The Troublesome Broadcast Message

Back in the good-ole days of Windows NT (circa 1998) I was a member of IT support at a large multi-national corporation.  The campus I worked for was about five thousand people large.

Background: Windows 98/98/NT 4.0 had a neat little utility to send pop-up messages to specific machines.  It was a front end to the net send built-in command, and messages would appear almost instantaneously on the recipient’s machine in nice little window.  (Similar functionality still exists in more recent versions of Windows, but the messenger service no longer starts by default.)

So, one slow day a bunch of us were shooting the shit and getting a little rowdy.  I think there were some flying objects and maybe a nerf gun involved.  One of the upper-level techs, who shall remain unnamed, fired off a message to someone else: “John, look out behind you”.

Only, he didn’t get the machine name right.  He broadcast it to the entire campus.  5000+ machines.

A lesser-known feature of the net send command, and therefore of the messenger utility, was the ability to message an entire workgroup or domain.  To do so, you only need to specify the workgroup or domain name in the recipient box.  And that’s what he did – he intended John’s machine name but the domain was the default in the box — and he forgot to change it.

Hoo boy, that was some trouble, and being a political organization it nearly took the form of someone’s-getting-fired-type trouble.  It took the ‘lizard king’ email storm to finally let it die down completely.  I’ll save that story for another day, when I dig the entire email chain out of archives and obfuscate some details.

Author: H Walker Jones, Esq

A professional programmer with a sordid past involving sysadmin, tech support, and cooking.

2 thoughts on “The Troublesome Broadcast Message”

  1. speaking of broadcasting, I saw that starting the day this was posted, there were huge radio blackouts that were caused by huge solar flares.
    I wonder if a bad network is related to this.

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