Writing

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Friday, April 13, 2012

I never knew you could stab a computer before

Want to find out what happens a lot in your company? Just talk to a bunch of people and learn some of the words they use. Every company has its own vocabulary, and getting the low-down on what your hands-on people are saying can teach you a few things about what's really happening. It might even expose some stuff that needs to be fixed.

One night while working support, we had a machine go bad. This by itself was not too unusual, since that's what we were there to do. We only heard about the bad ones, so a natural selection bias crept in. It sounded like everything was broken at the same time.

What's weird is that the machine had been running just fine. It had been taken down for a CPU upgrade which should have been a simple operation, like maybe 30 minutes of downtime. Instead, something went wrong, and the data center peeps needed more time to troubleshoot. I think they wound up replacing the entire motherboard.

I mentioned this to one of my friends who had started their careers in the data center and had moved into support later. His response was just a very simple and nonchalant...

They probably stabbed it.

Of course, this is when I said... "stabbed... it?", and he told me that you'd sometimes slip while seating the heat sink for a CPU, and that would make it "stab" the board and cut some traces nearby. That destroyed the board.

I had worked with Pentium IIIs where you had to do the whole "hook one side, then lever the other side over and under", and had a couple of close calls while doing it, so the situation made sense to me. But, there was one thing which wasn't quite right.

"Wait, the fact you have a name for this is disturbing."

"Yeah, it happens a lot."

To them, it was common knowledge, but outside of that group, it was news. Learning even a tiny bit of their "tribal language" opened the door a crack.