Why we love engineers

It's the early 2000s, and this pilot fish is busy supporting networks and PCs on the shop floor of a manufacturing plant -- including the computers used with product-testing equipment.

"Whenever a product was tested, the system would write a database record to a server, with the product's unique ID number and all the tests it had undergone," says fish.

"Unfortunately, the production lines were run by engineers who were allowed to set up their own network and database servers. It never seemed fair to me that these guys seemed to be able to order top-of-the-line servers on a whim, while I had to jump through hoops to order any equipment to keep my own servers going."

But fairness isn't what fish is thinking about when he returns from vacation and discovers that the shop floor is having multiple IT issues. The biggest one: Testers are getting frequent failures writing to a server -- and the engineers are blaming fish's network.

Fish begins investigating, and soon finds that the engineering group purchased a replacement for one of the servers and installed it while he was gone. Can I see it? fish asks -- and he's pointed to the desk of the engineer who ordered it.

Turns out it's sitting under the engineer's desk. He's using it as a workstation, after wiping the server OS and installing Windows 2000, Microsoft Office, SQL Server and AutoCAD.

Astonished fish points out to the engineer that he shouldn't be using the server as a CAD workstation. Engineer replies haughtily that it makes a great CAD system because of the extra memory he's stuffed it with.

Besides, he says, it's running on a UPS, and it stays up continuously, so it won't cause any problems for the shop-floor test equipment that still depends on it as a server.

"I asked him what warnings he gave when he needed to reboot his 'workstation' after installing software," fish says. "He began turning red, and admitted he had rebooted a few times.

"The engineering group allowed me to confiscate the server, which I then reloaded with the correct OS and installed in our server room.

"Result: No more problems."

Got problems? Tell Sharky about it. Send me your true tales of IT life at sharky@computerworld.com. You'll snag a snazzy Shark shirt every time I use one. Add your comments below, and read some great old tales in the Sharkives.

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