IT pros share their horror stories

Hold your flashlight under your chin and enjoy the following tales from the IT crypt

With Halloween approaching I thought it appropriate to share some bewitching IT stories from some of the ghosts (those who want to remain anonymous) and goblins (proud to take credit for their ghoulish tales) belonging to Encompass,HP's largest enterprise technology user group (I'm the president).

As I quipped with some of our contributors, most of my frightening IT stories involved "me." The computer just happened to be in the room.

All kidding aside, I do have a couple that drove me to the witches' brew.

In the early days of e-mail the term "viral marketing" meant something different and far more literal than it does now. Our company decided to jump on the mass e-mail broom, and I had instructed our marketing manager to send out our first blast e-mail to our database on a time-sensitive promotion. It simply had to go out. She had been experiencing computer problems that day, but I told her it could wait until after the blast. As you have probably concluded by now, the e-mail had a virus attached and became the unsolicited promo shot heard around the world.

Now everybody has at least one Windozzze story. Back in the mid-'90s, our backend ran on VMS (what's a blue screen?), and all the desktops had just upgraded (I use the term "upgraded" loosely) to Windows 95. At the same time we released the first version of our software tool, and yours truly was giving a presentation to an oil company in New Orleans. During the presentation I got the blue screen of death four times! Fortunately for me, Microsoft's Bill Gates had recently made news for getting the BSOD during a demo of Windows 95 at a conference. Ouch.

It's refreshing to know that I'm not alone. Hold your flashlight under your chin and enjoy the following tales from the IT crypt:

Pete L. -- New York: One time we had a mild hardware problem with one of our ProLiants. The server was extended from the rack and cover open. It was powered up and in production, and we were trying to retrieve a part number or check a fan or whatever. Living up to my reputation as one who loves games, I started tossing a quarter up and down. . . . The quarter fell right onto the motherboard, and the server shut off immediately. The rest was history, and the customer was ticked at us. Funny now; not so funny then.

Steve Davidek -- Nevada: One of my staff called me last year while I was at the gym to say that our entire data center had shut down. I immediately (of course) achieved an adrenaline high and rushed back to work. Upon arriving, I found all 20 Windows Servers, our MPE financial system server and our network "shut down". My tech explained that the UPS was beeping that a battery was low, so he turned the data-center UPS off so it wouldn't beep anymore. . . .

Anonymous: We needed to add another plug to our police department server room, so the electrician asked if we could shut down our police dispatch server so he could add it. When he finished about five minutes later, the server would not boot. It seems that even though the HP3000 is as rock solid as a VMS server, after running for six years straight without a shutdown the system/motherboard failed. It was exciting to have the dispatch supervisor breathing down my neck while I called HP for help. . . .

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