub-system, and powered off the board correctly. He then managed to pull out the wrong board, despite the blinken lights. Of course it was the peoplesoft domain. Running year end reporting.

    • Ever since then, my prompt has had my current directory in it. That experience certainly made me more careful.

      Between this story, and the story about the guy playing the beavis and butthead .au file on his advisor's workstation instead of his own make me very glad that I keep working directory *and* host names in my prompt. :-)

  • I was a newbie sysadmin who didn't fully grasp the concept of the tar command. I untared an entire /usr/X11 directory ontop of an existing /usr/X11 directory. The painful part was that the distributions were binary incompatible -- one was compiled for sun4u processors and the other for sun4m processors.

    I knew I made a mistake when exclamations, gasps, and quizzical mutterings began to fill an otherwise quiet graduate laboratory. Before I had a chance to fully grasp what I did, my three supervisors wa
  • One time I pulled out a 1U rack mount chassis from our rack only to hear it power down as it got about halfway out. When we installed the system, we didn't use the cable management system in the back to snake the power cable through, so when the chassis was pulled out to install a hot-swappable device, it yanked the power cord out.

    Luckily it wasn't a really important server.

    Lesson learned: Use cable management systems, or give yourself enough slack so that when you need it, you'll have it. No sense in hav
  • I was working at a company that does hardware testing in the USA (110 V electricity). I neeeded to test something with USB 2.0, and none of the computers in my little test area had it. I asked around, and somebody else had one. As I carried it back to my area, I noticed that it was a Compaq model (or something like that).

    I plugged it in, the little green light came on, the fan spun up, and I noticed the '220V' sticker right next to the power socket. So, I promptly yanked the plug and hoped that

  • You know, [CTRL]+[Z]?

    In Windows Explorer, it undoes the last file operation....

    ...well, it undoes SOME file operations, but not others, as I found out the hard way:

    I was at a client's site a few years ago moving some data files around on their NT server and archiving old things that weren't needed anymore. As a part of this, I renamed a "particularly named" folder and hit [ENTER] just as the thought occurred to me that I needed the exact spelling of the original folder name before I changed it. So
  • by seanmeister ( 156224 ) on Thursday January 08, 2004 @01:47PM (#7916488)
    I work for a telephone directory publisher. A few years back, we were pushing a deadline and the man was not happy with the completeness of zip (postal) code info in the book. I purchased a new zip coding utility, ran it against the listings, and told the production dept to proceed with pagination, thinking that the army of proofreaders we have would notice any errors introduced by the new software.

    I mean, what, I'm supposed to proofread the entire phone book by myself?

    Anyway, the software used some kind of crazy soundex routine to "fix" addresses that it wasn't able to resolve, and thousands of people ended up with completely incorrect address information. The book went to press, was distributed, and a day later the phones were ringing off the hook. We had to pick up the old books, fix the data, schedule more press time (no easy feat), re-print, and re-distribute.

    Total cost to correct was around $1M, got my ass chewed royally, but managed to keep my job anyway.

    Must be doing *something* right!
  • Breaking out the Wayback machine, some intersting war stories can be found in the first article I submitted to slashdot, "Embedded Computer War Stories []".
  • We had a drive in a RAID5 container go bad at work a few years back. This was a raid controlled by an old Mylex DAC960. A guy I worked with went to replace the drive. He powered the machine down, took out the bad drive, put in a new spare, and powered the machine back up. In the controller setup he was presented with two options: rebuild and make online. Well he chose "make online" instead of rebuild. This caused the controller to render the raid volume completely useless. He chose poorly.

  • One time I accidentally low-level formatted the wrong hard drive. I wanted to do the 1st (Primary) hard drive and the BIOS started it's drive enumeration at zero. So of course without thinking I put in a 1 instead of a 0.

    I think the most important thing that was on it was my collection of digital music that I had spent over 1.5 years downloading from random FTP sites (this was before Napster) via a 28.8 and later a 56k modem.

    Fortunately, a friend had a recent copy of my music from our recent LAN party.
  • by ArmorFiend ( 151674 ) on Thursday January 08, 2004 @01:54PM (#7916587) Homepage Journal
    Trying out Kmail was my biggest mistake, because it had a different interpretation of the file OUTBOX than did my previous mailer. My previous mailer stored every email (6 years worth) in OUTBOX. And kmail took OUTBOX to be the file where messages written offline were temporarily stored until next coming online. The first time I fired up Kmail, a indeterminate-time progress bar came up, and it kinda hung. I went to get a coke, giving it time to snap out of its funk. Unbeknownst to me, during that time it re-sent every email I'd ever sent. When I got back and checked my INBOX, I screeched in horror.

    Funny thing is, people from my previous job were getting work related emails from me again, and they didn't seem to mind that (1) they were on outdated topics and (2) the company was defunct, they played right along and replied stuff like "yeah what ever happened to that issue?".
  • Click here! (Score:5, Funny)

    by NanoGator ( 522640 ) on Thursday January 08, 2004 @02:02PM (#7916693) Homepage Journal
    Well, this is more of a graphical error than a text error, but it's still amusing. My company developed a technology where you can watch video from mulitple angles. (note: this is going back a few years.) So we were pumping out demos like mad. At one point, we got some stock footage of a horse show or something. It had a horse jumping over a fence, filmed from different angles. I had to insert the words "click here" at the bottom of the video because I was going to make that clickable. If you click there, then you get s'more info about our software.

    Back then, we didn't do letterboxing like Media Player does. If the window you play the video in isn't the same as the aspect ratio of the video, then cropping occurs. I did not consider this little fact about our player, rather I got it up on the site as fast as I possibly could. Then, I went to lunch.

    When I got back from lunch, I noticed the CEO was looking at the demo. So I poked my head in to say hi. He says "Why is this video telling me to lick it?" Wha? I go up to the screen, look at what he's watching, and... eep. The c in click here was perfectly cropped out of the shot. I mean perfectly. I mean you didn't know it was missing. So here's a horse, reared up on its hind legs, with the words "LICK HERE" just below its.. uh.. tail.

    I am so glad that we had the one CEO in our industry that understood what took place.
  • by Anonvmous Coward ( 589068 ) on Thursday January 08, 2004 @02:05PM (#7916726)
    As a joke, I once set the transporter to low resolution. The Captain was not amused.
  • by gosand ( 234100 ) on Thursday January 08, 2004 @02:09PM (#7916784)
    I was coding part of the Linux kernel, and thought to myself "Am I reinventing the wheel here?". So I looked around on the internet, and found some SCO code that did what I wanted to do, so I just copied it and submitted that to Linus. He accepted it and put it into the kernel.

    Boy, do I feel stupid now.

  • Oh geez. (Score:5, Funny)

    by Talonius ( 97106 ) on Thursday January 08, 2004 @02:11PM (#7916806)
    1. I was working on the development database but my boss needed a quick count of a number of checks so I opened a new window (Query Analyzer for SQL Server) to the production database and gave him his count. I then proceeded to finish what I was doing on development... without switching windows back to the development server.


    TRUNCATE isn't a logged option but thankfully Log Explorer Pro from Lumigent can retrieve truncated data if you move fast enough. As well we had a backup that wasn't so very old handy. Out of 1.3 million checks we only lost 34000, but I was so stressed out.

    2. Way, way, way back when we had just gotten a new Dell server. I was showing an interviewee the server who I had found out I had known when I was younger. So, joking around I said, "Want to see a hot swap of a drive?" He was like, heh, that'd be cool. So I pulled the drive out of the RAID 5 array. Alarm klaxons started going off from inside the machine, I swear. I stuffed the drive back in but even though the drive officially -was- hot swap we hadn't purchased the high end Dell with an array controller that could dynamically rebuild the data. We'd gotten the cheap version. 8 hours later - with the machine beeping constantly at us - the rebuild was done.

    3. This one's not mine but a guy I work with. I had asked him to migrate some databases to a backup server so he set up a DTS job to do the migration. Unfortunately he did two things wrong: the destination was the same server as the source, our primary production machine, and he set the DTS process to execute nightly instead of once. We ended up filling 300Gb of drive space and not having a clue as to what happened to cause it. When we found it we were giggling (it is funny :)) but beating ourselves in the head.

    4. Another one that's not mine. New network administrator was installing Windows NT 4.0 (this was ~6 years back? Roughly?). He was complaining about it taking forever to install and I asked him what he was doing. "Well, shit, NT has like 35 disks man." I asked him why he wasn't installing off the CD and he just hung up on me. He didn't know the NT CD would allow you to do that. :)

    5. On a similar vein my original boss when I started here was I thought a technical God. It's fun to see how that belief fades over time. In my case he was showing me how to install Netware 3.12 and configure it the way he wanted it to be configured. He sent me off on my own the next week to install a new office. The week at home I had burned all the Netware 3.12 files to a CD so I wouldn't have to cart around all those floppies. Apparently the load time off CD blew my boss out of the water because he didn't believe I'd installed the server already when he called to see how things were progressing.

    6. I'm walking my COO through hooking up a new modem in our Kansas City office. He's getting mad at me and asking me if I know what I'm doing because we can't get a response from the modem. (I'm working blind over the phone.) I had asked him earlier if he had hooked up all the cables like they were to the old one and he had indicated that he did. Finally I said, "Look, don't take this the wrong way but let's check the cabling. You should have a phone cable to the wall, a power cable to the power, and an interface cable to the computer. These should all be coming from the modem." He had forgotten to hook up the RS-232 cable. To this day I razz him about modems telepathically communicating with machines.

    7. My CEO is one of the brightest people I've ever met in my life and has my eternal respect for his intelligence and moral integrity. He called me and indicated he couldn't print. I told him to not get insulted but I was going to start with the basics. "Is the printer plugged in?" "Yes." "Is the power on?" "Thanks Brian, I'll call you if I have any more problems."

    8. I had just come off the road from setting up our Texas operations - a 4 mont
  • Live deletes (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ka9dgx ( 72702 ) * on Thursday January 08, 2004 @02:13PM (#7916841) Homepage Journal
    I was in a telnet session (and forgot that fact)... in E:\WINNT...

    What the heck are these files doing on E: on this machine? Fsck! Ok... let's delete them...

    Sudden realization that it wasn't local after all.. it was our main server for the ISP we ran, 25 miles away!

    Hopped in car, had to reinstall, got it back up and running about 2 sweat filled hours later.

    Moral: Always be mindful of WHERE the command is running.


  • This was told to me by the former supervisor for the phone systems in the AZ/NM area.

    The very first fiber run in Phoneix went from one federal building to another. I'm not sure which, but they must have been important.

    If you've ever seen an phone cable room underground, you know that the cables are straight, so straight that you can easily follow them across the room and usually clearly labeled. Well some dumbass manager went down into this one cable room underground in Phoenix, and saw this great big looping yellow piece of shit cable run and wanted it fixed pronto!! So he gets some new hire (been on the job less than a month) to go down there and I quote "Fix that Fu**ing thing! I want it to look just like the rest of the cable down there, and I'm gonna get the guy who installed it fired!!" (yes, he does come off as a jackass doesn't he?)

    So this poor newbie goes down into the manhole and starts hammering, and tying down, this 'cable' run. He's using pliers, 3 pound mauls (why won't this stuff stay flat?) and whatever else he could do and wouldn't you know it, after 4 hours or so of this, it looks beautiful, just like the rest of the runs and even re-labeled!

    Well, when this guy pokes his head out of the manhole, there are like 20 officers from the FBI, State DPS, County sheriff, ATF, and whoever else waiting for him with guns drawn!!!! Poor guy is fired on the spot and questioned for over 2 days, telling them he's not a sabateur and that his boss told him to do this. The boss doesn't fess up until the 3rd day of questioning, at which point HE is fired and the pleeb gets his job back.

    The second first fiber run in Phoenix was back up shortly, and the other workers educated about it's "don't take a hammer to this shit" properties.

    This sig writes better than I do.

  • by antdude ( 79039 ) on Thursday January 08, 2004 @03:38PM (#7918668) Homepage Journal
    Since I am an impatient guy, I wanted to make my external USR Sportster 33.6k modem to dial faster with initialization string parameters.

    Well, it was the middle of the night (3 am?) and I was a teenager. I made the modem dial fast, but one of the BBS phone number started out with 914... Well, the modem accidently dialed 911. I didn't have the modem speaker loud enough so I didn't hear 911 operator. Then, a cop came by after a few minutes. My folks weren't happy that day.

    DOH! :(
  • NET SEND (Score:4, Funny)

    by Gid1 ( 23642 ) < minus bsd> on Thursday January 08, 2004 @05:36PM (#7920681)
    While working at HP I did a NET SEND command to get whoever was logged into one of the servers I was using to log out of PCAnywhere. Unfortunately, I missed one of the parameters and sent the message to everyone in the login domain (ie. a few thousand users).

    After hitting ENTER, I hear a hundred Windows 'dings', and everyone in cubicle-land starts prairiedogging. I got a few nasty replies asking who I was, and a very nice one saying "Don't worry: once I sent 'I know you don't have any pants on' to most of HP Belgium".

    Worst thing was, the guy clogging up the server was my cubicle-mate who'd gone out to get coffee.
  • by Webmoth ( 75878 ) on Thursday January 08, 2004 @08:38PM (#7922819) Homepage
    This tidbit from Lars Wirzenius [] is a part of Linux Lore []:

    "Linus also got some other stuff via mail. For example, a pair of 40 megabyte hard disks. That was really nice, since it meant that Linus was finally able to keep some backups. Not that he did, of course. One of his well-known quotes is: "Backups are for wimps. Real men upload their data to an FTP site and have everyone else mirror it." He said that even after dialling his hard disk.

    "At one point, Linus had implemented device files in /dev, and wanted to dial up the university computer and debug his terminal emulation code again. So he starts his terminal emulator program and tells it to use /dev/hda. That should have been /dev/ttyS1. Oops. Now his master boot record started with "ATDT" and the university modem pool phone number. I think he implemented permission checking the following day."

    I once did something similar -- I was going to back up my MBR to a floppy. Using the 'dd' utility. I got the command line options backwards, and overwrote the first 1.44MB of the hard drive with the contents of a blank floppy disk. Required a low-level format of the hard drive to reuse the sucker. Thankfully, it had no critical or irreplaceable data on it.
  • by poofmeisterp ( 650750 ) on Thursday January 08, 2004 @10:20PM (#7923683) Journal
    I worked for a fortune-100 company as a UNIX admin/general systems geek.

    We noticed that one of the filesystems that held the log files for an Oracle Application Server (two machines, shared storage) was filling up.

    At this company, the security wannabees gave no one root access, but gave sudo privs to all UNIX admins. No big deal, huh? Well, they gave permission to everything in /usr/bin and /usr/sbin, save su to the admins. You can do things like 'sudo chown' and 'sudo rm'. Psssht.

    Anyhow, my boss asked me to clear out the rotated logs in an attempt to free up some space.

    I logged on to one of the two boxes and went to the directory in question. I typed "rm *.*"... Permission denied. Bummer. I guess I'll have to use sudo.

    I typed in 'sudo chown [myid] .' and then the previous command. After some time, I got my prompt back. I did a quick 'df -k .' to check my work and noticed that the filesystem was WELL within acceptable limits. I was so pleased with myself (and shocked by the tens of gigs of rotated logs) that I went to tell my boss that it was taken care of and to state my amazement at the amount of space that was being taken up.

    I got my 'attaboy' and continued working.

    After about an hour, we went to lunch (boss went to lunch with me almost daily.) He gets a call on his cell from the PHB (although, to be fair, 'balding head boss' would be more appropriate.) He said that the OAS cluster for the largest app we supported was down.

    After about 30 minutes of investigation and head-scratching on the part of my teammates still at the office, my boss got another call. One of my teammates asked him "who is [my id here]?"

    My boss asked me if I knew, and my heart nearly exploded. I told him it was me.

    I didn't even think to mention the change I made as a possible cause because so much crap happened every day that I forgot about one project about 5 minutes after completing it. I always fess up immediately when I make a mistake, so my boss knew I wasn't trying to hide anything...

    Apparently, the server crashed when it had to rotate the log file (too large) and couldn't write to the directory. It wouldn't come back up again (with a completely non-descript error message, of course) after the crash for the same reason.

    I'd left the directory permissions set to my user id. D'oh!

    What makes this funny (in that sick kinda way) is that this app server crashed constantly, and the higher-ups tried to make themselves look good by being concerned (even though no business loss was actually incurred.) They always wanted a root cause analysis for every crash, and they were all the same - "unknown. vendor support not available because software is past end of life."

    The higher-up jumped on this opportunity to make a freaking "oh my God, this guy is so dangerous" case out of it because it gave him something concrete to go to his higher-ups with, after so much "idunno" action.

    I was given a written warning (my boss was forced to do so.) He smiled and laughed with me over the stupidity of it.
  • by DavidLeblond ( 267211 ) < minus pi> on Friday January 09, 2004 @05:52PM (#7933309) Homepage
    I got an MIS degree instead of a Computer Science degree. No idea why.

    When I started my current job I was assigned to testing one of our apps. I was given 2 databases to log into and was told to "exhaustively test" the entire system (adding/deleting records.) So I started adding all sorts of odd stuff (I was going to delete them anyway.) Now I'm not dumb enough to name them dirty things (afterall this was my 2nd week) but I was still typing silly things.

    Anyway about an hour into it I got an email that was addressed to the whole department that said

    "To whomever is modifying the market database while I'm trying to demo it to one of our most important customers: not funny."

Today is a good day for information-gathering. Read someone else's mail file.