Bryan White: A Real-life McGyver of the IT industry

Find out more about what he's done in the area of
Communications Quick Fixes Implementation Testing An Eye For Detail Stealth Conceitedness


1) I was at a freight company site (working on a PC Network) when a bulldozer working on site renovations ripped out the main Telecom trunk wiring from the exchange frame. They immediately went deaf, dumb & blind. Whilst someone dashed next door to call Telecom for an engineer, I offered to do what I could. Within a few minutes I had several phone lines and R/T land lines working. By the time the Telecom engineer arrived, I had all but a couple of lines in working order.

2) A multi-national network provider was having compatability problems with a client's communications gear (3270 controller on a leased line). The client claimed it was compatible, but it wasn't working properly. An argument ensued. Eventually the network provider called me in to analyse the situation. By examining data streams backwards & forwards, I proved that the client's gear was not handling the printer protocol properly. End of argument.

3) When working at a computer bureau using IBM gear, we had the chance to acquire a surplus communications controller. IBM said that it was impossible to attach to our system. I wrote the CCW strings (device drivers) to make it work, which upset IBM a bit.

Quick Fixes

1) Twice I have been flown across the Tasman to fix up IBM mainframe application problems (not of my doing!) when no-one else could quickly fix them. I fixed each one in under 10 minutes - one of them at the airport on arrival!

2) When the General Wage Order (GWO) was made back in the late 70's (I think), payroll systems had to be altered to provide a 7% increase, with a limit of $7/wk, and pro-rata'ed between taxable and non-taxable pay. From first hearing what was required, I had it coded in under 30 seconds. It worked.

3) A multinational HR company was having problems with the IBM CICS version of the system. One program was crashing and producing a 2,000 page core dump. Neither the New Zealand nor Australian offices could fix it. It was sent to the UK Head Office and they couldn't understand it either. The NZ General Manager remembered me from way back, rang me and asked if I would look at it. I said I would be delighted to. He brought it round later; within 20 minutes I had found the problem, and an hour later had it fixed.

Implementation Testing

A new international HR system was installed and tested in Sydney by the overseas developers (not me). Before the client would sign it off, I was flown to Sydney for two weeks to test the system myself. In the first test run, I made the system crash. In the first week, I found more than 150 bugs that needed fixing. It was a much better system by the time I left.

An Eye For Detail

Whilst working on customer consolidation for a major New Zealand bank, I needed to generate check digits in the same manner as the proposed international banking system about to be installed. Within 30 seconds of looking at their code, I mentioned to someone that there was a defect in it. Within 2 minutes I had worked out what the defect was and how it had arisen. I wrote a memo stating that the author of the routine did not know what he was doing and that there was no mathematical basis for such a check digit routine as it failed to pick up common keying mistakes. The international software house admitted that the routine had been written 11 years ago. This defective software is in place at several banks.

Skill Acquistion

I learned Assembler (many forms) from manuals.


1) I wanted to access a IBM VM/CMS file that had been encrypted but couldn't find the encryption key. Although not as quick as in "Mercury Rising", I nevertheless was able to reverse engineer the encryption and work out the encryption key. The original document was thus recovered.

2) I designed and built my first electric alarm system when I was 8.


After reading this stuff, it may appear that I am conceited.
Well, I used to be conceited, but since I had counselling for it, I'm now perfect.

Last Editted: 27 Nov 1998 15:10:19 New Zealand Daylight Time