Shark Tank: D'oh!

"My e-mail is missing," remote user wails to help desk pilot fish. "The icon is there, but nothing happens when I click on it." Fish can't get the server to respond either, so he visits the site and finds a bare spot where the server should be. "That old PC?" says user. "Since no one was using it, we packed it up and put it in storage. Was that important?"

U.S. Army pilot fish in West Germany is thrilled back in the late 1980s when his unit's first PCs arrive. "We wannabe technogeeks quickly unpack the PCs and set them up," fish says. Then he turns the first one on. "Up came a puff of smoke," fish reports. Must be a faulty machine, fish figures, so he tries a second PC. Same result. "After the smoke cleared, we discovered a little switch on the back of the PC set to 110 volts. Germany has a 220-volt electric grid. We started ordering replacement power supplies."

Back when tape drives were pricey, this pilot fish's client did a daily backup onto diskettes. "One day, the computer failed, and we had to go to the backups," fish says. "The diskettes were empty." Turns out that after carefully performing the backup each night, the client then got a jump on the next day's work by immediately formatting them all for the next day's backup.

One icy day, IT consultant pilot fish visits a client site to make sure the new UPS is installed and running. It is. "Thinking about all the ice on the power lines, we're congratulating ourselves," says fish. "Then the lights go out, the UPS power alarm goes off and the server gets very quiet." The UPS is plugged into the wall socket and working, all right, says fish "and the server is still plugged into the wall right beside it."

Local school district decides that its Internet access is only for educational purposes, so sysadmins block all "noneducational" sites. It's up to a teacher pilot fish to discover that among the blocked sites is . . . the Board of Education.

Educate the Shark: You get a sharp Shark shirt if your true tale of IT life sees print or if it shows up in the daily feed at

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