[rescue] Slightly OT: Bad Cap Saga

Sheldon T. Hall shel at artell.net
Tue Aug 19 12:24:31 CDT 2008

 Quoth Curious George ...

> For those devices that you can't just place in a cardboard
> box and *mail* complete replacements, you *really* don't want
> to have to put someone on a plane, etc. to troubleshoot and
> repair.

Like software, in my case.

I know we have real backup software now, some of which actually works, but
do you remember the original BACKUP command in DOS, along about version 2.0?
Those early versions of BACKUP wrote the data out in separate files, with
their original names, but with modified, and longer, contents.  When you
RESTORED the data you got the unmodified contents back.

Would you be suprised to know that I have a great fondness for those early
versions of BACKUP?  I like them because one of them boosted me into
consulting Nirvana, earning me a consulting rate of in excess of $37,000 an
hour.  That's the rate I occasionally quote, even today. When folks ask "How
much do you charge?"  I can honestly reply "Up to $37,500 an hour, but
usually less."

In those long-ago days I worked for a small outfit called "Solid Software,"
a misnomer if ever there was one.  I was brought in to re-develop their
accounting software and develop a marketing plan once we got the
functionality in and the bugs out. Meanwhile, they were selling what they
had to keep the business going.  It was slow, ugly, hard-to-use crap, but it
generally worked as advertised.

Lots of software was sold through computer dealers back then, and one of our
dealers had some problems on a customer site.  He kept backing up his
customer's hard disk and sending the backup disks to us for analysis; the
stuff all worked fine at our shop, but it wouldn't do diddley when we sent
the disks back to him. Finally, propelled by frustration and the threat of a
lawsuit by his customer, he _demanded_ that we send someone out to
California to fix the problem.

The president of our company turned the call over to me.

"Fine," said I, "$2,500 plus expenses, cashier's check only."

"I don't give a flying **** what it costs, if we can't fix this ********
that ******* is going to sue the **** out of me, so get your *** out here
and fix this ************," quoth he, waxing wroth.  That was our dealer's
name, Waxroth.

So I went.  All the way across the USA.  Waxroth met me at the airport,
handed me the check, and drove me to the
customer site. I walked over to the computer, typed "DIR" and saw that the
file sizes were wrong.  The tell-tale "BACKUP.@@@" file was there, too,
indicating that he had COPYed the files back to the disk, rather than
RESTORing them.  I asked for the backup diskettes, RESTOREd the files, gave
the usual startup command, and it worked.

Elapsed time on-site, four minutes.  60 * (2500/4) = $37,500.

Was he grateful that I'd kept "that *******" from suing him?  Not on your
life.  He was livid.  I had made the fix look "too easy" and thus lessened
its perceived value.  He would probably have been delighted if it had taken
me a day and a half, but a four-minute fix just p!ssed him off.


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