The Twenty Year Server Plan (from Christian Riesen)
One day, one of the customers we rarely hear from called with some computer troubles. They were a jeweler, one of those high-end ones where you call ahead for them to open the store to you whenever you feel like it, so I assumed they had top-notch equipped. But this was one of the many experiences that led me to adjust my views more to reality.

Their problem was a cinch: a dodgy network cable that was rolled over with a chair about a million times, and the shielding was actually touching the inner copper wires. As I was wrapping up and running some diagnostics, I noticed their server was being very slow.

"Oh, it's just getting old," the friendly lady who worked there told me. She went on to describe that it had gotten slower over the past few years. About ten years ago it was fast, but now it was just getting older she figured and not as fast anymore. They would need a new one in the next five to ten years probably.

A few more pointed questions revealed that they very often had to retry saving documents, that sometimes documents wouldn't load and they had to delete them and use backups they had made locally. All of this was ringing my alarm bells and I asked her to show me said server.

She led me to a door which revealed a small space filled out with a cupboard inside it. Then she opened the doors and pointed at a machine that was sitting on the bottom shelve, with one large package of copy paper stored on top of it. As the door opened I already had gotten a heatwave in my face. Touching the case almost burnt my hand. I was looking at her but she didn't notice anything. Oblivious to the fire hazard the huge paper stack presented, I removed it carefully and even more carefully slid the computer a bit so I could remove the panel of one side.

The inside was tightly packed with dust. Since the day this machine was built, I doubt that cover had been removed, ever. That it had not ignited was almost a miracle to me in itself. With a vacuum I freed the interior which revealed a halfway melted fan that must have died about five years back above the CPU. It also had a case fan, high end for that time, that started to droop and also must have died a gruesome death at one point.

With all the insulating material removed, the disk was now clearly audible, screeching in its death throes. "That disk should be dead already by the sound of it," I said, turning the store owner a few shades paler.

I began coping data to one of the workstations immediately. It stopped every now and then, since it couldn't read something at all or just started to infinitely copy a file. I stopped and restarted copy operations, picking single directories one by one until I managed to get about 70% of their data out. The rest was a total loss.

We decided to now take it out and see if we can determine any other damage. We shut it down, took it out and hooked it up on a desk. The power button worked and it started booting, but the disk remained silent. We were both surprised at how stubbornly that disk had hung on to its last thread of life, literally screaming, but knew this had been the most likely outcome.

The relief of the store owner was visible on his face. "You see, we were going to renovate in two weeks and would have had to remove the server from its place. We would have shut it down and lost everything without realizing it."

Their twenty-year server plan was cut short, so I helped them buy a new server and gave the explicit instructions not to put it in the cupboard. We'll see if they remember that over the next decade.

 

The Split Monitor (from Christian Riesen)
Years ago, I was a helpdesk operator at certain large government department that was headquartered in a certain pentagonal building.

One day, a gentleman came to our office and asked for a new monitor. In those days, monitors were fairly expensive, so I asked why. "My monitor is busted," he claimed, "only the right half of my program is being displayed. It used to work fine, and now it doesn't."

For the life of me, I couldn't imagine what would cause this – a monitor doesn't just randomly stop displaying half of the screen, especially on the vertical. So, I followed him back to his office to see what was wrong.

Once I saw it, I sighed, questioned why people like this work for the department, and proceeded to "fix" the monitor by dragging the program to the center of the screen and maximizing it again. He apparently restored down the program and it appeared half off the screen, giving the "half" program look.

 

The Ice Machine (from Justin Bailey)
I'm not an old timer by any means, but I sure miss the Good Old Days. They had to be better than this.

Connecting to Global Service Assurance Live Help...
Connected!
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Singh, Baljeet :: Hello, I am from Global Service Assurance, how can I help you today?

Bailey, Justin :: We have a problem with our ice machine, and I was told I have to submit 
                  before maintenance will investigate. 

Singh, Baljeet :: Hello Justin, I can help you with your request. I have created a ticket
                  for you, #IM102955. Before dispatching local services, I will need to 
		  troubleshoot the problem remotely. Can you describe the problem?

Bailey, Justin :: The ice machine doesn't work. The compressor is probably broken. 

Singh, Baljeet :: I see. I will try to diagnose this problem, but can you first describe 
                  for me what you mean by "ice machine"?

Bailey, Justin :: It's an under-counter appliance... we have it in our kitchen.

Singh, Baljeet :: I am not familiar with this device. Can you describe its purpose?

Bailey, Justin :: It produces ice... which we then use to chill our drinks?

Singh, Baljeet :: I see. This will be challenging to remotely diagnose, so I will
                  dispatch local services to help resolve this problem.