Telecommuter saves Toy Story 2!

One of the fears often voiced by prospective telemanagers is the possibility that a telecommuter will, inadvertently or otherwise, leak critical confidential company information to non-company listeners. While research over the years has shown that disgruntled employees working inside the office are the most likely perpetrators of such mischief, the fears still exist. Data loss is always a concern of management, particularly IT managers. A concern that grows when the keeper of the data is somewhere else than the main office.

But sometimes the tables are turned, as in the case of the rescue of Toy Story 2.

I came upon an online article a few weeks ago in Ubuntu Vibes that presented a whole new meaning for the constant problem of data backup. First I should note a crucial item of Unix/Linux arcana that is central to the story. *nix operating systems include a handy terminal command rm <filename> that deletes the object <filename>. Very handy when you just want to clean up clutter in a directory/folder. However, rm, like most *nix commands has a wildcard option ‘*’ that can delete everything in a directory if entered as:

rm *

So simple—and so dangerous! You can see the whole story in the Ubuntu Vibes link above but the gist of this epic is that a computer operator at Pixar entered the command rm * when he was in the directory that contained the just compiled master version of Pixar’s animated feature Toy Story 2. He soon realized his mistake but not until major portions of the film had been erased. To add to the tension it turned out that the backup copy of the film was faulty! Possibly months of work down the tubes. No more copies to be had.

Except one.

One on the principals in this saga was a telecommuter who kept a copy of the film in her computer at home because she used it to entertain her daughter. As luck would have it, her home copy was the latest version. She was able to restore the master version of Toy Story 2. And they all rode off into the sunset!

Well, of course the dreaded rm * was just a freak accident, right? No company with a totally competent IT staff would have such a problem, would it? Except Pixar is hardly an inexperienced, low tech user of computers. Maybe off-campus telecommuters aren’t necessarily a threat after all.

One of them might save your company.

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