I had coffee with Mark Jones of Micronet Network Services, Inc. this morning. The purpose was to discuss some Unix and Linux customers he has, but of course we started swapping stories and I liked this one so much I had to share it with you.
This happened to be a SCO Unix customer who Mark had recently converted from serial terminals to TCP/IP telnet sessions. They run Medical Manager, but that's not important to the story. As Mark told it to me, it went something like this:
"So there's this one Windows box forty feet down the hall from the server. The woman that's using it calls me up and tells me that sometimes she sees what someone else is typing in Medical Manager."
I (Tony) raised my eyebrows. "Only in MM?", I asked.
"No", Mark said, "Command line too. I went in and checked it out: she really could see what this other woman was typing."
He paused for a sip of coffee.
"So my first thought was that the machine was rooted or that maybe the Windows boxes had some screwy viruses. Checked it all out; couldn't find a thing. I was sure the SCO box had been compromised, but since I couldn't see any evidence, I decided that the best thing to do was reinstall from scratch."
At this point I was thinking that I'd like to have run "fuser" on the ptty's to see what on earth could be going on. I didn't think that a rooted machine was likely, and Mark confirmed it.
"But nope: that changed nothing. Complete fresh install and I could sit at that darn machine and see what the other woman up the hall was typing. Frustrating!"
I agreed. It must have been very frustrating.
Mark continued: "So now I'm back looking at the Windows box again. It had to be there. So I'm looking at everything, and the darn typing from the other machine was driving me nuts, so I reached in the back and unplugged the network."
Mark paused and smiled. "See where I'm going yet?", he asked.
"Nope." I admitted being clueless.
"Well, the typing kept coming. I figured it had to be some stupid buffer, but it didn't stop. I shut the machine down, even ripped out the nic card, but when I turned it back on, the darn typing kept coming!"
I shook my head in amazed befuddlement.
"It was right about then that I remembered something rather important."
Mark was grinning like the Cheshire cat now. "Remember when I mentioned this office was a good forty feet way from anything else?"
Yes, I remembered.
"Wireless keyboards. I totally forgot about them. Forty feet apart but one machine was picking up the others typing. Forty feet away. I've had that happen close by, but never forty feet away. I just never even considered it. But that's what it was. Exchanged the keyboard, problem disappeared. Case solved."
Great story, isn't it?
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