[conspire] (forw) Re: Someone needs help in SF

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Tue Nov 1 17:08:53 PST 2005

----- Forwarded message from Rick Moen <rick at linuxmafia.com> -----

Date: Tue, 1 Nov 2005 16:58:40 -0800
From: Rick Moen <rick at linuxmafia.com>
To: [redacted]
Subject: Re: Someone needs help in SF

Quoting [name snipped]:

> I suggested that this guy in SF upgrade to something new.. 

I think in his shoes (or, what I imagine his shoes to be shaped like),
I'd do that -- but it's a difficult thing for any businessman to
justify.  The old system is paid for, it appears to work (with luck),
and you can kid yourself into thinking it'll keep going indefinitely.
Also, pretty much any replacement is just about guaranteed to have no
ability to migrate the existing system data and configuration, so you
have to create a new one from scratch, key in all new starting data, and 
just declare a "flag day" when you'll stop using the old system and 
start using a new one.

That's all pretty scary, so the natural inclination is to put it off as
long as possible -- which leads to panic and irrationality when the old 
system suddenly fails.

> wonder what kind of backup he's using..

True story:  A small network consulting firm in San Francisco, around
1996, sent me out on an excursion from SOMA where I lived out to Daly
City to "fix a Unix system".  (They had me pegged as the Unix guy.)  I
arrived there, at a garage / filling station complex, and was told that
the problem was that at some unspecified time in the past, backup had
stopped working.  

There was no documentation worth mentioning, and the tape drive was
something so ancient I didn't even recognise its type.  I sat down at
the console, preparing to login using whatever access they _thought_
might work -- and noticed that it was a XENIX system.  I boggled, and
then boggled again when I took a closer look at the system box:  Early
386?  286?  I couldn't tell.  But my memory and calendar told me that we
were then in the era of about the third generation of Pentiums (and

And so I sat thinking hard for about ten minutes... and then apologised
profusely to the customer for the waste of his time, explained that I
was not able to do that work, and drove home.

The customer was very, very annoyed, and the consulting firm was at
least as ticked off, but I sat down with the head of the latter firm and 
explained in great detail why I was under no circumstances willing to do 
jobs on ancient, discontinued, highly unfamiliar proprietary Unixes that
had not been backed up for some undetermined period of time and might
for all we knew have _never_ been backed up _successfully_.  He said
that _someone_ would have to help the customer, and that this incident 
had left him not knowing he could rely on me. 

I said, (1) not me, and (2) too bad.

And it was _so_ the correct decision.

----- End forwarded message -----

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