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Sysadmin jeered in staff cafeteria as he climbed ladder to fix PC

Life lesson: don't display messages on screens if you don't know who'll see it!

By Simon Sharwood, 28 Jul 2017

On-Call The end of the week is nigh and to ease your passage into the next phase of existence – the blessed weekend - El Reg brings you On-Call, our Friday column chronicling readers’ stories of jobs with strange beginnings and sticky endings.

This week, meet “Tom” who “back in the halcyon days of Windows for Workgroups” found himself “wandering around the network killing time on a quiet evening shift, playing with some probe software I'd cobbled together.”

That effort identified a PC that shared its C: drive with the world. Tom couldn’t figure out where the machine was located, or who used it. But he decided whoever was responsible for it deserved a little nudge in the direction of better security. So he “edited its autoexec.bat file to echo a message suggesting that the owner call me to see about locking it down and setting up a safe share instead.”

“About three weeks later I got the call,” Tom told us. But it wasn't the call he'd expected.

“The PC had rebooted after a power outage and was now displaying my message,” Tom told us. “Unfortunately it was the PC used to control a 36" display screen mounted high up the wall in the split-level canteen, used for public messages to staff, and with the PC itself bolted into a cradle in the ceiling.”

“I had to find a 20' stepladder, clamber up into the dusty roof, plug in a keyboard and mouse, get the damn thing going and then fix the share security and check the message display software was still working,” Tom told us. He set about this task “while leaning out to see the display screen and hoping not to die of vertigo-induced deceleration trauma.”

Tom told us his co-workers were, predictably, “hugely entertained by all this, the bastards.”

Have you had to perform sysadminnery in front of an ... erm ... appreciative audience? If so, share your story with On-Call and you could end up on this page on some future Friday. ®

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