Feel safer now?

Flashback a few years to the days when this jail uses 12-inch black-and-white screens for video monitoring -- and this IT pilot fish is finishing up a support call when he notices something peculiar.

"The camera outside the sheriff's dispatcher's office, which was pointed at the booking sergeant's desk, had a white styrofoam cup stuck over the lens," fish says.

"I got the dispatcher to unlock her door and asked her if she could see the booking desk OK. With a quick glance at her bank of monitors, she affirmed that she could see it.

"I asked her to look again. She insisted that she could see the jailer sitting in his usual place. I knew that there was no one sitting in the booking desk, and went in to see for myself.

"She was right -- although not very focused, we could both see on the tiny screen the booking desk and a figure sitting in the chair.

"But there wasn't anyone at the booking desk. I told her to keep watching the screen, and I walked to the camera and removed the cup from the lens. She advised that it seemed to sharpen the focus a little, but not much.

"Experimenting, we discovered that a static image had been burned into every one of her monitors, and that only a moving image showed any difference from a covered lens. The image of the booking sergeant we had seen -- and could see even with the cup removed -- was a composite of all the sergeants who had sat in that desk for the past three years.

"All the monitors had to be replaced and put on a rotation schedule in the next year's budget. And no one told the prisoners anything about it. We hope."

Tell Sharky all about it. Send me your true tale of IT life at sharky@computerworld.com. You'll get a stylish Shark shirt if I use it. Add your comments below, and read some great old tales in the Sharkives.

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