Article

IT blooper #37: Gutter ball

Matthew A. DeBellis
When out bowling with a bunch of friends, you typically don't turn to your buddy and say, "Man, this scorekeeping application and operating system software is sweet, rock solid."

But software of any kind goes down eventually, except in this case it wasn't the program's fault. IT pro Aaron Frizzell tossed a gutter ball and shut down dozens of lanes just as leagues were set to begin an evening of bowling and beer drinking.

Reader bloopers – your foul-ups – keep getting better, or at least funnier. Keep'em coming.

Frizzell was a software distribution coordinator for a company whose customers included bowling alleys, and one of his duties was to diagnose problems with software diskettes that were mailed out.

One evening he received a call from a Seminole, Fla., bowling center that was having trouble. Frizzell provided telephone support.

"I talked her through entering the username and password of the Super User (SU) to get to the operating system-level prompt," Frizzell said. "I instructed her to change to the /tmp directory, and I walked her through a diskette test. The test failed."

As part of the cleanup procedure, Frizzell asked her to type "rm -r usr", which is a command to remove -- without prompting -- the entire directory and its contents. Frizzell thought he was familiar enough with XENIX, a version of Unix developed by Microsoft that runs on PCs.

"Remember back when I issued the command 'cd /tmp'?" Frizzell said. "This command was not

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followed, and I did not verify the current directory."

Gutter ball.

As league play was about to begin in a 100-plus-lane bowling center, bowlers started complaining that lanes weren't working correctly.

"You could visibly see the lanes going down as the operating system's custom software slowly died," Frizzell said.

"When I realized what I had just instructed her to do, I was pretty flush with embarrassment and anger at myself," Frizzell said.

Without changing the current directory to 'tmp' directory, the 'rm -r usr' command had removed the 'live' /usr directory. This put the computer and the whole bowling center out of commission.

Next: The bowling alley owner placed a not-too-friendly call to Frizzell's boss - the vice president. Frizzell, of course, got an earful from the vice president, completing a customer support experience that was far from a strike.


Share your bloopers with us. E-mail them to editor@searchsap.com. Read more of our past IT Blooper Series, which originially appeared at SearchWin2000.com, part of the TechTarget network.

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