SysAdmin Horror Stories

*Cue wolf howling in the background

We’ve all heard spooky tales of hardware stored in rooms where the temperature was up to 140 degrees, servers drowning because someone left the window open during a rainstorm, and IT tickets that made the hair on the back of an admin's neck stand up..

Tell us about the strangest request you’ve ever gotten, the dumbest question a user ever asked, or those days when Murphy's law seemed to only apply to you.

Write a short SysAdmin horror story in the comment box below to complete this activity for the July Mission and earn 150 points!

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  • One of my more memorable horror shows...

    Once upon a time there was a user named...let's call them Bobby.

    Bobby processed a lot of documents and approvals through a proprietary system and as you would expect; this system would time-stamp and tag any updates with Bobby's userID. Simple enough.

    One day I get a call from Bobby, raging, that he can't print and can't take screen captures anymore. Performing the usual printer queue fixes, there's a number of documents in there, like 15. It gets cleared out and seems to be printing fine. I check his screen capturing tool that seems ancient to me but whatever; it works for him and it seems to be functioning normally now. He's happy. Unable to replicate the issue, Ticket closed.

    2 days later - same thing happens, I get the call a little later in the day. Same actions to fix it except there are more documents caught up this time, like 20-25. After clearing the queue, I update the printer drivers and make sure this workstation isn't missing any needed patches. Can't seem to replicate it again with new drivers, or printing subsequent screen shots. I offer to replace the 10-ish year old screen capture software with a new open source software or we can order a COTS that some other people use - " Its out of the question to change screen capturing software!" he barked. Unable to replicate the issue, Ticket closed?

    A day later - it happens again. Now I'm frustrated and in it till something gives up the ghost here. I schedule to sit with Bobby for his whole morning and lo and behold Bobby is doing some curious actions. Bobby is screen shooting every step of the approval system as he works...and is printing them. Creating multi-page screen-shot documents and then printing them, and moving on to the next document or approval which can sometimes be 8-10 pages long and since a single page is larger than the screen capturing tool that means multi-caps per page so thats more like 17-20 captures and image prints. Sure enough we get 10-12 deep and things go haywire. The screen capping software stops functioning and everything stops printing.

    • Me:
      • "Bobby, can you tell me why you're screen capping everything and printing it? Is that part of the business process to approve these things? (I have no clue)"

    • Bobby:
      • "Oh no. I do this to cover myself and prove I was working so when 'they' say I didn't do something I have the proof!"

    Bobby proceeds to open his bottom desk drawer and it is full to the brim of these types of screen shots going back more than a year. I mean we're talking like a 5'x2' desk drawer here people.

    Calmly explaining to Bobby my doubt anyone is out to get him and that even if they were - the system he's using locks the data by user-role, time-stamps the data state changes, and tags it with his userID and is a much more encompassing way to track his work than screen caps and physical copies that cost money via paper and toner while breaking his print queue or screen capturing software.

    • Bobby:
      • "That unacceptable! This HAS to work! Its ALWAYS worked!"

    At this point, Bobby was less than happy with me, and to reference him as irate - would be putting it mildly and generously.

    • Me:
      • "Ok, can you explain to me or show me how this relates to the business process? Does everyone screenshot all of their work, everyday?"

    This couldn't be true but I had to know and as you might've expected - Bobby could not cite documentation for this nor anyone else that did this. No one in the department. Not a single one - of 14.

    I felt bad for Bobby so I told him maybe I could work something out.

    Grabbed a meeting with Bobby's boss - whom was starting to wonder why I was spending so much time in her department, explained the technical problem and then the actions that caused it. She hit the roof when I explained about the ginormous desk o' paper lurking in that cubicle.

    Turns out, Bobby's boss; lets call her Jennifer, was becoming increasingly concerned with Bobby's performance - doing things that should've have taken so long were - and I suggested cutting out the screen capturing and of course it was shortly thereafter.

    You might be reading this going, that's not a horror story - look it even has a happy ending that saved the company money and probably helped an employee's performance! What's horrific about that?

    3 little things:

    1. I had to deal with a printer and printer drivers. Eww.
    2. I had to deal with software that was 10 years old that I have never used and seemingly buggy.
    3. I had to deal with an angry user. Oi vey!

    Those things are horrific to me.

Comment
  • One of my more memorable horror shows...

    Once upon a time there was a user named...let's call them Bobby.

    Bobby processed a lot of documents and approvals through a proprietary system and as you would expect; this system would time-stamp and tag any updates with Bobby's userID. Simple enough.

    One day I get a call from Bobby, raging, that he can't print and can't take screen captures anymore. Performing the usual printer queue fixes, there's a number of documents in there, like 15. It gets cleared out and seems to be printing fine. I check his screen capturing tool that seems ancient to me but whatever; it works for him and it seems to be functioning normally now. He's happy. Unable to replicate the issue, Ticket closed.

    2 days later - same thing happens, I get the call a little later in the day. Same actions to fix it except there are more documents caught up this time, like 20-25. After clearing the queue, I update the printer drivers and make sure this workstation isn't missing any needed patches. Can't seem to replicate it again with new drivers, or printing subsequent screen shots. I offer to replace the 10-ish year old screen capture software with a new open source software or we can order a COTS that some other people use - " Its out of the question to change screen capturing software!" he barked. Unable to replicate the issue, Ticket closed?

    A day later - it happens again. Now I'm frustrated and in it till something gives up the ghost here. I schedule to sit with Bobby for his whole morning and lo and behold Bobby is doing some curious actions. Bobby is screen shooting every step of the approval system as he works...and is printing them. Creating multi-page screen-shot documents and then printing them, and moving on to the next document or approval which can sometimes be 8-10 pages long and since a single page is larger than the screen capturing tool that means multi-caps per page so thats more like 17-20 captures and image prints. Sure enough we get 10-12 deep and things go haywire. The screen capping software stops functioning and everything stops printing.

    • Me:
      • "Bobby, can you tell me why you're screen capping everything and printing it? Is that part of the business process to approve these things? (I have no clue)"

    • Bobby:
      • "Oh no. I do this to cover myself and prove I was working so when 'they' say I didn't do something I have the proof!"

    Bobby proceeds to open his bottom desk drawer and it is full to the brim of these types of screen shots going back more than a year. I mean we're talking like a 5'x2' desk drawer here people.

    Calmly explaining to Bobby my doubt anyone is out to get him and that even if they were - the system he's using locks the data by user-role, time-stamps the data state changes, and tags it with his userID and is a much more encompassing way to track his work than screen caps and physical copies that cost money via paper and toner while breaking his print queue or screen capturing software.

    • Bobby:
      • "That unacceptable! This HAS to work! Its ALWAYS worked!"

    At this point, Bobby was less than happy with me, and to reference him as irate - would be putting it mildly and generously.

    • Me:
      • "Ok, can you explain to me or show me how this relates to the business process? Does everyone screenshot all of their work, everyday?"

    This couldn't be true but I had to know and as you might've expected - Bobby could not cite documentation for this nor anyone else that did this. No one in the department. Not a single one - of 14.

    I felt bad for Bobby so I told him maybe I could work something out.

    Grabbed a meeting with Bobby's boss - whom was starting to wonder why I was spending so much time in her department, explained the technical problem and then the actions that caused it. She hit the roof when I explained about the ginormous desk o' paper lurking in that cubicle.

    Turns out, Bobby's boss; lets call her Jennifer, was becoming increasingly concerned with Bobby's performance - doing things that should've have taken so long were - and I suggested cutting out the screen capturing and of course it was shortly thereafter.

    You might be reading this going, that's not a horror story - look it even has a happy ending that saved the company money and probably helped an employee's performance! What's horrific about that?

    3 little things:

    1. I had to deal with a printer and printer drivers. Eww.
    2. I had to deal with software that was 10 years old that I have never used and seemingly buggy.
    3. I had to deal with an angry user. Oi vey!

    Those things are horrific to me.

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