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"Has Barry been murdered?" - true tales from an ex-IT support man Episode 3

My first job in IT, as I mentioned in a previous episode of the blog, was with a bureau.  Bureaux are fast-paced, brutally mercenary environments, where the adage "time  is money" most definitely applies, the clients being charged by the quarter-hour.   Clients included motoring recovery companies (one of the "biggies"), where we would be printing out the membership cards on that infamous ICL 1933 printer.  This was when membership cards were still on folded cardboard, before the advent of the plastic credit card style we use today.  And there were thousands of them in a run.  Thousands.  And, if the run failed in the middle of printing, we had to re-run the printout from the start.  What to do with the cards already printed?  A roaring trade of hooky cards being flogged off in the local pub to pay for beer, that's what.  I imagine that the recovery company wondered why people with addresses in Yorkshire were breaking down so often in the South of England... One
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Cloud accounting - ok until you cock up...

 A few weeks ago, I wrote about backups and said " People outside of the IT industry never appreciate that backing up of data is not just an investment in software or time and effort taken to run the backup – it’s protection of the time and effort already taken in creating the data the backup will be securing.    Software and applications can be replaced reasonably quickly if a device breaks.    Data takes an awful lot longer to recover if, indeed, it’s possible to do so without the data backup." It truly baffles me how purveyors of the various cloud-based accounting software out there haven't yet cottoned on to the big disadvantage that not having a backup facility as part of their offerings for which they could, no doubt, offer to store the backups for a small(!) fee, but even THAT has its failings unless the backups are stored OFF the internet.   I'm not referring to the security of data - that, as a cloud facility, is accepted.  What I'm suggesting is that co

Somebody call for an ambulance - true tales from an ex-IT support man Episode 2

Now, I'm not saying that sometimes, in the wild world of IT computer operations, things get out of hand but, in a (then) male-dominated industry that was the computer services bureau, it often did. The first place I worked at separated the different computer suites onto different floors, and competition between the teams was, to understate it, intense.  We were the ICL team in the basement, with the IBM team on the first floor.   Overnight,  both teams usually had a job to run that lasted several hours with little or no hands-on operation.  During those periods, inevitably the gauntlet was thrown down by one or other of the teams and battle ensued.  Not real battle, of course, but more of an impromptu and cobbled-together sports event.  The most fast-paced and hectic of these was paper-football: about half of a box of printout paper was commandeered, scrunched into a ball and then strapped up with at least a whole roll of Sellotape.   We usually went upstairs to the IBM suite for t

Step away from the keyboard (again) - true tales from an ex-IT support man Episode 1

I started in IT in 1975 as an operator on a mainframe, then progressed (if progress is the word...) from mainframe operations, through communications, to global communications co-ordination, and onwards to PC support, trainer, project manager, problem management and IT management. There is, I reckon, very little that would surprise me when encountering the problems reported by users of all levels.   This, then, is the first in a series of the various issues I have dealt with or come across. They're all true: For example, going all the way back to when PCs were in their infancy, the company for which I was working decided to invest in a word processing system built by Wang (no sniggering at the back...).  The desktop machines weren't actually PCs at first, more what was known as "intelligent terminals" which were linked to a mini-mainframe (the one in the picture below is very similar to what we were using - stylish, eh?), and the company then sent me on a "Train

Tales from an old computer bod - how I got to be a cynic

For those of you who may be interested in how I developed into the cynical, jaded (almost) human being that I am now, I thought I would resurrect an article that was authored by me and published in a long since defunct computer magazine. I have slightly modified the text to bring the article into context, but 95% of the text is as published, albeit that the magazine published the text in the wrong order (from a WordStar file composed when I had hair on my head):   To give you a little background, I had a burning ambition as a child to become a dentist. OK, so I may be on the sadistic side, and so what if my hands shook a little? I knew from the age of 7 years that dentistry was my goal. Naturally enough, when I had my first session with the careers officer at senior school, he advised me to become an interpreter, but that's another story. The school I was attending had what they called a computer – we called it an adding machine with power as all we used it for was to find square

Supplier of last resort – you’re not wrong, there

  There we were, reasonably happy with the People’s Energy supplying our electricity and gas supplies, at least from a tariff perspective, when they went out of business in September.  Our account was transferred, under the “Supplier of Last Resort” scheme, to British Gas.   I’m on the Priority Service Register (PSR), as I am disabled and we have no way of accessing the gas meter, and nobody whom we can ask.   I had requested the meter be read for over a year and was fobbed off with the excuse that because of Covid restrictions the meter could not be read.   Strange, as the meter is external to the house so there would have been no need to enter the house to read the gas meter, and the electricity readings were being sent via smart meter.   The gas meter, which I was told was not connected to the smart meter as it was incompatible, according to an email I had received from People’s Energy on 10 th August 2021 that someone was going to be reading the meter “within 3 months” – then they

Is THIS what we pay our taxes for? Hand me the Pepto-Bismol, somebody...

    Rant time.  Again.   This time HMRC is the target of my ire.   (Takes deep breath to avoid killing keyboard, sucks thumb and blows while sucking to stimulate the vagus nerve which controls the heart rate (no, really – try it), in a vain attempt to bring it down to less than 120…)   So, as I had completed the filing of my company accounts for 2021, I decided to get the painful bit out of the way and cough up what I owed to HMRC.   I had changed my year end from 31 st August to 30 th September as my trading year actually began 1 st October, so I thought I’d align it at the start.  This meant that I actually had TWO corporation tax bills: the first due for the period 1 st September 2020 to 31 st August 2021, the second for the period to 30 th September 2021.   The amount due was duly paid 7 th October 2021, comprising the two amounts due.   I checked the Government Gateway and there were the payments against the filed periods.   Great, I thought.  No need to worry about that an