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Tech support chap given no training or briefing before jobs, which is why he was arrested

Re: I don't know if anything has changed

2 years after, pah,

Often written against the pre-launch prototype that works in entirely different ways to the shipped product. It surprises me that even in the internet age that manuals still suffer from this, and are also almost entirely immune to the sort of question that might have resulted in a need to refer to them.

Hmm, now that row of 6 dip switches, what do they do? The manual only goes up to 4 but I have been told to change the last one by phone support, WTF does it do? RTFM does not always work...

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Re: I don't know if anything has changed

Not yet seen a manual written before ship that matched the product

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Re: I don't know if anything has changed

That's what apprenticeships are for.

You start off by going out with an experienced techie, carrying stuff, working at the other end of a cable and so on, and you learn on the job.

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Re: I don't know if anything has changed

"Not yet seen a manual written before ship that matched the product"

Many written afterwords have a tenuous connection.

I hate the car manuals that seem to cover every variant except the one you are sitting in. Mysterious integrated radio with controls on steering wheel, bluetooth hands free, voice control, but no microphone. Cable not even fitted to rear of radio. Yet manual DOES have that model as one of three possible ones.

Cars used to be fixable. Now full of poorly documented distributed computer systems and pretend mechanical dials driven by computer. Door switches hidden inside the door locks. Why won't the open door indicator and air bag indicator go out?

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Re: I don't know if anything has changed

This in a nutshell: Often written against the pre-launch prototype that works in entirely different ways to the shipped product.

As a former tech writer (before changing careers) I can attest to this as "normal". Also add... the prototypes seldom physically look like the shipped unit.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I don't know if anything has changed

Approx 2 years after the product has shipped (If my current employer is anything to go by)

Never (if my current employer is anything to go by).

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Coat

Training?

Is that related to all the cloudy articles?

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Vetting? Does he thinks he's James Herriot?

But to this day he wonders why he wasn’t vetted

Because obviously the Soviets would only ever recruit the right sort of people, the ones who went to Oxbridge and knew all about art and culture, and who would get to meet the Queen (especially if they were related to her).

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Re: Vetting? Does he thinks he's James Herriot?

Because obviously the Soviets would only ever recruit the right sort of people,

I recall many years ago at a plant building ships for Her Majesty they vetted all the Programmers. They didn't vet the Operators though who had far greater access to the systems and data.

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Happy

Re: Vetting? Does he thinks he's James Herriot?

Far side.

https://wickershamsconscience.files.wordpress.com/2018/01/larson-get-tutored1.jpg

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Big Brother

Re: Vetting? Does he thinks he's James Herriot?

I was helping install a new personnel system at a Naval dockyard. I was thrown on the project at the last minute, got the vetting forms on a Friday afternoon, had to fill them out over the weekend and drive halfway across the country on the Monday morning...

The problem is, the vetting takes 3 months. I needed to start work on the Monday and you got a maximum of 3 daily passes, then you had to wait for the vetting to complete, before getting a permanent pass...

On the Thursday, I turned up for work and my colleagues abandoned me at the gate. The security guard checked his records and said I couldn't come on site. I tried to point out that the vetting was under way, but that didn't help.

Then I had a brainwave. I explained that I was converting the data from the old personnel system to the new one and if I didn't finish that work, he wouldn't be getting his pay check at the end of the month... That did it, I got a 3 month temporary pass.

Obviously being paid is more important than security. The good news is the vetting was completed and I was allowed to apply for a permanent pass. The bad news, that was 2 months after the end of the project.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Vetting? Does he thinks he's James Herriot?

Hmm. Vetting. I was vetted for what I was working on at the time, and visited a certain establishment several times, getting the right sort of badge. Anyway one day I was asked to support a different team on some other project & went with them to visit the same establishment. So at the reception the other guys got their badges, but they could find no record of my vetting status, even though I had been there before. It was most embarrassing to have a red 'not quite Joe Public' badge on when what we were talking about would never normally have included a red badger. The other guys had to vouch for me in the meeting, even though I hadn't worked with them before.

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Re: Vetting? Does he thinks he's James Herriot?

Back when I started as an operator at a three letter company our personnel department had removable disk packs locked up to keep salary information away from unauthorized people. They'd stay in the room while salary projections were run and immediately take the printouts away after locking up the disk packs.

At which point the operators would print out a copy for themselves from the scratch tape that was left mounted after the job was run.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Vetting? Does he thinks he's James Herriot?

Anon, because...

One morning, many, many years (and companies) ago, I stopped by the copy room to make some copies. I opened the lid of the copier, and (not unusually) there was a forgotten original on the glass.

As I picked it up to put it aside, I noticed names that looked familiar. It was a listing of the top corporate executives, their salaries and their bonus amounts. As I am a but of a rogue, and I was more of one when I was younger, I thought it might be fun to whack the hornets' nest with a stick a bit. So I made a few copies and scattered them around the office.

I am told, there was a bit of a hubub, but it never came near me.

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Re: Vetting? Does he thinks he's James Herriot?

On the flip side I had to visit a satellite ground station site in the Netherlands a couple of years ago with my boss (not military, but these commercial sites normally have tight security due to the cost of replacing all that fancy kit). My boss had to go through a long process to prove who he was to the security guard. In my case he just tossed me the security pass (a higher grade one than my boss I should add) with a friendly greeting - I had worked at that site 10 years ago and they still had my details on file!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Vetting? Can we screw with the Americans a bit? Please?

I was once a subcontractor on a weather satellite payload support job in France, at a time when some idiot NOAA political appointees had pissed off their ESA partners. (At the tech level, all was well, it was just that the manglement level was suddenly overrun by interfering fools who saw a project budget they could pillage.) As a result, someone at the local facility "lost" my credentials for most of a day in order to stick it to those drones from the US. Knowing this background, and that it wasn't aimed personally at me but rather at some folks I disliked as much as they did, I calmly parked myself in a chair in the guard room waiting area, propped my Stetson over my eyes, and demonstratively took a couple of hours nap while the ESA tech folks explained to the facility people that delaying a VERY expensive and tightly scheduled thermal-vacuum test by locking out an instrument support engineer who was required for the test to go on (and who wasn't a party to the idiocy in any case) was hurting them more than it hurt their intended targets.

All was well after that as long as we kept the new bureaucrats at a distance while getting the job done, which we were more than happy to do.

Anon for rather obvious reasons.

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Training...

...it can take many forms:

You have the stuff you have to learn out of necessity - you know, where you basically train yourself by learning on the job when something goes wrong.

You have the stuff you do as part of your education (and I was very lucky BITD to be taught by some real giants who'd had decades of real-world experience before going into teaching). Of course, you also have to have chosen the right kind of course.

Then there's the stuff you can pick up with your own labs, tinkering and breaking stuff at home.

And my least favourite is the "official vendor" training which, as I've often said, is their simply to boost their revenue and in almost all cases is a test of memory not knowledge and which no company has any interest in following through with until their partner renewals are up.

Of them all, I suspect the first is by far the most common and by far the most effective - especially when the thing that went wrong was caused by your own lack of knowledge/experience and you have to dig your way back out.

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Re: Training...

Trouble comes when you're in a genuine zero-tolerance field, yet you're never told what in the long list can get you sacked, a la a Hall of Memory.

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Anonymous Coward

Vetting? You gotta be kidding, it is always with a hindsight...

I had the following incident in one of my previous jobs ~15 years ago.

We were using a small contract manufacturer in UK to do test runs for us. In order to retrofit a certificate system for encrypting the traffic between our equipment we had to tidy up the manufacturing process, add cert generation, etc. So I had to go to the contract manufacturing facility and finalize the set-up.

I show up there, hand in my passport at the entrance, have myself recorded in the visitor book, do my job and leave. 30 minutes after I am back at the office there is frantic panic call to our CEO about my visit with the manufacturer trying to blame us for a major DoD security breach. In those days I did not have the collection of passports I have today so I handed at the gate my Russian one.

Apparently, a production line in the same facility was making some crap for Quinetic on one of DoD missile projects. So they let me sign in with the Russian passport, let me work inside the building bringing in equipment and taking out equipment for 3 hours and then they let me leave. When the shifts change and the next person at the gate opens the book it becomes a major incident. When they are told that actually my job is security the incident goes off the scale.

So my boss comes to me and tells me: "Mate, you may have to get a security clearance, looks like only way to clear the incident". At which point I tell him that the likelihood of this happening is about as likely as Lucipher snowploughing hell because in addition to being a citizen of the "enemy", I have a whole slew of relatives on that side in interesting places including my granduncle being a general in a 3 letter abbreviated outfit. Gulp. So we decide to leave it at that.

Apparently, the idiots at the factory still took my data from the visitor book and tried to do a background check. They even called to notify my company that: "You know, his granduncle is a general in XYZ" and were very shocked when they were told: "Yes we know, so what".

In any case, based on my own experience, vetting for things like software and computing has been a hindsight affair up to as recent as 10 years ago. If not more recent.

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Pint

Re: Vetting? You gotta be kidding, it is always with a hindsight...

Whoops! This must be one of those Russian trolls the media keep telling us about.

Seriously though, this sounds like another of those stories that should be headlining El Reg's light entertainment columns, rather than tucked away in the comments.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Vetting? You gotta be kidding, it is always with a hindsight...

I remember Quinetic when it was still DERA. Lots of stuff I will never be able to talk about

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Vetting? You gotta be kidding, it is always with a hindsight...

ditto, Malvern...

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Meh

Security?

I'm not all that sure it has progressed all that much since then.

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Black Helicopters

CA Top Secret

I was going to say "there used to be" a mainframe security suite called "Top Secret". But I just checked, and am amazed to see that it still exists.

Anyway, legend has it that many support engineers have had everything bar the latex glove from security staff, when trying to exit spooky places with a set of manuals prominently displaying the product name.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: CA Top Secret

A colleague found out that using old envelopes to jot notes on is NOT OK when leaving these types of places, when the envelope happens to be for a bank statement and therefore says "Private and Confidential".

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Re: CA Top Secret

"A colleague found out that using old envelopes to jot notes on is NOT OK when leaving these types of places, when the envelope happens to be for a bank statement and therefore says "Private and Confidential"."

Fortunately they'd stopped the practice by the time I got there, but at one place of work they had banned the use of pen and paper in one or the the large server rooms. Mobile phones were banned and the only phone in the room was a good 100 yards away from the machines I was looking after.

The worst one was when I was asked to move gigabytes of data from a system in our building to one in that server room. This at midday Friday, with a deadline of Monday morning. Normally I would have used tapes for the job, but getting director level signatures to get the tapes in there on a Friday afternoon wasn't going to be practical.

I sent the lot over the network instead, and it was all done by Sunday,. so the deadline was hit.

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Anonymous Coward

Slighty different, but *user* training ...

How about the cases where skinflint bosses hire new staff, sit them in front of (your) software package, with the helpdesk number, and expect the helpdesk to deliver £5,000 worth of training for free under the pretext of "support".

Happened almost daily when I worked for a company that produced software for estate agents - easily the tightest tightwads in commerce. And I've worked in logistics, metrology, finance, and energy distribution.

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Re: Slighty different, but *user* training ...

Estate agents, who get paid vast sums for doing almost nothing at all, are tightwads? Why does this not surprise me?

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Re: Slighty different, but *user* training ...

Always best to slip a "minimum training" clause into the support contract. From there, you can point out that being given an account and told to "Have fun" doesn't meet the bar.

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Re: Slighty different, but *user* training ...

Christ. The hours I've wasted trying to talk people through using Word or Outlook, let alone an industry-specific application...

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Re: Slighty different, but *user* training ...

Software for estate agents? Wouldn't be in the West Midlands, would it? - say round about Junction 3 M5?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Slighty different, but *user* training ...

Real estate agents are, based upon over 2 decades of experience in direct sales, the single cheapest group of people in computing - they want all the kit, and mucho help (since a large majority know zilch about computers) but when you tell them the cost is higher than a pint of bitters at the local pub, they freak and end up buying chromebooks and netbooks and wonder why their multiple listings software is so slow, and why they can't seem to find anyone to help them learn how to open Word (a "borrowed" copy because well again, it costs more than a pint).

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Slighty different, but *user* training ...

Real estate agents are, based upon over 2 decades of experience in direct sales, the single cheapest group of people in computing

One of our clients (letting agent) bought the cheapest laptop they could find in Tesco. It was bloody awful. How the hell he ever found a machine that could barely run Citrix Receiver, I'll never know...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Slighty different, but *user* training ...

I thought you did a typo there until I double checked and googled metrology. I never knew. Thanks for the new word.

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Anonymous Coward

Re:Junction 3 M5?

Well back in 2000 ... them moved in 2002, then taken over in 2005 ...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: estate agents

(no need for "real" in the UK)

the biggest way they'd wind me up was to ring up about one of their properties not being on <insert website of your choice> and how it was losing them £20,000 in commission.

You'd then add £1 to their support fee, and you'd have to listen for two hours about how they're reusing teabags because things are so bad.

Without a doubt, the least favourite industry I ever worked in. Although apparenly lawyers are worse.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: googled metrology

Science of measurement. In my case weight measurement at weighbridges. It takes guts to turn up where lots of truckers congregate and not fix the problem ....

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My similar experience with core store in a defence establishment. At least I didn't get arrested!

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Thumb Up

It makes complete sense, that the "establishment" would insist on overwriting the failed core memory with a random pattern before letting it out of the place.

But, if it's failed, how does one overwrite it? Well, one doesn't.

So, the solution is to leave it with the security folks to be securely destroyed (I have images of little old ladies, *unstringing* the cores). Those things are expensive, but leaving the defective one for them to destroy seems like an easy way out, and just bill them for it.

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"So, the solution is to leave it with the security folks to be securely destroyed (I have images of little old ladies, *unstringing* the cores). Those things are expensive, but leaving the defective one for them to destroy seems like an easy way out, and just bill them for it."

These days, if an item has been used in a secure environment, or might have been used so in the past, then any system or component being replaced has to be left on site for destruction. That pretty much means anything that isn't just literally bare metal since pretty much all PC/server parts have some form of permanent programmable memory on board somewhere.

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"But, if it's failed, how does one overwrite it?"

Just put the core frame on a big. powerful magnet...

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back in the day I worked for an outsourcer, we had a contract at a secure site basically installing some new kit and pc's. The site we worked on also happened to do some rather scary nasty stuff for the mod so a lot of areas where out of bounds and security was very tight indeed, high fences, cameras everywhere only one way in or out, badge access on every door, the usual.

Anyway, step forward new guy, just hired and sent to our site, new guy decided it would be a good idea to try and smuggle his mate on site, at 11pm to go raiding the storeroom of new laptops, back when laptop cost around 6k a pop, security had a field day, of course as soon as he used his pass on the first door out of hours their consoles lit up, they video'd him and his mates every move from the second he entered the carpark and grabbed him as he left arms laden with boxed laptops, he came up with a lame excuse about taking them to install stuff on, of course he was fired. no idea what actually happened to him or his mate, the whole incident was quietly swept under the carpet, amazingly we kept the contract.

another funny thing on that site, they had a cyanide alarm, and chemical suits outside, a nice sign saying in case of alarm put on a suit, there where about 6 of us in the room, and only 2 suits, I often wondered what would happen if the alarm ever sounded.

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Anonymous Coward

I don't have to run faster than the bear

I only have to run faster than you

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Anonymous Coward

Sweet J. That new guy must have been the highest level of special!

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Angel

Training?

The 'clean room' guys don't know how well off they are.

In the dirty, greasy, ink-splattered world of industrial electronics you are still sent out on urgent repairs to kit you've never seen in your life before. This has frequently been much {cough} modified {cough} over the years, and in no way resembles any schematics (in the unlikely event they still exist). If the mechanics are modern (less than 30 years old) and European, you may have the luxury of all metric fittings, otherwise all bets are off. Electronics could be anything from pure relay control, through TTL/CMOS and PLCs of questionable capability... or any mixture of those.

A few years back I was sent to fix a variable speed drive on a printing press. I was staggered to find this was built in the 1950s and used a variable reluctance system - quite ingenious, horribly inefficient, and something neither I nor any of my colleagues had ever seen before or since.

Now get of my lawn :)

P.S.

Forgot to mention you've usually got an 'excitable' production manager hovering over you asking when it'll be fixed every few minutes.

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Re: Training?

"... variable reluctance system ..."

Sounds like an intern towards the end of the week.

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Anonymous Coward

Training - and retraining

When I was hired years ago, we were supposed to have a 4-hour crash course in using the computer system. But the trainer knew that what he was supposed to show us wasn't related to our job functions, and we wouldn't remember it anyway in a couple months when we finally got access, so he zipped through it in about 45 minutes. Our REAL education was others in the department showing us how to do everything, plus a bit of exploration, and trying to figure out how to fix what we broke.

Fast forward a number of years. I'm now considered one of the site experts for this system. We're upgrading to a new version of the same system - it's 95% identical to what we've been using for many years. But we have to read hundreds of pages of procedures on how to use it (I *wish* that was an exaggeration), and attend about 20 hours worth of classroom sessions. One memorable session was taught by the newest member of my department. He's good, definitely, but having been doing this several times longer than him, I was constantly several steps ahead of him in the demo...

(AC and vague for obvious reasons.)

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Linky

I think the two following statements may be linked

1. ...... for a now defunct manufacturer

2. "Many people would also have thought the mainframe manufacturer in question would have been expected to train me!"

Perhaps competence was not high on the list of the manufacturers' values.

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I was working at a USAF base and the CPU module wouldn't plug into a machine even though the test report said it had been working at the factory. I was in the data center late at night when the Lt Col asked what I was doing and I mentioned that I needed to cut the metal bracket just a bit but I needed to protect the board from the metal shavings and that had to be in an anti-static environment. He suggested I take it home after learning I did have the proper tools. I told him there is no way I was going to take that out of the machine room without the proper paperwork based on cost per ounce, it was more expensive that nearly everything else on the base there were were some very expensive things on that base.

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FAIL

Our Technician Was Stopped On The Way In!

Back in the early '70s I worked for MDS (the now defunct Mohawk Data Sciences) and one of our clients was an atomic agency of the US government and the MDS technicians who serviced that account were especially cleared by the Secret Service.

Being used for specialised purposes meant the MDS equipment was non-standard. In fact, our field service office had some of the equipment designers actually attached to our office, who were there for technical support. They were easily identifiable by their non-conformist 'hippie' style dress code and long hair.

In one occasion there was a serious defect in the equipment, way beyond the scope of humble techs. So help was sought from one of our senior 'Hippies' who traveled on a particularly noisy hawg (motorcycle). The presence of such a character, along with his wheels, disturbed the quiescence of the armed gateman.

Our Hippie was admitted into the car holding area, with serious looking gates on either side, whilst he was 'checked out'. A few minutes later a couple of suited gunslingers came out and said Hippie was to leave the premises.

After some telephone calls ir was determined the problem could only be solved by our Hippie since he designed the custom system.

Turns out Hippie had a 'criminal record' which, upon research, was determined to be a juvenile offence of breaking a window. He was permitted to enter, escorted by the gunslingers, and eventually resolved the problem.

U.S. Security - can't be beaten for stupidity.

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