Cool enough for you?

It's decades ago, and this contractor pilot fish has become the de facto guru for a particular minicomputer and its operating system.

"We were having a problem with the OS simply freezing -- no warnings, no logs, nothing but a locked box that had to be rebooted," says fish. "Needless to say, since it was being used to manage a complex environmental and security control system targeted for, among other uses, prisons, this wasn't at all acceptable. But the OS development group swore it had to be our code."

It takes long nights staring at reams of assembly language source code, but fish finally finds a single line of problem code -- complete with a comment that makes clear some programmer once knew about it, but hoped no one would ever have problems with it.

After that, fish quickly figures out how to trigger the error on demand. He writes a program that can crash the system reliably, and sends it to the OS group -- who will now have to spend their own long nights to fix it.

Meanwhile, fish knows the crashing program is dangerous, so he saves it in his personal directory and names it DONOTRUNME. That should be safe enough, he figures.

But a day or two later, the main machine used as the facility-wide server crashes hard, in a way that looks awfully familiar.

"We found one of the sysadmins in the engineering computing facility, frantically trying to reboot the system before anyone found him," fish reports.

"Turned out he'd been regularly scanning my directories because I was 'doing such cool stuff' with the system. And, of course, seeing a program named Do Not Run Me, he just had to see what it did ... "

Computerworld presents


Over 70 tales of IT woe(free registration required)

Sharky wants to see what you did, too. So send me your true tale of IT life at You'll score a sharp Shark shirt if I use it. Add your comments below, and read some great old tales in the Sharkives.

Now you can post your own stories of IT ridiculousness at Shark Bait. Join today and vent your IT frustrations to people who've been there, done that.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

7 inconvenient truths about the hybrid work trend
Shop Tech Products at Amazon