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Stories: Shot in the Foot
Once in a while, we're all a little too clever for our own good.

Black Holes and Disc Compression
By LLGames@aol.com

I'm still a young computer user and in my time of experimentation. I had just installed a new 6 gig hard disk on my then 3 or 4 year old 75 MHz Packard Bell. I had to break it into several partition drives. Well, one day I ran low on space in one drive. Rather than do the smart thing and use another drive I tried to squeeze as much space out of it as I could. I tried to compress the drive and left it on overnight. When I woke up I realized that it was running scan disk over and over. After a month of probing I realized that both black holes and disk compression utilities have similar properties. They both squeeze and crush and destroy partitioned hard drives, even formatting it didn't work. I had to replace the drive and motherboard. Ka-Ching.

The Cable Guys
Splicing fiber optic cable is a painstaking task. You need to clip the ends of the cable, clean and polish them, align them, place them in a special fiber welder, weld them together, and test the splice to ensure that it doesn't degrade the signal through the cable too badly.

Legend has it that an ATT cable splice crew was working on a very large splice (hundreds of fibers) in the Midwest during the winter. When they work outside in the winter, the crew brings out a little trailer to sit in so they don't freeze in the snow. When they finished this particular splice, they realized that they had run the cable in through the door and out through a window so they couldn't get the cable out. They also couldn't very well tell their supervisors that they needed to cut the cable and repeat a couple week's work so they cut the trailer instead. The made a slot running from the door to the window and pulled the cable out. Presumably they patched the cut with some sheet metal or duct tape.

Note that I'm not absolutely certain that this story is true so it may be a phone company urban legend. It certainly sounds like the sort of thing these guys could do, though.

Child Support, Spousal Support, and Phone Support
We once built a dispatch system for outside telephone repair people. Each day the system would route several hundred repair people to a few thousand jobs matching their skills and equipment to the jobs at hand. After we had built the system, we ran it in a test mode for a couple weeks.

Not once but twice during the test period the system assigned repair men to work at their ex-wive's houses! Fortunately the repair men recognized the addresses and phoned the office for a new assignment thus avoiding an embarrassing scene.

The moral: Eventually a program will encounter every possible silly and inconvenient situation no matter how unlikely.

Sending Your Disk Into A Black Hole
On Unix file systems, . and .. mean "the current directory" and "the parent directory" respectively. For example, the file ../Readme.txt means the file Readme.txt in the directory above the current one. The file ./.login~ means the file .login~ in the current directory.

At the same time, files with names beginning with . are normally hidden. That lets you ignore files such as .login, .mail, and .forward that you don't need to modify very often.

Unfortunately this also is a convenient place for applications to store their garbage. Some programs would place files with names beginning with . in your directories to hold data, configuration information, and all sorts of other junk.

On one system, after working with a particular piece of software for a while, there was a whole directory tree filled with files beginning with the . character. I needed to delete them all.

The Unix delete command is rm. The -r option means recursivly delete the files and subdirectories listed, and any contents they might have. The command:

    rm -r SubDir
deletes the subdirectory SubDir and its entire directory tree. The rm command also takes wild cards so, for example, the following command would delete all files in a directory tree that begin with the word Junk:
    rm -r Junk*

So here's where the fun begins. I wanted to delete all of the files in the directory hierarchy that started with the . character so I typed:

    rm -r .*
Seems safe enough, right? Look back at the first paragraph in this story. The character . means this directory and .. means the parent directory. The wild card .* matched the value .. so this command recursively deleted the parent directory. When it examined the files in the parent directory, the wild card .* matched the value .. in that directory so the command recursively deleted the parent's parent directory. And so on up the directory hierarchy to the very top where the command merrily started deleting the system files.

It only took me a few seconds to realize what was going on, but it was already far too late. I wound up reinstalling the system from scratch, which at least was a lot easier than a typical Windows installation is these days.

Paint it Black
Ariel Canievsky shares this story:

This happened back in Windows 3.x times. Just for play, I went to the Color configuration, in the Control Panel, and set the color of each item to black. I thought that maybe, Win16 is such clever that he may keep something in other color... I was wrong. The hole screen had turned black. I could only see the mouse pointer.

So, do u know how was I able to restore the color configuration?.. I run to my mum's PC, run Win16, take a piece of paper and a pen, and went to the Control Panel\Colors and set Standard configuration, but everything with the keyboard, so I wrote each step in the paper. Then I went to my PC and followed the written steps by keyboard. Could it be possible usin' the mouse instead the keyboard?

So the moral here is that: it's dangerous to play with the color configuration, and it'd be better to practise using more the keyboard insted the mouse. Becouse I was borned at the DOS epic, so I feel better using the keyboard. 'Coz, tell me, the keyboards' faster than the mouse, isn't it? And, can u belive me that I keep using the ASCII code for spanish accent, instead of [ `] and [ o ] for e.g.

If you would like to contribute a story, email me.

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