• The Original Fritz (unregistered)

    Puoval?

  • Paper cut (unregistered)

    More than a nasty paper cut, flying paper in a mill has been know to QUICKLY TAKE OFF ARMS.

    Why would someone make a custom system for this when very nice PLC existed at the time.

  • Sumireko (unregistered)

    THRIST

  • EbbeK (unregistered)

    Cleaning person plugging in vacuum cleaner takes down

    There's an internet meme in here somewhere...

  • Chris (github) in reply to Paper cut

    Since when has that prevented someone from reinventing the wheel hoping to be more clever/do it cheaper/generate work?

  • Bogolese (unregistered)

    Hmm. Sorry. I gotta call shenanigans. It would seem to me that it would be much safer to blank out those outlets than to rely on signage. Seems like everything else was thought of, no?

    Then again, a nice variation on an old story . . .

  • OldCrow (unregistered) in reply to Paper cut

    No, PLCs did not exist at the time. Or if they did, they were extremely large and clunky. And proprietary and expensive... and were never much better than a PC at the job.

    The only advantage of PLCs over other SW control is that the languages used (regulated) allow for very easy-to-read-and-verify lines (literally) from a safety-critical input to a safety-critical output. On a certified (regulated) hardware implementation.

    All the regulation came into being as a result of a few people getting squashed by rather heavy rolls of paper and/or steel as a result of programming errors. ...At least in Finland.

  • The Original Fritz (unregistered) in reply to Bogolese

    The most unbelievable part is a Paper Union cleaning lady in the 70s ever being scared of an engineer even for a moment.

  • steve taylor (google)

    Sometimes all you can do is signage. I do remember working somewhere with a room full of 3OKV laser equipment liberally festooned is signs along the lines of "DO NOT TOUCH - THIS EQUIPMENT WILL KILL YOU" only to find a cleaner standing on one to clean the windows (it was switched off else they would have been dead). For some reason there is a strong thread of insanity among cleaners and the administrators that give them passes to get in places. By the way, the warnings were real, there was finally a lab accident and someone discharged the 30KV capacitor cage (and survived).

  • foxyshadis (unregistered)

    This is what TDWTF has been reduced to? Recycling old jokes and cautionary tales from the 60's? Sure, they probably happened often enough, but hasn't everyone heard this joke at least a few times now? (I'm pretty sure this site has even published the same punch line, with a completely different story, at least twice before.)

  • Oliver Jones (google)

    If Puoval worked in a steel mill, he wouldn't have been able to find the crashed computers.

  • Rick Poleshuck (google)
    Comment held for moderation.
  • BoogieDaddy (unregistered) in reply to steve taylor

    "By the way, the warnings were real, there was finally a lab accident and someone discharged the 30KV capacitor cage (and survived)." So to the cleaning staff, not so much real as over-exaggerated? This simply emboldens the cleaning folk!

  • pto (unregistered)

    Yeh, that seems to be a very common thing. This happened at my work some years ago too. We were a small startup, still located in chaotic temporary offices without a proper server room. The cleaner came in and not just plugged in his vacuum at the server socket, he actually unplugged the power board that all our servers ran off, so not one but all servers went down at the same time. At least it was during early evening with plenty of people still in the office.

  • Paul Neumann (unregistered) in reply to pto

    Okay, I'll bite. What is a small startup, still located in chaotic temporary offices without a proper server room doing with dedicated cleaning staff? I call bullshit shenanigans!

  • BobbyTables (nodebb)

    Yep, I definitely remember this type of story before on this site. It wasn't a paper mill but it was still some important software project, headed by (apparently) one guy who gets called late at night and in the end it's the cleaner who unplugged stuff.

  • PunsRFun (unregistered)

    Sometimes vacuums can really suck!

  • ray10k (unregistered) in reply to BobbyTables

    There's also the story from a little longer ago, about this one mainframe that ran code from punch cards suddenly giving wrong results, because the cleaning lady would use some of the cards to pick up and throw away the dust she gathered.

  • lordofduct (unregistered)

    So wait, the Mercy storyline got shat on by the masses... but this one gets a pass? This rehashed nonsense gets complimented as "a nice variation on an old story".

    Y'all got weird standards...

  • Sumireko (unregistered) in reply to lordofduct

    Sure, but at least this one is a little bit more believable. I mean come on, a mysterious hacker walks in and sets a server on fire using hacker magic? Wouldn't believe it for a second.

  • Dave (unregistered) in reply to Paul Neumann

    Plenty of serviced offices come with a cleaner. Otherwise, it's not hard to arrange a contract cleaner to come in for a few hours a week - a lot easier than building a server room.

  • cros (unregistered)

    Funny, the very same thing happened in my former employer's office when someone plugged a huge vacuum cleaner into the ups outlet.

  • Gravitational Eddy (unregistered)

    And it's -still- happening. Recently worked a office setup where the electricians had wired in a new phone room but they neglected to isolate the circuit to only that room. Nobody told them . Yeah, housekeeping was involved and those floor machines (buffers and vacuums) were responsible for repeatedly crashing the entire phone system for that whole floor. And ALWAYS at 3AM.

  • Bill (unregistered)

    Then there's the variation where the cleaner unplugs the life support machine in a hospital room....

  • Chris Quinn (google)

    The same thing happened to us at an emergency services training college - the system went down at the same time every night, and it was traced to the cleaner unplugging a cable to plug in the vacuum. We eventually replaced the power sockets with special ones that had a round hole for the earth pin, rather than the regular rectangular one (this is in the UK) - the computers had the correct plugs fitted to fit the new sockets. The vacuum cleaner would not fit any more, so the problem stopped occurring.

  • IP_Guro (unregistered) in reply to Chris Quinn

    [quoteWe eventually replaced the power sockets with special ones that had a round hole for the earth pin, rather than the regular rectangular one (this is in the UK) - the computers had the correct plugs fitted to fit the new sockets. The vacuum cleaner would not fit any more, so the problem stopped occurring.[/quote]

    i would still expect the cleaners to unplug the server, find out their plug did not fit & move on to the next skt. until they finally found one. what surprises me most is that the cleaners are pigging the old equipment back in when they finish

  • ccjjharmon (unregistered)

    Yeah nothing new under the sun ever... somewhere around 2005 I worked contract at a power plant in the Midwest region, and their process control servers (critical for many operations at the power plant) were housed in a secured server room that wasn't allowed to have a cleaning crew enter. One would think this would resolve the issues regarding power (especially at a power plant) but of course not! The server room had 2 breakers it was connected to - staff and their computers went on one, and all the server equipment was hooked up to another. Unfortunately on the other side of the wall were the servers were was the kitchen, and the kitchen equipment was ALSO connected to outlets that were part of the same server equipment breakers! Yeah, occasionally we had outages :) Usually each server rack's UPS would cover the power going down, except when UPS batteries were low/dead. I think it took about 3 years before the plant got around to wiring it up so all the servers were part of a dedicated electrical box with even a switch so that if the incoming power (which could come from either pair of power generating units) could be set for either pair of units. Overkill at that point, but hey I never heard of any more issues...

  • Dan Mercer (unregistered)

    You young punks have no idea of the horrors of the past. Like the time in the 80's our Token Ring network went on the fritz. Found our secretary didn't like the cable snaking under her desk - it caught on her high heels. So she took her scissors and cut the cable where it entered her cube and then exited it, rolled it up and put it a desk drawer. Or the time TRW called our firm on the carpet. We ran their networks and the satellite link would start throwing errors like crazy beginning on Friday at 5 PM and continuing until Monday morning. We had had a problem with our boxes abending at midnight due to a (long fixed) flaw in a statistics gathering module, so, of course any time related problem HAD to be our fault. The problem rapidly escalated to the point where we sent our top analyst on site. It's Friday afternoon, our analyst is being reamed out by TRW's CIO in his penthouse office as he can hear the sounds of everyone in the offices leaving for the weekend. He's leaning against the window exhausted, contemplating another lost weekend chasing code when the CIO is interrupted by a phone call - the problem is starting up again. Our guy straightens up to head back to the data center when he sees a flash out of the corner of his eye -down below he has a perfect view of the 10 foot dish of the satellite uplink, where he can see something bright land in the dish. After some investigation, he learns that on Friday afternoon some of the workers would drink beer in the parking lot and play "basketball" with the empty beer cans. On Monday morning one of the guys would empty out the dish restoring the line. They were all union so they didn't even get fired. Our guy never got an apology for the verbal abuse he'd been subjected to and the company never got compensated for his expenses.

    BTW, if you've ever worked around printing presses there are few scarier places to work. My first day, someone brought up a broom stick and held it up to the paper flying by. Sawed it right off. "Imagine that's your neck" I was told. My daughter's father-in-law also worked at a printing plant and told her the same story.

  • hhaywood000 (unregistered)

    We had virtually the same thing happen in our MOD Server Room. Due to security classification cleaners weren't allowed In unaccompanied but had specific labelled sockets for them to use. However we did have some guys in doing some cabling who needed to hoover up some mess they had made. We were working in the same row, opened the back door of a rack and went round to the front to check some equipment, within the space of 2 minutes the cabler plugged in his hoover and blew the UPS taking down all the kit inside. Oh how we laughed!

  • Terry Kennedy (unregistered)

    Never underestimate the ability of a cleaning staff to destroy things*. Years ago, we had multilingual signs that said "Do not wax machine room floor", and the cleaning firm's management was also told this. Despite all of these precautions, around a year after we moved into the building, the cleaners decided to wax the floor. This involves putting down around 1/8" of water and then using floor buffers. It takes quite a while to get 1/8" above the tiles when the floor is a raised floor with 2' of average clearance. They didn't actually fill up the floor, but they did get enough water down there that it detached some of the floor support posts (they were just atached to the painted concrete floor with mastic). The wax also managed to glue a bunch of the floor tiles together, making them very hard to lift with the floor puller. And whenever we rolled one system (think IBM 370) out to bring in a newer model, we'd find a disgusting coating of wax and grime under the system where the floor buffers couldn't reach.

    • Having said this, the Paper Mill post seems like a re-telling of the well-worn trope of cleaning people damaging systems (or killing people). Snopes dates it back to at least a 1967 Reader's Digest humor article.
  • TenshiNo (unregistered)

    I worked at a job years ago where we kept getting called out to a small doctor's office, complaining that one of the machines we had sold them was going "berserk". Every time, we'd get there and find everything in working order. The logs definitely showed random crashes, but we never could replicate. We replaced parts, until we had replaced the whole computer and it would still happen.

    Finally, we figured out that the giant copy/collate/bind/staple machine on the other side of the wall was on the same circuit. Every time someone kicked of a job on that thing, it pulled so much power off the circuit that the machine would crash. Convinced them to install a UPS, and problem solved :)

    PS- I still can't login to this new system.

  • Developer Dude (unregistered)

    Had a similar albeit less drastic issue with the cleaning lady.

    At a startup I worked for in the late 80s, the startup had setup an ad-hoc network with a "file server" etc.

    After working there for a while, the network would be in a restarted state on certain mornings, waiting for someone to login to the OS and fix any problems caused by an unexpected shutdown - apparently by the power going offline, while no other machine in the building went offline.

    After about a week, it was found that the server, which was located behind the receptionist desk, was being unplugged by the cleaning lady who would plugin her vacuum cleaner, do her job, then plug the network server back into the outlet - because she could not find an open outlet in the area.

    Someone had traced it down to the nights that the cleaning lady showed up.

    The network admins moved the server to a safer spot with dedicated power.

  • Tsaukpaetra (nodebb)

    I bet the problem could have been prevented by a few $0.15 child-lock plugs for the power outlets. Then again, nobody thinks about why that big red button has a cover over it...

  • Robert Hanson (unregistered) in reply to Bill
    Comment held for moderation.
  • Paul Neumann (unregistered) in reply to Dave

    arrange a contract cleaner

    I wasn't aware it was that kind of a startup...

  • Worf (unregistered) in reply to Paul Neumann

    Easy - the building provides cleaning services. Most do and the cleaners will use their key to get in and do their stuff.

    For us, the management changed the service provider and the new ones didn't empty out personal trash bins by each desk. It took a week of it collecting up before management told us they stopped doing it. I'm sure the cleaners weren't too happy to have to haul out a week's trash overnight from everyone.

  • Herby (unregistered)

    The time: the 50's (yes, that long ago!). The place: A school with "Master clock" system. What happened: About once a week, the clocks were all screwy when the students came in at the start of the day. Why? It seems that the clocks all need to be timed and synchronized to a central "master clock" (before 1956, it was a product of none other than IBM!). Every hour the master clock would emit a tone on the AC line that the clocks were plugged into that would lock the minute hand to the second one and for the last minute of the hour it would sync all the clocks together (minute wise). In addition a different tone would be used for the hour hand at midnight and noon just to make things pretty. Now you have one of those nasty floor polishers that is old and weary, and it generates LOTS of electrical noise that happens to coincide with the hour hand clock frequency and the clock hands go wild. This is because the janitorial people cleaned up, and their tasks took them into the small hours of the morning. Caused quite a consternation when the students came in only to find the clocks (only some of them) having wrong hours, only to be reset at noon when the "real" signal came about.

    So cleaning people can (and have) been screwing things up for some time!

  • Lawrence (unregistered) in reply to The Original Fritz

    Puoval, yes, but kiliometers, which is much more impressive than mere kilometers.

  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Therac-25 (unregistered)

    "No, PLCs did not exist at the time. Or if they did, they were extremely large and clunky. And proprietary and expensive... and were never much better than a PC at the job. The only advantage of PLCs over other SW control is that the languages used (regulated) allow for very easy-to-read-and-verify lines (literally) from a safety-critical input to a safety-critical output. On a certified (regulated) hardware implementation."

    TRWTF. Who would want to waste money on such unnecessary nonsense?

  • Friedrice the Great (unregistered)

    Worked in a corrugated container factory. Was a small plant, but even that one had machines that could snag you and pull you through large steel rollers in a few seconds. You'd be dead and all the way through the machine before the operator could hit the emergency stop button.

  • Bill C. (unregistered)

    "Sometimes vacuums can really suck!"

    Correction: Sometimes cleaners can really suck!

    (Todo: Take dress to cleaners.)

  • Stephan Ahonen (unregistered)

    Reminds me of a story of an awards show broadcast, the crew is sitting in their broadcast truck preparing for the show when all of a sudden, the truck goes dark. They trace it back to a cleaner who turned on their vacuum cleaner in the lobby. Apparently the truck's three-phase service and the lobby were on the same breaker, and the truck's power draw was just close enough to the edge of the breaker's rating that the vacuum cleaner pushed it over. The network brought in a backup generator and the show went on.

  • HorusKol (unregistered) in reply to Paul Neumann

    Many temporary office landlords include cleaning services as part of letting out the office...

  • HorusKol (unregistered) in reply to Paul Neumann

    Many temporary office landlords include cleaning services as part of letting out the office...

  • Watson (nodebb) in reply to Dave

    And also having your own janitorial staff, who will use that closet to store cleaning materials when it would be a perfect place for the server rack.

  • Watson (nodebb) in reply to Dan Mercer

    My dad still relishes his story of the day he was working construction above a running newspaper press and literally dropped a spanner in the works. The safeties firing, alarms going off, brakes going on ... emergency shutdown seems to get more spectacular with every retelling (though having paper flying around hasn't happened yet).

  • pto (unregistered) in reply to Paul Neumann

    We were a startup coming out of ETH (Zurich University). The University allowed us to set up office within the university for 12 months before we had to move out and find our own space. The cleaner was employed by the university, not us.

  • The Original Fritz (unregistered) in reply to Tsaukpaetra

    Child locks would work if a child were doing the cleaning. I super-glued some outlet covers shut on the other side of my office wall because idiots kept plugging forklift chargers in them and tripping my fuses. So they just broke the plastic and kept plugging them in.

  • The Original Fritz (unregistered) in reply to Lawrence
    Comment held for moderation.
  • A Finn (unregistered)

    How did you manage to come up with fake names that don't sound Finnish at all? I'm assumed you were provided with something by the original submitter. "Puoval" is not a Finnish name, "Puovali" would fit pronounciation patterns but is not and has never been a Finnish name. Try calling him "Jani" or "Anssi" or "Pasi" or something that actually exists

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