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Happy Accidents

Today I impressed one of my colleagues by spotting a problem in a job advertisement she had published on an external recruitment website (any would-be postdoctoral researchers in mechanobiology out there?). She had copied and pasted the text from the advert that can be seen on our site but their text formatting routine had got confused by a URL immediately followed by a closing parenthesis, which created an invalid address.

How did I pick up such a minor detail? Since taking control of the departmental site, I have been monitoring everything that comes up in the error log. I have a window that is dedicated to showing the most recent errors so, if something occurs during the working day, I can fix it very quickly. This is done using the wonderfully handy tail -f command, which allows me to follow any changes to the file without having to manually reload it. The reason I know about that is because I stumbled across it a few years ago when trying to do something entirely different.

I have a knack for stumbling across these “happy accidents”, when I spot something unexpected but useful while working on something else, and a fairly good memory for these bits of trivia. This, rather than any particular training, is what fuels the experience that qualifies me as a bona fide IT professional.

What was my most recent discovery? Last week I found that, after pressing Ctrl-Alt-Delete on my Windows XP machine I could lock the system by tapping the space bar as well as by pressing Alt-W. Trivial but also handy in making my working environment a bit easier to use (and almost as quick as Linux to secure when I need to leave my desk).

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