In the mid 90s, Ken W. was working in the distribution center of a large commercial printing company. Since the department didn't generate any revenue, it was treated as a cost center. As such, getting purchases approved had a difficulty level somewhere between squeezing a camel through the eye of a needle and being rich and getting into heaven.

Since the printing branch was sending order information in Word documents or Excel spreadsheets, the distribution center needed Office licenses. Office costs more than $0, however, and the vehement opposition to approving purchase requests trumped the need for the software.

Ken's boss, the distribution center's IT director (and only other employee in IT) improvised. He brought in his own personal copy of Office and installed it on all 40 workstations. The installation ran from 5 1/4" floppies. These floppies would be written to during the installation to preserve the username and organization name. As such, every machine in the building was licensed to "Jack Stevens" for "The Stevens Family." Problem solved.

One of Ken's responsibilities was manual data file correction. Their applications were done in Clipper, using dBASE databases and FoxPro style (.CDX) index files. Once every few months, something would break and they'd get binary "stripes" through the databases. You know, the fun smiley faces, card suits, music notes, male/female symbols, the symbol for the artist formerly known as Prince, and so on.

Of course, this problem only appeared on really busy days with heavy shipping loads. Since a whole day's worth of work would be lost, restoring from the backup was not an option. Instead, Ken would open the file in a hex editor and database browser, delete corrupted data and fix current data enough that the customer service staff could rebuild the orders.

Ken argued with his boss for weeks about the source of the problem. His boss thought it was a power-related issue, and Ken thought it was bad RAM. He reasoned that the problem only appeared on busy days where the load would be heavy enough to hit the upper levels of the RAM.

The problem remained unresolved, with Ken still scrambling to manually repair the data. His boss left, and Ken was mitosically promoted; he'd keep handling his current responsibilities in addition to taking on his former boss's work. With his boss now out of the way, Ken went in on a weekend to test the memory. He took the server down and ran a memory test utility. And sure enough, the RAM was bad.

Ken dreaded asking for approval to purchase replacement RAM, but it had to be done. He talked to his new boss (the general manager), who called the printing plant to get 16MB of ram replaced. Of course, the request was denied. Instead, they'd send down their own IT director with an old NT 4 machine to replace the system with the bad memory.

Nick, the printing plant's IT director, arrived a few days later, server in hand. He was a Vietnamese immigrant who didn't know any English. He knew French, however, so they sent Frank with him to translate. Ken hung out while Nick and Frank got the server hooked up and running. Time dragged while they talked back and forth in French about crepes or the Eiffel Tower or whatever.

After an hour of listening to Nick and Frank talking and guffawing and noticing no apparent progress, Ken asked Frank how things were going. He turned to Nick, asked, and responded "he's looking for the Uninstall option for NT."

Ken managed to keep from laughing, and suggested "Netware will reformat the drive; you really don't have to worry about uninstalling." Frank translated and Nick blushed a bit.

Nick went on to install the 100-user Netware license on the new server, connected it to the network, and booted it up. When Netware boots, it runs licensing checks on all servers, preventing you from using a 25-user license on 10 servers to support 250 employees, for example. This check failed, so the system wouldn't boot. It was 2:30 AM now, and everyone was getting a little cranky.

Ken had Frank ask Nick "how will you get our 40+ user accounts set up on the new server before shipping starts? The trucks will be here in two and a half hours, and we need to print bills of lading before they arrive."

Nick thought for a moment. "Obtenez-moi une garniture de papier. Oh ho ho ho." Or, in English, "Get me a pad of paper. LOL."

Yes, Nick intended to go through every user account, group, print queue, options dialog, etc. and write down all of the settings, then to reenter the information on the new server. This time, Ken couldn't help but laugh.

"How about we just install our old 50-user license key on the new machine, boot using that, copy the information from the old server to the new one, shut down the old server, and restore the 100-user license key to the new server." Frank translated.

"Sacrebleu! Vous pouvez faire cela?" (Holy crepe! You can do that?)

Ken wanted to physically shove him away from the server, but resisted. Ken was able to get everything done before the trucks arrived, and sent Nick back with his tail between his legs.

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