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Sharky

Questions that Sharky gets a lot

Q: What's a pilot fish?

A: There are two answers to that question. One is the Mother Nature version: Pilot fish are small fish that swim just ahead of sharks. When the shark changes direction, so do the pilot fish. When you watch underwater video of it, it looks like the idea to change direction occurred simultaneously to shark and pilot fish.

Thing is, sharks go pretty much anywhere they want, eating pretty much whatever they want. They lunge and tear and snatch, but in so doing, leave plenty of smorgasbord for the nimble pilot fish.

The IT version: A pilot fish is someone who swims with the sharks of enterprise IT -- and lives to tell the tale. Just like in nature, a moment's inattention could end the pilot fish's career. That's life at the reef.

Q: Are all the Sharky stories true?

A: Yes, as best we can determine.

Q: Where do the Sharky tales come from?

A: From readers. Sharky just reads and rewrites and basks in the reflected glory of you, our readers. It is as that famous fish-friendly philosopher Spinoza said, "He that can carp in the most eloquent or acute manner at the weakness of the human mind is held by his fellows as almost divine."

Q: How do I get one of those fabulous Sharky T-shirts?

A: Here's how it works. You send us your tale of perfidy, heroism or just plain weirdness at your IT shop. If Sharky selects it for publication, you get the shirt -- free and clear, no handling charges.

Q: Do I have to write my story in Sharky-ese?

A: No. Not at all. Just be sure to give us details. What happened, to whom, what he said, what she said, how it all worked out.

Q: I've got a really funny story, but I could get fired if my old trout of a boss found out I told you. How confidential is what I send to Sharky?

A: We don't publish names: yours, your boss's, your trout's, your company's. We try to file off the serial numbers, though there's no absolute guarantee that someone who lived through the incident won't recognize himself. Our aim is to share the outrageous, knee-slapping, milk-squirting-out-your-nose funny tales that abound in the IT world, not to get you fired. That would not be funny.

Q: You published my tale. Where's my T-shirt?

A: Hey, hey, cut us a break. You sent your tale over the Internet. If we could send your Shark shirt that way, you can bet we would.

Because most Shark Tank submissions don't include a full mailing address, we have to contact each pilot fish to get the address before sending out a T-shirt. That's done in batch mode, so it can take anywhere from a day to a few weeks. When things really get backed up, it can fall behind as much as a month or more.

But be assured: Sharky vows to forget no one!

Occasionally by the time your tale sees print, your e-mail address will have changed. If your e-mail address changed after you sent your contribution and you never got your shirt, let us know at sharky@computerworld.com. We'll get right on it.

Q: How do I get each new Shark Tank tale emailed to me?

Easy. Subscribe to the newsletter.

Q: Where are the Sharkives?

Tales of old can be found in Sharky's archive.


It's a Y2K miracle!

On the run-up to Y2K, this consultant's job is making sure a government department's patches and firmware are up to date. Just one problem: He's getting, um, help.

The show must go on!

At this long-ago IT trade show, one demo requires a rack of equipment that must be moved down a flight of stairs. But with the official movers AWOL, what can be done?

How to win friends and influence people, eventually

After a bit too much New Year's Eve celebrating, these execs decide to send the data center team home and do the year-end close themselves. What could go wrong with that?

Throwback Thursday: Hey mister, got the time?

This law-enforcement agency stores its mainframe data with time stamps on every record, which can be important for court cases. But what time zone are they actually in?

How to be efficient and cost effective (or not)

Big corporation is rewriting most of its critical IT systems, and the contractor it hires pitches a bright idea: Replace development servers with multiuser workstations.

Really, it'll be easier that way

VP comes to this pilot fish's office with a new mobile phone and a problem: Her email won't work, and despite fish's careful troubleshooting, it still won't connect.

Who says lowly IT techs don't get any power?

Pilot fish is sent to a location in a faraway land to do some routine data center maintenance, and everything is fine -- until it's time to upgrade this power supply.

Where did THAT come from?!?

This non-profit is located on the outskirts of town, so when it needs high-speed internet, its options are limited. But that's not the only thing getting in the way.

Speed kills

Flashback a few decades to when this pilot fish is the day-shift operator for a minicomputer with dozens of dumb terminals -- and he just needs to add one more.

Wayback Wednesday: Undependence Day

At 12:30 a.m. on the Fourth of July, sysadm gets a page from an outsourcer: A remote job can't connect to the server. But what could be going wrong on a holiday?

...And never come back!

Database programmer retires at this conservative, family-owned company, and he goes out with a bang -- and is forever banned from the plant. Then he's needed again.

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