Never underestimate the low(er)-tech fix

Flashback to the days of dial-up modems, when this pilot fish is working on a factory automation project and needs to dial into a server there every evening.

"We had one phone line into the trailer that held the server and could not get another one," says fish. "That phone line was also used, during the day, for voice calls by the staff stationed there.

"So they would turn the modem on at night before going home, and I would dial in to perform my work. Then they would turn the modem off when they came in so it wouldn't answer the phone.

"At least that was the plan. I'm not sure which was more annoying: when they would forget to turn the modem on -- so I was locked out and couldn't work -- or when they forgot to turn it off and the first caller of the morning received the modem screech.

"But neither was really acceptable. So, before my next trip onsite, I swung by a Radio Shack and picked up a programmable light timer. I set it up to be 'on' during the week from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. and all weekend, and plugged the modem power into it.

"Then I showed the staff how to override it before I left the site again. One nice thing about it was that it had a battery backup, so the clock didn't need to be reset after a power outage. Even nicer was that I never got locked out again."

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