Yeah, we ALL love to get help from THAT IT guy...


These IT auditors work for a state government, and though the group is small, they can generate some very big files, according to a pilot fish on the scene.

"And in the normal course of operations we need to query against those files, download them and analyze them," says fish. "And given the less-than-stellar computers we have access to, this can be a tedious process.

"We decided to take matters into our own hands and spec out a dedicated server to handle all the heavy lifting for us, both processing and storage. We determined that the best deal would be to take a stock machine and add a RAID array, max out the memory, and really beef it up."

There is a guy named Barney from central IT who's assigned to support the auditors. But fish and his cohorts know from experience that things usually go faster and smoother if they do the work themselves.

So they find a machine at the right price, then grill the vendor's customer service rep to make sure it will meet their needs. The rep assures them that everything will fit, the new power supply will handle the added load, and there won't be any hardware conflicts. They'll just need to swap out the stock parts with the replacements and plug it in.

Fish's group jumps through the procurement hoops and orders it all.

"But along the way, Barney heard about the project and decided he wanted to help," fish says. "So when we got word that the tower and the additional pieces came in, we left instructions that we'd be on site shortly to put it all together and that nobody -- especially Barney -- should touch anything."

Naturally, when fish's group arrives 20 minutes later, Barney is elbows-deep in the machine. He's already swapped the power supply and some other parts -- and discovered that the customer service rep made a miscalculation.

Turns out each new stick of memory comes with its own heat sink. That makes them too large to let the case close once the liquid cooling and plastic fan ducting have been added.

But instead of calling the vendor or just waiting for the auditors to arrive, Barney has made the memory sticks fit -- by prying off the heat sinks with a screwdriver.

"That not only voided the warranty, but rendered the memory completely useless -- $800 of perfectly good memory, gone," grumbles fish.

"We eventually got replacement memory and got our server up and running. We also lambasted Barney to our manager, his manager and anyone else who would listen. But he's still our IT guy, and as far as anyone knows he never suffered any consequences."

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The march toward exascale computers
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