Power play

One of this pilot fish's responsibilities is keeping track of IT equipment at this steel mill, including desktop PCs.

"I would normally do the physical install myself," says fish, "delivering and setting up the PC and any peripheral equipment, then showing the user how to do the usual stuff -- how to log on, change passwords, open the e-mail application -- until I was sure that the new user was comfortable."

But when he gets to the engineering department, the manager tells fish no thanks -- he's PC-savvy and can handle it himself.

Fish knows better to argue with an engineer. But he makes it a point to check in with the manager a few days after the PCs are delivered, just to make sure everything's OK.

And there's a problem. "The manager said all was working fine, except when he wanted to work after 5 p.m., his PC wouldn't let him," fish says. "I asked what that meant, and he said the PC would just die on him -- but always at 5 p.m.

"He said he thought the PC would overheat and shut itself off, but that it was odd that it always happened right at 5 p.m. In the morning his PC would magically come back to life."

Skeptical fish arranges to be in the manager's office at 4:45 the next afternoon. Sure enough, at 5 p.m. the PC's screen goes blank and everything stops. It has clearly lost power.

Manager gives fish an I-told-you-so look. But fish is looking around, and notices that the hourly office workers are heading out the door -- and flipping off light switches as they leave for the day.

"Since this happened at the same time as the PC outage, I thought it was more than a coincidence," says fish. "I went over and turned the lights back on. Viola! The manager's PC came back to life.

"It was apparent that while the manager might have been PC-savvy, he wasn't too savvy on how the office was wired. He had plugged his PC into a switched outlet, one that was controlled by the switch to an hourly worker's office.

"When I explained this, he was more than a little sheepish. He was the manager of the electrical engineering department."

Keep the lights on for Sharky. Send me your true tale of IT life at sharky@computerworld.com. You'll get a sharp Shark shirt if I use it.

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Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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